Updates: “Sick of the Pattern” Responds

updatesIt’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 “Sick of the Pattern” who wrote in after a vacation with a girlfriend of six months didn’t go very well and made them both question the relationship and whether they were a match.

He wrote: “This has been happening for the last twenty years and it’s the same old pattern. I date a woman for three to six months, anxiety sets in, relationship ends, and anxiety dissipates. I’m sick of it.

I’m even beginning to question myself as to whether I truly want a relationship and whether, perhaps, I secretly want to remain on my own and avoid the challenges that relationships bring. Can you help?”

He updated once before, to say he’d broken up with the woman, Louise, from the ill-fated vacation, but was regretting the break-up, and he then shared a bunch of notes from his therapist about how he’s such a commitment-phone and how he was advised “to breathe [his] anxiety out and to focus on the positives of being in a relationship.” He wondered if he should try again with Louise since she was still single and he’d seen her on a dating site.

After 18 months since my break up with Louise, I want to contact her. I want to try again.

To summarize: I dated her for six months and broke up soon after a vacation together. I texted her a couple of times soon after. I then met up with her three months after the break-up but couldn’t bring myself to ask her to get back together. I started seeing a therapist a month later, and he basically said I have a fear of commitment, an avoidant attachment style, and trust issues.

But I feel like I’m ready this time. I feel more mature. I’ve had many opportunities since Louise. I went on dates but couldn’t attach to anyone.

There are many questions though:

Is it common to want to get back with your ex (especially after a long break of 18 months)?

What do you think Louise’s reaction would be? (I’ve seen her on a dating site as recently as a month ago, so maybe she’s possibly still single?)

If she’s still single, would she want to get back together or has she moved on?

What are the chances of it working out the second time?

Would it be boring or exciting?

I even asked my mother. She said it was like taking a bite of an apple, then going back to the same apple later on: The apple would be rotten then. (I am not sure this is a good analogy, but I think I know where she was coming from.)

She said the vacation with Louise didn’t bring us closer; therefore, it was best to move on and find someone else.

Another friend thinks I’m lonely and that’s the reason I want her back. That’s rubbish! I am not lonely. I am not bored. I am not after sex. I’m actually happy!

Another friend thinks there’s always a chance we would break up again. I agree but think that there are no guarantees with any relationship.

Wendy, what should be the right and wrong reasons to want to get back together?

How do I approach this? I don’t want to ring her. My preference is email, and if she’s interested, she’ll reply. But what does someone write on this email?

And if she’s not interested, that’s cool with me. I will respect her boundaries. I will respect her wishes.

I’m now 49 and she’s 46. It’s seems like yesterday that I was dating her, but it’s been 18 months since the break-up.

What should I do?

In your last update, we all advised you to leave poor Louise alone and move on. Nothing you’ve said in this second update indicates that you are any more interested in truly dating Louise than you were over ten months ago when you last wrote in. You ask whether being back together would be boring or exciting, you ask what the “right and wrong” reasons might be to get back together, and you ask what the changes are that it would work out a second time.

Here’s the thing: If you’ve already dated someone, the only reason you should get back together is because you’ve now experienced life with them and without them and life with them is so much better. You should attempt to try again because you feel so strongly in your heart that you’re meant to be together and you’re a great match and you’d regret NOT trying. You should attempt to date again because the benefits of being with her far, far outweigh the risks (which include: being wrong about what a great match you are and breaking up again). You simply do not sound very convinced of these things. Rather than articulating reasons why you want to date Louise again, you’re actually asking to be told what those reasons should be. You sound like you want to be talked into trying again, and if you need to be talked into it, and have your hand held through the process, and told exactly how to even reach out to Louise, you either need a lot more therapy or Louise simply is NOT the right person for you (probably both!). At any rate, I stand by my advice from your last update: leave her alone and let her go.


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. Oh my god let it go!
    Also your mom’s comment is just plain horrible.

    1. LisforLeslie says:

      I don’t think the mom meant that Louise was rotten. But hey, maybe she’s an awful person and that’s why this guy is such a commitment-phobe.

