It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Hoping for a Resurrection,” whose partner broke up with her after two years of living together. Her partner hinted that maybe the break-up could be just a “break,” – giving her hope for a reconciliation – and hadn’t yet decided whether to move out or not. The LW, who felt her shaky mental health was what was driving her partner away, wrote in asking for advice on how best to navigate this “break” so that they might renew the relationship. Six weeks later, she has an update and a request for additional advice:
He broke up with me two months ago after we had been acting like an old married couple for about a year – a long streak of not really going on dates, communication breakdowns, and unrelated life stressors/mental health issues on both ends (though mostly mine) that piled up and left us feeling exhausted and disconnected. This was a massive wake-up call for me – from day one of the breakup I expressed that I wanted to do the work and saw these issues as fixable, but he said he was too burnt out and “had no more fight left.” Both of us were heartbroken, but he seemed very resolute in his decision – at least initially.
We continued to live together in separate bedrooms while he looked for a place, and he’s now moving out next week. During this time we’ve both been putting in a lot of time in therapy and have been getting along really well – communicating healthily, feeling connected to each other again, etc. We still say we love each other, and we have been intimate a few times recently. Last week he confessed to me that revisiting the relationship is something he’s been thinking about a lot lately – it’s just been tough to reconcile our progress against the fact that things had previously gotten to the point where he felt he had no choice but to end it. He won’t definitively say he wants to get back together, but he says it’s on the table.
The other day we had a discussion about what our interactions would look like once he moves out (would we go no contact, etc.). We decided that since we’ve both expressed openness to trying again and that we’ve felt connection, growth, love, healing, progress, etc. lately, why prematurely close that door? We agreed that since distance and space will already be inherent in no longer sharing a home, cutting things off now would feel arbitrary and leave too many what-ifs and loose ends.
We aren’t moving forward with an explicit expectation of getting back together, but we have a mutual acknowledgement that maintaining our positive streak could lead us there. It also leaves lines of communication open so nobody ends up in the dark and guessing about where the other is at (i.e. if one of us decides to date others/is no longer interested, etc).
I’m, of course, absolutely over the moon to hear he is having a change of heart, but I know that I need to temper my hopes a bit. I also know that any explicit ask to get back together will need to come from him as the person who ended things.
I want to maintain our momentum, but I don’t know how to do this in practice with the addition of physical separation since we’ll be down to essentially just texting from time to time. Cohabitating is really what fostered the type of conversations that were conducive to putting our growth on display (vs. just sharing funny photos of our dog or texting about something that happened at work, etc). The uncertainty around what living apart could mean for how things play out is really scary to think about.
That said, I know that living apart can only be a good thing. Ideally, distance will make the heart grow fonder, will foster independence and personal growth, and will force us to date with more intentionality…although, on the other hand, if things go south, it’ll be way easier to go no contact.
How would you handle this? Help!! — Still Hoping for a Resurrection
I was actually in a very similar situation twenty years ago except I had the role your ex has. My boyfriend and I had been together for four years, had lived together for three, and had felt like just roommates or friends for at least the last year of our relationship. I broke up with him, and we both moved out and got our own places. I, like your partner, also suggested this could maybe be just a “break” instead of a “break-up” and that maybe distance and time apart to “work on ourselves” would get us on a path of getting back together. I meant those things when I said them, but you know, people say things to help ease sadness, and breaking up with someone I genuinely cared about and loved as a person was sad.
I think the best thing you can do is to assume this relationship is done forever. If you still want your ex in your life, then, by all means, experiment with how that will look and what it feels like going forward. There’s nothing really you need to “do” right now. Your ex is moving out and you two will very organically transition to the next phase of your relationship with each other. That might mean anything from weekly texts for a while to daily texts. It’s hard to say right now what is going to feel right and how your emotions may change and may affect your behavior. I would be really careful at this point about setting any expectations.
It’s true that distance might make your hearts grow fonder. I would not expect that though. But if it were to happen, it’s probably not going to happen if you are reaching out constantly. If missing you is what will make your partner want you back, then give him a chance to miss you. Let him reach out to you. Be busy in the meantime. Fill your days with people and activities that bring you joy and meaning. But don’t do this to win your ex back.
Start fostering a life that is fulfilling without a partner. When you are happy on your own, you will be in the best position to attract someone who is also fostering a meaningful life. That could be your ex, but it could also be someone new – someone you haven’t even yet begun to imagine who may complement you in all the best ways. And that’s kind of exciting too, isn’t it?
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at email@example.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.