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“She Dumped Me, But I Can’t Let Her Go”

Broken heart

I’m from Canada and and my girlfriend of three years is from France. We’re presently located in New Zealand on working holiday visas, after finishing a year long excursion in Australia. She’s mentioned to me on occasion that she wants to move back to France to be with her family but I want to move to Canada. Neither one of us is willing to compromise moving to one place or the other. She hates the Canadian winters. I wouldn’t feel particularly comfortable living in France (I don’t speak the language and the one time I visited, I saw it as more of a holiday destination). We’ve had several conversations about the topic – we just never settled on a solution. It got to the point where we agreed that there is certainly an expiration date to this relationship.

About two weeks ago where she sat me down and I knew what was coming. She was going to end the relationship. What I didn’t see coming was that she was developing feelings for another man. I knew who the man was and immediately put the blame on myself for pushing the two of them closer together. I had said to her on multiple occasions that I was okay with her hanging out with other people who weren’t me. It’s good for her to have friends outside of me, right? That’s what a healthy/balanced relationship is.

Suffice to say, I didn’t deal with this news very well. There was lots of crying. A lot of yelling. This had to be one of those most uncomfortable situations I had ever been placed in. And despite all this, I couldn’t let her go and I can’t bear the thought of living without her. So I suggested that we immigrate to New Zealand. I asked her to consider not going back to France and just starting a life with me here, to which she quickly countered: “Are you only saying that so we don’t break up?” Well, yes. But at the same time, knowing how I feel about her and how much she’s meant to me why would I want to lose her?

A lot our discussions had escalated over that fateful weekend. She confronted me about what I wanted for the future — what kind of career and life I wanted. And to be quite honest, I don’t really know. I take life as it comes and have never considered where I see myself in the future. Instead of answering, I stormed out of the apartment with a pretty severe panic attack.

When I came back home I found that she packed a bag and was staying with a friend. She left. And I wasn’t sure where to go from here. In the aftermath of all this I’ve consulted with friends and family who have told me to either: a) give her up and move back home; or b) have a heart-to-heart talk about what she wants and what we should do.

We’ve been cordial with one another about the living situation (we share an apartment and a bank account). I’ve even offered the flat back to her for a weekend while I stayed with friends to re-charge the batteries. There were moments I yelled at her via text and on the phone (admittedly, the latter being more alcohol influenced) about what she had done and how this was affecting to me. And the only responses I got were quiet apologies for what had happened and how she was concerned for my well-being. She’d say: “I hope you’re okay” or “I hope you’re feeling better.” But, how could I be feeling better?

I’m still waiting for her answer as to what she wants to do and if she sees herself with me. Despite all that’s gone on, I do love her and do want to stay with her. My thinking is that if she wants to be with me, we can somehow find a way to stick together. I’ve offered a compromise of living in NZ for a few years and hopefully finding work in the UK which would allow her to visit her family on the weekends. To be frank, I just don’t see how I can fit into her life in France. I’m more of a city person whereas she grew up in a small village. If I were to make the leap and try and live in France I can see myself resenting the decision immediately and abandoning her. I understand her need to be close to family but when she herself called me family, why would she want to abandon that? It confuses me.

All of this has left me incredibly tired, both physically and mentally. I can’t discuss the issue anymore with my friends. I’m afraid I’m boring them with my constant worries and woes about it. I’ve heard a lot in the last two weeks but maybe, with an outside perspective, you’ll be able to help? — Can’t Let Her Go

Dude, she broke up with you. What is there to figure out? She’s told you that she doesn’t want to be with you, so whether or not you’re ready to give her up, the decision has been made for you. Not only do neither of you want to live in the same place, but she has feelings for another man. When she gives you quiet apologies, expresses concern about your well-being, and asks if you are OK when you call her up and yell at her for what she’s done to you, she’s letting you know in her own way that you need to move on. The reason she hasn’t answered you about your compromise to live in NZ for a few years and then “hopefully find work the UK,” is because she doesn’t want to continue this relationship, regardless of where you’re willing to live with her.

