How to get through heartbreak that I still can't believe is happening?
October 1, 2015 12:12 PM   Subscribe

The man I love & live with, who until five days ago was saying he loved me, broke up with me the day after we got home from a weekend trip. I was shocked and am feeling scared and helpless. Please give me some tips on how to get through this thing that feels unendurable, I know there are other heartbreak threads on Metafilter and I welcome links. I also welcome advice that will help me see a way through this. The above gets to the heart of it, but big, embarrassing Snowflake below.

For reference, my first post to AskMeFi was about a recurring issue in our relationship. Please don't tell me this was obviously coming. It didn't feel that way. It felt like we were doing good work. He said he loved me and wanted to be with me, and for a while, it felt strong and good.

I was completely blindsided by the break-up. It feels like a trauma, like a death. I can't believe it's happening. I can't let go of my belief that we were good for each other. I never believed in "the one" but I believed in falling in love and making a choice. I chose him. I thought he chose me.

We were together for almost three years. I was 30 when we met, and this was my first love, first sex, first everything. I had never expected to find love, much less to want to spend the rest of my life with someone. It was a big deal for me to try dating, to trust him, to feel so comfortable with another person. He made me feel safe. I thought he was on my team. And now I just feel crushing loss and fear, and doubt for everything I thought I knew about him, myself, this life I thought we both wanted. I'm losing my grip.

Now that I'm struggling to process it, I see that in the past two weeks, he was retreating. I made myself believe it was due to being busy (he recently completed a successful Kickstarter, has a string of important work events coming up in the fall, and is starting his final term of school). Now I realize he was already separated from me in his mind. I thought we were planning the fall together but he was making plans without me. But he said he loved me. He kept saying it. He said it the day before he broke me.

I know this happens to most people in their lives. I don't know why I was believing it wouldn't happen to me. I just...I was careful getting into this. I was intentional, and it took a long time for me to feel secure, and then I felt so, so secure. In the past, I've had a hard time maintaining close friendships with people. I thought being with him had made me better. I've learned emotional intimacy. Other parts of my life, friendships, things I do on my own have improved because I've learned to trust someone and be trustworthy in return. I've never felt so comfortable with another person. I've never felt so in sync. And now I've been crushingly made aware of the fact that we couldn't possibly have been in sync if it's this easy for him to leave.

I keep thinking and saying out loud to myself: I don't see a way through this. I can't see my life anymore. I was feeling so good about the future and now it's gone. How do I get through this if I can't see past this hurt? I am safe, I don't want to hurt myself, I am reaching out to friends and my therapist, but I have this fear that something will snap in me and this will get so much worse before it gets better. What should I be doing? Is there anything I can do? How do I have faith I'll survive this when it feels like everything is crumbling?

Other random grief-fueled thoughts/questions:

--I am hyper-aware that I am grieving. My body hurts, my heart hurts, I can't eat, can't sleep, can't see what my life looks like anymore. I'm having a hard time knowing when to just let myself feel and when to talk myself out of things. I am having moments or pure desperation, wanting to actually beg him to change his mind. I wrote a long e-mail and managed not to send it. He has been very clear, and yet I still keep wishing he could change his mind. Does this stop? Do I stop thinking he'll come back?

-I feel foolish and ashamed. He let me make his birthday special, he let me plan this weekend away for him, he said he loved me and made love with me less than 48 hours before he said he was unhappy and wanted to break up. I feel sick to my stomach for the things he let me do when he already knew he was going to break my heart.

-I feel ashamed because I snooped in his e-mail the day after it happened. I KNOW, NEVER DO THIS. I know. I don't know why I did it, all I can say is that I felt crazy. He didn't say anything I didn't already know from the way he had been acting towards me; he was having a better time without me than with me, he thinks I'm an unhappy person, he didn't see a future with me. All things I was afraid of in the past weeks when he was retreating, so if anything, I feel like my worst fears have been confirmed. My feelings are good and hurt, but I did it to myself by looking at words that were not meant for me. He has actually been careful not to say directly hurtful things to my face. But my (wrong, shameful, embarrassing) snooping did verify that he was already telling friends he was planning to break up with me before the weekend. That he was thinking about it back when I made my first MetaFilter post. It hurts my heart that he misled me, that he said he wanted to work and that he wanted to be with me when he obviously didn't. This breakup would have crushed me no matter what, but now I have this weekend to remember, this weekend I thought was going to be good and restorative. I keep thinking of conversations we had, things we did, physical intimacy, and I want to throw up. One of the reasons I love him is that he is honorable and honest, and this feels like such a betrayal.

-He's still in our house (staying in the basement, which is his office, which has a futon and sink and his cat). He doesn't have a plan. He's trying to find a place but he's broke. He said he was leaving but he hasn't actually left, and he asked me to be understanding. I'm not ready to be angry yet because I still love him and I still want him to be safe (saying that makes me feel so pathetic and naive). But it's painful having him right there, hearing him move around, knowing he can hear me crying, knowing he won't come hold me.

