Can a couple reunite from a long term break?
January 29, 2008 8:30 PM   Subscribe

Can I get over my ex while still retaining hope that we might get back together someday?

My girlfriend of four years broke up with me last month. I think I have suffered through the worst of the withdrawal, but I still think about her constantly and hope that if I give her space and time, she might come back to me. We were together through all our college years, and overall it was an extremely positive and supportive relationship. I know I'm young, but it's hard to imagine life without her. She made me feel secure, confident, and happy-- and until recently I did the same for her.

The problem is that neither of us have had much prior dating experience. This was an issue for me two years back, and I initiated a short "break" before she went to study abroad for a quarter. After she returned, I realized the folly of trying to suspend a solid relationship just to chase other girls and we got back together. My commitment issues have since abated and I over these last few years I have been very content loving and confiding in this one special person.

At the time, she didn't understand my desire to take a break, but now the tables have turned and she is the one who needs to be single. Over the last year she has become much more adventurous, socially active, and extroverted than I prefer to be. I always placed great trust in her and felt confident in our bond, but that confidence was shattered last month when she said we needed to take a break so we could each sort out our future. Over the following two weeks I poured out my heart to her, hoping to mend the mistake of not talking openly enough with her about making a post-college life together. When I asked her to clarify our status she disclosed that the "break" was more of a "break up."

I realize now that this isn't about her sorting out her future so much as avoiding the future. She said that she felt the only next step for us was marriage and that she is still years away from being ready for that. Apart from her guilt over hurting me, she admitted feeling relieved to be out of a relationship. She's out having fun with her friends and enjoying the excitement of being available. I'm pretty sure she wants to meet some new guys and experience some fresh attention, though I doubt she's fishing for anything serious. This is all very hard for me to deal with, but I have desired other women before and I understand why she wants to be single: I am the only guy she has ever been with and she has attained a sexual confidence in herself that she used to lack.

The problem is that I still love her very much and the rejection is hard to take. I know that the only way for her to mature and for me to heal are for this to be treated like a total break, but I really don't want to lose her from my life. I don't know if her desire for independence will pass like it did for me or if she has truly outgrown me. Is there a chance that her emotional perspective will change and she will want to get back together? If that chance exists, what is the best way to for me to deal with this situation? I know I can't spend a year waiting for her.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Nope. Sorry. Don't feel bad if you can't take this advice yet. Only people who are over the pain of breaking up can think about it rationally.
posted by bluejayk at 8:43 PM on January 29, 2008

Christ. I could swear that I wrote this 4 months ago. This describes my situation almost to a T (we were together for 5 years). Believe me, I understand the state of shock and hurt you are in.

My best advice is to move on. Tell her you would like to maintain friendship in the future, but that you need some time to get past it. You'll contact her when you're ready. Call her when you're ready. Friendship is not guaranteed.
posted by ThFullEffect at 8:44 PM on January 29, 2008

No. You are only fooling yourself. I went it through it too. Go meet someone new. Avoid your ex if possible.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:47 PM on January 29, 2008

I know that the only way for her to mature and for me to heal are for this to be treated like a total break, but I really don't want to

You really have to, and you know it. Good luck.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:48 PM on January 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'll be the first to admit that I'm probably not the guy you'd want to ask (poor luck in love, much of it my fault). That said, my perspective is thus: She let you go to do her thing. Do your thing. If she comes back and you're in a place where going back to her is attractive to you, do it. If she comes back and you find yourself involved in a satisfying relationship with someone else -- well, that's your choice to make, and I don't envy you it because it won't be easy, or pretty. But don't just wait. I imagine that's a one-way ticket to "I'm really bitter," particularly if she doesn't come back. That said, don't force yourself into new relationships or anything. Be open to life. I imagine it'll be a few months before you're really up for dating if this last relationship was as serious as you say, so just let things evolve and see what happens.
posted by Alterscape at 8:50 PM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Since she's the one that broke up with you, I'd just try to move on. If she has any interest in a romantic relationship with you, she'll pursue you. I'm not advising you to cut her off entirely, go ahead and talk to her if she calls, etc. I would advise against zealously pursuing friendship because at the moment that's not what you want and not something either of you are ready for. In a few months, you may or not be ready to be friends. In a few months, you'll be a different person whether it sounds likely or not, and you should be prepared for where that may take you.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:10 PM on January 29, 2008

Try to move on. Even if you might get back together with her, it's not going to happen as a result of anything you do. She's going to have to decide for herself she wants you back. But, generally, I agree with what others have said - try to avoid her as much as possible.

