You Don’t Miss Him. You Miss The Idea Of Who You Wanted Him To Be.

It doesn’t take much to miss him: a song, a movie, a TV show. Maybe it’s a friend mentioning his name, or seeing or meeting someone who shares his name. The pain is almost unbearable.

The “him” I speak of is the man you used to be in a relationship or the man who you hoped to be in a relationship with. But he’s no longer in your life in the way he used to be. You still think you genuinely feel love for him, despite the fact that he’s no longer a major part of your life for a reason: he is a jerk. He hurt you, probably repeatedly. And you know in your heart of hearts that you have no business ever having a relationship or probably even having any sort of friendship with him. But you still miss him a lot–even if he was and is bad for you.

You’re tightly holding onto the memories of this man despite the fact that you know that it’s time to move on. You miss him more than you can clearly express, you think of him all the time, and your heart aches at the thought of not having him near.

Of course, the problem with missing someone with whom you have an unhealthy relationship is that it leads to re-engagement with that person–which is the last thing you need. But you’ve probably texted him or called him, more than once. And you probably regretted it soon after you’ve done it. You can’t just help yourself, can you? Every bit of progress you’ve made in an attempt to gain a healthy distance from him goes straight back to zero.

If given any chance, you would take him back in a second; you hope that one day, he can turn around and admit, “I screwed up, you are what I need in my life.”

Which brings me to my point: this guy you miss so much, he doesn’t really exist.

Yup. That man you miss so much, the man you wish could hold you again, the man whose physical presence you crave, isn’t really real.

You may be saying, “Wait a minute! I was in a very real relationship, what do you mean he didn’t exist?”

What you’re missing is the idea of him, not who he really was and is.

You’re missing the version of a man that you constructed in your head. You created this version of him to fulfill a need. It could be a need to solve the problems of men in the past. It could be an unrealistic obsession with the “perfect guy.” It could be an obsession with unavailable men. Early on in your relationship or friendship, this guy somehow did things that you’ve always wanted a man you’re in a relationship to do and somehow said all the right things and that is what you end up being biased towards. He also seemingly managed to avoid doing things that men in your past did to hurt you emotionally or made you feel uncomfortable. And as soon as you witnessed this “good” behavior, you latched on to it. Box checked; this guy might be the one. You ignore all the bad stuff and hang on to the romantic fantasy of him feeding you nice lines.

But all these positive traits are the components you piece together to create this image of this guy, who wasn’t actually a good guy or at least not the man for you. And it’s that constructed version of him that makes you ache, that makes you hurt. It’s the version you miss so much. It’s the version that makes you wonder how you are ever going to find a guy like him again. You can’t imagine that another guy like him, with all his unique qualities, could exist.

The creation/idea you thought you were with, the guy you miss so much actually treated you horribly, made you cry, made you feel lonely. But you don’t think as much about those horrible moments when you are thinking of him, do you?

The parts of him that you do miss don’t really involve the negative. Rather, it’s about the idyllic. It’s about little moments with him that were so amazing; you can just close your eyes and go back to them and feel incredibly happy and then incredibly sad.

Whenever you should be reminding yourself that this guy hurt you, disappointed you, you do just the opposite. The man you managed to create, who doesn’t really exist, pops up. He’s smiling, he’s making you feel special, he’s the one who makes you feel invincible. “The idea” of him comes roaring back and sets you further behind in your progress to properly move on.

Nighttime is the worst, isn’t it? The anxiety runs high. Nothing can seemingly soothe the frustration, anger, sense of loss. Being alone is painful, but even being with your friends is equally tension-filled.

It’s enough to make you want to throw something against the wall, “Why can’t I just stop re-engaging, why can’t I just move on, why can’t I stop missing him? Why can’t I make this go away?”

You’re not going to stop missing “him” until you first acknowledge that he was never really there to begin with.

He was just a ghost.

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23 Responses to “You Don’t Miss Him. You Miss The Idea Of Who You Wanted Him To Be.”

  1. Avatar of bamse
    bamse September 4, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    Thank you, Thank you!
    I’m going thru a bad breakup now.. and this article
    has helped me. I’m reading it over and over again
    so that its imprinted in my mind.. You write so well
    and its SPOT ON!!!
    Once again thank you for writing this down and sharing
    it with the world!

  2. Avatar of bird
    bird August 13, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    I don’t know who you are but thank you so much for your column. When you are left behind in a relationship, it is so hard to break some patterns and sometimes we need a strong voice to point out common sense.

