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I can't move on after this break up, and I'm beating myself up for every mistake I make. How do I stop?
May 25, 2011 8:44 PM   Subscribe

Having trouble moving on after a murky break up, and berating myself for my mistakes. How do I move forward?

I posted this anonymous question a few weeks ago question

It's been about 3 weeks now, and the first week of the break up BF and I tried to remain "friends". We didn't see each other, just phone/email contact. After each contact, I realized that it just made my grief greater, and made it more difficult to move forward. I emailed him telling him that for now, I couldn't maintain contact with him because it was too painful, and just opened up the wound each time we spoke. I told him that if in the future he was ready to date again, to please contact me, or I would contact him when I felt emotionally well enough to maintain a friendship.

That lasted about a week and a half until I had a complete break down this past weekend and called him sobbing. Again, he was kind, completely understanding, and encouraged me to call him whenever I need to, but wanted to make sure that I felt okay to do so (because of my previous statement that it just re-opens old wounds). Well, since that conversation, I feel like I've been set back to the day of the break up. I'm crying relentlessly, feeling depressed, anxious, and also selfish that I am leaning on him for comfort when what he is going through is so much more soul-crushing and distressful than my pain over a break up.

And I'm having trouble moving forward because despite the break up, there is hope for getting back together in the future. It's not guaranteed, nor is he saying it's a guarantee. But he's not saying it's impossible. He continues to say he would love to be with me, but can't right now because the circumstances of his life are such that he can't possibly devote any attention to a relationship. He's not asking me to wait for him either because he knows it's selfish and he has no idea how long he will need to get through this ugly divorce.

1. How do I stop beating myself up for having an emotional breakdown and calling him?

2. How do I move forward when I feel so much in limbo? I desperately want to be with him, but know it's impossible right now, and it may not be possible in the future either.

3. How do you move on when you still really care about someone, they care about you, but the timing is just completely screwed up?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
And I'm having trouble moving forward because despite the break up, there is hope for getting back together in the future. It's not guaranteed, nor is he saying it's a guarantee. But he's not saying it's impossible. He continues to say he would love to be with me, but can't right now because the circumstances of his life are such that he can't possibly devote any attention to a relationship.

You are not going to be ok until you decide that IT IS OVER and you are NOT EVER getting back together. You will waste years of your life this way.

Of course it hurts, but you know you're only making it hurt worse. You can either endure the pain of separation now, and in a few months or a year you might actually fall in love again... or you can keep feeling exactly as shitty as you do now, waiting around for him to decide to love you.

Honestly, I think he's being very selfish and cruel by not breaking it off with you outright, and you owe it to yourself to do what he won't, which is to cease all contact immediately.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:53 PM on May 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


Do you really want to continue to torture yourself? As bad as it hurts now, it eventually *will* get better if you cut off all contact with this man and get on with your life.

How? Well, you've had your good cry. I suggest you make yourself very, very busy with a new class, meet up, hobby, etc. See your friends. A lot. Go on dates, even if you don't want to ("nothing helps you get over the last like the next"...I found it best to target guys looking for short term dating. No expectations, no hurt feelings because you're on the rebound).

I know it's pretty unimaginable right now, but one day weeks or months from now, you'll wake up and not hurt quite as much. The trick is to not pick open your old wounds in your head and let yourself let him go. I agree with everything showbiz_lizsaid, especially that if he really cared about your well-being, he'd let you go.
posted by smirkette at 9:06 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


the circumstances of his life are such that he can't possibly devote any attention to a relationship

I'm really, really sorry, because I know it hurts to hear, but I believe that if he really wanted to be with you, he would. He's making an excuse. This doesn't mean that there's no chance that you'll ever get back together (I'm back with an ex who dumped me years ago and we're happy), but I think you're just torturing yourself thinking about it right now.

Unfortunately, the only cure for what you're feeling is time. Try to keep busy and keep your mind off of things. Don't talk to him; it will just send you back to square one every time.
posted by amro at 9:07 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you want to withdraw from him and let him go. Put him in a mental bubble and package him up as a piece; then back off completely. Let him go for real. I hear from what you say that he needs to deal with his situation and cannot dishonor his commitment to his son. I don't think he is leading you on ... I think your break-up hurts him too.
And your break-downs. Be as courageous as you can and let him take care of his commitments while you stay out of the way. Whether or not he comes back to you in the end he will love you for that.
posted by bebrave! at 9:10 PM on May 25, 2011


I agree that if he wanted to, he would, and the rest is an excuse. I know (from experience) this is very very hard to hear.