-I can't afford the house we're renting on my own. I have several pets (mine before we met), and it is a long, difficult process for me to find rentals. I had a great place before we moved in together, and I worked so hard to find us this one. I thought I had a long-term home with my long-term love, and six months later, explosion. I feel my whole life falling apart, not just this relationship but this home, this future I thought we both wanted.

-I've never lived in this city without him. We started dating while I was living an hour away, and when I moved to the city I got to know it with him as my guide. I have my own life -- something I though was good about our relationship is that we have separate hobbies, activities, friends in addition to what we share -- but so much of the place feels tied to him. It feels tainted, and I'm afraid to be out. I went to work yesterday and it was awful for many reasons but the worst was driving past so many active memories that I'm not ready to give up on and feel like are going to hurt me for a long time. Does this stop? How do I live here when I only know it with him?

-A month ago, I ordered him a stupidly expensive, non-refundable, multiple-mailing surprise gift through Kickstarter that won't start arriving until October. I don't want it. It's perfect for him. I still want him to have it. I keep thinking how I'll have to learn his new address so he can get it because it's his and I don't want it. I hate that I can't stop loving him and wanting good things for him. I don't know what to do about this gift. I don't know what to do about all the regard I still hold for this person who has made me doubt everything I thought I knew. He doesn't regard me. How do I stop regarding him.

-I still love him, I can't stop loving him. I still want him. I still can't believe he isn't next to me, that he doesn't care about me, that I can't text him to talk about stupid shit and hug him goodnight and make plans for Halloween and and and and and. He said he love me, we were laughing together just days ago. Why is this happening to me?

I'm sorry this is so long and overwrought. I'm embarrassed. Maybe this is like the e-mail I wrote him, something for me that I shouldn't send. But I am feeling desperate for answers or maybe just to be heard. Thanks.
posted by adastra to Human Relations (36 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
"They" say it takes half again the time you spent together, to get over the pain completely. Start doing what you do as a life immediately without him. Get him out of your place, start advertising for a new roommate immediately. Listen to your favorite music loud in the car, instead of rehash. Kick the relationship out of your head, kick it, kick it, don't let the rehash creep in. Don't talk to your friends incessantly about it. Be their friend for reasons you always were. You will get yourself back. The sooner you close all the "trap" doors in your mind the better. Meditate away from the thoughts of it. Look to the fall for comfort.
posted by Oyéah at 12:25 PM on October 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm so sorry. It's really like going through an actual bereavement. It will hurt, and it's natural to want to try to get back together, but you need to do everything your rational mind can come up with not do that. When I've broken up with people, it helps me feel better to consciously forgive them for whatever's gone wrong on their side, and try to genuinely wish them the best. But you obviously also need to take care of yourself, and the first step is getting out of the house you're sharing. Can he at least stay with a friend temporarily? Since he initiated the breakup, it seems like it should be his responsibility to find somewhere else to stay while you're looking for a new apartment of your own.
posted by three_red_balloons at 12:29 PM on October 1, 2015 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I'm sorry! Break ups of long-term relationships are very difficult life events, especially when combined with moving. It sounds like what you really need right now is just to take care of yourself and be really easy on yourself. I wish you peace and comfort.

One of the major lessons I learned from my first love (also a long-term, live-in reationship in which I was unhappy for my own reasons much of the time) was how to recognize and avoid codependency. Good relationships are a wonderful source of strong and real support in anyone's life. However, there is a line between supportive and codependent. Part of me will never give quite as much of myself to another relationship again as much as my first. (I think this is very common.) As a great song puts it "it ain't wise to need someone as much I depended on you." I think to some extent this was an unavoidable "learn the hard way" lesson in my life and probably many others share it.

Keep reminding yourself you were just fine before him and you will be just fine after him.
posted by quincunx at 12:36 PM on October 1, 2015 [12 favorites]

I'm going through something similar after a nearly 20 year marriage, with two kids still in the mix, and all I can really suggest is to focus on the little things and try to keep yourself healthy and strong and don't be afraid to reach out to friends for help and support when you need it. In my case, we've still got two kids to parent and a lot of deep and complicated financial entanglements that make an easy path to divorce or even complete separation hard to find, but I've found it helpful to focus only on the problems and concerns that are immediately in front of me. Laundry getting piled up? Wash it. Hungry? Make a really nice meal. Dishes piling up? Wash them. Feeling anxious? Get some exercise or reach out to a friend.

It still hurts from time to time to think of all those years of emotional labor invested in our marriage, in getting to know and understand each other and helping each other through personal and shared challenges, and how all that effort no longer seems to matter now. And rejection always hurts, especially when it comes from someone you've come to see as a reliable, loving member of your family. My wife and I lived together and took care of each other through some of the worst kinds of life tragedy, and without a doubt, I owe a huge part of the adult human being I grew into throughout my life to her influence. I still don't regret her having come into my life for a moment, even though there have definitely been some ugly times between us under stress, especially in the more recent past.

