Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Morning Quickies: “How Do I Make Him Fall Back in Love With Me?”

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My boyfriend and I have been together for nearly five years and are both in our late twenties. We have been through a lot together — deaths in the family, long distance, job loss, several moves, cultural differences. Despite these things, we are best friends and he is a loving and wonderful man. We lived together for six months a year ago but decided to live separately again for two reasons: 1) our commutes to work were too long and 2) we were fighting a lot.

Since moving out, he’s expressed that my constant negativity was bringing him down. I took an honest look at my life and at my happiness and I realized he was right. So, I have been working on myself, going to therapy to learn coping techniques, and I have been practicing meditation to deal with my stress levels. I feel better about myself and I notice myself reacting to situations in a much more positive way than I would have even a month ago.

The problem is my boyfriend recently told me that my past negativity made him fall out of love with me. I was devastated. He stressed that he has noticed the changes I have been making and that he is very proud of my growth. He wants to stay together and see if his romantic love for me can grow again (he suggested this). It has been a month, and he says he feels improvements, but he just isn’t quite back to loving me the way he did before, yet. I continue to strive to be more positive every day and I feel much better about his level of commitment to me, but the waiting to see if he will ever love me again is very hard.

So my question is: Do I wait it out and keep working on me and hope that the man I love will find his love for me again or do I decide to keep working on myself alone? — Afraid to Lose Him

I’d MOA. You say you’ve been together for five years and are in your late twenties, which means you were in your early twenties when you started dating. A LOT changes in those formative years as you leave young adulthood and become a full-fledged adult. This “negativity” stuff you’re talking about is a reflection of growing pains, and it’s not just growing up you’ve been going through, but growing apart… from your boyfriend. He didn’t fall out of love with you because you were negative. He fell out of love with you because you two drifted apart. It happens all the time, especially with couples your age. You stay together because you love each other (you’re “best friends”), you feel comfortable together, being with each other is all you know, it’s scary to think about being on your own or being with someone else, and you’re afraid of losing the person you once thought was “the one.” The good news is, you don’t have to lose him as a friend. After a total break from him — say 3-6 months — to break the habits of thinking of him as a romantic partner and trying to make him love you again, you can start over as true friends and continue being in each other’s life. But, yeah, your relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend is over. To keep chasing that is futile and will undo the work you say you’ve done on yourself. MOA. Rip the bandaid off. Quit trying to make someone love you, and love yourself enough to move on from a situation that has run its course.

I am a lesbian and have fallen for a married coworker of mine. We’ve known each other for almost three years now and for the first two years I only saw her as a good friend and coworker. About a year ago, my feelings towards her started to change and I found myself becoming attracted to her on many levels. I dismissed my feelings as I knew she was married with kids. As time has gone on though, we have been talking daily and seeing each other on the weekends, and she has confided in me that she has feelings for me. We haven’t slept together, even though we both want to, as she says that will hurt her family. She tells me she has never felt this way towards another female, even though she fooled around with a couple women in college, and she has always considered herself straight. She says she doesn’t know how to stop thinking about me, while I think about her all day every day, too.

I am frustrated in feeling that she’s taken me down this rabbit hole with her but can’t figure out who she is much less what she wants. I am not sure I can be only friends with her at this point. She tells me she feels so guilty for her feelings because she can’t hurt anyone, yet keeps up the flirting and spending time with me. Not sure what to do or where to go from here. — In Love with My ‘Straight’ Co-Worker

 
She’s married. Period. End of story. MOA. Her ambiguous sexuality, the “rabbit hole” she’s taken you down, the intense feelings, blah, blah, BLAH don’t matter. What matters is that she’s committed to someone else and she’s stated numerous times to you that she can’t act on her feelings toward you because she doesn’t want to “hurt her family.” Of course, she’s already hurting them — and YOU! — by engaging in this emotional affair with you. Well, you can’t control what goes on in her family, but you sure as shit can control how she makes YOU feel. How? Stop fucking see her. Stop spending time with her. Stop flirting with her and confiding in her and playing this stupid cat-and-mouse game with her. Acknowledge that she’s confused and it’s not YOUR job to help her figure shit out. Go find someone who is: A) emotionally and physically available; and B) not confused about her sexuality. Anything else is just a “project,” not a relationship.

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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.

18 comments… add one
  • avatar

    MissDre January 29, 2016, 9:30 am

    Wendy, I just have to disagree with one part of your advice to LW 1. I think it’s dismissive to say it wasn’t her negativity, just growing pains and growing apart, that caused him to fall out of love.
    .
    As someone who struggled with serious depression in my early 20’s, it’s very possible that he DID fall out of love with her because of her negativity/depression. I lost a boyfriend and a several friends as well because it does get exhausting for other people to deal with a constant negative attitude, tears and a “woe-is-me” outlook on life.
    .
    That being said, it doesn’t change the rest of your advice. You’re absolutely right that she needs to take a good long break away from him and focus only on herself.
    .
    I just don’t want to dismiss the hard work she’s been doing to treat her depression/anxiety/negativity. She and her BF may not have been right for each other, but it’s important for her to understand that the work she’s doing will improve not only her relationship with herself, but her future relationships with others (boyfriends and friends alike). It’s true what they say, that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom January 29, 2016, 9:53 am

