Reconnect with the Ex After a Chance Meeting? What's Really Going On - Relationship Advice
So I bumped into my ex at the grocery store. He was with his current girlfriend and child. Let me tell you it was truly awkward. We haven't seen each other for about 10 years, he contacted me right before I got married and that was the end of our communication. I could tell he was super excited to see me, not so much for the current girlfriend. He kept saying...man it's been along time, stumbling over his words, and asking me all kinds of questions. I must admit even though I am happily married all of those old emotions and feelings started to arise. He was my first boyfriend, my first love, my first everything...if you know what I mean. I feel so guilty because I cannot stop thinking about the encounter. I wanted to say so much to him right their in the aisle but I just smiled and answered his questions politely. I know he wanted to get my contact info it was so obvious. With unfinished business how can I honestly be happy with how things went? Any advice would be so appreciated.
There are a lot of things you both have going on, which explain a great deal of your urge to contact him and his apparent excitement to see you. Even though you're saying you're happily married, and even though he was standing there with his child and his new life, you were both pulled into a moment of recollection and reminiscence.
The reasons for those feelings involve nostalgia. Even the way in your short message you find time and will to highlight that he was your first love, your first boyfriend, your first everything. We all have fond memories of those times in our lives and it's easily layered with shadows of longing. We think about what was ten years ago, the simpler things and the loves that are different, freedoms and youth, all kinds of relative things. Plus, we incorporate those paths not taken with all the future ideals and "what might have been." Those are powerfully confusing and intoxicating emotions.
But they aren't "real" emotions. Well they are real in the sense that you're having them. They are not real in the sense of true loves and what your heart really wants.
There's a reason he's your ex. There are reasons you both let go, walked away and lost touched. I don't know what happened when he contacted you before you got married, I don't know if you are insinuating that you two are the loves of each others lives and made a mistake letting go.
But if it's been ten years, I doubt that's the case. It's much more likely that these feelings are opportunistic. They came by chance over a chance meeting, and they grabbed a hold of all your nostalgia and "what if's" and "could have been's." They feed on the part of reality that aren't satisfying and that make you wonder about other outcomes to life. Some of those are probably partner-specific. But most are probably just normal life progressions. The older we get the more responsibility we have, the more debt, the more issues and problems, the less time for fun or indulging. So of course we remember freer times favorably. Of course that opportunistic feeling was able to latch on.
It's convenient to see hims standing there wanting to talk to you. No matter how you slice it it's an ego boost, it's a compliment. It reinforces that there really was a connection between you. And conveniently it doesn't highlight the disagreements and the reasons you broke up in the first place.
There is a world of difference between missing, and remembering.
Monique, the big question here is are you being honest with yourself that you would like to speak with him again just for closure. Closure is a healthy thing and if you have things unsaid and he's willing to speak them too, then it may be a nice thing. I'm just saying the odds of that being the situation are one in a thousand. And, if that is the situation, you'd be talking to your husband - who should be your partner and best friend - about wanting to resolve something from your past. I'm assuming you're keeping this from your husband. And that is a major red flag right there.
I have paraphrased this idea before and will do it again. Oprah suggested on one of her shows that "cheating" is any behavior you're doing that you would not be doing if your partner was standing next to you. I think that's brilliant because there are so many layers to betrayal, and so many things that matter or don't matter to different people. No one outside of your relationship can judge what you and your husband have agreed to do within the privacy and trust of your union, and your promise of forever. But ask yourself this: how would you feel if your husband bumped into an ex of his from 10 years ago - a woman with a child and a life who had clearly moved on or at least tried to - and then your husband said to a friend or a relationship advice columnist that "Those old emotions and feelings started to arise" and "how can he be happy with how things went."
You can say whatever progressive supportive thing you want, but the truth is, you'd feel betrayed and sick over it. And you'd hope he'd be able to be smart enough to let it go for what it was, and enjoy the good life he has chosen for himself.
It's not just you having confusing opportunistic feelings of nostalgia. It's him as well if he was so anxious and stunned. And then there's his child. And his girlfriend. And your husband. There are a lot of lives and promises and happiness involved here.
Look, I'm one who says life is too short not to be happy. If you are in a bad relationship, end it. If you aren't happy, you should go. But when so many other's happiness is also involved, I'm just saying you have to be goddamn sure of your decision. You can't play around like you did when you were in college, trying out this relationship, ending it, trying out that, going back to the first... that was a time where everyone is resilient and exploring, and the people's lives and futures aren't embedded on our whims.
Be sure, before you embark on anything that can never be undone, never be forgiven, never be fixed. Be very very sure.
I always read between the lines, and look for the tells. Your message doesn't "tell" me anything about your husband. I think if you were unsatisfied with him you would have mentioned that at least. No, your comment is all about this feeling and this ex, because that's all that's going on.
The best thing for you to do is to look at that chance encounter honestly. Tell your husband about it and how it made you feel. You're allowed to have a past, you're allowed to have feelings. The problems come when you make those things secrets. You didn't do anything wrong. You should be able to reminisce and share with your partner. Just getting it out in a healthy and honest way should help the perspective for you.
And that's really what's going on here: you don't have correct perspective on the encounter. You don't know what it means, you don't understand the intoxicating emotions, and you're reeling a little in the aftermath.
You can't have perfect symbiotic mutual closure with all the people in your past. You can only do what you can do. The chance meeting itself was closure. It confirmed that there was some good and maybe it outweighed the bad, and that if you two bump into each other, you smile. That's nice. And that's enough.