Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Ex Has Already Moved On Six Weeks After Our Breakup”

My ex, “James,” dumped me a little over six weeks ago after two and a half years of dating. We were very much in love and worked very well together. We had our whole future planned out. We talked about moving in together, getting married, having kids, growing old together, etc. I had been going through a rough time during the whole relationship because of my parents’ divorce, moving out of the only home I had ever known, hating my college and then transferring, and the death of my grandpa. He was very supportive and did everything with me in mind.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago: He dumps me because “he is stressing himself out too much worrying about me,” because he is “tired of being my therapist,” and because he “isn’t as happy as he used to be.” He says he will always love me and that I’ll have a special place in his heart. Yes, I was going through a hard time, but I was finally feeling better mentally and emotionally about my situation.

Not even a few days later, we see on social media that he is talking to a new girl. Now they are officially boyfriend and girlfriend. My friend tried to talk to him, but he is someone completely different now, being a complete asshole, which he never was. I blocked him on all social media, but according to my friends he is posting numerous pictures of the new girlfriend or of them kissing or whatever. He posted about us while we dated but only on special occasions.

I’m hurting so bad. Knowing he has someone else already makes me feel like my heart has been ripped open. The man I loved is gone, he’s someone completely different. I want to believe that he is still the one for me. I know that is the stupid thing to do, but I can’t stop thinking that.

Is he trying to hurt me on purpose by posting all this crap because he knows I’ll find out about it? Why did he move on so quickly, after everything we had gone through? Is it a rebound relationship? He told me numerous times a day that I was the one and that he loved me more than anything in the world. How could that disappear overnight? How can he be someone that he knows he’s not? I can’t make any sense of this. — Heartbroken

Well, it’s not really typical, in a secure and happy relationship, for one person to say “multiple times a day” for two and a half years that his partner is “the one” and that he loves her more than anything in the world. A few “I love you’s” during the day? Ok. But the whole “You’re the one” and “I love you more than anything in the world” and his doing “everything with you in mind,” and you depending on him for emotional support as heavily and, it sounds, as relentlessly as you did for the two and a half years you were together sounds as though: a) he was trying to convince himself he was really into you; b) He was trying to “save you”; c) your relationship was really imbalanced.

I’m assuming you’re both young (college-aged, right?) and you’re complaining that he’s now acting like someone he’s not, but the truth is that in your early 20s you’re still very much figuring out who you are, exactly. (And, frankly, for some people, this “figuring out who you are” period can last much longer than their 20s.) I’m sure he did love you, and he cared about you and was concerned about you, and with your sounding as emotionally fragile as you do, he got to try on the role as Savior Boyfriend. It sounds like he got tired of that role and now he’s trying on a different one. This doesn’t make him a liar. It makes him human. A young adult human trying to figure it out.

Here’s my advice to you: Try as hard as you can to not think about James so much. You were smart to block him on social media. Now tell your friends to stop updating you on what he’s doing. Knowing that you’ve had a really rough couple of years, that you tend to feel emotionally-challenged by big life events (your parents’ divorce, transferring schools, your grandfather’s death), expect the same from this break-up and be proactive about taking care of your emotional health. In the past you leaned heavily on your boyfriend for support. Now he’s not there to hold your hand through the pain you’re feeling. Find others to lean on: your friends; your family; a counselor at school; anyone you respect and trust. Diversify your dependence on people. Instead of relying on one person for most of the support, spread out your need.

And keep in mind: You are not alone in having a rough time of things. Everything you’ve gone through is pretty typical of growing up (dealing with your parents’ divorce, moving away from home, not liking your college, losing a grandparent, getting your heart broken). To spend two and a half years solid sort of feeling sorry for yourself because of these things isn’t really healthy. If that is indeed the truth — that you were only just now “finally feeling better mentally and emotionally about your situation” — a situation that again is pretty typical of a lot of people your age — I can understand how your boyfriend, who was by your side through the entirety of your multi-year “rough time,” got burned out. I’m not saying this to put blame on you but to provide some perspective. Your boyfriend has feelings, too. He’s allowed to have his own emotional break. Maybe this brand new relationship he’s in is that. Maybe it’s his finally exhaling after holding his breath for a long time, afraid of prioritizing his own needs when he thought yours were especially important. Maybe the weight lifted from his shoulders now that he’s no longer beholden to you has turned him around like a top and his kissing this other girl all over social media is a result of that.

