Help me get over this.
March 30, 2011 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Relationship ended. Fine. Now how do I get over him?

After crazy dating last summer I finally started dating a guy friend in September. We became exclusive in October. We spent tons of time together, traveled together, everything seemed to be going great. I'm 30, he's 35 (if that makes any difference).

I found out that he had committment-phobia, but whatever. We took things slowly and after he told me about this phobia, things seemed to be fine, his actions stated that he was into me, so I didn't think otherwise.

7-8 months into the relationship I blurted out that I loved him, because I couldn't hold it in any longer - because I did love him. He said "Thank you". Things continued to be fine from there on out and we went on a vacation together. Nothing out of the ordinary happened.

A month after the ILY incident, last week he told me that he loves spending time with me and I'm a great girl, but he doesn't see himself falling in love with me. Ever. I kindly and quietly asked him to get out of my sight because I was crushed, even though he started with the whole "I hope we stay friends" song and dance. I was calm and stoic and after he left my house I broke down. Last week I was completely paralyzed by this break-up and barely left the house. I haven't heard from him since "The talk" and haven't tried to contact him. I deleted his number from my phone so I can't call or text him and I haven't emailed him - no contact. I have texted back and forth with a few of his friends who seemed to be upset about all of this but that's about it.

Ok fine, so we broke up because he doesn't love me. However, this is killing me because I lost both a lover and a friend. I keep incessantly checking my emails and phone, wondering if he'll email or call or text to say that he wants me back (if he did though, I doubt I'd agree to getting back together - I'm devastated over this and that's not my style). I keep thinking about him and just want to stop but don't know how. I know I will eventually get through all of this, but what can I do to get through it besides hanging out with friends, cleaning the hell out of my house, reading, exercising and focusing on work? It's hard. It's really, really hard because I loved him so much. I have a few volunteer activities planned in the next month or two and am a member of a social club which will open up in June, but where these things are a little ways off, what do I do RIGHT NOW?

FWIW, I've decided to take at the very least, the summer off from dating all together and perhaps even the fall as well. I think I just need time off and am ok with this. I need to just focus on myself for awhile and enjoy life and my friends and my interests. This isn't to say that I'm going to completely eschew all dating opportunities should they arise, but I'm not actively seeking anything out. I just need a break.

But in the interim, how the heck do I move out of the devastated phase and into this focus-on-me-and-love-life-alone phase?
posted by floweredfish to Human Relations (31 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Agreed - there's not necessarily anything else you can do, you just need to stick to it. What you need is time.
posted by thoughtless at 8:04 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Keep busy, which it sounds like you're working on anyway. If you like to read, read a book. Start a new series you've been meaning to try on Netflix. Take a painting class. Try a new baking recipe. Pick up a new hobby.

Time heals all wounds. It's a slow bugger, though.
posted by litnerd at 8:08 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: But in the interim, how the heck do I move out of the devastated phase and into this focus-on-me-and-love-life-alone phase?

Time and chocolate, my dear.

That's the bad news -- the only way out of this particular swamp is through. But the good news is that if you just give yourself over to it -- "okay, this sucks, and I am going to make no apologies for the fact that I feel terrible because HI, I'M IN A SITUATION THAT SUCKS" -- the faster it goes.

Mind you, when I say "give yourself over to it," I don't mean show up all sackcloth and ashes at work -- there is a certain level of decorum to which you need to adhere -- but more, let yourself hole up at home and be depressed sometimes if that's all you want to do. You need to let that sadness metabolize, and the only way to let that sadness metabolize is to actually feel sad. The longer you put it off, the bigger it gets.

Forgive yourself if you don't want to do anything some days but cry forever. Forgive yourself if it's confusing and crazymaking and it sucks, because this is a sucky situation to be in. But let yourself feel that pain and sadness, because it has to come out. And one day you won't need to feel that way any more.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 AM on March 30, 2011 [19 favorites]

what can I do to get through it besides hanging out with friends, cleaning the hell out of my house, reading, exercising and focusing on work?