But it helps me to get over all that and just go on functioning in life to focus on the little things and not even think about the bigger picture unless I have to. Try not to think about the relationship failure or the other person too much, and just be good to yourself when you have the chance. You don't mention kids so I assume you don't have any, but if you do, focusing on the kids and caring for and loving them as much as possible can offer some comfort. Just because you've been rejected doesn't mean the other person was right to reject you. Also, getting exercise and maintaining a healthy diet seem to be key to avoiding slipping into a serious depressive funk in these situations. While the grief is still fresh and you're feeling extra sensitive, get out and get some sunlight. Focus on completing simple tasks to give yourself a feeling of accomplishment and of holding it together. The pain gets better with time, though you might have to accept that you'll never get over the loss completely.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:17 PM on October 1, 2015 [8 favorites]

Best answer: First of all, a guy who plans for weeks to break up with you but doesn't plan to move out is a selfish dick. Period. You need to get him out of the house. Give him a date, like November 1, to get his shit together and move on. You HAVE to do this in order to move forward with your own life. His money issues or living space problems are no longer your problems. You have enough to deal with, and you need to jettison his physical and emotional needs right now so you can concentrate on yourself. Please go read the post about emotional labor, because you need to stop carrying his baggage around.
posted by raisingsand at 1:28 PM on October 1, 2015 [74 favorites]

I don't know it it's helpful, but I will say I think all of this is normal, and all of it will get better over time, but it sure will suck in the meantime! A few logistics:

1. He's the one who broke up; he's the one who needs to move. If he can crash on the couch in your basement, he can crash on the couch of a friend's basement/living room/etc. You might offer to take care of his cat or store some boxes in the basement for a while while he gets his feet underneath him and figures out a new situation, but he physically needs to get out of the house. Make this non-negotiable for him.

2. As part of making this non-negotiable, start advertising for a roommate right now -- you can post on Facebook to look for friends and friends-of-friends who may be looking for housing, but I've also had good luck with Craigslist.

3. Pick another friend to receive the recurring gift and change the address on the mailing to their address right away so you don't end up with a surprise!bad!feelings!bomb in your mailbox (maybe someone who would like the gift if you can think of someone, but if not, a random friend who is willing to receive and dispose of the items. I would happily happily do this for a friend if they explained the situation! In fact, MeMail me if you are really stuck!) Do not under any circumstances try to send this to him in some way -- you guys are broken up, sending gifts is no longer appropriate.

4. And finally, be kind to yourself and take care of yourself. Yes, this will be really hard and it will suck and be super painful, but you can survive it. Call up your girlfriends and schedule times to see them and eat chocolate ice cream and watch chick flicks and whatever else. Take lots of bubble baths, and binge watch your favorite shitty TV show, and feed yourself your favorite foods. See if you can take a weekend trip to your old town and hang out with your friends there. When you feel ready, pick up a new hobby or activity that you've always wanted to do. Get outside as much as possible before winter really sets in. Make a big long list of cool things you would love to try doing, and do as many as possible (here and here are some ideas). Buy yourself flowers. Reread all the Harry Potter books. Trust that, in time, you will heal.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:30 PM on October 1, 2015 [34 favorites]

The only way out is through, as they say.

But based on your previous askme, the emails you read, and the way you describe the weekend prior to the breakup, I am seconding raisingsand to gently suggest that you do whatever you can to nurture a little righteous anger here. He knows you have, as you said before, "big emotional reactions to things" and so why in the ever-lovin' world did he not only go through this last weekend with you but also plan a breakup without having made the arrangements most people make (like lining up a place to live) in order to give you the space and time to grieve and heal?

Maybe also think of this as a bright light shining on your and his fundamental incompatibility: you're careful and intentional, as you say. You're emotionally mature and thoughtful. You believe in being in sync. This dude, by his actions over the last week - coupled with what insight he's purported to have about you in your previous askme - appears to be none of those things.
posted by pinkacademic at 1:35 PM on October 1, 2015 [18 favorites]

An ex once told me that our break up did not invalidate our time together. He still valued me, and the relationship we had, and thought it was meaningful. At the time, still heartbroken, I was like THANKS. THAT'S SO GREAT. FUCK YOU.

Now I think he is right.

This one person not being in love with you anymore does not mean that he never loved you, that he doesn't still feel love for you now, or that you are not worthy of love. It only means that he is not compatible with you going forward.

I would give yourself about a month to be completely torn up. In that month I would try to make very real progress towards separating your living arrangements. Once you are no longer living with him, go no contact and begin making a habit of building a box for the past you shared with this guy.

After that one month you have got to start pulling yourself out of the hole. I am not sure this would be a good idea for everyone, but for me I need to force myself to compartmentalize. Left to my own devices I write super long drawn out things about my feelings, tell my friends about my feelings, have dreams that act out my feelings, and everything is drama town forever and always. I obsess over things. At some point I have to remove the "audience" for my feelings. I don't write it all down, I don't try to remember the dreams, I don't vocalize every single memory or sad thought. I have to make my brain start going no contact the same way you do in the real world with the person when you are trying to heal. Obviously you should reach out for support from the people who care about you, but for me that support becomes more useful when I turn it into me being distracted from what is causing me pain vs wallowing in and discussing the thing that is causing me pain.

