Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Is There Any Hope To Get My Boyfriend Back?”

Broken heart

My four-years-younger, 27-year-old boyfriend of one year ended our relationship six months ago because he felt he was invested in our relationship and I was not. I was not completely blindsided by his decision as we had discussed on two separate occasions my inability to be more accepting of his love and to allow myself to be more vulnerable, but I was still shocked and deeply devastated by his decision. It appeared at that time, with his display of physical emotions, that he was also devastated.

During our relationship he was the most amazing person I have ever been with. He is everything I could ever dream of, but I was silently struggling to connect mentally in our relationship. I have suffered from depression and anxiety a majority of my life, and two months before our breakup I started seeing a therapist. I wanted help determining where my doubts were coming from. Was it depression, anxiety, my past abusive relationships, or my boyfriend just not being the one for me? I did not tell my boyfriend I was in therapy because I was ashamed, and most times I felt bad that I was not giving him the relationship I felt he deserved, but I did tell him about my therapy when we broke up.

We were equally in communication for the first month of our breakup and I let him know my desire to work things out. He was not sure he wanted to at that time, but he left the door open. After that first month I did not contact him for the following forty days in an attempt to give him and myself space. After that time I reached out to him, asking to meet up, and he asked if everything was ok, to which I replied yes. He never responded after that and the next day he blocked me on any outlets to communicate with him any further, which I understand is defined as “ghosting.” I was surprised by this action as this behavior was not consistent with the kind-hearted person I know. I have not attempted to contact him again since then.

In the six months since our initial breakup I have made a lot of progress in therapy and have started Lexapro, which is really helping me with my anxiety and depression. I have tried extremely hard to move on, but I cannot deny how much I love and miss my ex. There is not a single day that goes by that I don’t think of him. My feelings for him are clear now and the irony is not lost on me. I’m not above making a fool out of myself. I would move mountains to be with him and go to the end of the earth if I thought it would help, but I feel that blocking me speaks volumes.

How was he able to cut me out of his life so easily if he loved me? How do you turn love off so quickly? Is all hope lost? If no, what is your advice? If yes, how can I move on? — Willing to Move Mountains

In my forty years of life, which have included marriage and babies and change and death and heartache like you describe, one big lesson I’ve learned is that it’s often harder to accept the loss of what we imagine we could have had over the loss of what we actually did have. What you had with your ex-boyfriend was a one-year relationship in which you constantly struggled to mentally connect to him and he felt frustrated, and probably very hurt, by what he saw as your inability to accept his love and to be vulnerable. In short: You did not have a great relationship. Was there potential for one? Sure, maybe. I mean, clearly you think so now. But the truth is, that great relationship never existed, and it probably never will exist. You are grieving and mourning something that you never had.

What you did have and what did exist was your boyfriend’s love for you. While you failed to be vulnerable with him, it sounds like he was vulnerable with you. And the pain and loss and grief he’s feeling is not for what could have been but is instead for what was for him very real — YOU. He has been mourning the loss of you. Not your relationship. Not the relationship he hoped you could have. He’s been mourning YOU. Because he loved you and because, when we lose something we love deeply, it shakes us to the core. And one of the ways many of us cope with that loss is to put it in a box in our mind and shelve it so that it doesn’t bleed into every other part of our lives. We shelve it so we have psychic space to think about other things, and with some distance, maybe we take the box of loss off the shelf now and then and open it up and look at it and maybe even rifle through it a little bit — the memories, the photos, the recalling the funny way you laughed. And then we put the box back on the shelf because we’ve felt enough pain to remind us that we’re still alive, that we’re still healing, that we still need time.

Your ex hasn’t cut you out of is life because he didn’t love you. He’s cut you out because he loved you so much. He hasn’t “turned off” the love, so much as he’s stuffed it in a box, relabeled it “loss,” and put the box in some far corner that he doesn’t have to pass.

Is all hope lost for you? I hope not. I hope you continue with therapy and treatment for anxiety and depression. I hope you move on. I hope you take the lessons you learned from this relationship and losing what you imagined you could have had and let yourself accept love and be more vulnerable the next time you have the opportunity to do so. I hope you let your ex continue healing in his own time and his own way so that, when it’s his turn to accept love again and to be vulnerable, he will be able to do so with an open heart, bruised as it might be. Because while you may be willing to “make a fool of yourself” to get what you want, it isn’t fair to do so at the risk of someone else’s healing and whatever life he’s created since losing 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.

