I broke up with my first girlfriend of 2 years last night; did I do the right thing? / What am I doing with my life? *CAUTION: WALL OF TEXT *
October 18, 2011 1:54 PM   Subscribe

I broke up with my first girlfriend of 2 years last night; did I do the right thing? / What am I doing with my life? *CAUTION: WALL OF TEXT *

When we first started dating, I was infatuated with her. I thought she was beautiful, and I had never dated before. We started dating 6 months before I graduated, she is 20 now and I am 19 (we both lost our virginity to each other).

What developed initially from a typical horney adolescent relationship turned into something strong and with actual integrity. She confides in me for almost anything she has to say, and we can talk to each other about pretty much anything. She has a lengthy dysfunctional family history, which she is currently seeing a therapist for. I think to some extent she finds stability with me for that reason. There is not a day that goes by where I doubt she loves me unconditionally, faults and everything.

Most days we get along great. Neither of us likes to go out much, and we’re totally content staying in and watching Netflix all weekend. We have a great chemistry and sometimes bicker at each other like we are some old couple. I can also make her laugh, which was a big confidence booster when I first met her. I consider her to be my best friend, and I’m pretty sure she does to, since both of us rarely hangout with other people. Although she never said she would marry me, she has told me she believes I am the person she is supposed to be with.

Now for the negative stuff..

The longer we have been together, the more I have an anxiety about whether I should be focusing on this relationship at this point in my life, and I started to realize all of the faults we have.
For instance, when it comes to movies, music she likes the more bubblegum shallow stuff (justin beiber,90210), which is fine and I realize nothing to break up over. But my interests are a lot deeper and passionate when it comes to movies and music. I try to expose her a bit to what songs and bands I like, but she just writes it off as ‘stoner music’. It’s probably not important but it bothers me a lot for whatever reason.

I mean, I think at a basic level, we’re just opposite personalities. She is very extroverted, very chatty and deals with her problems by talking them over with someone. But I am more introverted and feel better when I go over my problems internally. This can drive me up the walls sometimes, because she can just talk and talk and talk about things in the car without interruption about things I couldn’t care the slightest about, although not always. It frustrates me when I would rather enjoy my own thoughts.

Other things worth noting: She can be very emotional and irrational at times. I am very socially awkward when it comes to being at her house and chatting family, so I rarely go to her house (which she doesn’t like and finds rude). Although she works very hard, she is not very good with money. She has a maxed out credit card from buying a vehicle with it and owes money to several family member and myself for bad decisions she made in the past.

I guess I’ve been having these doubts since a few months ago when I decided I wanted to move to my dad’s (5 hours away) and go to university there. It has made me think about what I might be missing out on being in this relationship, and being in my first relationship, I don’t want to miss out on my university years of dating for a relationship which is already showing its cracks. But more than anything, I feel like I’m at an age where I should be figuring out what
I am doing and who I am. As trite as that sounds..

So I broke up with her last night. It killed, and now I have this awful sense of guilt. I had been distant weeks up to telling her, and I’m sure she could see it coming. We had a long talk on the phone and she was really emotional and just didn’t understand. It just sucks that I have hurt her so much, we were so close personally. A part of me regrets it.

But again, how am I supposed to know I am with the right person if I have never been in another relationship before? If breaking up was the right thing to do, why do I feel so terrible about it, and was it even the right thing to do? Or am I just being naive, letting a few nagging doubts ruin an overall good relationship?

I think what really caused my anxiety was I am not sure what I am doing with my life at this point. I didn’t want our relationship to hold me back from experiences. Although I have never really liked going out much, I feel like I should be going out at my age. Even if we are similar in that we don’t like to go out, maybe that isn’t such a great thing. To be totally frank we are both really boring people, and I don’t like the idea of settling for a boring life. Yet, now that we are broken up it’s not like I’m going out partying every day.
I don’t even know who I am or what I am doing in a lot of ways. I’m in the process of choosing a major, and even that has given me anxiety about what I am doing with my life. I don’t even really know what things I am really interested in or enjoy. I thought by breaking up with her would help me clear my head and figure things out, but so far it has just made me feel more depressed about everything. But at the same time, I feel like I need to be able to be happy with myself before I can be in a functional relationship with someone else.