Nothing at all. :( I'm so sorry you're going through this, but it sounds like you've got all the tools you need. Except for time, time, lots and lots of time. There probably aren't even any mind tricks at this point -- unless you can keep repeating to yourself that you wouldn't take him back anyway, so it doesn't matter if he emails or calls, so there's no need to obsess about your inbox!
posted by motsque at 8:14 AM on March 30, 2011

Aw, I'm sorry! You're going to be just fine. You will have to white-knuckle this first phase for a while longer -- if you don't contact him, you'll feel a lot better in just two or three weeks. In the mean time, you should really nurture yourself and "nest." Do things that are absorbing, take a lot of time, and feel good -- yoga, bake something complicated and yummy, plant a garden, buy new sheets, paint your kitchen. I also recommend When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. It seems cheesy and new-agey, but even my most hard-bitten dude friends have found it soothing and helpful in times of need.
posted by yarly at 8:15 AM on March 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm going through a very similar situation right now. You're right, it is very hard. It is helpful to distract yourself with things you enjoy (for me, it was good food, good music, getting involved in random social activities, starting my garden). Exercise helps too. Nothing too strenuous, just a walk around the block, some yoga, a jog or a bike ride.

Most importantly, give yourself time to grieve and don't beat yourself up about it. You're going to cry. A lot. Sometimes in inconvenient/inappropriate situations. It's okay to cry. You lost someone very important to you. If you try to "buck up" and keep it all in, you will eventually explode.

You may be feeling worthless or unloved or undesirable right now, but the old cliche "It's not you, it's me" has a hint of truth to it. You're not the one for him. You're not what he needs. And that's okay. Inevitably, this saves you both time and energy. Being in a relationship with someone who doesn't want to be in a relationship with you....well that sucks. So as you take this dating sabbatical, remember that there is someone out there who wants to love the everloving shit out of you. And when you say "I love you", he'll damn sure say it back.
posted by chara at 8:17 AM on March 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: It took this guy nine months to decide he could never fall in love with you? Really?

"I love being friends with you but I don't love you and I don't think I could ever fall in love with you" is something you might expect to hear from a good friend you've developed a romance with, like, a week or five into a relationship. But it's really not such a nice thing to say to a person after nearly a year of acting like you are in love with that person (by dating that person exclusively, going on trips with that person, etc.). I know he told you he was uncomfortable with commitment, but he sure was acting committed to you for those nine months, which I'm sure was confusing for you. What he told you when he broke up with you may have been the truth but it seems like a truth he could have delivered sooner, or at least a little more gently.

I understand why this would be so devastating to you. He didn't just break up with you. He made it seem like your entire relationship had meant less to him than it did to you. He made you question your own perception of other people's feelings. I think it is totally legit for you to feel like your world has been turned inside out for a while after an experience like that.

I hope you can concentrate on the truth that this isn't your fault, and there isn't anything fundamentally unloveable about you. He admitted he has a general problem with commitment. One day you will find someone who doesn't.

I know what it feels like to feel like you could never love anyone that much again. But the heart is a funny sort of muscle. Scars make it stronger, sometimes.

(By the way, I met my husband while I was on a self-imposed serious dating break after a terrible breakup.)
posted by BlueJae at 8:30 AM on March 30, 2011 [28 favorites]

As chara said, give yourself time to grieve. This is actually a rare opportunity. Slow down, try really sitting with it. Physically sitting, or lying down, whatever you find most comfortable. Focus on that hole that is in your heart. Let yourself dive deep into it. In doing this, you won't come through the other side all happy and cheerful, but something in you will probably have changed for the better.
posted by allelopath at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the kind words so far. I know that deep down, time is the key here, but I think BlueJae also hit the nail on the head as to why I'm hurting and it feels good to see it in writing I suppose. You're right - I feel like I was nothing but disposable to him after all of that time invested and such. I think that's why it hurts the most. I'm trying so hard to move out of this devastated phase because I know deep down that it's not my fault, but I'm hoping to cross this bridge before I start blaming myself.
posted by floweredfish at 8:48 AM on March 30, 2011

If you're able to make the commitment to a pet, you might consider rescuing a dog or cat from the Humane Society. If you can't make the commitment, volunteer to walk dogs. Their unconditional love can be therapeutic.
posted by desjardins at 8:51 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

It took this guy nine months to decide he could never fall in love with you? Really?

That boggles me too, since I'm firmly in the "you will know immediately, or it's not right" camp on this (love at first sight is the only kind that counts to me), but based on other AskMe questions I have to accept that the whole thing must work differently for others, and indeed some people seem to fall in love, or something a lot like what I think of as love, much, much, much later than others.

So give the guy a break, at least he WAS clear about it eventually. Heck, he even raised the commitment-phobia thing months earlier, which was your warning.

Overall, I agree with the gestalt above that you are coping very well, based on your lucid question and sharp observations. So you won't be with this man forever. So what? You had good times together, and everyone survived largely intact.

