Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Did We Break Up To Soon?”

Broken heart

My boyfriend and I broke up two weeks before Christmas after being together for seven months (he’s 26, I’m 23). For both of us, it was our second serious relationship. At the beginning of our relationship, he told me he wanted a long-term relationship, he was looking for a life partner, and he had been heart-broken when his ex of 6 years had dumped him two years before. I “promised” I would let him know if I felt things were not going to work out between us in the long run.

All through our relationship, we were pretty happy. We took care of each other, we had a very strong intellectual and physical connection, we pushed each other to be better people, and he really made me laugh. I told him I loved him and actually felt it. We also had compatible long-term goals/values (we shared our answers to “15 Things Every Couple MUST Discuss Before Getting Married”). However, early in our relationship, I started to doubt if our personalities were compatible for the longterm.

By the end of the semester, I was stressed out by school, was realizing that the 6-month mark made our relationship relatively serious, was thinking of the fact that I had promised to tell him if it might not work between us and I was upset over the way we had worked out holiday plans (I, as an extrovert, was excited to spend 4-5 days with him and his family, but he, as an introvert, was barely comfortable coming for more than two hours at my holiday supper, even though family is really important to me).

And then, he told me he decided to not consider a really (really!) good job in another city, near his family, so that he could stay with me until I finish my graduate program (in 2018!). I told him that I was still figuring out if we would be compatible in the long-run, and I wasn’t comfortable with him making such important decisions based on our relationship.

And then we quickly broke it off. I am sad and some days I feel maybe we could give it another shot, but I don’t want to get back with him before I’m sure of what I want as to not hurt him. So far, we’re seeing each other once a week, but I’m not sure what to do from here. Should I just cut it off completely and find someone else with whom I would be more compatible, or try to give it another shot with him? (He didn’t get the job finally, so that’s no longer on the table). What are the actual basic ingredients in order to spend your life with someone? Am I just feeling sad and confused because I miss him (we were living together before we broke it off)? — Second Guessing

What are the basic ingredients to spend your life with someone? Wow, what a question. And yet, you asking such a thing points to the larger problem here: you want all the answers now, bypassing the lessons you need in order to learn them. I can’t tell you what basic ingredients YOU need to (happily) spend your life with someone any more than you can promise someone you’ve just started seeing that you’ll let him know as soon as you think it might not work out between you. First of all, you don’t date someone to figure out if it won’t work; you date someone to figure out if it will work. And you just can’t know that right away. Sure, maybe some people feel it in their bones the same way they wake up and feel rain in the air. It’s certainly romantic to think we can just KNOW when someone is “the one.” But the truth is, it takes time to learn whether someone has the “basic ingredients” you need to be happy with him longterm. How long? It varies. But, in general, for someone in her early 20s who has only one relationship under her belt, it’s going to take longer than a few weeks.

Here’s a question for you: why rush? You’re 23. You’re in school for four more years. Why the rush to figure out if THIS guy is THE guy? Furthermore, why rush into moving in with him? If at the six-month-mark you were only beginning to think the relationship was becoming serious, why on earth did you already live with him? It seems you two read “15 Things Every Couple MUST Discuss Before Getting Married” when what you should have read was “15 Things Couples Should Do Before Moving in Together.” Number 8 alone could have saved you a lot of grief.

Anyway, what’s done is done. You moved in together too soon and then you broke up. Did you break up too soon? I don’t know. But since you’re uncertain and since you’re still involved in each other’s lives and it seems the door is still open for a reconciliation, why not try it out? Only, this time, don’t make dumb promises. Rather than look for ways you aren’t a match so that you can end things before either of you gets too invested and too hurt by a breakup, focus on getting to know each other and figuring out whether you ARE a match. Yes, there’s potential either of you will end up heart-broken, but that’s the risk you take when you bet on love (and if you don’t take the risk, you rarely get the reward). But if your ex is still pushing you to decide whether you’re ready to be his life partner, MOA. There’s no reason that you, especially as an inexperienced 23-year-old, need to pledge yourself to someone you’ve known a few months. And if he’s really asking for that because he was hurt once before and can’t bear the thought of hurting again, he’s still got a lot of growing up to do before he’ll be a good life partner for anyone, let alone you.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

27 comments… add one
  • katie

    katie January 7, 2014, 9:11 am

    i love when im on the same thought wave length as wendy. it makes me feel smart.