For me, the end result of the no audience strategy is that my brain eventually got in line with what I wanted to do and feel. I built new habits, got new hobbies, taught my brain to think a new way. I am content.

It did take a long time, though. The only way out is through and all that. My condolences and best wishes that your grieving is productive and that you feel relief soon.
posted by skrozidile at 1:51 PM on October 1, 2015 [14 favorites]

adastra: "He said he was leaving but he hasn't actually left, and he asked me to be understanding. "

He can ask. You don't have to keep saying yes. Breakups suck, but this is just flatly shitty behavior, and he has specifically told you that there is no reason for you to put up with it, because he has specifically told you that he has decided that you are now acquaintances rather than intimates. You are no more obligated to let him live in your basement than you would be if your mail carrier knocked on your door and asked if they could stay there.

He hurt you really badly, then asked you for a giant favor. You were an amazingly kind and generous person and granted him that favor, despite the hurt. But you get to be done with that now. You did the favor, time for him to find another solution. Today.

Seriously, today. If he says he hasn't had time to find a place, tell him he's had weeks to set something up, and that you won't put your own life on hold. You have decisions to make and things to do, and you need to be able to get a roommate in tomorrow if possible, so he has to be gone.

If he says there's no place for him to go, well, there are motels he could stay in. Even pet-friendly motels.

He doesn't get to have this both ways. If there are no kids and no shared property complicating things, he needs to follow through on his own decision to leave, and leave.
posted by current resident at 2:10 PM on October 1, 2015 [42 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so sorry this is happening to you.

A good book that you might find really helpful right now is Living and Loving After Betrayal by Steven Stony. That's got a lot of really good, concrete, grounded practices for getting yourself back together after something like this. You may also want to look at Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft--it's about abusive men, and I bet you will recognize a LOT about you boyfriend even if he's never raised his voice or a hand to you.

The emotional resonance of this AskMe (about how careful you were and how you trusted in a way you hadn't before) and also your previous one (about the conflict when you were having intense emotion) are so, so incredibly familiar to me from my own failing marriage that I actually got a stomachache reading them.

Here are some things that I have learned from being in an eerily similar relationship--for much longer, with much more serious consequences. I think these perspectives may help get some righteous anger now, to propel you out of your doldrums, and may help you make sense of some dynamics in the long run.

--When you were really upset and his response was to tell you that you were wrong to feel that way, he was kicking you when you were down. When you needed reassurance and support, he responded by making it all about him (and what *he* couldn't stand about being in the presence of your intense emotions). Partnership is supposed to be about teamwork, and part of the meaning of that is that the two of you handle adversity better together than you would apart. Adversity in life may strike both of you at the same time, or one of you at a time. The deal with teamwork/partnership is that when one of you gets dealt a low blow, the other one can and should make getting through it easier. He was showing you that he would not do that, much as you wish he would.

--When you read his emails and learned that he was planning to end your relationship long ago, realize that what you just learned is that *he is a liar* and *he was lying to you*. I know you trusted him and it sucks so badly to learn that your trust was misplaced. It may help to be prepared to learn that there are other ways that he has (or will) lie to you, for instance about money or moving out.

--Notice too that you are holding yourself to incredibly high standards of honesty and fair dealing (as in, about reading his email) but that *he does not hold himself to those same standards, because he is a liar.* You may be operating on the assumption that he acts on the same motivations and the same principles as you, but he does not. Judge him on what he does and not what he says.

--Consider that his lying in order to enjoy the special events of the last few weeks, while he was intending to break up with you, means that he's also a *user*. Conflict avoidance--which he was doing when he tried to blow you off when you were upset or in the case of just not having that breakup conversation just yet--is fundamentally selfish. Conflict avoiders just want what they want and they don't want to deal with your shit, so they don't deal with the tough issues with honesty and integrity and respect.

Another part of this that I don't see addressed in your questions, but is so common that I'll bet it's in there somewhere, is that early relationships with conflict avoiders can seem so incredibly good, like far better than other relationships... because, of course, they agree with you about everything. At the start of a romance this seems like it's wonderful! Kismet! You two are so aligned! Except that what you don't know is that resentment is brewing underneath, and it'll eventually leak out in underhanded, passive-aggressive ways.

Again, I'm really sorry. MeMail me if you'd like a sympathetic ear.
posted by Sublimity at 2:32 PM on October 1, 2015 [42 favorites]

Best answer: This happened to me a few years ago. It sucked and I'm so sorry. He literally said to me "I don't love you and never will" and then left. I didn't see it coming and was totally devastated.

I think in hindsight I was able to get over it by literally treating it like a death. For me it happened on a Thursday evening. I remember I called out on Friday and let myself grieve. I gave myself permission to do what I needed to do and at the time that was sleep late, wear something cozy, get take out, watch bad TV and randomly cry on and off. Later that weekend I surrounded myself with my best friends and it helped tremendously. They boosted me back up. Not going to lie, but the next few weeks were rough. However, going to work, focusing on other areas of my life that were important but allowing myself to do the bare minimum I needed to do each day helped a lot. Sometimes I did the bare minimum, sometimes I did more, but never less. I made sure to shower, eat well, hydrate, go to work and that was about it. A few weeks later I felt better but still went to therapy because it helped a lot and helped me eventually realize that not all of it was my doing.

