Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Want My Ex Back!”

I’m on vacation through May 13th, and in my absence reader and prolific commenter, ReginaRey, has offered to guest write a couple of columns. Here’s one of them:

I am 20 and just got out of a six year relationship. He broke up with me, and I’ve been unsuccessful in my attempts at getting him back. He has had drug and alcohol problems, and he went to rehab sometime in January. When he came back home in February, he told me that he needed to talk. He basically said that he felt that we enabled each other, and that while he still loved me, he thought it would be easier if we broke up and just went our separate ways. He had met a girl while he was in rehab. He said she was beautiful and that they hadn’t done anything yet, but he felt similarly about her as he did about me when he and I first met. He said it might be easier to date her because he and I had a lot of history that we had to get over, but with her it would just be a fresh start. He added that he felt extremely bad about the whole situation, but he thought I deserved to know the truth.

They’ve now been together for about two months. He and I are still friends, and sometimes we are alone when he comes over. We have not had sex since he started to date her; all we really do is talk, sometimes cuddle. I sneak in a few kisses and he doesn’t complain, but he won’t kiss me back. I’ve asked him if he loves her, and he says that he doesn’t, he just likes her a lot. I’ve asked him if he loves me, and he says he does. I am so lost right now that I really don’t know what to do. I really do feel like he is mine and that she is just borrowing him for right now. This makes me want to continue trying. At the same time, I sometimes think that I should just give up. I miss making love, and it isn’t just the sex, it’s everything — the touching, the kissing, and just being close. I feel sad when I see him now, but he’s been a constant part of my life for over a fourth of my life now. If I give up on this, I don’t think I’ll be able to keep him as a friend because it is just too hard. What should I do? — Dis-enabled Love


Your ex-boyfriend is right – you’re enabling this situation by refusing to accept the breakup. The root of your problem? You haven’t given yourself time to fall out of love with him. You feel a (false) claim to him because you’ve been together for a huge chunk of your life. He wasn’t just your boyfriend, he was a significant part of what defined you as a person. After this long, you have no idea how to be you without him. That’s enough to induce a great amount of panic at the thought of breaking up, which makes you cling harder.

As impossible as it’s going to sound, though, the best thing for you is to cut communication completely. No Facebook, no texting, no phone calls, no visits, no stalking him and his new girlfriend. And absolutely do not think you can simply “be friends.” You can’t go straight from being in love with someone to being his friend. There’s no “on/off” switch that makes any human capable of falling out of love in a few days. Your current situation is clear evidence of that.

Going through this breakup is going to hurt. Bad. In fact, there will be moments when you feel like the wind has been knocked out of you at the realization that he’s gone. You may not feel like eating, or doing schoolwork, or hanging out with friends, and that’s understandable. There’s no way around the pain, but it does end. And ending your friendship is non-negotiable. You can’t tell me, “But he says he loves me, not her!” He still loves you for the same reason you love him – because neither of you have been apart long enough to fall out of love with each other, and you’re all each other knows. By constantly trying to get back together with him, you’ve interrupted the healthy process of mourning, falling out of love, and moving on.

But he’s been pretty clear about one thing – he wants to move on. He’s told you that in some pretty obvious ways. Namely, by breaking up with you and dating someone else! All that’s left is for you to summon the strength, and self-respect, to walk away. Walking away is the scariest part of breaking up. It’s a complete blind leap into the unknown, with no idea where you’ll end up. You have no idea if what you’re doing is right, or if you’re possibly leaving behind your “soulmate,” or if walking away is going to royally screw up the rest of your life.

It won’t. I promise, though, what will screw you up is continuing to drag yourself through this painful non-relationship and perpetually interrupting the breakup process. Take that leap of faith, and move on. In a year, after you’ve done this the hard and healthy way, you’ll look back and be so grateful that you did.

I wish I could show you how many of us have been exactly where you are right now. First love makes for an excruciating first breakup. But guess what? We’ve all made that leap, and we’ve all survived. And even better – we’ve gone on to find new, and much greater, love. You are going to be no different, I promise.

94 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Addie Pray May 11, 2011, 7:58 am

    Go ReginaRey! Great advice. And yay to me, first commenter. I win!

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    Desiree May 11, 2011, 8:21 am

    This letter was a little messy, so kudos for answering it so well. I don’t think the ex is necessarily doing his part here; to continue to come over and accept the attentions of the LW is not only unkind to her, its definitely not nice to the new girl. He probably also is having a hard time untangling himself from this relationship, but he has more incentive (new girl). But it’s true, LW, you need to move on. This pseudo-relationship you have with him right now is detrimental to everyone. I saw my ex-fiance a handful of times in the months after our breakup (which he initiated), and he sometimes tried to behave in a romantic manner with me. I stopped that cold in its tracks and did not see him for awhile. It was too damn painful, and just not a place I wanted to go. I needed to heal, realize that I could stand without him, and find other people to share such affection with. It happened–took awhile, but it did. You deserve those things, too, LW.

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  • MaterialsGirl

    Elizabeth May 11, 2011, 8:57 am

    When my college boyfriend and I broke up we still communicated occasionally, but eventually I had to realize that wasn’t helping me AT ALL (or him, for that matter). Had to delete him from my FB.. had to tell my friends to stop updating me about his life.. eventually that summer I took pretty much everything sentimental and put it in a big trash bag and out the door. Even though I knew the relationship was over and it was for the best, still totally hurt. I was even in the beginning of my current relationship… but closing the door on an old one is very hard no matter what stage you’re at.
    I would suggest that once you cut off communication, to throw yourself into something whether it be school, work, family, a hobby etc. Having something for yourself will help a lot when you think you’re going to go crazy.

