Six year broken relationship: Fix it or move on?
March 28, 2010 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Two months after ending a six-year relationship, I miss my ex and am contemplating getting back in touch. Move on or try again?

OK, the long and short of this is, we went out for six years. Four of them were very happy. Best friends, never fought, never argued, just enjoyed a happy life together in a little house with lots of friends.

But in the last two, somehow the love just died. Truth be told, I emotionally checked-out, she distanced. We both buried ourselves in our work and by the start of this year we realised we had drifted dangerously. No one cheated, it's just as though the relationship ran out of steam, and neither party seemed intent on trying to fix it.

In amongst all this, I figured out that I was not ready to marry her, nor could visualise our wedding day (despite everything, technically, having everything I could ask for). Then I begun to feel as though I had inadvertently led her on and wasted her time (without even realising it) and felt horrifically guilty - at which point I decided to end it and move out.

Most of all, we are both in our mid-30s, she wanted children and I was ambivalent about that too.

We haven't spoken for four months.

Now I feel desperately sad, and wretchedly guilty. And lost. Part of me wants to go back and try and convince her to try again, but equally I'm terrified that we risk ending up back in the same place, or worse, end up wasting more of each others time. I hate myself for the fact that I can't properly reciprocate her love, and have been punishing myself incessantly for that since we broke up - because I admire her, respect her and know she would make a fantastic wife and mother.

So having now recognised that - despite my head arguing otherwise - my heart might not have been as truly in this relationship as I thought, is it best to let it go? Or should I try - once last time - to feel something deeper and convince her to try again???
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Whether or not you decide to contact her, it sounds like she deserves much better than someone who only wants to be with her so he doesn't feel bad about himself. Let her move on, and take more time to move on yourself.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:31 AM on March 28, 2010 [13 favorites]

In my experience, this is a normal part of the post-breakup emotional process, and acting on the feelings is generally a mistake--it just prolongs the agony. Better to resist the temptation. These feelings will pass in time.
posted by not that girl at 10:32 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Most of all, we are both in our mid-30s, she wanted children and I was ambivalent about that too.

This right here tells me that you need to stay away. Unless you're sure that you want the same things, trying again is just going to end the same way. I have a very good friend in the process of forcing an end to an otherwise good relationship because they have different ideas of what a family looks like, and it's horrible and painful for everyone involved.
posted by something something at 10:40 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Or should I try - once last time - to feel something deeper and convince her to try again???

It is not actually possible to feel something deeper just by trying. If six years haven't deepened your emotion, or if your four month hiatus has not convinced you that you love her wildly, madly, deeply, nothing will.

Considering that you still do not love her, do not put her through this again.

Make room in your heart now for the future person you will be sure about. And let her do the same.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:41 AM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

IMO if you have to try to convince yourself to feel something deeper then you are better off out of the relationship. She will certainly be as well. Especially if she wants children and you are ambivalent. Just give yourself time to grieve and keep your distance. 2 months is nothing in terms of time in getting over a 6 year relationship.
posted by kanata at 10:41 AM on March 28, 2010

...six years, of course. Not six months.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:42 AM on March 28, 2010

...and two months! What's wrong with me!
posted by Omnomnom at 10:43 AM on March 28, 2010

If your main reason for wanting to get back together is that you feel guilty about the fact that you haven't loved her for the past two years, then you don't have a good reason to get back together.

(BTW, how is it that your relationship ended 2 months ago but you haven't spoken in 4 months? Did you break up telepathically?)
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:48 AM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Let her go. If you get back with her and you're still not ready for what she wants, it will end again.
posted by Doohickie at 10:55 AM on March 28, 2010

Part of me wants to go back and try and convince her to try again, but equally I'm terrified that we risk ending up back in the same place, or worse, end up wasting more of each others time.

Nothing has changed about your feelings for her, right? So I don't see how you could end up anywhere other than in the same place.

Or should I try - once last time - to feel something deeper and convince her to try again???

