I was recently in a long term relationship with a girl for two years. She is new to college and her first weekend away from home she invited me up and had a panic attack that night. I couldn't seem to help and it killed me to see her so upset. She wasn't adjusting well to school and it didn't seem like her roommate (also a close friend of mine and my girlfriends best friend, didn't seem to help much). About a week or so after her panic attack, her dog was hit and killed by a car. She was very upset about the accident and wouldn't let me help. I didn't know how I could help. She didn't seem to get that we were a team and that whatever she struggled with I was there for her. I know I should have given her space when she needed it but it was too hard because I care about her so much. We continued dating, but she was very distant, always depressed and struggling with school and her best friend pushing her away.
One weekend she invited me to school and after a few hours with friends she told me we had to go back to her dorm. I knew exactly what was going to happen. She cried and struggled to break up with me. We seemed to end on good terms mainly because I didn't want to upset her and I just wanted her to feel better. She had told me she broke up with me because she couldn't drag me through her problems. It upset me because I was so committed and had and still have so much to give her. I care so much about her and I kept thinking about how it wasn't about me at all. I just wanted her to feel better. She had told me she would talk to me about it all once she could, but I am not fully convinced she will. In the weeks that followed I had hopes that we could one day get back together. She came back for her thanksgiving break recently and my heart stopped when I saw her. I attempted to try and hang out with her but she claimed to be busy. It may have been too soon to try and hang out but I just wanted her back in my life. Since then she has been talking to another friend we share and that friend had informed me that it doesn't look as likely that we will get back together. She said that my ex girlfriend had said that she wanted to be single for some time since she had been in a relationship for so long. This hurt, but I'm still not ready to give up. My cousin has been faced with the same situation and so I turned to him. He said his girlfriend had said the same thing that she needed to be single a little bit and that getting back together did not seem likely. They have since gotten back together. I'm just not sure what to do. I know she needs her space, but I don't want to give up on her. I don't want her to be over me. I know I have to face the fact that we might not get back together, but I still think there is a chance.
I’m not sure if my ex girlfriend will ever talk to me about it and that annoys me. I constantly battle with myself and tell myself not to talk to her. It's not right to at the moment. I tell myself I need to wait until she comes to me but it seems too hard. I care about this girl so much and all that I have done has been for her. I know that if we do get back together than things will have to be different but for now I just don't know what the possibilities of that happening are. I just don't know how to handle it all right now. She will be coming home for break in the coming days and I don know what to do. Do I just proceed as friends and hope for the best or do what everyone says and forget about someone I care and love so much.
Dear Hanging On,
My heart goes out to you. It’s devastating to lose someone you love, especially when you haven’t had the opportunity for closure. In answering you, I want to focus on two things. First, you and how you’re handling your breakup. And second, your ex-girlfriend and some of the things that may be fueling her behavior.
Let’s start with you. I’m concerned because you are so consumed with this relationship. Your question is literally overflowing with thoughts of your ex-girlfriend, concern for her, obsessive thinking about getting back together. You even seem to have stifled your own feelings during the breakup because you were concerned with how she would feel. I think you need to try and put your relationship with her aside for a while and focus on you and your life. What are you doing? Are you in school? Are you spending time with friends and experiencing life? No matter what happens with your ex, you need to spend time on you. It’s not healthy for you to spend all of your time planning her next visit and worrying about how it will go. Trust me, I’m an obsessive thinker and I can tell you that this path does not lead to happiness.
So, let’s talk about her for a little bit. Starting college, being on her own, etc. These are all really big changes for a person and from what you’ve said, she may suffer from some anxiety and depression. One thing that is often difficult for people who suffer anxiety and depression to deal with is not knowing how to “handle” the people they love. You mention in your letter that you wanted to help her and wanted her to feel like you were a team. But when you’re having panic and depression, you don’t feel like you can be a team. You don’t feel like anyone can understand how you’re feeling. And often, you get frustrated when people who don’t know how you feel act like they do or try to help in ways that aren’t helpful. Sounds frustrating right? Well, it is. Believe me. Not just for her but for you and everyone else around her. Consider this, could the break down in her relationship with her roommate be partially because her depression is hard for the roommate to handle?
It’s complex and its hard to know exactly what she might be feeling but I can imagine that she may simply have gotten to a point where she needed to be alone so she could regroup. Maybe. In your letter, you say it’s not about you. And that’s exactly right. It may have nothing to do with you really. And I know that’s no consolation, but I bring it up because in another line you say you don’t want her to get over you. But here’s the thing. It’s really not up to you whether she does or not. AND because you care about her, I know you’ll understand that not getting over you is actually not healthy for her.
You know that obnoxious saying “If you love someone let them go…” There’s something to it (though I truly hate hearing it and I can’t believe I’m saying it…bleh). The truth is, if you love this girl, you need to be willing to let her go so she can live her life in the way that is easiest for her. Whether she didn’t want to drag you into her problems or whether she just needed a break, it doesn’t really matter. The result is the same. And the more you push her to get back together, the more she’s going to resist (it’s a human nature thing).
Take a deep breath. Think about some of the things you’ve been putting aside and do them. When she comes to visit, be her friend without pressuring her. Let what’s going to happen, happen.
I am a person who does not deal well with uncertainty. I like to plan things and shape them and make them work the way I want them to. So I know how hard what I’m telling you really is to do. But sometimes you have to take the hard road to get where you want to go.
Don't be shy! Say what's on your mind and get a good dose of perspective in return.