      1. Bittergaymark says:

        Yeah, I think she meant the relationship has spoilt. NOT the person. And in this case, I heartilly agree!

      2. ele4phant says:

        Yeah, I assumed the mom’s comment was in reference to the relationship he had with Louise, not Louise herself.

        I could be wrong, but it seems like she’s saying if you start a relationship, even if its good initially, if you walk away from it for awhile, it will spoil. You never get that new relationship fresh/safe-to-eat apple back.

      3. I guess reading it again that makes sense – is this sort of an expression in English? But still. Weird statement from the mom.

      4. Ele4phant says:

        It’s not a common phrase, but just thinking about the context that’s how I read it, that it’s about the relationship not her.

        I mean apples start nice and then rot – is she saying Louise used to be lovely and has now deteriorated? Or is she talking about the relationship? To me it makes more sense that she was talking about the relationship.

      5. Hi,
        It’s the LW here.

        My mother didn’t mean that Louise was rotten. She never met her but she was disappointed it didn’t work out between us.

        She was saying that the relationship wouldn’t be the same if i were to go back to her. The relationship is the apple, not the person
        Maybe it’s not a great analogy but my mother is 77 years old.

  2. LW, move on. Louis is not your person. I just read your original letter. She won’t want to get back together with you. And in any case, the vast majority of people who break up and get back together seem to eventually break up again.

    I recently read the book my therapist gave me called Attached, which is about attachment styles. You may want to pick it up. It was actually a good read for a self-help book! I have an anxious attachment style, and the book really helped me put some of my past behaviors and relationships in a new context. It also mentioned that few people with an avoidant attachment style see improvement without the help of a therapist. So keep working with yours! I doubt you’ve managed to undo like 30 years of dating patterns in the months you’ve been working with a therapist.

  3. Bittergaymark says:

    For someone who was once SICK OF A PATTERN, you sure do repeat em a lot, eh? Leave poor Louise alone for Christ’s sake. It was abundantly clear multiple letters ago that you two were simply NOT a good match.

  4. The problem was you. The problem still is you. Stop obsessing on Louise, fix yourself, and move on. I’m not why your therapist is giving you the comments that you report. Most initial dates or dating a few times aren’t going to work out, because the two people dating aren’t a good match. It could mean you still have commitment issues if you didn’t form attachments with any of these women, or it could just mean that they weren’t a good match for you. You can’t force an attachment when there isn’t chemistry or enough common life-view and being in the same place in life to make a relationship feasible.

    You seem to have decided that Louise is THE solution to your problems. That’s not fair to either of you. Please leave the poor woman alone.

  5. Please leave Louise alone. You’ve already put her through enough and it sounds like your issues from therapy haven’t been fully addressed yet. Please pursue someone else and use apply the wisdom and skills you learned in therapy.

  6. When you described your conversation with Louise in the first letter, it was very, very, very clear that she’d realized the two of you had wildly incompatible personalities. That was a very thorough and very firm breakup. She is not going to have any interest in trying again.

    It’s also clear that you didn’t understand what she was telling you.

    What’s less clear is why you want to try again with Louise. Unless I misread your letter, there’s nothing there about why you want *her*. You don’t talk about anything that you miss about her, specifically. From the way you describe the vacation, it sounds like the two of you never really connected emotionally at all. Why try to get back together with her?

    I’m not sure you’re a commitment-phobe. I think commitment comes out of a powerful emotional connection, and for whatever reason, you haven’t felt that connection with the women you’ve dated.

  7. To boil it down further, if you have to ask “will it be boring or exciting,” you’re not really into her. At all. I think you’re much more into the *idea* of having a relationship that you are in actually having one with Louise.

  8. I agree also that Louise is not “the answer”. Your list seemed very clinical and not emotion at all. Also I was struck by the fact that you intended to possibly email!! her and not call to talk or ask to meet. That is a very impersonal/distancing idea and shows you are not very attached to her or the idea of a renewed relationship.
    FYI, if a woman had any interest in maybe getting back with her ex,-an email would surely turn her off for the reasons mentioned above.

