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Needing some hope
February 22, 2012 10:01 AM   Subscribe

There's always someone else, right?

It's been two months since the breakup of my first serious, year-long relationship, and I'm still having a hard time getting over it. Rationally, I know all the things that are usually said when it comes to breakups ("it takes time", etc etc) but it's hard to think that way when it's actually happening. I'm suddenly fearful of being alone or never being able to find anyone else (I know...I know...), even though I generally think being single is pretty fun. I was single up until this relationship, after all, and I never particularly felt any despair or worry.

I think my sudden fear might also be because this was, all in all, a great first relationship. I found him completely trustworthy and kind and attentive, we shared similar interests, and, as I was completely sexually inexperienced, he made me feel safe and comfortable in bed. We loved each other a lot, but broke up for fairly significant life-compatibility issues that I'm certain do not bode well for a long-term future. He expressed interest in trying again (even though we are both aware of these incompatibilities) and I think because I am missing him so much my mind is trying to rationalize things--"What if I never find anyone I can be this comfortable with again? What if I never find anyone as loving? Maybe I can compromise on these huge issues?"

Now I'm stuck in this mental conflict, and I really need to hear peoples' own experiences and stories of how they got past it, if they've been there.

Did you ever break up with someone that you really loved (amicably, just because of compatibility issues) and manage to find someone else as good or even better? Is there hope?

Bonus: Did you manage to stay friends with this ex?

I'm female, mid-twenties. Thanks in advance...
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
You will find someone better. Your life will become better. Things will get better.
posted by banannafish at 10:04 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


We loved each other a lot, but broke up for fairly significant life-compatibility issues that I'm certain do not bode well for a long-term future.

This is what you need to remember. If these compatibilites exist, then he is not the one you are meant to be with forever (if you believe in such things). But there will be someone, somewhere that will be able to give you what you want.

So many people stay close friends with ex-lovers, given time and space. Once you are both ready, this may be the case for you. It sounds like you both care a lot for each other and it's probably an advantage that you realised these incompatibilities and addressed them - otherwise you may have ended things in a much more frustrating and less amicable way. I think this is the way things are meant to be for you both.
posted by mippy at 10:07 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did you ever break up with someone that you really loved (amicably, just because of compatibility issues) and manage to find someone else as good or even better? Is there hope?

Bonus: Did you manage to stay friends with this ex?


I did break up with someone- also my first boyfriend actually- for that reason. It took me longer that I thought it would to get over it, but get over it I did. It was two and a half years ago, and you know, I haven't actually dated anyone I liked as much since then, but I no longer believe it's impossible. (My moving 8 or 9 times in a year and a half probably has more to do with my recent track record, honestly.) Moreover, I now see much more clearly what the problems in that relationship were, problems I never even realized were there.

We are now friends, but we went about it wrong. We thought we could not talk for a month or so and it would be ok. BIG MISTAKE. You need a LOT of time. It took over a year for us to be able to talk like normal. Put this from your mind for now and trust that it will happen, EVENTUALLY, but not soon.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:10 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's very, very easy and completely natural to feel like you'll be forever alone after something ends until suddenly you aren't. It's amazingly unpredictable but if you keep trying and don't descend into despair it'll happen.

Did you ever break up with someone that you really loved (amicably, just because of compatibility issues) and manage to find someone else as good or even better? Is there hope?

We were engaged at 24-25 and broke up before 26. This was mostly because I wasn't sure if I was ready to settle down. That was dumb of me but I learned a lesson. I haven't found anyone 'better' because I think that's the wrong way to look at it, but I'm sure I will find something that fits me and makes me a better person.

Bonus: Did you manage to stay friends with this ex?

Yes, we talk daily on gchat. There are times when I need a break. A few month period, and it's certainly taken me about 2 years to really get over it and let that relationship go. Maybe continuing to talk to her didn't help on how long that took, but we're such good friends now that while I'll always love her in some way, I've moved on and am very glad she's still in my life.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:10 AM on February 22, 2012


We are now friends, but we went about it wrong. We thought we could not talk for a month or so and it would be ok. BIG MISTAKE. You need a LOT of time. It took over a year for us to be able to talk like normal. Put this from your mind for now and trust that it will happen, EVENTUALLY, but not soon.