You don’t say how old you are, but clearly you’re old enough to have lived on your own for a while, in a foreign country, with a girlfriend of a few years. That means you’re old enough to start thinking about your future and what you want to do with your life. Think of this breakup as an opportunity to really consider what YOU want, not how you can mold your life around what someone else wants.

This relationship is not meant to be, at least not between the people you two currently are. So go figure some shit out, grow up a little, and see where things settle. All relationships require some compromise, but you have to know what you really want and what you don’t want or you’re going to have problems longer-term. So focus on that for now and trust that your love life will only benefit from a little soul-searching.


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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.


Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar Bunnycsp July 8, 2013, 9:23 am

LW, I think you are focusing on a random problem rather than the real problem. It isn’t “where are we going to live” it is that she no longer sees you as going down the same life road. It is too late and you need to let it go.

avatar muffy July 8, 2013, 9:25 am

You sound so genuinely torn up about this and I’m sorry you’re going through it. I know the feeling of scrambling to come up with ideas just so you can maybe convince them to stay; thinking that “maybe if I do this she’ll want to be with me again!”. But that never works – because if that was the case she would have had a discussion with you about options for you two moving forward once you’re work visas in NZ were over. Instead she broke up with you. I know it’s hard but the best thing for you to do right now is to move on. Don’t contact her by cellphone anymore and alternate days in the apartment. Cut off contact. This is going to sound harsh but when you contact her it seems like begging and that appears pathetic.

Move back to Canada or wherever in the world you want to move next and know that you will meet someone else and it will be just as good if not better than it was with her.

avatar Taylor July 8, 2013, 9:26 am

LW, look at your ex’s actions and words- you’re broken up. It sucks, and there’s a process to this. You’re in denial, angry and looking to bargain with her. You can and will work through this. You yourself say that if you moved to a small town in France, you could see yourself “abandoning her”. You can see a future where you aren’t together, you just need to expand that a little. People can be great together, and still be unable to work out the logistics – geography, having kids, money etc. Life isn’t like the movies, good chemistry and love only get you so far. Good luck.

avatar AmyP July 8, 2013, 9:28 am

If the usual Canadian winters bother her, how about British Columbia? It’s expensive, but it is Canada, and your girlfriend might be able to benefit from a lot of job opportunities, being bilingual.

As to the big picture, I don’t hear you saying, “I want to be with her for the rest of my life. I want to get married. I want to have kids together.” You sound very short-term, whereas your girlfriend is thinking long-term. Unfortunately, the short-term decisions that you make now (as to place of residence) are going to affect your and your girlfriend’s long-term. Your place of residence is going to determine the opportunities that come your way.

avatar AmyP July 8, 2013, 9:32 am

I didn’t read what Wendy said (always a mistake), so WWS.

There are lots of women in Canada. Find one who wants to live there.

lemongrass lemongrass July 8, 2013, 11:09 am

I’m from BC and I love living here, even though it is really expensive. It is so beautiful, everywhere you go.

avatar SasLinna July 8, 2013, 9:32 am

My last relationship ended in a similar way, with me being in the ex gf’s role. We ultimately broke up for good, it was very painful, but also clearly necessary. Although we were compatible in many ways, we weren’t meant to be together in the long term. This break up will open up so many opportunities for you – for example, you can simply do what you want and move back to Canada and avoid all those complications with living in France etc. But I definitely feel your pain.