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    • MaterialsGirl

      Elizabeth May 11, 2011, 3:17 pm

      Oh yeah.. and although time heals wounds, it only heals MOST of them. Even when you do the dumping. Always a soft spot for the first real love even if your current situation is better and more fitting.

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      • avatar

        fallonthecity May 12, 2011, 12:46 am

        Oh, agreed. I was just thinking about this last part today — no matter how much I would rather die than go back to my first love, there are still a few things/places/people that remind me of the good times, and I get an annoying pang.

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        VioletLover May 13, 2011, 12:15 am

        So true. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for over three years now, we’re talking marriage, we live together, and every night that I fall asleep beside him is the perfect way to end the day. But there’s still a part of me that loves and cares for my first love, and I think that part of me will always be there. We didn’t end things well and it took 6 months of no talking and 6 months of barely being able to be in the same room before we could talk civilly to one another, but we’re close now, bu just friends. I really think that if you want to be ‘just friends’ with someone that you’ve truly loved, there needs to be a no contact period, enough time for you to let the feelings fade and move on.

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      • avatar

        iwantmyexback May 26, 2011, 11:44 am

        I totally agree with you. I just broke up with my girlfriend and I must say it is very hard right now. I can’t even talk to her for the moment because I am too emotional. Maybe in a couple of months we can talk…

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  • avatar

    TheGirl May 11, 2011, 8:59 am

    This has disaster written all over it. This poor girl is debasing herself for a guy who clearly doesn’t love her. If he really loved her, he’d either be with her or do her the courtesy of letting her move on.

    Honey, you deserve so much better than this guy! Go out and live your life. If it helps, do it because you want to show him that you are a whole and separate person with a full life. Confidence and independence are sexy. If its meant to be, he’ll get over himself and come back to you. If not, trust me, you’ll be beating guys away with a stick every time you go out.

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  • avatar

    silver_dragon_girl May 11, 2011, 9:02 am

    Please, please, please just cut him off. No talking, texting, facebooking…just stop. Please. I have been where you are, I know it’s so hard to cut him out of your live completely, but it’s the only way to get over him. He is not being fair to either of you by continuing to see you and cuddle and kiss you, and you are not being fair to either of you, either. It hurts, but it will be for the best, I promise.

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  • avatar

    MissDre May 11, 2011, 9:12 am

    My first boyfriend did the same thing when he broke up with me. I know that he genuinely cared about me and liked me enough to want to be my friend, which is why he stayed in contact. We still went out for dinner, he still came over to help paint my apartment… just without the kissing or touching. And it killed me. Every time I’d see him, I’d desperately hope something would happen between us so we could get back together. I’m still ashamed to say this, it’s horribly embarrassing, but at the time I even hoped we’d have sex and I’d get pregnant so he wouldn’t leave me (I look back and thank God that didn’t happen).

    And then we’d part, with just a hug (no kiss, no “i miss you”, nothing) and I’d go to my room and cry for hours on end… sometimes I’d even cry all night. I couldn’t eat, and I lost A LOT of weight. Half the time I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

    This went on for two or three months, when I finally told him that I couldn’t see him or talk to him for a while. I needed space to move on and get over him. Cutting off contact was hard but it was the only thing that helped.

    LW, ReginaRey is 100% right. It hurts like hell but you need to STOP talking to this guy or communicating with him in anyway. That is the only way you will be able to move on. You need to give yourself time and space to fall out of love.

    It’s ok to hurt. I know that nothing we say right now will take away the pain. But we have all had our hearts broken at one time, so we can say from experience that it WILL get better. I promise!

    Big Hugs!

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    • avatar

      BoomChakaLaka May 11, 2011, 1:00 pm

      Big Hug to you MissDre!!

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      • avatar

        MissDre May 11, 2011, 1:11 pm

        Thanks 🙂

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom May 11, 2011, 2:07 pm

      And after all the crying you still feel as wretched when you’re done crying as when you began.

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      • avatar

        Bricka May 11, 2011, 2:33 pm

        Oh, thats so true 🙁 I used to feel better while crying, but once i was done, the heavy chest, shrinking stomach feeling would start all over again <.<

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    • avatar

      Kat May 11, 2011, 4:47 pm

      You speak to my heart here! I had a super similar situation, so I must say I’m proud of both of us for making it through!

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  • avatar

    cdobbs May 11, 2011, 9:13 am

    I feel sorry for the new girlfriend. She has been with the guy for two months now, and probably has no idea that he is still seeing his ex, cuddling with her, telling her he loves her…thats just selfish and deceitful…both girls would be better off without this guy!

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    • avatar

      jena May 11, 2011, 9:57 am

      My first thoughts!

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    • avatar

      LTC039 May 11, 2011, 10:22 am

      Yeah. I don’t think *he* even knows what he wants…

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        honeybeenicki May 11, 2011, 10:35 am

        I agree that he doesn’t even know what he wants. And there’s probably a reason for that. Since she said they (the ex and the new girlfriend) were in rehab for drug and alcohol problems, it does concern me a little bit since generally it is not recommended that you make any big life decisions or start new relationships in the first 6 months to a year of getting clean and sober.

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        HmC May 11, 2011, 11:28 am

        Yeah, I doubt he does. She was his first love too (together for six years, starting at 14!). Both girls definitely deserve better, and I’m certainly not saying I agree with his actions, but I can see why he’s acting so inappropriate.

        LW- one day you will find love again. It will feel different than with this guy- you two basically grew up together! But when you fall in love again you will be an adult and will hopefully know yourself better, and those are ingredients for a very happy connection. You’ve got to really let this guy guy first though, and give yourself plenty of time to mourn and feel whatever you need to feel.

