I am having a genuinely difficult time getting over a breakup...
July 26, 2016 4:53 PM   Subscribe

How do I move on from this breakup, considering it was such a short time?

(when I shouldn't be, and I really don't know why this has shaken me to my core)

A little brief background on me to set the stage. I graduated college two years ago, and started job hopping to get away from my parents, who have always been emotionally abusive. First, I moved out west for a temp job. When that ended, I came back to the East coast for another temp job, and have finally landed in a pretty nice, full time position (still have confidence issues about my new job, but that's another story). In between these times, there was a ton of depression and anxiety about my future, and a whole hell of a lot of job searching.

When I moved back to the East Coast, I met a guy. We dated for 7 months, and fell in love (so I thought). He knew all about my past, and told me that he loved me. In my new city, he introduced me to his friends and family, and they kind of became my friends and family too. We spent all our time together, and he became my confidant. In retrospect, I was definitely a LOT co-dependent. But, hindsight is 20/20.

Anyway, I thought things were going well. He showered me with affection, his parents said they were "glad" he found a girl like me, and that he couldn't wait to be with me for years to come.

The day we broke up, we were kind of getting on each other's nerves (I had just gone through a few stressful job interviews, and was trying to look for a new place to live). I admit I was a lot more cranky than I should have been. My ex snapped, and told me that he wanted nothing to do with me and left.

I was able to get him on the phone, and he spit out a slur of reasons why we couldn't be together, real life quote follows: "You're too difficult. We should probably just be friends, although honestly we wouldn't be able to stay friends. I don't like how you deal with things. I've been thinking about this for a while (me: well, why didn't you tell me? him: Well, you probably wouldn't have been able to handle it), you know. I just saw so many red flags yesterday, I'll never be able to unsee them.

I asked him if we could take some time to work it out, and came up with a list of things I know I could do better/things I let slip. He responded, "I mean, I'll give you your time, but I'm just letting you know, there's probably nothing you can do to change my mind." Then, he left.

I tried contacting him for a while after (about 2 months), giving him some time to cool off, apologizing, asking him for another chance, and which point he blocked me from everything and told me, "Good luck out there."

Now, I have moved into my apartment alone, and I'm in my new job (which is hard), and I don't really have any friends in this city. I can't stop feeling sad over this. I've done so much to try and get over this. I went to therapy (or rather, continued it. been doing it for a while), I got on anxiety medication, had a few sessions with a break up coach.

For the record, this man has not attempted to contact me once. It's been about 4.5 months. Every time I hear about friends who go through breakups, and how much better their ex's treated them, it breaks my heart again (for example, just texting to see what's up, offering to help with moving stuff, which is what a friend's ex did). I just feel like I got treated like the worst person on earth, for reasons I'm not clear about. I admit I was super stressed out during these times, but I didn't think I deserved that...

I don't know what to do now. I just can't seem to swallow what happened. I feel like I lost an entire potential life. Please help
posted by ladykitty5 to Human Relations (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Please use this time to take care of yourself and allow yourself to grieve. Seven months is a long time for a meaningful connection and, as you said, the relationship was very significant and serious and 4.5 months is rather short when it comes to moving on. I think you're doing everything "right": you're setting up a more independent life with new home and job, you're getting professional support, you're respecting your ex's request for no-contact. It sounds like the full sense of loss is really setting in now, which is an important step but so hard! Great insight can often be found among the pain, although it's not always clear immediately.

Sometimes trying to mentally disengage and focus on the future helps. However, I've found that allowing myself to be sad and feel the sense of loss for a certain amount of time is what works best in the long run. And, FWIW, I've had short relationships that took over a year to "get over" and I've had years-long relationships that took mere weeks to move on from. Keep doing what you're doing. I send you hugs and wish you the best of luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 5:15 PM on July 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

You are so much better off without that guy, what an awful way to break up with someone. That kind of apparently sudden change of heart is really hard to get over, and it's about him not being willing to communicate rather than anything being wrong with you, and you didn't deserve it. You did lose a potential life, and it's okay to grieve that.

