Help me kill the hope of getting back together
October 13, 2017 6:54 PM   Subscribe

A week ago, I broke up with the guy who featured in my last three questions. We both agreed that breaking up was the right thing. We haven't spoken since. I am really sad, of course. But I'm struggling to stamp out that little flame of hope that maybe everything will change and maybe he'll miss me so much and maybe we'll get back together and it will be better than ever before.

My rational mind knows we shouldn't be together. My desperate fight-or-flight-fix-it-at-all-costs mind has other ideas. Doing nothing feels so wrong. I've spent a lot of time researching attachment styles and coming up with grand schemes for how it can all be repaired. Drafting messages I won't send. Setting time frames for how long I have to hold out contact.

There are many good reasons why we shouldn't be together. Different needs in a relationship, different desires for time spent together, inability to communicate. Big stuff. To separate is to face reality and honour my desire to be in a more fulfilling relationship one day.

But the big void where the fun and companionship and affection and kindness and laughter used to be ... demands to be filled with these obsessive thoughts of getting back together. Damn, I miss him. I will continue to miss him.

Have you been here? Especially, have you been here with an avoidant partner who's probably fine moving on without you? Did you overcome these urges? Did you give in and end up in more pain?
posted by wreckofthehesperus to Human Relations (23 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Time heals all wounds. Try and keep busy until the feelings pass.
posted by ryanbryan at 6:59 PM on October 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

It seems counter intuitive, but it always used to help me to think that he just wasn't all that into me. That it was so hard and frustrating because he was just not super into me. That with a man who is actually very into me, things are a lot easier. So just let him go and let him be, he's not into you as much as you deserve someone to be into you.
posted by katypickle at 7:08 PM on October 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so sorry. I've been there. It's the worst.

I'm here seven years later to say that I'm happier than I've ever been, that I met someone five years ago who I fell in love with, who fell in love with me, who I still keep falling in love with and who still keeps falling in love with me. I'm not only happier in the love department, I'm happier with my whole self. I'm stronger now thanks to having had to deal with a relationship ending that I really, really thought I wanted to save. I got through it. And I feel pretty confident these days that I could get through a lot thanks to having lived through that particular hell. I'm grateful, too, for how that experience helped me to better understand myself as well as to see more clearly the person I wanted to be.

In the immediate aftermath of the breakup, what helped were the usual things: the exercise, the ice cream, the sleeping, the crying, the talking to friends, the getting lost in a book or a tv show or an album, the no contact.

Also, I really felt better once, ironically, I let myself feel awful. I sort of had to say to myself: "The only way out is through. This is just my lizard brain processing all of this, and so it's okay for to be miserable and sad and to want it all back. That's part of the process, a completely natural part of the process. I should probably let that process play itself out for a while before I take any actions (like trying to get back together!) or make any decisions and then see how I feel and what I think."

That worked, in the end. And I also learned that, as it turns out, now I like taking a little more time than I used to make decisions or take any actions. I feel like that was a really good thing I learned how to do from my bad breakup.

Hang in there!
posted by pinkacademic at 7:11 PM on October 13, 2017 [23 favorites]

The easiest way to do this is to delete his contact info and unfriend him on any social media. If you really believe you're going to need his information in the future, write it down on a piece of paper, put the paper in a box and give it to a trusted friend with instructions to only return it to you in an emergency that actually makes sense (like, you were bitten by a venomous snake and he's the only herpetologist within 100 miles with the right anti-venom). Keeping his info in your phone when you are vulnerable but know you shouldn't contact him is like going on a diet but keeping ice cream in the freezer just in case.

Take care of yourself, nurture your friendships, start up with kettlebells or ceramics or crosswords. Intense physical exercise like boxing can give you a break from your brain. Know that breakups suck and they suck more for some of us than others, and that's okay. If you haven't read the book Attached, read it - it will shed light on your relationship patterns and why this man is very unlikely to be able to make you happy, and what sort of person would be a better fit. It helped me understand that as a person with anxious attachment I struggle with rumination and grief for an extended period when relationships end, and this is something to accept about myself.

I've contacted many people post break-up and in some cases we've gotten back together. It's always been a mistake, extra heart-break, and a waste of time and energy.