Yeah, trying to be friends shortly after the breakup (i.e.) within a year, really made both of us say and do things that weren't healthy. I took a few months off after that and then we were okay.

Things can take a LONG time to get over. Two months is nothing.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:12 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


As with anything, you have to work to break that cycle or it will remain a mental cycle. I used to want to punch all those people who said that it would get better and all that bull-honkey. I'm in my 30s, also female.

When I first joined MeFi I made the difficult decision to leave my boyfriend of 5 years and we lived together. Long story short, we just were not right and it was killing me from the inside out. Since then I've dated, even had one relationship last 8 months and done more than my share of stumbling, falling, finding myself, losing myself again, completely losing sight of all things rational, being way too grounded and back again.

I think what finally got me to break out of my own cycle was to stop trying to find someone and just focus on making my life the best it could be. This was done through my own passion for running. Well, that all pleasantly backfired on me because I ended up meeting my boyfriend who I've been dating for four months and couldn't be happier. We are a MUCH better fit and in hindsight, I couldn't imagine what my life would be like if I hadn't left that other guy two years ago. The ex and I are NOT friends, and that's ok. You don't have to be friends with an ex...hell, you don't have to be friends with anyone.

My advice is to stop worrying about the one, the right one, someone else, anyone else - worry about YOU and making YOU happy and in the right mental space. The rest will fall into place, I promise.
posted by floweredfish at 10:13 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I believe, deeply and fully, that the breakup of my first serious relationship is the most important thing that has ever happened to me in the course of my life. Not the best, not the happiest, not the most fortuitous. The most important.

Here's why: While we were together, I thought that this was it. I figured this was the person I was supposed to fall in love with, I'd found him and he'd found me, and now we just had to navigate the next couple of years of our lives together and then we'd get married and then we'd have babies and then it would be forever. When we broke up, I thought the entire plan was ruined. No marriage. No babies. No life-long love. No dying in each other's arms.

But then it started to dawn on me — and maybe this is trivial, maybe this is something you already deeply understand, but for me it was absolutely life-altering to articulate this of my own accord — that just because one love was over, it didn't mean I would never have another love again. This didn't materially become real to me until I had actually fallen in love with someone else again, but once it hit me, it hit hard. That second love ended under awful, dire circumstances and even though the relationship was longer (3+ years) and was way more mature (serious pre-marriage talk), it took me way less time to get over it. Because I knew — from experience now — that I would fall in love again. And even more importantly, someone else out there would fall in love with me.

I wish there was some way for me to hardwire into your brain and let you know that the most important thing we can learn from our first loving relationship is that we can love and we can be loved. Not that this is your true love, or that this is your best relationship, or that just because this is the happiest you had been that this is the happiest you'll have ever been. Only that you can love, and you can be loved. And you will be able to call on your abilities to love and be loved as many times as necessary until you are loving and loved by someone who proves to be, over years and decades, a person worth loving and being loved by continually.
posted by firstbest at 10:16 AM on February 22, 2012 [87 favorites]


Yeah, I think this has happened to a lot of people, myself included. Believe me, you made things so much better for yourself by just ripping the bandaid off - I've seen a lot of misery caused by people in relationships just trying to ignore the kinds of incompatibilities you're talking about.


I will say this - I am now friends with this ex, but it's a mistake to try to stay friends, because that implies that you're trying to go right to being friends immediately after the breakup. That has never, ever, worked out when I've tried it.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:17 AM on February 22, 2012


Did you ever break up with someone that you really loved (amicably, just because of compatibility issues) and manage to find someone else as good or even better? Is there hope? Bonus: Did you manage to stay friends with this ex?

Yes. It was really good. The sex was great. But it couldn't last. I sometimes wish in another dimension that it could've played out differently.
Yes, I found someone even better, who is definitely the right fit for me.
Yes, we are still friends, many years later, with the affection and even the attraction probably still as strong, but set aside.

