Check my thoughts about living in the past and dealing with rejection

I had a bit of a personal revelation this morning, and I’d like some feedback on it. It involves two scenarios.

Scenario 1: My mother-in-law came to live with us for a while during a rough period in her life. I got to know her very well, and learned just how much she lives in the past. She talked about growing up with her mother (who had OCD) and grandmother (who ran the house), and the very high expectations that came with living with OCD. I think she also has ADD and had ADD growing up, which may have contributed to her expressed unhappiness growing up. She is very conscious of her appearance, and works very hard at getting people to like her for fairly superficial reasons.

Scenario 2: I dated a girl for a few months 32 years ago. She had a very hard time dealing with the break-up and rejection, but we have been in contact a handful of times since then. In the subsequent conversations we’ve had, she has brought up things that we did as if they had just happened, asking me if I remember them. She has also tried to get me to say I still love her (which I don’t), making me limit my contact with her.

Revelatory thesis: both of these people live emotionally in the past but act in the present to find redemption for past hurt and/or rejection. It occurred to me that both my MIL and former girlfriend are trying hard to get others (including me) to like them as an attempt to redeem themselves and somehow “prove” that the rejection was wrong. This would be instead of accepting the rejection, dealing with the emotions and moving on.

Wait, what? You’re still somewhat invested in a defunct relationship that lasted a few months - 32 yrs ago, and you think they are living in the past?

Perhaps I’ve misreading it? If so apologies, but that’s what jumped out at me.

I am no authority but it seems to me too many people think others are judging them, but forget that if some one thinks you are the most wonderful person in the world,and you ar not… so what! If they think that you are the worst person in the world and your not…so What! only you know, and we shouldn’t let others define us. If there is something about us that we don’t like then it is up to us to change.

Elbows, I don’t have anything more invested in the relationship than I would in a casual acquaintance.
monavis, normally, yes, that would be the case with someone who has a healthy sense of self, a positive self-image and good self-esteem. Neither of these people do, thus they need constant attention from others around them. It was really wearing on us having my MIL around, as everything had to revolve around her, and when it didn’t, drama ensued. Likewise, drama ensued when I refused to “admit” that I was still in love with the former girlfriend several years ago during an IM conversation.

You dodged a bullet with your ex. She probably has a shrine to you in her bedroom closet.

You are right. She said she used to drive past my old house, well after we had moved away, and then accused me of making me waste her time waiting for me. Not a stable person. But, was she trying to reclaim her happiness before I broke up with her as well as keep the flame going (semi-rhetorical question)?

And you are in contact with her because …?

Seems to me like you can’t blame her for answering the door if you keep ringing the bell.

No, I haven’t been ringing the bell. We dated briefly in 1981. I took her to her prom in 1983. We briefly got caught up in 2002, and I have talked to her once since then. Apart from 1981, the contacts were initiated by her, and I cut them off shortly after. I suppose I’m a nice guy who has a hard time saying “Piss off!” But I do not pine or daydream about her at all. All the events I described above were related to me by her in 2002, and things that I was totally unaware of.