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Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 943
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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Do I want to get back with my ex or do I just miss her

Customer Question

Do I want to get back with my ex or do I just miss her?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 3 years ago.

nphbrown :

Your question is right down the mainstream of what love is all about. If you watch American movies, the final proof that the two lovers really do love each other comes when one (or both) of them discovers that they really miss the other person. Then the next conclusions that the movie implies are 1. that means this is true love, 2. that means that this is The One for me, and 3. that means that this true love will last a lifetime (or at least until the credits for the movie have finished entirely and the audience has filed out of the theater, once again strengthened in their belief that true love really does conquer all.)

nphbrown :

I've developed a comprehensive explanation of the Emotional Dynamics of all love, to be published sometime next year. "Distress Reduction" is one of the 4 most mysterious and also therefore most convincing of the 12 emotional&physiological drivers of love. Distress means "separation distress" which is totally normal for every mammalian species, at least. When rat pups are separated from their mothers, they cry, as do human babies, and so do human lovers (unless they're tough enough to hold back their tears, tho that doesn't really make any difference).

nphbrown :

Separation distress can be reduced for human adults when they think about being reunited with their missing partner. In fact their imaginary pictures and feelings of reunion are quite rosy, and the reunion feels a little like returning to paradise--at least it beats the heck out of being lonely, which is exactly the same as separation distress, except that sometimes we don't know whose presence would do the trick of alleviating our loneliness, or just anybody would do.

nphbrown :

That means that it's not just missing the other person, but being able to imagine how much better it would feel to be back together with her or him that makes the glow of LOVE heat up and expand to warm your heart.

nphbrown :

SO THAT MEANS that MISSING THE PERSON DOES INDICATE THAT YOU LOVE him or her. But loving is a natural capability of all mammals, whether the beloved person is a good match or likes you back or not.

nphbrown :

So I can't answer for you your question of "Do I want to get back" because that depends on what happens in your mind when you imagine what would happen when you do get back with your ex. If you miss him or her, you do love like a healthy mammal loves. Naturally you could want to get back with him or her, because that presence would normally alleviate your separation distress, and therefore feel very good. But if your imaginary scenarios of getting back together mostly end with disaster, then it's hard for you to imagine a path back to paradise (usually from the early days of loving) in the face of so many real disastrous scenarios toward the end of what has happened between you two.

nphbrown :

However I have a suggestion for a way to determine if you might be able to find a path back thru all the crashes you've had together and into a harmonious being-together that might last: Write him or her an email and state the obvious: "I know I miss you. But I don't know if I can even imagine a way that we could repair the damage we've caused each other and get back to trust and happiness together that would have a good chance of enduring and not just going down the same rathole again. CAN YOU IMAGINE US GETTING BACK TOGETHER AGAIN without promptly crashing again? Do you want to explore that possibility?"

nphbrown :

If you can't imagine writing that to your ex, ask yourself WHY NOT? Are you afraid to make yourself available and vulnerable again? Are you afraid of domination? or Rejection and Ridicule? The answers to this last question are one place left where you might benefit from chatting with me. But if your answers to any of these questions about getting back together or about communicating about that possibility are NO WAY!! then you probably have some pretty nailed-shut negative feelings about your ex that missing him or her is not going to pry open without a fight.

nphbrown :

When you miss a person but don't have confidence in what reuniting would do for either of you, you're stuck with a discussion between your head (with its logic, reasonableness, and preview capability based on past experience) and your heart (with its glorious living-being ability to love another being in your world, even if it hurts you when you do that). You don't have to give up on your ability to love loyally in cases of great adversity, even if you find that your head needs to win out this time.

nphbrown :

But a great many lovers have tested this tug-o-war by getting back with their exes "reunited cuz it feels so good, reunited like I knew we would, cuz there's one perfect fit, and baby you're it, I am so excited cuz we're reunited, unh-huh" (Peaches & Herb, 1970'something). If after a few tries that end in disaster, it starts to hurt more to be together than it does to be apart, then their hearts will grudgingly side with their heads. Or their heads will resign their authoritarian rulership for awhile.

nphbrown :

If you want to pursue any of the questions I've presented, just respond. Or if this is enough, just click Accept, and start nursing your broken heart, because if you're hurting, you're a real human being. And you have my respect--cuz it IS better to have loved and lost . . . .

nphbrown :

Norman Brown

Customer:

thank you for your reply.

Customer:

Logic would tell me that even if I did get back together with my ex girlfriend - things would be great but we would slip back in to the same routine and end up having the same problem as we did.

Customer:

I am 28 and the relationship was for around 7 years so I would imagine that I am simply missing her and this is over powering the reality that there was a reason why we split up but just feel that I cannot be without her.

