I had a rather dysfunctional year-long relationship with a man—let’s call him James—that ended more than two years ago. Among other issues, I felt that I was very in love with him and he just... didn’t love me. I felt like I was always dancing for his attention—trying to be clever and interesting and sexy—and it was such a fucking high when I succeeded. I never really understood why he stayed with me so long, and why he ended it when he did. I was deeply, painfully, obsessively hung up on him for a long time after the relationship ended, but that pain ended up spurring a lot of really positive personal growth (including going to therapy and starting medicating my anxiety) and I’m now in a great place and in a lovely, fulfilling relationship with a man that I plan to spend the rest of my life with.
I genuinely don’t think I’m still in love with James—if he walked into my life tomorrow and told me he wanted to get back together I would say no. My problem is that despite this he still occupies a fair amount of real estate in my head. He has an objectively brilliant, creative, unique mind; he’s the smartest person I’ve ever met and I have always found him utterly fascinating. Everyone else I’ve dated, I feel like I “figured out” after a certain time and they lost some of their luster and became human, but James was so distant and aloof and I never figured him out. It’s like the mystery of him—and my time obsessing over him—carved out a deep channel in my mind that still hasn’t filled back in, and my thoughts still flow into that channel more often than I would like.
He has since moved away but I’m still so curious about his life—he has a pretty limited social media presence but I find myself combing it for clues about what he’s up to. I also post things with him in mind—wanting him to be interested in my life and to find me clever and interesting and impressive still—and there’s a little burst of pleasure when I see that he’s seen my Instagram story or whatever and I wonder what he thinks of me. I have dealt with this by repeatedly deactivating my social media. This helps (although I still find myself googling him occasionally) but when I periodically reactivate I’m just right back in that same pattern—the first thing I do is check his page. It’s like I need to poke that wound to see if it still hurts and it mostly doesn’t, but kind of does? I’ve also tried blocking him, but it’s just too easy to unblock occasionally just to “check” (what am I checking?? I don’t know). Perhaps I need to just block him permanently, but I still care about him and am interested in him and I would really like to be able to engage with him in that normal, casual way one interacts with old friends on social media. I’m embarrassed that I still need to regulate my social media interaction with someone who I dated so long ago.
I love my current partner so deeply—this relationship feeds me while my relationship with James was so painful and draining—and it would hurt him to know how often my mind still drifts to James. It feels shameful.
How do I care less about someone that I find so fascinating? How can I remove him from the pedestal in my mind? How do I stop wondering about his life and internal state? Is there any way to have a normal social media interaction without becoming somewhat obsessed every time I get a hint of new information about his life?
I know you’ve answered a lot of questions to this effect, but I would greatly appreciate your help.
Thank you so much,