Getting over sudden breakup
February 9, 2017 2:53 AM   Subscribe

I was dumped a month ago by my long term partner. We were together for five years and spent the last year apart, long distance but committed. He dumped me out of nowhere and I am having trouble moving on.

I feel like I'm in Groundhog Day. Every day I wake up and hear the same song in my head, the one that went off on my alarm clock the morning we broke up, and I replay our last conversation, the one we were having on text message as I woke up before he dumped me via text unceremoniously. We were best friends (I thought) but he suddenly confessed that he felt horrible even thinking of moving in with me, and that the five years we spent together was a "huge mistake." He has our pets, but I'm not getting them back either - I've been posted at a job for three years (1.5 to go) and having the cats and turtle wasn't and isn't going to work, given my long hours. We had planned for him to move down to live with me after his post ended soon.

I am in my late 30s (woman), as is he. I'm too old to moon around after a breakup, but I can't stop thinking about my broken family. I'm spending time with friends, seeing a therapist, working out, and doing my hobbies, but nothing feels good anymore. The very thought of ever having sex with anyone else again makes me feel ill, let alone the idea of going on a date with someone.

I am depressed and feel hopeless. How do I get out of this rut? All I want is my life back. I would give anything to have five more minutes with my family. This is pathetic. Is the way out really only through?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Good grief, what a horrible way to be broken up with, no wonder you feel awful. I'm so sorry, and please accept as many internet hugs beaming over from here as you want.

When did this happen? If it was within the last month, you have every right to continue in disaster mode (nutella out of the jar, bad TV every night etc) for a few more weeks. Don't rush yourself - this is a gut punch, you've been emotionally winded, and you need time to get your breath back.

I've been there, and "I'm too old to moon around after a breakup" is not true - you can moon, cry, rage and pine, and do whatever you need to do to process it. You never get too old to feel loss, and when you're older you feel the loss of the companionship as well as the romantic relationship.

But for me, it helped to set a deadline for it. Say, give yourself one more week to really wallow. Then give yourself two weeks to feel sad but try and restart your routines, then two weeks to really work on your self-care. And so on. Do it little by little, and give yourself more time if you need it

One more thing. When I and my partner of 6 years broke up, I remembered the old saying of it taking one third of the time you were together to move on. That seemed like such a hopelessly long time back then, and it made me even more depressed. But in retrospect, I had started to move on within one month. Juuuust started. And within two months I felt it happening. And within six months, I could see him without feeling strange and sad afterwards. A year, and I didn't miss him anymore. And after two years, I was done healing, 100%.

It doesn't always happen so neatly, but it does happen, I promise. Hang in there. In the meantime, when you feel ready, see people who make you feel safe and loved. Go to places you've never been before, a town in the next county or a museum. Take nuts to the park and feed the squirrels.
posted by greenish at 3:24 AM on February 9, 2017 [20 favorites]

I'm so sorry that happened to you.

I think it's totally reasonable--totally *human*--to be bruised and to grieve after being betrayed with such callousness. It sounds like you're doing all the right things (friends, work, therapist, working out) and that's good. I think you just need to accept that it's going to be hard for a while and it will take a while to re-equilibrate and heal.

When I was going through my divorce, I had to attend a class for divorcing parents, and the presenter pointed out that when marriages are failing, people tend to go through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, acceptance). I looked back and realized, yep, I could see all those phases....and I started noticing them in other people who are going through traumatic situations.

I bring this up because when I read your post, I pick up a sense of disorientation, confusion--the Groundhog Day reference, the "I don't know what to do with myself" vibe. I think that cognitive short circuit feeling is typical of the denial part. I mean, you *know* what happened, but the shock is still so big and so hard that it all just feels scrambled and hard to understand for a while.

So, I gently suggest that stages of grief model as a likely road map of the territory you'll move through, going forward. Keep taking good care of yourself like you are, and let the emotional response unfold in the way it will, in its own time. As unsettled as you feel right now, it sounds like you are already on the map and traveling down the right road. It's just hard. Keep going.

Take care.
posted by Sublimity at 4:03 AM on February 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm too old to moon around after a breakup

I'm older than you, and I had a very difficult time with the breakup of a much shorter and much less serious relationship several months ago. You feel the way you feel.

It's okay to grieve. You lost a best friend, a lover, your pets, and your hopes and dreams for your life together - that's significant and you don't have to beat up on yourself for still being sad a month out.

Down the road: This may not be an issue for you, but rumination is a big problem for me. There comes a point - after the initial grieving period - when I'm able to shift my thinking if I try, but part of me still feels drawn to mulling over painful things as if thinking about them enough will result in some kind of resolution, which of course doesn't happen. That's when it's key to gently shift my thoughts to something better.

I recently read an article that said that distraction can actually be better for dealing with difficult feelings than focusing on the difficult feelings (unfortunately I can't find it now). So feel free to read or watch or do whatever you find absorbing.
posted by bunderful at 5:24 AM on February 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

He's keeping your pets? Wow, this guy is a major ass. Some people are great at pretending to be nice people and then showing you their true colors when they are no longer getting what they want from you. He is definitely not someone who would make a good life partner. You are so much better off without him and hopefully will see this soon and enjoy your new life.
posted by waving at 5:27 AM on February 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

he suddenly confessed that he felt horrible even thinking of moving in with me, and that the five years we spent together was a "huge mistake."