      I agree about the negativity. I work with a woman who is constantly negative. She complains about everything, her husband, her kids, her in-laws, her mom, her kid’s school, her kid’s bus, her work schedule. To be around her is to hear nonstop complaints and after about a year of working with her I hit a point where I hated being around her. I almost never work with her anymore and I’m glad. I overlapped with her for about five minutes yesterday and all she did in those five minutes was complain. I love working with the people who are fun, who make me laugh, who can be serious and talk about problems but also warm and friendly and fun. I can spend day after day with those people and look forward to spending more time with them.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom January 29, 2016, 10:00 am

      There is a great book titled, “The Like Switch,” which covers why people like each other and it covers what makes people like and dislike each other. Smiles, friendliness, and empathy are important. http://www.amazon.com/Like-Switch-Influencing-Attracting-Winning/dp/1476754489/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454079614&sr=8-1&keywords=the+like+switch

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      • avatar

        MissDre January 29, 2016, 10:35 am

        I just ordered that book. I am SUPER socially awkward, maybe this will help haha.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom January 29, 2016, 10:56 am

        I checked the book out of the library and loved it so much I bought it for myself. I hope it does help. I used to be very shy so I get socially awkward. I think having good interactions with nice people has made me much less shy but I do tend to wait for the other person to reach out to me first.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy January 29, 2016, 10:13 am

      I hear what you’re saying and I agree that negativity can impact someone’s feelings, definitely. But I didn’t want to make that a focal point because then there’s this idea that if the LW simply worked on being more positive, her boyfriend would fall back in love with her. I think it’s MUCH more likely that after five years together at a very formative stage in their lives that, as much as the negativity may have impacted and influenced his feelings, it was more than just that — that there probably very much was a growing apart that happened and the negativity on top of that was a nail in the coffin.

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    • avatar

      Ella_ January 29, 2016, 11:13 am

      I totally agree with you MissDre. I have been through the same thing but on the other side with my ex boyfriend who struggled with depression and anxiety and didn’t/wouldn’t get the help he needed for a long time. That phase really changed our relationship and even after he got help and started doing better, it was impossible to just go back to how things were before. You can’t just forget that period in between (like when the LW’s boyfriend says he fell out of love with her). My boyfriend and I were also together from our early 20s to late 20s, but it was this exact issue that was our problem, not growing apart. I think the LW should continue to work on herself, but with the intent of making herself happier and healthier and not trying to win back her boyfriend.

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      • muchachaenlaventana

        muchachaenlaventana January 29, 2016, 11:32 am

        Yeah as someone dealing with pretty bad depression right now, I can tell that it is greatly impacting my relationship. Its not even that I am negative all the time, which isn’t to me quite the same thing, its more that I am just not really fun to be around because I don’t really enjoy anything. My boyfriend has kind of started to want to see me less and although he says he gets that I am depressed, I can tell it is impacting things. I just can’t hang out and be fun and my anxiety and insecurity are pretty much uncontrollable. So idk, I think that something like this can have a huge impact on an otherwise really great relationship. A difference here is that your boyfriend said he doesn’t love you anymore… I think that people fall in and out of love throughout the course of really long relationships, or at times are more in love than others, but you guys aren’t engaged or even married, so it seems like maybe too much of a slog at this point. I would maybe take a step back, and take some time to really work on yourself, it can be hard to get out of a depression when you are in a relationship because I feel you end up doing it more for someone else than yourself, and that’s not really sustainable. Anyways, maybe you guys should just separate and when you are really better, try to meet back up and see if feelings are still there on both sides.

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      • avatar

        mcj2012 January 29, 2016, 11:48 am

        I’ve seen in two different threads you mention your depression. I hope you are talking to someone to help you through this. Sending internet hugs & support to you. xo

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      • avatar

        AndSoItGoes January 29, 2016, 6:48 pm

        It is unfortunate when the person/people you might otherwise turn to for support is/are put off by your struggle. It may be no one’s fault, but it still really, really sucks.

        Ditto what mcj2012 said.

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  • avatar

    Essie January 29, 2016, 9:31 am

    I just wanted to comment that negativity CAN kill a relationship. It may not just be a case of LW1 and her boyfriend growing apart.

    When I look back at it now, I think the guy may have had undiagnosed clinical depression, but his constant negativity just broke me. And honestly did change the way I felt about him. He was always critical of himself, his life, his job, his friends, he harped on the flaws in every movie we saw together, he’d pick apart any event we went to. I vividly remember going to a museum with him on what was supposed to be a fun Christmas outing, and he went on and on about what was ‘wrong’ with the exhibits. It ruined the day.

    I love the guy as a friend (we’re still in touch), but I could never be in a relationship with him. It’s just a total, fundamental incompatibility. I’m an optimistic person at heart, and that constant negativity just ate at me and dragged me down. And yeah, it killed the romantic love.