I'm sorry, I know how much it sucks. Good luck to you.
posted by bunderful at 7:15 PM on October 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Your love and devotion were never going to change him, because people aren't projects. Put your creative talents to better use, take a bit of time to grieve, but do not get back together with him. Your last two relationships have given you so much information as to what's really going to satisfy you in a romantic relationship. Don't throw that hard-earned wisdom away.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:16 PM on October 13, 2017

Oh right - meditation and yoga also helped me a lot. I looked for easy yoga videos on youtube. It was comforting.
posted by bunderful at 7:22 PM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also: get your mind off all this. Go to the fair, eat some corn dogs or onion rings or whatever floats your boat. Distraction is powerful.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:23 PM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Promise yourself you'll have a very serious reconsideration of this fact

in six months.

Much like the promise I made to myself that I can start smoking again when I am 75, so that I am not a non-smoker but just someone who is not smoking for 30 more years, it helps. It really does.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:24 PM on October 13, 2017 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I'm you but in four months. It still sucks a whole lot. I empathize with your situation so much. If I were near you I would bring over ice cream and liquor. I think pinkacademic has excellent advice for both of us.

Feel free to memail me and tell me how much you miss him. I miss him, too. Tonight I made up a silly little poem about how much I miss him and finally laughed about it to myself, for the first time.

We're gonna get through this thing. We are.
posted by woodvine at 7:49 PM on October 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

Get on OK Cupid and just look. If you've answered a lot of the questions, you should get some decent matches, so go read some profiles and remind yourself that not only is he not the only man in the world for you, there are actually some who are much better matches. Some who are hotter, smarter, funnier, etc. Don't contact any of them (I mean, you can if you want, but it's not a great idea at this stage), just go look, so you don't feel so all alone and hopeless.

If you want, set your profile to "married", or just don't fill it out and don't post a pic of yourself, if you don't want people to be contacting you.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:51 PM on October 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

maybe everything will change and maybe he'll miss me so much and maybe we'll get back together and it will be better than ever before.

Think of it this way: do you know anyone this has ever happened to and it worked out in the end?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:55 PM on October 13, 2017

This is probably not practical, but I only started getting over someone I really truly was in love with (years ago now) after I moved into a new space. He left me, was never coming back (and in fact I never saw him again); we prolonged the inevitable with teary phone calls, promises to always love each other, etc. But it was over and I was the one who really had a hard time letting go. When I moved, it was like I left that relationship behind and now I could begin to get over it. I still felt it, but it was like a shift, a change in direction. The feeling was so distinct that I've never forgotten it.
posted by Crystal Fox at 8:04 PM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

In addition to the sage advice above, I have a question. Are you currently seeing a therapist? If not, this is the perfect time to put the time and energy into finding a good match. It's such a great way to take care of yourself. A trained, sympathetic ear can help you gain insight into this break-up -- and other relationships -- which can be so helpful. While the short-term of therapy can certainly be hard, the long-term benefits are amazing. (At least that's what I keep telling myself ha!) You're clearly smart and a thinker and counseling can help direct those painful thoughts into something ultimately positive.
posted by smorgasbord at 8:18 PM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Everyone here has it right. I am saying this as someone who at least tried to date or dated pretty much everyone I've ever dated twice (other than the ones who really didn't want to). I agree that this craving to be with a person after a breakup is classic of an anxious attachment style - it's the last, final, hangover style burst of desire in a relationship that was probably filled with unfulfilled craving.

So firstly, let's be real. I bet if you look over your romantic history you can identify a number of people who in retrospect don't seem good enough for you. I bet you cried a lot of tears over them at one time. The truth is though, you broke up with this person because you sensed there was a big component of the relationship that wasn't working. If you go back to them, you can drink the dregs of that problem. You can really get down to what the issue is that separates you from them. I have to admit that doing this can be interesting in a way, but it does not lead to the type of supportive and joyful experiences that a really good relationship does.

Right now, you are missing the joy and the light and the fun. You may even have compassion for this partner's bad sides and miss that. But if you get this person back, you won't just get the good sides and this flawed human being back. You will get THE TRUTH. And the truth is that they can not love you. They never will be able to give you that, because they were dumb. A dumb person. Feel free to go into specifics with your friends.

