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#557: That’s just one dude’s opinion/Annual reminder that “why did you break up with me?” is not a question you actually want answered.

Dear Captain Awkward:

About two weeks ago, I was broken up with by my then-boyfriend of nearly two years, P. I did not see it coming, at all. A week before, he had invited me to his family’s reunion in the summer, and he had spent the previous weekend with me.

P and I met on a dating website, after I had been single for a couple of years. We seemed to click right away, he was very attractive and intelligent, and was fun to converse with. The only major problem in our relationship, that I could tell, was that he was bad at emotional intimacy. Like, way bad.

When he broke up with me, he sent a bunch of mixed signals. The few times we saw each other or talked during the first week after, he was way physically (& not platonically) affectionate, and was telling me all about how his day was going. Needless to say, it was confusing.

I spoke with a friend who is mutual friends with P, and she confirmed that nobody knew that P was going to break up with me, and that P was being a sad panda about it. He said (to my best friend) that I should get in touch with him when I was ready.

I ended up talking to my therapist about it, and she suggested that I figure out why he had broken up with me. Initially he said it was because he didn’t feel the way for me the way he thought he should, but all of his actions pointed away from that. So, I texted him to see if he was open to talking, and off we went to our favorite diner.

That talk, to say the least, ended badly. He hemmed and hawed and gave weird reasons (didn’t want to move in together, which was odd because I was nowhere near ready for that either), only to change his mind the next second. Then he said, “I just never saw myself with somebody like you.”

When I asked what that meant, he mumbled something about my “eclectic” fashion sense. Then, he blurted out, “I guess I always saw myself with somebody more conventionally attractive.”

This obviously hurt. In the beginning, I often wondered how somebody like me could land a guy so freaking hot. And now, cool! All my fears and insecurities came true! Awesome!

I got angry, and told him that there was no way, none what so ever, that we could be friends after this. He got sad, and was practically pleading with me. He apologized a bunch, promised he’d be a better person in the future, all that. When I left his car, I told him that he could consider himself free from me, and I went and ugly-cried all over the place. I deleted and blocked him from everything, disabled a lot of my social media accounts to avoid lashing out at him.

In the process of that, I came across a post he made on Reddit, asking how to forgive himself after he had hurt somebody, mentioning how he was never proud to be seen in public with me, and how he knew from the beginning that he was settling for way less than what he wanted in a partner, namely in the looks department.

It’s less than a full day later, so I know it’s too soon to make huge declarative statements but: This has utterly messed me up. Like, I’ve always been aware that I was less than cute by society’s standards but I’ve never had a hard time getting dates/hook ups/relationships, so I figured I was doing okay enough. Now, I have to deal with the knowledge that a man I was in love with for nearly two years, who introduced me to his family and friends, who seemed to have no problem having sex with me, secretly wished I looked like somebody else. From the get-go.

I guess my question is: How to I survive this? I can’t look in the mirror without bawling. I’m so nauseated that I can barely stomach food. I am hating my body and my face a lot right now. And I know I shouldn’t feel that way, that this anger should instead be directed at him for being such a jerkface, but it’s easier to point it at myself.

For right now, I am so turned off to the idea of finding somebody else, even in the distant future, because now I’ll always be wondering at the back of my head: What if this hypothetical person will also lie to myself about loving me and having sex with me while actually being embarrassed by me?

I want to shake your therapist. She fucked up when she counseled you to pursue more answers from someone who dumped you. Please show your therapist this comic, and tell them it’s from me. I don’t think you are any of the things the break-upper lists in the comic,  by the way, just, the act of asking for the reason someone doesn’t love you anymore means you’ll get the reasons that someone doesn’t love you anymore

You did right by blocking P and cutting him out of your life. Stick to that going forward! I just wish you’d done it before that awkward diner meal, because honestly, your refusal to believe or accept his stated, face-saving, feelings-saving reasons for the breakup is the only reason that you know the hurtful ones. “I am not feeling it anymore” = good enough reason to break up. “I am breaking up with you” = good enough reason to break up. Whatever reason the person tells you is a good-enough reason. More important than the reasons are the facts, in that, you are broken up now. You cornered the dude, and you made him explain, he tried everything he could not to tell you, but you kept pushing, so he eventually he did. Hopefully you will never do that again, and hopefully you will counsel friends who come to you after breakups to never do that, hopefully people reading this who were on the verge of doing that will stop themselves from doing that and your story can help someone else. We can’t put spilled milk back into the glass, so let’s move on to what you can do with this information you obtained.