Some things that stood out to me that also happened in my last relationship: 1) Interest in another man. I think this shows clearly that your ex has started moving on. She is putting her energy elsewhere already. 2) You only making concrete plans to live together once she was leaving you. I think you weren’t as invested as you now believe. Otherwise you would have suggested a plan for you to stay together long ago. My ex also did this – coming around on making concrete plans for the future once I already had one foot out the door (actually more like 90% of my feet if that makes sense). I reacted in the same way to that as your ex did – and I think it’s justified. Because you know, at that point, talk is cheap. You can make these grand plans and suggest them and you already know it won’t make a difference. But, even if you had made these plans earlier, I think she still would have left you anyway, so don’t take it as an “If only you would have”….

Definitely move on. Cut contact, grieve this relationship, and go create your own life. Good look.

avatar SasLinna July 8, 2013, 9:37 am

I’ll add that there can be ambiguous feelings on both sides in these cases – the one who’s leaving can genuinely feel awful when the ex is calling and also still massively care about them, without there be any chance for a reconciliation. So whatever the ex gf may be saying to him can be true without it changing anything.

theattack theattack July 8, 2013, 9:34 am

It’s too late to compromise. It’s over, dude. This probably isn’t just about France either.

avatar ktfran July 8, 2013, 9:40 am

Drama, drama, drama….

And not from the girl, I might add.

avatar snarkymarc July 8, 2013, 12:20 pm

The guy shows himself to be vulnerable, writes a heartfelt, emotional letter and you call him out for it. Nice.

avatar Older and (hopefully) wiser July 8, 2013, 9:54 am

Wendy is absolutely right. If it makes you feel any better, marriage is hard enough when you share similar goals, values and backgrounds. In a few years, after the raging passion subsided,you probably would have resented each other.

avatar Scooze July 8, 2013, 10:03 am

First, who gets a bank account with someone they know from the start they will not be with in the long-term?

Also, the third sentence says it all “Neither one of us is willing to compromise moving to one place or the other.” None of the LW’s solutions involve him actually moving to France with her. The most he can offer is to move to a nearby country (the UK) and let her visit her family on the weekends. She has made it clear that she wants to move home. So even if she takes him back (she won’t), the relationship is simply not compatible, which is why she broke it off.

avatar Sara July 8, 2013, 10:08 am

LW, the next time someone asks you where you see yourself in the future, I hope you have an answer. And even if you don’t, I hope you at least ask the person where she sees herself in the future to open up a dialog about goals and dreams. It sounds like you don’t have solid plans and don’t care about her goals and dreams that she may have. A partnership, to me, includes helping each other achieve goals that make you both the best people you can be.

avatar sarolabelle July 8, 2013, 10:20 am

He would abandon her if they lived in France yet he can’t live without her?

avatar pamplemousse July 8, 2013, 10:34 am

I thought the same thing. Also, he drunkenly calls her just to yell at her, yet he can’t understand why she doesn’t want to be with him?

avatar SasLinna July 8, 2013, 10:41 am

You’re making a great point, but I can really understood being in this guy’s place, trying to somehow ignore these contradictions, and adding a huge dose of wishful thinking just to believe in it a little longer… I’ve been there. It hurts like hell to lose a loved partner – and she used to be that to him – and the mental contortions to avoid confronting the loss can be significant. But you’re right. I hope he sees the contradiction.

avatar pamplemousse July 8, 2013, 10:33 am

LW, if your response to her asking what you want to do with your life is: “Instead of answering, I stormed out of the apartment with a pretty severe panic attack,” I think you should forget about dating for a while and see a therapist.

Fabelle Fabelle July 8, 2013, 10:37 am

WWS. Sorry, but you need to give this relationship up—for your sake, AND hers. It’s not a matter of creating a balanced compromise by finding the perfect place to live…it’s a matter of taking this woman at her word (that she wants to end the relationship), & moving on.

You’re looking at this all a bit selfishly, I think. (Which isn’t a disparagement of your overall character, but I want to outline how warped your perception is of this situation.) Like, I’m using “selfishly” to also mean “self-centeredly”—just look at your interpretation of her having feelings for somebody else. Why do you think this development has anything to do with you having encouraged her to have outside interests & friends? (Something that, yeah, is a necessary part of not only a healthy relationship, but being a well-rounded person.)