Now keep living.
posted by rokusan at 9:11 AM on March 30, 2011

You're right - I feel like I was nothing but disposable to him after all of that time invested and such. I think that's why it hurts the most.

I'm sure he doesn't feel that you were disposable, thought I understand why you feel that way. I've been in the position several times of not being able to fall in love with someone perfectly wonderful who loved me -- and it felt terrible. At the very least, it seems like he gave the relationship a chance and was finally straight-forward with you about how he felt, and that is a kindness. He could have hemmed and hawed a long time longer, wasted more of your time, said vague things about his "commitment phobia," ... but instead he gave you something of a gift in just cutting to the chase and telling you the truth.

None of this is to say he isn't an absolute weenie for not realizing how fabulous you are :)
posted by yarly at 9:13 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: I, too, accidentally met my incredibly awesome now-husband during a self-imposed dating break after a breakup similar to this.

I agree with everybody else, though--take this time to treat yourself exactly as well as (or better than) you would expect a friend to. Everyone has made good suggestions about ways to nurture yourself, which are much more positive than what I did to start (i.e., watching hours of back-to-back Tim Gunn and baking brownies in my pajamas)!

I also found that one of the best things I did during that post-breakup period was to channel my time and energy to the people who DO love me unconditionally--my mom, my siblings, my longtime friends. I would pick up the phone to see if he called or texted, see that he didn't, be tempted to reach out to him, and decide to call someone else who I knew loved me instead. Reaching out to my family and friends--not always to whine, but sometimes just to talk or get lunch or hang out, really strengthened some important relationships in my life, and having the affection and support of my loved ones behind me made me feel stronger and less alone. It really put things in perspective and made it easier to heal.

You are handling this so well. It will get easier!
posted by anonnymoose at 9:20 AM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

I really like this answer from a previous thread.
posted by animalrainbow at 9:22 AM on March 30, 2011

Here are some similiar questions with advice that may you find useful.

More good commments here on focusing on oneself
posted by KogeLiz at 9:58 AM on March 30, 2011

Time, exercise, time, friends, time, cold showers, time, vitamin B tabs, time, a fling, more time.
posted by londongeezer at 9:59 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

That completely sucks. I'm sorry. The good news is that I think your approach is so much on the right track! Stick with it - no contact and just keep on keepin' on. It's going to be hard no matter what you do, but it will get less hard with time.

Do you enjoy making things at all? I think that might be a good way to spend some time - if you try something that you have to focus on a little then it might engage you. I am thinking like Instructables or sewing or any type of project like that. Not food so much, because then someone has to eat it.
posted by mrs. taters at 10:13 AM on March 30, 2011

I recently got dumped by my LDR girlfriend. I wish I had an answer for ya. I think Time as mentioned above, is the key element.

I think you can be grateful in some sense that you have a clear answer that he isn't interested... Lean on friends... It's what I'm trying to get my ex to do for her soul (I don't think she wanted it either, hence why I said be grateful you have a clear answer :))... I don't have many friends, sadly, but if you do have some, definitely rely on them to help distract you.

Let yourself feel it when you need to. Let out a good cry. Let yourself be upset when you need to. Punch some pillows if you have rage... That's all I got to offer. Oh, and know that you're not alone in your alone-ness :P
posted by symbioid at 10:15 AM on March 30, 2011

Miss one bus there is another on the way.
I can not tell women what they do or should do. But fgor guys: try the candy store...then, when tired of it, go after the better stuff.
posted by Postroad at 10:20 AM on March 30, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the positive encouragement - this is helping! :) I think part of my self-imposed dating break is to NOT have a fling. Been there, done that last summer and I think I deserve better at this point, but you get the picture. These are great suggestions though!
posted by floweredfish at 10:43 AM on March 30, 2011

Everything above and also slam list. Yes, it helps. I use the notes app on my phone and the top of the list is WID'dTMFA. Inside is a very private, very specific list of all the things that I did not like, or that hurt me. When I'm feeling mushy and missing him maximally and I start to weaken, I read that list. It works.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:50 AM on March 30, 2011 [8 favorites]

Hi, similar situation here -- little different, as we're basically no contact but see each other every week. and ignore. damn i hate the "let's just be friends" followed up with nothing friendly. blegh.

