I’m 26 and he is 24. We met online and, as soon as we met, we fell in love and became serious very quickly. We didn’t live together but were with each other at least four nights a week. We have seen and done so much together and had so many great experiences as a couple, but my ex-boyfriend before him lied and stole from me for years and, as a result, every time my current boyfriend said he loved me, I wouldn’t believe it. Every time I didn’t hear from him for eight or so hours I would start an argument. I constantly looked for reassurance, started arguments about not being a priority, etc. Part of me feels he could have said and done things differently to reassure me, but overall I must have just exhausted him.
I want him back and to put this right. How can I do that? — Regretting My Mistakes
You know, things would have been different if you didn’t behave the way you did, and maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe you two just weren’t meant to be and even if you didn’t have any baggage at all from a previous relationship and didn’t constantly look for reassurance and validation and need to be contacted every eight hours, your boyfriend still would have broken up with you. Maybe your boyfriend falling out of love with you had nothing to do with any of that at all. Maybe there just wasn’t a spark anymore for him. Or, maybe the person he thought he fell in love with when you met and began dating seriously very quickly wasn’t actually you. Maybe he fell in love with the idea of you based only partly on reality and partly on the fantasy he used to fill the gaps of what he didn’t yet know about you. And maybe as those gaps filled with more reality, he realized that the real you and the fantasy you were different and the real you, although lovely, wasn’t who he fell in love with.
We can’t help who we fall in love with. And we really can’t help when our feelings change. And there are so many reasons feelings can change. Sometimes it doesn’t have much to do with the other person at all. Sometimes WE change and, therefore, who we’re attracted to and drawn to changes.
For whatever reason, you aren’t the one for your boyfriend anymore. You think you know the reason and that, if you could fix it, you could have him back. But even if you could magically fix whatever you think is “wrong” with you, that wouldn’t magically change your boyfriend’s feelings. If there’s any chance of him falling back in love with you, it’s going to take time and a change of circumstances. What are the circumstances that need to change? I have no idea. I’m sure he doesn’t either. It’s probably absolutely nothing in your control.
But what IS in your control is dealing with the emotional baggage you’re carrying from your last relationship so that you no longer have it weighing you down in your present and future relationships. Maybe that means getting closure with that ex or going to therapy or writing a long letter and burying it. Maybe it means getting physical and sweating out your anxiety through exercise or a sports team or punching a bag at the gym.
If I were you, I’d do a heart palette cleanse by staying single for at least six months, focusing on myself and finding validation and reassurance internally rather than from a man or a relationship. It sounds like you would really benefit from the clarity of being single. When you’re free of relationship drama, it’s amazing the energy you can put into yourself and in becoming the person you would like to be (and the person that might make a more confident girlfriend than you’ve been in the past).
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katie October 3, 2013, 9:11 am
WWS. we could speculate all freaking day about the different steps you could take, the different things you could say, the different ways you could act, that might get him back. it would be 100% a crapshoot though, because like wendy said, theres no way to control it.
but really, that shouldnt even be the goal, and therein lies your real problem. you have relationship issues, that is apparent. and thats ok- we all do from time to time. but you need to deal with them. dealing with them doesnt mean that you carry them from one relationship to the other, that is like the exact opposite of dealing with them, actually. you need to get to a better place before you will have a successful relationship. right now, all you have to offer is a self conscious, unreasonable, untrusting half of a relationship to offer, and what sane person is going to take you up on that? no one. so get yourself back to being a whole person with a real, genuine, trusting, caring half of a relationship to offer.
MMcG October 3, 2013, 12:49 pm
Yep, I mean no one expects you to go and erase your memory, we all have a past, and some of us have harder or “worse” experiences that others. But there is a big difference between “ive been cheated on before and therefore monogamy and having an exclusive commitment is really important to me in a relationship” versus “I’ve been cheated on before so I get all your passwords, get to stalk your FB page, blame you for things my ex did and generally project a lot of baggage onto an innocent party”
Lyra October 3, 2013, 9:12 am
Wendy, that answer was perfect.
I think a lot of people — myself included — can get wrapped up in the “how can I fix this and get back with him?” during a break up that we don’t focus on the reasons WHY the break up happened. It’s tough to realize that someone doesn’t love you like they once did. Focus on the reasons why this happened. You say you were fighting a lot. WHY did you fight so much? In a healthy relationship fights happen, but not very often. I was fighting with my ex at least 2 times per month, but usually more frequently by the end. It sucked. That’s not what a healthy relationship looks like. It’s not rainbows and roses all the time, but you don’t fight constantly either.
