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Should I keep hoping?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  May 13, 2010 09:00 AM

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As I mentioned in yesterday's chat, I’m giving away a pair of tickets to Saturday's performance of "The Lady With All the Answers," where I'll be speaking with the brilliant Miss Conduct. Here's the contest:

Tell me the worst advice you've ever received and why it was so terrible. The best story gets a pair of tickets to Saturday's show. For those who don't know, the play is about Ann Landers. There will be a pre-show talk and a post-show reception that night. Submissions are due today at 5. I'll notify winners by tomorrow morning.

Q: My boyfriend of four years just broke up with me in March. I am 28 and he is 26. After six months of him treating me badly and argument after argument, he called it quits.

We had lived together with other roommates for about three years, and this past September, we got a place of our own. From day one, there were problems. He slowly started to criticize many things about me including my career choices and financial decisions. He also started to act inappropriately with some of his female friends. He never cheated, but he flirted vigorously and became way too close for comfort with some of them. When I brought up how upsetting it was for me, he would respond that I was being "overly sensitive." My feelings were being invalidated left and right. The wonderful, supportive boyfriend I'd known for years was slowly disappearing. I couldn't understand what was happening and who he was turning into. My feeling is that he started to completely freak out marriage and growing up.

Well, the long and short of it is that for the last six months he's been pulling away and I've been trying to stop him. He has admitted that he has some commitment fears and he didn't know what to do about them. I knew they were there, especially since he is the product of a terrible divorce as a child and never had a good father figure around. I just never thought they would get to the point where he'd actually end things. I was shocked and devastated. As time passes, things start to make more and more sense but I still want him back. I think besides the fact that he has these serious commitment issues, we could be a great couple. I think he just needs to put his defenses down and realize it. When he broke it off with me, he said he knew that he's been acting terribly and doesn't know why but wants to figure it out. He said he wants to go see a therapist. However, instead of wanting to stay with me during this process, he chose to leave me so he could "concentrate on himself" and figure out who he is and why he's been acting this way.

Should I hold out hope that after he works through his problems, we might have a chance again? Should I just move on as if he won't? Maybe if things are mean to be, they will be ...

– Wishing and Hoping in Boston


A: WAH, every time circumstances change in a relationship, it's a test. When someone gets a new job, it's a test. When a child is added to the mix, it's another test. When there's sickness, it's a huge test. When the roommates move out and you're finally in your own place -- well, in the case of you and your ex -- it's a deal-breaking test.

In a group house, living like college kids, you worked. When it was time to be grown-ups without distractions, your boyfriend began to self-destruct. He misbehaved until you both knew he was on his way out. And that's that. That's the answer. He failed the test. And it should have been an easy one.

At 28, you should be wishing and hoping for someone who treats you well. I know you miss what you had when it was good, but I'd advise you to start wishing and hoping for someone who can pass the tests that count.

Father figure ... therapy ... divorce ... he's got issues. Don't we all? Move on as if he won't come back. He hasn't asked you to wait around see what happens.

I know you're hurting. But if we're going to wish and hope, let's raise our expectations.

Readers? Do they ever come back after concentrating on themselves? Is this anything more than your average break-up? Why did it work when the roommates were around? Is the father figure thing relevant, and if so, can therapy help? How could things have turned sour so quickly? Discuss.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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