What the hell happened in this relationship? Fixable?
June 18, 2011 5:54 PM   Subscribe

The relationship is not looking good, I'm trying to figure out if I can save this thing and if I can't, how the heck to get back into my own head and get her out of mine.

I've been going out with this girl for 8 months, she has just gotten her bachelors in art and has finished school. I have another year, but we had plans to teach in Asia and go to California afterwards together. About a week ago, she told me she had to reinvent herself and said she needed to be alone. We had been a bit shaky the past month or two, but there has been a lot of stress from the end of the semester work, her graduation and us both trying to find work. I started getting upset she didn't make time for me and I guess was getting more disappointed with her. I've been supportive of her, to the point where the people around her were telling her to thank me for what I've done for her. I'm pretty lost, we had planned a future together, I had not made a back up plan and I see her in everything I do, it really sucks. I've been trying to get out, see old friends, meet new people, exercise and try and get over things, but I'm so confused as to what made this happen? I was willing to go through the next year in a long distance relationship, and up until a few weeks ago, she had seemed to be on the same boat.

I don't know what happened, we had been fighting more, but that was with the stress of us both trying to find work, still, she wasn't making any time for me, I just wanted to talk sometime.

I figure I will call her and try to talk in about a month, I calmly told her I was willing to work on anything that would help us, she did not want to have to consider me if she wanted to do something. I walked away peacefully, but I wonder if I should have fought harder. I think she needs space, but I don't know if its going to work out. She was my first, but I tried not to make that a big focus. There are a lot of qualities I like about her, we share a similar sense of humor and have awesome conversation. There was a point I felt I would refer to her in my head as the female version of me. She has also confessed that she felt I was her equal, unprompted.

I don't want this to end, but I don't know what to do. We spent everyday with each other, slept in the same bed every night and shared classes. I think we just needed some space and figured it would get better when we got home, but we had a few fights and was too busy for me. I have things I have to do too, I just need to hear from her sometimes. I figure I will give her some space for a month, I've told her no contact, but I'm worrying this freeze out is hurting me a lot more then her, maybe I'm wrong.

Like I said, I'm trying to get out there, but I can't get her out of my head, if I'm not talking about her, I'm thinking about her. I go out every chance I get now, but I still get lost in my head even when I'm out. I'm asking everyone for advice, and I've heard everything from forgetting her completely to giving her some time. I'm going to try to meet new people, but I realized my confidence is shot and I don't actually remember how to meet people, I get a ton of approach anxiety now and I am worried I would drive anyone away that I meet by comparing them to her, as hard as I try not too. Like I said, we spent so much time together that I see her in everything.
posted by Nighthawk3729 to Human Relations (30 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The relationship is not fixable because she has broken up with you. I'm so sorry. This entire experience sounds very upsetting. But the truth is, it happened, and you need now to just keep on putting one foot in front of the other. Your job now is to heal yourself. So do the things you say you will: exercise, go out and meet people. You're feeling awful now, and it's hard to imagine it but you will get over this. You're very young, you have a gigantic life ahead of you, and there are treasures to be seen, found and met along the way.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:59 PM on June 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


You're young, and it sounds like this is the First Big Love of Your Life.

I won't belittle it, or the depth of your loss. Most of those of us who are older have Been Where You Are Now, and frankly, then, It Just Plain Sucked.

What I want to say, brother, is just two things:

First, everyday, until things do get better, and they will, one foot in front of the other, as you've been doing.

Second, never do anything to be a jerk about this. "... Like I said, I'm trying to get out there, but I can't get her out of my head, if I'm not talking about her, I'm thinking about her. I go out every chance I get now, but I still get lost in my head even when I'm out. I'm asking everyone for advice, and I've heard everything from forgetting her completely to giving her some time. ..." That's near compulsive thinking, my man, and while it's not unknown for young, inexperienced people that haven't suffered major emotional losses, you don't want to do anything, based on irrationality, that will, now or later, screw up your life or hers.

Feel the hurt, but move on. Breathe. Eat. Sleep. Breathe, some more. Eat, some more. Sleep, some more.

