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Fixing a Relationship I Broke
June 17, 2012 7:40 PM   Subscribe

Broke up with my girlfriend, but want her back. She's moving away. Some inter-faith drama as well. Thoughts?

I'm a 27 year old male. I dated an incredible girl for 3.5 years. We loved each other, got along splendidly, and generally had an amazing time together. Unfortunately, I'm from a religious Jewish family (personally an Atheist), and she's (non-practicing) Catholic. I struggled to reconcile it with my family, even though she eventually agreed to convert for marriage. My parents were constantly guilting me and questioning where things were going and when she would convert, and I never found the guts to tell my grandparents (Holocaust survivors) or extended family about the relationship, and kept her a secret for all those years. Further, she was never happy in our city, and always wanted to travel more. Although I'm open to moving, I couldn't move until I came clean to my family, which I was unable to do. And her unhappiness with the situation only added to my guilt.

Eventually the stress, guilt, and anxiety of the situation got to me. I was having panic attacks, and abusing pot. Finally I broke up with her, to escape my problems.

That was 3 months ago. We've barely spoken. Since then I've tried to fix myself and my life. I quit pot, started going to a therapist, got into shape, and finally came clean to my grandparents, which went better than I expected. They even said that if I still love her, I should reach out to her. For the first time in forever, I feel good about myself, and I feel like I could make things work between us.

Unfortunately, she's moving away. She quit her job, and is planning to travel the world for at least half a year, and then move somewhere that's not here. I contacted her a month ago saying I wanted to talk, but she wasn't ready. She finally set up a meeting a few days from now, and less than a week before she leaves.

What can I say to get her back? Although I'm willing to move to be with her, I couldn't do it without first having a few months for my family to get to know her, and make things right. I would also need time to wind things up at my job, and time for us to re-establish what we once had. Feel free to ask for more details. Thanks!
posted by kilbasar to Human Relations (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
It sounds like this entire relationship, as you've outlined it here, is all about you. Your problems with your family. Your need to fix yourself. Your guilt over hiding things. I get no sense that you really even know what her opinion on all this is, since you say you broke up with her, then didn't talk to her, "fixed" yourself, and you want to get back together with her, but you have your own conditions on being able to do so.

At this point, I'd take some time to see what she thinks about all this. I'm sure you know more than you've written here, but if you approach an ex by saying, "I'm better now! I feel like I'm ready to be in a relationship with you, so long as we can do X, Y, Z..." you'll still be approaching this with the same self-focus that seemed to undermine you in the past.
posted by xingcat at 7:50 PM on June 17, 2012 [22 favorites]


Further, she was never happy in our city, and always wanted to travel more.

It sounds like she put her life on hold for 3.5 years for you, and stuck it out for you in a situation where she was dissatisfied and not happy. She was expecting marriage for you and even agreed to convert from her religion to yours. Then, you dumped her, as you said, to escape your problems. To improve your own situation, in other words. That's not a bad thing because as you said you were fixing your life, but you were doing what was best for you.

Now she finally has the chance to do what is best for HER. She has finally made plans to do the things that are going to make HER happy and the things that are going to make HER feel fulfilled. Things that she has been wanting to do for years and years but put on hold all for you, only to be dumped at the end.

So, I suspect that if you say the following to her:

Although I'm willing to move to be with her, I couldn't do it without first having a few months for my family to get to know her, and make things right. I would also need time to wind things up at my job, and time for us to re-establish what we once had.

I think it will go over very, very, very badly.

It comes off like you are still 100% focused on your own wants and needs, what will make the situation better for you, what will make you more comfortable, etc. Obviously I am only just going based on your post, but in your post I see absolutely no concern on your part for making sure she is happy in life and getting what she wants in life. It seems to be mainly only concern for yourself and what you need.

So I think if you say that to her, if you just come to her with your laundry list of more needs that you are expecting her to drop her own plans to fulfill, you are going to really be shooting yourself in the foot if you want to get her back.

I think you really need to completely flip the script and be WAY more supportive of her. I think you need to APOLOGIZE to her about so many things. About breaking up with her. About letting the situation be unhappy for YEARS while you avoided dealing with your stress, guilt, and anxiety.

And I think you need to AFFIRM that it is really important that she gets what she wants in life. And gets the things that are important to her. I think you need to tell her that you 100% support her going to do those things. Rather than putting more needs of your own in her path to prevent or delay her for doing them. Maybe even say this explicitly, let her know that you know in the past maybe you put a lot of your needs and issues first you apologize for that. When you let her know all the things you are working on changing, let her know THAT is a big one you are working on changing as well.