If you try to feel something deeper, or if you just figure out why you weren't that into her, and change it --- I think you should do that before trying to convince her to try again.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:57 AM on March 28, 2010

Don't get back together with her. If you don't love her in the way she needs after two years, I doubt anything will change after a four-month/two-month separation.

What happens if you do give it another shot, and find that you still can't feel the same way about her? That'll just lead to more heartache and however many wasted years. Just let it end now.
posted by biochemist at 11:03 AM on March 28, 2010

What about you both has changed in the intervening period of time that makes you think that trying again would work?

Imaging you have two puzzle pieces. You try to fit them together, and it doesn't work. You leave them alone for a while, and try again. Guess what? They still won't fit. Something about them both has to change to make them fit.

It seems that the only reason you want to get back together is to make yourself feel better. Nowhere do you mention making her feel better. That's a sign that you shouldn't do this, whether or not you were together before.
posted by Solomon at 11:04 AM on March 28, 2010

I can't properly reciprocate her love

As long as this is true, you should stay away from her. Respect her enough to not waste her time and hurt her again.
posted by Houstonian at 11:04 AM on March 28, 2010

It's normal to be lonely after the breakup and wish you could go backwards... but don't. Because when you go back, everything that caused you to break up in the first place is still there.

Nurse your heart some other way. Find consolation in books, movies, TV, other friends, exercising, whatever. But move on.

This would also be an excellent time to figure out exactly what it is that you want, so you can be on the lookout for someone who wants the same things.
posted by eleyna at 11:15 AM on March 28, 2010

It seems that the only reason you want to get back together is to make yourself feel better. Nowhere do you mention making her feel better.

Huh? The problem is exactly the opposite. The whole question is about whether the OP can sufficiently "love" her, with no apparent regard to whether this would actually be good for the OP.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:22 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

In amongst all this, I figured out that I was not ready to marry her, nor could visualise our wedding day (despite everything, technically, having everything I could ask for).

It sounds like you think you made a mistake, and while it's possible you could have been perfectly happy married to her if you'd been a different person (which you're not) and you're afraid you sort of missed the boat because you were restless, so you're aching over that too. I think it sounds like you should leave her alone so she can be happily married to someone else who isn't so mixed up and confused. I think you should deal with your loneliness and all by seeing a therapist or a life coach who can help you sort your life out. All this wanting to call her is self-serving, unless she desperately wants to be in touch. Let her move on with her life without any interference from you. She knows what she wants and you know what she wants and you know you aren't it.

Additionally, she actually may have already moved on with someone new and it's just going to be a cold slap in the face for you and make all your loneliness all the worse.
posted by anniecat at 11:35 AM on March 28, 2010

I can't properly reciprocate her love

Even if you could, you don't want the life she appears to want. Love doesn't magically make your lives compatible.

Hard as it is, you need to walk away.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:49 AM on March 28, 2010

You were together for 6 years. That's more than long enough for you to make a decision. So unless you're truly ready to walk through her door right now and say, "I love you, you're the one for me, lets start trying for a child," you owe it to her to stay away.
posted by hazyjane at 11:52 AM on March 28, 2010

Remember how bad it felt when you parted the first time? How bad will it feel when you must do so again? You have done the hardest part already. What you feel now is necessary - you did not want what she wanted, even if you wanted to want it (does that make sense?) - what you feel now is the gradual acceptance of that fact. When the day comes that you feel as deeply as you ought to for your lover, you shall not need convincing. Guilt is a poor reason for restarting a relationship.

Move on. Reassemble yourself. You will be the better for it when love reenters your life. Allow her to do the same. In time, you shall have a chance of being friends.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:55 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

One more thought just occurred to me. You mentioned feeling guilty about wasting her time. Do you think part of this urge to go back might be that you feel as if you wasted 6 years of your own time too? And that breaking up would be like throwing 6 years of your life down the drain? So if you stay together, it wasn't all for nothing.

If you think this might be part of it, it might help to remind yourself of what you did get out of those 6 years with her, what it taught you and how it helped you develop. There is probably a lot that came out of it, that wasn't lost just because the relationship ended.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:56 AM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just a data point: my ex and I were in a similar situation. We had been together about 8 years at the time, and the major disagreement leading to the first breakup was the kids thing - we both agreed not to have any, then he changed his mind. That sort of poisoned the rest of the relationship, already weakened by other stressors, and the love just drained.