He could have been less of a bastard about it. He's made it hurt more than it ought to. It's fine to be upset whatever your age but be upset because of the betrayal of trust and because he was a twat, not because you think you're missing out on being with someone like this.

The very thought of ever having sex with anyone else again makes me feel ill, let alone the idea of going on a date with someone.

Maybe don't think about those things but instead of living a life without those things for now. I've always found it harder to get over people when I 'compared' prospective others to the person.

I think you're doing all the right things but maybe you're trying to feel too good too soon. I think this is as good as you can feel right now and that it's better to accept that (self-compassion). Soon, you'll start to naturally think of 'new futures' and be able to put things into perspective a little more.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 5:53 AM on February 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

Sorry, that sucks. It sounds like you're doing all the right things - a month is not a very long time to get over a five year relationship, so I think you can give yourself a break about still feeling sad.

It sounds like you don't have any contact with him, but you don't mention it specifically, so I just wanted to mention it - any talking to him now is just going to keep re-opening the wound.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:51 AM on February 9, 2017

he five years we spent together was a "huge mistake."

People say shitty things during a breakup and that doesn't make them true. I know that can be cold comfort at times like these when you're already hurting and you don't want to think about his feelings (nor should you have to!) but you don't have to take these sorts of statements as givens. Or, what I have done in the past is flip them and think "Wow, if that person was staying in a relationship they weren't into for that long, they have worse problems than me. At least I was all in and faced this relationship sincerely"

I think it's okay to be blue no matter how old you are. I think it would also be okay to have the turtle in your life even if you were working long hours. Or not, if that doesn't work for you. For me a lot of this is about staying distracted while I let the hurt ease off, and find other things in my new life that bring me some level of happiness.

So some of this is about "making space" for new enjoyments to come in. Not like actively seeking them but once in a while you'll find yourself being like "Oh hey I can go to this sushi place and order the squid because $EX hated squid and now this is a thing in my new life..." and you can put that it your pocket and eventually that pocket fills up.

I didn't want to have sex with anyone for a long time after my last breakup too, until I did. So it's fine to just table that for the time being. It can be useful to realize that some of this is your brain which enjoyed the oxytocin that it got from your relationship togetherness and there's a withdrawal aspect. I'm not an evolutionary bio person about a lot of things but understanding there's a chemical component to that bad bad breakup feeling helped me ride it out.
posted by jessamyn at 7:14 AM on February 9, 2017 [10 favorites]

Hey, let me just say this: I'm too old to moon around after a breakup
Unless you allow yourself to grieve the relationship, you'll never be ready for another one. Don't throw yourself into a doomed cycle of trying to date until you've mooned around about it long enough to have started to gain some perspective and healing. So you're never old enough to NOT moon around after a breakup.

I am always recommending The Grief Recovery Handbook, but for real, when I had a horrible disgusting breakup, it helped me a lot.

After my worst breakup, I spent a year not even thinking about dating, then I spent six months dipping my toes into the dating scene but not seriously, then meeting a really great guy with whom I had a terrific relationship for 8 years, and oh we met when I was 48. Not saying that will happen to you, but just to say, yeah, every damn time I've broken up with someone, I've done it thinking "well tough luck that's the last relationship I'll ever have," or "Well it sucks that I'll never have sex that good again but it has to be done" and every time I've been wrong.
posted by janey47 at 9:56 AM on February 9, 2017 [8 favorites]

I can relate a lot to what you've written - a few weeks ago, I felt very much the same after the breakup of a very long relationship. The intrusive thoughts, the numbness, the despair... I'm far from over the breakup, but I can say that I have moved to a very different place in a shorter time than I had expected. I wasn't able to focus on my work, felt anxious, completely miserable, and had panic attacks. As jessamyn said, there is a physical, chemical component to this, and this is the aspect that, for me, has improved drastically. And I think that for you, it will too - especially since you really are doing all the right things, as others have already mentioned. Talking it out helped me a lot, with lots of different people, over and over again. Journalling might be a good idea too.

Take care! And rest assured: this will take on many different forms in the months to come, but the pitch-black darkness of the first few weeks won't last. It really won't.
posted by Desertshore at 10:50 AM on February 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I feel for you. You can read my past messages. My fiance broke up with me out of nowhere after 8 years together. I am not going to sugar coat it, it is awful, but it DOES get better. I didn't believe it when people told me that. It has been a year and I still think about her and our relationship but it doesn't hurt like it did and I am ready to date again. I would have no contact at all. Zero tolerance. It really is the only way.

Keep doing positive things (gym, therapy, etc) and make an effort to be social and meet people.

You WILL get through this. I have awful OCD and obsessive thinking and I did. If I can, anyone can!!!!!!