Tell her if there's anything you can do to support her now, you would like to do it. And when she gets back from her trip, you would like to give your relationship another shot.

Even though I was blunt with you here kilbasar I am not trying to be mean, I am trying to give you my best advice for getting her back.
posted by cairdeas at 7:51 PM on June 17, 2012 [64 favorites]


What can I say to get her back?

Nope. Nothing.

You hid her from your family for 3.5 years, and there is very little that is very ok with that behavior. Unless you'r related to ax murderers.

Let her go find a guy who respects her enough to sort through the family drama and go to bat for her with his parents.
posted by bilabial at 7:54 PM on June 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Your question is all about you (and your parents?!) nothing about what she needs/wants. I don't think you are ready for a relationship where you prioritise you partner over your family. Keep working on yourself, untangle the apron strings and demonstrate through your actions you will be a good partner for someone.

I would not say anything to her about getting back together; she is aware that is a possibility if she chooses. Pressure in any form (and especially guilt/ a pity party for you) will turn her off.
posted by saucysault at 7:54 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


She's going on this trip, and you're not going with her. Let her go, you're done. You were a millstone, she tried to persevere with you, you fucked it up, move on.
posted by The Monkey at 7:55 PM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


What can I say to get her back?

Dude. Dude. The only sentence in this post that isn't about you is about how she's unhappy with "the situation". A telling use of the passive voice there, incidentally.

My advice is to apologize for your selfishness and wish her well in her travels.

Once she's gone, sort your own shit out.
posted by mhoye at 7:57 PM on June 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


Maybe what you are feeling is not a need to get back together with this particular person, but a desire to be in a mature relationship now that you've made some positive changes in your life. That's a great place to be. Good for you!

The fact is that you've been very selfish in your recent relationship, and it would be very difficult to change the dynamics between you and your ex, or for her to get over her resentment of how you failed to be a real partner. Don't try to stop her from enjoying her life. Wish her well, tell her how much you appreciate her patience, and that you hope she finds the life she deserves.

Then start fresh, and try to do better this time.
posted by Scram at 7:59 PM on June 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm with cairdeas, this whole post was about you and what you want, and very little to do with what your girlfriend wants. The "Hey baby, now that I feel better you should be my girlfriend again, but could you just meet these conditions to make that happen" line rarely works unless the chick is a doormat.
posted by schroedinger at 8:01 PM on June 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Are you ready to stop caring what your parents think? Would you still make her convert? Would you still tolerate your parents guilt tripping you, or would you make her your priority and shut them down?
posted by yarly at 8:03 PM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think if you want her back, you need to be willing to give up all of your post-reconciliation desires. Time to get to know your family, time to "re-establish"? Come on. You two were together long enough that you shouldn't need all that stuff. To even ask for it a week before she leaves town seems crazy mean and unfair.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:04 PM on June 17, 2012


A lot of good stuff here, mostly about how everything I said was about me. And that's true. The problems were all about me, and she sacrificed for my sake. I don't want to prevent her from going on her trip, and I do think it's my turn to sacrifice for her sake, and to apologize for what I've put her through. Most of what I've run through my head so far has been apologizing for the abysmal way I treated her and dealt with the situation. But for practical reasons, I can't up and leave next week, even if she would have me. So, in that case, the advice here is to just let her go and hope I do better with the next girl?
posted by kilbasar at 8:08 PM on June 17, 2012


I do think it's my turn to sacrifice for her sake, and to apologize for what I've put her through.

Your sacrifice is not putting her through any more emotional turmoil and completely letting her go. If you have the meeting it should begin and end at "I'm sorry", with no mention of getting back together.
posted by schroedinger at 8:11 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, in that case, the advice here is to just let her go and hope I do better with the next girl?

I think the best thing is to definitely let her go in the sense of not trying to go along on her trip with her. But you can still let her know that if she wants to give it another shot when she gets back, she can contact you, or if she would prefer you to contact her then, you could do that too.
posted by cairdeas at 8:12 PM on June 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, in that case, the advice here is to just let her go and hope I do better with the next girl?

The advice seems to be better described as 'keep working on yourself and be sure to do right by the next woman you date.'

For your sake and hers (whoever she may be), please think of your late 20s female peers as women and not girls.

