Q: "Matilda" and I (both late 20s) dated for a year. She was the only woman I can say I have ever loved (and I guess I still do). We had serious talks about marriage, etc. Long story short, we had to do the long-distance thing because of grad school and she did something that was a deal-breaker. We broke up (and I should add this now -- there is no way I would ever date her again, damage is done, pride took over).
Fast forward a year and a half. I have been doing everything I can think of to move on; talking to friends and family, anti-depressants, working out heavily, focusing on school work, dating at the gym, dating at work/school, flirting at bars, online dating, playing in sports leagues, going out with friends, avoiding her at all costs (I tried being friends at first, didn't work, too much pain, making me the ex that avoids but still thinks about the person), and not dating and just having fun on my own.
All these things do make me feel better in the short term, but at the end of the day, I still think about her every day. She is the first thing that pops in my head when I wake up and last thing that I think of before bed. Although over time I start to feel better with the lack of contact, she contacts me every few months to say hi and all the emotions come rushing back. I always tell her to give me space but I end up becoming depressed and anxious, literally at the snap of a finger, hearing her voice. I feel at a loss as to why things ended, when it seemed like it was supposed to be forever (I should add that avoiding her hasn't been that easy either. Now that we are back in the same area again (school reasons, cant relocate), we work in the same system and in the same field so everything around me is a reminder of her. Plus, I occasionally have to see her and the reason why we broke up).
To quote "Californication," this is how I feel:
Movie Karen: Why does he love her so much? I mean what is it about her?
Hank: I don't know. I don't think I've ever known. I think sometimes you get it right the first time and then it defines your life. It becomes who you are.
So I guess my question is this: What am I doing wrong? Why can't I move on? It's been enough time, I remind myself of the negatives constantly (and there are more than enough), I date around, keep busy, and really do make an effort not to think about her. It's like I have put her in a pedestal and no matter what I do, I haven't been able to knock her down. My brain is saying move on, don't be weak, don't be pathetic, have some pride, love yourself more, but my heart is stuck in neutral. Do I like to suffer? Why am I stuck on these questions and not just accepting things for what they are? Is it just a matter of finding someone else, or should I just embrace it and be like Hank Moody, get myself into crazy shenanigans with the ladies???
– Stuck in Neutral, NYC
A: This is taking forever, SIN, because you're in love with her, you thought you were going to marry her, and she pulled the rug out from under you.
There's always going to be a part of you that asks, "Could she have redeemed herself?" There's always going to be a part of you that longs for the life you had before that betrayal.
My advice is to stop avoiding her. I'm not saying that you should make lunch plans with her, but this whole "avoiding her at all costs" thing has turned her into some powerful, make-believe monster.
Also, grief is addictive. It's a legitimate feeling and we have to deal with it, but we also have to watch ourselves to make sure that it doesn't become a part of our routine forever. Can you read before bed instead of thinking about her? Can you fall asleep to a TV show she hated? Train your brain to think about other things.
Really, you're doing quite well. You're living your life and having fun. It sounds like you just haven't met anyone who makes you laugh enough to distract you. You will. It just takes a long time. So keep dating. You don't have to be Hank, but you can be someone who's funny, cute, getting over and ex, and looking for nice company. The rest will sort itself out, I swear. There's no pill to make it go faster. All of this is normal.
Readers? How can the letter writer be less sad about Matilda? Should they have broken up? Is the letter writer on the right track? What are Matilda's motives when she checks in? Discuss.
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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.