Someone on here told me that sometimes the quickest way to get over something is actually THROUGH it, and it was so true.

At times like these it's so easy to over analyze every little thing and place the blame on yourself. Sure, there could have been some things that you could have done differently or better, but at this point in time you were being the version of yourself that you are at this point in life. You will grow and change and would do things differently as the you a week, month or years from now, but right now, you are the version of yourself that you are and that's it. More to that, break-ups are never totally one sided, he most likely had doubts and hang ups and issues of his own. That's ok and he's human too.

At the end of the day it didn't work. Relationships that do work have the triad of being the right place at the right time with the right people and the right mindset. Take what you may from this and grow from it. You will get through this and a better you will be on the other side. Don't beat the snot out of yourself and be kind. You got this.
posted by floweredfish at 2:49 PM on October 1, 2015 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: I really appreciate the advice so far and will be reading and re-reading a lot. I don't believe it yet but I will. It is steadying to hear others' perspectives.

I do want to say that in no way is this man abusive or a user. Obviously our different emotional responses and communication styles are incompatible, and he has been dishonest with me in recent weeks, but I think he has also been dishonest with himself. He's emotionally complex like anyone else, and has been confused and uncertain about what to do. He said as much in our one follow-up conversation to the initial breakup. I feel sorry for him. Sorrier for myself, but still.

I do wish so badly that he had been more considerate of me in the end, but of course, how can I ask him to be considerate when the gist is that he no longer wishes to consider me? And I wish that he could love me in the manner I want and deserve to be loved. I'm sure I'm going to have an angry phase. But I still believe he's a good person, even as I wish he had been better towards me.
posted by adastra at 2:53 PM on October 1, 2015

how can I ask him to be considerate when the gist is that he no longer wishes to consider me?
You could ask to be a decent human being and complete his exit from your life in a considerate, responsible way. That is perfectly reasonable on your part. Of course, we don't always get what we ask for and people (even people who are basically good) can be real jerks at times. He doesn't have to love you to be considerate - he should be considerate of the waiter at a restaurant or the person who shares a cubical wall with us a work, we should certain show some basic consideration in how we interact with a person that we said we love and now we don't.
posted by metahawk at 3:10 PM on October 1, 2015 [14 favorites]

Oh honey. I dont really have practical advice (I'm an even later bloomer) but I just feel so bad for how you are hurting and wanted to send hugs to you, if you want them.

You will feel better but right now, treat yourself like you are ill as this acute stage feels so much like that. Lots of self care, be gentle with yourself, do what you find soothing. Snuggle with your pets.You've lost someone very important to you and your mind is struggling to deal with the new reality.

try not to dwell on how good your last place was or how you were expecting a future in this place - move forward. The past is done; you will have a wonderful home again. Same as with your city. It's not his even if he introduced you. Once you feel up to it, you will create new memories.

I'm glad you posted because reaching out to people is the best thing you can now. Do reach out to people in your life too. All the best.
posted by kitten magic at 3:50 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

I hear you, adastra, when you say that he is a complex person, not an (ab)user, etc. I know how complicated feelings can get and people and relationships can be. I don't doubt that this is painful for him, too, in its way.

But so do you. Clearly. Powerfully, you seem to know this. And so you sound like you try to do the right things by the people you love, even given all the myriad complexities.

Very little about the way this went down sounds like he shares your values or states of mind in this regard.

"How can I ask him to be considerate when the gist is that he no longer wishes to consider me?" Because this is exactly a version of what you're trying to do.
posted by pinkacademic at 4:20 PM on October 1, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm very sorry this is happening, and I think it says a lot about your character that even in the midst of deep pain you are still concerned about his well-being. But I want you to notice something: there doesn't seem to be anyone concerned about YOUR well-being in this situation. This guy, who has known for quite some time that he doesn't want to be in a relationship with you, did not bother to make alternate living arrangements for himself. He's more concerned about his own comfort than yours, and you're more concerned about his comfort than your own. He can go stay somewhere else, he really can.

If you can, please take back even just a little of the concern you're showing him and give it to yourself. Ask him to stay elsewhere, surely one of the friends he's been emailing with about wanting to leave you can put him up for a while.

Please be gentle with yourself.
posted by palomar at 4:23 PM on October 1, 2015 [27 favorites]

One's first relationship can be a real trial in terms of figuring out how to align needs and wants and calibrating an emotional life together. I know that my first relationship was a very emotional dance as I tried to enter the adult world of conjugal love. This is even harder for those of us who have unregulated emotional responses seated in early childhood experiences. That you were a late bloomer makes the investment you placed in this relationship even more profound. You didn't get to 'practise' relationships when the stakes were lower, and as you say in your previous post, being in relationship can activate all kinds of deep seated anxieties. It's not likely you can spend the money on therapy right now, but you can start to read self help books on love, loss, worthiness and acceptance. I found a lot of good things for me in Robin Norwood's Women Who Love Too Much, but YMMV.