I know it’s hard right now, LW and I know you’re hurting. Think about it long and hard: do you really want to be with someone who has told you he doesn’t love you anymore? You need to believe him when he says that.
SasLinna October 3, 2013, 9:15 am
It wasn’t within your control to prevent this breakup from happening – if you could have done it, you would have. You did what you were able to do at the time.
If you think now – looking back – that you should have behaved differently, you’re doing this with the wisdom of hindsight. Just use what you learned here but do not think that the past should have been different.
When a relationship ends, there’s usually not this one thing that you could have done differently that would have prevented it. There’s more than one sufficient reason here why it should have ended – you wanting to get married and him not being ready for that was sufficient all by itself.
theattack October 3, 2013, 9:16 am
WWS and WKS.
Seriously, no one wants to be with someone who punishes them for stuff they haven’t done. I wouldn’t have wanted to marry you under those circumstances either. You need to work on where you are emotionally before you can expect a relationship to work out.
Fabelle October 3, 2013, 9:27 am
WWS, WEES. LW, I’m sorry your relationship didn’t work out. But now you have the space you need to work on yourself. Don’t cling to this guy & try to make him change his mind. If anything, I kinda think the desire you have to do that is somewhat linked to the behavior you displayed within the relationship. You were seeking reassurance, control, & stability then, & you’re seeking the same things now by hoping there’s a way to rectify all this. Let it go, move on, & allow your confidence to build back up as you enjoy the single life.
SasLinna October 3, 2013, 9:34 am
This. LW still believes that “If I did things right, I would get what I want”.
joanna October 3, 2013, 9:33 am
I think you could use a puppy or a pet if you need constant reassurance.
joanna October 3, 2013, 10:38 am
I think you need to find yourself and be happy with and proud of who you are. All by yourself. Set some hobby or professional related goals and distract yourself by working to achieve them. Maybe you want to take up drawing or sewing. Or you may want to take a different position at work. Show your boss some extra effort in your projects. If you’re in school, take an elective you’ve been dying to take but never seemed to fit in your schedule before. Join a club to meet more people. It might seem like you always get that for a suggestion, but you never know who you’ll meet. If it’s lame, find another club.
Don’t put all the focus of your life on one thing.
When you are truly happy with yourself and love yourself just the way you are, other people can see it in you. They’ll be the ones attracted to you.
jlyfsh October 3, 2013, 9:38 am
Definitely read Wendy’s advice a few times and take it to heart.
I found this sentence to be kind of off ‘Part of me feels he could have said and done things differently to reassure me’. What/how were you asking him to reassure you? About everything? Wanting him to reassure you he loved you when he didn’t contact you for 8 hours? The am I a priority to you talk is fine to have, but it sounds like you had it all the time. And if your boyfriend wasn’t doing anything to show you that you weren’t a priority I’m sure that was beyond frustrating. How many times can a person tell you they love you and you’re a priority and more than likely show you it as well before you’ll believe it?
And even if you ‘fixed’ things with him, what would that look like? Because you can’t fix it over night. More than likely you can’t shut off the part of your brain that looks for this constant validation, or you probably would have by now. It sucks, but you have to let him go and work on yourself. The worst thing you could do right now would be to try and fix things with him. Better to end the break up with some dignity than do things that you won’t be proud of later. And like Wendy said do yourself a favor and do you for a while. Whatever that ends up looking like.
TECH October 3, 2013, 9:45 am
I think “heart palette cleanse” just became my new favorite phrase. Something most people could benefit from!
MMcG October 3, 2013, 12:18 pm
I love that too!
LW – folks have already captured so much… it doesn’t sound like you are ready for a real relationship. Take some time for you. and if you want to get married, don’t plot to try and get someone back who doesn’t share the same goals regardless of what other issues there may be in the relationship. It’s ok to have some dealbreakers!
Emily October 3, 2013, 9:59 am
I love this advice! The more you focus on and take care of yourself, the better quality relationship you are able to have with yourself and others. I know it’s tough LW but hang in there. Work on yourself, you never know who you really are until you repair the damage of past traumas. The lotus flower blooms brighter the deeper the mud. I think there is a big difference between surviving something and doing the work to heal yourself from it. I’m learning that it’s okay to mourn one’s losses, and that some things take more time than anticipated to heal from but that time is so worth it. The better you take care of yourself, the better your life will get!
GatorGirl October 3, 2013, 10:15 am
WWS and WEES. Y’all are way more compassionate than I am.
Why do people want to be with someone who so clearly says that they don’t want the relationship? I do not understand it! Earlier this week there was a guy who wrote in, and today this lady…why do you want to so desperately date someone who so clearly doesn’t want to date you?!