Anyhow, we decided to try to work it out and got back together. For the first three months or so, it was good - not great, but better than it had been in a long time. Then we slowly started falling into our old patterns, and we were right back where we were.

So, I ended it, for good. That final breakup was about 8 months ago. The first couple months afterward were really rough, with a lot of fear and second-guessing and loneliness. But! That ends. I moved on. And we're both better off now. I know I'm not completely out of the woods, recovering-wise, but I do know I made the right decision.

So, my experience would indicate that if you ended a long-term relationship with someone you respect, and admire, and want to be happy, is that you did so for a reason: that you are no longer compatible. And the hurt is just awful sometimes, but the other side of it really is better.

Good luck.
posted by AV at 12:02 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

This is the kind of thing you have to be sure about to try again, I think. You don't seem sure.
posted by callmejay at 12:11 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree with others who have said that it sounds like you want to get back together with her to make yourself feel better – you’re desperately sad, guilty and lost, hating yourself, punishing yourself. Geez, ease up on yourself! Anyway, I think you see getting back together with her as a way to ease the pain that you’re feeling, but you CAN actually do something about this pain that doesn’t involve her. Like, exercise, eat well, do things that you enjoy, see friends, and of course, see a therapist. You’re definitely not in a place to make a well thought out decision about getting back together with her. It also sounds like you feel you’re the one that screwed up, and if you could just make it all right, and if she could just accept the new you, you’d be happy again and the pain would be gone. Yeah, that’s a nice fantasy, but back in the real world, you emotionally checked out, she distanced, and whatever problems you had in the last two years you just didn’t work out, because you guys didn’t want to. That’s more telling than anything else. So what would be different this time around? I think you feel bad because you were used to being in this relationship, and now, you’ve got to figure things out on your own. So do that, and no, it won’t be easy, but you can do it. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
posted by foxjacket at 1:13 PM on March 28, 2010

Seems like partly you're trying to turn the "wasted" years you spent together into "unwasted" years. But relationships that don't happen to last until your deathbed are not "time wasted". (Relationships are not defined by the one instant in old age when you're able to look back in time and say "yay! we succeeded!") Sure, maybe you should have realized that it was time to move on sooner than you did, but it takes two people to decide to continue a relationship, and she is as responsible for that too. In short: I think you need to let it go rather than imagine that there is something that needs "repairing" about the time you spent together.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:40 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

Two months after a six year relationship is pretty much the equivalent of two days after a six month relationship: you're still going to feel rough. I'd leave it alone.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:38 PM on March 28, 2010

The end of that relationship was a great loss for you, even though you initiated the breakup. You loved this woman for four years, and stayed with her for 6 -- when you're in your 30s, that's an enormous chunk of your life. It makes sense that you're going through a rough time with second thoughts, regrets, and pain.

But the grief and pain aren't a sign that you should try to revive the relationship. Based on what you say, you both are better off apart. Now is a good time to find meaning in other parts of your life, doing things that matter to you. It can help you get your head out of the past, and to feel like you're facing the future.
posted by wryly at 3:51 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're still mourning the loss of a long-term relationship; what you miss is the routine, the comfort, the certainty, the companionship, the habits, and so on. You had six years to decide if you wanted to be with her, and six years is enough time to know. Right now you're going through mourning, and so even the worst relationship will seem palatable (after all, humans don't like change, generally speaking.)

So, don't reach out, don't get back together. Just concentrate on you, and making sure you're getting back to living your life the way you want it, as an individual. Meanwhile, accept the wonderful things you got out of the relationship; no relationship is a waste. The fact is, the person you are now is greatly impacted by this relationship, and you need to adjust to being that kind of person without the relationship around to justify/support it.

Hang in there. It'll pass. Ultimately, it will be a good thing for both of you, given your respective views on children, as well.
posted by davejay at 4:51 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

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