This month has been a bit hectic. In addition to my birthday and all of the drama that transpired, I also thought it was a great idea to schedule doctors appointments, dentists appointments, and eye doctors appointments for my kids and myself. To be honest, all of the running around has got me feeling a bit uninvested in myself this month. I don’t think that things are going to get any better next month, as this will be the month when I will have to devote myself to starting my new job, developing new routines, and planning my kids birthdays (yes, I have two Gemini babies). Just a heads up, my posting and shadow work may get a bit spotty in the coming weeks. I am going to try to keep up with it all, but blogging may have to be put in the back burner until I adjust to a new normal.
As for my work today, I have decided to push through and finish up exploring the things in my life that I romanticize to be better or worse than what they are. I have thought about this a lot over the past two days, and a term kept coming to my mind that I had read about while doing research about my anxious avoidant attachment style…”the phantom ex.” I’m sure that a more academic source could explain this better, but I will do my best.
The phantom ex refers to a past romantic partner, or rather the idea of that person. People with anxious avoidant attachment styles struggle with the desire to form close intimate relationships in spite of their fear of getting hurt, abandoned, or mistreated. When an anxious avoidant person starts to fear that they will be hurt by their partner, they may go into avoidant mode, putting up a wall between themselves and their partner in the form of the phantom ex. The anxious avoidant person likely isn’t still in love with this ex partner at all. However, their thought patterns can make them feel like they are. They engage in thoughts and fantasies about their previous relationship, idolizing it to be better than it ever really was. They convince themselves that they are emotionally invested in these past relationships, all the while emotionally distancing from their current partner and avoiding their current issues. By engaging in thoughts of the phantom ex, the anxious avoidant person is protecting themselves from getting hurt by their current partner. They feel that if they invest all of their emotions into their phantom ex, it won’t hurt as much when their current partner does that thing that they are afraid of. It is a way of pulling back their emotions from someone they fear will hurt them, and investing those emotions in something that will never hurt them again because the phantom ex relationship is already done and over with. They occupy their minds with memories and made up fantasies as a way to distance their emotions from the real and potentially painful situations within their current relationship.
The anxious avoidant personal likely isn’t aware that they are doing this. It is a defense mechanism that comes up almost naturally.
So, the point in explaining all of this is that I do it. I won’t go into specific details, but I definitely do this in my relationship with Ross. Looking back now, I think that I have done this since I started dating Lee in high school. I never knew what I was doing until I came across this in my research. Before that moment, I really thought that I missed my ex. However, after I sat down and thought about it, I realized that I didn’t even know who that person was any more. So many years had passed and in truth, I was totally over it. Coming to this realization was actually really hard for me. I felt stupid every time my old thought patterns started to reemerge. Also, without entertaining thoughts of my phantom ex, I felt empty and defenseless against the pain that was being cause within my relationship with Ross. Honestly, I am still in this place now.
I don’t think about my phantom ex much anymore. When the thoughts do come up, I am able to reason my way out of them most of the time. However, without having my phantom ex to romanticize, I don’t feel like I have anything to keep me safe from what I am going through with Ross. I used to fantasize that if me and Ross ever split up, the phantom ex would be waiting for me. I know that this is ridiculous, and trust me, I know it isn’t true and probably wouldn’t even want it to be true. However, accepting this has made me feel kind of hopeless about life after marriage. I don’t feel like I am any more equipped to deal with my marital issues than I was before. However, I am thankful to be free of my old thought patterns.
I think that the whole phantom ex thing is why I used to cheat on Ross so often after finding out that he had cheated on me in the early days of our relationship. I wanted to get him back, but it was also my way of emotionally distancing from him and rectifying the pain that I went through. I wanted to protect myself from future pain by putting my attention and emotions into other people. I remember being so confused back then. There were moments where I acknowledged to myself that I didn’t really even like the guys that I was talking to…but I kept doing it. I thought maybe I just liked the drama, but I think that there was so much more to it than that.
Even though this isn’t who I am anymore and I have worked really hard to break old mental and behavioral patterns, I still feel that I am at a loss with how to deal with my current situation. I know it isn’t good. I can see that. I am feeling the hurt without trying to avoid it or buffer it. However, I still have no clue what to do about it. Sometimes I open conversation and it feels like I’m getting somewhere, but other times it feels like I am talking to a brick wall. I can see my relationship as it is, but I can’t get over the feeling that there is so much more that I don’t know. Something is gnawing at me, telling me that somehow I must be overlooking something or that my own hang ups are keeping me from seeing the forest through the trees.
I want to be able to see and empathize with my partners experiences and pain, while at the same time knowing when enough is enough. I don’t know where that line is. Every time I feel like I am approaching it, I start to think that I am wrong somehow and that I just need to try a little harder. When I think if things this way, it is no wonder why I developed an emotional defense mechanism to deal with the fact that I have no emotional boundaries.
Maybe I need to work on this throughout the day today…writing out some emotional boundaries. I may hop back on later today to share them, because I really want to step away from the relationship aspects of this card tomorrow and move onto moving my life from the “dream” phase into the “action” phase using the King of Wands energy. However, I think that coming up with some boundaries will help me moving forward, both emotionally and practically.
Speaking of practicality, I know that I tend to romanticize the idea of “success” without appreciating the journey. I have done this since I was a kid. I honestly think that it had a lot to do with being poor and wanting what everyone else had without knowing how they got it. I am actively working on this everyday. As I move forward tomorrow, I think I may consider creating an action plan to get moving on some of my big goals. I did this a bit earlier in my shadow work, but I think it is time to get serious now!
These shadow work/self development posts are truly intended for my own self discover and development, but I appreciate those of you who took the time to read this. I will be working with my shadow aspects and self development needs relating to the Knight of Cups reversed until I feel that it is time for me to move onto something new.
Love Always, AnxiouslyM