JK October 3, 2013, 10:23 am
Because everybody is different?
I think just about everybody puts up with stuff in relationships that someone else wouldn´t. I´m not going to judge them because of that.
JK October 3, 2013, 10:24 am
I mean, of course I think people should want to be with someone who wants to be with them, but if they think they want someone else, then thats what they want.
I have a friend who is still with her husband after he had a kid with someone else (while married). No way in a million years I would handle that, but they´re happy, and have worked stuff out.
GatorGirl October 3, 2013, 10:31 am
I guess the difference is in your friend- they wanted to work it out (I’m assuming that, since they did). In these two letters (and countless others) one person has said very clearly they do not want to work it out and ended the relationship. I’m not really judging them, I just don’t understand the line of thinking.
meadowphoenix October 3, 2013, 10:38 am
This isn’t really about putting up with things in relationships. The relationships in both questions are over. This is about ignoring someone else’s stated wishes in order to get what you want. It’s hardly respectful to the other person.
JK October 3, 2013, 11:31 am
But I think most people have been there. Not wanting a relationshipto be over, or crushing on someone that doesn´t give you the time of day. Yes, the relationships are over, but how is it so hard to understand that the LWs wish they werenpt and would like that to change?
I get I phrased what I said wrong, maybe it should have been put up with different things, period, not just in a relationship. These LWs want to fix the relationship even though it´s over. I get it, I´ve been there. Of course that doesn´t mean the attitude is necessarily healthy. But I think it IS understandable. Of course lot s of people have never made a mistake in their lives, so they won´t get it.
lets_be_honest October 3, 2013, 11:34 am
Yea, that makes sense.
GatorGirl October 3, 2013, 11:50 am
I still think there are two different things. 1- wishing your relationship still worked/mourning the end and 2- trying to figure out how to convince someone to date you again after they have clearly said they don’t want to.
jlyfsh October 3, 2013, 11:54 am
But, for many people the distinction between those two things can be very blurry. How many people mourn that their relationship is over, while trying to convince themselves (and their ex) that it can be fixed. I mean it might be crystal clear in your head but for this LW and other people separating the two is harder. Or realizing they can’t convince the other person becomes a part of the mourning process itself.
JK October 3, 2013, 11:55 am
Denial and bargaining are 2 of the stages of mourning.
JK October 3, 2013, 11:59 am
In case you don´´t go to the link:
Denial – The person may not accept that the relationship is over and may continue to pursue their ex partner.
Bargaining – The person may seek to win their partner back, promising to change or make compromises.
And we can also throw in
Guilt – The person may blame themselves for the break up, and may at this time have a very low sense of self esteem. They may wish they had done things differently, or said things differently and take on board all of the blame.
GatorGirl October 3, 2013, 12:04 pm
I know there are stages and each person will deal with a break up differently. And it does, to a degree, make sense for the person who was dumped to want to figure out what they did wrong and how to fix it. I personally don’t get it. Even with someone mourning in a different way I would, saying something so point blank (WHY do you want to be with someone who doesn’t want you?) I think can be enlightening and beneficial.
MMcG October 3, 2013, 1:38 pm
Man, All that Jazz only taught me 5 and that’s what I’ve been living with this whole time! Who knew I should feel guilty in there somehow…
Denial (I guess that could inc. the shock/disbelief)
lets_be_honest October 3, 2013, 11:21 am
But they aren’t putting up with stuff in their relationship, because they aren’t in a relationship.
jlyfsh October 3, 2013, 10:32 am
I think if you read Fabelle’s comment, ‘If anything, I kinda think the desire you have to do that is somewhat linked to the behavior you displayed within the relationship. You were seeking reassurance, control, & stability then, & you’re seeking the same things now by hoping there’s a way to rectify all this. Let it go, move on, & allow your confidence to build back up as you enjoy the single life.”. The LW and maybe the guy from earlier in the week thinks that the can ‘fix’ the relationship, ‘fix’ the other person, etc. So many people think they can ‘fix’ other people and have to learn the hard way that only that individual can fix themselves, no one else.
GatorGirl October 3, 2013, 10:37 am
Yeah, I think that’s exactly it.
LW, go read Wendy’s list from yesterday!
cdobbs October 3, 2013, 10:32 am
LW so sorry you are hurting right now….unfortunately there isn’t anything you can do to get your boyfriend back….that doesn’t mean that in the future you guys can’t reconnect, but that will be up to your ex as he ended the relationship….the worst thing you can do right now is try and get him back as all that will do is push him further away….give him space, don’t contact him and focus on yourself for a while….its going to hurt like hell, but unfortunately its what you need to do….i hope you feel better soon
Lemongrass October 3, 2013, 10:41 am
He’s not the only guy you will fall in love with. Let him go and haul your ass to therapy.