Move on.
posted by paulsc at 6:07 PM on June 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

She broke up with you.

I'm so sorry. I've been there, and most of the people here have been there, and it sucks. She could have ended things more cleanly, but she didn't. This makes it easy, in your position, to read ambiguity into everything, but you shouldn't because she unambiguously ended things.

Do not call her and try to talk in a month. Don't even think about it. You need to give yourself some closure here by accepting that it didn't work out, for whatever reason, and take some time to grieve. Time after you've accepted that it's over is what will help you move on.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:09 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm very sorry, but: she dumped you. There's no relationship left to fix. Go with your plan of talking to her in a month, if you still find yourself wanting to talk to her in a month. You might find that you won't want to because even looking at her is going hurt more than anything. The end of college is a time of great change and many relationships founder amid all the stress. There's probably nothing you could do to fix it at this point. Let her go. You said your goodbye gracefully; don't burn any bridges or hurt yourself more by trying to win her back. If you're meant to be together, you'll reconnect eventually. If not, well, then it had to end sometime.

There's nothing that will immediately fix your broken heart or your obsessive thinking, but the less you see of her the faster you will heal. Let her go. I've been (am) where you are and the only thing that has really given me any relief is the distance created by new experiences and new thoughts that have nothing to do with the relationship that ended. You don't need to push yourself to meet new people right away; you can go to shows or parks or take up a new hobby. Just do something, anything, that moves you forward. It's damn hard. But you'll get better. Memail me if you need an ear.
posted by millions of peaches at 6:15 PM on June 18, 2011

Don't worry about meeting new people right now -- this is a time to let yourself grieve the loss. You are feeling pain and confusion because it's inevitably painful and confusing for a relationship to end this way. There really aren't many shortcuts through the first awful days/weeks (and even months) of a breakup... it just hurts, and there are no two ways about it. paulsc has it exactly right when he says that the only thing you can really do right now is to feel the hurt, but move on. Breathe, eat, sleep, put one foot in front of the other, take one day at a time. Each day will start adding up to a week. Each week will start adding up to a month. And the pain will -- one day! -- not be nearly as intense.

A chapter of your life is closing. This upcoming chapter will be rough. The chapter after that will be better.
posted by scody at 6:16 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Before I read any of these, I just gotta say that I respect the responses I get through meta-filter. That being said, I don't know if I'm blind, but I feel I have to fight a little bit. The two main school of thought I've been getting from everyone I know is totally polar. One side says forget about it and move on, as clean a break as possible. The other, says to try and at least talk. I feel more for the second group, I put a lot of myself into this relationship, but at the same time, I think it is just an easier route. I am not a sadist, but I need to at least try and make sense of this, to throw a line out to this person and try, I love her. Like I said, maybe I'm blind, but I feel I have to try after this month. It just seems foolish to throw everything away, I don't plan on stalking, but I need to at least try and make her reconsider, maybe she just needs to get her head straight, its quite possible she has been thinking about it and came to this decision, but her mind can change, and I have to reach for that.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 6:36 PM on June 18, 2011

I had something similar happen when I was around what I assume to be your age, and in hindsight I would have preferred to be angry rather than the sad I carried with me for way too long. She is being selfish and wimpy, leaving you out to dry without definite information about her feelings. Absolutely don't call her, but if she calls you? "Fuck you, that's how I'm doing."

Everybody deserves to be with someone who respects them, and right now you're the only one doing any respecting. You're going to do fine after the heartbreak subsides, and for all you know there's someone you know who's been waiting for you two to finally break up.
posted by rhizome at 6:37 PM on June 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

For what it's worth, I tried to fight for my relationship for six months. In the end I found that space was still the only thing that could possibly help fix things in the long run. I completely understand where you're coming from; it's not in my nature to just roll over and leave things unresolved. If it's what you need to do--do it. But everyone who is telling you to leave things be is telling you what they learned based on through painful experience.
posted by millions of peaches at 6:43 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What makes it worse is I start work in less then two weeks, I don't have a room [I just put my mom in her new room] because I've been redoing my house for the past 4 years with my brother. We were just about to start construction on my room when it happened, I haven't been able to focus on doing that and I keep getting a lot of pressure to get back to work. A friend was a bit insensitive today, played a song about seeing, "her eyes" again and again, I shut down for about an hour, picturing her in my head. I made him promise to never do something like that again.