  9. ele4phant says:

    Stop this.

    Leave this woman alone. You haven’t heard from her in 18 months, presumably she’s fine with that and would like it to continue. You say you want to respect her boundaries, well by not talking to you you can presume she’s fine not being in contact with you, so take that as the boundary and don’t cross it.

    If you really feel the last year and a half you’ve made great progress on yourself, then great, take that going forward into your dating life, and when you meet a nice new lady you connect with, apply what you’ve learned.

    But stop trying to beat the dead horse that was your relationship with Louise.

    Move on, and more importantly, let her move on.

    Frankly, that you keep going back to this one bad relationship indicates to me that you have NOT made progress. If you truly had made progress, you would be interested in seeking out a new relationship instead of going back to someone you already know you don’t have that great of a connection with.

  10. I don’t know. LW, why are you fixated on her? Why do all your friends and mom think this is bad?

    So my brother and his wife dated in college. They were young and not really ready for a relationship. They broke up. After a few years, they circled back to each other and are happily married. People do circle back to each other when they have grown. If you see that growth, I would call her. I wouldn’t email. If you feel like this could be really worth another try, then call her. Tell her you have been thinking about her and you miss her and would like to go out. If you think that is too much effort, then I think you should let it go.

  11. Bittergaymark says:

    PS — you also NEED a new therapist as the one you have sure sounds lousy!

  12. You said it yourself, you’re just bored. It is not a good enough reason to contact her. Move on. You’re happy single, so stay single. Don’t be with someone just bc you’re bored. That’s not romantic.

  13. Prognosti-gator says:

    Nowhere in your followup letter do you state that you *miss* being with Louise. It reads more like something you have in a task list that hasn’t been completed, and now you want to get back to finishing it. Don’t go back just because it’s familiar for you.

  14. I just re-read his first letter.

    He couldn’t let go of the fact they missed their flight so it’s not shock he can’t let go of poor Louise.

    You missed the boat. Go find a new therapist.

  15. All right well that’s a lot less horrible then.

    1. I meant to reply to the comments on my first comment!

  16. This guy sounds dense. Just reading the letter has left me exhausted. I suggest you to chill, let Louise alone and continue on therapy.

  17. dinoceros says:

    Geez. Louise is not the only woman on earth. Move on.

    A few things:
    –You’ve been broken up three times as long as you were together. You’re lucky if she even remembers who you are, honestly.
    –You are being super selfish here. YOU decided YOU are ready because YOU think YOU are more mature. But what if you aren’t? What if you turn around and repeat your pattern again? It’s one thing to do it with a random person you’re dating. It’s another to go back to someone you hurt before, tell them you’re all better now, and then do it again.
    –I don’t know if it’s that you’re lonely, but I think you are obsessed with breaking your “pattern” and have convinced yourself that Louise is the key to breaking it. Why can’t you just try dating someone new and see how that goes?
    –If I were Louise, I’d for sure not want to hear from you. I’d think you were creepy for showing up after all that time and desperate.

    1. dinoceros says:

      Also, you sound bonkers, so I think it’s safe to say that you haven’t gotten over your issues. Please go back to your therapist and keep working.

    2. Dinoceros,
      I broke up with her ONCE and met up with her 3 months later. That’s the last time i saw her.

      Not sure what you mean by ” You’ve been broken up three times as long as you were together.” Attention to detail is the key my friend!

      1. Before you get too smug there Ricko she meant you’ve been broken up for three times as long as you were together, as you were together for 6 months and it’s been 18 months since then. Times tables indicate that 6 goes into 18 three times so…..

      2. ele4phant says:

        Oooohhhh burn.

      3. anonymousse says:

        LOL Rick/Dave. How can you not understand that comment?

        You broke up 18 months ago.
        You previously dated for 6 months.
        You’ve been broken up 3x LONGER than you ever dated.


        No one said you broke up three times.

  18. There’s an awful lot in there about how Louise might respond, not to mention all the questions about how it might be for LW but nothing about how Louise might feel. Wanting to know if she’ll be up for it is very different to wondering if you’re the right person for her and if you’re willing and able to give her what she has very explicitly said she needs. You’re still all about you LW, leave her and all women alone until you’re actually able to give of yourself to another person.