Kate B. October 3, 2013, 10:41 am
LW, you definitely need some single time to get over the bad things that happened in your previous relationship. Until you do, this story will repeat itself. Quite honestly, the behavior you describe would drive anyone away. You’re right, it’s exhausting. This sentence bothers me: “Part of me feels he could have said and done things differently to reassure me”. A person can only do what they can do. It is not anyone’s responsbility to give you validation or reassurance. Putting it on him was not fair. He wasn’t the bad guy, the other guy was. So, take Wendy’s advice and focus on giving yourself validation and I bet your next relationship will go much differently.
rachel October 3, 2013, 10:57 am
LW you can’t make someone love you again. All you can do is take the lessons you’ve learned from this relationship to heart, and hopefully be a better partner in the future.
meadowphoenix October 3, 2013, 11:03 am
Well, what kind of relationship do you want? Do you want a relationship with anyone where you feel insecure and needy and paranoid and angry all the time? Seriously, do you want these things? Because if you don’t, then you need to figure out what you need from yourself to feel secure, and what you need from someone else. You can’t force someone to give you something you need. You can only decide whether you are willing to take what they are willing to give.
Your ex is unwilling to give you what you need. You can’t force him and he doesn’t owe you your reassurances. So to be frank, this relationship would be bad for you.
You’ve never tried to figure out what you need from yourself. Therapy is actually really good for this. It will help you learn to reassure yourself, AND to figure out what you need from someone else AND how to ask for it without being destructive about your relationships (arguing with someone in order to get attention can reflect kinda badly on you, you know).
There are people out there who have the same attention needs as you. But I wouldn’t be surprised if you actually didn’t like these kind of needs if they were asked of you. Because your needs seem to be coming out of fear, LW, and that will choke you and your partner, if you don’t have a handle on them.
landygirl October 3, 2013, 11:16 am
LW, you need a therapist, not a boyfriend.
bethany October 3, 2013, 11:17 am
I had a boyfriend break up with me because he “loved me, but wasn’t in love”. It sucked. It sucked even more when he wanted me back a few months later. We ended up getting back together, but it didn’t last. He wanted to be in love, and as much as he cared for me, and we had fun together, I just wasn’t what he wanted. It’s a tough pill to swallow, for sure, but it’s better to just accept it and move on than trying to make someone love you. You can’t do it.
KKZ October 3, 2013, 11:18 am
WWS. LW, you can’t fix this situation, you gotta fix yourself. What stood out to me was how you said you refuse to believe that someone loves you unless you hear it all the time. The ex-boyfriend probably has something to do with it, but this speaks to a deep insecurity with yourself that will become a gaping hole in any relationship you try. If I were you, I’d get therapy and I’d start with that need for reassurance as ground zero. The problem is not that your BF didn’t reassure you enough or in the right way, it’s that you demand way more reassurance than a healthy relationship can sustain (let alone a young, prematurely serious one). It’s a lesson I’m learning personally the hard way, you really do have to be at least reasonably secure in yourself in order to be secure in a relationship with someone else.
So, eat drink and be single, ask the hard questions you don’t want to ask, and don’t start dating again until you feel you’ve gotten a grip on your need for reassurance. (And I do mean “gotten a grip on” because maybe it won’t ever completely go away, but you have to find ways of coping with it that don’t involve turning your boyfriend into a crutch.)
Holly October 3, 2013, 11:39 am
I simultaneously feel like I wrote this letter AND wrote Wendy’s advice to myself. Do what Wendy says. I promise it’ll be much better for you afterward, no matter what the outcome with him ends up being.
AKchic_ October 3, 2013, 12:15 pm
Oh honey, MOA. There’s no point in trying to get him tocome back to you because this relationship was messed up, by your description of it. Move on and find someone else.
painted_lady October 3, 2013, 1:27 pm
I’ve been here, so I sympathize. I get that it hurts, and you think you know why it happened, but I’ve been on the other side of it, too, and it’s not nearly as black and white as you’re making it out to be. I never once just woke up one morning and thought, “I think I’ll dump my boyfriend today!” And it was never one thing, like, “He’s too moody,” or “He won’t go to new restaurants,” it was always a combination of things, sometimes really small ones, over a length of time that was long enough for me to know it wasn’t something I’d get used to. So as much as this decision feels out of the blue and clearly about one thing, it’s likely far more complex. I’m sorry you’re hurt, but give yourself time to heal and to free yourself of your baggage so you don’t bring it into a relationship with a guy who could be right for you.