Help me make sense of my emotions after breakup?
May 7, 2014 10:03 PM   Subscribe

After about a year of being on the fence about a five year in total relationship, I ended it a about a week ago. I am surprisingly feeling relieved and free and a lot etter about my life in general, but I feel guilty for being happy. Help me understand?

I am 21 years old and was in a relationship with a good guy since I was 16. He's two years older than me. I was cruelly pretty happy with life when we met, I had a good group of friends and was finally coming into myself I felt. I met my boyfriend and we started dating and I slowly lost my friends. I spent junior and senior year just hanging out with him, and was very depressed, but didn't know why. He didn't have many friends at college and we spent all of our time together. It was unhealthy but I just began understand how u healthy it was like a year ago.

We were eachothers first real serious relationship. I seriously feel like I knew nothing out how to be in a relationship and I've learned a lot, which I'm grateful for.

I feel really guilty and bad about myself because I feel like from an early time in our relationship I knew I didn't want to marry him in my heart, but I spent so much time fighting with Myself thinking that he was a good stable person and was good for me. I started hanging out with some girls from work a year ago and realized what I was missing. I wanted friendship and to be young and do what I want and not be tied down to someone. I broke up with him in the fall but we got back together in January. I missed him, but I think I just missed having a boyfriend. We officially broke up last week after we talked about how we weren't right for each other.

I realized that I couldn't be half in half out anymore, that he deserves someone who was completely committed. After breaking up I feel so peaceful. I feel completely at peace with my decision but feel guilty for being happy while he's probably devastated. I feel guilty for not ending things earlier. Is it normal to already feel completely over him after just a week?

Also, with the end of this relationship I am feeling surprisingly hopeful and refreshed. I am currently about to receive my general transfer studies degree after three years at community college and want to transfer to a local university and feel like this would be a fresh start. I don't know what to major in though. I still live at home currently too but I work two jobs. I have started talking to my old high school friends lately again but they are kind of losers now, all potheads and dropouts and I really want to make new friends. How can I go about capitalizing on this time of change and start to work on gettin my life together?
posted by anon1129 to Human Relations (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You'll probably have worse days than this. My experience with breakups at this phase is that you feel really good, then you feel cruddy, then you feel okay, then sometimes you feel cruddy some more, etc. It's normal to be relieved.
posted by Sequence at 10:06 PM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


His life is no longer ANY of your business.

That said.... The truth is no one's choices are ever any of your business. Ever.

That/this is a realization adults have.

Lead by example and make your life excellent. Be kind, but don't sacrifice or feel guilty about things that are not under your direct control. You can not control others, or even the future. All you have is Right Now.

Since all you have is Right Now.... What are you going to do with it?

I guess memail if you want to engage in a deeper explanation of why you are a Being with agency, why others are Beings with choices and agency, and why ultimately YOU can only be responsible for your own actions and choices.... I can break it down, yo.

In general, what you describe is healthy and normal, except for the part where you want to undermine future progress, so rethink that part.

posted by jbenben at 11:40 PM on May 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

I know this seems like a really huge deal, and it is. Losing that stable person. I went through a similar relationship/experience in my earlier 20's. I'm 32 now, and WOW. Have I learned a lot.

One problem I have had is drawing boundaries and protecting myself. Since my first relationship was so long, and he was so stable good to me (as you describe your ex-dude) It never ever crossed my mind that other people might not have my best interests at heart, and wow, have I gotten hurt.

I wish I had spent more time talking with my friends about new relationships so that they could say: ASSHOLE ALERT!

So my advice on how to capitalize on this time of change? Connect with others and listen to that little voice deep down inside!
posted by misspony at 12:22 AM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

After my breakup with my fiance (relationship total of 4 years), that was all I felt. Happiness. Lots to do with the problems in the relationship. And lots to do with wishing I'd done it sooner because I knew I wasn't wanting to be with him and he needed to find someone who DID. He was quite hurt, and from what I've heard through the grapevine is still very's been over a year and I have only one regret: that I didn't do it sooner. I knew as soon as I accepted his proposal it was a mistake.
I think what you're feeling is 100% normal. And if it's not normal for every single person, it's still normal for YOU. Be happy. =)
posted by PeppahCat at 12:33 AM on May 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

When you're ready to mingle, may I suggest MeetUp?
I found it to be a great way to meet folks of a common mind or hobby. Remember you're the average of the 5 people you are closest to, so up the quality of people and up the quality of your life.
Have fund storming the castle!

