Feelings are always waiting, just at the edge of our experiences. Our feelings are not very tidy when it comes to staying within the bounds of what makes us comfortable. What to do when feelings persist after the form of relationship they’re associated with has ended? Often we may feel elation when it is considered more proper to feel chagrin. At other times we will feel sad when socially it’s expected we should be happy. When it comes to matters of the heart, it is indeed those pesky feelings which seemingly lie to us and set us down paths of confusion.
Feelings are Selective
Let’s start with assuming love still exists after the ending of a relationship. Such an experience doesn’t require any particular behavior on your part. It’s a feeling, an assessment by you about the person, selecting particular parts of them and the history you had. Unless the time was an unmitigated disaster in which every moment was epically painful, there were then periods that were good and provided the means for there to be love.
Those times are what your mind is drawing on and from those memories, there is likely going to be feelings of loss. This is completely normal. Again though, this doesn’t require any particular behavior from you. Feelings are always waiting, accept the feelings as part of being human, of acknowledging there were good times and you miss those. Call it love, call it whatever you want, but none of this requires anything out of you.
“The loss is often so large, so ridiculously painful, not because the other person wasn’t worth it (though let’s face it, there really isn’t anybody worthy of invoking the feeling of soul-spasming pain felt by romantic loss) but because in a very real sense the world created by the connection was torn away. This isn’t poetic license, this touches upon attachment and how our minds work, giving us a bit of insight into why even after all the tears and sorrow there’s a part of us that leaps for joy at the possibility the ex may return.”
Feelings Have Many Stories
This is why labeling our emotions as ‘positive’ and ‘negative,’ ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ is so unhelpful, it’s an attempt at making the nuanced, the complex, into a simple subtraction problem. Surely, so the thinking goes, without x-person in my life, we can subtract any associated y-emotions. Life doesn’t work that way however. Just as the initial attraction and shared experience drew on individual histories, social context and future desires, so then any emotional experience that comes after will draw on the same. That there will overlap to some degree allows for our internal stories to have coherence, but it also provides the space to make connections we don’t have to hold onto.
Our thoughts/emotions are not the sum total of who we are. Nor do they guide all of our behavior, not in any one-to-one sense. Spend a moment considering just how many thoughts/feelings you have that you don’t act upon or don’t do so in a particular way. You’ll quickly see that your life is far larger than any simple causal relationship between thought/feeling and action.
Relationships change for any number of reasons, from the obvious to the subtle, from the clear to the obscure. Very rarely is it because there was absolutely nothing good going on. Welcome to humanity, where the breadth of our relationship potential is as wide as there are people to connect with. Feelings are always waiting, embrace them, just know that what you do with them is up to you and the story you have about them is only partly about the person your attention is currently on.