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      • avatar

        HmC May 11, 2011, 11:29 am

        second guy = go

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    • landygirl

      Landy May 11, 2011, 11:49 am

      Agreed! Not only that, but you always hear that people going through rehab should stay out of relationships, especially with other addicts or recovering addicts. The guy doesn’t seem too bright and obviously likes getting attention from both of these women. They’d both be smart to cut him off cold.

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  • avatar

    Sarah May 11, 2011, 9:16 am

    Do not cuddle with him. Do not kiss him. He dumped you and is dating someone else. FFS.

    (I know this could have been nicer. Sorry.)

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  • avatar

    cat-i-z May 11, 2011, 9:17 am

    Fantastic response ReginaRey!!!!!!!!!!! You basically hit the nail on the head and I don’t have much to add other than… LW… Regina is right we have all been in your shoes!!! You will get through this and be happier on the other side! HUG to you!!!!

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  • avatar

    shelllo May 11, 2011, 9:19 am

    On some level he probably enjoys seeing you fawn all over him after he ended things. For your own self respect, happiness, and sanity, stop seeing him.
    It may seem like hes sending you mixed signals, but the signal is clear. He chose he does not want to be with you. As painful as that may be to accept, you will move on to better things.

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  • avatar

    honeybeenicki May 11, 2011, 9:22 am

    I agree with all of the other readers – you need to cut off contact with this person. It will not work to transition from being in a romantic relationship for 6 years directly to being “friends” and it is not helping you move on. Maybe some day in the future you can be friends, but for right now you need to cut off ALL forms of contact and focus on yourself. It will hurt. A lot. But eventually the pain will subside and maybe you will be able to see this situation in a whole new light. Make sure you surround yourself with people who can help you through this (friends, family), get into whatever makes you happy or will keep you on track (work, school, hobbies), and maybe use this as a chance to expand your horizons. Get a new hobby, join a club of some sort and get out to meet new people. But don’t jump into another relationship right away either. You need time to heal.

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  • avatar

    TJ May 11, 2011, 9:33 am

    “Where are you now/what have you found/Where is your heart/when I’m not around/Where are you now/you gotta let me know/Oh baby/so I can let you go”

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    • avatar

      LTC039 May 11, 2011, 10:20 am

      Britney Spears-Where are you now

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      • avatar

        LTC039 May 11, 2011, 10:32 am

        Did I get it wrong?

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        TheGirl May 11, 2011, 11:26 am

        Maybe they just don’t like Britney Spears?

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      • avatar

        LTC039 May 11, 2011, 11:35 am

        I guess so! Well regardless of their personal preferences, I got it right! 🙂

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      • avatar

        TJ May 11, 2011, 12:21 pm

        it’s correct… some people are hating on my lyric comments :/ ah well, can’t please everyone…

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      • MaterialsGirl

        Elizabeth May 11, 2011, 2:50 pm

        i love em!

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  • avatar

    WatersEdge May 11, 2011, 9:57 am

    ReginaRay is exactly right. Cut him off. He doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you anymore. He needs to focus on his sobriety, and I think you need to focus on fixing whatever it is that you do that “enabled him”. Was that drug use? Cleaning up his substance-induced messes? Not prioritizing your own needs? I get the feeling that you think that he secretly wants to be with you but is afraid to go against what his counselor says he should do. Either way, your relationship is not healthy and it needs to end.

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    • avatar

      EB May 12, 2011, 6:04 am

      Being selfish and self-absorbed aren’t necessarily the same thing. For example, I know serial cheaters who are honest enough with themselves to recognize that 1) cheating is wrong and 2) they have a proclivity to cheat. They tend to have just enough of a conscience to warn innocent people that dating them is a bad idea (i.e. casually mentioning “I’ve cheated on every girlfriend I’ve ever had” or “All my exes end up hating me”) but not enough of one to actually STOP being a bad person to date. As it has been said MANY times before, people tell you who they are!

      Dear LW, your ex has at least has enough decency to tell you straight up “we enable one another “which is basically him warning you I AM NOT HEALTHY FOR YOU. That being said the new gf seems kind irrelevant ,as even if she was out of the picture, he would still be, by his own admission, a toxic influence in your life. PLEASE stop being a masochist and cut all ties.

      Also, i don’t think it would be a bad idea to start seeing a therapist. Not only could it help you learn some better coping skills to deal with this break up but it also might be good to explore how and why you ended up in such a dysfunctional relationship in the first place. It worries me that this is your only major relationship experience to draw upon for future dating because it has most likely distorted your view of what constitutes a “healthy” relationship. Please, don’t feel like i am judging you, LW… I just know from personal experience how easy it is to fall into a pattern of dating unsuitable men. I think therapy can be really helpful in identifying codependent tendencies and establishing boundaries. Please save yourself more heartache and break the cycle before it starts!

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  • avatar

    MAC2011 May 11, 2011, 10:15 am

    great job RR! LW breaking up SUCKS, but you need to heal and you can’t do that with your ex constantly around. You need to MOA sista and quick b/c the more attached you become to this situation the harder it will get.

    Good luck!

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  • avatar

    LTC039 May 11, 2011, 10:19 am

    Regina pretty much hit the nail on the head. Every part of her response is 100% true.
    To the LW: Please have some self-respect & cut him off. We have ALL been in your situation. You are 20 yrs old, you are young & you need to realize that many many people to not end up with their first love.
    This is going to be a good thing for you. As Regina stated, you will go through a lot of pain, but one day you’re going to wake up & be happy you are free & beginning a new chapter in your life.
    Please follow the advice, it really really will get better. I guarrantee it.