You WILL get through this and it is a day to day, month to month thing. It is time essentially that has to pass. You WILL look back on this and see how much you were able to transform yourself as a result of this experience.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:39 PM on October 1, 2015 [5 favorites]

Please don't feel alone in your heartbreak. The pain you are in right now is the human experience, we share it together. You learned a lot by letting him in, including how to let in the person who will eventually be right for you.

I think because this was your first relationship the horizon isn't visible. But it is there. The pain will pass as you get through each day. You will meet someone who loves you for who you are, even for the big feels you get, not despite them. You and your future partner will not have to struggle to feel right and supported with each other. That is not what They mean when They say relationships take work.

Eat whatever you want, take as much time to baby yourself as you need. You won't be struggling with how to get love and support from someone anymore, you'll be getting it from your support system. It will feel easier before you know it.

Big hugs to you.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 4:59 PM on October 1, 2015 [8 favorites]

Late bloomer here too, and my first relationship & marriage was longer. First, it does get better. The first couple of weeks are so, so rough, but the truly debilitating part was over for me in a month or so - although things aren't still quite right after 10 months.

The whole thing seemed in lots of ways like a mirror of starting a relationship. Intense and crazy at first, but settling and deepening over time into something more familiar and everyday. I've tried to tell myself (not always successfully) that a breakup of a first important relationship is an experience everyone should have, a formative and valuable one you can learn many things from. In time you may fall in love again, and reflect that you're lucky to have gotten to love two people, instead of just one. Or you may not - but either way, weathering this particular storm will, if you let it, make you stronger, more balanced, wiser, and readier to face the challenges of life ahead.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:47 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Break ups are like deaths. Mourning is healthy. Mourn.
posted by Toddles at 10:16 PM on October 1, 2015

First kick the fucker out of your home. And take time for yourself - it's very valuable that you recognize you're grieving and separate that from longing for him. If you can divide your hurt up into sections (start with "why do i feel like this" and let it turn into all of the complicated reasons why) and realize that it's not ALL due to him it will lessen your load.
posted by bendy at 12:51 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I feel like a stubborn child; I don't want this to be formative and valuable, I just want it to be not happening. I understand the only thing to do is to just get through it, I'm just not able to imagine getting through it yet. NIght time is really, really hard. I'm waking up every hour with what feels like a low-level panic attack, heart racing, heavy dread in my chest. I'm rereading the answers here for some reassurance.

It's hard to be kind to myself but I'm trying. It really helps to have pets, they give me a necessary routine, a necessary trip outside at least a few times a day, and someone to hold on to. But then they look hopefully up at the back door he would come in through, and...yowch. This hurts so much.
posted by adastra at 5:23 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You poor thing. Keep re-reading, it will help, eventually but yeah, this time is really hard, there's no way to sugarcoat that. I really wish he were out of the house so it was a clean break.

You know what sometimes helps me when I really hate something that is happening? Face in a pillow and scream arggggggghhhhh about everything that's upsetting me. Or writing it down, a big list of all the things that really suck and then rip it up and imagine it destroying those things too. On top of the grief you are dealing with disappointment for the loss of the life you thought you had and to me, disappointment is the bitterest and hardest thing to get past. So dont swallow those feelings, growl them into your pillow and then remember that goodness and calm will come to you; you are a kind and thoughtful person, we are all sending feel better thoughts to you and as unbelievably impossible as it seems right now, this too shall pass. Big hugs to you.
posted by kitten magic at 5:32 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I know, right? It stinks, it really does. I'm so sorry you're going through this, and I wish it weren't happening.
But it is, and you WILL get through, and it WILL get better. It won't be over soon, but it will start feeling just a little bit less like crap pretty soon. I promise.

It's good that you're trying to be kind to yourself. Please keep that up. You deserve kindness. If you were here right now I'd wrap you in a big warm blanket and make you a cup of my very best tea.

Hang in there. You're doing this as well as can be expected. If it helps, think of all of us, in different places around the world, thinking kind thoughts in your general direction and hoping you'll start feeling a little bit better soon.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:35 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am so sorry that this has happened to you, and I greatly admire the way you're handling it. I would like to endorse every word of rainingsand's advice. You need distance in order to heal, and he is refusing you that, on top of blindsiding you with the breakup (the circumstances of which were by themselves quite the dick move).

Give him a deadline, and give yourself kindness. You deserve better than he gave you, and I'm confident you'll be in a much better place before you know it.
posted by Gelatin at 8:01 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Listen. In a year you will look back on how you are twisting yourself into a pretzel trying to accommodate this guy, letting him stay in your house because he couldn't be arsed to make a plan to actually move even though he was planning to break up with you, and you are going to shake your head in disbelief and wish that you had kicked him out immediately. Do it now.

