Dear Joanna: "I can't forget my violent ex"

"She flipped out and grabbed me"

Dear Joanna,Please help! I was dating a girl for a month. We really clicked and even though I hadn’t been looking for anything she said all the right things and kept saying she was falling in love with me. I had a feeling that she was a bit up and down. It all ended a few weeks ago and she ended up getting violent with me and grabbing me. I’ve also now realised quite a few other things about her temper.

The thing is that I know I can’t be with someone who has a temper like that but I can’t get her out of my head. All the good times. I called her the week after for some “closure” as I’m really confused. We were so good the week before and then I think we were both just over tired and she flipped out. When I called her she totally denied everything and blamed it on me and then said not to call her again.

I wish it had all never happened but it has. Have you got any tips for getting her out of my head?

– Lucy

Hi, Lucy

First of all, you’ve probably heard the clichés about love striking after we’ve stopped looking, or when we least expect it – it’s surprising how often clichés prove true.  It doesn’t seem to matter how inconvenient it is for us or how happy we were on our own – love and infatuation have a nasty (or extremely pleasant) habit of springing up on us out of the blue, so I can promise you you’re not on your own there.

Second – and bear with me on this one – have you seen the film (500) Days of Summer?  It tells the story of a man, Tom, who falls in love with a woman named Summer, yet we’re warned from the very beginning that it isn’t a love story – that what they have ends badly for Tom.  It travels back and forth in time, over five hundred days; from the first time they meet to where we leave Tom.  Throughout much of the film, we see flashbacks of the happy times the couple shared: Tom’s memories of a beautiful time in his life that he isn’t able to let go of – until near the end, when his sister tells him, “I know you think that she was the one, but I don’t.  I think you’re just remembering the good stuff.  Next time you look back, I really think you should look again” – and immediately there’s another flashback to the same moments, only this time we see the negativity surrounding them.  Finally realising this – seeing, for the first time, the thorns amongst the roses – enables Tom to move forward in his life and on from Summer.

500 Days of Summer

500 Days of Summer

My point is that we do have a tendency to remember the good more than the bad.  No one wants negative emotions to stay with them, meaning our minds (even without our permission) work to forget.  It’s what psychologists call a “defence mechanism” – we’re trying to defend ourselves from retaining the hurt.  Happiness, on the other hand, is something almost everyone loves to experience, thus it stays with us longer and we end up thinking of happier times even when we’d rather forget a person entirely.

Being aware of this is a great first step in allowing ourselves to confront negative emotions and memories.  Try your best to consciously avoid thinking of the enjoyable aspects of your relationship, and instead (if you aren’t able to avoid thinking about her completely) concentrate on what your email mentioned: The initial feeling of her being “up and down”; the realisations about her temper; her more recent, cold dismissal of you; and when she became physically aggressive (as well as anything else you can think of).

Another vital step on the road to moving forward is to avoid making excuses for our exes’ behaviour.  Please believe me when I tell you there is never an excuse for being violent toward a loved one.  Placing blame on the victim is a typical trait of emotionally and/or physically abusive people – I sincerely hope your ex didn’t cause you to blame yourself, because I can assure you the blame lies entirely with them.  Tired, upset, stressed, hormonal – they’re a part of life; something everyone has to deal with.  If your ex isn’t able to cope with her emotions, she needs to seek help in learning how to do so.  However, this isn’t your responsible.  What’s important for you is keeping your distance from someone who is obviously not at a stable point in their life.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about closure.  One of the other reasons you’re having a hard time letting go may be because you feel she hasn’t allowed you this.  Unfortunately, it sometimes is the case that we aren’t able to receive it.  We might lose touch with an ex before realising it’s needed, or they may choose to deliberately deny us of it.  Both are difficult to deal with, and the solution is for us to find our own closure.  There has to be a balance of what I mentioned above – acknowledging the bad parts of the relationship and the person, and managing the emotions that come with that – and drawing a line under when we stop going over everything (be it good or bad).  Through it all, what you need to bear in mind is that it’s over.  No matter how much we obsess, we can’t alter what happened, and (even if we received one) no explanation could change the hurt we’ve experienced/are still experiencing.  Another wonderful cliché so often used in regards to love – and the one I’ve found to be true more than any other – is that time is a healer.  Consider all I’ve said and allow yourself the time and space you need, and hopefully she’ll be out of your head in the not-too-distant future.

– Joanna

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One Response to Dear Joanna: "I can't forget my violent ex"

  • here says:

    wow.. this is so far the coolest advice I’ve read.. solid solid advice and yeah you laid out for him gently. 🙂 Nice job Joanna!

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