It sounds like you're doing the right things to heal, it'll just take time. Are you up for getting out and doing things in your new city, either alone or as part of meetups? Staying busy and meeting new people will help you remind yourself that hey, there are lots of nice people out there and some of them like you fine as you are.
posted by momus_window at 5:17 PM on July 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

When I read about what you said to this guy and what he said to you, I can't help but feel he did a lot (whether intentionally or not) to undermine your self-esteem and self-confidence. The fact that you immediately went to shouldering all the blame or trying to come up with solutions for how to repair the relationship. Not once did it seem like this guy take responsibility for not communicating his needs with you, for letting resentment pile up instead of trying to resolve conflict. Instead he just comes out of the blue and breaks up with you (at least that's how the story reads) . is words would make anyone feel like they are a hopeless case, not worthy of love.
That's probably what's contributing to you inability to move on.

That's not true.

I strongly suggest you spend some time reflecting on what you want in your next relationship. What do you need to feel loved, respected, desired, secure? How do you want to resolve conflict? How would you want to communicate about things that are bothering you and how do you want someone to communicate with you? Know thyself, so you can share that with someone else and so you can truly identify when someone is able to give you that.
posted by brookeb at 5:29 PM on July 26, 2016 [18 favorites]

Your ex seems not to have had the best empathy and communication skills, and maybe has a fight or flight response to stress as well.

But consider that, whatever stress lead to the breakup, life includes stressfui things. If it wasn't this thing it would have been another thing down the road.

Give yourself time to grieve, if that feels right, or go out and socialize and have fun, if that's what you need. Give yourself permission to heal and feel good about yourself. You will get better.
posted by zippy at 5:29 PM on July 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

In my new city, he introduced me to his friends and family, and they kind of became my friends and family too. We spent all our time together, and he became my confidant. In retrospect, I was definitely a LOT co-dependent.

It sounds like your whole life kind of revolved around this guy. So, you likely lost a lot more than just a boyfriend.

Also, he claimed to love you, which is supposed to be forever, and he and his parents both spoke of a future for the relationship. If you weren't skeptical at the time and bought their song and dance, yeah, that's a major head trip.

And that's totally on them. That's not about anything you did. Some people irresponsibly play fast and loose with the L word and plans of forever. It's not healthy to do that to someone.

But I don't have any problem understanding why you feel the rug was pulled out from under you.

Start developing hobbies and friends of your own. Do not let another man take over your life so thoroughly.
posted by Michele in California at 5:31 PM on July 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

Try to turn this into fuel. You're *supposed* to lose a little skin in your early dating years, you're going to fuck up, and fucking up is a tremendous gift because failure is how we learn.

You can't be an expert at something if you've never done it before. Time will soothe the hurt, and it will turn it into wisdom, and you are okay underneath the hurt and you will be bigger and badder and stronger and smarter for it. Let it happen, think about it, journal about it, read about it, and let it help you develop better boundaries and alert systems and decisions next time.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:48 PM on July 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: What he meant when he said "you're too difficult" and "I don't like how you deal with things" was that he doesn't want a relationship where he needs to give or sacrifice anything for his partner's well-being or comfort. I'm sure he was totally fine with you for the first part of the relationship, when you were lavishing emotional and physical attention on him and, probably, not asking for even a fraction of that level of support in return. As soon you started to reveal your humanity, which is absolutely inevitable in any relationship and a true test of whether someone genuinely cares for you, he bolted because he probably doesn't want a relationship, just a female-shaped human to soothe him and prop up his fragile ego.

This is a very common type among men, especially young men, and you are so, so, so lucky that you got out when you did. Be thankful you did not end up in a longer relationship with this man. You would have made yourself smaller and smaller and smaller just so that he would give you the tiniest bit of affection, until the point that you, your personality and everything that is interesting about you, would be so small that you'd be erased entirely. And it still wouldn't be enough for him. You would still be "too difficult" for him.