So I went and visited my best friend a few weeks ago, after venting to her about it, and about receiving the whole "it's not you it's me" speech -- and you know what she said? "you know that boy's right, damn straight he's fucked in the head". harsh, but it was also a serious wake-up call that it wasn't me, and jolted me into that realization.

it's not about you. it's about him. if you're anything like me ... don't beat yourself up about what could've been better. it's all about him. this is one of the hardest things to internalize.

things that have helped me, admittedly pretty cliche:
thoughts -- trying to be mindful of when i'm obsessing or letting thoughts of him eat up my thoughts, my time, my feelings, and really trying to redirect these thoughts. a book. a movie. a phone call with a friend. knitting a really complicated pattern.
being able to talk to someone/vent about it with a sympathetic someone who knows him has been good. i recommend.
you have other friends; lean on them. reconnect with ones you maybe haven't seen because you were hanging out with this guy.
new hobbies! what a cliche, amirite? but i took up a new, somewhat time-consuming and outdoorsy hobby, and am so stoked about it. i'm learning tons of awesome stuff and working with my hands and meeting new people (beekeeping!). i'm learning about native plants of the region. i'm working on trying to learn a new instrument.

"yes woman": i'm also working on just learning new things and spending time with people. some great piece of AskMe advice from a long time ago that I've been trying to take to heart is to be a "yes woman" to social events. even if i'm not thrilled about the idea of leaving my house, i pretty much always enjoy being out and about. ymmv if you are more introverted. i find it reminds me that i still have awesome friends, i am a fun person to hang out with, and i can have fun.

it's important to me to make sure that i'm busy .. not just drowning myself in work, but rather busy being actively engaged with the world and the people in it.

getting laid helped.. having a lover pass through town was real nice. i'm not into the idea of dating now or for a while, but if you roll that way, an infrequent fix can be positive. self-love. etc. being desirable to yourself is also a positive thing.

grieve: acknowledge the loss and that it's not really okay. losing a friend sucks. that's the worst part of "let's be friends" -- i've never had someone tell me those words in a breakup and then had it happen. this is not to say that i'm not dear friends with some exes, but when those words come up along with "it's not you it's me" ... has yet to happen. i think that taking time out to purposefully acknowledge this loss and feel bummed can help it from intruding on your thoughts CONSTANTLY.

wow, i wrote a lot more than i thought i would. i feel for you, what a bummer situation. i hope things look up soon. spring is here, summer is here, there's so much to do and see and enjoy outside and i hope you do. don't beat yourself up if it takes a while.
posted by circle_b at 11:00 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

You're doing everything right. Unfortunately, the "times heals all wounds" advice is true, but it just sucks when you are still in the period where you're mourning. Keep busy.

I broke up with someone (we'd been together for 1.5 years) and I was devastated. I started dating immediately after and in the end it worked out. We broke up in April and by June I'd met my future husband.

I probably really wasn't ready to start dating yet, but I'm really glad I did. So, I don't know, you might want to give dating a chance earlier. Meeting someone who is funny and kind and good looking etc is a really quick way to forget about your ex ;)
posted by bananafish at 11:44 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was in your place 1.5 months ago. I can tell you that it does get better. Those first couple of weeks were excrutiating. I couldn't imagine ever feeling better even though I had survived a bad break up in the past. It has gotten a lot better though!

Keep up the no contact. It's been a huge help for me this time around. With my previous bad break-up, we kept in contact. Keeping in contact was a disaster. This time around, I haven't spoken to him since we broke up and I am proud of myself for that. (Yes. It hurts that he hasn't tried to contact me either.)

I'm still sad about the break up. I still think about him every day. I still miss him and wish things had worked out differently. The pain isn't terrible anymore though. My hunch is that your pain will slowly ease up as the days go by, especially if you stick to no contact. You will probably have days where you feel stabbing sadness and that's OK. The days of stabbing sadness will lessen as time passes.

You seem to have a good plan of getting through this time. Below are some of the things I have found most helpful:

-Talking nightly to a caring family member. It was a huge help to just be heard by another person

-Writing about my feelings in a journal each day. When I was at work and feeling horrible, I would tell myself that I would be able to let all my bad feelings out later in my journal.

-Browsing self help books on Amazon. This comforted me in that I felt as though if I just bought a book, I would feel better. I didn't end up buying any of these books, but just seeing they were out there gave me a hope for a "cure" for my sadness.