I don’t know is anyone will be able to make sense of what I just wrote, but if anyone can draw from experiences in their own life, or just give some reassuring words in general. I realize this was very long and drawn out, it’s mostly just me venting in some sane manner, while also to be able to get some feedback. I really appreciate the AskMefi community for their great responses, and thought this would be the best place to put this

posted by Snorlax to Human Relations (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You pretty much said this yourself...

You don't know who you are or what you're doing. You're young. This is part of being young.

Is it the right thing? I don't think any of us are able to say, but the chances of a first relationship lasting the test of time is pretty slim. I think it's perfectly acceptable for you to go forth and explore yourself, your likes, dislikes and everything in between.

Cut yourself some slack.

Also... be kind to the ex-girlfriend but do not in any way, shape, or form give her false hope or string her along on your journey of self discovery.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:01 PM on October 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

You probably made the right choice. The guilt/anxiety means one of two things: 1. You made the right, but tough choice or 2. You need more time to sort out what your relationship means, the guilt will help you reflect on that and this is part of the pain process that will help you get through it.

I really recommend you find a friendly ear to share this with - because you need some honest feedback here - and if the anxiety is too serious, consider talking to a therapist. But before you jump to that, know this is part of the process.

There is rarely a breakup which results in either party feeling awesome about it right away. Even when it is the right decision (i.e., a partner cheated, the relationship has grown old, etc... etc...), there is going to be a lot of complex feelings involved because it is not easy to do - no matter what.

Hang in there. This is the 'cloud before the clear,' so to speak. It might take a few days, but you'll have a better perspective on this with time - and you'll know then.
posted by glaucon at 2:02 PM on October 18, 2011

Also seconding FlamingBore - make sure, no matter how much you're pressed to say 'Yes, there's a chance we can get back together,' do not say that!

Say something like: 'I just don't know right now - I'm really sorry, this isn't easy for me either.'

Or, 'I really wish I knew - this is why it's so hard for me. I know it's hard for you, too. Is there someone you can talk to?'

It will be okay - trust me.
posted by glaucon at 2:05 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know a few first relationships that survived ( met in college and we're all in our thirties now and these couples are married, so that's what I'm calling surviving). In these cases, the couple kind of grew up together. It's impressive but not all that common or easy, and it sounds like you and your girlfriend weren't capable or willing to do it, and that's TOTALLY FINE. This is the time to go and look for what you really want, who you really are. You have SO much time. You did the right thing and your post doesn't seem at all unkind to your girlfriend. Good luck.
posted by sweetkid at 2:07 PM on October 18, 2011

This is a really common situation, so don't beat yourself up too much about it. Breaking up and experimenting with other possibilities is a legitimate choice, even if the way you rationalize it to her and do yourself doesn't completely make sense. What you ought to try to do is own your decision. You did this because it's what you wanted, and not because your former girlfriend is flawed in some way. Her enjoyment of fluffy music is not a flaw. Her chattiness is not a flaw. If you were ready for a committed relationship then those things might not matter much at all; they might even charm you. But you're not ready for that, and that's okay even though it hurts you and her both. Don't go down this path of listing her weaknesses as if they made your decision for you; that would be both dishonest and cruel.
posted by jon1270 at 2:10 PM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is such a typical scenario as to be a rite of passage. Congratulations, you basically broke up with your HS girlfriend to go to college. It's a prudent choice. Now you're there and you should take the confidence you achieved with her and throw yourself into enjoying the full uni experience.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:16 PM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You are nineteen years old and have been, and for some time longer, will be spending a good portion of your life asking yourself "what the fuck is going on? What did I do? Did I do the right thing? Did I fuck up and ruin everything?"

I can honestly say that life gets a lot easier when you trust that your decisions will come out for the best. Try to ignore that confused, unsure part of your brain that tries to make you second-guess everything you did, and trust in yourself. It's not easy, but god-damn is it ever worth it.