25 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Kate December 15, 2016, 10:30 am

    Everything Wendy said. 100%, you’re mourning the potential.

    Also, he’s seeing someone else now. That’s why he checked to make sure you were ok, then blocked you. I could be wrong, but that’s how a guy who’s decent will usually act when he’s moved on and met someone he’s into.

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  • avatar

    Kate December 15, 2016, 10:34 am

    Also, that’s not “ghosting.” Ghosting is when you’re seeing someone and they disappear on you and stop communicating. What your ex did is known as respecting the “no contact” rule after a breakup, then moving on.

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    • avatar

      Anonymousse December 15, 2016, 1:22 pm

      That totally jumped out on me. This is not ghosting at all.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros December 15, 2016, 10:58 am

    He didn’t “ghost” you. You can’t ghost someone you already broke up with. Ghosting is when you disappear without any notice. He gave you notice when he told you he no longer wanted to date you. In this case, he probably realized that the only way to move on from you was to stop talking to you, since you were not moving on.

    A person can break up with you and choose to move on without hating you. I assume you understand his reasoning for breaking up and how it has little to do with how much he cared about you at the time. He’s decided this isn’t the relationship for him and you can’t give him what he needs, so he’s moving on. You can’t change that just because you don’t want to move on. So, take what you’re learning about yourself in therapy and use that on your next relationship.

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  • avatar

    Fyodor December 15, 2016, 11:24 am

    He didn’t “ghost” you. He broke up with you. He doesn’t owe it to you to let you badger him to get back together because you don’t respect his decision.

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  • avatar

    Loo December 15, 2016, 11:33 am

    I love the first paragraph, Wendy. I’ve grieved something I never had, and what you wrote helps put that in perspective.

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  • norabb

    Norabb December 15, 2016, 11:35 am

    Wendy’s right, he didn’t ghost you. Ghosting s when you fade out contact with someone you’re dating/seeing/talking to/hooking up with in order to avoid having a DTR talk or avoid having to break up with them. Technically what he’s done is used “the nuclear option” which is an idea popularized y Doctor Nerdlove. Its when, after a painful break up, even with someone you really loved, you cut off all communication with them in order to give yourself space to heal without having to see their face every day. The Doctor recommends it when people are having a rough time getting over someone because it’s hard to do so when they text you or you see their status on facebook. You sound like you did the same for 40 days and tried to reconnect, but it also seems like he figured he wasn’t ready yet. So use the nuclear option again, and try to get your mind off of him and continue using therapy and time to heal your wounds. It won’t last forever, it just feels like it.

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  • avatar

    Janelle December 15, 2016, 11:35 am

    I agree about the ghosting comment. Also, ignoring someone for 40 days would sound more like you ghosting than him, in fairness. I wouldn’t take someone’s call after being ignored for 40 days..

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  • avatar

    Ruby Thursday December 15, 2016, 11:46 am

    This wasn’t my letter, but Wendy, you completely blew me away here. I can’t even formulate a proper response, but this is advice column poetry right here.

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  • Miel

    Miel December 15, 2016, 12:17 pm

    I feel like if my SO of one year were to start therapy and not tell me… it would be a definitive sign for me that we aren’t compatible. I expect good communication, honesty, vulnerability, and intimacy in a romantic relationship. If my partner was to hide something like that from me… I would just think “I’m too old for this”. I’m only 25, younger than the LW’s boyfriend, but already I know I want a committed, mature, honest relationship. I would cut my losses and move on from a relationship where my partner can’t tell me, after A YEAR together, that they just started going to therapy.

    LW, your boyfriend probably loved you very much. But love isn’t enough, the most important is to be compatible. And maybe that was just the last straw that made him realize you two weren’t compatible. Even though he loved you.

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  • avatar

    for_cutie December 15, 2016, 1:33 pm

    Let’s think through the idea of getting back together. You beg, grovel, make promises, start dating again. You’re going to have to fight hard to regain his trust. You’re going to have to figure out how he wants to be loved and then do that (which distracts from your therapy and healing). When you fall short of his expectations the same conversations from before about not “‘accepting love” will come up. You’ll break up again.

