Asking you guys so that I don't have to annoy my friends
February 6, 2017 10:26 PM   Subscribe

Am I going to be questioning breaking up with my boyfriend forever? Will I eventually just get over it or is there something concrete that I need to do? Is this normal?

History is in previous questions, but basically I broke up with my very loving and kind boyfriend 6 months ago because he had been unemployed for 9 months after quitting his job without making any real effort at finding new employment, and was also doing pretty much zero socializing or engaging in serious hobbies, and having someone in the house doing nothing all day, with no real drive to change their situation and no willingness to go to counselling was frustrating me, as someone with a lot of drive. The final straw was him indicating that he prefer that we didn't move to a residence above the place I run m business (which would have been a huge help to me) because "then I'd be at home all the time and he'd never get any space to himself" (!!!)

But with that said, I still think about him multiple times a day. I still puzzle over whether I made the right decision. I still miss him and love him and care for him. I know he's getting counselling now, and is depressed (duh). I know he's joined a social sports team. But we have now been no contact for 2 months. I've had mostly crappy boyfriends before so giving up on this one feels... weird, especially because this break up had always felt kind of temporary, until he gets his shit together.. This is the first relationship in years that I've found truly hard to move on from and I'd like to stop ruminating about it.

I still feel like it'd be cheating if I went on a date with someone else or kissed someone else. I'm still holding out on some level, and I wish I could magically stop that feeling. I don't want to get back together and I don't want to want to get back together. I want to be over it. But I still feel stuck.

I have started experiencing small crushes on other people and I feel guilty as hell about that in some ways, like it would upset him if he knew. Even writing this, part of my brain is like "oh my gosh if we get back together and he reads this question he'll be really sad!"

What do you think is going on? What should I do? How do I move on so that I can (hopefully) eventually have the sort of relationship I want?
posted by Chrysalis to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full.
Marcel Proust
posted by Kwadeng at 10:46 PM on February 6, 2017 [17 favorites]

I broke up with my deadweight boyfriends and got over them and years later I am not looking back in regret over my lonely life where I threw away my one shot at an ok relationship. I am looking at the [extremely graphic redacted paragraph] of a nude young [redacted description] that I am having casual sex and attempting to have a supportive relationship with.

You will get over it and happier and better and the guys will get hotter and less huge-drag-on-your-entire-life (ok I know he was depressed, but he was also a mopey selfish baby working against you, so fuck him). Seriously.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:46 PM on February 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Short answer: No, you will not be questioning this forever &, even after you have made peace with it, there will be times when you will miss him, wistfully look back on what could have been, and, depending on what is happening in your life or other relationships, might wonder what could have been **if things had been different**. Things weren't different, however, and I think you are doing exactly what you should be. It's a cliche and unhelpful answer in many ways, but these things simply take time.

Longer answer: I took a quick look at your past posts but didn't read them in depth because I trust that you know what is best for you, even when it is difficult, and this was a clearly a carefully thought out decision. Some people say that mourning and moving past a serious relationship takes half the time you were in it. It sounds like this relationship lasted 18 months or so, give or take. So, by those calculations, it will take at least 9 months to move on from this relationship. Since we're all different, I don't think math can be so neatly applied to something so personal, but, in my own experience, that formula seems to fall in line with my own process, even long before I heard that factoid. When I think back to my most serious failed relationship, which lasted about 15 years on and off and was full of good moments and bad, I am at peace that we are both better off & felt that way long before I met my current partner. Are there times I miss him? Sure! Do I ever wish things had evolved differently? Yes, because when it was good, it was fantastic BUT it didn't bear out over time. Does he pop up in my dreams unwantedly & unexpectedly? Unfortunately, yes, but when I wake up, I have no desire to go back. I'm happy where I am, first as a single lady & now as someone in a committed, rewarding relationship. So, you will find peace and you will move forward, but it will take some time. I wish there was a quicker fix than that, but I don't think there is. Live your life, allow yourself to be sad and/or wistful when you need to be, but keep investing in yourself & your future. Eventually, you will be fully ready & eager for a new relationship, which will satisfy your needs in ways your old relationship did not. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 10:51 PM on February 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

What is going on, is that you have become attached to this person. Human attachment is a powerful thing. What is also going on, is that you miss the good parts. Who wouldn't? If there had been no good parts, you would never have entered a relationship with him in the first place.