And please stop thinking of yourself as such a passive character in all of this. Decide that your girlfriend's religion is either important or not. Decide that you do or don't tolerate _x_ or _y_ from your family. Decide that you are marriage minded or not. And then behave accordingly.

The deciding is active. So is the behaving. Hoping on the other hand is pretty much the opposite of active.
posted by bilabial at 8:15 PM on June 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


But you can still let her know that if she wants to give it another shot when she gets back, she can contact you, or if she would prefer you to contact her then, you could do that too.

That's sort of where I was leaning. I guess saying "how can I get her back" wasn't a good way of phrasing it, more like "how can I leave the door open for her". I've mostly accepted there's no way we're suddenly going to get back together immediately with her leaving town, but I want her to know I think I can do better than I did last time, and that I would love the opportunity to prove it to her. And if she's not interested in that, we'll both move on accordingly.
posted by kilbasar at 8:17 PM on June 17, 2012


So, in that case, the advice here is to just let her go and hope I do better with the next girl?

Meet with her, apologize and wish her well on her trip. Quietly indicate your desires, but don't push it. Leave it in her hands and get on with learning how to live without familial approval. Striving to make them happy has left you miserable.

If you don't mind, let us know how it goes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:17 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The deciding is active. So is the behaving. Hoping on the other hand is pretty much the opposite of active.

This is very true. Most of those 3.5 years, I coasted along hoping that eventually something would happen, some switch would flip, that would give me an easy and clear path without having to make hard and painful decisions. Every now and then I would take a small step, but just enough to let me coast a bit further.

I'm tired of doing that. I can't avoid hard decisions, and I don't want to. I'm tired of making excuses for myself.

please think of your late 20s female peers as women and not girls.

I apologize if that bothered you, she is most definitely a woman, but the nomenclature of my friends has always been to refer to our friends and significant others as "girls" and "boys". I don't think it really means much.
posted by kilbasar at 8:24 PM on June 17, 2012


From most of what I've read here, the answers boil down to:

- You're selfish and fucked it up too much, just let her go and be happy

- You're selfish and fucked it up, apologize without expecting anything, let her go and be happy, and maybe she'll forgive you on her own terms

I agree with both of the above. I'm selfish, and I've fucked it up. It's obvious that I let her happiness be secondary to my own, and that's not the way a relationship should work. I do want her to be happy, and if her being happy means not being with me, so be it, we'll both move on. But I also think we could work things out, and be happy together. So, I'll apologize, maybe tell her I wish I had the chance to make things right, and wish her the best on her journey.

Thanks for your insights, and more are always welcome.
posted by kilbasar at 8:33 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I think you need to AFFIRM that it is really important that she gets what she wants in life. And gets the things that are important to her. I think you need to tell her that you 100% support her going to do those things. Rather than putting more needs of your own in her path to prevent or delay her for doing them. Maybe even say this explicitly, let her know that you know in the past maybe you put a lot of your needs and issues first you apologize for that. When you let her know all the things you are working on changing, let her know THAT is a big one you are working on changing as well.

Thank you for this cairdeas, it really put things into perspective. I need to support her, in whatever form that takes. I need to stop thinking about everything in terms of how it affects me. I feel bad just having any kind of conversation about this right before she leaves, because I know it will confuse her in some way, and I feel terrible doing that to her when she's on the verge of doing something great. I wish we could have spoken a month ago, but I also needed to wait until she was ready. So at this point I need to do my best to not burden her further, just apologize for the past without trying to force anything. If I'm lucky she'll decide on her own that I'm worth giving another chance.
posted by kilbasar at 8:47 PM on June 17, 2012


I want her to know I think I can do better than I did last time, and that I would love the opportunity to prove it to her. And if she's not interested in that, we'll both move on accordingly.

Apologize and tell her that. And don't pressure her for a response.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:47 PM on June 17, 2012


I agree with both of the above. I'm selfish, and I've fucked it up. It's obvious that I let her happiness be secondary to my own, and that's not the way a relationship should work. I do want her to be happy, and if her being happy means not being with me, so be it, we'll both move on. But I also think we could work things out, and be happy together. So, I'll apologize, maybe tell her I wish I had the chance to make things right, and wish her the best on her journey.

Hey, we all make mistakes. If it's any comfort, I think the fact that you're willing to own up to your mistakes, take responsibility for them, and accept the consequences shows a lot of maturity. Give yourself some credit here.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:17 PM on June 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Give yourself some credit here.

