Advice for moving on
December 2, 2016 11:26 PM   Subscribe

How do I move on when I don't feel ready to? I broke up with my boyfriend 3 months ago and even though breaking up was the right decision, I can't seem to let go (snowflakes within)

I ended my last relationship because my bf was doing nothing but sit at home all day, all week (undiagnosed at the time depression) for 9 months while I was running my business, and I couldn't handle his lack of initiative/my lack of personal space. He is now getting counselling, going to meet ups and playing on a sports team but still unemployed and figuring out what he wants his life to be like. I'm happy that the breakup has spurred him into action.

Meanwhile, I know I made the right choice to end the relationship but am having trouble letting go of it as well. I have zero interest in dating anyone else for at least another 6 months and still feel like being with someone else would be cheating. I know I will be upset when he meets someone. I haven't let go. He was the kindest boyfriend I have ever had (after a history of not so good relationships), even through the breakup. We still chat on the phone every few days. I downloaded tinder yesterday just to have a look and it made me feel sad and gross. I didn't want to talk to anyone so I deleted it a few hours later.

At one point I told him we should stop talking because it was too hard to move on but I really missed talking to him and felt better when we resumed.

How can I reassure myself that I will one day meet someone as kind and supportive as him if I wait long enough? Part of me is scared that this is a one shot deal.

There is a hole in my life and I have neglected some of my hobbies so I'm going to try to engage more with those and socialize more but I'm not quite sure what to do with these feelings. (Previously I just jumped straight back into dating but really don't feel ready to this time even though my therapist said she thinks now would be a really good time as the rest of my ducks are getting in order)

posted by Chrysalis to Human Relations (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (To be clear - I want to spend a year being single, possibly being celibate, but I don't want to feel like I'm still half in a relationship for all that time - and yet I don't want to cut the cord)
posted by Chrysalis at 11:30 PM on December 2, 2016

Best answer: I'm sorry you are going through this.

The reason you are stuck in a limbo is that you are still talking to him. It seems you are still hoping he'll change.

My advice is to go no contact for at least six months. If he's right for you you guys will find back together at some point. Now both of you need time to heal.

There's a reason the No Contact Rule is a classic.
posted by M. at 11:34 PM on December 2, 2016 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Regarding your update

You cannot move on without moving on.
Extended, slow motion break-ups hurt much more in the long run.
A six month break won't break a good thing.
posted by M. at 11:39 PM on December 2, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Can I just say here how much I understand this dilemma?

I'm old, so I have been through this + I've seen friends go through this. Can I offer some solace here?

I'm going to suggest going no contact forever. Here's why: He is kind, yes, but he has not yet matched you in capability. He's only making gestures towards a level of adulthood you long ago mastered. I know that hurts because you care for him, but it's true. He's not on your level. He's not near enough, nor MOTIVATED enough, to make an adult long lasting relationship with you possible. He's not awful! He's just a poor match with lots of obstacles for you. Plus, you lend him a certain level of accomplishment with your approval that his effort does not earn. It's not in his best interest for you to stick around.

The hot second you drop this connection, you might maybe meet someone better suited for you. Drop this connection. Look forward, not behind.
posted by jbenben at 1:03 AM on December 3, 2016 [25 favorites]

Best answer: I don't want to feel like I'm still half in a relationship for all that time - and yet I don't want to cut the cord

You have to cut the cord or you will continue to feel like this. You CAN move on. One foot in front of the other, and fake it till you make it. I have proven this to work several times.
posted by Dolley at 5:58 AM on December 3, 2016

Best answer: Nthing that you need to cut the cord. It might even be kinder to *him* as well to spend some time apart, so that he can also move on. But primarily do it because it will help you move on.

Of course you will miss talking to him if you cut off contact, and of course you will temporarily feel better if you get back in touch. That's natural because he's someone you care about who has a lot of good qualities. But it doesn't mean that it is the wisest choice for you right now.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:10 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You aren't doing this guy any favors by keeping the notion in his mind that he could still win you back if he shapes up. It's only encouraging this juvenile behavior where he uses you as a mother figure. On the other hand, you may be using your relationship with him as a crutch because it feels comfortable and it's low-risk. It's far more scary to go out into the world looking for a new guy. You will deal with rejection and it will be frustrating at times. But it's more fair to both of your, frankly. He needs to have the carpet fully pulled out from underneath him so he can get his shit together, and you need to reappraise what you're looking for in a partner. This borders on cliche, but you really will have better luck deciding what qualities you want in a partner and then going out looking for someone like that instead of taking a person with their own issues and priorities and trying to mold them into what you want. People do change but only when they have to.