Now, all the people who are saying he's a bad guy... I don't think you need to think of him as a bad guy. But he is doing a very inconsiderate thing by hanging around. Sometimes good people do inconsiderate things out of laziness and thoughtlessness. The reason I'm even chiming in to write this comment is that I saw a generally very nice guy break up with my best girlfriend a few years ago... and continue to stay in her apartment because he didn't have the money to move out quite yet and of course she was all accommodating and mature and they were "friends" and "this is what friends do for each other even if they're not in love anymore" about it... until the day he brought his new girlfriend home and fucked her in the room he hadn't been kicked out of, while my friend sobbed to me on the phone from the living room.

Just please get this guy out of your house, ok? You don't owe him anything and you can't really start healing until he's out.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:16 AM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I did tell him two nights ago that he has to be out as soon as possible because it's too hard for me to have him here, and he's the one making the decision to leave, so he has to leave. He is partially out, out when I'm in, at least. I think he's crashing at friends' places, and I'm taking care of his cat through the weekend. He's moving in with friends in November and still looking for a short-term arrangement for October that will let him take the cat. I want him to be with his cat, they are really bonded, it's what's best for both of them as well as me (I don't want to keep going down into his space and looking at his things). But I think he gets the message that he can't be anywhere near here when I'm home.

I'm in a position where it is very, very difficult for me to find rentals with my pets & income; I am meeting with the landlord over the weekend to discuss the possibility of staying in this house at least through the end of the lease. My parents will help me make up the part of the rent I can't afford, which feels shameful because I have been self-sufficient for some time (after previously living in a home they own), and hated turning to them again. But I'm very grateful they're there for me emotionally and in a position to help. I would be in even worse shape if they weren't.

I'm pretty sure turning this thread into my own personal Livejournal is not in line with MeFi best practices, so I'm sorry. Thank you all so much for listening and offering support. I'm still in fall-to-the-kitchen-floor-crying mode but I am sleeping a little bit more each night, and yesterday I even ate a vegetable. That's something!
posted by adastra at 9:15 AM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Hey you. I recognize myself in your statements, so I want to add my voice to the replies.

It's not a consolation to hear that your grief is what many (most?) people feel, but it is a truth. The same goes for the maxim that the raw edges of this moment are first blunted by the passing of time, and eventually blunting gives way to you laying new layers of plaster over those edges. You build a new thing, slowly, and one day you'll surprise yourself because some random thing will trigger your memory and you'll realize--for the first time--that you haven't thought about your grief in two or three days. It'll feel a bit like waking up, maybe, still hungover but finally awake.

Can you take off work for a couple days? A few days? Maybe a full work week? My biggest memory is of how angry I felt that the person initiating the break up seems to get off without a hitch, and the other party is left a mess. I couldn't function at work, and I ended up telling my boss a white lie so I could take a few days of PTO and make a long weekend of getting out of range of everything associated with the relationship that had been closed. I didn't want to be around work, or the apartment, or familiar restaurants, buses, parks... I just packed a bag, bought a Greyhound ticket, and went to a state park I'd never been to. I stayed there for three nights, screamed into a pillow a few times, grieved and gnashed my teeth and wrote my thoughts on pieces of paper that I'd then burn in the camp fire and hiked and made meals and took some pictures. But mostly, I was simply away. Then I took the bus back, spending those four hours writing down plans: loose plans for the next six months, but firm plans for the next four weeks on moving, selling things, donating things, bank account and billing address changes, etc. It didn't solve my problems, but it helped me step out of routines and more easily control how and when I needed to think (and how and when I needed to not think).

You're doing a good thing by not pushing this person out immediately, but if you can find a housemate that will help you greatly. Your obligation is to yourself above to this other person. There are ways to stay put, like finding a housemate, which might mean seeing things that trigger your feelings, but that is an ok part of the process and also much simpler than moving immediately. Take your time on that front. Please.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:12 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am so sorry. I know exactly what this feels like. And it sucks big time. I have also been in the situation where he lived next door and I had to see him for 8 months (including with his new partner having romantic lunches in the garden). I can tell you, it was 8 months of zero movement forward. Ask him to leave, pack up his stuff for him (maybe with a friend), and get everything out of sight. As you are miserable anyways, might as well keep moving. Change furniture, paint things different colors, get a new roommate, just keep going forward towards change.

That way, when the hellish time has passed, the physical work to get him out of your mind will already have happened.

Again, I am so sorry you are feeling this pain.
posted by Vaike at 10:33 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

How do you break up with someone who has Very Strong Emotions?

Years ago, I was with a guy I wanted to break up with , but I couldn't. I felt obligated to tell him I loved him, and was scared of how he would react if I finally got up the nerve to break up with him. It's cowardly, I know, but I eventually broke up with him by letter (pre-email days) when I was living temporarily in another country. Subsequently he phoned me, threatening suicide (which he never followed through on).

I am guessing that your ex might have been in a similar bind. Although this doesn't justify his behavior, any more than it justified mine, be aware that your emotional nature might have scared him into delaying the breakup.

