The relationship you have when you don’t have a relationship.

By David Joel Miller

When non-relationships take up all your time.

fighting with your ex

When the relationship is over.
Photo courtesy of

Do you spend lots of time thinking about people you are NOT in a relationship with?

Counseling sessions are frequently about the pain and wreckage of the past. For many people, the reason they decide they need to get help is because of the unfinished business of that past. Unpacking and lightening the load of baggage you are carrying around is a reasonable goal of therapy. One major thing most people need to talk about are the relationships that have come and gone.

Sometimes this process goes way wrong. The person talks to their friends and family and then their therapist repeatedly about their ex, the person that wronged them. Despite all their claims that they are done with that other person, they start and end every conversation with a reference to that other person. What they desperately need is closure around that past relationship, only closure never comes.

That repeated discussion and rumination about your ex may be the thing that is keeping you connected to the pain from that relationship. For you, it will never be over until you let go of that connection. Relationships are one of the few places we spend a lot of time thinking about what we are NOT doing. It is difficult, downright impossible to move on when you are still holding on to the past.

Do you obsess about your ex or someone who has done you wrong?

Rehashing that memory of the one who hurt or rejected you can become the worst form of obsession or addiction. If you spend much of your time insisting that something was unfair, that they should not have done what they did, you are holding onto the connection and insisting that the world and that person must be the way you want them to be. The relationship did not turn out the way you wanted, that is one reason it is over.

When you are really over someone or something, you stop caring. People who have really ended it and moved on start thing about the future, not the past. If they are not in your life then you should stop thinking about them. Only that is so very hard to do when there is still that connection you are afraid to let go of.  As long as you revisit them mentally you keep alive the possibility of reconnecting psychical.

When you have unfinished business with someone the connection remains.

If you still want to know why? Or are wanting to win an argument. Then you are unready to let that relationship go. Holding onto a relationship that has ended is like keeping a dead pet around. No matter how much you loved it back when, if you keep it around, eventually it starts to stink up your life.

Revisiting the thing that was and the “what should have been” keeps the connection to the past alive. Living in the past sabotages the present and prevents the future that could be. Closure will not come from that other person. It arrives when you loosen your grip on that past that did not turn out the way you wanted and you open your arms to embrace the future.

People can take up way to much space in your head.

The human brain only has so much capacity for thought. Most of the time there is plenty of idle space in your brain to learn new information and engage novel thoughts. But like that older computer, sometimes the problem you have your brain working on takes up all the thinking capacity in your brain. Ruminating about the past leaves no thought capacity to think about the future.

Letting someone take up mental space crowds out the brain space you need to think about positive things. Hard to start a new relationship with anyone when you are still holding onto the one that ended. If you still have your ex as a friend on social media and their number has not been deleted from your phone, there will always be a part of you staying connected to what you wanted things to be.

Occupying your brain with the one you hate creates so much stress in your brain that love, of yourself or others, has no room to grow.

Hate, anger, and fear keep you connected even after the relationship ends.

Negative emotions keep the connection growing larger and in a more intense way than positive ones. The most enduring relationship are those driven by hate and a desire for revenge. If you love something you can let it go but the thing you hate holds onto you forever.

People who walk through your life leave footprints.

Every person who has been a part of your life has made a journey through your mind. Some for the better and some have left scars. Just because someone’s path has crossed yours and they have left their footprints on your existence does not mean your soul has to follow their soul to bad places.

Have you kept holding onto a dead relationship? Is it time to let it go?

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


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