-Browsing the many break-up stories on Metafilter

I have started dating again and it has been OK. I'm still a bit shaky, but it's been a good experience. I'm not someone who would mentally be able to have a fling though, so if you are known to have flings, you might want to take a break.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:29 PM on March 30, 2011

Oh, I'm terribly sorry. I went through a similar situation a couple of months ago, and there are two main things that helped me:

1. Viewing the situation with as much compassion as I could muster made me feel like I was taking the high road, and being compassionate toward him also had the unexpected benefit of convincing me it wasn't my fault. I just kept telling myself that he was doing what he needed to do, that he just wasn't at the right point in his life or the right frame of mind, and that actually helped me feel better about myself while also keeping me from feeling bitter and angry about things.

2. I started setting some goals for myself, and made a giant list of things I have always wanted to do but never set aside the time to accomplish. This idea was initially fueled by an "I'll show him!" mentality, which is maybe not the ideal approach in light of what I just said about compassion, but it definitely helped me get started. I found this site while I was casting around for ideas, and made my own list. Feeling like I had some concrete, measurable direction toward becoming An Awesome Person was really helpful to me, and hugely distracting when I felt like just lying around in bed all day, too.
posted by adiabat at 12:53 PM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

There is a lot of common advice I have seen relating to this -- volunteering, joining a club, starting a new activity. I have tried all of these at various points and they do help. You might have to search around before you find an activity that's right for you, so be persistent and explore until you do find something that you can look forward to. Some particular examples that have worked for me have been volunteering at an animal shelter, starting a martial art or starting to dance. Bicycling or running are other options. Basically, anything for which you have to show up regularly, and even better, if there is a community around it in which you can find new friends. For solitary activities like running, you could aim for running a particular marathon or event in order to keep yourself motivated.

Is travel an option for you? I have found it the best for putting things in perspective.

As an aside, I never cease to be amazed at the dating habits I learn of on the big ole Internet. How can this person not love you and date you for > 8 months?
posted by adahn at 2:06 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I hear you, it sucks. Big time. What I do is I put on some dance music and dance by myself, in my room. Really happy up-beat stuff. It gives me that "I'm awesome and worth being treated so much better" vibe and it re-inforces the idea that *I* did nothing wrong. I think its natural to start thinking "what if... did i do something to mess it up?" And you didn't. You rock and it's his loss :) It might be different for you, but i find listening to music to that effect really helps me believe it.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:32 PM on March 30, 2011

Also, yes, remember the things he did that pissed you off, or traits you wished he had. Remind yourself of them every time you start remembering the good times.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:34 PM on March 30, 2011

WHOA, I have so been here big time, at almost the exact same milestones and timeline and events and feelings. The only reason I'm not convinced you're dating my ex (because we broke up right at the beginning of September) is the age difference. So I know where you're coming from, because this was me, within the last year.

Time. Time is the only thing that heals it. And dating other people has helped me - the first guy I dated after my ex and I broke up was super-duper low key. He ended up moving before we had a chance to get serious, and honestly I think that having such a low-key low-stakes dating experience really helped me transition back into the idea that there were other quality men besides my ex out there. I'm now dating the second person after my ex (about 6 months after the Breakup), and I'm feeling pretty cool about it right now. I've also made an effort to go do a lot of Fun Things That Single People Do, and that's really paid off - I feel like my social network has really been in a good place over the last few months.

Also, I re-started therapy right around when my ex and I broke up, and that's really helped a lot.

Please feel free to MeFi mail me if you want to talk more!
posted by mostly vowels at 4:05 PM on March 30, 2011

I can tell you what worked for me: I went hiking for a month. During that time, I was so busy doing crazy things and not dying, I didn't even think about her.

By the time I got back, it didn't hurt so much. Go doing something crazy and exciting!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:28 PM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: I was unceremoniously dumped a few weeks ago by the first guy I'd gotten past a 3rd date with in years. I was miserable. Surprisingly, boxing with my trainer really helped. During the session I was unable to think about how sad I was or wonder what if I'd said this thing instead of that thing, or if I wasn't brainy/geeky enough, if anyone would ever want to get serious with me, etc etc. It took all my brain power to remember what punches to throw when, and there was a nice little high when I was done, plus a sense of accomplishment. (Some people assume this was an anger-release thing, but I don't work that way.)

I never thought I would like boxing at all - surprise! Anyway, while I'd agree with the above posters that it's important to give yourself time to be sad, something that demands your focus and is physically demanding can give you a break when you need it.
posted by bunderful at 7:02 PM on March 30, 2011

« Older Laptop Questions   |   Looking for women and minority candidates in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.