I think anger is an important emotion in this process. You are allowed to be angry, because we enter relationships with the hope of love. It's ok to be angry at being denied that.

It also helps to recognize that as shiny and special as a person may seem, everyone is sort of similar on the inside. Everyone poops, everyone is sort of boring and weird on the inside (much as you may feel that way on your worst days). The person you dumped may have special gifts, but so do many people in the areas that you admire, presumably. What made them special is the time you shared together, and you are allowed to grieve that. Nobody can take that experience away from you, actually. You are walking away a more experienced woman.

Don't contact this person. Go do a fun hobby and fill your brain with endorphins, go have some fun and be with people. If you have an anxious attachment style, you'll probably benefit from being around others. Don't jump the first next person you see, I love the idea of coolly assessing until you are ready.
posted by karmachameleon at 9:20 PM on October 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

You broke up. You feel unpleasant, bad, etc. Your mind puts a narrative on top of those bad feelings. "I can cure this bad feeling by talking to him." Many other narratives arise, to explain the unpleasant feelings, and how they can be made to go away.

There are times when you should take action to slake the uncomfortable feelings! This is not one of those times. You have to feel this unpleasantness. Try to focus your mind less on the words, 'if I called him, I would feel better' and more on the underlying feeling that you are thinking the words in response to. Where is the feeling? In the pit of your stomach? A knot in your throat? Tension in your brow? Watch the feeling. Does ebb and flow? Change over time? Is it permanent or temporary? More or less intense today than yesterday? In a different location today?

Feel this. If the words come, that's fine, but keep your attention on the feeling.
posted by Doc_Sock at 1:32 AM on October 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just seconding what pinkacademic says - there's no shortcut to feeling okay. When a relationship that you're invested in goes south, you WILL feel terrible, you WILL want to reverse course. And that's okay and normal. Give yourself permission to feel bad, set a timer in your head and wallow in the feeling. And then, once the timer runs down, you have to stop thinking about it. No cheating. For me, physical activity was the easiest way to feeling better. And a small but very good support system who were there to provide tough love and sympathy, as appropriate.
Hang in there. I promise you, it gets better.
posted by Nieshka at 5:47 AM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hi, I'm you in three months. Like you, I broke up with my last boyfriend because he was avoidant, afraid of commitment, and unwilling to give me any of the things I needed to feel safe and loved. We were together for two years, and the entire last year was miserable and damaging. I am not sure if I was an anxious attachment type when we started dating, but by the end I was definitely stuck in a pattern of trying to get him to love me and to be good enough for him and begging him to say something to give me some hope. It sucks - congratulations on getting out now.

The past three months have been up and down. We did not cut contact, because we said we would still be friends, and that was probably a mistake. There were many nights I wanted to call him to come over and talk, but I did manage to hold out. What helped the most was knowing, deep down, that he DID NOT CARE. I was sitting at home crying and thinking about him and loving him and missing him - and I knew that he was not doing the same. I broke up with him because I couldn't take his emotionally cruel behavior anymore, and his reaction was essentially, "Okay, cool."

If your ex is anything like mine, that fact will make you beyond angry for a while. There's something especially frustrating and infuriating about missing and loving someone who treated you badly, while they are just fine with losing you. It's a very tough pill to swallow.

Post-breakup, I have done the stuff you're supposed to do - go out more, take up hobbies, journal a ton, date casually, etc. The things that have really felt "good" to me is listening to a lot of breakup music (often the same things on repeat) and watching Netflix. The nice thing about Netflix is that it helps you turn your brain off for a while. And I'm no expert or anything, but I'm pretty sure that for me, the only thing that's going to help is just waiting for it to slowly be over. It helps to remind myself that this is a breakup, I'm SUPPOSED to feel bad, I'm supposed to be sad, and it doesn't mean anything. The feelings get duller. Some days I haven't thought about my ex for hours. I kiss someone new, and it's nice, and my ex feels less like the only person in the world.

Songs I liked listening to:
Shutter Island/Jessie Reyez
Figures/Jessie Reyes
Hard Feelings/Lorde
Time Machine/Ingrid Michaelson
New Rules/Dua Lipa


Hang in there, buy yourself flowers, hunker down. You'll get through it.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 6:20 AM on October 14, 2017 [10 favorites]

For me, there is a lot of truth in "the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else." If casual sex is something you enjoy, use it.
posted by metasarah at 6:31 AM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Came in to say casual sex. At least get on a dating app and look at other people. People who are sexy and interesting. Develop a low-key crush on someone and let them take some of your energy away from the ex.

