hurting over past relationship now more than when the break up happened
September 3, 2013 9:24 AM   Subscribe

I feel like I'm going backwards with the break up over my past relationship which occured over six months ago. I was fine for months afterwards and, in the past couple of weeks, I've been feeling increasingly guilty over my behaviour toward my depressed ex and it hurts to think about memories together and him in general much more than it used to. Is it normal, could it be because our one year anniversary would have been in a few days? Why is it happening, when I feel like I care more about my current bf than I did him? Am I betraying him? What should I do?

Hello again.

Long story somewhat short: six months ago my first relationship ever with a clinically depressed partner went south, because he cut contact with me after being diagnosed and taking meds for it. He made it clear he wanted not to see me or hear me or email me or send me sms, neither was I allowed to contact him myself, as he wanted space. During our last..month and a half together he only contacted me for my birthday, briefly. It was tough and I was feeling really down myself and in the meantime I started talking to an old flame of mine again. I really really liked him and after some time, we got together. Coincidentally, the now ex contacted me and wished to hang out with me again to give us a second chance upon finding out I was seeing someone else {he had not expressed such desire prior to finding that out.} I refused for a number of reasons: I think I clicked with my now-boyfriend more than I did with him and I also feared being hurt by my ex's sickness again and again. He contacted me once more around May and I wished him all the best, as I've always done, but made it clear I was still with my bf. That keeps being the case.

I really like my current bf. I'm not in love with him, not yet, but I do- we talk for hours everyday know when you get that feeling when you look in someone's eyes {cheesy, I know} and there's something that makes you want to just keep looking at them for hours, doing nothing else and being content just like this? I do feel -granted, not each and everytime-, but I have felt this towards him. We are happy together and have shared some memories and places. Where is the issue, you ask?

In the past couple of weeks, my ex for some reason has been popping up in my head more. I don't think I miss him- we were never meant to be in the first place, neither of us was in love with the other, we were just too different and in the long run we'd have never worked out-, but it hurts nonetheless. The other week I went back to the place he lives alone for the first time and it felt really bad- it's been downhill from then. It doesn't help that we got together in September last year and now it's September again, so this time of the year reminds me of that. Today a friend mentioned a party he went to last year and how she thinks she met him a couple months ago and again, it hurt. I bursted into tears after a while, alone at home. I know it seems like I may love him, but I really don't think it's the case. I don't even think I miss him...I think maybe I got together with my current bf too little time after we ended things and didn't give myself enough time to grieve the relationship...and now these feelings that are ungrieved are sort of popping up. I also think guilt and shame over my behaviour play a huge role in this- I feel like a bad person for leaving someone while he was sick and needed me. But he didn't want me...I swear I tried to make him understand that I was there for him, but he never took that offer up, until it was too late and when he felt like he was losing me for good. And even if he had...I don't think I could have lived with his depression. I know some partners do that, and truly I do admire them for their strength and determination, but I'm not so strong. I couldn't keep a relationship up on my own and pretended to be happy not to bring him down, I couldn't have kept walking on eggshells knowing that something wrong could trigger it all over again, never knowing whether it would come back or not or when...Several people in my family suffered from depression and I know what it's like and I couldn't go on with that sort of burden and be carefree...I would always be worried and would always be wondering and would always be anxious about it. I really feel awful for being like this, I hate being so weak and most of the times I feel like I just abandoned the sinking ship, which is what cowards do. I wish I had had the strength to stay there and fight because that was the right thing to do, I'm sure I hurt him even more than he already was on his own and he didn't deserve that, because it's not his fault. I'm so sorry for being like this...I'm such a coward, I even think it'd have been better if he had wanted a clean break up like he seemed to at first, because then at least I'd feel like I wouldn't have been the one to leave him alone, you know? It'd have been entirely his choice...but after his calls, somehow I became the dumper instead. I can't believe I'm able to find it preferable to blame the depressed ex for the break up.