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  • avatar

    kerrycontrary May 11, 2011, 10:20 am

    Great advice ReginaRay! This girl needs to cut off all contact so she can finally move on, and so her ex-boyfriend can move on! When my college boyfriend and I broke up I was so heartbroken. We continued to see each other on and off for the following 6-8 months, which was horrible. We just fought constantly, tried to seek revenge for dating other people, etc…The only way I got over him was when he was dating someone else and I didn’t talk to him or any of his friends for 5 months. I cut off all contact (including facebook, instant messaging, deleted his number). That is the only way to get over a big heartbreak.

    Plus, why do you want to be with someone who just got out of rehab? I know that sounds judgemental, but arn’t recovering addicts supposed to abstain from all relationships for a full year so that they can get THEIR crap together without dealing with someone elses. I wonder if the LW is still drinking/using drugs, while her ex is not. This would be a good reason for him to not want to be around her.

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    • avatar

      honeybeenicki May 11, 2011, 10:37 am

      I mentioned the same thing about abstaining from relationships for a least a year. NA and AA say 12 months, a lot of couselors reduce it to about 6 months.

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      • avatar

        Fairhaired Child May 12, 2011, 4:22 pm

        And that he chose someone else from rehab as his new gf could just be more issues for him getting his stuff together. I dont think the ex bf knows what he wants and is just going back and forth between different crutches, the LW is a comfort crutch because she has been a constant, and the new gf could be a “we can do this” crutch because they were in rehab together. Either way, he (and the LW) needs time being single.

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    Rachelgrace53 May 11, 2011, 10:23 am

    What you need to do, LW, is look at his actions instead of listening to his words. I have no doubt he still has real feelings for you, but he has made it very clear that you don’t mean as much to him as he does to you. He has made that clear by not valuing your relationship enough to make it work. He makes that clear when he doesn’t kiss you back, even if he doesn’t have the strength to tell you not to. He has moved on to someone else, and as much as that hurts like hell, you need to move on too. Don’t waste years on him simply because you hope he’ll change his mind. If you really love him, let him go so that he can get that fresh start that he wants. Make it a clean break for the sake of your own heart and well-being.
    ReginaRey definitely got it right when she said you’ll look back on this and be happy that you let him go the healthy way.

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    jessicaxmx May 11, 2011, 10:27 am

    Girrlll… you have got to move on. Mostly every single dating woman has been through this situation, including myself. My ex broke up with me out of no where. I had no idea what to do with myself. There was a loss of weight, feeling like the world is going to end, and constantly googling “how to get over a breakup” with no relief whatsoever from the advice given. This is all about YOU now. I promise you will discover new things about yourself that you have never, ever known. Once this is over with you will feel so proud and the day it happens you won’t even realize it until you can think of other things besides him. The way you described your relationship in letter is a recipe for disaster. This is your chance of seeing what you are really made out of by breaking up all contact with this guy, and it’s going to be tough. But in the end, you will become a better woman with a new understanding. The first, long term relationship is always the hardest. Best of luck to you and to moving on with your life.

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    • avatar

      MsMisery May 11, 2011, 10:59 am

      I agree. It’s kind of ironic to tell a person that good advice is hard to find when getting over a break-up, especially in the context of an advice column (when really it’s out there, but you know they won’t/can’t listen to it). We’ve all been there. There’s no magic pill, no “Spotless Mind” machine to erase the memories. Regardless of the circumstances, it just takes a helluva lot of time and good friends.

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  • taurons

    atlimbo May 11, 2011, 9:31 am

    Loved the advice of ReginaRey and the others – cut him off. I know that’s harder to do than to say but delete him from your phone, email, fb – everything. Don’t let him have contact.

    I do have a question though – the LW says “he felt that we enabled each other” right after discussing the boy’s stint in rehab for drug/alcohol related problems. It seems like rehab did the boy a lot of good, but does the LW have these issues as well? If they were enabling each other? Soemtimes a bit jolt – a break up, for example – can be a great catalyst for shifting one’s life into the right direction. Good luck, LW.

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  • Jess

    Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com May 11, 2011, 10:32 am

    FANTASTIC, FANTASTIC advice from ReginaRey. LW, take every word of it to heart and reread it as many times as you need to get through the rough parts ahead. But by all means, WALK AWAY. You have to heal.

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  • avatar

    Sue Jones May 11, 2011, 10:34 am

    Many many years ago I was the “new girl” to a guy who was having trouble cleanly cutting a very long, very co-dependant and dysfunctional relationship with a troubled woman. It was very messy and very confusing for all of us, especially since he was still occasionally having sex with her since he “felt sorry” for her. ( I still wonder why I even tolerated it for a second… chalk it up to messy boundaries and being in a learning situation) The situation was not fair or healthy for any of us. Since I was fairly young and had never dealt with someone so messed up before (my other previous relationships were relatively calm and healthy and lasted a few years) ,it took me waaaaay too long to realize I was dealing with someone who was not playing with a full deck. I finally moved on by moving away (finished grad school so it was time anyway) and having taken what it foolishly took so long to learn, I have been in a healthy relationship with my husband for over 16 years…
    Sounds like a clean break is in order to be fair to yourself. It will be hard but worth it Sometimes unhealthy patterns are too hard to break.

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    • avatar

      TheGirl May 11, 2011, 11:28 am

      Ouch. There is nothing worse than pity sex.

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        _jsw_ May 11, 2011, 11:32 am

        Arguably, not even being able to get pity sex is worse than pity sex. 😉

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        TheGirl May 11, 2011, 11:34 am

        The pity sex may feel good at first, but the tub of ice cream you eat afterwards because of how used you feel will most definitely negate it… or maybe that’s just me.