When I've been in these situations, I find it is much more helpful to get mad rather than to be sad. Fuck that guy! He's a dumb asshole. You are so much fucking better than him. Write a letter you'll never send and say all the things you dislike about him but were previously willing to overlook: he has no lips or his shoulders kind of slope in that weird funny way or when he eats little bits of food spittle fly out of his mouth or how he says "for all intensive purpose" instead of the correct "for all intents and purposes." Find the ugliest picture you can online and one night get drunk and stare at it and remind yourself of how unattractive he is. Go on a hike in the middle of nowhere and have a mini ragefest and scream and cry. Just let do whatever you need to do to reinforce in your mind that this dude is a huge jerk. Because he is a huge jerk. Now, you don't want to go too far down the path of anger, so far that it takes over your life, or makes you an angry person generally. You just want to go far enough that you come to the realization that sometimes the only lesson learned from a break-up is that you need to wade through a lot of assholes before you get to the person who thinks you're amazing and is more than willing to make sacrifices for you happiness.
posted by scantee at 6:03 PM on July 26, 2016 [43 favorites]

Yeah, what scantee said. I'm sorry, but, this guy was a huge asshole and clearly not mature enough to handle a real relationship with emotional give-and-take. All he wanted was to take, and the cruelty with which he broke it off paints him as a cold-hearted selfish asshat. You may not believe it now but you are definitely better off without him.
posted by a strong female character at 6:18 PM on July 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

He may be an asshole or he may not, but he set his boundaries and if you want to be an adult, respect his wishes.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:34 PM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

So this is one of those comments that makes me wish I remember my sock puppet's credentials... that's probably a sign I should not hit "post answers". Anyhow, here we go.

Did you continue to contact him for two months after the break up or did you wait two months to reach out for the first time?
posted by phil at 7:25 PM on July 26, 2016

It hasn't been very long since you broke up at all. What you are feeling is completely normal. Keep taking care of yourself and try to get through each day. It will get easier.
posted by parakeetdog at 7:43 PM on July 26, 2016

I just can't seem to swallow what happened. I feel like I lost an entire potential life.

This is hard because you did lose an entire potential life.

One of the ways I make peace with bad times/bad individuals, be in any aspect of life, is to approach it like this: things can't continue to be bad if I am determined to learn the most from it. Learning means learning about myself AND the situation, not necessarily "blaming" everything on external factors or other people. For instance, in this case, I'd probably say that this guy, as honest and blunt as he is trying to be (bless his heart...) in telling you what was "wrong" with you, is also telling you indirectly what is very clearly wrong with him and who he is as a person: one who loves you oh-so-much till there is a conflict/difficult situation and when that happens, the best he will do is to bolt for the door and find someone else. In any conflict, both parties get to own 30% of the responsibility regardless of what its about. People who throw it all on others are not the ones on whose actions or words you want to base your worth upon. (I can really go on and on about this forever...)

The other silly thing I enjoy immensely (and I enjoy this so much that I almost look forward to it...and I use this for things other than break-ups too) is to listen to this. It makes me think of all the ways the other person did me wrong (because I tend to be too generous and forgiving, and forget my own self-respect and needs at times- not good!) and it just lifts my spirit because I refuse to feel sorry for myself or let people or anything else beat me down. Find something that resonates very strongly with you to lift your spirit, be it a song or something to do. Whatever works. And screw those rules about how long it should take. Your life, you make your own rules. You have to get through the forest to get to the other side but don't let it consume you in unhealthy ways. I am tempted to say that the best revenge is to live well, except that I think 'revenge' is not the right word...you can rise about wanting to get even. You may not feel that way now but you can. Finally, the fact that karma works, and often surprisingly swiftly, is a gentle reminder to stay true and humble.

I am sorry you are going through this, and I hope something here helps. *Hugs*
posted by xm at 8:19 PM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Forgot to add-

This is a very common type among men, especially young men...

Please note that this isn't restricted to 'young' men. Some in their 30s, 40s and beyond just manage to never grow up!

(I am sure this isn't a gender-specific trait either...)
posted by xm at 8:23 PM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

His reaction would be appropriate if you had say, thrown knives at him, or threatened him with violence, or slashed his car tyres. I'm assuming you didn't do anything along those lines, so now you're reeling because someone you thought was decent and caring and a good person is reacting as if you were abusive. Which is making you wonder if you were.

You're also mourning what could have been. Life was looking shiny and had all this potential, and now it doesn't. This is a hard break-up because the difference in what could have been and what is changed so suddenly for a reason you can't understand.
posted by kjs4 at 10:06 PM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I come from an emotionally abusive household and I was once your age, trying to escape from that background. I went through a couple of really similar breakups. Our tendency is to look for structure and stability in friends and loved ones that we couldn't get from home. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! I love the family that I've created for myself (versus the one I was born into.) But the trouble begins when you (or I) start putting all those structure and stability eggs into one basket, so to speak. You put all your eggs into this guy's basket, and now they're gone, and you're finding yourself living in a new city with no friends and no support and feeling totally alone, probably a lot like you felt when you were growing up. You need someone on YOUR team. (P.S. — *I* and on your team.)

