Saturday, December 16, 2017
Parenting & Relationships

Clean break from ex-boyfriend will leave door open

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Q: Long story short, my boyfriend of over a year broke up with me three weeks ago. For a few reasons, our "future" is up in the air while he figures his issues out.

This is where I'm having my own issues, aside from being pretty devastated by the breakup itself. While I would be so happy to be back together right now, I'm trying to deal with things as if we are broken up for good.

The only way I know how to deal with that is to completely cut someone out of my life, though. He seems to want to talk every few days, but this just confuses me. Since the ball is in his court, I obsess about every message: Does he miss me or just "miss me"? Does he want me in his life again? Is he just texting me because he feels lonely?

This results in my getting frustrated and acting like a jerk, being short with him, or just not responding to messages — which is the opposite of what I want to do, I want to talk to him. I don't know how to simultaneously "move on" while leaving the door open for reconciliation in the future, in my mind two completely opposite things. I want to be patient and see what happens, one way or the other, but I can't get out of my own head. It's driving me mad.

How do I deal with this? I should probably also get back into therapy, but it makes me feel very weak to start therapy again after "just" a breakup; shouldn't I be able to handle this?

Limbo

A: It's perfectly fine, even reasonable, to say to a recent ex that you need a period of no contact so you can adjust to the new order of things. A month, two months, whatever seems about right for you now. You can always revisit once your head clears.

"Moving on" and "door open" aren't mutually exclusive, if you think of things this way: Limbo is messing with your head, and your messed-with head has you "acting like a jerk," and acting like a jerk will kill any chance at a reconciliation, right? So, a clean break is, counterintuitively, the move least likely to interfere with a possible reconciliation.

Plus, your absence will help him with his "issues," and show him whether he misses you.

And, his willingness (or un-) to respect your wishes will tell you a lot about him.

My final plug for plug-pulling: Not having him to talk to will help you see whether you need to talk to a professional.

I get that you want to feel capable of handling this without help — and if you need any proof that this is an ingrained and positive human trait, just try to help a toddler with something he just learned to do.

However, there's no "should" here — there's only what you do and don't need, or what would and wouldn't benefit you. It may just be that you'd benefit from going to therapy briefly as a tune-up — just as you'd see your doctor periodically after having surgery. I don't see why an emotional ailment would be any different.

Take steps to tighten your relationship with Sister No. 1

Q: I'm No. 2 of four sisters (in our 30s/40s). Nos. 3, 4 and I are the best of friends; we hang out and talk often, visit each other's homes, and know each other very intimately. No. 1 has a life of her own — different region, busy job, crazy schedule that prevents her from being available when we're getting together — and as a result is not as close as the rest of us are. She has expressed to me that this hurts her feelings, but she hasn't taken steps to change it because she doesn't want to intrude. I do feel it's her responsibility to get close to us, but I feel bad, too. Any suggestions?

Busy Sister

A: Yes — you urge her to intrude, intrude, intrude, because her making an effort wouldn't be an intrusion at all, right? You also invite her to everything. Unless, of course, the "busy" and "it's her responsibility" are disingenuous, and what you really want is a fig leaf for leaving her out.

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