Stuck in the Past

Posted on November 11, 2010


One of the most painful ways to get really stuck in your love life is to get stuck in the past.

Maybe you once met someone who just completely captivated you or maybe you were in (what you’d consider) a fantastic relationship that is no longer. Whether short-lived or an extended affair, you just can’t seem to move on because you can’t forget how great the past was.

Or maybe you’re not stuck in the past because of something good. Maybe you’re stuck in the past because of something not-so-good. Like the ex who cheated on you or the lousy woman who ran off with your best friend.  You can’t forget the slights made against you and are having a difficult time moving forward.

It doesn’t really matter so much if you’re stuck in the past because you’ve idealized a relationship or because you’ve demonized one. Being stuck in the past means only one significant thing: You’re stuck.

Until you move into the only moment there is (ahem, that would be THIS one), you’re wasting a lot of precious time. You’re wasting a lot of valuable energy. You’re wasting a lot of opportunities to live here now and be in present relationships.

So if you find yourself in the past, I want you to answer one question very honestly. That’s right. Get really honest with yourself. No one’s going to see your answer. No one’s going to be looking over your shoulder as you write this down so be honest. You have nothing to lose by honestly examining your behavior.

What am I avoiding in the present by holding onto this relationship from the past?

A refusal to let go is almost always based in fear. Being stuck in the past usually means that you’re frightened of facing something in the here and now, such as a belief, a painful reality, the grieving process or your anger. These are the most common things people are afraid of coming to terms with.

Perhaps you WERE in a great relationship and it ended. Maybe you’re afraid to move forward because that would mean that you would have to grieve the loss of the relationship. And let’s face it, being sad isn’t exactly fun. Maybe you’re afraid of taking some accountability for the reasons it ended. Maybe you’re afraid of the honest self-evaluation that will naturally come when you stop reminiscing  about what you had. Or maybe you’ll realize this person wasn’t so great after all, but that you’d rather live in a fantasy than face the truth (more on being stuck in fantasies later this month).

Maybe you’re afraid of something different. Maybe you’re afraid that you’ll have to face the fact that you settled for a crappy relationship and have some serious self-work to do. Or maybe you’re afraid that you’ll never meet a nice person. Or maybe you’re afraid the mean things your ex said about you were true after all.

When you’re stuck in the past, it’s because you’re afraid of what you need to face in the present. The first step to getting un-stuck in this situation is to be honest about what you’re afraid of. As scary as your answer may seem, once it is exposed it immediately starts to lose its power.

In my next post, I’ll walk you through what to do with your answer.