It has been 6 days, I've felt it coming for 8.

I left on a trip about 10 days ago, she was hanging all over me, kissing me, telling me she loved me, I did not see us breaking up. I know we had a fight, but it shouldn't have ended like this, the fight was because she hadn't called in the past two days and I was upset because I didn't think she was going to wish me a goodnight. I know it sounds stupid, I guess I should have had thicker skin, but it hurt.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 6:49 PM on June 18, 2011

Response by poster: @ Millions of Peaches, it is nice to see one face in the crowd agreeing, though I appreciate everyone's input. The people I know who told me to forget her have been hurt in the past pretty bad.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 6:52 PM on June 18, 2011

I was just talking about this with a friend the other day.

There's a lesson everybody in modern romantic relationships has to learn one way or another, which basically boils down to, "if they don't want to be with you, you don't want to be with them."

She doesn't want to be with you.

You want to be with someone who wants to be with you.

Thus: You don't want to be with her.

You still like her, of course. That's the shitty part. You like her and miss her, but at the end of the day, she has failed the number one test for Being In A Relationship With Nighthawk3729, which is, "does she want to be with me?" She doesn't. You need someone who does.

That's it. That's all there is. The most important criterion for someone dating you is that they want to. It is, literally and honestly, that simple.
posted by pts at 7:18 PM on June 18, 2011 [29 favorites]

You should never "fight" for someone. That's a construct of silly romantic comedies.

"Fighting harder for her" only leads to three possibilities, all of which are no good:

1- She "changes her mind", but not really. She will hang around a little longer because she feels bad for hurting your feelings, and will re-dump you in short order.

2- She is looking for drama, in which case, the rest of the relationship will be a constant "do what I want or I will break up with you" psychodrama.

3- She doesn't come back, and you start to look creepy/stalkerish.

It sucks, but let her go.
posted by gjc at 7:27 PM on June 18, 2011 [8 favorites]

Time for wine & bad mix tapes. She needs her space, and that space doesn´t include you. You can try & make it better by hanging around waiting for her to return to you, but you´ll kick yourself in 5 years about how you´ve wasted your time on someone who´s long since moved on. If it makes you feel even slightly better, you could hold onto the thought that if it´s meant to be, she´ll come back for you. But it really is a butterfly in the hand moment: It´s time to open your hand and watch her fly away. If you love her, wish her well. It will hurt, but it won´t drain your soul like watching her fight her way clear of you.
posted by Ys at 8:22 PM on June 18, 2011

Yeah, you should be angry.

Wanting her back is unproductive. For some dumb reason or another she dumped you in the wimpiest way possible. Smothering her with "fighting for her" now or in the future will NOT change her mind.

I am also sorry for your loss. Grieve. Grieve hard. Start NOW.


One more thing.... Trying to talk her back into a relationship will never never ever work. Like someone pointed out above, that is movie bullshit. Believe me, I've been there more than once. It would be great if we learned the truth from stuff like movies and such, but we don't.

And if she wants you back months from now, because this wasn't a mutual and amicable break-up -- do not get back together with this person. The dynamic is irrevocably broken.

You may find out why after you get over it, but while you are still clinging to hope, you will never achieve closure and insight into this event./

And that is something else they don't teach you in movies.
posted by jbenben at 9:29 PM on June 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

I left on a trip about 10 days ago, she was hanging all over me, kissing me, telling me she loved me ... About a week ago, she told me she had to reinvent herself and said she needed to be alone.

She spent those three days falling for another guy. Sorry.
posted by Now I'm Prune Tracy! at 9:43 PM on June 18, 2011

I don't know if I'm blind, but I feel I have to fight a little bit

No, you're not blind. Everybody who has ever been dumped feels like there's something they could do to get un-dumped, if only they could figure out what that was.

