When Your Ex Becomes a Symbol in Your Life
By Frank Kermit
We are surrounded by the power of symbols. A symbol is more than just a design we recognize; symbols are a means of making meaning. Whatever the symbol, or character-symbol, the purpose is to convey a meaning to an audience. Symbols have a way of reaching people. Whether it is the symbol of a dollar sign ($), horoscope Gemini sign, or colored ribbon remembrance, all symbols have the intent to carry on a meaning for the audience and if properly effective, a symbol leaves an emotional impact.
The ribbon is not just a piece of material but a testament to those that may have died from, or survived, breast cancer. The Gemini sign is not some doodle on a paper, but a means to connect to energies unknown that can influence our life's journey. The dollar sign is not merely to describe the concept of money and value, but may also represent a symbol of hardship, connecting to a memory of when someone did not have enough money to afford the basics; just as that same symbol of the dollar sign may represent a reminder of the power of what you can earn to someone else.
We do not just look at the Golden Arches. We making meaning of them and interpret deserving a break today, childhood, and singing about "two all-beef patties, special sauce, etc..." However the most powerful symbols are the ones that have some element of sentience to them...character symbols we recognize as people. From as far back as breakfast cereal commercials, we formed relationships with character symbols such as "Tony the Tiger", "Toucan Sam" and "Snap", "Crackle", "Pop". Where the Golden Arches reach their limits, "Ronald" can pick up the burger and carry it over the goal line to make the touchdown scoring an emotional impact.
But what if the clown that has become a symbol in your life happens to be a relationship ex who has come to represent everything that is wrong with you?
Have you ever struggled to get over an ex, even when you are the one that ended the relationship? Have you ever struggled to move on with your life, even though you know intellectually that your ex was completely wrong for you? Do you remember your ex and your relationship with your ex, as being so much better than it was, and can only be reminded of that fully when either an outside person points it out, or (gasp!) you rekindle with your ex and realize what a mistake you just made? Chances are that your ex has become a symbol for you.
Turning an ex into a symbol is not that difficult a process. If you spend way too much time fantasizing about your ex, or more specifically, fantasizing about how great your life would have been with your ex, you are effectively turning your ex into a symbol. Your ex, the real one, is human. Your real ex is a human with all the positive and negative traits that make a person human. Your real ex is a human that is as flawed as dinged as the rest of us. However, the symbol of your ex is perfect. The symbol of your ex is superbly attractive, says all the right things, responds to your every communication exactly the way you need it. In this way, the symbol of your ex could represent how wonderfully perfect you wish your life could be and no amount of reality, including a new relationship partner, or even your real ex, could ever live up to that.
If you feel any shame or guilt about the nature of your break up, the symbol of your ex could be something that continues to make you feel bad about yourself because the symbol of your ex could be a reminder of all the mistakes you think you made that caused you to feel the pain you are in during your heartbreak. At this point, the idea of reconciliation with your ex could be interpreted as the only way to correct the errors of your past and prove that you are forgivable. This of course does not pan out in the real world. If ever you do manage to get your ex back, even if you have healed that part of you that was in part responsible for the break up, your ex is still your ex. If you and your ex have both healed your broken parts, then you are essentially new people that may not be compatible. If only one of you has healed the broken parts, then the repeating behavior patterns of the other are still in effect and will take their toll on the relationship. No matter what anyone in the couple says...there are always two sides to every break up that each partner must accept responsibility for.
When trying to get over an ex, an important step of the process is to acknowledge the differences between your ex as the imperfect human being (the real ex) verses the symbol of your ex who you likely and unfairly compare to every new potential love that comes into your life. You do have a choice. Accept the reality and move on, or stay stuck on the fantasy of the ex...who never actually existed.
FRANK KERMIT MA
EXPERT RELATIONSHIP COACH
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