As far as moving on, there's a rule of thumb that it will take about half of the lifespan of the relationship to be completely "over it". So if you were dating for four years, it will take you two years to "reset" and feel neutral and distant from your ex. The question then is what to do with that time. Pick a goal and work toward it. This could be getting in shape or saving a certain amount of money toward a big purchase. The post-breakup period is painful but it's a potentially very generative time in your life because you have a lot of free time without the ex-partner hanging around and a lot of tension is defused by having the relationship problems all resolved in one fell swoop.
posted by deathpanels at 7:23 AM on December 3, 2016

Best answer: I think first of all you have to really truly want to move on - meaning that you want to close the last chapter and start a new one. You have to be firm and committed to this goal for this to work. Make a commitment to move on!

Trouble moving on
Set aside time to be a sad potato.

Clean breaks are way easier in the long run than sticky breaks. My favourite personal policy (this is controversial though) is to set a date 10 years in the future when I am allowed to 'reset' the friendship.

That gives me 10 years of free selfish career girl time to forget them and develop into the type of person I want to be in 10 years time. This works for me because it stamps out any possibility of romantic reconciliation (I probably won't be attracted to them in 10 years' time), but doesn't stamp out the attachment/friendship altogether. This way I'm not 'cutting the cord' I'm just putting it away, for later.

There are so many wonderful people who are waiting for you to bring your special brand of magic into their lives! Focus on those people for the next 10 years! Those people are wonderful too! Just as wonderful as your boyfriend (although in a refreshing and different way). Maybe just give those people a chance?

Fear of dying alone / settling for someone worse than this guy
Welll... Honestly, I don't want to BS you. This love business seems really random and unfair. You just have to follow your heart and our goals and see what doors open.

Maybe try and figure out what learned about relationships (to avoid repeating mistakes).

And our culture is weirdly obsessed with coupling up - I honestly don't think any of it should be taken so seriously. Just relax. You'll be fine.

Feeling like you have a hole in your life
Fill it up! Set goals and follow them! There is much more to life than romantic relationships. Have fun and lose yourself in big and important projects!
posted by Crookshanks_Meow at 8:52 AM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: How can I reassure myself that I will one day meet someone as kind and supportive as him if I wait long enough?

I think you have to accept that you might not. Maybe you will, but maybe you won't, and you have to come to terms with that. I have had many relationships in my life, and people are so different. With one, you might have a particular kind of great sex that you won't have with future partners -- sex yes, but not like that. With another, you might have amazing conversations, and you'll never have find a partner with whom you have as amazing conversational chemistry. It's really possible that your ex is the kindest and most supportive partner you'll ever have. But future partners will have other qualities that he does not. I don't think you can reassure yourself of something that may -- but may not -- happen ("one day I'll meet someone as kind and supportive as him..."). You have to accept this loss for what it is -- a real loss. I can't imagine it's possible to move on if you are trying to pretend it's not a loss, if you just think "I can replace him." Even if it was the right decision, it doesn't make it less of a genuine loss. He is gone. Mourn this. Accept the reality. I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by Clotilde at 9:16 AM on December 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: How can I reassure myself that I will one day meet someone as kind and supportive as him if I wait long enough?

You can make that a goal, and congratulate yourself for coming out of this with so much insight about what you want from a relationship. How much sadder if you spent that time with someone and felt like all you learned was what you didn't want! It says something positive about you that you appreciate and make kindness a priority, and that in turn will attract people who have those qualities.
posted by BibiRose at 9:54 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 3 months isn't very long when it comes to getting over the breakup of a significant relationship. When you're the one who initiated the breakup, there can be a reflexive sense that you should move on or bounce back faster, but it just isn't the case. You can understand that it was something that had to happen and still be completely heartbroken for a long time.

All of which is to say, sometimes there's nothing to "do" to move on faster or prove definitively that you'll meet someone else. Definitely resume no contact, as hard as that is, and do try to take up some activities or plans to fill your time. Keep going to therapy. Some or all of this will probably feel like going through the motions, and that's OK. Beyond that, your job right now isn't to try to crack the code of feeling better - your job right now is to just keep slogging. Try to be kind to yourself, try to treat your body well, and otherwise just grit your teeth and keep waking up.
posted by superfluousm at 10:16 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your sound advice. I followed it the following day and have been non contact since. I'm having to learn to deal with not feeling magically better, but rather, incrementally. I'm actively working on rebuilding my life and am keeping busy but not shutting off feelings of sadness when they come. I guess this is just going to take some time, and it's going to pass anyway, so I might as well keep myself amused while it does.
posted by Chrysalis at 4:34 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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