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      • avatar

        Sue Jones May 11, 2011, 1:47 pm

        Well I don’t think his motives were that clean…

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  • avatar

    MissDre May 11, 2011, 10:36 am

    http://www.ehow.com/how_2179911_add-life-out-rut-months.html

    After you have cut off contact with him, here is a list of things you can pick and choose from to help get a spark back into your life. Some of these things will help you find some excitement elsewhere (other than him, I mean) and may help you move on.

    I suggest skip #1 and #3 until a few months down the road.

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      TheGirl May 11, 2011, 11:31 am

      Good list!

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  • avatar

    sweetleaf May 11, 2011, 10:36 am

    Yes, we all have been there. I absolutely REFUSED to cut off contact even though I knew that’s what I needed to do. I pretty much just acted like a crazy bitch until HE cut off contact. It’s been two years since we spoke and I hate to say that I never got over him. Don’t think I ever will.

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    MsMisery May 11, 2011, 10:53 am

    Oh, dear. He is *using you* because you are *letting him.* He’s a user… whether it be of drugs, alcohol, or women. You’re making it easy on him to get whatever little he still wants from you. Cut him off. Yes, easier said than done, but it would help to delete him from any electronic devices (phone numbers, social networking accounts, photos on your hard drive, etc). Moving on from each other is just as important to his recovery from addiction as it is to your recovery from HIM.

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      Desiree May 11, 2011, 11:13 am

      The deleting his number is a great idea, except that many longterm girlfriends have it memorized by heart (I still know my ex’s number, and it has been over two years since the breakup). I remember reading a commenter’s advice on The Frisky that I love. Instead of deleting numbers, she renamed them based on the reasons she shouldn’t contact a guy. “The ass who had sex with another woman on my birthday,” etc. She said it helped prevent drunk dialing. May not work for everyone, but I like the idea.

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        MissDre May 11, 2011, 11:27 am

        I like this idea, because often just seeing the name in your phone sets your heat beating. Deleting it helps with that issue… but I still had my ex’s number memorized and would still text him in the middle of the night when I was feeling particularly vulnerable.

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        Missy May 11, 2011, 11:46 am

        I’ve done this…it works. It also helps when they decide to call you up 6 months down the road and instead of a number that you may or may not remember flashing on the caller id you have instead a clear reason showing up for not taking the call and ignoring it.

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        MsMisery May 11, 2011, 1:24 pm

        That is a good idea, if you have the number memorized! As for me, thanks to modern technology, I haven’t had to (or maybe been able to) memorize a phone number since I GOT a cell phone. I can remember my 1st house phone number (which was three houses ago), but I can barely remember my current one. Technology made me stupid.

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        Sarah May 11, 2011, 2:09 pm

        I label exes in my phone with some variation of “Don’t answer this….just don’t” or “Don’t answer, bad idea”. That way I would forget which one was which so I wouldn’t get that nostalgic tug when they called.

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      G May 11, 2011, 4:23 pm

      Okay, so what I finally decided to do when I left my ex (an almost 4 year relationship) was decided that YES I can go without a cell phone. I handed it over to my Mom. I did have his number memorized. I know that in weak moments I would send him a text. So I cut off the ability to do so by simply not having a cell phone for 2 months. It was amazing, freeing… I recommend it to everyone. Our parents & grandparents survived without cellphones… we can tolerate a small hiatus if it helps us gain back some sanity. Which it did for me.

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    TMSC May 11, 2011, 10:54 am

    This stuck out to me: “He wasn’t just your boyfriend, he was a significant part of what defined you as a person”. Another thing that stuck out, how young the LW is now, and how young she was when they first were together.

    LW, you have been with this person for a huge chunk of your life, and not only that, you have been with him during a period when most people are growing and changing drastically. Please don’t think I am minimizing your experience because of your age, NOT AT ALL. Being young doesn’t make it hurt any less, and it isn’t any less serious than breakups at different ages. I just feel that you might need to take some time and learn who you are without him. Be young, take this time to really get to know yourself, and who you are as a person without him (or anyone else) for awhile.

    It won’t be easy, and the advice given so far is great, I hope you are able to take this advice. I am so sorry you are (and will be) hurting for some time. But as others have said, it will get better…

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    Elle May 11, 2011, 10:08 am

    As I was reading the first paragraph, I was wondering why would the LW want the guy back. In the second paragraph, I realized he’s using the LW as an emotional crutch.

    LW, your ex-boyfriend has moved on. He has another girlfriend. The sooner you realize it and accept it, the better for you. That’s also when you’ll get your dignity back.

    LW, I know this hurts. I know you want to cuddle and kiss him and have everything back. But the thought of him wanting to cuddle and kiss a woman that’s not you should hurt even more. He doesn’t want to kiss you anymore, LW, you have to steal his kisses. Get your pride back!!! Accept that it’s over, and stop seeing him.

    Your ex-bf doesn’t want to stop seeing you, because he likes to be the center of affection of two women. I mean, that’s an ego stroke, and it feels good, I think, regardless of gender. If you, LW, stop seeing him, he’ll have something to lose. But this is why he still wants to see you.

    What do you have to lose, LW? You lose giving him the opportunity to stomp all over your heart. (We’ve all been there, and we know that everytime he leaves, you hurt more than you ever have).

    LW, if you stop seeing him, you have more to gain that you stand to lose. Try it for a week, see how you feel, and take it from there. Baby steps – don’t contact him at all. If he contacts you, reply every other third time. You will feel better soon, I promise.