  3. Avatar of pree
    pree August 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    Thanks for writing this…i got it. His ghost is still chasing me; he still tries to be friends with me and tries to convince me that he is my best friend and I m still stuck somewhere or maybe you are right that image he created of him in front of me which was so down to earth, simple, loving and caring god knows what still exists. Long time back as soon as I realized I was in wrong relationship I was looking for a way to have break up with him but one day I woke up from dream and realized that he is just not a wrong man but I m sleeping with an enemy who has exaggerated his image over mine in front of my family, friends and everybody I have in my life and trying to bully me to victimize me further by exchanging his image with my image. It was a huge struggle for me to fight this kind of fight. The kind of things happen in stories was happening with me in reality. He has damaged my social image so badly that some people still get confused who is right and who is wrong between us and it’s still a struggle for me to give assurance to everyone that I m a normal person not someone like him. These kinds of people are so abusive, manipulative, sick and dangerous and the ghost image they create in front of people give them a huge ground to play their dirty dangerous game of life and death. You are so right it’s actually there ghost image which everybody believed was real but was never real chase them for long even after when they leave. Giving chances to these kinds of people can even kill someone, it’s better to get rid of an abusive person ASAP but it’s more important to get rid of that ghost image he has created deliberately all around you to remain there prey forever. They leave there ghost in your head to make you victim of similar kind of man/woman again and again. Unknowingly we attract or get attracted to someone similar. It’s very important to detoxify our brain systems to get rid of that ghost and to heal the deep wounds he/she gives to us through sick relationship. Anybody can develop wrong beliefs and complexes in him because of wrong experiences he/ she had due to wrong relationship. Wrong beliefs and complexes can put him into more troubles in life.

  4. Avatar of gaslantern
    gaslantern August 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Yashar, Thank you for this article. Thinking about him all the time feels like an invasion of my life and space. Part of why he is still in my head is that he failed and disappointed me. He had so much potential. They other reason is that I realized what a waste he was and how I should have walked away when I realized he was not even an ounce of the man I thought he was.

    I’ve started a blog for women that have been gaslighted by intimate partners. I hope that people will join in sharing their stories at

    Thanks again for this post. I’m packing him up and letting him go.

  5. Avatar of LorraineM9
    LorraineM9 August 9, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    So true! I noticed that in myself and in lots of women around me. I don’t know if it happens to men too. I imagine so. What I noticed is that people don’t look at someone’s character to be the basis of loving them. I find this is so important. Is the other person kind, compassionate, trustworthy, faithful, understanding…. ? (Different people will be searching for different qualities – here’s a nice list of virtues for those who would like to get familiar with them: Then, once we know their qualities, their virtues, we must also look to see how they act with others, with their family, with the parents, then we’ll know how they’ll behave with us. It’s crucial to know who we love and why we love them. Focus on real facts (virtues and actions) not on a hazy imagination of someone.
    Thanks for the great article!

  6. Avatar of karina
    karina August 8, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    This is true. It took me 45 years and a lot of therapy to understand why I keep getting attracted to “these type of men”.

    it is only in the last year, that I see how my patterns repeat themselves again and again; how I am attracted to unavailable men and settle for “tidbits”. My ex, who I was married to for far too long, has been described in many of your insightful articles. From two fathers that were too weak to protect me as a child to a husband who had no idea what my real need was; to be “really heard” (this after me telling him this for years and years), I finally had to face my fears and do “the work”.

    Today, my desire for an intimate relationship beyond platonic friends, has for the most part disappaited. I am learning what I really need and how to take care of those needs. I am enjoying being on my own. I always say” My loneliest day is still better than living with my ex. Being in a relationship and lonely is much worse than being on my own.

    To this end, I am writing a book called “The Survivor’s Guide to Addictive Relationships: How to obsess about a man in three easy steps and get over him”. I thank you for all your articles. In my role as a counsellor, countless women friends have read many of them and commented how many of your artcles mirror their lives.

  7. Avatar of theprairiehealer
    theprairiehealer August 8, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    I am doing this. It was a brief encounter and not really even a relationship. I find myself in the shower with my thoughts invaded and I will actually say out loud to myself, “Why won’t he go away? He doesn’t exist?” I already know the person I am obsessing about doesn’t exist and I just can’t get it out of my mind – flaws and all.

  8. Avatar of InnerOuter
    InnerOuter August 8, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    This really is a good reality check for anyone who is having trouble letting go… 9 times out of 10, the person they’re having trouble letting go of isn’t the same as the person who was really there.

    It took me years to come to terms with that after a previous relationship went south, even when friends and family opened up and confided that they’d always wondered why I was so head over heels when he obviously wasn’t invested in making things work in the long run. Only now can I see it, after time has passed and my mind is unclouded by wishful thinking.