There's someone even better than her out there and your new mission is to find her.
posted by kpmcguire at 9:15 PM on January 29, 2008

Sometimes breakups like this are fixable. Usually, once the horse gets out the barn, it never comes back. It's harsh, but true.
posted by growabrain at 9:18 PM on January 29, 2008

It sucks man, we've all been there. It's only been a month though, the constant thinking/longing will abide. The descendants song "here with me" about this ends "Keep working, Stay busy, don't think about, her"

I think it's possible accomplish what you've asked, keeping positive about yourself, and your attitude about your ex, while working on personal growth, and giving her loads of space MAY help make it more likely. The thing to remember is it's sufficiently out of your control now, all you control are your feelings and perspectives about the situation.

Another thing to remember, is that you're literally going through withdrawal for the dopamines and endorphins being with a loved one provided. It's like rehab, which is supposed to be healthy and painful. The cool thing is that when you get back on the wagon you're tolerances will be back to 'light weight' and you can enjoy getting intoxicated at that level again...where you just giggle get hungry and,,,
posted by oblio_one at 9:37 PM on January 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've often said that a broken heart is like any broken bone: STAY OFF IT. If you put additional pressure on it, it will get worse, and the chances of it healing completely decrease significantly.

It's pretty much a certainty that you will have to get over it. You can do it now, or you can do it in five months -- after sinking into an even deeper funk thinking about her for weeks on end, or engaging in some reckless activities you normally wouldn't do in an attempt to compensate, or doing something desperate to try and win her back only to ruin your chances at even a casual friendship, etc. I've been there, and the end result can be far more damaging than the initial breakup. The sooner you make this break, the better off you'll be in the long run. You know what to do, and why, and how. Do it now.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:40 PM on January 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

No. This has been another edition of Simple Answers To Simple Questions.


"if I give her space and time, she might come back to me."

Yeah, she might, but she probably won't. And as long as you are clinging on to that unlikely outcome, you will not be over her. That is what being over someone means - not caring that you are not together with them. To entertain the hope that you will be with some and yet be over them is by definition not possible.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:41 PM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Can I get over my ex while still retaining hope that we might get back together someday?

Not really. On the other hand, you can move on. When I've been through really sad breakups where we both still cared about each other but just couldn't usefully make a relationship work, I've always had a sort of long view and a short view. The long view was something like "Well maybe the world will change or we will change and then we'll be right for each other and then there's a chance of reclaiming some of what was good about this without the crappy parts" and then there was the short view which was like "Go out and DO SOMETHING because change doesnt happen when you're sitting at home moping. The relationship is OVER and now you have your life back. Do something with it."

So, it's not quite the same advice as the other folks and I don't think my approach works for most people but in many cases, I've dealt with the short term pain of a breakup by saying [to my ex, or just to myself] "Maybe we can get back together in five years." I always find that by the time a few months or years have passed [I've found the "1/3 rule" works well here, that it takes 1/3 the length of your relationship to be completely truly over someone] the whole idea of getting "back together" seems crazy and totally not something I would want in the slightest, but sometimes making myself just not think about it "until later" means that when later comes, I don't care as much.

You will find ways to feel secure, confident and happy with other people or just with yourself. This breakup is difficult but your ex seems happy with her choices and feels that she has broken up with you. Whatever you need to help yourself move on -- even knowing that time is really what this is going to take most of all -- is what you shoudl be doing.
posted by jessamyn at 9:59 PM on January 29, 2008 [10 favorites]

Nope. By definition, being over someone means you no longer have the desire/expectation/vain hope of reuniting.

You were together for four years. It's going to take some time to get over this -- serious, serious time, and nothing else. Trying to figure out some middle-ground whereby you can be over her AND retain the possibility of getting back together (i.e., not actually be over her) falls somewhere between the denial and the bargaining stages of grief. I've been there -- oh lord, how I've been there -- and I know it hurts like hell. You have my sympathies.
posted by scody at 10:00 PM on January 29, 2008

Can I get over my ex while still retaining hope that we might get back together someday?

Default condition of the universe.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:30 PM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Guh. Supporting a friend through an extremely similar thing right now.

The thing that's seemed to help him most so far is remembering the last time they split up (initiated by him, about a year-and-a-half, but seeing each other occasionally). It was a really difficult time, but it was also a time of taking some big risks and strengthening other relationships. He bonded with male friends, learned new skills, traveled, dated several very different people. Set goals for yourself. Follow whims. You'll have to be vigilant--remember that you're doing this for yourself, not to win her back. But do things. Worry less about predicting the future (I know, easy for me to say), and just make it one day at a time, going forward and trying to make your path exciting a little bit at a time. Focus on growing.
posted by hippugeek at 10:39 PM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

it's like removing a band-aid.
you can do it fast or slow...but that thing's gotta go.

may I offer one more simile?