Now (or in future days/weeks/months/whenever you're ready) is a really good time to hook up with sexy people. Sexy people with serious incompatibility issues, so you won't be tempted to get back in a long-term relationship.
posted by witchen at 7:47 AM on October 14, 2017

Best answer: Have you been here? Especially, have you been here with an avoidant partner who's probably fine moving on without you? Did you overcome these urges? Did you give in and end up in more pain?

Yes, I think most of us have been there and I know it's hard for you to believe right now but it gets better. It really does. We don't end up carrying fresh breakup pain throughout our lives. It sort of wanes over time and honestly, we just forget after a while.

You have a lot of good advice upthread and I would suggest to tell yourself this when you're in the throes of missing the good times: They weren't all good times; if it was a solid, strong, fabulous relationship, you would still be together. But it wasn't and there was nothing you could do during the relationship and there's even less you can do now. Breaking up with emotionally avoidant people can feel especially hard because let's face it; their distance was the reason it didn't work, and while we might want to imagine their regret and sadness, we can safely guess it won't happen and they're going to continue swimming through their relationships with minimal care.

But that's their lifelong burden until they get themselves put together, if they ever do; always being emotionally avoidant means their lives will always be constrained and narrow and not full of love.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 10:06 AM on October 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is not your first break-up; it's not even your first AskMe question about breaking up. Every failed relationship is a chance to refine what you need and want in the next relationship. In this one, you've learned that you need to be with someone less avoidant as well as [whatever characteristics you miss]. In this light, breakups, while sad in the moment, are actually good news: you're wiser now and free to be open to someone better suited for the long haul (if that's what you want) with you. So when the longing and sadness hits, journal/be mindful about what it tells you that you've learned and how the future will be better as a result.
posted by carmicha at 2:25 PM on October 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I keep reminding myself that romantic love is literally like a drug.

I'm super vanilla and have never had to recover from a drug addiction, but the metaphor works for me. "Of course this sucks, I'm in recovery. Of course I'm miserable, that's how this part goes. Yes, the addiction is telling me I just need to talk to him and that will make things better, and it may even come up with dumbass "reasons" I *really* need to get in touch with him. Those are all bullshit attempts at a hit and I will ignore them and get through this day, and then the next day."

And I just keep getting through sucky horrible sad day after sucky horrible sad day, trying to see friends and do worthwhile things and get my job done, but as long as I don't contact him I'm getting through it despite the suckage. And the days very slowly suck a little bit less. Until one day I realize I'm over it.
posted by bunderful at 5:46 PM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Do you have a good friend or group of friends who will agree to talk you down when you feel the urge to call your ex? It would be great to have that option, to promise yourself that you'll call them instead of the ex. Or even if it's a help line of some kind, to talk to someone else that will be a sounding board so you can hash out your need and your feelings and your emotions until you are done and you can go to sleep.

Do you have a counselor? Getting one right now might help as well. There's nothing like paying someone to listen to you and act as a sounding board, especially when you need to *feel* at someone so much like you do right now.

I've been here. I even went back. It was awful. (If it helps, emotionally and physically abusive awful, and I still went back because I was lonely and empty without him. Yeah.)

The only way out is through, and every day, hour, MINUTE that you push through, you never have to live through again.

Set up a schedule for yourself. Back in the days of no cell phones (she says, sitting in her rocking chair and knitting) I would call everyone I knew once a day until I reached someone to talk to. I would see if they wanted to do something that day. If not, I would chat with them for a half hour or so, and make my social connection for the day. If they did, I'd have a meal or a walk or something and hang out. Either way, I'd get out of my own head for enough time to feel sane outside of work.

It's not going to be easy. But do one social thing per day. Then allow yourself to escape. Binge your favorite show, or pick a new show that you've been wanting to watch. Watch your favorite movie over and over. Make sure none of these are related in any way to your old relationship. Make yourself feel better enough to get through it.

And just keep taking one more step. You can do this.
posted by knitcrazybooknut at 9:08 PM on October 14, 2017

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