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What happens after the breakup?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  February 22, 2013 06:48 AM

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Excited to see some of you at the free RadioBDC/Love Letters show tonight. I think it's at capacity ... but you can still try to RSVP here.


Q: My boyfriend of a year recently broke up with me. We are both in our mid-20s and trying to establish ourselves in our careers, but after being together for a few months, he joined the ever-growing population of the unemployed. He became distracted, less attentive, and questioned himself and his future. We were able to have a dialogue about how he was experiencing the uncertainty. He was concerned that it was preventing him from being the best that he could be in our relationship. I reassured him that if he could be more attentive to me, there was nothing more I needed from him.

From there, we continued to grow closer. Everything was great. But in recent weeks, I started talking about our future and potentially moving in together later this year. He was thoughtful about the matter but needed more time to consider it. One night, I mentioned some summer plans and he became quiet, eventually admitting that he feels lost and stuck and overall unhappy with who he is right now. He felt unable to plan for our future together because of his confusion with himself. At this point, he is semi-employed but I believe the financial insecurity is a contributing factor to his struggles.

One more thing, as much as I would like to ignore this part, after breaking up he mentioned the need to figure out "old feelings" for a relationship that ended several years ago. That relationship ended abruptly and he has not taken the time to reflect on it. I asked him if he still held a torch for this person (he said he doesn't even know her anymore and therefore couldn't say he did) and whether he felt the need to speak to her (he said that he didn't). I've wrestled with what this means and says about my relationship with him but I realize that our relationship was what it was and I need to remember it the way that I do. All in all, he is an honest person and I don't believe he has been deceptive with me at any point.

With that said, the breakup was unexpected for both of us and we are both devastated. We love each other very much, but I agree -- I don't think he can find clarity on these issues while being committed to me. Neither one of us expects that I will wait for him, but of course right now I am hopeful that our story isn't quite over yet. And here's where I need some advice. My initial belief was that we obviously can't be friends if we still have feelings for each other. But does it have to be so black and white? Could I try to be his friend? Or maybe just try to stay in touch? Would that be setting myself up for inevitable false hope and misery? And does the issue of "old feelings" change things?

– All or Nothing


A: I can't endorse a friendship, AON. Not now. You need to process this breakup and focus on yourself. If you stick around, you're going to wind up campaigning to get back together. You'll be waiting for him to turn to you and say, "Hey – let's try this again." That's no way to live.

What if his self-discovery period includes dating other people? What it he winds up calling his ex? You don't want to be there for that. He doesn't need an audience right now.

As for keeping in touch, it'll happen naturally. You'll have to reach out for one reason or another, or he'll contact you with a question. Or maybe he'll call you after a few weeks and you'll say, "Not now. I need time." You guys will find your normal. This is just too new.

For now, take space and spend time with your real, platonic friends. You're right -- these things are not always black and white, but they are for you right now. Your wounds are fresh. You must protect yourself and start thinking of this as a real, permanent breakup.

Readers? Friendship? Is she capable of more? Will he change his mind? What about the old feelings? 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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