But you know what? That doesn’t matter. His behavior — his reaction to your breakup — is totally unimportant. What matters is YOUR reaction and how you choose to process things and take care of your needs now. I would take this time to learn how to be more self-reliant, how to process your pain in healthy ways, and how to acknowledge and tend to the needs of others so that you aren’t so self-involved that you lose out on the beauty and power of mutually-fulfilling friendships and relationships. When two people can trust that they’ve each got the other’s back and they equally care about one another, it makes for a stronger bond and a healthier dynamic. I have a feeling that was missing in your relationship. The good news is that you can learn from this experience, can apply the lesson to your next relationship, and, can hopefully be a better girlfriend. That should not happen immediately, though, and when it does, I have one more piece of advice: just enjoy yourself. Don’t worry about “planning your whole future together.” Get to know each other, get to know yourselves. Life has a funny way of coming along and changing all those plans you thought you had for your whole future anyway. Just ask your parents.

P.S. Topic of the Day: On Breakups and Broken Hearts

Your Turn: “How Can I Get Over my First Broken Heart?”

Some of Our Best Break-Up Lessons

Our 8 Best Break-Up Lessons

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.

19 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Brise October 2, 2017, 9:45 am

    It sucks, but the relationship wasn’t so great for him. The issue is for everyone to find happiness by themselves and to share other experiences than problems and grief, even though mutual support is part of love. He wasn’t your therapist, accept that truth. Let him be, don’t involve your friends and concentrate on your own happiness, by yourself, the way you are. Friends, studies, hobbies, freedom, independence: that is great too! Make the best of this situation. And allow yourself to be sad: it takes time, but everybody went through a hard break-up. Accept to let the others go, as hard as it may be.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros October 2, 2017, 10:20 am

    There’s not a lot of great answers to your questions. For the most part, the answer is just “it’s what happens sometimes.” Feelings change. People sometimes don’t want their feelings to change, so they pretend they aren’t. Or they don’t realize it. Or they realize it, but they are not good at breaking up with people. Or they convince themselves they’ll get over it. There’s a million reasons, and throughout your life, you’ll see all sorts of behavior from people you’re dating that might not make sense. The fact is, people have a lot going on inside their heads that other people don’t know about.

    Most likely, he wasn’t feeling it anymore, waited a while to do something about it, made some more tangible excuses, and then officially moved on. It seemed fast because you were not privy to his thoughts while he was figuring things out. I understand hurting and missing someone, but you can’t get back the person you thought he was and the person he actually is right now isn’t good for you — you need someone who currently wants to be with you.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom October 2, 2017, 10:21 am

    Why move on so rapidly. He has probably been emotionally over your relationship for a while. He was moving on while you were still together. Your relationship sounds emotionally exhausting. You always came first. What was there for him? What emotional support did you give to him? How did you have his back? Any person can only give for so long before they have nothing left to give. He reached that point and was done even if he didn’t break up then. He probably felt he couldn’t break up because you couldn’t handle it emotionally. He may have felt trapped. You need to be an equal partner who gives as much as they receive over time. Your partner needs to be prioritized as highly as yourself. Some days you give more than you receive. Some days you receive more than you give but there must be balance over time.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom October 2, 2017, 10:26 am

      By moving on while you were still together I don’t mean he was seeing other women. I mean that emotionally he was no longer attached to you. Emotionally he wasn’t getting anything out of the relationship.

      He may have met the new girlfriend before breaking up and realized he needed to break up because he was more interested in dating her than you but the emotional connection was already gone and so he didn’t need to mourn the relationship in the way that you do.

      Your relationship was meeting your needs but not his.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover October 2, 2017, 11:48 am

      I was going to say exactly this. I got engaged to my highschool boyfriend. We were together for 3.5 years, living together for the last year of that. I broke up with him and started dating a new guy pretty much the next day. Even though I’d been telling my fiance that I love him just as regularly as I ever did. Because I thought that’s just what you do.

      The reason I could do that is probably the same reason her BF could… I’d already moved on. I’d mourned the relationship. I was over it. I was just young and inexperienced and didn’t know that I should (or really could) get out of it. It was even harder because I was living with him, and we were engaged and planning our wedding. I started falling for a friend and that’s when I realized that I wasn’t into my fiance anymore. That the relationship was already over, I wasn’t happy, and I should leave. It took me months to get to that point. Hell, maybe it took more than a year! But once I got there, I could move on immediately.