I also know ( from experience) that the longer you hold to the narrative that "He only could if..." is not true and will keep you from moving forward.

Internalize that this was a mirror image of what you want, but NOT the real thing. That will come sometime in the future.

Be open by getting over this experience so you can be ready for what you really want.
posted by jbenben at 9:16 PM on May 25, 2011


I can't tell you what his motives are or how he should behave a certain way and how it sucks that he isn't.

What I can reiterate is that you have to move on. You have to make a clean break. You shouldn't beat yourself up. You love this man. It's natural that you would want to turn to him when you are emotionally worn down.

The problem here is that you are trying to have an amicable breakup. I personally believe that you can be friends after dating but you have to give yourself time to heal from the wounds that happened when you broke up.

The desperate feeling that you have in your stomach and the tightening grip on your heart is also normal (to me anyway) but you have to get yourself into a mind frame of no contact. I found it easier when I deleted all contact information and stopped communicating online as well.

You need to tell him that this is what you plan to do as well. The timing is wrong but if he loves you he will respect your wishes and no longer initiate contact with you either. He seems to be behaving as if he has resolved that your relationship is, for the most part, over. You should do the same.

I agree that you should keep yourself busy. The last breakup I went through ended up with me finding a new hobby that I don't know how I ever lived without. Try something you have always wanted to do. Try something you never thought you would.

Again, stop beating yourself up for being human.
posted by MsLgean at 9:36 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


You are not going to be ok until you decide that IT IS OVER and you are NOT EVER getting back together. You will waste years of your life this way.


Yes, and have others have said, do not contact him. At all. Not even, "heya, saw this article and thought of you, hope all's well" (trust me, I have sat on my hands to avoid sending such "innocuous" emails). Stop ALL contact. This is the only thing tbat will help at all. And really. You will waste years of your life, that's no joke. DON'T.
posted by sweetkid at 9:42 PM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


It sounds like he's jerking you around. Don't let him. Cut off all contact, permanently.
posted by bardic at 11:36 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


1. How do I stop beating myself up for having an emotional breakdown and calling him?

It's totally understandable, and it sounds like he's not judging you for it. But: Delete his number from your phone. Right now. Do it.

2. How do I move forward when I feel so much in limbo? I desperately want to be with him, but know it's impossible right now, and it may not be possible in the future either.

You are not in limbo. You are broken up. It's over. It's going to really suck for a few more weeks, and then kind of suck for a while after that, and then (sooner than you think) it won't suck at all anymore. But there's no skipping the part where it sucks.

3. How do you move on when you still really care about someone, they care about you, but the timing is just completely screwed up?

There are no magic tricks. It's a shitty situation, but you're strong, and you'll come out alright.
posted by auto-correct at 11:41 PM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


If he wanted to be with you, he would be. You will focus on the answers that mention successfully getting back together with exes. It will cause you nothing but pain and regret. Let it go.
posted by halogen at 11:58 PM on May 25, 2011


Rx for how to get over a break up (or at least how I did, in the 6 months since I got dumped):

1. Do not, under any circumstances, contact your ex. Delete him from your phone. Ignore your ex if he tries to contact you. I sent my ex a "No Contact" email, which was helpful for me - Google it.

2. Don't look at your ex - in person, in photos, on Facebook newsfeed. Unfriend and block. Stop hanging out with mutual friends who will talk about him around you, or with whom you hung out with your ex a lot. You have other friends to do things with, so get to know them better. Make new friends, too. Remove yourself completely from your ex's life - YOU are in control of your life and your emotions now, girl. Doing these things will not change how he feels about you, for better or worse. Nothing you do can change that.

3. Accept the fact that nothing you did "made" him break up with you. Nothing you do now will make him fall back in love with you. Got it? He doesn't want to date you. It really *is* him. You are you, and if he was right for you, he'd want to work things out instead of breaking your heart. If he loved you enough to want to be with you, he would not have broken up with you. He would not have left you hanging, and he wouldn't be listening to you cry on the phone. He would be by your side apologizing and wanting to get back together.