I feel like you’re blaming yourself in order to regain control? (as screwed as that sounds.) In other words, as long as you take responsibility, then you can imagine that you have some kind of hold? But you don’t. She appears to have recognized that your life goals are too divergent, & attempted to act accordingly. It’s time for you to catch up with her (very reasonable) thought process.

It sucks, obviously, & it hurts, but you’ll get there eventually. You already realize that living in France would cause you to resent, and “abandon” her—so maybe try to flipping this in order to see her point of view? (i.e. can you ~not~ see how she might grow to resent you from keeping her away from her family in France, where she’s firmly stated she wants to live?) I can tell right now your goal is to save the relationship, so you’re not thinking as long term. But you need to. I think you’ll realize—just as she has—that this relationship is not going to work.

avatar Lily in NYC July 8, 2013, 11:23 am

Great points Fabelle! He is looking at everything from the lens of “how could she do this to me” instead of seeing the entire picture.

avatar painted_lady July 8, 2013, 10:54 am

Hey, so, here’s something that’ll come as a shock to you: she doesn’t need your permission to break up with you.

In breakups, when we’re hurting and we want things to go back to “normal” rather than be shitty and broken and life-changing, we believe that what our newly-minted ex is *not* saying is actually more important than what they *are* saying. Her apologies and hoping you’re okay, etc, aren’t secret code for “It’s only a matter of time, we can work this out.” It’s that she doesn’t want to be with you but feels badly and wishes you well. She meant it when she said she didn’t want to be with you and has feelings for another man. Think about how hard those things are to say to someone you care about and don’t want to hurt; no one would ever say those things if they didn’t absolutely need to be said. In fact, she had probably at least suspected those things for awhile. I know that hurts, but you need to hear that she isn’t just saying this stuff to provoke you into actions, or for funsies. It’s this whole not-believing thing that causes some people to feel like they need to be assholes to their exes; if the other person is going to take every kindness and every attempt to be cordial as a secret, “I didn’t really mean it and I secretly love you!” then it discourages those kindnesses.

Also, when you say stuff like, “I’m waiting to hear what she wants to do, despite all that’s gone on I still love her, I figure if we want to be together we can find a way…” it sounds a little scary, to be perfectly honest. I know you’re hurting, but that doesn’t give you the right to ignore every word she said to you. What she wants to do is live her life without you as her boyfriend. What’s gone on is she’s broken up with you and doesn’t love you anymore, regardless of your feelings for her, and I’m not sure how much more clearly she can communicate that she doesn’t want to be with you. I know that sucks, and that hurts, but she gets to choose that for herself, and as much as it’s painful and awful, you don’t get a say. This isn’t a negotiation, and hopefully you’re just speaking out of hurt and have no plans to act, but that kind of talk can be really frightening. If you love her, please take this into consideration and give her the space and distance she’s asked for.

Please be well, and please use this as an opportunity to make your life as much what you want it to be as possible. Breakups suck, but sometimes they can also be wonderful opportunities to fix the things you don’t like about your life. Going with the flow is all well and good, but you need to make sure that you have more in your life making you happy than just having a girlfriend.

avatar iseeshiny July 8, 2013, 11:02 am

Perfect. You said it much better than I did.

findingtheearth findingtheearth July 8, 2013, 11:42 am

I wish I had the opening line of your response to email to my ex last year when he would not let the relationship go. I do not need your permission to break up with you. Gorgeous.

Classic Classic July 8, 2013, 12:24 pm

A long time ago, I was breaking up with a man, and he said “You can’t just unilaterally decide to end the relationship.” I didn’t stare in amazement too long, though. Ah, OK then, I am just going to unilaterally end my own involvement in the relationship, alrighty?

avatar iseeshiny July 8, 2013, 11:01 am

The most important lesson I’ve learned as an adult is that you can’t make people change their minds about whether or not they love you and want to have a life with you. You are learning that now, and as painful as it is, it is super important that you learn it too.