I'm going to say: This is your first relationship, and it's awesome that it was a good experience. But it's still your first, and you're still young. I'm firmly in the camp of having experiences so you can grow and learn from them - meaning, don't stick to one experience just because it's comfortable, even if it's not the right thing for you.

It's a little scary and often lonely to keep looking, but I really feel it's better to know what's out there so that you can truly feel you've found what's right once you do find it - much better than sticking with the first good thing that comes along, and spending the rest of your life wondering if the grass is greener somewhere else. Lots of people out there feel they didn't get enough of a chance to try other things, ideas, relationships, ways of living out; that's a recipe for an unhappy middle-life crisis down the line.
posted by flex at 10:19 AM on February 22, 2012


First of all, please realise that this is twice as hard for you as it will be in future because you've never been through this before and you don't have the experience to know you will survive. You are gaining this experience now.

Did you ever break up with someone that you really loved (amicably, just because of compatibility issues) and manage to find someone else as good or even better? Is there hope?

Oh yes. I broke up with my highschool boyfriend when I went to college. I broke up with my college boyfriend when it was clear there was no future due to his religion. I broke up with my next boyfriend when it became clear he was never going to have children with me. I was madly in love with each of them and they were all wonderful dudes in very different ways.

An indecently short time after the last one and I broke up, I met my husband. Whee!

Bonus: Did you manage to stay friends with this ex?

I am friends with all of my exes except the one who turned out to be severely mentally ill, and I keep up with him through his mother. But you need time - a lot of time and a lot of moving on. You cannot make friends from a position of misery. You will need at least a year, I suspect.

For the record, I have often tried to develop a metric for getting from "broken hearted" to "feeling normal", and I think it's one year for the first year and another two months for every year after. You have a while to go yet and two months isn't nearly enough time to be doing anything but buying Kleenex.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:21 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maintaining long relationships is hard.

"Fairly significant life-compatibility issues" don't make them impossible to maintain, but they do make it a hell of a lot more difficult and more susceptible to failure.

When did you ever succeed at the first thing you ever tried? Think of this as a "learning relationship" and move on.

Yes, there are lots more fish in the sea. And you know what? You won't have "fairly significant life-compatibility issues" with most of them.

Relationships can be comforting and secure, even when large parts of them aren't working so well. It's nice to know what you're going to be doing and who you're going to be hanging out with every Saturday night.


Here's the thing: now that you're in your mid-twenties and know that you want a long-term (and potentially permanent) relationship, every relationship you are in from now on is kind of like trying on different pants to figure out which one is going to fit you best. There are lots of pants in the store, so you shouldn't be afraid to pass over a pair that doesn't seem to fit right.

This is not to say that you should be super picky and hold out for some idealized but largely fictional "perfect" pants, because of course it's also true that there are other people in the store picking out pants and the reality is that the store won't be nearly as full when you are 40 as it is right now.

But it is to say that if what you want is a long-term (and potentially permanent) relationship, you shouldn't waste any of your time with someone who you sense isn't going to be that guy. I have any number of friends who wasted years and years taking themselves off the market and dating versions of "Mr. Right Now" instead of looking around for "Mr. Right." And despite the fact that they all want to be married, none of them are.


So, since you seem to have sensed that your ex is not long-term (and potentially permanent) relationship material for you, you did the right thing in moving on.
posted by slkinsey at 10:22 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


PS. I don't really believe in being friends with a former romantic partner this soon, unless it was a fairly superficial relationship in the first place (which it doesn't sound like it was). Maybe a year or more down the road.
posted by slkinsey at 10:23 AM on February 22, 2012


I found him completely trustworthy and kind and attentive, we shared similar interests, and, as I was completely sexually inexperienced, he made me feel safe and comfortable in bed. We loved each other a lot, but broke up for fairly significant life-compatibility issues

The circumstances of people's first significant relationship often influence their future choices and get repeated in future relationships. Your description of yours as so positive on so many levels is a great indication that you're going to end up subconsciously (or consciously) looking for people who are trustworthy, kind, attentive, etc.

I would not be worried right now about being friends with your ex. Take care of yourself, nurse your wounds, know that there's plenty of time to reconnect down the road if circumstances allow and you're both on the same page about it.

