I have been with my boyfriend for about six and a half months and things are going really well. He goes to grad school about two hours away from me but he comes home most weekends to visit. He is the second person I feel I have loved in my life. The first guy, my ex, I started dating about three years ago (I was 24, he was 22) and we dated for a year. He was nice at first, but he abused drugs, was very depressed, and thought about suicide more than once while we were together. I supported him as much as I could but towards the end of our relationship, he started using cocaine and cheated on me. I was completely devastated, even though many of my friends repeatedly told me he was no good for me. I felt like I couldn't help loving him.
My present boyfriend is wonderful. He is focused on graduating from a great engineering program, he cares about me infinitely, and is actually willing to talk about our future together (something I thought I'd never find in a guy). I love him and am eternally grateful to have found such a great person to share my life with.
My problem is this: there are times when, despite all reason, I find myself thinking about my ex. I don't want to call him and try to get back together or anything, but I can't help thinking about what he's doing, if he ever got clean, or what. I think about him at least once a week. I try to keep it to myself but sometimes it makes me really upset and the guy I'm with now can't help but notice, and won't let me avoid talking about why I feel so crappy. I know it hurts him when I tell him I have been thinking about my ex, but he also knows that I am not thinking about him in a romantic way. How can I get out from under my ex's storm cloud and into the present, sunny life I have with my guy now? Do I still love him? If not, why would I care about him even after so long without even hearing from him?
—Worried About My Ex Emily
To see Dear Sugar's answer
Dear Worried About My Ex Emily,
You sound like an extremely sensitive and caring person, so it's no wonder you are still worried about your ex, even though it's been a while since you last spoke. When you dated him, you took on the role of friend, nurturer, and therapist. You gave so much of yourself to him and received nothing back. I'm sure the only thing you ever wanted was for him to get better, but he never got to that point. Then things quickly ended so that you never got any closure, and you were left still caring for him.
Here's a question for you. Say you were able to call your ex to find out how he was doing, and you found out he was still abusing drugs. What would you do then? Or what if you called and he was totally clean. Would you become friends with him again? Is it the not knowing that is the most upsetting? If so, perhaps you should talk to him and get the closure you need. I know it's hard to swallow, but you did all you could to help, and it's not your job to make him well.
When you and your ex broke up, you were heartbroken, and it sounds as if you still are. There's no cure for a broken heart, only time can heal that wound. Try to focus on the amazing relationship you have now, because if you don't, you may end up losing him. I'm sure your ex will always have a special place in your heart, but it sounds as though you're much better off leaving him in your past.