    LW, i dont know why you seemed, from the onset of this relationship, to be looking for how it was a forever relationship. and also- 6 months is “serious” now? jeez. talk about putting the cart before the horse. you cant decide if a relationship has forever potential without actually, you know, BEING in the relationship long enough to know. that whole outlook on relationships is just wrong- you need to change your whole thought process on it. relationships arent check lists you go over and then say, “ok, great, looks like we will be compatible long term!”. they dont work that way.

    have a drink or something. calm down, slow down, and just take life as it comes. live in the moment, all that jazz. enjoy your relationship for what it is at the exact moment you are living it, and dont fall into some weird self imposed rule system for how you “should” feel. did you actually feel like it was a serious relationship at 6 months in? did you honestly, truly feel that, or was it an external thing that made you think you *should* feel that?

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      Painted_lady January 7, 2014, 10:04 am

      Not saying that her instincts are correct, but I will say that six months used to feel long to me. If you’ve only been in one relationship, or all your relationships have been shorter than that, yeah, six months feel like forever. Don’t get me wrong, now I realize six months is barely any time at all, but it may be a symptom of being young and inexperienced rather than “kids these days.”

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        MissDre January 7, 2014, 10:15 am

        I agree with you. 6 months seems like nothing to me now, but when I was 21 I felt like it was a milestone worthy of a celebration lol.

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        Christy January 7, 2014, 10:16 am

        Yeah, 6 months felt like a big deal with gf, even though I knew objectively that it wasn’t. Now we’re slightly past two years and it was exciting, but mostly because we’re happy together, you know? I won’t really care about milestones again until I beat her ex-boyfriend and we make it four years. (I’m competitive, and he sucked. I need to beat him. I’m more than halfway there.) (Also gf was drunk on New Years and said something like “you the best I ever had” (a la Drake) and I was like “damn straight I am. I mean, duh, come on.” and I laughed. Because, really.) (It feels relevant.)

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      • katie

        katie January 7, 2014, 10:28 am

        oh, i dont doubt that 6 months is or can be a long time- i mean time is relative, after all.

        i take issue specifically with the fact that 6 months is the arbitrary marker of a serious relationship. it seemed to me like she believed that 6 months is a serious relationship, so her 6 month long relationship had to automatically be serious on that day. which in my opinion is the wrong order for that to happen. its not that x amount of time = serious, so my relationship becomes serious after x day, thats not how it works. the relationship becomes serious when it becomes serious, whether that is a month or a day or a year or whatever.

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        Painted_lady January 7, 2014, 10:37 am

        I see what you’re saying, and you’re still absolutely right. But I also was guilty of that – and part of it was due to never having had a relationship last that long, so it was just an extension of that same faulty logic. I mean, six months is one of those natural divisions of time, and I knew it was comparatively small, but up until I was about where LW is, I hadn’t gotten there. Combined with the “This time in your life determines the rest of your life FOREVER” pressure that is just inherently there in college, I can see where the logical leap happened. It’s still an incorrect leap to make, though.

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      • katie

        katie January 7, 2014, 10:42 am

        oh yea. ive done it too! my bad one was about babies. there was this overwhelming pressure of “i need to decide *RIGHT NOW* if i will ever want to have a baby in the future”. which is really dumb, thinking about it now- even if i had decided anything, i wouldnt have had a baby for many years…. tabling that topic was one of the best things ive ever done for my life, probably. there was a similar thought process about marriage, and i was an LW for that one, actually, but that one was a much smaller freak out, thankfully.

        there are certain decisions in life that need immediate attention, that work on a pretty tight timeline. others, not so much. babies and relationships are definitely one of the not so much ones.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra January 7, 2014, 11:58 am

      I think it really depends on the couple. I think you can easily be in the “serious” stage by the 6 months point. Though at the same time I think sometimes people rush it — specifically my friend who got matching tattoos after a month and got engaged less than 6 months after meeting her now husband…

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  • Miel

    Miel January 7, 2014, 9:30 am

    I agree with all of what Wendy said.