Maybe I can compromise on these huge issues?"

I have compromised. Don't do it. Do. Not. Settle. You deserve 100%.
posted by headnsouth at 10:34 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I take a rather tough line, perhaps because I have been around many years:
1.don't worry about staying friends...this is not the important thing at the moment. You will or will not be friends later.
2.Miss one bus another on the way ...seems not the case I know but you are young and there will be other loves, opportunities, chances.
3. keep busy. Do good things. Keep social.
posted by Postroad at 10:45 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did you ever break up with someone that you really loved (amicably, just because of compatibility issues) and manage to find someone else as good or even better?

Yes. Passing time and being busy with the rest of your life is the only thing that heals.

Bonus: Did you manage to stay friends with this ex?

Never with a serious ex. Trying to force yourself to do so (in my experience) can be extremely painful and counterproductive. Move on with life. It sounds like you're relatively young; you have a huge amount of great living ahead of you. Don't torment yourself with the little bit of past that is painful.
posted by aught at 11:03 AM on February 22, 2012


Did you ever break up with someone that you really loved (amicably, just because of compatibility issues) and manage to find someone else as good or even better? Is there hope?

Yes. What happens is that, down the road, you realize that there were things you didn't know, and things you didn't know you didn't know. At first, after a breakup, your idea of a relationship's quality will be tied to how closely it resembles the one you just got out of. This is normal. This is the part that really takes time - letting go of it.

Then, what happens is you meet someone who makes you just as happy as the ex did, but those compatibility issues are not there, and you are amazingly happy. Dizzyingly so. And you suddenly realize that the happiness you had before was no less valid but you maybe feel a little silly for thinking it was the be-all and end-all of everything.

It will also be clear in your memory how you never thought it could be better, how you never thought you could meet someone else. There is no cure but time. It's a process.

Bonus: Did you manage to stay friends with this ex?

Yes, but: "Staying friends" is kind of a misleading term. It puts me in mind of a constant thing, which it really shouldn't be. Except for instances where the whole thing just fizzled and everyone knew it was a bad idea - rarer than you think - being friends post-breakup isn't something you can do right away. And even if you can flip from being together to being friends, it's ultimately harmful as long as either party still wants to be with the other.

Give it space, give it time. Being friends with someone you used to date is a good thing to do but it's not an obligation - when your heart is hurting, your first obligation is to you. So be kind to yourself and take time and space, and you'll be okay. Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:03 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Step back from your personal experience, and start looking for people who found love later in their lives, even after losing someone they considered the Love Of Their Lives. For example, this sad story (via) of a second love lost. The couple was together for 28 years, which sounds like a really long time. It's longer than you've been alive. But this was the second marriage for both people.

Similarly, my father's dad lost his first wife to cancer almost 30 years ago, but he got married again, when he and his second wife were in their 60s, and they were together until he died.

Life is long, and you'll experience a lot. It sucks now, but the world is huge, and your chances for new experiences are only limited by your actions.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:12 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Continued thought: ... and my grandfather was in his 80s when he passed.)
posted by filthy light thief at 11:13 AM on February 22, 2012


To answer your questions, yes, you can find someone after this who would be much much better for you and more suited to you. I did. At least your break up was amicably. Others on this board and in life, have had worse breakups and have moved beyond that to find true love.

Dont get hung up on this guy, focus on yourself, move on slowly at the pace you like and learn to trust again. It is worth it.
posted by pakora1 at 11:15 AM on February 22, 2012


I was the dump-ee rather than the dump-er, but I did have a relationship break up because of compatability issues -- and 15 years after the fact I recognize that holy GOD was that a good idea because we would never have worked. And yes, I later went on to find someone even better (who broke up with me for his own personal issues), and had other relationships in between.

So I'm speaking more to "can we stay friends" -- yes, it's possible. Be sure you know what your own boundaries are, and give it time -- don't force it, and for the love of God try not to give into the urge to sleep with him ever again (okay, yeah, maybe you will once, but that's it). The guy in question and I were doing this weird confusing "we're not dating but we fuck once in a while" thing for a year afterward and it prolonged my getting over him; but get over him I did, and he's one of my very best friends now. (And yeah, I am TOTALLY convinced that it's a good thing we didn't stay together.)

