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.