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  • Budj

    Budjer May 11, 2011, 11:24 am

    100% agree with Regina and the rest of the commentors…cut off contact with him until you’ve moved on.

    I wouldn’t jump the gun and say he is using you or stroking his ego…6 years is a long time (especially when you were together at a young age) and most decent guys would have a hard time with this kind of break up so it’s likely he’s having a hard time navigating this “friendship” too. I won’t speculate on where he is at in his head though as the available information is far too limited to say anything concrete. The fact is it’s just too early for you to be friends right now.

    In this whole mess the one thing you have control over is you. I would really suggest focusing on yourself – I used to be a serial monogamist up until I graduated college (not suggesting you are). Been single for about 5 years and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I’ve grown a lot as an individual and as a bonus I have a better idea of what I want in a person for my next relationship. Take the time to focus on yourself and find things that make you happy and fulfill you and the next relationship will be even better with the right guy. It will also keep your focus off your past relationship.

    Life is short…take advantage of those times you can be “selfish”.

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      MissDre May 11, 2011, 11:28 am

      Great advice!

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      Elle May 11, 2011, 12:33 pm

      Exactly because life is short, we should be selfish all the time. I can make a case that every time somebody does something altruistic, they actually get some benefit from that action. (I’m an economist, first lesson of economics is that people act in their best self-interest, hence the invisible hand. I also look for costs and benefits of all actions… If costs outweigh benefits, then it’s not worth it!)

      Case in point: why do you comment on this website? There’s no monetary gain, obviously, so the answer should be something else. I know why I comment here. Why do you? (Rhetorical question, I’m not expecting an answer. Just food for thought.)

      For the LW, and other people that write here: for every option that you face, think long and hard – What’s in it for you? (this is the benefits part) And what do you have to give up to get it? (this is the costs part) And after you know the answer to those questions, the last one you have to answer is – Is it worth it?

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        melikeycheesecake May 11, 2011, 1:06 pm

        YES to all the above!

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    spaceboy761 May 11, 2011, 11:38 am

    This is a mess and a half. Your ex and the new girl have essentially replaced their drug addictions with banging each other since addictions are most commonly replaced instead of removed. My guess is that if their rehab director knew about the relationship, he/she would flip out because as soon as the banging stops, the using will start in about ten seconds.

    He is essentially using you as an emotional crutch and her as a distraction from the addiction he clearly hasn’t addressed yet. I know that this sounds harsh, but this guy is in no condition to bring you anything other than pain. Speaking as someone who essentially lost my high school sweetheart to drugs (and got directly blamed for it since the going consensus in my town was “if he didn’t selfishly go away to college then she would have stayed straight”), you have to draw a line between the sober and addicted versions of your ex. Right now, he’s the addicted version.

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    _jsw_ May 11, 2011, 11:38 am

    I also disagree that the guy is using her (intentionally). They’ve each spent essentially their entire post-pubescent lives with each other, and it’s not easy for either of them to say goodbye. I absolutely agree that they should end contact, but I don’t blame either of them for not yet doing so. It’s not an easy thing, ever, and especially with first loves.

    Also, I find it commendable that he hasn’t allowed anything to progress physically when they’ve been together. The vast majority of men, especially men that age, would have. He clearly could have but has always declined. Again, I agree that they need to stop seeing each other, but I don’t think he’s the bad guy here or is doing anything evil. He misses her, so he visits her, but he doesn’t allow boundaries to be crossed. Especially since he’s had addiction issues, I think that’s a positive thing.

    Still, it has to end. Another advice home run, RR!

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      Calliopedork May 11, 2011, 12:07 pm

      While I agree that he isnt evil, I do think he is behaving like a bad guy. He shouldnt visit her, cuddle with her or say he loves her. He is being cruel. However the LW still needs to cut him off and stop allowing him to use her, he seems to be unable to stop himself

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        _jsw_ May 11, 2011, 12:18 pm

        I personally don’t think he’s being cruel. I think he’s just as emotionally tied to her as she is to him, and I think he’s having as hard a time letting go as she is. Visiting with her likely doesn’t provide him with anything beyond what it provides her – emotional comfort (they shouldn’t be using each other for that now… I’m just saying that’s what they’re each getting out of it).

        But yes, agreed, it seems like it’s unfortunately up to the LW to do the cut-off, since he seems incapable of it. Not being physical seems to be about as much control as he has. Not visiting at all seems to be beyond him.

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        spaceboy761 May 11, 2011, 1:18 pm

        You also have to remember that the ex is doing through a rehab process, so he’s going to latch on to any emotional liferaft he can find.

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        Calliopedork May 11, 2011, 1:52 pm

        Good point, I personally think that if you dump someone (especially someone who makes it clear that they still love you) the decent thing to do is to avoid any action that will give them hope. Maybe a list of good dumper behaviors would be a nice future post

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        spaceboy761 May 11, 2011, 2:17 pm

        Why does my mind immediately jump to the toilet joke?! It’s like a reflex!

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        _jsw_ May 11, 2011, 2:22 pm

        The same reason mine did.

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        TheGirl May 11, 2011, 2:38 pm

        Everybody knows guys love a good toilet or fart joke. That’s o.k., though, spaceboy. I like a good toilet joke too.

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  • Budj

    Budjer May 11, 2011, 11:42 am

    Sucks having two heads making decisions for us…Haha…good point though.

