Not all relationships last. Often, because who you are at one stage of life changes in another stage, that ‘new’ person finds themselves out of love with their partner. That change might instigate issues with fidelity, with fractured communication or create feelings of resentment, but initially, it is growth that brings those actions to bear.
Regardless of how that ending comes about, though, think on all the relationships that follow that. Like a swinging pendulum, the love that follows the first is often quite different… if a first relationship was focused on physical attraction, the next might be based in similar interests. If a love starts with common ground, as interests move on, so does the relationship. When a new partnership develops, the impulse to compare it to the former is often overwhelming: 'Johnny never cooked for me, how great that Jake does!' 'Alice wasn’t really into hiking, how fantastic that Amy can go for miles!' The relationship feels fresh, and all the comparisons are typically positive ones.
It is when conflict arises that the comparisons become negative: ‘Jake always wants to stay in, I like eating out… Johnny did too.’ ‘Amy knows my ankle is torn up, I can’t go hiking for a while… Alice wouldn’t have pressured me like this.’ Partners reflect back on prior relationships and sometimes find themselves missing what was.
I’d argue that it is the comparison causing the hurt feelings, not the new partner. The new love is never going to be your ex: you chose them in many ways because they aren’t. Because this person more closely aligns with who you are now, to wish they were someone else (or at least wish they were more like your ex) is probably saying more about you than about them.
Change is not always linear or progressive: When you are reflecting back on an old relationship, you aren’t sliding backwards or necessarily really missing the old flame… probably, you are thinking back on the old YOU and who you were with that person. To expect your new partner to be more like someone you stopped being romantically attached to is both unfair and not true to your personal growth either.
So when you find yourself sitting down to a three course meal lovingly prepared by your new beau or on mile 6 of a trail on a sunny afternoon, remember – they aren’t your ex: and you chose them for who you both are now.