Second-guessing yourself after a break-up is pretty common. It happens for me 99% of the time (the one time it didn't happen was when I waited way too long to break up and I sorta grieved it fully before it happened).

Thing is, if you went back now, you wouldn't be starting from scratch with new relationship energy. You would, very soon, fall back into your old relationship tracks. Because they are like deep grooves for your relationship wheels. It might also make it more difficult for HIM to change. Grooves and all.

You need to fully grieve and fully let go. Sometimes people do come back together but if you do it now, it's not going to lead to lasting change.

You can let yourself be sad and miss this person without going back together.

Hugs, if you want them.
posted by M. at 10:52 PM on February 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

You know what sex is: it's instant.

You know what marriage is: it's a long drag out raising up a baby boy into a man while you forget about yourself for about 35 years.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:55 PM on February 6, 2017 [17 favorites]

You can let yourself be sad and miss this person without going back together.

So true. I broke up with my partner last March. It was painful. We'd been together nearly 4 years. He was a really great guy. He did not have the problems that your sweetie did. And yet, I needed to be single. It was time for me to move on and grow some more and I couldn't do that in that relationship, which was just great mostly until it wasn't.

I still think about him, I still miss him, and I still wish him all the best. Those feelings of sadness have gotten fewer and fewer over the months. I'm not sad anymore, just kind of wistful. Even as I know that I did the exact right thing for me. And for him, because he is a seriously great guy who deserves to be with someone who's wildly enthusiastic about being his partner.

I used to ask my therapist why we didn't get a fast-forward button so we could zip through the uncomfortable feelings that dog us as humans. But we don't. Denying the feelings doesn't work. The best way out is through the discomfort. If it gets too hard, distract yourself for sure. But seriously, miss him but don't second-guess yourself. You absolutely did the right thing. That's hard and that's painful but it doesn't make it any less right.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:59 PM on February 6, 2017 [9 favorites]

#1. You are either in or out. Sitting on the fence hurts both you and him.

#2. You and he sound young, without a lot of experience - him for just up and quitting a job, and you for worrying whether that is a valid reason to end/keep things and rubberbanding across both sides of the fence.

#3. Mistakes when you are young are ok. There is a lot of ground you can make up.

#4. Sitting on your butt after a job sucks the life out of you is sometimes necessary. 9 months worth does seem excessive. Is he actually sitting on his butt, or did he try to get back in the workforce only to be discouraged and disenfranchised?

#5. You can control you. You cannot control him. When the tough gets going for him, it seems like he curls into a ball and stops moving forward... unless you are leaving out some details and/or he isn't telling you what he does with his time.

#6. Partnerships, for instance - marriage, are not 50-50 all the time. They will average whatever you and your partner believe is fair. Sometimes you will carry him, and sometimes he will carry you. And that doesn't just mean financially. So sometimes, getting stuff done around home is worth the financial discrepancy. Or, maybe one of you is playing Mr. Mom... Anyways, as I said - it isn't always 50-50... and that means if he's content with 70-30 with you being the provider and you aren't, it is okay for you to help him right the balance - maybe financially isn't possible at the moment, but your toilets had better be spotless... If he isn't meeting you half way, or has worn out his grace period of non-50-50... then yeah... that's a problem.

