Ever had an ex that took you YEARS to get over? You're not the only one!
If you're a virgin reading this, let me just say that on some levels, I envy you. Let me explain why.
If you've read my bio then you know that I've written a couple of books about my sexual journey. I'm abstinent now (nine years to be exact), but it wasn't always that way.
I appreciate the lessons that I've learned from the 14 men I've known in the biblical sense. But out of all of them, it took a while — from 1993 to 2015 — to get totally and completely over one in particular. My first.
As someone who is currently a marriage life coach, I see my fair share of couples who honestly should have dealt with their past relationships with other folks before saying "I do." When you're still wounded or angry or broken or simply not over someone you once loved, you can bring that unresolved-ness into your current situation. It can make you cynical on a good day and flat-out bitter and extremely hard to live with on a not-so-good one.
If you're single, you should make sure your heart has healed before getting into anything serious. Your future you will thank you, your future husband will thank you, and Lord knows your future children will thank you.
So, back to the virgin thing. Here's the deal: Something that I oftentimes say about my first love (who was my first everything, really) is that the loyalty I had for him, I never had for any other human being. But in hindsight, I don't think he deserved it.
My first boyfriend was a teenager when we met. He was selfish and a player and way too emotionally immature to care for me in any real way.
To be fair, he was also funny, smart, and extremely good-looking. But we both came from broken homes, we both were starving for someone to make us feel more secure about ourselves and — here's the clincher —we both said "I love you" without really understanding what it meant.
So, from the moment I first laid my eyes on his deeply almond set ones, he had me. He had me through fake orgasms, fights, two abortions, and just-for-old-times-sake-sex that we engaged in until the turn of the millennium.
Shoot, even when we would run into each other after that, although I didn't realize it at first, that man still had me. He had my heart. That's why, even several years later, when I found myself being a guest at a wedding he was a groomsmen in, seeing him in his tux still caused my heart to skip a beat; it caused my mind to super-impose my head onto the bride's body and wonder "what if."
That's right. He still had me contemplating forever, even though our chance encounters were brief and his promises of 'trying to make it work again' were shallow and totally unreliable.
For several months after us being reunited at that wedding, there was no sex (for once), but still we tried to make it work. We talked on the phone. We went out on a few dates. We discussed building a future. I'll never forget him assuring me that I'd hear from him a particular New Year's Eve.
Finally: we were going to start off a new year with the intentions of being together rather than stumbling through more off-and-on months of our never-really-dealt-with emotions. But wow. Don't you know that fool didn't call? Or return my phone calls?
So I moved on. Kinda.
I got a boyfriend but it didn't stop me from doing double takes when I thought I saw him in the mall or sitting at a red light. It didn't stop me from asking the few mutual friends we shared if he was OK (code for "Is he married yet?"). It didn't stop me from perusing his social media accounts or contemplating sending an email to see how he was doing.
It didn't stop me from thinking, believing, that when it was all said and done, we'd end up together. More than boyfriend and girlfriend. Finally, husband and wife.
I remember another ex of mine once saying to me as I asked him why we didn't work, "Shellie, you're not in love with me. You're in love with the memory of me."
He had a point.
When we give someone our heart, body and even a part of our spirit (be careful about surrendering that last part; it's a doozy to get back!), it can be oh-so-hard to get over.
When you give all of who you are, body included, to someone who may not be around forever, a piece of you can go missing for a really long time. (Every time you're tempted to give it up ladies, please remember that!)
When I public speak, I oftentimes say, "If you find your ex on Facebook, that's all you. But if you run into them in Kroger, that's God."
It was last spring that the latter happened. I "ran into" my ex. He was with a woman and we exchanged numbers. AGAIN. But this time, I was on a mission. This time, there was nothing romantic about it. This time, we were going to do this now or not ever again. EVER.
We had a pattern of always having magical conversations at first. We hung out a few times, again. But he said something to me that I'm pretty sure he had before. This time, I was listening, though.
Him: "Shellie, every time you come back into my life, I'm never ready for you."
Look, 20+ years of you saying the same old thing means you are choosing to not get ready. Got it.
Me: "Do you still love me?"
Him: "Yes. I'm always going to love you. But so much has happened, I'm not sure if I'm in love with you still."
That's fair. I guess.
But what I hadn't heard before was something that he didn't say. It was something I heard come out of my own mouth.
Me: "You know what? I can't tell the difference between when you like me, when you love me and when you're in love. Throughout the years, the treatment has basically been all the same." (Sans the sometimes sex.)
That. That right there.
Here I was pining over a man for two decades (can you believe it?!) and I can't tell the difference between when we're just friends, when we're friends-with-benefits, and when I'm his girlfriend. WOW.
I sat across from him at the restaurant with a disappointed look on my face. We finished our lunch in silence. It was raining outside which was tragically romantic. As he drove me to my car, he took my hand and kissed it. Even though no one said it, I knew the journey was finally, FINALLY coming to an end.
I called him on Memorial Day Weekend. He pushed me to voicemail and didn't call back. I texted him a couple of hours later, asked him not to pick up and left a voicemail. Then I promptly changed my phone number.
My mother says something that should be posted up on billboards, and hearts, across the nation: "Discernment prevents experience from being your teacher." If you're reading this and you're still carrying a torch for a past love, please don't let it burn you. Let your self-esteem be louder than your memories. Ask yourself what I said to myself. And to him.
Can you honestly tell the difference between being liked, loved and having a man be in love with you? If the answer is "yes," congrats. You might be onto something good.
If it's "no" or "not sure," you don't need to have a lunch date. You need to hang out with your girls, read a self-help book, or even better, go to a spa for some pampering. You need to be in the kind of environment that reminds you that you deserve a man who you're sure you love and (please get this part!) you're also sure loves you.
Anything less needs to be an ex. Left in the past. Forever.