A few weeks ago, I found out what an ex-girlfriend from 27 years ago had been up to all this time. She has been married for 23 years, has 4 kids and lives in the next suburb over. I ended the relationship 27 years ago because I could not take the cheating and sharing her with other men. She was my first love (I was 27) and my first intimate girlfriend. There were good times too and I even briefly lived with her about 1/2 way into our time together. What really seemed to doom our relationship was when she got pregnant and decided to terminate the pregnancy. I had wanted to get married. About 10 years after ending this relationship I met a wondeful women, fell in love and we have been happily married for 16 years and we have two teenage daughters, a beautiful home, both of us have great jobs, but I find myself suffering anxiety attacks and being kept up at night with thoughts of what could have been with my old girlfriend and feeling loss at what our life could have been together. I don’t want to contact her, I don’t want to leave my wife or family, I just want to put this woman back into the box in my memory where she was not bothering me so much and get on with my life. How do I accomplish that?
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Given that you have teenage children you are either in or are approaching that point in life that is commonly referred to as “Mid Life Crisis.” It’s at this time that people begin to really recognize that we are mortal beings and that we are not forever young. Some people react to this by becoming depressed, others review their lives up to this point and moan over missed opportunities, some want to go on great adventures and others have extra marital affaris. In fact, a few even divorce their spouses and try to start life all over again. One of the most frequent reactions is to wonder about the meaning of life and to question whether or not it has any real meaning.
From the tone of your email, you are reviewing your past and are obsessing over a lost love. Even though that lost love was never promising and had serious problems, you are now idealizing it and wishing you were back into your youth. However, none of this is meant to imply that you are experiencing anything pleasant. In fact, you are feeling stressed, surprised by your reaction and more than a little confused.
You have clearly pointed out that you are happily married and have beautiful children, none of which you want to threaten. Nevertheless, you cannot stop thinking about this woman and the past. You do not want to have an affair, you value your family and wife and find this whole thing very bothersome.
It’s a good idea that you think about entering psychotherapy in order that you work on your issues as a man who is getting older and approaching a transitional point in your life in the next few years. It’s entirely possible that your obsessing has a lot to do with feeling depressed. I want to assure you that, even though you are not at that point when your children move out to go to college or work, that as the time draws near, you are experiencing the stress that everyone in the same situation experiences.
In any case, whether or not you opt for therapy or not, just know that this is a normal reaction and that you need not and should not act upon it. As the saying goes, “this too shall pass.”
Good luck and enjoy your family