(and really enjoy the peace and happiness you are now feeling. You deserve it.)
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 5:11 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was in a similar situation with my first high school relationship. We got together at 18, went through our undergrad years together (and in part because of that, I didn't reach out to new people like I wish I had in retrospect) ... I remember going on a road trip at some point in our third year; he was talking about the kids we'd have together someday, and all I could think was "my god, I do NOT want to marry you." We were such different people, and the relationship felt to me like it was being kept alive out of sheer inertia. When we finally did break up two years (!) after that, the only regret I had was not doing it sooner. It felt freeing and wonderful, and suddenly life had so many new possibilities!

I never did end up feeling cruddy about the breakup. Many years on, we've visited with one another as casual friends occasionally; we both recognize that breaking up was the right thing to do, and we can still talk about our good times - they didn't go away just because we didn't stay together.

All of which is to say that even if the popular narrative suggests that breakups always hurt, that truly isn't the case. And there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you just know you've gotten stuck in a time in your life, and it feels so good to finally push forward.

I think you have the right attitude if you recognize that you've learned from this relationship. As far as capitalizing on this new-found freedom goes, the idea of moving universities (especially to one that would require you to move where you live) is a great one, if you can do it. From personal experience, throwing myself into a new environment where I couldn't rely on the safety of my existing friends/family has repeatedly led to me making wonderful new friends - just be sure to pick a few activities or groups that sound appealing to you, and make yourself go. Set a rule: barring exceptional circumstances, once you pick a group you'll go to at least 5 meetings/events in a row before deciding if you want to continue - that way you won't feel like you HAVE to make friends the very first night for the group to be worth it. You'll find people, I'm sure of it.

Good luck to you, and enjoy all those new possibilities!
posted by DingoMutt at 5:19 AM on May 8, 2014

When I broke up with a boyfriend I felt exactly as you do. Happy. Free. Relieved. Unburdened. My ex wasn't a bad guy, we just weren't a perfect match. After I broke up with him I realized how often I was having to really work to feign interest in this, having to convince myself that it was a good relationship. It wasn't abusive, just not right. Very not right. I felt hugely relieved to be out of the relationship. I didn't have to fight with myself over whether I should break up or if I was throwing the best I could get away. I didn't have to thinking about the kind of life I would have if I stayed with him. I didn't have to pretend to find jokes funny.

You don't always have to be sad at a breakup. Sometimes they are a good thing. And yes, you may have harder days, but you may not. I never felt sad or remorseful or anything negative after breaking up with him. It was just GOOD.

Weird side note, the time I spent with my ex and in a "good but not right" relationship served as a great benchmark moving forward. I knew what "not right" felt like which kept me from dating the wrong person for too long. It also marked a HUGE comparison point for when I started dating the right man. The complete lack of "Ehhhn, this is okay, I guess..." feelings that I always had with my ex was remarkable to me. The "Holy crap, this is so different and awesome and all the things that didn't feel right before feel so right now!", for me, makes me value the awesomeness of my husband and my relationship and what we have together.

(FWIW you know how people say "When its right, you'll know"? Yeah, that is true. It feels very different when it is a good relationship.)

As for making the most of it, take this happy relieved positive feeling and channel it in to bettering yourself. For me I joined a gym for the first time in my life and dropped almost 100lbs. (YMMV). This kind of positive boost can be extremely good for jump starting life changes and personal improvements that previously may have felt too big or too hard. So reboot your life. Totally fair game to not want to resume with your old high school friends. You can make new friends that are more like you if you put yourself in situations where there will be people more like you. Join a club at your university. Join a book club. Volunteer. Make a point of smiling and chit chatting a bit with classmates before class starts. Join study groups. Join a team of some sort (softball, ultimate frisbee, improv, whatever).

Enjoy this time. Break ups like this can be a catalyst for a lot of good. Don't feel bad for being happy.