Thanks. One thing I've learned in therapy is that I do tend to be very hard on myself, and sometimes I need to give myself a break. Definitely some of my guilt stems from being hard on myself when I don't need to be.

There were tons of ways I could have better dealt with the last 3.5 years, most of them involving being more emotionally mature and less selfish. But we all start somewhere, and as long as I try and learn from the experience and not make the same mistakes twice, hopefully I'll end up the better for it.

Thanks again to everyone who replied (and might still reply), y'all are awesome and have really helped to put things into perspective for me. I guess there's more on the internet than just funny pictures of cats.
posted by kilbasar at 9:35 PM on June 17, 2012


But for practical reasons, I can't up and leave next week, even if she would have me.

That's kind of crazy thinking (that you'd go on the trip with her) and might be something you want to work on. Even if you do get back with her, you're not going on this trip. Even if she cries tears of joy that you want to reconcile and promises to come back to you? You're not going on this trip. The fact that you're spent enough time considering it as an option to come up with all the reasons you can't do it is a window into how messed up your thought processes are about this whole thing. Relationships and love aren't about being together 24/7 and everything being perfect and totally how you planned it. But they're usually still worthwhile.
posted by fshgrl at 10:02 PM on June 17, 2012


Even if you do get back with her, you're not going on this trip.

You are very correct. Maybe I should clarify a bit; I was never expecting that I would somehow make things right in the next week and go off on her journey with her. Even if she wanted me to, it would be a terrible idea. She need to go off and do her own thing, and that's great. We were always very good about giving each other space, and she went off on month+ trips of her own regularly during our relationship. It's more that I was hoping that after her journey, she might consider coming back here (briefly) and giving me a chance to fix the mistakes I made, because otherwise I will probably never see her again. But I'm in no position to ask for that; she's seemingly done with this city, probably stayed here a year longer than she would have just for me, and I have no right to ask her to stay a minute longer. So at this point the best I can do is to apologize, and if she wants to give me another chance, she'll decide how and where to do so.
posted by kilbasar at 10:16 PM on June 17, 2012


[Kilbasar, moderator here. Just a note to point out that Ask Metafilter is not a discussion space for back and forth conversation. You've clarified your thoughts and the situation, and you need to chill with the responding comments now and just read and evaluate the advice offered.]
posted by taz at 10:59 PM on June 17, 2012


I agree with both of the above. I'm selfish, and I've fucked it up.

Just want to make one thing clear... I don't think you're some kind of horrible selfish person. We all can get tunnel vision and get focused on our own issues, forgetting about the impact on others, without being A Selfish Person. The point isn't "you're bad and you should feel bad," the point is just - these are the actions that aren't helping you in the situation.
posted by cairdeas at 11:18 PM on June 17, 2012


It seems that one of the main issues is your reliance on your family. Sounds like they are very controlling. For the sake of your sanity and next relationship, don't let them control you. You're 27. If a friend treated you the way they do, how would you react?
posted by reddot at 5:11 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let her know it was you and not her. It will be the greatest gift you could give her.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:27 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Try to make sure your next relationship is between you and your partner (either with your ex or with another woman) without your family intruding. She was willing to convert to a religion you don't even believe in. Acknowledge her past love when you meet and understand it might remain in the past.
posted by ersatz at 6:16 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are your parents aware of your Atheism? Because it strikes me as possible that the real issue here is not so much your family's acceptance of any non-Jewish girlfriend, but your family's acceptance of YOU. It's not clear at all that you've really confronted the fact that the real inter-faith relationship* here is not between an Atheist and a non-practicing Catholic, but between an Atheist and a family of religious Jews.
posted by endless_forms at 8:08 AM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's an idea: In addition to accepting responsibility for what you have put her through, you can articulate the x, y, and z steps you are taking to work on your problems, whatever they may be. 'Words are wind,' of course, but emphasize that you've got actions to back them up. Plus, if I was the friend of your friend? I would advise her that three months is likely not enough to deal with whatever fucked-upness gave rise to bad behavior. Use the time she is unavailable to you to learn how to deal.

You will be doing the x, y, z, while she is gone on the trip that you 100% support her taking. Tell her this, plus that if she ever gets in a tricky travel situation (robbed in Mexico City, whatever) you will do what you can to help her out.

