Q: Hi Meredith,
I broke up with my boyfriend last summer. We had been together for a year and a half and had lived together for a few months. I was going through a very difficult time while we lived together. (I lost my business, my money, a family member, etc.) I could barely afford to take the T to my part-time job. He might say otherwise, but what happened is that he gave up on me, checked out of us, and started hanging out with another woman behind my back. There were dates, texts of adoration, the whole deal. I moved out, found a place, found a job, and started to feel good again. My summer was full of introspection and tears, but I got to a point where I was done putting energy into being angry with him.
We met up to talk and we hashed it out. We met up a few more times and we became less of two people who used to date, and more like two people who were friendly and actually enjoyed a laugh. Fast forward to now. We've been talking, texting, and have seen each other a number of times, and yes, I never thought I'd do it, but we became physical.
I thought I could do the casual thing, but he gets drunk and texts/calls and says things like "I'm so in love with you," "I miss you," "I had a hard day and want to hear your voice," and I just can't hear that as someone whose heart was broken by him, you know? So, I finally gathered the strength to say, I can't do this. We're not together, nor are we moving toward that. We're exes and I need distance in order to really move on and be open to a new guy who won't give up on me.
I really enjoyed being friendly with him and I do care about him as a person, but it was just too hard. I think it was right, but I miss him. I miss hearing from him and I'm doing this thing in my head where I don't think I'll ever meet anyone else. Oh, one other important piece of information: he was my first real boyfriend (I'm in my late 20s). I had had other "situations" in the past, but never called anyone my boyfriend, nor was I considered anyone's girlfriend. Is that why I'm having such a hard time?
I also think that this all happened because it gave me back the control. It's essentially what I should've done in the spring when he started checking out of our relationship, but at the time, I was so stressed out and in the dumps that losing something else was too much for me to consider. I did the right thing, right?
– So Confused, Boston
A: It's completely understandable that you cut him off as a "friend" -- at least temporarily -- because you don't want him to distract you from finding a real partner. It was a smart move even though you're missing him.
He was your first big relationship and you postponed the mourning process. Also, your good months with him represent simpler times. You're letting go of all of it.
This is also difficult because despite the fact that he was an idiot, he probably does love you. You were dealing with issues that people tend to tackle in their 30s and 40s, and he responded to it all like someone in his early 20s. On some level, you know that he probably does mean all of these texts, despite his inability to carry them out like a grownup. His legitimate feelings make this all the more complicated. (I have to point out, of course, that all of his texts are about his needs. I'd have a tougher time giving you advice if he sent a text that said, "I want to be there for you when you've had a hard day.)
I know you feel lost right now, but you've put your life back together like a pro. You're coping with the aftermath of a difficult year. You're doing what you need to do to see the world clearly. This phase hurts, but it's all part of the process. Compare these feelings to how your body responds after a tough day at the gym. You're sore all over, but that just means you're on your way to being in very good shape.
Readers? Why is she so sad about losing him the second time? What about these texts? Did he give up on her? Should she keep him in her life? What about her fear of never meeting someone new? 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 new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.