Best wishes
posted by kbbbo at 11:21 AM on February 9, 2017

I'm too old to moon around after a breakup

Let this bit of self-recrimination go. Everyone has the capacity to feel grief, at any age. You've lost a relationship (in an incredibly callous way, I would add), and also a vision of future you had every reason to believe in. Please don't punish yourself for any of the feelings you're having now, and let yourself have them in the future. It's scary to go through a breakup like this (believe me, I know), but as impossible as it is to believe it now, the worst of it will start to recede.

Take good, warm, loving care of yourself.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 12:14 PM on February 9, 2017

he suddenly confessed that he felt horrible even thinking of moving in with me, and that the five years we spent together was a "huge mistake."
I am depressed and feel hopeless. How do I get out of this rut?

You put one figurative foot in front of the other, keep busy, and watch many comedies. Laughter heals. And think about how you luckily got out of the path of a very mean person. What kind of person says that?
posted by Dolley at 1:43 PM on February 9, 2017

A year ago (on January 4) my wife of 17 1/2 years and the mother of my five kids did something very similar. It wasn't via text, but it was out of the blue and it came with tons of horrible criticisms and accusations from her.

Worse, I learned after the fact that she had been planning on leaving me for several months and her parents knew about it and they didn't do anything to stop it.

It has been a year and I am still grieving. But it is much, much better than it was for the first couple of months. Hang in there.
posted by tacodave at 2:56 PM on February 9, 2017

Wow what a piece of shit.

A good way to get over this piece of shit is to remind yourself every day of what a piece of shit he is. If that doesn't work, imagine you're your best friend, and your friend's long-term partner broke up with them in the same way. You'd be telling your friend every day what a piece of shit their ex was and how much better off they are without them, because it's true. Not only a piece of shit, but a gutless coward to boot. And in his late-30s as well? Utterly immature. Text breakups are early 2000s teenager bullshit.

So an immature, gutless piece of shit. Yeah that would have been an awesome life...NOT! (sarcasm tag and poking tongue emoji) Also I guarantee he has cheated on you, which is why he has done this.

As for the pets - that's fucked up. I'm sorry that you feel (or perhaps have convinced yourself, or otherwise been convinced?) that you can't have some cats and a turtle because you work "long hours". In fact, to be perfectly honest, I think that is a cop-out on your behalf. Unless you live in a tent? Cats and turtles are some of the most self-sufficient pet animals in the world. I imagine you are home at some point during the 24 hours that constitute a day, and given that cats sleep for 90% of the day and turtles do pretty much the same thing except in water, I feel that they will be ok and will give you great solace and comfort.

Of course this is a big assumption and I don't know your cats or your turtle or your or your living situation, but...give it some more thought, perhaps?
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:41 PM on February 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wow, that is awful.

I'm just going to add to the chorus of I didn't believe it, and it took me a long time, but it does get easier. My relationship ended after 4.5 years with a somewhat shocking breakup (long distance, things weren't perfect, but he'd assured me he was in this for the long haul and we were working through it together). It took me 6 months to not wake up with a sinking feeling in my stomach, and to even vaguely start seeing other people as romantic potentials. Things kept getting better from there and I am so glad I am not in that relationship anymore, but it took time.

Stuff that helped me:
*Absolute no contact
*My mum's friend gave me this as a card and I made it the desktop of my phone for the first couple of months, I think it did cheer me up a bit
*I joined an online chat forum for people going through heartbreak just so I could talk and talk whenever I needed to even when my friends and family were (understandably) sick of hearing about what a rough time I was having. This could potentially lead to dwelling too much, but I think it helped me in that lots of other members of the forum were lovely- it normalised the experience for me and I'd have so much empathy for how much they deserved better that I could start seeing that in regards to myself too.
*Forcing myself to do things even when I didn't feel like it (being involved with the social life related to my studies at the time, going on a casual date eventually, doing an internship)

In regards to the pets- I'm not sure what country you're in but I've used this for my pet when I'm working long hours. I've found someone who is practically a neighbour with really reasonable prices to come around when I'm away and check on my pet and play with him for a bit. She lives in a sharehouse and likes the peace and quiet of my place and often ends up staying longer to study so it works great for all of us.
posted by hotcoroner at 8:56 PM on February 9, 2017

There's no reason a crushing heartbreak should hurt any less in your late 30s. Your breakup was sudden, after a long relationship and really harsh in how it was delivered. I'd be surprised if you felt any way other than terrible right now.

I was in that fog for the first two months after my recent (October) breakup. Nothing felt good. I couldn't even buy groceries or cook. I got takeaway every single night for weeks (when I could stand to eat) and binge watched 30 Rock. I chain smoked. I read philosophy to contextualise the pain.

And it kept feeling like that, until one day it felt a little less like that. Then a little less. Then one day, I found a tiny amount of joy in something like a nice cup of tea or a smile from a stranger. Then gradually joy in things I used to like.

One foot in front of the other, until four months later I almost feel like my old self again. The only way out really is through, doing as many kind things for yourself as you can along the way. Sending empathy and hugs to you right now.
posted by wreckofthehesperus at 11:25 PM on February 9, 2017

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