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The aftermath of a messy breakup

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  October 29, 2012 08:19 AM

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Q: I have been having a lot of trouble getting over my breakup with my first serious girlfriend. We had been together for five years (I am 25), and we moved in together last summer. I helped her with some serious health issues while we lived together. She finally started getting better this time last year and we had a good couple of months, but in December she told me she was breaking up with me. She said she needed to find herself after her health issues and didn't have time or energy for another person. She didn't move out of our apartment until April, during which time we continued on essentially as boyfriend/girlfriend, at least emotionally, and to a lesser degree, physically.

That situation was bad, but it got worse when she started seeing another guy about a month before she moved out of our apartment. She started spending multiple nights a week out of our place, and I knew she was probably with him. I felt so betrayed and hurt. I would have done anything for her, for us, including moving somewhere far away to grow potatoes together if that's what it took. They are still together.

I moved to the Cape for the summer and tried out the local dating scene. I've had the classic situation of people I am attracted to and interested in not seeming interested in me and vice versa.

More recently, I've felt a really strong desire to have more consistent contact with my ex. I am struggling to live by the boundaries I set for myself when it comes to her. I tell myself I will not be her friend because of what she did to me during our last few weeks of living together, which I view as her cheating on me. But I sent her a copy of her favorite fall fashion magazine in the mail. I can't stop looking at her blog. I'm not friends with her on Facebook, but I look up her name now and then to see if she's changed her picture. It's pretty pathetic in my mind. And when we do communicate, she gives me all sorts of compliments about how great I am and how happy I will be. That throws me for a huge loop because why would she have done what she did to me?

I'm headed back to reality to get ready for grad school soon. I'm excited, but I'm very intimidated by the prospect of the dating scene because I feel like my best qualities won't show up until later on in any potential relationship. I am also fairly concerned about intimacy with someone other than my ex.

What should I do? Did she cheat on me? How do I get myself to respect my own boundaries in relation to my ex? Are other women going to be able to get enough of a glimpse of who I am over the course of one or two dates? And how do I deal with the fact that the physical standards I look for are so high because of how attractive my ex is?

– Not sure where to go, Cape


A: You have many questions, NSWTG. Here are some answers:

Did she cheat on me?

Nope. She broke up with you before she started dating someone else. She was just a jerk about it, but she didn't break any rules. The real problem was that you continued living with each other after the breakup. You exposed yourself to daily rejection from December to April. Somebody should have moved out.

How do I get myself to respect my own boundaries in relation to my ex?

It's like quitting anything else. You just stop. You block websites on your computer. You find someone else to stalk on the internet. (Maybe Google a high school crush instead of your ex.) You become obsessed with grad school. That's all you can do.

Are other women going to be able to get enough of a glimpse of who I am over the course of one or two dates?

Yes. Your ex did, right? She got to know you over time, which is what happens when you date. After an outing or two, a woman might think, "Hmm. I'd like to know more." That's all you need.

And how do I deal with the fact that the physical standards I look for are so high because of how attractive my ex is?

I don't think she's that attractive. I mean, I'm sure she's lovely, but you've lost perspective. You've turned her into something supernatural. She's just a woman, like anybody else. There are millions of pretty 25-year-olds out there.

What should I do?

Please focus on yourself. And when you think of your ex, get angry. She bailed on you after you were there for her during the worst of it. She dated someone while living with you. She said she wanted to go find herself, but she went and found another person. She tells you nice things to make you feel better, but she doesn't want you back.

You deserve better, and there's plenty of better out there, I swear.

Readers? Can you answer his questions? Did she cheat? How can he get her out of his head? Should he feel better about dating other people? What happened here? Help.

– 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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