Are You On A "Feedback Loop" When It Comes To Your Ex?

If you can't seem to shake your ex, learn more about what a feedback loop is.

Love & Relationships

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one, who can absolutely attest to the fact that, if there's one thing 2020 provided, it was the opportunity to go totally ham when it comes to checking out what various forms of media provides. What I mean by that is, you've probably never been on Twitter as much, binge-watched television shows as often or checked out movies that you never ever would've considered otherwise, had it not been for this pandemic.

Well, a movie that I personally, that actually serves as the inspiration for this piece, is entitled Open Tables. It's basically about a whole bunch of white people, who sit around dinner tables, in order to share tales of their relational experiences. Out of all the stories, there was one, in particular, that had me be like "wow". See, there was this couple who were basically on the verge of breaking up. Then, the guy ended up having an accident that caused him to have a bout of very short-term memory loss (kinda like the movie 50 First Dates when Drew Barrymore's character could only remember a day; then she would go to sleep, wake up and mentally start the same day all over again). The woman, his ex, took on the challenge to be his temporary caregiver; since his short-term memory was shot, he was perfectly fine with that. The woman then decided that she would take advantage of his injury by getting him to do all of the things that she wished he had done when they were "officially" together. Pretty soon, she realized that she had fallen for the man she "made up", only for him to eventually regain his memory and want nothing to do with her. Why? Because they had already broken up and he remembered it. Finally.

When the woman went back to the doctor to share how absolutely devastated she was to know that her relationship—the one she had manipulated into becoming just how she wanted it—had once again come to an end, the physician said something that was super on-point. "He was on a feedback loop. You all were on a feedback loop". Then the doctor followed that question up by looking the woman directly in the eyes and asked, "My question is, what made you stay so long?"

Feedback loops. Y'all, won't it preach? Some of us are still caught up in cyclic patterns with our own ex (sometimes, it's even more than one ex) and it's all because of our own customized feedback loops. Are you ready for me to break this down even further so that you can fully and finally get free?

How a “Feedback Loop” Plays Out in a Lot of Relationships


Listen, if anyone is a top candidate to rock a "Feedback Loop" T-shirt, it would definitely have to be me, chile. Articles that I've written on this site like, "Why Every Woman Should Go On A 'Get Your Heart Pieces Back' Tour", "Why Running Into Your Ex Can Be The Best Thing Ever" and even "You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?" are just three documented examples of how I know what it's like to be in this kind of pattern with a man from my past. That said, even though I've already provided you with a fictionalized example of what a feedback loop is, perhaps you're curious about how it tends to play out in the real world? I get that, so let's start with looking at two definitions of the word "feedback", OK?

Feedback: the furnishing of data concerning the operation or output of a machine to an automatic control device or to the machine itself, so that subsequent or ongoing operations of the machine can be altered or corrected; a reaction or response to a particular process or activity

Alright, so since we're human beings rather than machines, for the sake of where I'm going with this, when it comes to the definitions that I just provided, swap out the word "machine" for "experience" and the word "device" for "mind". Then, you're able to better understand that feedback is data that comes directly from an experience, that goes into the mind, so that the experience can then be altered or created. While we're here, it's also worth noting that feedback is the reaction or response that comes out of when this happens too.

Whew. Let's now present this in a way of dealing with an ex. Every single relationship that we have collects data. Our mind collects data. Our heart collects data. If we were sexually active with them, our body collects data too (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'"). OK, well when we're on a feedback loop with someone, it means that the data that our mind, heart and body collects is oftentimes altered. Altered by whom? Altered by us.
  • We may alter it by only reflecting on the good times with our ex.
  • We may alter it by focusing on how great the sex was while ignoring how bad the relationship was.
  • We may alter it by minimizing how unhealthy the dynamic actually was.
  • We may alter it by telling ourselves that we were the only one with the problem or issue (or they were).
  • We may alter it by telling ourselves that it's better to be with him than to be alone.

And when we manipulate data in this way, it's very easy to then get a call from our ex or even want to reach out to them—you know, in order to react or respond—because we aren't working with all of the info that we should. We're only seeing what we want to see while ignoring the parts that caused us to end it with them in the first place.

Again, I know exactly what it's like to be caught up in this because, one some level, I've been going around and around with my first love for a couple of decades. No joke. Matter of fact, just last month, we spoke again and there was a part of me, for the billionth time that was like, "maybe…just maybe" (what in the world?!). The good news is I've learned to love myself more than him (that hasn't always been the case) and so, when he told me, also for the billionth time now, that he still loved me and wanted me in his life and we even broached the subject of trying to be friends, I actually considered it. Yet when I told him what I expected from my friendships and again he did not follow through, I realized that what was really going on is I was getting over my feedback loop. Well, kinda.