Customer:

Knowing myself and being honest, it is probably more a control thing. We didn't have lots and lots in common in the typical sense but the 'chemistry/passion' was very good

Customer:

I could write something along the line of which you wrote above to my ex. However, I am not sure if that is what I truly want or if I am simply missing a 7 year bond/relationship

nphbrown :

But if you and she BOTH want to change your patterns so that the same problem won't happen again, you can seek relationship counseling. Now 7 years is way past the 3 year simmering down of biologically based passionate love. My first great love lasted 9 years and also ended for what could have been "trivial" (sexual betrayal, ongoing) if it could have been remedied through emotional recommitment. But like you, at 29 I was moving toward Psychotherapy as a lifestyle, and she needed to stop being my ego-cushion (50s style, tho it was 1972 when she betrayed me) to start becoming herself, whatever that would be when not as my sidekick.

nphbrown :

You're surely missing the 7 year bond. I was so centered on marriage-equivalent cohabiting relations that that's ALL I wanted to reconvene with every girlfriend thereafter, and it was way off-base with some and totally not what the others wanted. So it took me 5 years to find another woman I truly loved, very passionately--and we were completely WRONG for each other, as you might well have been with your ex. At least I discovered then that I COULD LOVE AGAIN and actually NOT always compare each new woman with the great love that fell apart, while idealizing how it felt to me before it fell apart.

Customer:

We split up over a personality clash/argument (a repeated genre if you will for a long time over our relationship) and this was first week of March but only this weekend have i truly felt sad/melancholy. My concern for both and I that if we were to get back together- 6 months/1 year later history would repeat itself.

Customer:

both her and I *

Customer:

Realistically, I am sure that I could find 'love' again but this is also the first time for me to experience this feeling of longing/regret or whatever it is

nphbrown :

Then it took me 3.5 years of that "second great love" followed by another 5 years, including a 2.5 yr comfortable but hohum cohabitation. At 33 (before 2nd great love, during the worst cohabitation I;d ever had) an astrologer predicted I'd meed my "soulmate" (which I don't actually believe in, at least not as a ONE&ONLY soulmate) in my 42nd year. That's exactly when I did meet her (now my wife of over 25 years), and I have since discovered how he predicted that based on my natal chart--and lo & behold my future wife's natal chart had the same "progressed moon position" during the same years as my chart, and she was "ready" at 33, as I was at 41. And she is a trained astrologer, but more conscientiously a psychotherapist like I am.

Customer:

Strangely enough - the first day I met her. She had a report done on the same thing and I mildly ridiculed her for it. My ex and I have been in this situation before, got back together and it has ended again but then nothing like counselling was ever done and this is something I am in need of as I tend to get very angry but only at the people who are close to me. I have no patience with her and I felt that I was superior to her (intelectually). Which I guess I might be but there are many strengths in life and she certainly had abilities that were far superior to my own.

Customer:

So I think one of the main problems was my arrogance/lack of respect for her....

nphbrown :

The anger problem in men (and my own anger issue is the same as yours, tho it's only my wife, and not my daughter that sets me off) is a significant sign of potential Attention Deficit Disorder (tho it's not a "deficit" but a need for hyperattention, for novelty, challenge, and excitement that motivates us to excel at what really lights our lights but turn away in disgust from what is merely ordinary or well-known). One's apparent intellectual superiority (thank God my wife's intellect can upstage me often enough, tho she only has 2 Masters degrees and I have 2 masters and 2 PhDs) is due to the frantic effort consistently channeled into gathering new knowledge and insights. And that can easily drive other people crazy, esp if you like to talk about what you're thinking up. Tell me if you fit into this category somewhat.

nphbrown :

I see you're coming down the pike, so wait with bated breath.

Customer:

Although I certainly do not have 2 MDs nor a PhD lol. A minor case of ADD could be applicable to me and it is something I have thought about myself before.


The way I see I've got two options: 1. Leave it and allow for more time to move on or 2. Contact her suggesting that I am willing (if she is of course) to test the water again with professional guidance/help

nphbrown :

Oh a Brit! I stayed in Topsham by Exeter for 3 months in 1968, and got the impression that British men are proud of their eccentricity, which is not as popular in America, where intellectual prowess is frowned on by most of the population. I even had department chairwomen whispering that I must be arrogant (even before my 2nd PhD in 1999) because I came from Stanford to a FL aeronautical univ, even tho the only thing arrogant about me was that I focused my highest efforts on making a difference in the world.

Customer:

Ah an American. I am proud of being relatively smart but I'm not proud of how it lead me to getting frustrated with her and allowing my emotions to rule me so much. In typical Brit style it was unsurprisingly enough never love/passion et cetera that got out of control just frustration and anger

Customer:

I just don't know if it is me wanting something that is not available anymore or genuinely regretting our decision or simply missing the relationship

nphbrown :

The importance of your age/threshold of sseriouser/adulthood, is, I think, that you'll either have to focus on sources and handling of your irritability/anger issue, which can get you in deeper into yourself than you may have ever been before (that wasn't where I started at 29, but it certainly came up right away). OR you'll have to take the loneliness into your skin and set out to wander in search of what is more right for you in serious-consistent adulthood than might have been good enough for exploring during your 20s. Do you have any doubts or confusion about your professional goals? Or your ethics and values?

