Ex-Boyfriend Returns to Destroy Healing

Reader’s Question

Can you help me understand what is happening with my best friend? She can’t seem to get over her past relationship. She started dating that guy 4 years ago. It lasted for 2 years, but in reality it was healthy for only 3 months; the rest of the time the guy would just avoid her, try to cut communication with her and would only try and meet her when his urges needed to be met. After they split up (which was a hard hit for her), the same thing would still happen.

For the past year, she has been suffering from the break up. I have encouraged her to see a church counselor and a psychologist, and I did see some improvements as the products of the counseling. Some four months ago she tried dating somebody else; everything was going fine until the ex-boyfriend discovered she was dating somebody else and tried flirting with her again. She is now back to square one, crying all the time, and has lost complete interest in this present boyfriend. She is showing all the symptoms of another depression again.

She says she still loves that ex-boyfriend, yet cannot give one reason why she does so. She sometimes loses her appetite, thinks of him for long hours, etc.

I am very worried what could happen next. Please help!

Psychologist’s Reply

Your friend was emotionally exhausted by that first relationship, producing depression, loss of self-esteem, crying spells, etc. She was probably used and abused as well. During that three year relationship your friend made some horrible memories of her feelings, his abusive and using behavior, and her depression as well.

When the relationship ended, your friend began to recover and was doing well — starting to date again. As we often find in Abusive and Controlling individuals, when the ex-boyfriend heard she was recovering, he needed to stop her recovery. Abusers always keep previous victims on “back burner”. He needed to retraumatize her and return her to low self-esteem. You can’t easily abuse and use someone who has high self-esteem, so he can’t allow that to happen. He may need to use her again.

His return, no matter how brief, produced tons of Emotional Memory in your friend. Memories contain the feelings that were present when the memory was made. When she remembered the relationship — she thus remembered the depression, low self-esteem, and thus — back to “square one”. This is how folks return to “square one” in any situation. I’ve written an article on Emotional Memory that’s available on this website.

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I’d recommend your friend reads the article on Identifying Losers on this website. There’s also a blog on the topic. I’ve written another article entitled Love and Stockholm Syndrome that may be helpful to her.

As a User and Abuser, this ex-boyfriend will leave her again once she is back under control from his standpoint. If she regains her strength, he will return again to destroy her. She needs to study how this works. I’d also recommend that she rebuild her self-esteem as high as possible before dating again, in anticipation for his return to bring her to square one again. She should also consider options for treatment of her depression, including antidepressant medications due to her physical manifestations of depression.

A clear sign that Emotional Memory is involved is her professed feelings of love for him but she doesn’t know why. If we’ve been traumatized by a dog attack years ago, it may not now be clear why we’re afraid of small dogs. We don’t realise that Emotional Memory has been activated.

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