There isn't. Being dumped just sucks.
posted by flabdablet at 10:19 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Everyone is absolutely right: there isn't anything you can do to make her change her mind. Find a good friend, go out, get drunk, cry on their shoulder: repeat as necessary.

It sucks, but eventually it will suck less.
posted by jrochest at 1:32 AM on June 19, 2011

Best answer: I am so sorry you are going through this. Try or not, it might help to understand where she is coming from. Based on what little I know, here is my guess [sentences rearranged slightly]:

she told me she had to reinvent herself and said she needed to be alone... We had been a bit shaky the past month or two... I started getting upset she didn't make time for me and I guess was getting more disappointed with her... I left on a trip about 10 days ago... we had [just had(?)] a fight... because she hadn't called in the past two days and I was upset...she has just gotten her bachelors in art and has finished school. I have another year... the next year in a long distance relationship...

Graduating college is exciting, and yes, at that age, a time to (kinda) reinvent oneself. She will have a lot of new, exciting, stressful, challenging experiences. (College is behind her! She is moving to a new city! Maybe even to her first own apartment, her first full-time career-oriented job; maybe paying all her own bills for the first time!)

You will be in college, and you two would presumably still call and email. How is that going to feel to her? It could feel good (stabilizing, familiar, supportive) or bad (like an anchor holding her back (that might be hard to imagine, I don't know, but I think it's pretty common to feel that way)).

As this situation has begun to unfold, as she has had to say goodbye to her college friends and find a job, you two have been fighting. You have been feeling more easily hurt and been getting upset. Your feelings are totally natural, of course (though we don't know how you expressed them).

But from her perspective, these arguments might suggest that the year ahead won't work well. This is a year that she probably really wants to go well; in some ways it feels like the beginning of "adulthood." She is at a time of self reinvention, and "she [does] not want to have to consider [you] [when] she want[s] to do something."

But like all of us, you naturally have needs and wants, so how is that going to work realistically? It will probably not be easy to be disregarded like that. And thus far, you two have not found a way of handling, or even discussing this, that works, it sounds like.

I know you say it's because of the stress, and surely that contributes, but I would push you on whether it's really such an anomaly. This next year will be another stressful time for her, and a life together would be full of periods of stress. Also, stress can make things heightened, but it doesn't often cause someone to fundamentally believe different things, so if it has seemed like you were saying "I believe I am entitled to a certain level of contact," she would have a valid concern that that belief would still exist. (I really don't know what you believe; take all this with a tablespoon of salt if necessary.) She may be saying, "I believe you deserve to get what you want from someone, but I am not willing to give that to you, nor to go on fighting about it."

So if you want to try to get back with her, maybe spend some time thinking about what's realistic and in both of your best interests. What kind of space can you give her as she reinvents herself? What can she do without you being disappointed in her? Can she start dressing like a hipster? Can she go a week without calling? Can she date other guys? Is it fair to you to give her that space, or would that not meet your relationship needs or feel supportive and safe to you? Does she want to stay within those limits to make sure her actions are okay with you? Even if you were fine giving her a lot of space, what will it do to your relationship? Is that the kind of relationship she wants? LDRs aren't for everyone, and the reality may have just dawned on her.

You both deserve to have your needs met, but those needs might be fundamentally incompatible right now, I don't know. And whether or not you agree they are, you may not ultimately have a choice. Of course, I'm putting this together sight unseen and could be completely wrong.

I am sorry, I know all of this is very painful an agonizing. That's the real downside of trying -- staying in the agony longer. Right now, this loss is causing you pain, and being in further touch with her leaves you open to new, fresh waves of that pain. I hope no matter how you proceed that you find peace soon.
posted by salvia at 1:34 AM on June 19, 2011

I hope no matter how you proceed that you find peace soon

Not peace but greater certainty, I mean. Also please ignore my many typos.
posted by salvia at 1:36 AM on June 19, 2011

Best answer: Nthing what mostly everyone has said.

