Have you ever woken up from a wonderful sex dream only to realize it was about an ex instead of your spouse? Did you recently encounter an old flame and find yourself thinking about your ex day and night? Perhaps you’re fantasizing about the wild days of your youth when you were taking risks and didn’t have a career or children that you were responsible for.
These are all perfectly normal and common scenarios. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you turn off your feelings about other relationships. If you’re thinking about your ex a lot and worry it may be unhealthy, it might be time to consider what’s behind these thoughts as they relate to you and your current marriage.
Why You Are Thinking About Your Ex
Your ex was an important part of life once, and your feelings toward them don’t magically disappear when you move on to a new romantic partner. It’s very natural to think about previous relationships. Thoughts are not facts. Thinking about your ex isn’t cheating. But what’s the reason for having these thoughts to begin with?
1. You may be reminiscing about good times that are missing from your current relationship.
2. It could be sexual in nature – something you and your ex used to do, and now you desire it again.
3. A recent experience reminded you of your ex. An experience can trigger a flood of memories that continue to bring up strong emotions or even lingering questions..
4. It could be part of a fantasy. “What if…” situations are exciting to entertain, and are a common tool for spicing up your sex life when used appropriately.
Use The Memory As An Opportunity To Strengthen Your Marriage
Thinking about your ex frequently is an indication that you want something that is lacking in your marriage at this point. More often than not, this is a fixable issue. With clear communication skills and the right support, you can bring most fantasies to life within your marriage.
Say you and your ex enjoyed an active and spontaneous sex life, but you are having intimacy problems with your spouse. It’s no wonder you’re thinking about your ex. It’s time to address the needs that are unmet and see how you and your spouse can improve your sex life. You may not be able to fully replicate the experiences you once had with a different romantic partner. But you may be able to get a little closer, or discover something different that you and your spouse can both enjoy.
If you are reminiscing about all the fun you and your ex had on weekend getaways or camping trips, it may simply be time for you to plan a little vacation or at the very least, set up some date nights with your spouse.
Similarly, if you miss the active social life you and your ex once shared, think about how you can make more time to spend with friends and family. Of course this can be a challenge, especially with work, children, and other responsibilities. But the key here is to understand what’s missing that you once enjoyed, and replicate it as best you can in your current relationship.
Use the concept of peak experience to evaluate what you desire and how to meet those needs within your marriage.
Your Marriage Is Probably OK, But What If It’s Not?
Chances are, your marriage is just fine, even if you are thinking about your ex. If your marriage is going through a rough patch, you should be able to work through most issues and get it back on track. But what if you are thinking about another partner because your marriage is in real trouble? In that case, it’s time for more intentional effort.
First, identify any missing needs in your marriage. What do you tend to fantasize about? If you met a marriage genie tomorrow, what would you ask for?
Second, find a way to tell your partner what you want. Some couples are able to have very heartfelt conversations about their marriage while other couples find it easier to express themselves in a letter or email. It all comes down to what is going to create effective communication and how you both can do the necessary maintenance work in your relationship.
Finally, consider getting some professional support. If the disconnect in your marriage is too deep to manage on your own, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of an experienced couples therapist. A therapist will help you identify the root causes of your conflict and support you in navigating through the difficult and often uncomfortable topics. Ideally, a therapist will also equip you with the skills and tools you’ll need to maintain your marriage long-term.
Even if you see signs that your marriage is failing, rest assured it is recoverable with the help of counseling. If your marriage has reached its end, you can also work with a therapist or mediator on a separation plan. Remember, there’s a lot of work that can be done before just deciding to end your relationship. With the right support and commitment, you can make it work.