    Your relationship had deep flaws. Not all of them can be attributed to your mental health. There were communication and compatibility issues. Plus, if he couldn’t last for a year while you experienced mental health issues, he does not make a life-long partner. Mental health is a life-long battle for many, one that doesn’t get magically cured never to return.

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    • avatar

      Kate December 15, 2016, 1:35 pm

      This is all true, and, in addition, he now has a new girlfriend.

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      • avatar

        Kate December 15, 2016, 2:47 pm

        Ok, actually I don’t agree with all of this, but definitely the part about it being some extremely hard work to get him back, if that’s even possible, and then you end up breaking up again.

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  • avatar

    Anonymousse December 15, 2016, 1:39 pm

    Lovely, Wendy. Truly. So compassionate.

    LW, you weren’t honest with him, with the therapy especially, and you cut him out/ghosted him for forty days! Did he know you were doing that? If I were in his shoes, and I was potentially going to work on things with you, that alone would have been it for me. You don’t cut someone out like that without agreeing upon it or at least giving them notice. It’s so hurtful and selfish and a bit cold.
    Reflect on your missteps from this relationship, work on your happiness and peace for yourself and do better at communicating in your next relationship. I don’t believe this man was the end-all, be-all for you, but rather a very loving and helpful man who exposed your flaws and faults that you need to work on before you will be in the next one. That’s how I’ve chosen to look at failed relationships. Reflect on what you have learned about yourself and love, and how to love better and do better the next time. Good luck.

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  • avatar

    Ron December 15, 2016, 2:39 pm

    For_Cutie:
    IMHO you are blaming the ex bf to a rather irrational extent. There is no sign that he wants her to beg and grovel to be taking back. He has moved on. This ” if he couldn’t last for a year while you experienced mental health issues, he does not make a life-long partner.” is bunk. She never told him she had mental health issues. She never told him she was in therapy until she whipped out that card during the break-up. It was her choice, through most of there relationship, both to hide her issues and to not get them treated. That was irresponsible.

    The truth is that she was not ready to date at the start of their relationship, and apparently for just about all of their relationship. She had not given herself sufficient time to recover from her past abusive relationships and to get her mental health issues under control. She made new bf pay for the sins of old abusive bfs by entering a relationship, but remaining emotionally unavailable. It is not surprising that after multiple abusive relationships and while dealing with mental health issues she wasn’t emotionally available, but that means she needed time as a single to work on herself. The usual advice here — to take time off dating after a bad relationship to get yourself back together, is sound advice.

    LW and ex may just not be compatible, but when you keep yourself closed off to prevent the hurt that prior abusive relationships have caused, then nobody is going to be right and compatible, because you aren’t ready for a new relationship.

    Ex has moved on. LW needs to leave him in peace with his new gf. She needs to stick with the therapy and not date until she has reached the point where she can put the abusive relationships behind her, understand why she entered into and stayed within them, have her mental health issues under control, and be ready to confront a new relationship with emotional openness. When you are still in the ‘all men are shits’ stage, you should not be dating — at least you should not be dating men.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover December 15, 2016, 3:56 pm

      I don’t think for_cutie was blaming the ex-bf. She was saying that, at the point he’s now at (not wanting contact), that the LW will have to do all that to get him to change his mind now and come back to her. He doesn’t want to get back together, clearly, so she’ll have to beg and cajole and grovel and convince him. Then, if she does manage that, she’ll be the one in a position of trying to build trust, and she’ll always feel like she’s the one who’s the supplicant, for lack of a better word. The one trying to “keep” him and make it up to him. That’s all. Not that he’s requesting for her to do that, just that realistically that’s what she’d have to do at this point. Not worth it, and unlikely to work anyway.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 15, 2016, 7:19 pm

        Actually, I totally saw it the same way as Ron and was like — REALLY? He’s supposed to be psychic and KNOW that she is working on her issues secretly with a therapist and that it was somehow a sign that HE was a bad person and not ready for the long haul as he didn’t stick around and hope for the best.
        .
        whatEVER.
        .
        Somebody else said that the BF just didn’t “get” the LW. Actually, no. He DID get her quite clearly and was like, eh, I can do better than somebody who is so closed off. The blame here falls squarely on HER shoulders. And now that she is ready for love, he’s supposed to coming running back? Again — whatEVER.
        .
        Not everything in life gets a do over, LW. MOA. Maybe enjoy being single for a while. It’s REALLY not THAT bad.