    Thanks for the reminder! I hope it helps someone else who is going through this now.

    (Also, just a side note: guys are guilty of doing this too)

    • Avatar of sillycynic
      sillycynic August 8, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

      Guys are guilty of it too. We get this misguided thought that she is vulnerable and so we stick around to keep her from floundering. Even when she says the most awful things, we take it because we’re supposed to be stronger and more impervious to the abuse.

      Fact is, neither men nor women have a monopoly on abuse. It just looks different. And when one of us leaves, what you describes happens to both genders. Men are no more emotionally stronger than women.

      The really sad part is when one or the other gives up on therapy and any realistic hope for that relationship.

      The hurt affects the XY just as much as women (and we are less equipped to handle the hurt.)

      • Avatar of SidneyDesignerSnake
        SidneyDesignerSnake September 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

        This is true. My husband dated quite a few abusive women before finding me. Thankfully both of us outgrew this by 23-24 when we got together, dated, and then made it official, but we know so many others of both genders who continue to chase toxic partners. And it happens with our friends in same-sex relationships too. We go out with a male couple comprised of two men who are completely wrong for each other. I knew one of the men from “back in the day,” and when he was single, he was happy, vibrant, engaged, and interested in his hobby, art.

        Today, he is a sad man who drinks too much and worries that his partner will leave him soon. He peppers his conversation with “I’m sorry’s” and “No offenses,” because in the shadow of his partner, he feels that small. After them, I could name other gay couples we know, and lesbian couples too, going through this, but I don’t have the time. My husband and I are both pansexual, and I am the “gayer” of the two of us by far, and I could also tell you all the women I’ve dated who put me down and made me feel small, but again, it would take all day.

        If there were just two things I could tell straight men who are angry because they perceive that women chase “bad boys” at the expense of “Nice Guys ™” it would be the following: 1) Many of the women you’re putting on pedestals in your mind are trapped in a cycle of abuse, low self-worth, and self-hatred. You are not missing anything by not dating these women, and if you did happen to get together with them, you would soon grow frustrated by the fact that you cannot fix them. 2) Some of you are not as “nice” as you think you are – whether it’s the guy I’m pen pals with who tries and fails to make his move on married women under the guise of friendship, or the guy I know who is single and angry about it at 30 because he A) calls his dates “b*tches” and “wh*res” when he gets tipsy, B) simultaneously views women as gold-digging succubi out to milk him for all he is worth and steak dinners besides AND is viciously angry that women evaluate him on qualities besides his pay stubs and bank account balances, because they earn their own money now and are seeking partners and equals, not providers, and C) shows a callous, almost cruel indifference to the struggles women and sexual/ethnic minorities are facing, opining constantly that “we” have done “enough – perhaps too much” for us, and we need to be knocked down a little bit and put back into positions of subordination.

  9. Avatar of scdg1983
    scdg1983 August 8, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    Wow, you hit the nail on the head. I have done this (I guess still doing it). Many women, including myself need to stop this.

  10. Avatar of yourspiritualtruth
    yourspiritualtruth August 8, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    OUCH….you nailed it! Thank you for holding up the mirror Yashar. Now, teach us how to avoid this trap in the future! :)

  11. Avatar of Livvy Ospry
    Livvy Ospry August 8, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Been there. In my case in a very real way. I was just watching Mad Men last night and Donald Draper said, writing his memoirs…people tell you who they are but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.

    This is very true….we need to see them for what they really are.

  12. Avatar of Heather
    Heather August 8, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Do you have a crystal ball you look into to see what’s going on in your readers’ lives? ;) My 10 1/2 marriage just ended due to husband’s need to be a 20-something single party guy and not the 40-year-old responsible family man he had been. In the midst of the pain and anger and everything else, I’ve also been missing who he used to be and wondering which one was the ‘real’ person. I think I need to do some ghostbusting on those memories . . .

    • Avatar of aprilneo
      aprilneo August 8, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      Wise words…

      • Avatar of born2care
        born2care September 8, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

        Just exactly what I needed to read as I sit here staring mindlessly at my computer on my first Saturday night alone in a good long while! Why do we keep trying to force that square peg into the round hole? It’s undermining all of our best qualities
        and seriously damages any chances we have have of living healthy and fulfilled lives. I must keep reminding myself that I am enough! I do not need another person to make me whole. Yes, companionship is lovely but, only if it brings out the best in me, not just on the random day, but everyday. Somewhere, somehow, “When it is your time love will track you down like a cruise missile.” ~Lynda Barry


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