4. When you think of a happy memory of the two of you, when you think of kissing him, when you think about him at all, focus on his negative qualities. Focus on all of the ways in which he didn't treat you well, and on how you're wrong for each other. Write them down if you have to. I'm a very positive and compassionate person, but it was incredibly helpful for me to do this. There might come a time years from now when you can happily reminisce about the good times with your ex, but that time is not now. Your girlfriends will be able to assist you in this.

5. Most important step: Realize that it's OVER. Let go of the hope that you will ever get back together with him. You won't. This was the single hardest fact for me to accept. There's no second chance with this guy, so stop hanging on. You're free now.

By hanging on, you are only hurting yourself. Every second you spend thinking of him doesn't change the situation, and nothing you do can make things work between the two of you. It's out of your hands. If you're religious, then I'll remind you it's in God's hands, and He is the only one that matters. Focus on loving Him, and the people in your life who love you, support you, and uplift you! Surround yourself with these people, and just let it all out. They'll understand. I must have talked about my situation with my ex to all of my close friends multiple times. Getting all of their different perspectives on the situation helped me so much. Each friend of mine contributed to my healing process in a different way. My friends would listen to me ramble and sob, be comforting, and tell me what I didn't want to hear: That is was over, and there's someone out there who is better for me.

It's over, and there's someone out there who is better for you.

(P.S. I've met that guy already - the one who makes my ex pale in comparison - and you will meet a guy who makes you feel the same way.)

Take 6 months, and call me in the morning.
posted by sunnychef88 at 12:24 AM on May 26, 2011 [25 favorites]


Agreeing with everything said above, and adding for emphasis: seriously, delete his number and email. Do whatever you can to prevent a repeat of breaking down and calling him. I tried to do the same thing with an ex for a few months and I call it "the summer I cried literally every day". You'll find someone who is great for you, but you have to break away from this first.
posted by brilliantine at 4:30 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I went through more or less the same thing recently, and man does it suck.

You were together long enough that if he wanted to be with you, he would be. There are lots of possible explanations for why he's refusing to rule out the possibility in the future, but whatever the reason, this makes him a jerk, because it's not going to happen.

This asshat is never going to give you the closure you want, so you have to give it to yourself. Listen to the fact that he refuses to promise that he wants to be together in the future, and ignore the fact that he says he maybe might possibly want to consider that if the stars ever align.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:35 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know how you stop beating yourself up for doing something you regret (calling him), but keep in mind that you're only human. That's a common thing that people do for a reason -- it's hard not to. Really hard.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:52 AM on May 26, 2011


I was dumped in late February. There were a couple of emails within 24 hours of the breakup, but I told him I wanted a clean breakup and no contact for at least a few weeks.

I set an arbitrary date in my mind for possibly talking to him again, maybe to be friends or whatever, after the initial pain would be over. I spent some time on the couch, watching The Universe Season 1 on Netflix (highly recommended! the cold expanse of the universe puts heartbreak in perspective), mostly not eating and doing a lot of furious writing in my diary.

It was hard. I won't say it wasn't. But I'll tell you, the arbitrary date came and went and I knew I wasn't ready to talk to him, even if I had the excuse of "well, we said we'd talk in a few weeks". I didn't want to talk to him. The thought of him made me angry, not wistful. That's how far I'd come in the process.

Another few weeks passed. I unfriended him on Facebook because his posts pissed me off. I had a party and invited all my friends. I started eating at 'our' restaurant. 'Our' song came on the radio. I filled up my life with stuff that didn't involve him.

Today, it has been just over three months since the breakup. I have a ton of stuff going on in my life, and because of throwing myself into those things, I met someone new. I started dating him. It is really nice and we are starting to be very comfortable together, and I don't have a lot of pain or rage over my ex anymore. I want to spend time with the new guy.

So, cut off contact. Sulk around for a few weeks and then throw yourself into some new activities. Get a new set of sheets. Start up a new exercise routine. Get a new hairstyle. The pain will pass sooner than you think it will.
posted by aabbbiee at 6:52 AM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Every second you spend waiting for this man is a second you spend away from a future relationship where you are the top priority.

I had the exact same situation and I understand your position. My boyfriend loved me, I loved him, but he was not ready to be (and did not want to be) in a long term relationship. It was so, so hard to move on but once I had moved out of the area and started going on a ton of dates (internet dating is your friend here) and gotten out with my friends, it seemed a lot less important to me. I had fun, lived my life, and months later when I saw my ex we were friendly and now we are back together and better than ever.