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    Quakergirl May 11, 2011, 11:59 am

    Just jumping in to second (52nd, actually, I think) ReginaRey’s advice. At first, it’s going to feel like you can’t move or breathe or even think about living life normally without him, because normal for you is with him– you’ve been with him since you were 14. It’s going to suck to create a new normal, but it’s going to be an amazing opportunity for you to just do you for a while. Respect his need to do that too, and don’t contact him anymore. Ask him gently not to contact you anymore, either, and explain why. You’re doing both of you guys a huuuge favor by letting yourselves rebuild separate lives. It seems like he gets that, and I hope deep down you do, too. It’s okay to think “this sucks” right now, but throw yourself into friends, hobbies, school, whatever, and soon enough you’ll be thinking “my life is awesome.” We promise.

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    ReginaRey May 11, 2011, 1:06 pm

    Just want to pop in real quick and say a heart-felt THANK YOU to all of you guys! Your kind words, praise, and encouragement have been much appreciated both this week and last. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the guest columnist experience and hope Wendy has use for me more in the future :-). Other than getting to help people sort out their thoughts and problems, the best part of guest writing (and one of the best parts of this site, in general!) has been the forum of intelligent, open-minded, thoughtful commenters. Thanks for welcoming my advice – you guys are the best!

    And of course, thanks to Wendy for giving me a shot! 🙂

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      Desiree May 11, 2011, 2:46 pm

      I am so glad that you had this opportunity. It is always fun to read your comments, and your columns were extremely thoughtful. I bet Wendy will be wanting some extra help when her due date comes around… ; )

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    MissChievous May 11, 2011, 2:08 pm

    *tear* so beautifully put.

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    RitaMaeB May 11, 2011, 2:54 pm

    Breaking up and moving on from your first love is most likely the worst pain you will have to go through. It may hurt going through it and it may take more than a year to get over it, but find a friend or a few, find some new activities and get busy. Over time he will be come little more than a series of memories, both good and bad.

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  • Kristina

    Kristina May 11, 2011, 5:05 pm

    I was in a slightly similar situation with a guy I dated for 3 1/2 years. I was deeply in love with him when I broke up with him (we were also engaged) and it was hard for me to not keep going back or to keep the contact cut off on my end. I broke up with him because of his alcoholism that was getting worse, and it was not something that I could deal with when he wouldn’t get help on his own. Several months after we broke up, he got help, and is now sober. After going through rehab, he wanted to go back to me and initiate contact all over again, and it was hard for me to say no. Even though I will still get a message every couple or months or so asking how I’m doing, I’ve been very good about cutting off contact and realizing that being friends will never be possible (at least for me).

    I think it’s very hard for someone to cut off contact when you break up with someone you’re still in love with. But sometimes, you know you need something better/different/a fresh start, and I think that’s what the LW’s ex boyfriend is realizing.

    Though he probably shouldn’t be dating so fast after leaving rehab (especially with someone from the program as they clearly face similar struggles in terms of rehabilitation), it is probably a rebound anyways to help him heal from this relationship.

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  • Roxy_84

    Roxy84 May 11, 2011, 5:19 pm

    LW – please see one of the books Wendy has listed on the side of the page ‘its called a breakup because it’s broken’. One line of the book that stood out to me was (and I’m paraphrasing): ‘the one thing you no longer have in common is the belief that this relationship can be salvaged’. You can’t really begin moving on until you accept that.

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    Mandy May 11, 2011, 5:35 pm

    I have a lot of ex-interests still on my Facebook, in my phone, etc. Some of them I’ve dated, some of them I just lusted after.
    The second any of them puts that they are “in a relationship” with Facebook, or a friend tells me they are dating someone, I delete them.

    The best way to get over someone is to remove them from your life.
    The fact that you’re still talking to and hanging out with him is making it worse to everyone involved, most importantly, yourself.

    MOA, for your own sake.

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    anna728 May 11, 2011, 10:03 pm

    Do you want him back to badly and love him so much because you’re really just a great match, or is it just because you’ve already spent so much time together?

    Six years is a long time, but don’t let that overshadow how young you still are (I am 20, too, btw). Looking back at boys I was into when I was 14, I am quite glad not to have spent much time on them. Actually, one boy I was first interested in around then became by boyfriend by senior year and we broke up when we moved away for college. At the time it was heart-wrenching, I was imagining ways it would still work out. But after I moved on my whole opinion of him changed. I think he’s so lame now, and if we met today we would never have hit it off. You change a lot from 14 to 20, but of course if you’re around someone throughout that whole time the affection for them can remain. But that doesn’t mean he’s still the right person for you.

    Anyway I agree with ReginaRey’s advice. You have to let yourself move on. In the short run it may feel better to keep spending time with your ex, but in reality that just drags the pain on for longer. You can’t (and shouldn’t!) get him back. During my last rough breakup, the best advice I got was “Give up all hope.” I was angry to be told that at the time, but now I see it was right. You can drive yourself crazy clinging to even the smallest glimmer of hope. You just have to accept that it is over in order to heal.

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  • meadowphoenix

    AB May 12, 2011, 1:22 am

    I agree with all of the commentators above, but I’m going to go a different route. Let’s say the advice to leave for your sake isn’t enough motivation. So then, since you care and love your ex so much, leave for his sake. If you can’t leave for your health and happiness, leave for his.

    He’s told you something very important: that he feels like a relationship with you only enables his substance abuse. Do you really want to be a part of a relationship your partner can describe this way? Do you want to feel as if you were damaging his recovery? I would assume not. And don’t believe that since you have simply become friends that this in some ways negates the enabling comment. A friendship is a relationship. It is the connection between you two that he feels is harmful not necessarily the label on it.