I just made that up, actually. Take some time, cry, DON'T EAT EVERYTHING. Know that, right now, I am sending you a huge hug and several hours of sitting over coffee with you, the way i do with my ex-students when the same thing happens to them.
It happens to EVERYBODY.
posted by flowerofhighrank at 11:44 PM on January 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

No. Well, that one was easy to answer. More seriously, you're only a month into the breakup mourning period. You've got a ways to go.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 12:18 AM on January 30, 2008

Can I get over my ex while still retaining hope that we might get back together someday?

No. Next question?
posted by tkolar at 1:15 AM on January 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Can I get over my ex while still retaining hope that we might get back together someday?

Speaking as a person in the same shoes as you, my experience has been a big fat negatory.
posted by at 1:56 AM on January 30, 2008

Frankly, I think you should attempt to win her back. Seriously.

It won't work of course. She's sorted out her future, decided you don't fit in it, dropped you like a lead weight and is now running towards her future with open arms, while contemplating how nice it would be to fuck someone who is NOT you.

If you try to win her back or wait for her, you'll be in constant pain and distress. You'll wind up looking and feeling like a fool. It'll be the most emotionally painful time in your life and you'll miss out on all the hot chicks who want to jump your bones and in a six months to a year, you'll be so drained and demoralized you'll want to curl in the fetal position.

Meanwhile, she still won't want you back, in fact she probably actively hate you. But by then you would have learned an important lesson: Life is short and when somebody says they don't want to be with you, then they don't fucking want to be you and you need to move on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:20 AM on January 30, 2008 [4 favorites]

I know I can't spend a year waiting for her.

It's possible that after a year she may want to get back with you, but if you have spent a year "waiting for her" (ie not dating new girls, not going out much, generally staying at home moping) then you will probably be much less attractive than if you try to get on with things and see where it leads.

If you wait for her, in a year's time she will have moved on and will look at you and see somebody who has done nothing with himself for 12 months, and as a rule, this is not an attractive trait.

If you get out there and meet new people, do new things then a) she will see you are capable of being out there on your own and b) you might actually meet somebody else and the ex will seem much less important.

I'm not saying, do things and you will get her back, but I think not doing anything pretty much rules it out. And by doing things new avenues will open up to you, and who knows where you will both be in 12 months.

Disclaimer - I'm in a similar position, and am not actually doing any of the things I'm recommending you do (yet), but God knows I need to. And I will. Promise. But it's hard. I miss her so much.
posted by jontyjago at 6:37 AM on January 30, 2008

I think I have suffered through the worst of the withdrawal

After a month? Nope. This is going to be rough going, and you shouldn't rush it. You've got to take care of yourself. Cry, yell, etc., and then make new goals for your life without her like jontyjago said.

With my last break-up, it took me 6 months to feel ready to face the world again, and we had only been dating for a year and a half. Give yourself time.

After 7 months, I got back together with my partner (a huge surprise!), but I had gotten to a point where I was ready to date other people. I think the fact that I wanted him but I didn't need him made all the difference. But you've got to let her go to get to that point.
posted by heatherann at 7:02 AM on January 30, 2008

If she's not back in two months, then give up. This should be easier to do in two months anyway. Your chances of reuniting diminish as time goes on, but then your interest in doing so will too.
posted by bluenausea at 7:40 AM on January 30, 2008

Can I get over my ex while still retaining hope that we might get back together someday?

Been there. The answer is "No." You gotta move on. Holding on to the fantasy of reuniting prevents you from getting over her.

Rent the movie Swingers. Watch it attentively. Learn from it.
posted by adamrice at 7:42 AM on January 30, 2008

Flag it and move on.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:04 AM on January 30, 2008

No, it's not. Sorry. You just described many elements of my first major relationship very well (the only difference being that we were both gay guys), but I've gotten over him and you'll get over her, too. My advice would be to break things off clean for a period of several months: Tell her that the only way this is going to work is if you just don't talk for a while. For me, it took about five months before I was ready to hang out with my ex again in a social, friends-only way (your mileage may vary). And now we're really good friends and we see each other a lot, with very little tension. There'll always be the vestigial stump of attraction, but that's much more about missing the idea of having a good thing than it is about the thing itself.

Seriously, in two years you'll be looking back at the relationship and thinking about all the ways in which it wasn't ideal, and all the reasons that you don't miss it. At the time, I wanted to marry my ex. Now I see that he was often petty and cruel, took criticism worse than anyone I've ever known, and by comparison to the sex I've had since, our sex life was just not right. If he wanted me back tomorrow (which he wouldn't), I probably wouldn't do it. So yes: this too shall pass, you just need to take her completely out of your life for a little while. It sucks, but it works.
posted by logovisual at 8:12 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I disagree with people that say you should still talk to her, and like many guys I have been in your exact situaion pretty much a year ago to the day. Since I cant go back in time, I am going to give you some good advice and hope that you are smart enough to learn from my mistakes.

