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It’s Okay to Associate Your Favorite Things With an Ex

How to keep enjoying your favorite things despite some grim associations.

I was sitting in my living room with my best friend the other night when she began to grow angry. In recollecting one of her favorite TV shows, The Office, she blurted out that she “felt guilty” for watching it because it had been the go-to show for her and her ex-betrothed. They separated a long time ago, and she recently celebrated her one-year anniversary with her new boyfriend. From this memory, our conversation about comedy TV turned into a mutual pondering of how bad we each should or shouldn’t feel about enjoying things we used to enjoy with exes.

When I thought about it, there were definitely some things that I could not tolerate because of associations with my own Evil Ex. It was the reason I hated Marvel movies and listening to DMX.

Still, there were some things that we enjoyed together that I could just never find myself banishing from my life because of him. Even though my ex had made fun of most of my interests, we could always agree on watching cartoons, and we easily watched every episode of South Park, King of the Hill, and Family Guy together over the course of our five-year dumpster fire.

Because I enjoyed these things so much on my own, I didn’t let my past stop me from enjoying them now. I put my foot down — I wasn’t going to let one crappy person destroy the entire delightful pastime of cartoons for me — and expressed this to my friend best I could.

“It’s okay to have associations with an ex,” I said, “but maybe what we need to do is differentiate. The Office was your thing before it was a relationship thing. You need to go back and reclaim it as your thing. You lived with him for almost a decade; if you weren’t allowed to enjoy any of the things that you enjoyed with him, there would literally be nothing left. That isn’t fair to you.”

If we weren’t allowed to do anything we did with an ex while moving on and making new memories, we wouldn’t be allowed to eat, sleep, or breathe.

Oftentimes, my friend and I have expressed guilt over the fact that we’re still hung up on our anger, resentment, and feelings of time wasted by our prospective exes. When we’re reminded of these people with a TV show or an activity, all hell breaks loose.

All of these things get better with time, but occasionally we need to make the conscious decision and effort to create a new and genuine story for ourselves that isn’t tainted by the past. We can learn from the past without constantly reliving it.

If you’re like me and live with PTSD, this advice might be difficult to take. For people like us, “trauma thoughts” are everywhere. My trauma thoughts follow me everywhere I go, and I feel guilty for not being able to simply “move on” despite all of my incidents being years and (in certain cases) decades behind me.

The mix of wild and weird things that remind me of my least favorite ghost from my past have slowly begun to taper as time goes by, and my friend reported the same feeling to me the other night. Still, we both agreed that we each find ourselves prone to fixating on the negativity of Evil Exes when we’re feeling our worst. A bad day can turn into an unwelcome trip down memory lane very easily.

I’m writing to tell you that there’s something good about this — a silver lining, perhaps. If our worst moods and tantrums mean that all we have to get angry about rests in things that happened 5 years ago, then that means that we’re doing pretty good for ourselves.

It shows that we’ve crafted meaningful lives and relationships despite years of tedium and hardship. If one is stuck on injustices from their past and sits around wondering how they allowed themselves to be treated so poorly, it only makes sense to realize that new precedents have been set and that this kind of unpleasant reflection is a part of growth.

We don’t need to feel guilty for associating things, places, or people with an ex. If you spent years with someone you’ve now denounced, memories of them are bound to pop up from time to time. I encourage everyone to reclaim their favorite pastimes, TV shows, and mutual friends and to learn from the past instead of allowing it to place us in a chokehold of doubt and guilt.

The best thing that we can do with these painful memories is use their suffering to hone wisdom and let the heartache go so that “bad memories” can evolve and become “difficult lessons”.

For S.Q.

I write about various topics and occasionally share wisdom I’ve earned through suffering.

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