That said, it is certainly understandable that you are going through this period of grief. Time does heal, or at least soften, all kinds of grief. After you get through this very difficult time in your life, you will move on. Find strength in yourself; don't rely on others to give you strength. I wish you all the best.
posted by LauraJ at 11:29 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry for what you're going through. I also had my first heartbreak later in life. My first relationship - first everything - lasted 10 years and ended with betrayal and heartbreak at age 28. I couldn't imagine any life without him at the time. But I made it through and am so much happier now than I ever knew was possible then. This book helped me through the darkest times:

It's cheesy, maybe, but spoke to me and was just what I needed then. I hope maybe it will help you too. I think I may have even learned about it here on ask.metafilter.

posted by pitseleh at 4:57 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Believe me, LauraJ, I have given a lot of thought to how difficult it may have been for my partner to break up with me. I don't think he was quite as afraid of that kind of reaction from me (at least, I hope not -- I don't think I've ever done anything to indicate that sort of thing). It is valuable to hear from the other perspective even as it is making me feel defensive!

One thing that is helping me find strength in myself is friends and family reminding me that I was me before him. Maybe that sounds like finding strength in others but I think it's more like a reminder that is helping me recognize it in myself. I know this relationship changed me for the better in many ways, and helped me grow, but my essence as a smart, strong, funny, independent person who takes care of herself was there before and will be there after. My self-worth isn't tied to in this person although it is badly bruised right now.

Still waking up at 2am in a panic wishing he would come through the door, though.
posted by adastra at 2:17 AM on October 4, 2015

Best answer: I have read both posts and I am very, very sorry you are going through this. It took me several years to heal after my first relationship, and I don't recommend denial or trying to maintain a friendship like I did. But I have grieved the loss of a family member since then and this is what was helpful in facing that:
at first, make a to-do list and focus on what needs to be done. This will keep your hands busy and your brain occupied and help put the situation in perspective, "life goes on." Get him out of the house, find a place to live, clean, pack.
Do not focus on what could have been, what went wrong, what you can do better, can you work it out? You can't undo the past, you can only control your present. (And in my opinion, based on your previous post, he was insecure and did not know how to be supportive, so I doubt that he would be interested in working out any number of problems in the future.)
Do not worry about being nice. You will have to make a lot of decisions that may seem selfish, self-serving, or disruptive. Do what is best for *you*. If that makes you a heartless bitch, so be it.
When you are ready, grieve. This may be everyday after work, before bed, every moment. But you'll also find that some days you'll have a moment to yourself and you won't WANT to cry. Notice that moment and do something constructive or rewarding. It isn't a betrayal. There will be peaks and valleys in the healing process and the key is to notice the peaks, they will become more frequent as time moves on.

Some general post-relationship advice: don't lend him money. Get him out of the house-- he planned the breakup, he should have planned somewhere to go that isn't in your basement. Avoid talking to his friends about your breakup and definitely avoid putting them in the middle. You'll either make things awkward and lose mutual friends, or get in a post-relationship fight, which is not pretty.

You may not need this advice because they are based on my idiot mistakes. I really want to hug you, and I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry. This is one of the hardest parts of life, but you will get through it, I promise.

posted by smellyhipster at 12:10 PM on October 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


....You don't know this yet, but he has done you a great favor. You have dodged a bullet. Believe me, you would not want to have devoted years to this man just to have him do this to you later instead of now.

I would like to see you get angry, otherwise you are going to become a woe-is-me person who feels "dumped". Just because he is the person who made this decision, that does not mean that you are powerless in this situation.

You need to draft adastra's personal bill of rights. Enact some new policies right away. Things that you "require". Example: 1. I require that my former bf pay rent until ______ and be gone from the premises by _______. I will not accept such and such type of behavior. I will reconnect with ________(a nice friend) within two weeks. You get the picture. Make a bill of rights list to help you get through this. Be positive.

Realize that you CAN DO MUCH BETTER. ( really can and you really will).
posted by naplesyellow at 11:54 PM on October 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I think at this point the thing that helps most is to decide to take it on faith that you're going to be okay. And don't worry about how you'll feel in the future. These days, when I'm in some new period of feeling like I'm at my limit, it helps me to remember that I've been through these feelings before and I'll get through them again, even if it's basically impossible to believe while I'm still in the middle of it. Since it sounds like you haven't had too many awful situations before this (which is a good thing! :-) you may not yet have this wealth of unasked-for experience to draw on. Right now you just have to take it little by little and decide to trust that someday, at some point, you'll wake up feeling entirely okay. Should the heartbreak come back later, or should it happen again later because of different circumstances, it'll probably feel worse than the pain you're feeling this time -- it's hard not to feel that whatever current pain is the worst you've ever had -- but you will have the knowledge that there really is light at the end of the tunnel. Even if it's a stupid really obnoxious poorly-lit tunnel with all sorts of pointless obstacles.

You'll be okay. The pain might put up a fight before it goes away. You'll get through it, one day at a time.
posted by egg drop at 12:12 PM on October 5, 2015

Oh, and if you can keep something nice near your bed for next time you wake up at 2am (a book you love, pictures of friends, something funny or comforting) then go for it. It helps to prepare :-)
posted by egg drop at 12:16 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

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