In short, I think these feelings were always there, lurking, but in the past couple of weeks they're coming to the surface. And I'm not good at pretending to be happy, so my bf is noticing my sadness and asking for the reasons- I gave him only partial ones {approaching of the end of my academic career and how unlikely it is to find a job, friends leaving, exams}, that surely do have their weight, but they only add in to the main one, which I feel I can't tell him about. Thus I end up feeling somewhat guilty toward him as well, as though I should not be hurting over my past relationship while I'm with him, as if that's like cheating on him...But I swear, I don't miss my ex. I feel hurt and guilty, and, if anything, I miss the routine I could have with him that I can't have with my current bf due to the fact he lives further away {a 40 mins ride if he had a car, which he doesn't, translating into an hour and a half journey}. I think this plays a role too- we have not seen each other that often this summer, due to exams and all, so we often end up going 10 or so days apart...whilst we talk on the phone and skype and all, I feel like I'd feel much better if we could see each other more. I'm sorry if this sounds like an awful lot of messed up infos, but that's sort of the way I feel right now.

My main questions are...why am I going backwards with the break up of my previous relationship? Why now and not before? Is it normal? Is it because our would-be-anniversary is approaching? Is it just a phase? How do I make it stop interfering with my life, mood, and current relationship? Do you think that if I contacted my ex and saw he's okay now, that'd break this guilt cycle? I always ruled that out, as I felt that it'd be unfair toward both my ex and bf and ultimately selfish, but this sudden wave of pain after months caught me off guard...Ultimately, am I an awful and selfish person, somebody who uses people, to feel like this? What should I do? Thank you all.
posted by opalshards to Human Relations (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
First, yes this is normal. You're still grieving the old relationship, even though it wasn't ideal for you. It's okay.

Talk to your current boyfriend. It's something you're feeling, so you should share it with him. Tell him that it made you feel like a failure and felt powerless. Just share with him. If he's a good partner, he'll listen and just be there for you.

You are not awful. You are not selfish. Relationships are two-way streets and your ex took up most of the highway. It's not his fault. It's not your fault. It just is. You were absolutely right to break up with him. He needed to work on himself. You needed to work on you.
posted by inturnaround at 10:00 AM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

It sounds like there's a lot going on in your life right now - upcoming change in your career, friends' lives, your long-distance-ish current relationship. No wonder you have this painful longing for times past (in your words, "old routines") because life was simpler then, you weren't facing all this change, you thought you were in a stable relationship, life was easier.

But doesn't it always feel like that, in retrospect? We often tend to look back at the past and think wow, wasn't life simpler then. Now I have a career to think about/a deeper understanding of the pain love can cause/kids to feed/technology to figure out/etc etc you get the idea.

I don't think the issue is your ex, or how things went down with you guys. I mean, blame is rarely ever useful but if you want to divvy it up here, there's no way you're getting the bigger portion. The guy dumped you and cut contact! What were you supposed to do, go on garden leave in case he changed his mind?!

The wider issue here is how sad and preoccupied you are with this, and I suspect that you are using it as a focus point for all of the stress and worry in your life right now.

So, it's an old un but a good un: counselling, as soon as possible. You need someone impartial to help you move on, reassure you that you do not have to bear this load of guilt, and help you to design a positive outlook for your future.
posted by greenish at 10:04 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you think that if I contacted my ex and saw he's okay now, that'd break this guilt cycle?


Put aside the question of whether this is normal for a minute. The fact that you are ruminating over this is not healthy for you or your current relationship. You really must process this breakup and put it to bed so that you can move forward. Some counseling sessions, talking it through with a trusted friend (would not recommend a new-ish boyfriend, but that's your option), journalling... all of these are ways that you can get these emotions out there and be able to assess them with a more critical, less emotional eye.

I think you need to re-frame this breakup in your mind. This is not about the "right thing to do" so much as it is "the right thing to do for me." You did the right thing for you, which was not to wait for him to take your relationship off hold. I'm not exactly sure how or when you communicated that, as it also sounds like there might be a bit of overlap between the end of that relationship and the beginning of your current one, but you didn't just come that conclusion alone. Long story short: he has his own responsibility to bear for the end of the relationship.
posted by sm1tten at 11:53 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you are very much the opposite of a coward, first of all. I look back on some of my failed relationships and think that I did the cowardly thing by staying in them so long.