And if you realize that you shouldn't stay friends after all, that's okay too. It sucks (I'm recovering from that myself with my last ex), but it happens. And that's okay too and is no one's fault.

You will find other people. Can't say how long those relationships will last, but you willl find other people. And in time you will see "yeah, you know, it would have been a disaster if I'd stayed with Sid."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:19 AM on February 22, 2012


I've been looking back at my history of relationships, a marriage (today, 14 years ago), a divorce and singledom over the past 28 years since I left high school and here is what I am still learning:

I would not be who I am today if it were not for each and every man that I loved and who loved me back over the course of your lifetime.

Look upon it in this way. You are a wonderful collage of experiences that you will choose in your life, of paths taken and those mistaken, your life is a journey. In all of this, seek the good out of every experience and work on letting of the bad stuff. This way, no matter happens in your life (I certainly never imagined being childless and single at this age) you have this valuable treasure of experiences and your self.

And, unlike me, don't turn away from being open to relationships.

As for staying friends with your exes, it will totally depend on each individual relationship. I just wished my high school crush a Happy Birthday, we've stayed in touch across the decades adn continents. I'll meet my first college love (and his wife) in a couple of weeks as they stop by the city on layover flying to elsewhere. And yet that first real relationship, like the one you describe, I have not seen nor heard from in 15 years since he told me that now that he was married he did not think it seemly that we should talk. So its always a case by case thing.

As for love, I had learnt to expand my definition of what love means in my life and am now discovering that there's still more to be learnt.
posted by infini at 11:21 AM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh and in answer to your specific question, I broke up wiht my first serious love relationship, just as you did, still in love but not willing to compromise on make or break incompatibility issues. Its worth it in the long run and it took me 3 years to get over that 4 year relationship (age 22 to 26)
posted by infini at 11:23 AM on February 22, 2012


Friendships with exes don't work unless everyone is 100% romantically over one another. Even then, no, I haven't remained friends with any exes, even though I certainly don't harbor any grudges and even think fondly of a couple of them.

I have enough friends, honestly. I wasn't dating any of my exes in the hopes of finding platonic friendship-- I wanted a boyfriend. If a given man didn't meet my needs as a romantic partner, well, as I said, I have enough friends already. And guys I used to love or like very much bring too much baggage to my life to be worth it for me. Plus it would probably make my new boyfriend or their new girlfriend somewhat uncomfortable. Again, that's not worth it for me.

And I never was able to attract a new man when I was hung up on an old one. So that's another reason ex friendships were not something I felt I wanted in my life.

So if you want a new relationship but you're still not over your ex, you have to get him out of your life. Out, gone, no Facebook, no texts. Your brain needs to associate him with the past, not the present and future, and the only way to do that is to meet new men. After you've had time to heal, of course.

And yes, you'll almost surely meet someone new. But not if you keep talking to your ex or thinking about him as large-looming and illuminated with dear qualities. He wasn't right for you, he didn't make the grade. Even if he's a basically decent person, he is not a good romantic partner for you. Therefore, you need to treat him less preciously in your memory so there's room for someone new and better for you. You need to think of him as "BAD FIT FOR ME ROMANTICALLY, OLD NEWS, NOT WORTH MY TIME ANY LONGER" as opposed to, "The best guy! If only...".
posted by devymetal at 11:26 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's a book, and while it's a tad fluffy it also has some worthwhile advice in it. It's Called A Breakup 'Cause it's Broken is the name of said book, and it helped me start to process understanding that even though you can still love someone, have a great relationship with someone, and potentially stay friends with that person, there are reasons why it didn't work out, and you shouldn't try it again b/c those reasons you broke up (most of the time) continue to be there and go unresolved.

"Breakup" means something is there that is broken, and if it wasn't fixed while in the relationship, it's not going to fix itself if you try it all over again.