You just did something that many people will never do, for better or worse (but usually for worse.) And it hurts and it's going to hurt whether it was the right thing or the wrong thing to do. Your pain is indicative of the fact that you two have a deep, intense, emotional connection, but it says nothing about whether that connection is viable. Whether you two, together as a couple, is something that needs to be. And by what you're telling us, it sounds like it doesn't. It's wrong to be in a relationship for someone else. If you're not in it, if you don't want to be in it, you need to get out. And you did.

This isn't about conflicting taste in music or being awkward around her family. Chances these things might not go away even when you find the young lady of your dreams, so hang tight. This is about you not wanting to be in a relationship. And, as an adult, you do not have to do anything you don't want to do. You can stop eating and breathing if you wanted to. You're a free man. Obviously, you want to eat and breathe, but you don't want to be in this relationship. So you stepped up and got out of it. And you hurt someone you love and that hurts you and that's okay. It means you're alive and empathic and all sorts of other good things for you.

I feel like I need to be able to be happy with myself before I can be in a functional relationship with someone else.

Yes, you're young and naive, but you stumbled on a truth there that many people never will, or can't grasp when they face it. How can you be a good boyfriend (or, later, fiancee, or husband or whatever) when your grasp on your own being is so tenuous? Well, the answer is that someone in your situation can't. And that's okay because you're at the point in life where fucking up is necessary and important. Did you fuck up by breaking up? Well, maybe. But what you're going to go through, starting now, is going to be an Important Lesson in yourself and your heart and you damn well better pay attention to it.
posted by griphus at 2:17 PM on October 18, 2011 [11 favorites]

You have a lot of living to do, a ton of new people to meet, and a big ol' world to explore and come to understand on your own terms. It's completely ok that you want to be completely unencumbered to do so.

I think a lot of us have had this feeling before - that we wanted to go out and EXPERIENCE stuff. Know that, well, that doesn't always have to mean Partying. I mean, for college kids (oof, me at the time) it often sadly means partying, but there is so so so much more!

It can mean traveling, faraway and nearby, alone or with friends! Talking to new people - people of different ages, from foreign countries, from vastly different backgrounds! Learning a new skill! Discovering an author or musician that opens your eyes and ears! Making something difficult that you can be proud of! Participating actively in a wider community! Finding a cause you believe in and fighting to make things right!

Don't beat yourself up for being boring and don't think you have to RAGE ON PARTY ANIMAL to experience life. Each day at a time - do something that quietly enriches you and teaches you something special, something new. You got this, and you'll be fine.
posted by sestaaak at 2:19 PM on October 18, 2011

You started dating in your teens, and she was your first girlfriend. Don't freak out about it. It sucks now. You both grew up a lot in two years, and you have a lot of things to come to terms with in the years to come, and it sounds like you realize this.

If you didn't feel bad, you should have broken up earlier, or never been together. You feel guilt because you still like her, and that's not a bad thing. You can't expect to go from being infatuated to being completely out of love.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:24 PM on October 18, 2011

All the good stuff you mentioned? There's nothing rare about it. That's what the good stuff in relationships is pretty much like.

Y'all aren't very much alike, you don't thrive or benefit from your differences. Nothing you've said makes any argument that this relationship is so fantastic that you should settle down at an age when most relationships just aren't going to work out. It kind of sounds like you were together just because you were together.

You feel bad/indecisive about breaking up because change is hard and it sucks. It'll pass. Go do things. You'll probably have some more relationships, you'll probably make some mistakes and learn. Eventually you will understand what you really want, and then you will meet a person who fits many of those qualities.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:27 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Breaking up with someone you still love and care for hurts, because as a decent human being, you never wanted to cause her pain. The grief, guilt and regret you feel is completely normal. It doesn't mean you made a mistake. If this relationship was no longer making you feel happy and fulfilled for whatever reason, then breaking up was the right thing to do.