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      • avatar

        Fyodor December 15, 2016, 7:53 pm

        I think that it was this

        “Plus, if he couldn’t last for a year while you experienced mental health issues, he does not make a life-long partner”

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    • avatar

      for_cutie December 16, 2016, 1:42 pm

      My comment was blunt, and meant that way because it is pure speculation. Throughout Wendy’s advice and the comments section no one addressed the “what if scenario.” I am guessing – maybe incorrectly – that the LW going through the “what ifs” with rose tinted glasses led her to wanting to get him back.

      No one will ever know if the boyfriend could handle a partner with mental health issues because LW was not honest about this for a year. Hence my comment about the communication issues. LW did not communicate openly with the ex.

      I was not trying to point fingers, merely point out all of the flaws along the way – others covered these well – lead to the conclusion that they are not a good match.

      I hope the LW continues on her path to recovery and meets someone new for a fresh chance at a healthy relationship. Starting at a deficit (the break up) is never a nice place to start any endeavor.

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  • norabb

    norabb December 15, 2016, 2:43 pm

    A kind thought for the LW that I don’t think has been brought up yet but maybe it’ll help you to put in this perspective. He taught you something really valuable that you can carry on to your future relationships and friendships. You need to learn to be vulnerable in order to share love with someone. Maybe that’s been hard for you up til now, and thankfully you’re going to therapy to work through that. That’s awesome! He was the catalyst. You realized that something wasn’t right and you’re fixing it, that’s a really important step in improving yourself. The hope is that in your next relationship you’ll be able to open up more, to be more vulnerable, to let love in. That’s a good thing. I’m a big believer (and I know some of Wendy’s followers think I’m a fucking idiot for this, but fuck you right back) in the fact that everything, good and bad, is a lesson for us. And it’s up to us to learn from it, move forward, and try our best to do better next time. So keep doing therapy, keep your head up, and let that love in.

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    • avatar

      Anonymousse December 15, 2016, 3:58 pm

      Wendy brought it up.

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    • avatar

      Ron December 15, 2016, 4:39 pm

      It is more than just being open to love. LW was in at least two abusive relationships and now no longer trusts her ability to evaluate the suitability of potential partners. Unless she learns more about herself: what attracted her to multiple abusers and how she can quickly spot and disconnect from a potential abuser, she is not going to feel safe opening up. Her behavior seems as much a result of the abusive relationships as the unaddressed mental health issues. She likely is dealing with self-worth issues.

      When you reach the point that you don’t know whether your failure to fully connect with your SO is caused by a bad match, incomplete recovery from past abusive relationships, or untreated mental illness, it is time to pull back and work on yourself. Just suddenly being open to love again is not going to solve her problems.

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  • avatar

    sassyjam December 15, 2016, 3:13 pm

    Wow. I NEVER comment on these things. My significant other just broke up with me after 5 years. I’m stunned/sad and grieving. But wow, how powerful a concept that I could be grieving and longing for something that didn’t exist. When we broke up I was so sad about the adventures we were meant to have together in the future. Not the ones he was too busy to have over the past year. Wow. I saved the first paragraph and will be re-reading it as I mourn and heal.

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  • avatar

    Brise December 15, 2016, 4:36 pm

    I like very much Wendy’s answer, this is very right. Also: don’t condemn yourself too much for the break up. It didn’t hold because the relationship was too fragile and you couldn’t really understand each other. He didn’t understand you. I am surprised, by the way, that you would hide going to therapy. Why? A partner will usually feel relieved if there are trouble in the relationship, that their girlfriend is seeing a professional.

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  • avatar

    Essie December 15, 2016, 5:11 pm

    Beautiful, Wendy. One of your best.

    LW, you can’t turn love off easily, but it can fade when you realize that you and your partner just don’t work together. Unfortunately, the two of you just don’t have compatible approaches to life and relationships, and he recognized that. He tried for a whole year. He wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t love you. And your hiding the therapy from him was probably the last nail in the coffin. You didn’t trust him enough or feel close enough to him to share that with him.

    It wasn’t working for you. You were pretty clear about that in your letter. You just weren’t that into him until he broke up with you. As Wendy said, you’re mourning the loss of the relationship you wished you had with him, and never did.

    You’ll be OK. There’s a guy out there who’s better suited for you, and it won’t be such a struggle with him. 🙂

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