I’m reading over your letter, LW, and I’s seeing a lot of genuine pain, but also a lot of entitled selfishness. You have prioritized your feelings over hers, and are not accepting that her feelings are not yours to control. You don’t want to move to France, and she is moving to France. Wendy said it, there is nothing to talk about – you’ve broken up. You’re allowed to be sad and angry and disappointed. Listen to sad music, eat ice cream, go running – whatever you do to manage your sad feelings and help yourself feel better when you’ve been disappointed. That’s normal. But you also really need to accept her decision. Let her go.

Miel Miel July 8, 2013, 11:07 am

For a long time, my boyfriend didn’t want to talk about his ex and how he broke up with her, because he was too ashamed of it. When he finally accepted to say what happened, he said something similar to what you said : “she broke up with me, but I couldn’t accept it, so I talked and begged and cried and yelled, and I did everything I could to win her back…” He began doing certain hobby because she was doing them, he gave her huge birthday presents, and he kept thinking for a while that “if he shows her how awesome he is, she will want him back”.

Well, it didn’t happen. He finally realized he would never have her back. He moved on. He decided to work on himself because he actually had self-esteem problem. He became a better, more interesting, more mature person. And then he met me.

When he thinks back, he knows trying to win his ex back was the stupidest thing ever. He wished he would have moved on sooner. He wished he hadn’t been crawling on the floor with no pride just so she would take him back. Now he’s ashamed of all of it, and he grew from it.

Just don’t make the same mistake my boyfriend did. In a few years, you’ll look back and you’ll feel bad.

lemongrass lemongrass July 8, 2013, 11:07 am

You sound really selfish. Figure out how to be a good partner before you find your next girlfriend and leave this poor girl alone.

avatar redessa July 8, 2013, 11:19 am

” It got to the point where we agreed that there is certainly an expiration date to this relationship.”

I’m not sure when you thought the expiration date was or how you pictured the two of you parting, but this is it. It might not be how you wanted things to end but you need to find a way to accept that they have.

“I’m still waiting for her answer as to what she wants to do and if she sees herself with me.”

She’s already answered those questions. She’s told you from the beginning what she wants to do with her life. As for seeing herself with you, she told you she has feelings for someone else and then she moved out. It really doesn’t get more clear than that.

I’m sorry for your pain. Get some therapy if you need help processing this breakup. Then work on having a life plan of your own. Even if your plan is to travel the world, moving wherever the next opportunity takes you, that’s fine. It’s a perfectly valid choice. As are a LOT of other choices. Just make sure your next girlfriend shares your vision (whatever your vision for the future is) and is not set on planting roots somewhere you don’t want to be.

avatar Sophronisba July 8, 2013, 11:19 am

It is indeed time to grow up. Discover some dignity and quit texting and calling; you’re making a fool of yourself, proving your immaturity, and confirming for her that she made an excellent decision to move on. You knew there was a major deal-breaker in this relationship and that it had an expiration date. Sorry, but time’s up. Concentrate on you, work on getting a career or life plan or a passion for something other than holidaying and floating along.

avatar Lily in NYC July 8, 2013, 11:20 am

Hey, guess what? If someone dumps you, you don’t get to say “no, we are not breaking up.” Life is not a romantic movie. Everything Wendy wrote is spot on.
And your “compromise” is nothing of the sort because it only benefits you. But anyway, I don’t think you have a choice in the matter – it seems obvious to me that you are the only one that wants to make this work and that your gf has moved on. Please note that her texts back to your yelling have reached that point where she is simply patronizing you at this point. You sound pretty young or inexperienced in relationships; please treat this as what it was – a fun fling and nothing more. This woman is done with you. Yelling and dramatic tests are only pissing her off and making you look desperate, not making her miss you.