What you need to do now is start the work of trying to build your new self-selected family. And you need to DIVERSIFY. You already know you have issues with co-dependency. That is so, so common in children of emotionally abusive parents. So you have to work every day to counter-act that co-dependency by trying to find a LOT of people who you can integrate into your new family. Sometimes that can be hard. You have to work to build and mantain relationships. You have to put yourself out there. But what you'll soon find is that a few friends lead to more friends, and the more people you know and love, the richer your life will be.

Try to find something social you can do that will allow you to meet a lot of people. Try not to jump into any relationship right away (romatic of platonic or otherwise). Now is the time to experiment with how you want your chosen family to look. Take your time. It's going to be hard for a while. But you can do it. So many of us have.
posted by Brittanie at 12:58 AM on July 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Part of the reason this is so jarring and maybe doesn't make sense to you is because, given the information you had, it really doesn't make sense. But you didn't have all the information. His version of reality in this situation was different to yours by design, because he was withholding information, not communicating, and presenting a certain version of your relationship to you. He didn't just dump you out of the blue--those things he cited that surprised you are things that he'd been thinking about but he didn't want you to know he'd been thinking about them.

Maybe this was by design and maybe it wasn't, maybe he wanted to control all the information so you wouldn't leave but he was free to if he wanted, but you asked why he didn't say something before and he gave you some ridiculous excuse that put it back on you. It's not on you. You cannot carry a relationship on your own. He needed to meet you halfway and it sounded like he all he did was reinforce that all was perfect. When you actually acted like a real person with needs, he freaked out and bailed. He behaved in a way that would have resulted in a breakdown of relationship with anyone, unless they did all the work in the relationship and attended to his every need without having any of their own.

Unfortunately lots of people are like this and it can be difficult to figure this out. I know it probably doesn't feel like it but you're likely lucky you got out as soon as you did. The relationship you thought you had is not the relationship you actually had. You deserve someone who cares about you in that they pull their own emotional weight and have compassion for you as their partner.
posted by Polychrome at 2:32 AM on July 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

"You're too difficult. We should probably just be friends, although honestly we wouldn't be able to stay friends. I don't like how you deal with things. I've been thinking about this for a while ... I just saw so many red flags yesterday, I'll never be able to unsee them."

"I mean, I'll give you your time, but I'm just letting you know, there's probably nothing you can do to change my mind."

"Good luck out there."

These are things he said. It's clear that he meant every word.

You're going to have to let go of anything related to how he did it or why he did it.

The fact of the matter is that it's history.

The question you asked is "How do I move on from this?" Rather than rewrite it, I'll link to what I wrote a few years ago. It's not a perfect fit for your situation -- the person I was responding to did have friends in her life -- but it's close.

You're stronger than you know. It is in this time that your strengths will begin to take on definition -- you'll see them, and know them, and you'll know what they are and where they are in future hard times.

I'm truly sorry you're hurting -- if I could carry some of it for you I would.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:35 AM on July 27, 2016

The only way I seem to be able to get over people that meant a lot to me, whether we broke up or they died, is to open myself up completely to the pain, to lean into it, to ache, to sob, to wail and bargain with a deity I have never believed in, to look completely and microscopicly at the open wound and poke it, and say, oh so that's what it feels like to lose you, while at the same time accepting and believing and seeing the impossibility of a healthy relationship inthe future - no matter how much I wish for it, or how much i would be prepared to sacrifice for it (hint: generally not healthy). Poke at the wound, feel the loss. Weep. Don't avoid the pain, don't mask it, don't cover it with chocolate icecream or alcohol or some nice weed. Lean into it. For however long it takes (and in my experience, if you are honest and brave, this bit takes just weeks, and then you move onto a sad, wistful, hurt that hangs around for an unspecified time but you can live - make plans - change things - be yourself ), for how ever long it takes, feel it completely. Feel rage. Feel despair. Claim to yourself that this is the only person you willfeel this strongly about, even while the back of your mind says "hang on, you will probably live another x years and you're ruling out a relationship better than this failed attempt where the person did not care about you as much as you did them?"