This would not have happened if I had sat around waiting for him. I promise.
posted by amicamentis at 6:54 AM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


When you think of a happy memory of the two of you, when you think of kissing him, when you think about him at all, focus on his negative qualities. Focus on all of the ways in which he didn't treat you well, and on how you're wrong for each other.

This approach doesn't really work for me -- I feel better if I maintain a realistic view and keep myself from blaming some flaw in my ex. It helps me feel more grounded and, ultimately, stronger and more peaceful to tell myself, "We had amazing times, but for XYZ reasons can't be together." If I indulge in blaming or demonizing, then I start to feel like a victim, which I don't find is good for me either in the short or long run. Instead, I try to really see the relationship for what it was, good and bad.

In your case, OP, it seems like a calmer acceptance approach, rather than focusing on negatives, might be warranted. Your ex didn't do anything terribly wrong -- it really is a matter of timing for him, and you guys are both making the mature, healthy choice to call it off. You should feel good about that (and about him as a person) instead of castigating and demonizing yourself or him.
posted by yarly at 7:29 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


First, I want to agree with everyone up-thread. It's very important to break off all contact for a significant amount of time. This is not to punish him or make you forget him--instead, it is something we do because after a break-up, you need to stop and remember who you are when you're just you, and not you-with-someone-else.

I'm commenting, though, to point out that this guy really is not in a good place to have a relationship with you. Divorce is a really strange emotional time even WITHOUT conflict and nastiness. What I said about you and re-definition goes doubly so for someone in the midst of a divorce. It's like, first you've got to come up with the presence of self to leave, then you have to wait for the dust to settle, and THEN you have to stop and breathe and see what's left of yourself, and it's a lot harder and bigger when you've entangled your life with someone as a part of a marriage for a long time.

So, truly, this guy does not have the emotional space for you in his life right now, and I think he's wise to know this and break it off. It is entirely possible that he will find his way back to you, sure, but you absolutely cannot bank on that, or dwell on that. He needs time, and you absolutely need to live your life and move on. Cut him off and remember who you are. Do the stuff you like to do. Mourn, too. It'll be okay in a while--I promise you this as someone who has both been dumped and who has also struggled to get over a really intense what I thought was the love of my life relationship (separate occasions--I ended the latter), and also as someone who went through a divorce.
posted by hought20 at 8:59 AM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


1. How do I stop beating myself up for having an emotional breakdown and calling him?

By knowing that everyone goes through something like this at least once in our lives, and we've all done the breaking down and calling when we know we shouldn't. You're only human. Give yourself a break and acknowledge that you made a mistake, and that's okay.

2. How do I move forward when I feel so much in limbo? I desperately want to be with him, but know it's impossible right now, and it may not be possible in the future either.

There was once a time in your life when this guy was not a part of it. What did you do before you met him? Can you remember? Do you have friends that you can reconnect with, hobbies that maybe you haven't indulged in because the two of you were busy with each other? Do those things.

I'm crying relentlessly, feeling depressed, anxious, and also selfish that I am leaning on him for comfort when what he is going through is so much more soul-crushing and distressful than my pain over a break up.

I so wish I could just give you a hug right now, because I really feel for you. But please do not feel selfish for needing comfort now. You don't have to compete for "who is hurting more." I do think, though, that you need to lean on your friends and family now rather than this man. I believe he feels he is trying to be kind and help you, but it really will be harder to pull away if you turn to him, believe me.

3. How do you move on when you still really care about someone, they care about you, but the timing is just completely screwed up?

The best I can tell you is that you try to put that person out of your mind when you can, and if you do find yourself thinking about him, remind yourself that it wasn't all good. We have a habit, you know, of looking back with nostalgia and dwelling only on the best things when we think of what we have lost.

But you surely had arguments, and there must have been times when he wasn't perfect--for instance, he originally broke up with you over email! That sucks. Force yourself to remember the bad times, not just the good. It will help you to move on.
posted by misha at 9:49 AM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


This has been mentioned up-thread, but I'd like to emphasize: don't think about him.

It's like worrying a sore tooth with your tongue: it's always in the back of your mind and it feels good to poke at it, to remind yourself of it. There are reasons where there are song written like "I Don't Want To Get Over You" and "The Glow". But you'll feel better if you don't allow yourself to reminisce, to muse over what happened and what's happening. Resolve to distract yourself. The poking is wasted energy and only draws your attention to the things you can't change, makes you sad.

