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Should I Move On or Go Back?

A reader wrote in with the following dilemma: "I'm currently with a boy that I've been with for 2 months, he is so sweet, and treats me like a princess, something I've always wanted. Although, I can't seem to stop talking to my ex bf. I feel like it has to do with the fact that I moved on too quick, it was like a month that I moved on and I was with my ex for 3 yrs. I just don't know what to do with my situation, I'm the type of person that doesn't like to hurt anyone but that's too late. Every time I'm with my ex I get weak, and it gets so hard for me to tell him I can't talk to him anymore, because I know that's the best option for me. Every time I'm with my current bf, everything seems right, but I here and there think about my ex. I need help on what to do, because I will always love my ex, but I have strong feelings for my current bf."

This is not a dilemma with a clear “right or wrong” answer. However, I noticed that you refer to your current boyfriend as someone you have “strong feelings” for and your ex-boyfriend as someone you will “always love.”  You also mention that your current boyfriend treats you well, but do not say anything about loving your current boyfriend. Is it possible that you had strong feelings of love for your ex-boyfriend and that, although you like your current boyfriend, you do not have very strong feelings for him?  

You may not have fully recovered from the dissolution of your relationship with your ex and this may be preventing you from being fully “into” your current boyfriend. Relationship breakups are often described as among life’s most difficult events to cope with.1 Sadness and anger are typical following breakups and may persist for many months.2 Perhaps, because you were feeling somewhat vulnerable following the break-up from your ex, you were drawn to the kindnesses of your current boyfriend?

Recovery from the loss of your relationship with your ex may be easier if you have less contact with him. That is, assuming you are confident that that relationship is completely over and moving on is the right thing to do. This is not to say that you will not one day be friends (there is even an entire web page devoted to celebrities that are “ex besties” – exes that remain great friends). But, in order to give your new boyfriend a real chance you may want to just focus on him for the time being.

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1Holmes, T. H., & Rahe, R. H. (1967). The Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11, 213-218. 

2Sbarra, D. A. (2006). Predicting the onset of emotional recovery following nonmarital relationship dissolution:  Survival analyses of sadness and anger. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 298-312.

Dr. Charlotte Markey - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Markey's research addresses issues central to both developmental and health psychology. A primary focus of her research is social influences on eating-related behaviors (i.e., eating, dieting, body image) in both parent-child and romantic relationships.

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