What I mean by that is, the way he was even able to get 30 minutes of my time, yet again, is due to my own feedback loop that I still need to silence more than I thought. Because he was my first everything, there is a 19-year-old part of me who still giggles at his jokes and finds comfort in our incomparable familiarity, even all these years later. But y'all—there ain't enough time in today or tomorrow to tell you all of the reasons why we needed to break up—and stay broken up. I will always have profound feelings for him (virgins, be careful who you give it up to; the bond tends to be indescribably profound) yet the loop has to break. Once and for all. Because while he continues to be fine and some mo' fine and there is a chemistry that is bar none, I now get that the manipulated data is the ONLY THING that truly catches me up. It's also what's caused me to waste a lot of time, pondering irrelevant "what ifs" too.

So now that I've put some of my business out in front street in order to paint a clearer picture, ask yourself—are you currently in a feedback loop with someone? Is there a person who you share data, in the form of experiences and memories with, who you keep manipulating/editing the reality of the situation, in order to justify still involving—or even lightly engaging—yourself with them? If so, what really are you getting from that? How is "running around in a loop" getting you anywhere?

How You Can Prevent Using a “Feedback Loop” with an Ex


If you after seeing a feedback loop for what it is, your immediate response is "F—ck! I am most definitely in a feedback loop. What do I do now?" first, don't beat yourself up about it. Chile, it happens to the best of us. Second, I'll lightly touch on a few tips that can hopefully break you totally free—so that you can create better and more beneficial data with someone else.

Write a goodbye letter about the relationship. To yourself. In order to break free from the manipulated data that you've been feeding yourself, the first thing that I recommend is writing a goodbye letter to and for yourself; not so much about the break-up as the feedback loop that you've been in as a direct result of it. Make sure to include why you're in the loop, the experiences and memories that you've been leaving out about the relationship, and why that man is your ex for a reason. Then conclude it with why you deserve more and better (because you do). Store the letter somewhere where you can access it, each and every time you are tempted to "get back in the loop" again, so that it can serve as your reality check, when all common sense and discernment are totally out of the window.

Stop rehearsing the past; with yourself, friends or with him. I've gotta admit that, probably the main thing that keeps me and my ex going through over and over…and over again, is the fact that whenever we do speak, it's only a matter of time before we find ourselves walking back down memory lane (editing out most of the icky stuff, of course). That ends up feeling so good that we both tell our friends about it and, based on who that is, sometimes they feed into the feedback loop by talking about how precious or romantic all of the reminiscing is. Then, once get the cosign, we keep playing it back over and over…and over in our minds until we convince ourselves that it's meant to be. Somehow, someway, we're gonna make it work.

Listen, we rehearse things either to get better at them or to not forget them. So, if you want to truly break out of the feedback loop with your ex, that means you're gonna have to start a new narrative. Yep, you're going to have to leave the past in the past—right where it belongs. With you, your friends and with him.

When engaging with your ex again, be clear about why. It would be unfair to not put on record that there are people who are able to stay friends with their ex. Issa (from Insecure) even tried to make us believe that it's possible to be friends with an ex's new boo. Shoot, back in the day, our managing editor even said she could handle still having sex with her ex. To all of these scenarios, the main thing to keep in mind before even considering them, is why you would do it. It needs to be more than because you miss ole' boy. When you're in a relationship with someone, it changes you. You need to consider how having any kind of "realness" with him will benefit the person you are now—the one you've become, in part, as a direct result of the relationship and it coming to an end. If you can find five good clear reasons, along with a male and female friend who can see the sense in it as well (because sometimes we need folks to see our matters from the inside out), then it is possible that you can keep an ex in your life and not run in a feedback loop with them. Tricky yet possible.

Be honest about what is required to fully move forward. One more tip. I'm gonna be honest with you—while I don't think that it's impossible to keep your past in your present, it does usually require some extraordinary finessing; especially if one or both of you have some sort of strong attraction or feelings for one another. Back to my ex, because there are always things, even about his personality, that I'm always gonna adore, I'm honestly playing myself to say that we can be "just friends". And it's the lack of honesty that gets me caught up in the feedback loop, no matter what, oftentimes when I absolutely least expect it. Yet isn't it interesting that a feedback loop is all about manipulating data? Therefore, doesn't it make perfect sense, that the way to break out of the loop, would be by being as genuine, sincere and honest with oneself as possible?

Sis, do you need your ex in your life? If so, why? Because if keeping him around is going to leave you stagnant in some way, being "stuck" in never good. The people in your life should help you to move forward. Otherwise, you really should strongly consider leaving them behind.

Listen, this pandemic led me to that movie and that movie brought me to a phrase that I'll be using for a really long time. Feedback loops are manipulated data that we tend to respond to—and you deserve to not be manipulated by anyone; including yourself. Some exes suck forever. Some ex dynamics can be restored. Yet no relationship should have you running around in a loop that will get you absolutely nowhere. If you're in a loop, download ALL the data and react accordingly. A feedback loop might seem beautiful at first but it's not the total truth and a lie is just that—a lie. Choose wisely, sis.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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