It's hard to be single, it's hard to be alone, and it's hard to get over that first big relationship, but it can happen. Now is the time to focus on yourself, get in touch what it is that *you* want. You can take what happened in your previous relationship and say "yes" or "no" to personality traits, compatibility in life goals, etc. There's no reason to be with someone if you're long-term goals don't match up, I learned that the hard way like a lot of other mefites it seems. It's not about settling, it's about finding someone who matches you in the things you value.
posted by bleachandink at 11:40 AM on February 22, 2012


Did you ever break up with someone that you really loved (amicably, just because of compatibility issues) and manage to find someone else as good or even better? Is there hope?

A few months before I met my husband I broke up with a guy who was a great guy for me in theory. He was fun and funny and we got along well and I loved his family and he was good looking. But we weren't compatible in the ways that mattered. We wanted different things out of life. I was devastated and heartbroken and made things harder on him than I should have. I started dating again before I was ready and I met my husband 3 months later. And my relationship with him is so much better and deeper than I could have ever imagined. He's not just a great guy who's good looking and fun and funny. He's my family and I trust him more than I trust anyone on the planet. And we got to that place because we share the same goals.

Bonus: Did you manage to stay friends with this ex?

9 years later we are still friends. I needed some space for awhile (about a year) but then we could hang out and have lunch (my husband was even okay with that b/c he trusts me). We live in different cities now but I'd hang out with him if we are ever in the same town again.

So I hope that helps. Start dating again as soon as you can. I think it helps to move on.
posted by bananafish at 11:41 AM on February 22, 2012


Did you ever break up with someone that you really loved (amicably, just because of compatibility issues) and manage to find someone else as good or even better?

Yes. And I found someone who was much much better for me (and I think in many ways a genuinely better man). In fact there were a couple people in between that I loved, to a lesser degree- that were for a moment better for me than Mr. Special-Ex. As said above- one bus goes by, there is another on the way.


As for staying friends. No. I've become friends with them again- but much later, a few years later- and that is only after I was totally over it. And more importantly- we were never close again. I believe in boundaries. The friendship that exists between lovers is hard to separate from the lover part. Not many people can really get there.

The question you want to ask yourself is "do I want the deep, intimate friendship that we had while we were lovers, just without the lover-part?" cause it just doesn't work that way. You need to build a new kind of relationship- or it just turns into a destructive merry-go-round, getting in the way of you both finding the next bus to get on.
posted by Blisterlips at 11:45 AM on February 22, 2012


Being "friends" sometimes is a bad idea. If you are trying to retain all the intimacy and regular contact minus the sex, you aren't really friends and that is unhealthy on both sides.

On the one hand, if you were close to someone and they were an important part of your life, then that means something and you can build a friendship from that. On the other hand, when I watch the kids on my lawn, I all too often see a dynamic where one person is both genuinely friendly and also a little guilty and the other is putting on a brave face while grabbing for scraps. This is not good and can lock into a pattern that lasts for years. Years during which the scrap-grabber never truly moves on.

Give yourself some room and time. If you don't, you may not even notice when a new love comes along.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:57 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


For me, I don't think it's possible to become friends with an ex until I can think of him dating someone else and feel genuinely happy for him. It doesn't sound like you are there yet. Your break-up was recent and for myself, having lived through three painful break-ups, two months would have been way too short for me. I am friends with one ex and not friends with two others.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:00 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's possible to become friends with an ex until I can think of him dating someone else and feel genuinely happy for him.

This. Knowing that the person they are with is a better match for them than you two ever were is when you are now friends and not exes.
posted by infini at 12:34 PM on February 22, 2012


So glad to hear others also have these positive experiences to offer you: I will add one, with a cautionary warning.

I have done this actually three times, and each time we've stayed friends afterwards, and each time I met someone who may not have been objectively better, but who was better for me.

The person who said it was like trying on pants, there's a lot of truth there.

That said, everyone here who's chiming in that you can't be best friends right away: they are often right. I mean, you can-I tried to do it twice-but it's really, really painful. Each time I did it, it was really damaging to our relationships. With the first ex I tried it with, we kept trying to show each other our dates, to demonstrate how over it we were and such good platonic friends. This failed. Still friends now, but it took a lot of work to get there and not have tears.