Good luck!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:41 AM on May 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

Your ex- was a big part of your life for five years - five years of photos, videos, events, memories and emotions. Today you may not grieve, but it is okay if there comes a day when you do. Maybe it will be when you head to school and don't have the same emotional support initially. Maybe it will be when you meet your ex's new significant other. Maybe that week was all you needed.. You can't tell until you get there. Then, realize your feelings will pass in time. Maybe that will mean you'll want to get back together when they do, but likely what it will mean is that you are glad to be able to act independently for the first time in five years.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:43 AM on May 8, 2014

Nthing the congrats.

One thing I want to warn you about: there may come a time, I'd say 6 months to 1 year, when you miss the relationship and start to think you should get back together. If/when this happens, it helps to tell yourself that this is an illusion, and it is only temporary. You can make it through that phase too. It helps to keep repeating to yourself: "I know this is just a temporary and natural reaction to what has happened. It's a distorted perspective, and I know it will pass."
posted by StrawberryPie at 5:44 AM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Today you may not grieve, but it is okay if there comes a day when you do. Maybe it will be when you head to school and don't have the same emotional support initially.

Totally true. I DID have a couple times when I had been in a dating dry spell and when it seemed like every other person on the planet was dating or when I was lonely and wanted a hug that I had thoughts about "He may not have been right but at least I was dating and with someone...". Those kinds of thoughts very well may happen, but like Nanukthedog says, they will pass, and also remind yourself of how being in a wrong/bad relationship would make your life harder and less happy than if you were in no relationship at all.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:52 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Congratulations. Relief is an indication that the break up was too long in coming. It means that you did all the mouring of your moribund relationship before you broke up. The relief and happiness is just that, 'Thank goodness that's behind me."

The nature of breakups is that they're rarely two-sided, someone is going to hurt more than the other. Oh well. Not be callous, but sometimes you'll be the broken-hearted one, this time, you're not.

Don't feel guilty. You can't feel guilty about something that you know is right. Your ex will get over it, and once he's in the right relationship, he'll know that it was the right thing to do.

In the meantime, go no contact, ex him out of your life completely. You'll feel low some days, and you'll miss having a boyfriend, and after five years, sometimes you want to wear that ratty old sweatshirt, even though you wouldn't be caught dead in public in it. But resist the urge. Not for yourself, but for him.

Enjoy the rest of your life! You deserve it.

Also, nobody at the age of 16 should be thinking about their high school boyfriend as marriage material. But that's neither here nor there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:24 AM on May 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

One of my biggest life regrets (if not THE biggest) is not embracing that happiness and relief, instead I let the guilt take over and subsequently took ex back. It's been over a decade and I still haven't forgiven myself.

You are worthy of feeling happy and relived and hopeful for tomorrow. NOTHING to feel guilty about.
posted by Neekee at 7:44 AM on May 8, 2014

I'm almost 40 and broke up with a longtime partner last year and I know exactly how you feel.

Like others, I say embrace it! You've made the right decision for yourself!

I was with my ex a long time, and over a year later I still get the occasional pang of guilt over how things ended or why wasn't I good enough or why wasn't he good enough etc etc. It sometimes takes longer than you might think to be rid of those thoughts. But when I get hung up on it (which sometimes I do, those thoughts have a way of creeping in), I consciously try to think back to that feeling of relief and happiness, and it reminds me that it really was the right decision for me.
posted by cabingirl at 9:53 AM on May 8, 2014

I got together with my ex when we were 17, went to separate universities but stayed together and lived together from when we were 23 to 26. Then I broke up with him and felt so, so, so relieved it was amazing. I totally agree with Misspony though - there are people out there who might take advantage of you as you're enjoying your new-found freedom. It's difficult to explain, but I really thought the best of people when I was in a LTR, and wasn't aware of how badly people could hurt me.

Also, sorry if this is too personal, but it's especially strange if you've split up with the only person you've ever slept with who you got together with at an age when having sex with someone was a big deal, and then are newly single at an age where lots of people have casual sex all the time.

Look after yourself, be safe, and take things SLOWLY. You have all the time in the world :-)
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 10:55 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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