    1. Ref: Ange’s comments
      Before you get too smug there Ricko she meant you’ve been broken up for three times as long as you were together, as you were together for 6 months and it’s been 18 months since then. Times tables indicate that 6 goes into 18 three times so…..

      That sounds ridiculous…..They broke up just the one time….

      1. Ele4phant says:

        Oh my goodness, are you another person still misunderstanding this comment after it’s been clearly explained?

        Or am I the one misunderstanding you David?

        The original comment, and Ange’s comment were both saying that he has broken up with her three times as long as they were ever together, not that they broke up on three separate occasions. Everyone gets there has only been one breakup. The relationship lasted six months, they’ve been apart 18 months. So he’s been broken up three times as long as he was with her.

        Am I the one that’s wrong in reading your comment David? I feel like I’m in crazy town.

      2. No, you are not the wrong comprehending this incorrectly.

      3. LOL what are the odds it’s a whole new name for the same old person?

      4. Ele4phant says:

        I would say the odds are not zero at the very least.

  19. Bittergaymark says:

    Hilarious. Reading comprehension fail, Rick. Epic.

  20. LisforLeslie says:

    Dude, leave her alone. Your letter sounds like you’re willing to “settle” for Louise as the least worst option of all the women you’ve dated.

    She deserves better.

  21. Look, if I were Louise and we got back together I would never trust you, and in fact because you hurt me I would resent you. I would try to let that go at first, but later there is a good chance these feelings would all come out. I think you need to let Louise go and move on.

  22. It is always a special treat when the LWs show up in the comments to berate us for not giving the advise they want.

  23. wobster109 says:

    Ok man. I am a math teacher, and when students ask me lots of questions and don’t offer any of their own insights, what they are saying is they want to get the answer without doing any of the work. So let’s go through your questions, and how about you tell me what you think for each one?

    “Is it common to want to get back with your ex (especially after a long break of 18 months)?” This one is at least easy to answer. Yes. The length of the break isn’t relevant. 18 months isn’t that long.

    “What do you think Louise’s reaction would be?” You know Louise, and I’ve never met her, so what do you think? Give your best guess. My guess is, it would depend on what you say when you ask her. If you say “I don’t know my reasons for getting back together”, then she’ll probably say “no thanks”.

    “I’ve seen her on a dating site as recently as a month ago, so maybe she’s possibly still single?” Probably, but there’s no way any of us here could possibly know for sure.

    “If she’s still single, would she want to get back together or has she moved on?” I don’t know. This is a question for Louise, if you do ask her again.

    “What are the chances of it working out the second time?” It depends. This is like saying, “The last time I baked a cake, it didn’t rise. What are the chances it will work the second time?” Well, what are you doing differently this time? Be specific. Will you mix the ingredients separately? Bake at a different temperature?
    Hint: this is not a good answer: “But I feel like I’m ready this time. I feel more mature. I’ve had many opportunities since Louise. I went on dates but couldn’t attach to anyone.”
    This is like saying: “I feel like I’m ready this time. I feel better at baking. I’ve baked many things since the cake but couldn’t make anything come out right.”
    Note that not attaching on other dates is a sign AGAINST you being ready. If you don’t have successful dates in general, this makes it LESS likely that you’ll have a successful date with Louise.

    “Would it be boring or exciting?” It depends on you and her. Some relationships are boring and some are exciting. So give your best guess. What do you think?

    “Wendy, what should be the right and wrong reasons to want to get back together?” What are your reasons? Try to put your reasons into words. You said that it’s not because you’re bored or lonely. So what are the reasons?

    “How do I approach this? I don’t want to ring her. My preference is email. . . .” Then write an email.
    “But what does someone write on this email?” You write why you want to get back together and then you ask her out. So why do you want to get back together?

    “What should I do?” Leave her alone. I think the reason you can’t say why you want to get back together is, you really don’t. Care to prove me wrong? Then figure out the reason.

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