    If a guy was to tell me “I’m looking for a life partner” really early in the relationship, that would involve two things for me. 1) Was I looking for a one-night stand ? Because then I don’t want to waste this guy’s time. 2) He expects me to put time and effort in this relationship.

    If you were also looking for a long term relationship and were also ready to put time in the relationship (you know, you can’t “forget” to text him back for two weeks in a row if you agreed that you wanted something serious), then that’s it ! For a few months “looking for a life partner” just means that. You don’t need to see if you’re marriage compatible, you don’t need to move in together, you should only be there to get to know each other.

    Because you will learn if you are “really compatible” just by spending some part of your life around him. Maybe it will take 4 months for “that horrible bill to pass in congress” and it makes you so angry because you were so opposed to it and then your boyfriend text you “wow, so glad that bill passed ! I agree so much with it !” and THEN you learn how much you are compatible on that issue. Maybe three months later you will get a really bad case of flu and his reaction will be oh so perfect to it and he will take care of you, make you some soup and bring you tissues, and you will again learn how compatible you are for the long term.

    But that’s a learning process that takes time so it can happen organically. You need to live great life moments to know if you want him around for all the following great life moments of your life, and you need to live really hard life moments to know if you want him around for all the following hard life moments too !

    In my opinion, what happened with the Holiday schedule and the job far away were two events for you to get to know each other and learn how compatible you were. If you think his reactions to those moments were definitive deal-breaker, yeah sure, don’t talk to him anymore. But if you think they were only learning experience and that he would still be a good partner even after those events, then go back to talk to him ! And keep your eyes wide open because everything that will happen will show you what sort of partner he could be !

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    • katie

      katie January 7, 2014, 9:37 am

      this is so true. jake and i have been together for almost 5 freaking years and there is still stuff that he will say sometimes that im like, what?? i never knew you thought that!!

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  • bagge72

    bagge72 January 7, 2014, 9:50 am

    I get that this guy wants answers right away to know if he is going to have a life partner, but shit just doesn’t work that way. You are both young, and you should be able to date somebody as long as it takes to figure it out, and not have to cut things short, because you aren’t sure after a small amount of time. It was great that this guy told you what he was looking for, and he should have, but then he put too much pressure on you to make you decide something prematurely. Both of you are grown ups, and can decide on your own if you are ready to get out of a relationship. I would say if you really like this guy, only get back together with him if you can have a talk with him and let him know that you guys need to just let things play out, and not put unneeded pressure on your relationship, if he can’t do that just MOA.

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  • avatar

    MissDre January 7, 2014, 10:17 am

    LoL this letter kind of reminds be of this 13 year old girl I knew that started telling me how she and this boy she just met were “in love” for real. She’d only met him the day before. I told her she might really really like him, but it takes time to get to know somebody before you can really know if you love them. She says to me, “But I do know him! We talked on the phone ALL night about like everything! We know everything about each other and I love him!”

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    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki January 7, 2014, 11:43 am

      I know kids like that too. Man… I’ve been with my husband for almost 8 years and married for just under 5 and I still don’t know EVERYTHING there is to know about him. We learn about each other every day and I’ll be really sad if/when that stops.

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        lets_be_honest January 7, 2014, 11:51 am

        There is a boy who is “in love” with Lil after seeing her across the room at a dance. They didn’t speak once. Idk, maybe love at first sight DOES exist. I’m making a wedding pinterest page for them as we speak.

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      • lemongrass

        Lemongrass January 7, 2014, 12:04 pm

        You should probably start telling Lil that you want her to get married now. Frame it as guilt and make sure you reference her declining fertility as she ages. You know, if you want to be a good mom.

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        lets_be_honest January 7, 2014, 12:13 pm

        hahaha. One of my super positive and cheery family members told her that everyone is technically dying right now. I should’ve piped in with a comment about her eggs right then.

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      • katie

        katie January 7, 2014, 12:27 pm

        ^

        mom of the year. hands down.

