My ex and I were together for three years, and we broke up about 6 months ago. We've still been in contact periodically, but she says that she doesn't want to reconcile because she's too hurt by our relationship to return to it. I flat out asked her when spoke a week ago. She's older than me (I’m 30, she's 40) so I know we think differently. It's really hard because I feel like we still love each other, but she's just scared. To make matters worse, we have to see each other every two weeks for work. I'm scared and don't know what to do. And on top of everything, she told me that she's been seeing someone for the past three months. Yet she still calls me to talk and share her feelings about things. Is it over forever?
In Love in Lawrence
More Information NeededIn order to answer In Love’s question, I felt I needed a bit more information. I wrote to her and asked: Why did you break up? What is she scared of? What about your relationship hurt her in the past and what have you done to change so that those things don't happen again?
In Love answered:Our breakup was a culmination of arguing, miscommunications and mistrust. But the final straw was because I became emotionally draining due to me being miserable and depressed because I was unemployed and had a hard time keeping a job when we were together. She is scared of being hurt again, especially because she suffered a particularly hard break-up and her ex ran up her credit cards and left her high and dry a year before we started dating. I helped her heal through that. She was hoping for an easier relationship and to just be loved and understood. I wanted too much from her too fast, and couldn't enjoy who she was because I kept trying to make her who I wanted her to be.
I have since done a complete turnaround in the six-month interim since we've been broken up, principally for myself. I want to validate myself first and that will lessen the need I have for a partner to validate me so much.
Dear In Love:I’m happy to hear that you’ve done work on yourself and that you were able to see the areas where you need to change and grow. Keep working on yourself for you. Not for her. Not because you hope it will bring you back together. If it’s meant to be it will happen.
I understand that you still love each other. I don’t think the love ever goes away when we break up with someone. But then again, neither do the reasons we broke up in the first place. It sounds like the two of you created a dynamic that was unhealthy. She cared for you both emotionally and financially when you should have been taking care of yourself. And on top of it all, she was reeling from the loss of her last partner. You provided some nurturing for her, but maybe you took more than she had to give. It’s hard to say.
You say you’ve done your work and that you’ve changed. That may be true, I don’t know. I do know the insidious affect being unemployed can have on your self-esteem, your identity and your mental health. You’re employed now, which is good. Keep building on that, but don’t think that is the only issue here.
When you talk about miscommunication and mistrust, I wonder what happened. Did you use your depression as an excuse for something you shouldn’t have done? Who did you want her to be that you were trying to make her into? And why are you happy with who she is now, when you weren’t before?
She's Seeing Someone NewI think I know what’s going on here. She started seeing someone new and that’s gotten to you. It shows she’s moved on in a way that you haven’t. You’re still holding out hope for the relationship. It sounds like she’s moving on.
Why does she still call you daily? Does it mean she wants to get back? It might mean that she misses some of the connection that you had, that she’s concerned about you or that she just has bad boundaries.
I know you need to see her for work, but I would suggest stopping all non-work and non-essential contact with your ex. Tell her that it is too hard for you. (One of you needs to have boundaries.) You can even tell her that you still have feelings for her and that it’s hard for you to know she’s with someone else. Ask her if she thinks the two of you could ever get back together.
I can’t predict what might happen with you and your ex. Sometimes exes do get back together and it works out. Most times, I would venture, exes get back together because one or the other is lonely and doesn’t want to be alone. There is nothing wrong with trying it again, but both of you need to be on board. It sounds like she doesn’t trust you right yet, so keep working on yourself. See a therapist if you can afford it, to help you keep working on those issues that caused you to break up in the first place. And be sure to stay professional when you see her at work. It’s taken you a while to get a job and you don’t want to mess that up now!