#7. What constitutes a serious hobby? 13th Century Mongolian Yurt Design? Rebuilding post-neolithic gardening tools? Practicing Guitar? Serious amounts of drug use? If you don't like how he spends his time now, you likely aren't going to like how he spends his time in the future. Also, that is his time, unless it is your time together... and in that sense, as long as he isn't actively killing brain cells, feeding an addiction, or injuring himself or other living things... his time is his time... But, if his time means you and he don't have time, or any shared time... yeah that's a problem. Madden '17 has never been the quintessential skill I've looked for when hiring someone, and my wife didn't look for me to be skilled in Madden before we got together...

#8. Don't yo-yo him and don't yo-yo yourself. You've been not seeing each other for 2 months. If he really hasn't gotten his shit together in two months, well - then he's still got growing up to do to match where you are in your state of life. Hugh Grant in 9 Months is a dick. It takes him 9 months to quit being a man-baby and decide he's going to be a dad... Even Seth Rogen in Knocked Up makes more effort and does more to be a better partner and father...

#9. Dating a bunch of jerks, and then dating a depressed sweet guy does not mean you have reached the end of the dating pool. There are other options. Ask your coupled friends... are all their boyfriends jerks or mopey depressed sweet guys? If they are - wow. But likely they've got a whole list of other problems that you haven't even gotten to experience yet. And eventually, you'll find one that you click with... or you won't - and you'll be ok with that. Either way , don't limit your options.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:00 PM on February 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I could have written this myself, plus or minus a variable or two. You know you made the right desision to end things. That doesn't mean that it hurts any less. Nothing that anyone can say will help you move on sooner, or convince you that you have made the right choice, but time is the ultimate healer. The most helpful thing that someone told me was that even though we were great together, my ex was too depressed and felt like he didn't deserve me.
It takes two to tango. There is nothing you can do to "fix" someone who wasn't willing to. Get help for their depression, and tried to drag you down. Sometimes because of that the relationship feels doomed and you get attached in a way that feels exciting, but is ultimately unstable and unhealthy. Look, even though your ex is now in therapy, and let's say he gets a fulfilling job, and his life looks great on paper, you can't expect him to change so much in 6 months, or even a year. Holding on just makes things worse (I know from experience). The best way to move on is to keep yourself busy. Are there things that you like to do that he hates? Take yourself to the movies and pick a film that he never would have gone for. Volunteer. Join a book club, or a running group, or whatever floats your boat. Don't do it in the hopes of finding a romantic connection, just get out there and remind yourself of all of the great people out there that you haven't met yet. It's really easy to focus on and romanticize the past, sure, but that doesn't mean that the present and future won't have even better things in store for you. It's a new year, put focus back on yourself, and know that you are better thriving on your own then letting someone drag you down.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 11:14 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is totally normal. This works in your brain the same way a habit or daily routine does - eventually you'll get over it.
posted by jbenben at 11:21 PM on February 6, 2017

It's easy to mistake the familiarity of a person with something more akin to wanting/desiring them and it's also quite common to romanticise past relationships because the good bits are often the parts you stick on a pedestal.

Add to this, your description of him as best so far but not spectacular isn't exactly making me think you're wise to settle for less than someone truly compatible simply because he is comparatively good when standing against a bunch of dudes you didn't care about.
posted by TheGarden at 11:36 PM on February 6, 2017

Breakups suck but Future You will be very glad you broke up with someone who wouldn't make a good long term partner. Future You will likely wonder why you didn't do it sooner.
posted by emd3737 at 11:52 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

You are remembering him as the person he was, not the person he had become when you broke up with him. Remind yourself of this periodically and it should help ease any second-guessing you do about the breakup.
posted by Mr. Fig at 7:04 AM on February 7, 2017

Yes to Mr. Fig's insight. I think it just comes down to the fact that you still care for him a lot! And that's totally fine. You describe him as very loving and kind, and it is easy in retrospect to gloss over how they made you feel w/r/t the everyday minutiae. I find I don't often carry the negative impacts that people have made on me; I mean, why would I, really, unless it were pragmatic for me to do so? Therefore you feel guilt: you are giving him the benefit of the doubt on what was otherwise a positive relationship.