Another anecdote from my personal history: I always feel differently when I look at a failed relationship* in hindsight-- like, say, six months after. Two years after-- than during the immediate breakup.

(*failed relationship isn't the greatest term for romances that end. But, I'm going with it for now.)

It takes time to process the end of a relationship. You get to see, again, who you are, separate from the partner, and separate from the little rituals, habits, hobbies, interests the two of you shared together. A breakup is painful, and when time passes, you start to reexamine the timeline of the relationship and sort of look at little flags you might have missed or chosen to ignore along the way. It's too painful to look backwards immediately at the end.

My experience has been that I look back on a dead relationship and have a change of heart, like, "Wow, that dude was a total dick to me." -- and, then later, "Wow, that [same] dude really must have had some growing up to do because he had no idea how to treat me." Also, "Whoa, I did [such-and-such: put up with disrespectful behavior, or maybe acted a little skittish and put the hammer down on the poor guy who'd only made an innocent mistake]." You see the good, too. Not just the bad. But, eventually all (enough) signs pointed towards the end.

It feels very backward-moving to scrutinize and reexamine one's time with one's ex, but I think it's how we learn for the future. Important: There are some things for which we'll never find the answer. Some stuff is unjust! Life is messy...

I think you have a great deal of insight about the situation. Yes, you might have moved on to another relationship before you were quite ready. That it's September again could have a lot to do with old memories coming back. To make the thoughts stop interfering with your life, don't fight the thoughts. Accept them (The only way out is through). And, I think you can talk to your current bf about what's on your mind, if you're just like, "Hey, have you ever gotten stuck thinking about something from the past, and tried to work out feelings you thought you already had... Because, that's what I'm going through, and it's totally not about you or any threat to our relationship but WTH." If he isn't mature enough to be understanding about this-- well-- Not a good sign, anyway.

Are you a bad and selfish and people-using-person? No, bc those types just are. They don't question it and try to improve. We all feel this way sometimes because we do impact each other's lives and shit happens. People get hurt and, again, Life is messy.

Short answer: Time.

Be good to you! You deserve it!
posted by little_dog_laughing at 7:10 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, I really appreciate you all taking the time to read my excruciatingly long first post. =]

I think part of the issue lies in the fact that I feel as though I can't really talk honestly to anyone about this. The way I see this, my bf shouldn't be worried about what I'm feeling, but I also think he could easily misunderstandit and think I just miss him, thus resulting in pain I don't wish to cause him; my mother was concerned about my previous relationship, so I feel like this would worry her too; as for my friends, the ones I trust enough to confide in aren't really here or available right now...

I feel like Greenish may have the right spot for me: the mix of factors is probably what's triggering this. Over the past couple of days, the feeling has turned from this shame/guilt trip to a general knot in my stomach. I tried a couple of breathing tecniques to help, and it did get better, but I still feel uneasy and alert...Last night I had issues falling asleep, which never happens to me, and I'm not really managing to get much work done these days either, which I feel further fuels my guilt over not meeting the academic standards I should...When I finally did manage to sleep, I dreamt about yelling at my mother for intruding in my previous relationship- which she did very marginally. It's been my second dream about anger and frustration regarding the break up, so I guess it may actually be relevant.

Thank you all for all the kind words, too. I do have a tendency to analyze things in detail and I try to rationalize them, which usually helps at least setting the ground for my emotions to settle down about the matter too- I thought I had already been through this, which is why it's surprising, but I think the break up here is likely the main factor, but not the only one.

Do you think it would be beneficial to take a break from things or not? {and by this I don't mean my relationship, just to relax and stop thinking I should be doing this or that or how I'm failing at being productive etc} Maybe I should just let myself be absorbed by my duties instead...I'm not so sure. I just wish this knot in my stomach would go away. Any help would be really welcome and thanks again.
posted by opalshards at 1:05 PM on September 4, 2013

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