It strikes me that you are deep in the red here, and you need to shovel mightily to make it right. I don't know what the fuck is going on with you and your family, but that's what therapy is for.
posted by angrycat at 8:46 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


A slightly different perspective. If I were a person who had invested 3.5 years in you, and things failed, I'd DEFINITELY not want you to just let me/it go if you had second thoughts after the breakup. If you had some real ideas and motivation to make things right, and were willing to be patient, I'd want you to propose those ideas to me. A 3.5 year investment is a big deal and a lot of love (and time).

I'd then want you to be patient and keep communicating with me while I thought it over, and I'd want you to keep discussing the ins and outs of it. This doesn't sound like a one-off conversation. It sounds like you might be in for communicating with your ex over weeks or maybe a couple of months. What's on the table is, "Do we definitively end this thing we invested 3.5 years in, or do we give it another try?" That's not the type of decision that's made in one conversation in which you show up with a rose and some well crafted sentences. It's a life decision that should be made thoughtfully and slowly.

If where you're at is that you might actually want to spend a lifetime with this person, and what's on the table is the greatest commitment two people can make to each other, then that's serious (and obviously important to you and presumably her), so definitely propose it. Start with honesty, kindness, communication, patience, etc. Give it a few months and expect that it might take some time.

But definitely, walking away without a conversation here is silly and some kind of bold and stupid move that people make in movies and books. It's not actually heroic nor is it for her own good. Propose what you think, and honestly communicate these things to her that are important and meaningful. Give it some time (if she'll allow it).
posted by killiancourt at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or in other words, you wrote this:

But I'm in no position to ask for that; she's seemingly done with this city, probably stayed here a year longer than she would have just for me, and I have no right to ask her to stay a minute longer. So at this point the best I can do is to apologize, and if she wants to give me another chance, she'll decide how and where to do so.

... and I disagree. You are completely in a position to ask for whatever you truly want. Don't tiptoe around it, making assumptions about what she "seemingly" thinks or feels. What she might "actually" think or feel is that losing that 3.5 year relationship is the most heartbreaking event of her life and she'd also be willing to take steps to repair the mistakes. Or not. You don't know what she thinks and feels until you ask, and nobody on this message board knows either.

Your to do list: figure out in the most honest way for yourself what you want, ask/tell her politely, wait for her to process it, talk again if she wishes, iterate a few times, until a resolution occurs. Which may or may not be in your favor.
posted by killiancourt at 2:10 PM on June 18, 2012


It sounds like she made a lot of sacrifices for you, while you did not make very many for her.

Lots of people above me have good advice about how to approach the possibility of reconciling with her. If you start to move in that direction, I would make it clear to her that you have told your family you love her and that they are supportive. I can't even imagine the kind of strain keeping her a secret must have been on your relationship and how hurt she must have been to feel that your family may never accept her. (Actually, I can, because I have been there. My half-Jewish, cultural-but-not-practicing background was never enough for my ex's family and it was hurtful to know his family would never accept me, and that he wasn't willing to stand up to them.)

If you want to make this work, you need to know that you are not going to let this become an issue with your family anymore. She offered to address the situation by converting (to appease the family you wouldn't even introduce her to), I think you really need to work out how you can stand up to your family and not let them have such control over your relationships.
posted by inertia at 11:58 AM on June 19, 2012


Thanks again for all the good advice here. I met with her last night. I apologized (profusely), told her I regret my selfishness and the way I treated her. She understandably said that she appreciated my apology, but doesn't know if she could ever forgive me, and if she could ever get past the past in order to give me another chance. I said I understood, and that I'm really glad she's going on her trip and getting away, and doing something that's important to her. I tried not to be forceful, and I told her that getting away is the best thing she can do for herself right now, but I also made it clear that I know I can do better, not make the same mistakes twice, and if she ever decides to give me that chance, I would prove to her that it was worthwhile. I know we could be very happy together; we were, and our only problems were really my problems, that I imposed on the relationship. But I already had the opportunity to make her completely happy, to show that I deserved her love, and I failed. She gave me 3.5 years of her life, and I didn't change, so she has no reason to believe me that I can be different now.

She wasn't really expecting most of what I said, and I definitely overwhelmed her, despite my attempts not to go overboard. I feel pretty shitty about that, throwing her world back into chaos right before she was about to escape it. But I know she'll go off on her journey and find ways to heal, and I'm glad I left the door open for her. At this point I'm just trying not to dwell. I don't plan on contacting her again, although I made it clear she can reach out to me for any reason. I hope she finds happiness, with me or without me... although obviously I'd prefer it to be with me.
posted by kilbasar at 10:44 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


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