      And it wasn’t because of the person I started dating, either. I liked him, but my main reason for the breakup was because I realized my fiance wasn’t right for me and our relationship wasn’t going to work out. Liking someone else was just the final piece of the puzzle that showed me I was done. And that wasn’t a “rebound” relationship, it lasted over a year.

      I know you’re hurting and I don’t mean for my story to make you feel worse, because you’re clearly still holding out hope that he’ll come back. But I think you should let go of that. Your relationship didn’t work for him. He’s probably happy that he figured out that it wasn’t right for him, because I imagine for awhile now he’s been having a pretty tough time. Just remember that when you think he “moved on so fast”. He’s probably been suffering for months, not knowing what to do. For him, he’s already gone through the painful part, he did it while you were still together. You’re just starting. He’s way ahead of you in the healing process and he’s moving on. Right now just forget him and focus on yourself. Get yourself to the point where you can move on too, and then all the hurt from this will be behind you, like it is for him.

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      • avatar

        Nicole June 5, 2018, 10:04 am

        Wow. Thanks for this response, this really hit home and helped me see things in my current situation just a bit clearer than yesterday: “Just remember that when you think he “moved on so fast”. He’s probably been suffering for months, not knowing what to do. For him, he’s already gone through the painful part, he did it while you were still together. You’re just starting. He’s way ahead of you in the healing process and he’s moving on. Right now just forget him and focus on yourself. Get yourself to the point where you can move on too, and then all the hurt from this will be behind you, like it is for him.”

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  • avatar

    Boo Berry Waffles October 2, 2017, 10:29 am

    It’s always a blow to the self esteem to have a relationship dissolve, even worse when they move on so quickly. It makes it tempting to have everything pulled into question and can make you wonder if your interpretations of the last two and a half years was even valid. I get that.

    But it’s important to realize he isn’t doing these things “at” you. He’s simply doing these things in the sphere of moving on and exploring his life. Keep him blocked on social media, that was smart.

    Ask your friend to stop feeding you updates on him. “That’s nice, but I’m not interested in what he’s up to. Thank you.” Shut down those conversations ASAP. It sounds like a friend looking to stir a pot and watch your reaction. It isn’t helping you move on yourself.

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  • avatar

    Leslie Joan October 2, 2017, 10:31 am

    Wow. Two and a half years of being your personal therapist and cheering section has burnt him out. I’m not meaning to dismiss your pain, but if he has been there through all the things you listed, I could see that as much as he cared about you, he was getting to the point where he began to dread seeing you for fear that something new was going to crop up. And – what about him? Isn’t he allowed to have any needs? Or does he wind up feeling like anything that goes on with him, his joys and his sorrows, necessarily take a back seat to whatever drama and emotions are dominating your life at the time? Since you’ve decided that he’s had a personality change, I would gather that you don’t really know him. You only know what he does for you, and all the many things he’s told you to try keeping you on an even keel.

    LW, I have two friends like this. I love them for good reasons, but I also need to keep a certain amount of distance from them, because they tend to suck up all the oxygen in the room. Everything with them is somehow more intense and more extreme and their sorrows are more sorrowful and to be honest, they can be really rough on a friendship because so much of it becomes About Them. If you keep going to the same well all the time, you will draw it dry. You will make people realize that they need to keep their distance for their own self-preservation. I’d bet that is what happened.

    See a professional, please. It can relieve a lot of stress on the others around you.

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    • avatar

      Leslie Joan October 2, 2017, 10:54 am

      In fact – re-reading your post, I have to say that it’s no wonder he had to leave. Everything seems to be all about you. Like, “is he trying to hurt me on purpose; posting all this crap knowing it will get back to me”?

      He must have been bled dry in this relationship if he had to be telling you multiple times a day how much there he was for you, and even now you are denying his agency by claiming that you know what He Really Is Better Than Anyone Else. No, you only know what he showed you and what he did for you. You didn’t see that he wants some fun in life and doesn’t want to be constantly giving the support in a relationship.

      I understand that his departure strikes you as abrupt, but it’s precisely *because* you don’t really know him that you are so taken by surprise by his actions.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph October 2, 2017, 10:36 am

    Blocking him was the right call. Tell your so-called friends to stop telling you details of your ex and his new gf. Seriously, why do that?!

