Dear Sara: About a month ago, my boyfriend of two years broke up with me (I’m 30 and he is 31). It came as a heartbreaking surprise. I’ve been in several serious relationships, and this one seemed like a wonderful fit—loving, easy, drama-free. He took most of the steps to advance the relationship in the first year or so, and we had continued to deepen our bond since then.
He couldn’t really give a satisfying explanation for ending
things, and seemed confused himself. We were living in a temporary
apartment together (he recently moved to my city after finishing grad
school) and were about to get a more permanent place, but he said that
[he] was having doubts about the city we live in, the job he has, or
what kind of lifestyle he wants, and that he needed some time on his own
(single) to figure things out—which I suppose means he had doubts about
the relationship, too. He’s also going to start therapy to try to work
through some of these issues.
Your writing has helped me to understand that our breakup doesn’t
mean there’s something wrong with me, and that looking for answers as
to why it ended is probably futile (thank you!). I know I should
probably wait to find someone who is truly excited to be my partner and
have me as theirs. But I really love him and cherished our relationship,
and I wonder if (after some time) I should ask him if he’d be open to
trying again? Is there ever a time when it makes sense to “fight for
it”? — H
Dear H: It might be true that your ex is just at a funny place in his life and will come back to you.
The problem is, I don’t think there is any way for you to know if
that’s the case. More important, I don’t think there is much you can do
to make that happen.
He has told you he needs time to sort things out, and that he needs
to do that alone. So I don’t think there is any way for you to be part
of that process.
But you can let him know the door is still open. I would do this in a
very quiet way—liking something he posted on Facebook, or sending him a
quick birthday message. You want to let him know that things are still
friendly, that you aren’t holding a grudge. But you don’t want to put
him on the spot. If he’s still working through all of this, he might not
be ready to answer a direct question about trying again.
After that, I suggest doing what you can to move on. You’re still
grieving this relationship, so it’s natural that at times you’re going
to daydream and plot about getting back together. You don’t have to stop
thinking about him cold turkey, but see if you can wean yourself off
these thoughts. For example, if you find yourself fantasizing about your
reunion, stop, take a breath and say to yourself “I’ll think about this
later.” You can even set a time. “At 5 pm, after I’ve finished all my
work, I’m going to think about him for fifteen minutes.”
The point is not to be perfect at this—if it’s 9 am, he’ll probably
enter your brain a few more times before quitting time. The point is to give yourself some mental space—some
HIM-free space—and to make that space a little bigger every day. I
think this is very important because when you spend your days and nights
pining for one person, it becomes very difficult to see anyone or
Hope is a tricky thing. It feels good to hope, but a person can also
get so drunk on wish-fulfillment fantasies that you lose touch with any
other possibilities—I say this from personal experience. Bringing more
mental space in your day won’t hurt your chances of getting back
together with him, and frankly it probably won’t help them, either. But
it will help you center yourself and gain more clarity about what your
best next step is. That’s what he’s doing, and I think you should too.