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  • avatar

    Painted_lady January 7, 2014, 10:23 am

    I know it probably feels like you guys need to know what forever looks like right now, because one of the weirder parts of the end of college is that so many people get married. It’s almost like, well, hey, we’re graduating, and we’re together, so we must want to be married. First off, just because that’s what’s done and what feels normal, doesn’t mean it’s what’s right for you, and so you need to let go of the idea that if you didn’t want to marry this guy now that you’re done with school, you need to leave. Six months is the honeymoon stage. Of course you just started having problems at that point – you were finally starting to see each other for real. And yeah, if it’s clear you don’t want to marry him and won’t want to, ever, then I can see leaving. Some people are okay staying in a relationship without a future, but I never really was. But if you’re not sure you want to marry him now, and you aren’t sure about later, that’s okay! That’s probably good!

    Also, touching on the holiday thing: I’m like your boyfriend. It stresses me to stay in someone else’s home besides my own family. It stresses me to be around a lot of people I don’t know really, really well for long periods of time. Walter and I went to his mom’s for Christmas, and when we were planning it, I told him I could only do two nights, and I thought I was being conservative. I felt a little guilty for putting stipulations on the visit because he’s never put stipulations on visiting my family, and I apologized a lot for doing it, but then he finally told me to quit because I was being clear about my needs and my needs are different than his. Plus, his mom’s house is tiny whereas my parents’ is not, and it’s really easy to go find some quiet time alone at my parents – that’s probably the biggest difference. But he also said that if he had to put limits on the time spent with my family, I would need to be understanding, and I am. If you feel like you sacrificed too much at Christmas, tell him. Figure out a balance. If it can’t be made workable, it can’t, but don’t just assume that you’re being taken advantage of just because he stated some needs that you didn’t.

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      Painted_lady January 7, 2014, 10:29 am

      Oh, also wanted to add: those people I know who got married at the end of college? A lot of them are still married; they’re just mostly married to other people. It feels like a good time to get married because you’re “an adult,” but so many of us are going to do so much growing up after that, and it’s hard to figure out if you’re one of them and how that might change your marriage.

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  • Diablo

    Diablo January 7, 2014, 10:26 am

    Wendy may well be right. Her view is open-minded, and implies two people who can trust each other during their period of mutual discovery. However, another point of view might well be that if you were able to break it off abruptly after a number of months, then neither of you was too invested. It seems that both of you have issues with trust. So maybe you are not in the right frame of mind to have a productive relation ship with anyone, and maybe these things need to be worked out before either of you tries a relationship with anyone again. I like Wendy’s response, and she is right to say “Why not?” But my question is “Why?” You don’t say “I was such a fool and may have lost the love of my life.” You seem to be trying to figure out if there is enough black in the ledger to bother. If it was so important for you to be with him, would you be asking? If you have to tally the reasons to be with him, well, you’ll never get love to work out on the balance sheet. The only way that works is, you give everything to get everything. Any other version IS a bad deal. Your call, LW.

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    • avatar

      rachel January 7, 2014, 10:51 am

      I agree with you. It’s hard to tell how much of it is just because she’s trying to give us the whole story or whatever, but it sounds like she’s just listing off a checklist of “good partner” without the emotion of “I really want to BE with this person”. So, maybe neither of them really want it that badly.

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  • avatar

    Sansa January 7, 2014, 10:56 am

    I agree with Wendy.

    Life is too short. Try a reconciliation if it’s this hard on both of you and see what happens.

    You’re young, so what could go wrong? I mean, things might not work out, but at LEAST you’ll never ask yourself “what if?”

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  • avatar

    Sansa January 7, 2014, 11:01 am

    As for moving too fast or too slow, I was convinced that my ex fiance’ was the one from the get go. We were together for three years, engaged for one before the split.

    The faster you go I think, the faster the flame burns out. At least that’s what I learned in therapy. If you move too fast, you have the potential to burn out pretty fast. If you move slower and build a deeper emotional bond, then there’s more of a long lasting connection.