She is as of right now dead to you. The relationship you had was probably great, and you can think fondly of it, but it is over. She probably still wants you in her life in some way, but that is selfish and its bad for you, so avoid her like the plague that she is as far as your are concerned.

Believe me the best feeling you can possibly have is when you realize you don't love her anymore and that you can do better. I strongly suggest going out and having some meaningless (BUT SAFE) sex, as that will do wonders to move you along.

Good luck, even though I know you wont listen to any of the advice in this thread.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:39 AM on January 30, 2008

Whatever the outcome is, this old thread might help you stay sane in the short term. Good luck and hugs.
posted by penguin pie at 9:14 AM on January 30, 2008

No. Not even a little.

The advice I can say has helped me in the past: Don't talk to them, don't email, don't look them up on google, don't ask around about them, don't included them in your life.
In rough break-ups the sadness becomes addicting. So you'll want to search out all traces of them, because being sad about them makes you feel involved, this is toxic behavior. Don't get addicted to it.
You gotta go cold turkey on this girl.

After a some months (or longer) this will all feel embarrassing and you won't know why you were so upset; and then you might be in a good place to talk to this lady, but you probably won't really want to.
posted by French Fry at 10:55 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hello, I'm the girl who dumped you, about a year ago this past Monday. Let's look at the checklist (anywhere "me" or "I" appears, you can subsitute "her" or "she"):

- First real relationship for me
- I ended it, needing to see other people; he was not in favor of this move at all
- I experienced a lot of relief very shortly (within a month or so) after the break-up

Obviously our situations are not identical, but in my case I am still friends (great friends, in fact) with my ex. We always related extremely well, and were both adamant that we wanted to maintain the friendship. We remained in contact from about a month after the breakup* onwards [note: we dated for a significantly shorter amount of time - 1 year, 2 months] and also had some post-breakup hookups. Jury's still out on whether all of this was the best way to proceed, given a few points that follow:

1) I, and friends/family of mine are concerned that he might not be completely over me, due to bitter/jealous responses to certain topics, and some other indicators.
2) Our friendship as it stands is somewhat riddled with holdover issues from our relationship. I can't stay if this is standard for post-serious-relationship friendships, because this is the only one I have.

I think that, had we had a longer, more complete communication block after the breakup, there might have been a better chance for bitterness and so forth to dissipate more quickly, and more thoroughly; when you maintain contact through the recovery period it can sometimes bring out accusations of hypocrisy and unfairness... it did in this case, at least.

All of this is my rather roundabout way to say that if you want to keep her in your life, in the most healthy way possible, and not get bitter and broken over the relationships she gets into in the upcoming months and possibly years, you need to give the both of you a lot of space. Whether you get back together is something you can't predict, at all, but I agree with others that you should be spending your energy on friendships, activities, and interests that have nothing to do with her in order to get over her.
posted by dorothy humbird at 11:14 AM on January 30, 2008

Rejection is always hard to take. I hate to be harsh, but do you really WANT to be with her, or do you just not want to be the one who is rejected? If she does happen to get back together with you, would you be happier because "she was wrong" about breaking up with you, or would you be happier because you really can't imagine your life without her? Being honest with yourself about this point could save you a world of hurt. Even if it is the latter, relationships ending mean you suddenly change all your habits and behaviour patterns, and that can take a while to adjust to- give it a few more months at least!

The way I read it, she has outgrown the relationship, but that doesn't mean she has outgrown you. I'm not advocating you try and be friends at the moment, let alone get back together, but there will come a time when you ARE over her, and then you will both be able to see the good in each other and be friends without it being a power struggle.

It doesn't sound like she hates your guts at the moment, but if you hang onto an idea that you'll get back together, she may end up doing so.
posted by indienial at 10:17 PM on January 30, 2008

I've been in your shoes, like many others. First serious relationship, lasted through college. Mostly happy together but we each grew/changed over the course of the relationship to the point where we didn't belong together (it took me a long time to see it that way, but it's true). I didn't see it coming and took it pretty hard. After the big break-up, she went home (out-of-state) for a few months, then moved back. We got back together but it wasn't right and didn't last. It took maybe a year to really sort out. Part of the reason is that it just takes a long time, but it would have been easier if the break was clean and the communication stopped cold turkey. Being away from the person also helps; after you've spent years with the same circle of friends that's difficult to do unless one person moves away (she eventually moved again, and it was the best thing for both of us).

Live for yourself and let her go. That's what I'd recommend you do, hard as it is. If she decides she's made a mistake, you'll hear about it. If not, you've got your whole life ahead of you. Take up a new hobby. Go watch Say Anything and be Lloyd Dobler... take up kick-boxing or something.

PS - I don't think you'll actually take any of this advice. But that's how you learn.
posted by Chris4d at 10:40 AM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

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