See here's the thing about what your friend did by playing that song over and over. First, totally not cool of your friend. Secondly, and more importantly, you're going to be able to connect anything to her for awhile, especially music. It will seem like every songs' lyrics are speaking to you, like the songs were written just for you, just for this sort of thing. IT. SUCKS. But when you think about it, people probably wrote those songs because they've gone through something similar. But it doesn't end there: Movies, TV shows, etc. Shit, you'll look down at your cup of coffee one day and see her face in it. And you'll be like AHHHH!!!!!!! It's just going to take some time, probably a lot of time. Sorry man. But it gets better. And when it does, you'll probably kick yourself in the butt for wasting so much energy on it, probably just like everyone who has given the advice to walk away, because we have all done this before.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 2:26 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can only ever have your heart broken for the first time, once.

Take comfort from that, and weather this storm like the strong man you are.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:37 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hey Nighthawk,

I wrote to Metafilter a few months ago with this same exact problem. I had just broken up with my First Major Love over similar circumstances. I, like you, am in my last year of college and the distance coupled with conflicting time schedules made the relationship overbearing. I tried my hardest to "fix" the relationship, but I later discovered that he had his eyes set on someone else..and the rest is history.

Some MeFites suggested that I take comfort from the breakup and just work on healing. But the advice that helped me most was becoming the person who I wanted to marry.

I can't exactly describe it, but a major transformation occurred and I began participating in things I would have otherwise dismissed. I:

1. Joined the cheerleading squad and I am now one of the best flyers
2. Helped organize a TEDx weekend at my school
3. am planning to rush at a co-ed fraternity
4. Mentored first-generation students and lead outdoor trips during the summer

I am involved in quite a few other things, as well. I just put myself out there and forced myself to interact with new people. I carved a life out for me without the prospect of a significant other. So, has it worked? It did! I made a ton of new friends, I've been asked out on several dates (and yes, there are other fish in the sea), and my grades have improved significantly. So for now, just work on improving you.
posted by nikayla_luv at 7:16 AM on June 19, 2011 [6 favorites]

You have left the door open for her to reconsider. That's all you can do. Meanwhile, instead of concentrating your efforts on her, concentrate your efforts of repairing your broken heart.
posted by theora55 at 9:22 AM on June 19, 2011

Best answer: Geez, there are some bitter people who were broken up with here. This is probably the girl's first relationship too. Just like the OP has no clue how to deal with it, why does that mean she should know how to handle her end perfectly? She's young and broke up the only way she knew how at the time. Why does that make her a horrible person who met another guy or something?

Everyone has their own unique break up situation, but, OP, yours is a lot like my first break up, except I was your girlfriend. I was young and you were very supportive and great to me for a while, but I was YOUNG. I had no idea what the hell I wanted or who I even was. You started getting a bit smothering when I started realizing I wanted some more personal freedom and time away from you. If a day went by without me calling you, it resulted in you starting a fight and how I'm pulling away, and so on. Then you had to move away for school and I was finally a lot more free than before, had more perspective and fully realized that I wanted to be single for the first time in my adult life. You freaked out about this and thought you could get me back. You couldn't and you should have just let it go.

She will live her life independently for a while, getting to know herself and what she wants. Men will come and go, with each relationship teaching her something new, until she finally meets that one perfect guy who makes her go "my god this is what I've been waiting for all along!" All of this will happen to you, too. You may think at this moment "but she was the one perfect woman for me." No she wasn't, because you were not right for her and it takes two to make a successful relationship work. Let it go. This was not and will not be the ultimate relationship of your life, but it will be one that helps you successfully get to that final mutually happy one. 
posted by side effect at 10:00 AM on June 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

She said she wants to reinvent herself and she wants to be alone. Please respect that.

she did not want to have to consider me if she wanted to do something. She does want to be with you. I'm sorry. You can't change her mind about she wants. It sounds like you had a few great months, but I don't think it was meant to be anything longer. You rarely stay with the first person that you're with.

There really is nothing to fight for here. To the other person, it's not some nice, romantic thing like in the movies, it's kind of annoying and pathetic. Leave her alone. It'll be better for the both of you.