Customer:

Professional goals indeed....much confusion and I am on the verge of changing into something very different. I am happy with my ethics and values - they just seem to go out of the window when it comes to my ex or my direct family !

nphbrown :

One of the youthful follies involved with romantic pairing is the normally unconscious expectation that the woman will think like we do and will be impressed with and supportive of everything we care about. That's what my first lover did, until she found out that it didn't stop me from continuing to change what I wanted to learn and do. Ever since then I expected a good woman to differ with me and was bored with anyone who didn't have her own mind that she valued as much as I valued mine. But even that means I was hell-bent on having a fellow intellectual for a partner, as well as a therapist--not a fair demand to put on 99% of the women around (at least not to demand BOTH of these professional affiliations). But that was what I did eventually get, and I've learned more than I could ever imagine, not all of it pleasant.

Customer:

I agree my age is certainly paramount in this decision as it is for her. Out-grown each other et cetera....I do not feel that I am any different that I was back then but that she changed a lot which led me to arguments with her. But coming into our 30s is certainly a barrier when you compare it to life in your 20s.

nphbrown :

So, you're in transition in your professional directions too. Age 30 transition indeed. Your emotional volatility rises also with your direct family--suggesting that some serious psychological work is in order to emancipate yourself from those aspects of them and your learned habits that your inner spirit chafes against.

Customer:

Agreed - we also come from very different backgrounds. Mine was very stereotypically British (we don't talk about feelings - hell we don't have them at all!) and that has become part of my personality, through no doubt observation of my parents from a young age. She comes from a Hungarian/Egyptian family (she has lived in the UK all her life) where nuturing and family life is PARAMOUNT. We have discussed this in the past and I have told her more than enough times what I am like and that I am not good at expressing affection. I said to her in the first year of dating that she should not go out with me as we were not suited.

nphbrown :

How'd she change? My first great love started to want a more conventional lifestyle, with marriage & kids, and I had not settled down into the right professional niche, German & Humanities. Needing to try out psychology took me another 5+ years and a very unsupportive second great love stymied me another 3 years. I have a sense that British cultural thinking allows for some wanderlust well into your 30s, tho probably not for the more conventional families. (There are all those expatriates like Lawrence Durrell & Sir Richard Burton that carry a good reputation for individualism in your society.)

Customer:

She just seemed less chilled out - I can stay indoors for days relatively happily when with her, watching TV, films, having sex et cetera and she was more than happy with that at first

Customer:

but it became a massive issue

nphbrown :

Think of this as a second rebirth into adolescence, where you'll have much better knowledge and skills than the first go around. But you'll be lonely and hungry for recreating the past. And your efforts to find a better way to live your professional life don't have any well-defined procedures to guide them.

Customer:

I'm trying to 'doc' but it is hard.....I guess it's never easy. I think you are right that I should allow us both to move on and get on with life. My change in career will be HUGE and will certainly challenge me and keep me very busy.

Customer:

I would like to thank you for your time and your questions. It is much appreciated....I think I will just grit and bare it.

nphbrown :

Sounds like she's an extravert, with some feminine hesitance about asserting her own desires, and you're an introvert, perhaps more attached to your intellectual interests than to socializing with people without any real purpose in mind. Jungian types testing professionals have found in studies that an introverted man usually tries to control his extraverted partner to keep her home with him, and that's pretty destructive to such relationships. In fact the single most blatant mismatch of types in the entire 16 types system. My wife is more introverted than I am, but she doesn't mind (too much) that I want to go out more than she does. She's even let me fly to France & Italy alone 4 times since 2000 to walk in the Alps. She doesn't like it much, but she doesn't even want to leave home for vacations, but rarely, and then only for 1 week.

nphbrown :

Can you tell me what your career change is aiming for? I'm just curious.

Customer:

Well...I don't particularly love my current job and this new role will completely new and therefore challenging as there will be a lot of new info to learn. If I am honest, my answer is according to a Hollywood film - " what is the answer to 9 out 10 questions? - Money" would be truth....

Customer:

At least for now, it is what I think I want :)

Customer:

So what do I need to do now? I've never used a site like this before? Click accept and it takes my down payment? It's not an automatic monthly payment I hope....

nphbrown :

PS You could begin to write stories about your past relationship, with the dual purpose of honoring the love you have felt and of finding out what you can possibly learn about yourself and about your way in life from it. (it hurts more than avoiding the subject, but grieving is NECESSARY sooner or later, the sooner the better. Grief therapy fills in the gigantic holes our anglo culture has left around human relations, and it consists of nothing more than "Tell me about your life with Annalisa. How did you meet? What attracted you to her, and her to you? What was hard to handle about her? What are some moments that gave you more than you ever imagined life could have to offer? etc" Do that a couple times a week for a couple hours, and let your sorrow flow (hide it from others if you must, but not from yourself). You'll be proud of that writing some day, even tho you never show it to anyone (esp not a former English composition teacher like me). But some good psychodynamic therapists ask their clients to write autobiographically, because it challenges your intellect to live up to the nitty gritty of your emotional life.

Customer:

Well thanks again. Talking things through, responding to your questions has literally lifted my mood.

Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 943
Experience: Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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Dr. Norman Brown
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Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples