Updates: “Seeking Tough Love” Responds

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 “Seeking Tough Love” who wondered if she should give her abusive ex-boyfriend another chance and whether she should consider moving in with him in October. Keep reading to see where things are between them now.

I’ve been waiting to write an update because I feel like my situation is somewhat unresolved. I did break up with my boyfriend about 2-3 months ago, after which he did the same things he generally does after our breakups: beg for me back, make promises to change, etc. However, this time he started taking some more positive steps towards getting to the root of his anger problems: he purchased an anger work book and is consciously working to prevent his anger from escalating in all parts of his life; he began working out again; he began meditating; and he is also seeing a therapist regularly.

I have remained friends with him but have limited our talking and seeing each other. When we have hung out, I am really amazed at how he is handling situations now. From his friend knocking over his plant, to people cutting him off in traffic, he really is taking a different approach to how he is handling stressful situations. He has also acknowledged the problems we had in our relationship and how he was having problems communicating. Obviously, I still have feelings for him, and whenever the thought of taking him back crosses my mind, I re-read your response (which, by the way, was really amazing and my roommate even reads it to her friends when they need to MOA).

I know I should just MOA (which I am trying to do), but I still have reservations about his willingness to change, and in the back of my mind I wonder if this progress is worth considering or should I just actually sever ties for good. My main issue is that with all the men I’ve met, I have never met someone with whom I’ve had so much in common in regards to goals, ambition, personality and lifestyle. I guess I’m scared I will never meet someone that has all that AND will also let my dogs sleep in the bed (lol).

I feel like the comments to this update will be similar to my original post – cycle of abuse, get out now, he can’t change, etc. Anyway, that’s where I’m at now — a little better off than before but still really conflicted.

You know, maybe your ex can change. Maybe his workbook and his therapy and what not will have wonderful long-lasting effects on him. And maybe you can be his friend again one day. But with all the baggage you have, I’d never advise trying a relationship again. And with your feelings still so raw, you have to give yourself lots of time and space to heal and move on before you can try a friendship (read this column about how long people should wait before being friends with an ex).

Just because you haven’t found someone you connect with as well as your ex doesn’t mean you won’t. But it will be much, much harder to find him if you’re still so hung up on someone else.


If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

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  1. It’s good that he’s trying to handle his anger. But I think you may be reading too much into his progress. For someone with anger problems, I suppose not exploding when someone knocks over a plant or cuts you off in traffic is commendable, but in the scheme of things, I’m not sure that it means much. What if he thought you were cheating on him? That’s certainly a different situation than getting some dirt spilled on his floor. Your initial story in your letter was about him getting drunk and then violent. I assume he was sober when these annoying things happened to him that he handled well. What if he has a couple of drinks?

    I think you should continue to MOA. Besides the unknowns regarding his own behavior, you have learned from your relationship that you have tendencies that lead you to stay with or want to stay with an abusive guy. It may turn out that he’s changed, but it may not — and you don’t want to find out after you’ve already been sucked in again. Also, being worried you won’t find someone you have as much in common with is NOT a reason to get back together with another person. Everyone feels that way at some point, but inevitably meets someone else they like better.

    1. WLS!

      At the very, very, very least, this needs more “run time” before you consider any re-engagement.

      I implore you never to forget that men can become very “mission focused” and, in this case, the “mission” could be exhibiting the necessary appearance of change to get you back rather than achieving actual change.

  2. WatersEdge says:

    I just want to say that getting your plant knocked over is not a “stressful situation.” Nor is being cut off in traffic. Your standards for progress are way too low. Since you asked, this is not “progress worth considering.”An if he needed a workbook, a therapist, and meditation practice to be able to handle having a plant knocked over, this is not a suitable long-term partner. Life gets much tougher than that.

    Why would you want to be in a relationship with someone where these small insignificant life events are considered to be stressful? FFS.

    1. “An if he needed a workbook, a therapist, and meditation practice to be able to handle having a plant knocked over, this is not a suitable long-term partner.”

      True. Imagine if they had children.

  3. Listen to Wendy. And yourself (“I know I should just MOA”) You can either wonder if you’ll ever meet someone new, or wonder if this guy will ever become violent again. I’m sure the change you see in him is drastic, but keep in mind that there are people out there for whom a fallen potted plant is not a stressful, explosive anger triggering situation.

  4. The reason he is doing all those things is because he wants to lure you back in. The second you go back to him, all those wonderful things he is doing will go out the window and he will start abusing you again.

    It will be really hard for you to find someone you can connect with if you still hang out with him. You should stop seeing him altogether if you want to move one. And there is no reason for you to stick around him, he abused you!

    There are other guys you will have all this things in common with and more who won’t be abusive. Just remember, you won’t be able to move on and stop having feelings for him if you keep hanging out with him.

  5. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

    Dear Wendy: My ex used to threaten to kill everybody I know the moment they knocked over his precious potted plant. But then…he went out and bought a book! Oh, sure, I was hoping for counseling, but no! Still, he actually WENT OUT AND BOUGHT A BOOK! There have been real changes, too. Just the other day, he woke up to see that it was raining outside and didn’t so much as smash a single piece of china!

    Seriously… okay. WTF? Am I now living in some strange parallel world where every woman who writes letters into Dear Wendy is just somehow completely loca en la cabeza?

    1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      “he is also seeing a therapist regularly” said the LW.

      1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Oh, whoops. That’s one problem with insomnia. It pretty much KILLS reading comprehension.

      2. I just don’t think that 2 to 3 months of seeing a therapist is enough for a former abuser. I still think she needs to walk away for awhile and let him work on himself…

      3. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I wasn’t trying to imply the guy was magically cured from a month of therapy. I’m not in any way advocating this guy is better and quite frankly think the LW needs to run for the hills before she gets sucked farther into his cycle of abuse.

        I was just pointing out a missed fact.

  6. Sorry – to me, this just screams “honeymoon phase”. He’s just trying to prove he’s changed, and once he’s proven he’s changed and “won” you back, he’ll start sliding a bit, and getting you back into the comfort zone of where he likes to be. Once you’re either pregnant or legally bound to him (married) – well, he’ll go right back to what he’s best at – abusing you.

    Cutting all ties is the best thing to do because so long as he has any hold on you, he’s going to continue manipulating you into thinking he can change and that YOU are the reason for his change, therefore you will feel obligated to stick around and see it through with him, thus you will not move on fully. Get yourself some therapy to work on your co-dependency towards this guy (it’s common in abuse situations, it’s how they want us) and cut it off, cold turkey.

  7. ele4phant says:

    I agree with everybody else here. While its good he’s doing SOMETHING and making some sort of progress, the fact that he doesn’t dissolve into a fit of rage when a houseplant gets knocked over does not mean he is the picture of a calm, patient man worthy of you being with.

  8. “Just because you haven’t found someone you connect with as well as your ex doesn’t mean you won’t. But it will be much, much harder to find him if you’re still so hung up on someone else.”

    I think this little piece of advice was written for me. LW, I know how you feel. Sometimes I feel like my ex is everything I ever wanted in a partner, except for that ONE LITTLE thing that’s keeping us apart. Sometimes I’m scared I’ll never connect with anyone else on the same level. But pretty much everyone has felt that way about someone at some point, right?

    I also know how stubborn I am, and how no matter how much I know the “right” answer (or how many people tell me the “right” answer), I still sometimes do the opposite and follow my emotions rather than logic. You know, the whole head vs. heart thing. I wanted to get back with my (non-abusive) ex because I thought I’d regret it if I never gave him another chance. But all I risked was a broken heart by following that path. You risk a broken heart, AND potentially much worse. You already know what he’s capable of. Please don’t stick around just to find out if he’ll do it again. Because he either doesn’t – but you’re constantly wondering when it will happen and walking on eggshells – or he does. And then what? You’re right back where you started only older, at best. I don’t like to think of the worst-case scenario.

    1. WatersEdge says:

      “Sometimes I feel like my ex is everything I ever wanted in a partner, except for that ONE LITTLE thing that’s keeping us apart. Sometimes I’m scared I’ll never connect with anyone else on the same level. But pretty much everyone has felt that way about someone at some point, right?”

      I have felt that way!

      If you read this, and you have ever felt that way about an ex, reply to this post.

      1. Ditto.

      2. Living it right now. Ugh.

      3. Definitely felt that way. When my ex dumped me I thought I would be alone forever, because there would never ever be anyone else like him and I had such a hard time moving on. It took me more than a year to finally accept that it was done, over, never getting back together. But guess what… I took my time, and I met somebody even better 🙂 2 years with my current bf and I’m way happier than I ever was with my ex!

      4. I felt that way. And then I didn’t. Despite thinking I would never get over it, I did. And I got over most of it well before meeting someone who was better for me.

      5. Yep.

      6. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Yeah, but that one little thing is ALWAYS pretty major. In my case it was that Matt STILL claimed to be happily married to his clueless wife. But that certainly didn’t stop him from fabricating business trips and out of town overnights that never truly happened. Instead he’d just show up at my apartment… Best line ever? “Shit, I have to call her, Mark. Can you make this place sound like the lobby of a Hilton?” One of my life’s many most absurd moments.

      7. That’s just….. something I don’t even have words for,

  9. This dude is a duck, just look at the way he walks and talks. I would just walk away before your future self gets kicked in the beak by this guy.

  10. LW, I’d like to share a story from my point of view. My ex had some issues similar to your ex’s, and you know what? He did change. It happened over the course of a few years, most of which occurred after we broke up.

    However, we did not (and will not) have some big reunion and live happily ever after. Sometimes, there is just too much baggage in the past, and it is rare that a couple can fully change the way they interact with one another.

    I also found that, even though he is a much better candidate for a relationship in general, we no longer shared the exact same interests and opinions. This is because I was able to spend a few years alone (and out of his life completely) to figure out who I am NOW versus who I was when I met him. I am now free to find someone who is a better fit for the older, wiser version of me.

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