I really think you should re-think contacting her in a month. I think you'd just be prolonging the torture for yourself. Just focus on taking care of yourself. You don't have to go out and make new friends and find a new girlfriend right away. Surround yourself with supportive people. You've got your own things to focus on right now - renovations and starting a new job. Those are pretty big in and of themselves. You let her go, and you have more space in your head to concentrate on and feel accomplished about doing the renovations and having a tangible product to be proud of, and be proud of all the work you'll do at your new job and the relationships you'll have with your co-workers and boss. Just throw yourself into your own work and friends activities, and you'll notice that less and less, you'll think about her. It does take time. You will meet other people, and no matter how great this relationship was, she wasn't the one (if that's what you thought). It's always hardest with your first relationship (my first was only 4 months, was not terrible, but not a whole lot either in hindsight and it STILL took me a long time to forget about him). Take the time to grieve and learn lessons from it, and you'll be a better person and partner.
posted by foxjacket at 2:11 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I want to echo what some other people are saying here: your ex-girlfriend, as an autonomous individual, has the right to make this decision, even though it hurts you and even though you don't agree that it's the correct decision. She has her own life and she is living it as best she can. This can be a hard thing to get our heads around during a breakup; the hurt we feel can be so overwhelming that it seems to be a signal that the decision must be undone, and that undoing it will inevitably be the best for everyone involved.

But that's just not necessarily so. She has chosen to move on, and that's a legitimate choice for anyone in a relationship to make, even if it's painful. It doesn't make her a bad person or someone who needs to be convinced or "fought" for; it just makes her someone who wants something different from what you want. It's maddening and painful, I know; it may not even seem to make sense. But it's simply a fact: she has made a decision, and all the sadness and hurt you are (legitimately) feeling can't trump that.

You're never going to actually forget her; no one actually forgets their first love. But at some point, you have to accept that your first love has ended. The sooner you can accept her decision as a fact and respect her right to move on -- even though you don't like it one bit -- the sooner you can begin to feel better. (And no, I didn't believe it one bit when my first big relationship ended, either.)
posted by scody at 2:40 PM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's rare for answers here to be in 100% agreement on anything, but that's exactly the case with this question in regard to the point that she broke up with you because she doesn't want to continue your relationship. That alone should make you pause and listen.

I think you're going to hold on emotionally and not accept that it's over right away, and this will cause you pain. But, that's something we all have done, so try not to be too hard on yourself when you look back on this in hindsight and wonder what you could have been thinking.

She dumped you in the wimpiest, shittiest way possible... but she did dump you, and that's because she doesn't want to be with you anymore, at least not in the way that a relationship moving forward would require.

Why not try to pause and stop beanplating? Don't decide whether you're going to call her in a month, and when you start thinking about it, try to stop. Work on your house renovations. Work on work. Maybe if you stop thinking about how/whether you can win her back, a month from now you won't be so desperate.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:05 PM on June 19, 2011

Response by poster: One thing I was worried about was if I went on my trip and didn't call, she would feel that I wouldn't call when I was away at school. Then I started to get hurt that she hasn't been calling much lately, I guess I should have had thicker skin.

Like I said, I'm terrified about opening up again, do people just forget this pain and open up again? I don't want to feel like this again. I really feel like just shutting myself off from a relationship with another person in this intimate way.

I've coughed up brown and red phlegm the past three days, don't know if its stress related. I'm going to the doctor.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 10:00 AM on June 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks again to everyone that has responded.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 10:00 AM on June 21, 2011

I'm terrified about opening up again, do people just forget this pain and open up again?

Forget the pain? No. Never. Can't be done.

Open up again? Hell yes.

I don't want to feel like this again.

That's perfectly reasonable. There are very few experiences that feel worse than what you're feeling now.

But you really need to know that waking up one morning and realizing that you've just spent twenty years turning yourself into somebody who runs away from any possibility of being loved is one of them.

I've coughed up brown and red phlegm the past three days, don't know if its stress related. I'm going to the doctor.

Good man. Keep looking after yourself. You'll do OK.
posted by flabdablet at 5:27 PM on June 21, 2011

« Older I require awesome history books plz   |   Some folks see the world as a stone: concrete... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.