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  • muchachaenlaventana

    muchachaenlaventana January 7, 2014, 11:07 am

    I agree with Wendy here a lot. I was in a similar situation recently where I was dating someone for six months, it got really fast really quick, and we ended up breaking up pretty abruptly, due to outside the relationship factors and life events that greatly impacted me and in turn our relationship and him (shitty timing played a party too). Neither of us was really confident in our decision to break up, still felt very “in love”, had a really nice breakup (as in it wasn’t angry, no fighting although lots of crying, etc.), and never pulled the plug completely. We ended up reconnecting a month and 1/2 later and decided we wanted to start to get to know one another again, and take things slow etc. The thing is that we have always loved being together, we make each other SO happy but because it was so serious so quickly when we started to date (last January) we got so bogged down with all these thoughts of “forever” and our relationship became this all or nothing thing, which is just crazy after such a short amount of time together. It sounds to me like you may have had a similar mindset. In the time we were completely apart, I had a lot of growing up and re-evaluating to do in how I approach and look at relationships. Like other people have said, it is pretty impossible to know when you first start dating someone if it can be forever, and the not knowing made me panicky as well as the feeling of having to know. My one really serious past relationship I “just knew” and coming from that and being with someone I felt such a strong connection to had me incredibly confused. Recently me and my guy have decided to become exclusive again, and have re said the I love yous etc. Our relationship right now is so incredibly different than it was the first time around and I could not be happier. We made the promise we were going to take things day by day and proceed based on how we were feeling and things built gradually and after doing this for six months (more like a year at this point) we are the place where we can confidently say yes I want you in my future. Does this mean he is the guy I will be with forever? I have NO idea, but I think the time we had a part, for both of us, just reaffirmed that we wanted to be together. I think you are in a really similar situation to me, so I would sort of see if you can take some space and then come at the relationship with the mindset of enjoying your interactions with your partner, and focusing on the here and now and letting a lot of the worries about the future slip away. You are 23, you have a lot of time to figure that out. Putting that much pressure on something, even if you have a great connection and lots of fun together, is pretty surefire way to make sure it goes nowhere fast. I am typically of the camp “if you breakup its for a reason” but I think there can be exceptions to this rule, and it sounds like may be one. When me and my guy reconnected I was worried for awhile about hurting him because he was more serious about it than I was (he also initiated our break-up) but I still kept the mindset of just seeing where I was with it weekly. It came on me slowly that I could actually see a future with him and wanted it, which are two things I was never sure of when we started our relationship either time (I was worried we had some “personality incompatibilities). Stop pressuring yourself to know, life is about the finding out, so just live in the moment and do so.

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  • avatar

    sophronisba January 7, 2014, 11:22 am

    The introvert/extrovert mismatch at the holidays should not be glossed over. If your ideal is having the whole family over for protracted celebrations of any kind, an introvert who wants to make a brief appearance before retiring to his cave might not be the right partner.
    Trust yourself – you had doubts, there appear to be important personality differences, the timing seems off. No one is the bad guy, it’s just not right, right now. I think you did the right thing to separate.

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  • avatar

    spaceysteph January 8, 2014, 2:08 pm

    LW, I think you made the right decision to break it off. Re-read this part:
    “And then, he told me he decided to not consider a really (really!) good job in another city, near his family, so that he could stay with me until I finish my graduate program (in 2018!). I told him that I was still figuring out if we would be compatible in the long-run, and I wasn’t comfortable with him making such important decisions based on our relationship.”

    When I had been dating my ex for 4 months, I was offered a dream job 18 hours from where we went to college. I was graduating, he had 3 years left (spoiler: those three years turned into five for his Bachelor’s degree… he’s still there 6 years later, pursuing a masters). I decided to take the job, rather than stay in a town with less opportunities for him. We did long distance for another year and a half.

    What you’re talking about is him throwing away a good job opportunity for you (in this job market, especially). If that makes you feel uncomfortable, then you did the right thing by speaking up. I agree to an extent with others that you don’t have to be certain that you belong together at this juncture, but don’t ignore that feeling that he shouldn’t give up a good opportunity for your relationship… it means you’re not ready for that kind of commitment, and that’s perfectly ok!

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    • avatar

      spaceysteph January 8, 2014, 2:12 pm

      Oh want to add:
      Since he didn’t get the job, maybe it leaves the door open to start something up again, but beware of him not casting a wide net for his job search again, just to stay by you. You could always try long distance if he does get a job elsewhere.

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