The second one, hurt a lot also, and it seriously damaged his next relationship.

I think there's this mental thing you have to do in your head, which involves saying and thinking about all the jerky things someone does, to get you over them. When they're still there and real, it's hard to remember that.
posted by corb at 12:45 PM on February 22, 2012


One thing you learn once you've ended your first relationship is that when a lot of ex-couples say they are 'still friends', what they actually mean is they are 'still friendly'.

Being civil is often necessary in order to traverse group situations, or ongoing mutual friendships. Plus, as in your case, oftentimes there is no reason to bear ill-will toward an ex. But do not conflate friendliness and friendship. They are not the person to call when you're bored, or stressed, or sad, or elated. Unless you are so far removed from your relationship that you can barely remember it, let alone retain feelings of love or attraction, any communication will be emotionally loaded in a way that platonic friendships aren't and shouldn't be.

I didn't understand this until I met my second boyfriend. We both maintained that we were good friends with our exes. But really, as soon as the new relationship was established it felt wrong to be communicating directly with the ex.

To summarise: I think it is both possible and desirable to be friendly and nice to exes, but no, you cannot 'be friends.' Luckily, once you're over the relationship (and you will be!) you'll be surprised by how little you miss them.

The other thing you learn is that your chances of striking up a perfect partnership multiply when you stop looking for it. Annoying but true.
posted by dumdidumdum at 1:08 PM on February 22, 2012


I've been through a lot in my somewhat young life. Health issues, applying and attending great schools, winning and losing athletic competitions, dealing with rejection in my work...and at the end of the day NOTHING I repeat NOTHING in life is as difficult as dealing with the end of a meaningful relationship. I don't think it makes a difference how long you were together. If the relationship had meaning and created memories, it's always going to be hard to see that relationship come to an end. I think it's perfectly normal to obsess about the relationship for a while. At least a few weeks to a couple of months. It's hard to move on. At some point in time you have to make a conscious effort to actively move on from the relationship. I hate to say it, but sometimes meeting someone else is really the answer to your pain. Not necessarily that the next person you meet will be "the one", but more so that it will show you there's always someone else out there. It sounds like your break up is difficult because you love the guy but there are unworkable compatibility issues. It's much easier when you've lost the strong feelings for the guy. It's tough to love something so much and know deep in your heart that it could never work out in the long run. Just know this, there will be another great person out there for you. Stay confident. Enjoy your life and everything in it that existed before you met this guy and since you've ending things with him. Since it's been a couple of months, I would suggest starting to date again. Maybe some internet dating? Even just getting out and meeting new people is a great way to help you move on from this relationship.
posted by ljs30 at 1:11 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did you ever break up with someone that you really loved (amicably, just because of compatibility issues)

Yes. The relationship had lasted 11 years, and while we'd had some good times, we both knew it wasn't working any more.

and manage to find someone else as good or even better?

There is no "better" or "worse," there's only "right [for you, in the ways that count]" and "not right." Everyone to whom you become close is going to be right in some ways and not-right in others. The important thing is finding the areas of rightness that matter to you, and being flexible on the rest.

Is there hope?

Always.

Did you manage to stay friends with this ex?

For a while, yes. We did get to a place where we felt like actual friends, rather than awkward exes trying to be friends. Then, about two years ago, he cut off contact without giving a reason. Losing the friendship, which by then was of over 20 years' duration, felt like a much greater loss than the breakup of the relationship-- maybe there was some deferred breakup grief in there too? Probably.

I haven't been, or particularly sought to be, in another long-term relationship since that one ended. I feel that I've been there and done that, and being single suits me well. I hope and trust that you will find, in the future, all the forms of love that suit you.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:38 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


When did you ever succeed at the first thing you ever tried? Think of this as a "learning relationship" and move on.

This a hundred times over. I didn't have a girlfriend until my junior year of college, and during the time I was dating her I was constantly trying to get everything right, "heck it took me longer than most other people, I'll never find anyone again, blah, blah, blah." We broke up after a mere three months together. I hurt -- A LOT. I thought I'd never find anyone else. I moved on. It took until after I graduated and moved out on my own to find someone else, but I did.