You are going through the last throes of detaching, and your brain is scrambling. You're trying to resolve what all of this means, retrospectively, and whether it is a good idea. All of this makes sense, yes. Here are three things you need: more time to heal up; experiences that involve awe, or otherwise totally-involved brain-states; and trusting yourself to start small. You'll naturally play with the ideas of moving on until it becomes real. And accepting yourself right now means accepting your own power of growth.
posted by a good beginning at 8:16 AM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Move on.

If it seems as though he's getting his life together (finally), then perhaps it wouldn't be kind to reestablish a relationship in which he didn't do so well. I'm not suggesting that you are in any way responsible for his previous troubles--they were his ruck to carry.

You don't have to burn any bridges. Keep the fond memories. Let time do its work.
posted by mule98J at 11:26 AM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think this totally makes sense, given your history! Breaking up with someone -- particularly someone you still have affection for -- is difficult; to psych yourself up for it, you often spend a while focusing on the person's frustrating qualities. Then, a few months after it's over, there's this sort of... delayed fondness. Because now that you've done the hard work of ending it, you're allowing yourself to remember that it wasn't all like that.

It always helps me to redefine this phase as not some secret, special sign from the universe that I should get back together with my ex, but rather the totally normal, sad feeling of missing someone you're fond of, even if your relationship isn't something worth investing in further.
posted by attentionplease at 7:38 PM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Give yourself some love and some time; you've had a full attachment with another human being, and that's no small thing in life. Like the other commenters above, I feel for you right now in your moment of pain, but really want to tell you that this is normal and ok. Give yourself a couple months, even a year, then revisit it; and definitely do allow yourself to feel those crushes.

There are many marks of adulthood, but one in particular is learning that you need to love yourself just as much as you love your partner. That means taking responsibility for and prioritizing your own needs and desires just as much as you do theirs. You were clearly not getting anything out of the relationship, and he was taking a disproportionate amount from you... You don't have to be with someone who is really terribly wrong in order to realize that they're not really right, either.

That doesn't mean the pain is easy, nor that you won't regret it at times; but your decision was strong and purposeful, driven by your desire for more in life. That's important, because people are often motivated by one of two things: fear, or desire. You need a healthy dose of both, but overall people who are driven by fear tend to lead lives filled with regret, and end up saddled with the problems they were running from the whole time.

In this case, you acted out of desire for something better, and faced head-on the fear of being alone. You are taking responsibility for what you want in life, willing to risk pain to get there, and are actively taking steps to better yourself and your situation. Very strong, very wise, and eventually it will get you a partner who just knocks your socks off. You're really doing great, trust me.
A tip for coping when it gets bad: write out every problem you had with the relationship when you were with him; dig deep and really remember every time he really pissed you off, every small fight you had and everything that ever drove you crazy about him. The process sucks because it requires some serious emotional mining; you might find yourself on the verge of breaking the pencil, or just crying. But buckle through and be super duper thorough.
Once you've done that, you have a new tool. Whenever you're really feeling sad about the whole thing, go back to that list and reread it. You'll find yourself re-experiencing the anger or frustration you felt in those moments, and you'll remember why you made the right choice.

This trick worked wonders for me when I was trying to get over my 5 year relationship with someone I thought I was going to marry; similar to you, I broke it off when he asked me to uproot my entire career in New York City to move back to Seattle and live in his dad's basement (Are you effing kidding me?!?!)
He is truly a great guy, very kind and loving (I was really in love with him, truly. One of the most giving and kind human beings I've ever met), but that ain't enough for me; I wanted someone who was driven and had their own life going on, in addition to being sweet, considerate, and kind. I'm now engaged to a guy who I am just totally crazy about, and in a faaaaar better/healthier relationship.

Don't judge yourself too harshly for thinking about him in the first place, that just means you really loved him. But love ain't enough in life, we want and deserve partners who give us life, who push us and make us happy.
posted by anon7 at 6:26 AM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

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