I think back to when I broke up with my high school sweetheart (at the same age as you) and see it as a loss of innocence. It was horribly painful, and I cried for weeks even though it was my decision to end it. What kept me going was the knowledge that as much as we loved each other, we had grown and matured into two very different, incompatible people. It helped to realize that it was better for both our sakes to end it sooner rather than to continue down the path of mutual misery.
posted by keep it under cover at 2:27 PM on October 18, 2011

You feel guilty because your ex-girlfriend is a human being, not an "experience" that you are having. You did the right thing though - she deserves better than to feel like an obstacle to your life journey.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:38 PM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: thanks, I really appreciate all of the answers.

I realize I managed to answer my own question in my post ( I have obviously thought about this a lot). It has really helped me feel better reading these, and feel like I have made the right choice. I've been totally miserable as of late.
posted by Snorlax at 2:42 PM on October 18, 2011

Additional thought: think back to two years ago, and the person you were then. How much have you changed? How much might you change in another 2 or more?

Also, you're heading off to college, where you'll find the next (but not last) thing you'll be doing with your life, and with that will come more changes. Pick an interesting major, join college clubs, make new friends, and maybe change your major a few times. Don't worry, you can do that. Learn about yourself!
posted by filthy light thief at 2:42 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you think the breakup was right for you, but wrong for her, and you feel guilty for yanking a good thing out from under her.

She'll be okay without you. Maybe not right away, but sooner than you think. She's going through a sad time and you can feel sad for her, but you are not on the hook for her life. You are not responsible for her happiness or emotional stability. In fact, you never were. She has to take care of herself.

Adhere to the no-contact rule for several months, no matter how hard it is or how much you miss her or how hard she tries to talk to you. If you're like me or anyone else in the world, you'll break this rule and learn the hard and unpleasant way. But that's okay in the end, because most people learn to be better at relationships by making the mistakes first.

Good luck to you. It'll hurt before it gets better, but it will get better.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:43 PM on October 18, 2011

griphus is right on. You did something courageous. You (and she) are much better off not being in a relationship where you're constantly chafing at the bit. Now is the time to go! Explore! Find yourself! Probably most people over 35 are envious of you.
posted by desjardins at 2:43 PM on October 18, 2011

Response by poster: Yea I guess a lot of what I am feeling is that I'm not totally sure what I will do when I move away to university either. How will I meet people? Because I am terrible at meeting people, not very confident at all. What if I don't like it there? What major do I choose?

It all makes me want to curl up and go crawling back to what I used to have.
posted by Snorlax at 2:47 PM on October 18, 2011

You'll figure it out like all of us figured it out. Some parts will suck. Some parts will be awesome. You'll meet people that you love even more, entirely different plateaus of love, and you'll break up with them or they with you and it will be a million times worse. Sometimes you will hurt others, sometimes others will hurt you. You'll make friends and lose them. People you were close with will drift away. You'll ignore old friends' phone calls because you have nothing in common any more and talking to them make you sad. You'll see people on the street and have day crushes, and and perhaps you'll have a love of your life, someone you are more in sync with than anyone else you have ever met. Even this relationship will take work. You will fight and make each other cry and beg for forgiveness and be forgiven and forgive. You'll make new friends, lifelong friends. At the time you won't even know it. You'll watch them grow into fascinating complex people and you'll grow with them. You will change. I can't even explain how much you will change. You will look back at your young self and it will seem like a total stranger. You will have good memories, and bad memories, and some memories that are so embarrassing you can't even think of them without feeling sick to your stomach. You will have cherished memories that you drag out during hard times and roll around your tongue like rich red wine. Some of your friends will die. Through it all you will be ok. It's life, you know how to live it deep down even if you think you don't.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:03 PM on October 18, 2011 [18 favorites]

You say: I feel like I need to be able to be happy with myself before I can be in a functional relationship with someone else.

griphus says: Yes, you're young and naive, but you stumbled on a truth there that many people never will, or can't grasp when they face it.

I'd mull this particular truth over.

And then have fun, be a good person and live your life. :)
posted by waitangi at 3:20 PM on October 18, 2011

Some people know that their first relationship is the right one-- you didn't, so you did the right thing. Moving to a new place is a big deal, but university is the best place to make friends, and even if you're shy you'll have plenty of opportunities to start over (new clubs, new classes, &c.) Good luck! This is going to be a good experience for you.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:33 PM on October 18, 2011

DarlingBri: This is such a typical scenario as to be a rite of passage.

