When You Want Your Old Life Back – Tips for Moving Forward
What do you do when your new life has begun, but you want your old life back? These tips for moving forward are inspired by a reader’s comment…
“I was married for 12 years and pregnant with my second child when my husband cheated on me,” says J. on 3 Ways to Turn Your Life Around When Things Are Out of Control. “He left me for this woman. I divorced him and a year later met someone else. We are now married and I love him dearly. The problem is I long for my old life and marriage. I cry a lot and feel like I maybe got into my new relationship too quick. I don’t feel I will ever get over what happened to me.”
I’m almost finished reading The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin. It’s a groovy book about being happy with your life while making changes that improve your life even more. It’s definitely worth a read, especially if you’re focused on the past, what you don’t have, and what you wish was different about your life.
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And here are a few tips for moving forward…
Figure out what you miss about your old life – specifically
It sounds like J should be happier in her new life than her old one! But appearances are deceiving, aren’t they? I think she needs to figure out what specifically she misses. Her husband? Their house? The relationship they had? Her daily routine?
Instead of a vague “I miss my old life and want it back”, it’s helpful to figure out what exactly you miss.
If you want your old life back – and you realize the folly of focusing on what you don’t have – try to identify what exactly you miss. For instance, I often think of the three years I spent in Africa (read Moving to Africa? 10 Things You Need to Know to learn more).
I wish I could go back and do it over (a “do over” or Mulligan, like in golf!). But instead of making myself crazy and unhappy yearning for the impossible, I figured out what I miss about the past. I regret living in fear and insecurity. I wish I’d lived out of a sense of curiosity and excitement! I wish I could relive my past so I could enjoy it more.
In J’s case, I wonder if her unhappiness and dissatisfaction is less about wanting her old life back, and more about not finding closure and taking time to heal from her marriage breakup. That’s why she needs to identify what exactly she’s missing, so she has a starting point for moving forward.
If you want to move forward in your life, you need to let go of the past. But how do you let go if you don’t know what you’re holding on to?
Apply what you miss about your past to your new life
My regrets about my past are sometimes all-consuming. When I start wishing and yearning, I’m learning to stop focusing on what I wish I’d done differently. Rather, I’m teaching myself to apply what I learned to my current life. I acknowledge my ever-present regrets, fears, and insecurities, but focus my energy on living out of curiosity and excitement. What will happen if I do this? How will he respond if I say that? How will I solve this problem?
We need to learn from our pasts…not yearn for them.
If you miss your old life or relationship (despite all your best efforts to let go of someone you love), you have several options: 1) leave your new relationship; 2) try to force your new marriage to be like your old one; or 3) make the best of who you’re with and what you have (that’s my favorite tip for moving forward!).
Another option is to take specific aspects of your old life and recreate them. For instance, if you miss the joy and freedom of your old life, then find ways to bring joy and freedom into your new life. If you miss the excitement of living in an wild untamed country, travel more or find ways to bring adventure to your home, job, relationships, and community.
Again, it’s about figuring out the specific aspects of your old life — and deciding if you can bring them into your new life or if you need to let them go.
Remember how easy it is to idealize – idolize – the past
Here’s one of my favorite quips: “I’ve had a wonderful life – I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” ~ Colette.
When we look back on the past and fall into the I hate my life trap, we’re often wearing rose-colored glasses. Africa was so beautiful and interesting; it was much more exciting than living in Canada! My last relationship was more fulfilling than this one. The old job I had was more fun, and my coworkers were easier to get along with.
It’s so easy to remember the best of our old lives and forget about the problems, frustrations, and heartaches. We often make the past out to be better than it was…when in fact if we were living that life today, we might be just as miserable. Does J really want to be in a marriage with a man who betrayed her? I doubt it.
You have a good life, my friend. Take a moment to list all the great things you have, all the things you’re grateful for. Realize how wonderful your life is, and how you’re tainting your present by wanting your old life back.
For more tips on moving forward, read Getting From Here to There – 10 Steps to Changing Your Life.
What do you miss about your old life? What’s your best tip for moving forward? Comments welcome below…
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