    I was in a similar position to you when I was 23– my boyfriend of 2 years dumped me and 3 days later was “facebook official” with a new girl. It sucked at the time. It sucked for months.
    But 8 years later (man, I’m old now) I know it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Like yours, our relationship was really needy and messy and not healthy at all. It wasn’t the right relationship and he wasn’t the right guy.

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  • avatar

    Fyodor October 2, 2017, 10:41 am

    “We were very much in love and worked very well together. ”

    “He was very supportive and did everything with me in mind.”

    Doing everything with you in mind is not working well together.

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  • avatar

    Fyodor October 2, 2017, 10:44 am

    I like the idea that he is a “completely different ” person for failing to prioritize her happiness over his happiness in his new relationship. This whole thing reads as narcissistic, albeit in a way that is common for young and immature people.

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  • avatar

    artsygirl October 2, 2017, 10:47 am

    LW – I am sorry you are hurting right now, but your ex BF owes you nothing. Your relationship ended and he is allowed to move on and that includes posting on social media and NOT justifying himself to your friends – seriously call them off and tell them to stop updating you and stop bothering him. You admit that he was your support network for a really difficult time in your life and it is possible that now that you are feeling better, he gave himself permission to break up with you. If you are still struggling, seek out professional help (most colleges have wonderful mental health resources).

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  • avatar

    Fyodor October 2, 2017, 10:50 am

    Yeah, having your friend call him to task for dating someone else post-breakup is badly messed up.

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  • avatar

    bondgirl October 2, 2017, 10:52 am

    Wendy brings up a valid point with “having a rough time”….everybody has their own stuff they’re dealing with. That doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t valid, but it may suggest you need some coping mechanisms/outlets so you’re not totally reliant on someone else for support. This would be a great time to self-reflect and start building these skills with the help of a good therapist. Speaking of which, in response to your ex saying he was “tired of being your therapist”….your significant other should never act as your therapist. Sure, they can be your sounding board once in a while, but not 24/7. As other responders have said, it sounds like the meeting of needs in this relationship had been a one-way street.

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  • avatar

    Ron October 2, 2017, 10:59 am

    The simple truth is that you were not emotionally ready to be in a relationship. Your emotional state probably also has something to do with deciding to change schools. You needed therapy to help you process your grief and get back on an even emotional keel. It sounds like you hid in your relationship and put way more pressure on your bf for emotional support over 2-1/2 years than any 20-year-old-near-man is able to provide without damaging himself.

    So, he moved on almost immediately. Why to people constantly measure their self worth by how long their ex suffers in solitude before moving on. It really sounds like this guy fully paid his dues over the 2-1/2 years he was your emotional support.

    Get counseling. Don’t rush into a new relationship until you are emotionally ready to be an equal partner. And for God’s sake, stop using your friends to chase after and talk to your ex. Recognize that it’s over. Recognize that he has a new gf and just stop keeping tabs on him. It really will make it easier for you to get your life together and move on if you totally ignore him. And no, he is not ‘the one’ for you. Just stop that destructive chain of thought.

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  • avatar

    Bittergaymark October 2, 2017, 11:01 am

    Well, of course he was an “asshole” to your friends, I am sure they confronted him with basically a verbal attack — “how can you do this and blah blah blah!” So he fired back, PS — your friends are only stirring the pot dramatists with their constant social media new bulletins about him. Tell them to shut the FUCK up already. They certainly aren’t doing you any favors here.
    .
    It sucks that your relationship didn’t work out. But when your lover has to play therapists more than doctor? Things often get old pretty quick for them. Learn from this. And move on.

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  • avatar

    LisforLeslie October 2, 2017, 11:14 am

    I like to say you can’t expect someone else to carry your emotional baggage. It sounds like you leaned pretty heavily on your ex – and it’s ok to do so, on occasion. But it sounds like you’ve had a difficult 2.5 years and that most of the energy went in a single direction.

    So do everything you’re doing – and what the others have suggested. Talk to your folks about finding an off-campus therapist and start learning coping skills to help you manage similar issues.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom October 2, 2017, 11:33 am

    You felt very loved because he was putting you first all of the time. Now think about that in reverse. How did he feel if you needed to come first all of the time. How long would you have stayed in the relationship if it was always all about him? If it was all him and his problem all of the time? Your probably wouldn’t have lasted two and a half years. He did care about you and hung in there long after it was obvious that there wasn’t much for him in the relationship.

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