I learned things from that first relationship, as I have learned things in every other relationship since (there have been five others in the 14 years since). Nothing is ever perfect. No two people are 100% perfectly compatible, you just hope for the best.

Did you manage to stay friends with this ex?

At first I didn't want to, but since we were in college and we had a lot of mutual friends, I was thrust into a lot of situations where avoiding her would have been an impossibility. It took a while before I was comfortable with her again. We keep in touch. Hell, I even went to her wedding and it was probably my favorite wedding aside from my own (largely because it was mostly a college reunion for me). We're not as close as we used to be, largely because I live on the East Coast and she's now in Seattle.

I have not stayed friends with the vast majority of my exes; this is an exception. The other exception seems pretty one-sided to me in that I think I've stayed friends with her but I'm not entirely certain she sees it that way.

Did you ever break up with someone that you really loved (amicably, just because of compatibility issues) and manage to find someone else as good or even better? Is there hope?

A breakup, in my experience, is almost never amicable. Maybe that's just me and I need time to heal from these things before amicability can even be attempted.

During my mid-20s I was in what I would consider a very successful long-distance relationship with someone in another country. After about a year and a half she wanted to move in with me; I did some research and it turned out she had no ready path to a green card and job. Since she had no way to contribute financially to the proposed mutual living situation, I panicked and ended things, though we'd had other issues before that which also contributed to my desire to end things. In hindsight I don't think I handled it very well at all, and I haven't spoken to her since. Every once in a while I wonder what might have happened had I handled things differently, and every time the answer is "well if I'd stayed with her I would not have met my wife."

broke up for fairly significant life-compatibility issues that I'm certain do not bode well for a long-term future.

...and there you go. He could be wonderful, but there are certain deal-breakers (maybe you want children and he doesn't) that "do not bode well for a long-term future." Whatever your incompatibilities are, both you and he recognize them, and they seem reasonable as reasons for ending things. You'll find someone you're more compatible with, and that may take time, but it will happen.
posted by tckma at 2:39 PM on February 22, 2012


Maybe I can compromise on these huge issues?

Of course you can. That's not the important question. Try these instead:

Can I be happy, long-term, if I compromise on these huge issues? If these issues are so huge to me, why am I even considering sacrificing them to immediate gratification?

In the end, you already know what the answers are but you are afraid of them. We call that "complicated" when it really is our unwillingness to face reality.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:42 PM on February 22, 2012


I don't think you really "stay friends" with an ex. You can stay friendly and then become friends later, though.

In general I find that to really get over someone, you need to go no-contact for as long as you were together. Obviously this isn't always possible--if there are kids involved, or you see each other for work or school fairly regularly--but what you want to do in this situation is be civil, say hello, and then find anywhere else in the world to be. Don't try to engage in a conversation, and if one is unavoidable, don't bring up anything you wouldn't talk to, say, a coworker about. You do not want to do anything to reintroduce or prolong the intimacy you had.

Basically, you need to starve out your heartbreak by depriving it of the thing it feeds on: him. Like any detox, this is hard and depressing and anxiety-inducing and generally awful. But better for you in the end.

I don't know if love will get better for you, but life usually does.
posted by elizeh at 3:54 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've stayed friends with an ex without any real break in between although it was a super amicable breakup that was about as mutual as a breakup could be. I don't really believe there are any rules though, it just boils down to what works. As long as your ex feels like it could work and would like to try again though a friendship will probably be difficult.

Of course you can find another relationship that has the good aspects of this one without the core incompatibilities. It's hardly that weird for two nice people of good will to be in a relationship that has a lot of positive aspects but just doesn't have the full package of compatibility to last. It can be really hard to end this kind of relationship but when the core divisions aren't really negotiable then you've done the right thing. It takes more than two months to work through the aftermath of a serious relationship.
posted by nanojath at 4:09 PM on February 22, 2012


Those wonderful feelings you had with your ex-boyfriend were *your* feelings. They came from inside of you. Love really is what you make it. If you were capable of it once, you will be capable of it again.
posted by macinchik at 8:58 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


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