    So, LW1, go ahead and give it a try, if you really feel you can change. But be aware that you might just not work as a couple. You can’t make him fall in love with you again.

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    • avatar

      MissDre January 29, 2016, 9:42 am

      Yes exactly. I used to be like this, when I was depressed and felt like the world was against me. My bf at the time broke up with me for these reasons, but he never told me to my face. He told a mutual friend months later (while I was still pining away for him) and it was sort of the kick in the ass I needed to get help and change my life.
      .
      My brother is also this way quite often, and sometimes I just have to tell him to SHUT UP because his negativity and constant criticism of everything just sucks all the joy out of everything.
      .
      So, LW1, keep working hard on yourself and find happiness in the things around you. But you and your ex-BF most likely won’t work out. Wendy is right, MOA.

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  • avatar

    Essie January 29, 2016, 9:41 am

    Oh, and LW2, she hasn’t taken you down a rabbit hole, or anywhere else. You’ve made the choice to follow her down that rabbit hole. At any time, you could have said “no, that’s enough”, and walked away. You chose to engage in this emotional affair, and encourage her cheating.

    She’s not going to leave her family for you, and you know it. Oh, maybe you’ll have sex a few times, but this isn’t going anywhere for real. Tell her you’re done, and walk away.

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  • avatar

    LisforLeslie January 29, 2016, 9:59 am

    LW 1 – it’s time to move on. Keep working on yourself. Don’t wait for someone to see if maybe their feelings might change. If one of your friends was in your position, I doubt you’d advise them to wait and see. You’re torturing yourself and you deserve better than “Maybe I’ll love you again tomorrow.”

    LW2 – This person is married. Don’t get caught up in the drama. Put some distance between you. Why does anyone willingly become “the other woman”?

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  • avatar

    keyblade January 29, 2016, 1:01 pm

    Letter Writer 1. You and your boyfriend have been together for not quite five years. So about three and one half years in you decided to live together. After six months of fighting and commutes you moved out. In the last year of living apart, your boyfriend realized and told you that your negativity wasn’t good for him. And just recently he told you that the weight of the negativity has made him conclude he isn’t in love with you, anymore.
    I disagree that this is an age thing. But I do agree that you are both grasping at something that hasn’t been working for a long time. You’ve taken a step back for a full year now and things have gotten better for him. That isn’t an encouraging sign. While it might be about the negativity you brought into the relationship, that doesn’t mean becoming more positive for a few months will be enough to change the damage that was done.
    There is something off about assigning all the blame of a failed relationship to one person’s negativity. If he was constantly communicating to you that the negativity was damaging for him, he was encouraging you to seek help, he was looking at his own role in the fighting, he was invested in troubleshooting, and you were a cement block of denial the whole time THEN maybe swift and committed unilateral change might improve things. Even then I think couples can cross a line where it’s just too late. But I’m guessing its more than negativity. I’m guessing he has lost faith in this being the right relationship for him. I don’t think discerning the precise reason will change things. He isn’t fully committed anymore. He is partially in. I don’t think that will be enough. I would concentrate on allowing the distance to stay while maintaining your recent changes. I’d give yourself six months of distance and see what things look like on the other side. I’m sorry.

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    • avatar

      Jessibel5 January 29, 2016, 3:13 pm

      You know, I read this this morning and wasn’t going to comment. But it started really niggling at me as I thought about it because I agree that there was something off about how the blame was assigned. And it’s entirely possible that I’m projecting. But I can’t help but feel like this smacks of the boyfriend gaslighting her about her negativity, that it’s entirely possible that she’s not really a negative person and he just is putting all of their relationship problems on her because he’s over it, or he doesn’t want to deal with ANY of her emotions. I was in a relationship like that where if I ever said anything complainy or negative I was told “you’re ALWAYS so negative, you’re NEVER happy.” This confused me because I was happy plenty. It was just that the guy I was with didn’t want to deal with any emotions I had and wanted me to change to be his version of a a perfect woman, always sunny and happy and ready to support him, to not be difficult. Maybe LW1 didn’t need to change. But either way, moving on is the way to go. If they can’t live together now, there’s not really a future for them if they want to get married and start a family.

      Disclaimer: I’m totally projecting. It just really struck a nerve and made me feel for her. LW, be happy for yourself, not for anyone else!

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      • avatar

        Ange January 29, 2016, 5:36 pm

        Considering she actually took stock and agreed with him, plus is seeing benefits from therapy I doubt it’s all the boyfriend. No doubt there are plenty of instances of gaslighting still around out there though!

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  • avatar

    Brise February 1, 2016, 7:14 am

    LW1: why do you take all the blame for the end of the relationship? Both partners share this responsability. Is he perfect? Was the relationship perfect except your “negativity”? After a few years, the partner’s defects become obvious. If the relationship becomes less strong, they appear more and catch the attention. Your “negativity” is perhaps a defect of yours: has he none? The relationship has run its course, as Wendy said. You tried to live together, it failed, you both are growing apart. Let it go. Take it as a life lesson. Your work on yourself will help you anyway, in your love life and in your self-knowledge. But don’t feel like you have failed and must change completely.

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