I completely agree! I lived in a residence with 15 others girls in my first year at university and every girl who was dating a high school boyfriend (about half the floor) was single by Christmas.

You said it yourself: the main anxiety you're feeling is about the new experience of going to university.

My experience at university is that there were a lot of anxious nerds (and I include myself in that category) who didn't really hit their stride in high school, who all of a sudden grew into themselves during undergrad. I hope that makes you feel better. I don't think you have anything to worry about.
posted by cranberrymonger at 5:38 PM on October 18, 2011

As the breakup-er, it's also on you to avoid contact with the breakup-ee until both of you have found an emotional place where you can see each other as people first and exes second. Don't let the guilt you're feeling now let you become the guy she turns to for comfort, because that gives false hope and that's just cruel.

Unless she's uncommonly well-advised, she will try to get you to change your mind. So when she contacts you, you need to stay on-message: I'm really sad that you're hurting but I'm just not the appropriate person to help you with that any more, so please don't make this bad thing any worse by calling/writing/texting/visiting me again.
posted by flabdablet at 7:48 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

How will I meet people? Because I am terrible at meeting people, not very confident at all.

College is pretty much the easiest place ever to meet people. You will long for your college days after you graduate, and wonder how in the hell do people meet new people after college. Enjoy it.

That said, it's good that you are now free to meet people, and not stuck in the routine that your relationship had fallen into. That can be a hard routine to break, and had your ex come with you to college, you might have found it difficult to explore your own interests, and meet people who share those interests... not because your ex was bad or you were bad, but just when you sink into a routine like that, it's hard to break out of. Also, it sounds like your ex is a very outgoing person, maybe she will take this chance to blossom socially. Sucks for the time being, though.
posted by baniak at 8:24 PM on October 18, 2011

College is amazing, and often under-utilized. You can be drab and follow your old patterns, probably making a small group of like-minded friends. Or you could try anything that catches your fancy, and meet new, interesting people. Join any club that sounds interesting, at least long enough to get a feel for whatever it is they do. Take classes that are outside of your field, or audit them if you worry about your grades. Go to public presentations of senior projects, free speaker presentations, and bands playing on (and off) campus.

The best part is that you don't need to be an extrovert to do these things. You don't need to be outgoing, you just need to go out. People will probably talk to you, as long as you don't hide in the shadows and stay completely silent. Hover around the edges, ask questions, chime in when you feel comfortable. You don't need to be the life of the party, or go to drunken parties, to get involved in the many opportunities there are at college.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:47 PM on October 19, 2011

This is how breakups feel. They suck. You will both be happy again, you just need to give it time.

Don't feel guilty. You are doing what you think is best. You're acting with integrity and not trying to hurt anyone. Trust me, it's worse to move five hours away and let the relationship slowly die so you can avoid taking responsibility for it's demise.

I remember how distraught I was when I broke up with my first real boyfriend. I was half convinced I was throwing away the best thing in my life. I spent whole days imagining him moving on and having all those experiences I was so excited for while my life stayed still. I was sure I would run into him years later only to realize what a huge mistake I'd made. I did run into him last year. He is awesome and hot and as easy to talk to as I remember. Turns out we didn't grown in radically different ways and become incompatible people. He has a wife and a son. He seems happy. This was not the crushing experience I once thought it would be. It was nice. Nine years on it's really hard to feel bad about losing that possible reality because I've had nine years of great experiences I would have missed out on. I live in a city I love and have a job I love because of the impulsive, random decisions I made in my mid twenties- decisions I made because I had no idea what the hell I was doing or what I wanted out of life.

Don't stress too much about making friends. You'll make new friends because you'll be surrounded by new people who are in the same situation you are in, and college will force you to interact with them. Remember that everywhere you look there are people who have been uprooted from their previous lives who are trying to make new connections.
posted by feelingcold at 3:57 AM on August 20, 2012

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