    Maybe you don’t want to leave because you feel you need him (which would give credence to his view of your relationship, no?). Maybe you are trying to be supportive of his recovery. However since he described your relationship, basically, as toxic, the most supportive thing you can do is walk away. Would I rather you understood that this situation is harmful to you, and since you can not change anyone else, you must take action yourself by leaving? Yes. But if you can’t see it that way, and your focus is more on your ex than yourself, then you need to respect what he’s said, do him a favor, and cut off contact.

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    AKchic May 12, 2011, 2:07 am

    I have to say this: Most rehab programs do not allow their clients to have “interpresonal relationships” with each other. Not during treatment, aftercare, etc. It is preferred that they not be with anyone also in treatment for at least 12 months AFTER they leave treatment as well, although it is understood that it cannot be controlled by anyone within the “treatment team”. But, for most programs, it is against the rules to date others within the program, and they will break it up, discharge one or both parties, or separate them into different groups. In some cases, they can re-evaluate the individuals and recommend higher levels of care and they could end up in a residential program.

    But, he is probably quite right about the enabling relationship. During treatment, all persons involved are usually taught many different aspects of addiction. Everything from coping skills to triggers (and relapse triggers) to how to spot enabling relationships and avoid making new ones.
    If you truly loved him, you would break away like he asked. You are attempting to sabotage his recovery and sobriety. That isn’t love. That is selfishness. You want him to fail so he stays with you so you can “take care” of him and “be there” for him. He continues to enable YOU by allowing you to be physically affectionate to him without stopping you. He does not get any sexual gratification from it anymore, but he does not actively stop you. He passively stops you by not returning your affection. It hasn’t stopped you, has it? No, it just encouraged you to write in to this column for advice. You need to walk away and leave him be. Let him sort his life out. Sort yours out too. Maybe if you two are meant to be something, in a few years, when the both of you are MENTALLY HEALTHY, you can resume a talking relationship and see where things go. Do not expect things to be the same as they were. They never will be.

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  • katie

    Katie May 12, 2011, 5:05 am

    this is the exact advice a 17-year old me needed to hear in high school. very well put!

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    Blondie May 13, 2011, 2:35 pm

    Been there, done this. It took me 7 years to break this cycle with my first love. What finally did it was stepping back and looking at it with a fresh perspective. Basically I was playing your role: throwing myself at him, but he was taking advantage of my emotions. I wouldn’t set up meetings etc, but would get drawn in when he would call and try to hang out “since we are SUCH good friends”. Then I would see him, it would stir up old feelings, and I would make the first move, making him the innocent party. It took hearing about it after the fact when I took an unrelated friend to hang out with this group. Basically it was stated that all of ex’es friends felt bad for his “girls” since he led all of us on.

    Enabling is a two way street. I cut off all contact almost a year ago and its amazing how much calmer my life is.

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    Lola K September 14, 2011, 1:53 pm

    We broke up 5 months ago,after 2 years , because he said he wasn’t in love with me anymore. I hadn’t understood how he was feeling; i thought he was happy and he still liked me, until he broke up with me. We study in different cities and i think that the distance made him feel like that. Now we both have new mates (i feel great with my new boyfriend) but i miss him so much and i am thinking of him very often, hoping that some day we will be together again… I know that now i must focus on my new relationship, but i can’t stop thinking of the great time i had with my ex.
    Help me please!!
    (Sorry for my english! 🙂 )

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    sheila November 4, 2012, 5:04 pm

    I have known a guy for six years. I have liked him for the longest and everytime he would say that someone hurt him it would hurt me and I wanted to be more than his friend and be with him. However recently in march of this year me and him started dating. We have been dating for 7 months but in this 7 months we have had our issues. I cheated 3 times and lied took him for granted he forgave me each time. I believe in our love and that we can past anything. And that I can change for the better because I really do want to have a lasting relationship with him. Hes the love of my life and I feel like he was meant to be with me I just was confused. He would buy me flowers after Sunday church. Take me out to the movies on Monday and he would treat me like a princess. Last week though we spoke and he said he wanted to have a break…. in which it is understandable that he wants because of the hurt and anger…. that hes feeling.. I know he still loves me because I can see it in his eyes. But although we are on a break I kept on bringing up the subject on our relationship which I think pushed him away because now he wants full space… he said he would let me know his decision I have faith in our relationship but I really could use some advice on how to win him back and make him see that I wont break his heart again.

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      rachel November 4, 2012, 6:02 pm

      You can’t “win” him back. Real life relationships aren’t like romantic comedies where some grand gesture brings the hero back to the heroine. You need to give him space, which means leave him alone. If he wants to talk to you, he will contact you. Though, frankly, I don’t know why he would, considering you cheated on him 3 times in 7 months. I think you just have to accept that this is over.

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    Dave December 12, 2012, 4:24 pm

    Is this how you feel and you asking yourself over and over “how to make my husband come back to me?
    You have just got news about the break up or have been broken up for a while and your broken heart wont’ mend. You have to do something because you can’t live like this any longer and you ask yourself over and over again can I get my ex back? The good new is Yes you can get you EX back with the help of DR Chucks your Ex is just one step closer to you.So do the right thing now.contacts Dr Chucks via Email:abalaspelltemple@gmail.com.

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    carolann February 4, 2017, 4:47 pm

    Getting into a relationship in rehab is such a common occurrence and a VERY bad idea. Doubtful that the new relationship will last. They seldom do.(Not to give any hope to LW cause she needs to move on.) He should be focusing on getting over addiction and getting his head straight. Not being in a relationship at all. That is one of the first things they tell you when you are fighting addiction.
    I was in a semi long term relationship at that age…I remember how the breakup felt like the end of the world. BUT when I think of being with that person now it is laughable. I couldn’t even imagine that I was ever interested in them in the first place. This too shall pass!

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