So yeah, my solution is to - not wallow - nothing so pleasant - but to allow yourself to feel every nuance of the unbearable pain. You are going to anyway. Get it over with as quickly as possible so you can start the next stage without hanging on.

I don't know if that makes sense. It does for me. Letting said person back into your life because they care and want to stay friends, however, does not help. Really. Don't ask why.
posted by b33j at 6:55 AM on July 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

This same sort of thing happened to me several years ago. We dated for about a year and were inseparable- probably co-dependent as well. We practically lived together, did everything together, I knew his family and he knew mine. I thought things were great and then all of a sudden (out of nowhere) he said all of these horrible things about me over G-Chat. Things I had no idea he even felt- how I was basically a horrible person, selfish, etc. etc. Then, he was done. No contact, nothing. I was absolutely stunned and devastated.

I'm not going to lie, it took me a long time to get over that situation. I was extremely depressed and just heartbroken that someone who I loved so much and who claimed to love me back, could say those things and just be done with me. But just keep in mind, that it has NOTHING to do with you and EVERYTHING to do with him and the way they handle closeness and conflict.

Just keep pushing forward- stay busy (the best you can). I know it will be hard. No contact is really the best way. And believe it or not, you will get through this. I barely think about that dude anymore and if I do, it's just to think about it in a weird nostalgic way. "Hey, remember when I was head over heels for that guy and how we broke up? Man, I'm glad that's over."

Hang in there, OP.
posted by Lillypad331 at 8:00 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

This guy seems not to have learned to solve problems with words. Maybe he hadn't felt great about other times you were in a bad mood earlier on, but instead of saying what he needed, instead just let it go. Over time, the irritation can build to a point where a poor communicator just gets fed up. I agree with scantee's comment that he has his own meanings for "You're too difficult" and "I don't like how you do things." He doesn't know how to say, "I'm sorry you're frustrated," empathize, and ask for a moratorium on complaints.
posted by wryly at 11:15 AM on July 27, 2016

OK, the soft love:

You're absolutely right to grieve both this actual relationship and the potential for it. It does not sound like he behaved very maturely, if he was just silently judging you all along and never bringing anything up so you two could work through it together. He might not be an asshole--if y'all just graduated, he's just young and dumb and probably not very experienced.

Now the reality check:
For the record, this man has not attempted to contact me once. It's been about 4.5 months. Every time I hear about friends who go through breakups, and how much better their ex's treated them, it breaks my heart again (for example, just texting to see what's up, offering to help with moving stuff, which is what a friend's ex did).

People are entitled to end relationships when they don't want to be in them. They are not obligated to contact you after a given number of months, give you another chance, help you move, or ever speak to you in any way again. It's not how everyone handles breakups, but it is a very common and completely acceptable way to handle them. He's not treating you like "the worst person," he's treating you like his ex.

Again, it's totally okay to be sad about this. But it's entirely normal, and it will most likely happen to you again.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:57 PM on July 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I'm new to this site, so I'm not sure how to respond to comments individually yet.

You guys have me a lot of great advice. As a few of you pointed out, a big reason why this is so hard for me is because I lost the large majority of my close connection with others. I don't really have anyone to talk to if I feel down (other than a therapist). I wish I hadn't depending so heavily on him in that way, but the reality is, when you don't want your birth family, you do a lot to try and create a chosen one. I guess the thing that hurts the most is that this guy knew all that about me, continued to tell me that he wanted to be with me forever up until the very last day, and still decided to end things the way he did, by disparaging me, and dropping off the face of the earth.

I know that I am not entitled to any ex's time after we're through, but I personally can't imagine not wanting to see if someone, particularly someone in my situation, was alive and doing well.

To those who asked about me making friends and whatnot - I have made a few new acquaintances. They're not close, but we've been out together a few times in the past month (they are all engaged, so..., and that always feels nice and refreshing when it happens. I've been volunteering at a local animal shelter, and I've been trying out various new forms of exercise. I also went on a TON of dates in the past 4-5 months. Nothing really panned out, but I did that too.

I am hoping I can move on soon. Every day I wake up and think of this guy, and it's taking up too much of my energy. I just wish the pain would go away.
posted by ladykitty5 at 4:33 PM on July 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

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