It helps, I promise.
posted by Specklet at 9:53 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry you're going through this. We've all been there, and we all know how much it hurts.

This is hard advice to take, but I think it's important: when someone breaks up with you and blames it on circumstances, you have to hear that as "I don't want to be in a relationship with you." Anything else is a recipe for heartbreak. I can't tell you how many people I've seen hang around, waiting for circumstances to change, only to be hurt anew when their ex starts dating someone else. I've done it. Most of us have.

But, more importantly, I've also been your ex. I've broken up with someone who I did care about, but who, ultimately, I didn't want to be with. I blamed circumstances because I thought I was sparing her feelings. She kept asking me if I thought we might be together again some day. I should have said no. But she looked so sad, and I just didn't have it in me to hurt her more, so I hemmed and hawed and hedged my bets. I didn't say yes, but I didn't say no. This was stupid and unfair and weak of me. And, I see in retrospect, it was cruel, no matter how good my motives. It remains one of the things I've done that I'm least proud of, and I will never do it again. But seriously, people who break up with you and refuse to do so definitively, who won't say you're getting back together but won't say you're not, are bad news. The only thing for you to do here is to cut off all contact, delete his number from your phone, block him on facebook, and spend some time without him in your life. It will suck, but one day it will suck less, and then one day it won't suck at all. I wish there was a better way, but there really isn't.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:15 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


"The best I can tell you is that you try to put that person out of your mind when you can, and if you do find yourself thinking about him, remind yourself that it wasn't all good. We have a habit, you know, of looking back with nostalgia and dwelling only on the best things when we think of what we have lost. "

This! This times a million (thanks, misha). Thinking about him is the fastest way to fall back into pining and crying yourself to sleep over the wonderful boyfriend who lives in your imagination. I understand that not demonizing him could jive better with your personal philosophy (see yarly's post), but I'm standing by the idea that not thinking about his good qualities, the good times you had together, the little sweet gestures he's performed for you, etc. etc. can be crucial in order to move on. OP, you said that you "desperately" want to be with him, and that you still really care about him. These feelings are perfectly understandable - I felt the same way about my ex for a couple of months (at least) after he dumped me. I thought of what a great boyfriend he was for me - always on time, wanting to hold hands constantly, calling to talk for 2-3 hours daily during the summer months. How would I ever meet a guy as great as he was? OP, this wistful line of thinking will set you back miles in the healing process. You must flip that switch in your head that's feeding you happy memories! What great qualities are you imagining about him "between the lines" that aren't there?

Like misha said, he broke up with you over email, for goodness sake! He's stringing you along until it's convenient for him to love you. How selfish is that? No matter his good intentions in telling you there's hope for a future together, he is acting selfishly. He may have a good reason for doing so, but him having good reasons for treating you badly doesn't mean he's not treating you badly. You deserve better than that, woman! You can bet that there are men going through divorces who are willing to make emotional space for the woman they're dating. Men who are man enough to break up with someone they've been dating for six months in person. How cowardly, and insensitive, of your ex. How dare he treat you like that? You deserve to be treated like the princess you are by someone you're dating, OP. You are a strong woman with dignity and self-worth. You're a big-hearted, loving person who is willing to overlook his flaws, overcome the rough circumstances with him, and love him for who he is. He's not willing to do the same for you. You're not crying relentlessly because of the Invisible Hand of "Timing." A human being - your ex - caused you pain. Do you really want to be with a guy who treated you like this?

You can fill in the rest of what I don't know about instances in which he wasn't such a great romantic partner. I began to see, gradually, that the great boyfriend that inhabited my post break up ruminations didn't exist in real life, and didn't exist in my memories, either. He may have talked with me on the phone for hours, but it was me who was carrying the conversations. He may have held my hand in public, but he never conveyed to me in private that he was proud of me. Thinking about your ex in this way will help you to stop being sad. Dwelling on the good times offers false comfort. What's real is the person he is right this second, and that person doesn't care about you in the way you care about him. Therefore, this man is not good enough for you, OP. You are the chooser, and you don't choose him. Even if you don't think this way right now, just try. I promise you it can help you to get your life back.
posted by sunnychef88 at 5:37 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


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