If P was so un-attracted to you, he should have peaced out after your first date and not wasted two years of your fucking time. So what you have here is a) ONE DUDE’S OPINION, not the opinion of all future people who are not him, not the opinion of people who have loved and lusted for you in the past b) one crappy, cowardly, lazy dude’s opinion. Here’s the deal – if P was having sex with you, he WAS attracted to you. If he stopped being attracted to you, then breaking up was the right thing to do. My take is that this isn’t so much about attraction, this is about perceived status, about seeing you as a “thing” that is somehow the measure of his own worth. You weren’t good Trophy Wife material (in his opinion), oops! That’s way more about him than it is about you.

So any time that “What if this is what it will always be & feel like?” voice comes into your head, counteract it with “Just one dude’s opinion, man.” One crappy sexist dude who is no longer in your life. I know it stings. I know it hits you right in your own insecurities, which is why he didn’t want to tell you initially, and why he said it in the end – It’s a conversation-stopper! So what, you dress quirky and don’t look like an airbrushed magazine cover. You can tell the story where this Adonis of a perfect man broke up with you because of your looks, or you can go with the story you told me about how you dated a really handsome dude who was bad (like, way bad) at emotional intimacy and good at compartmentalizing, one who broke up with you out of the blue because of his OWN insecurities, not anything about you. You are too awesome to be someone’s How Do I Emotions? tutor!

Other people are not P, and P. is not worth hating yourself for. Put the anger where it belongs, on him, in your rearview mirror. Be nice to yourself and give yourself permission to grieve. Take care of yourself as you get over the breakup. Have no further contact with him, don’t go looking for his username, and let a lot of time go by. It will get better, and the day will come when he has no power over you at all.

There are some lingering questions that you might want to talk over with your therapist at length as the feelings come up, but ones that I want to give you some preliminary answers to now.

“Why didn’t I see the signs that this was coming?”

It’s easy to feel stupid when you’ve been blindsided. A bomb went off in your life, how could you have missed the ticking? The answer to this one is: Because he didn’t want you to see any signs. He deliberately acted like nothing was wrong while he made up his mind, because he wanted to keep the “option” of you open while he decided what to do. He wanted your love, affection, sex, attention, time, the happiness & security of having a ‘girlfriend’, etc. while he made up his mind. That’s on him, not you! Either he really was undecided, or he was faking it to keep you interested for as long as it suited him. He engineered it to be this way, and then creepily was touching you up a week after you broke up, because he still felt entitled to your affections. Gross.

“What if I can never trust someone’s interest in and desire for me again?”

That one is kind of up to you, and to time. One dude’s opinion, unfortunately reinforced by a body-hating, body-shaming culture, is not everyone’s opinion. And it doesn’t have to be your opinion, though it may take some hard work on your part to fight it. May I recommend a coloring book?

“How can I feel better again?”

Be around people who make you feel good, and do things you love to do and that make you feel good. These are things you can control, so reach out to your friends and ask for brunch, ask for days at the movies or the museum or biking or staying up watching TV. Go swimming, get a massage, get some great pajamas and some awesome-smelling lotion and other stuff that makes your body feel great. Seek out body-positive online communities. Throw away your conventional fashion magazines, don’t consume media that hates on you. Love yourself way better than that P-dude ever, ever could.

256 comments
  1. Curious86 said:

    I’m sorry this happened to you, LW, and I’m sorry your therapist gave you bad advice. I want to 2nd the desire to shake the therapist. I am a therapist and when I got to that part of the letter I was all Oh Helllll No WTF?! When we get bogged down in asking why about these types of things, we often either 1) hear things we don’t want to that hurt us and/or 2) think that if we can only change that one thing, it will magically un-break the relationship. But relationships and feeling are complicated and, as is said here a lot, break ups are unilateral and do not require consent or “good” reasons. So, LW, I wish you all the luck in getting past this and hope that your therapist is able to help you work through these feelings.

    • JenniferP said:

      Thanks for the ‘from-a-therapist’ validation!

  2. slfisher said:

    I once had a guy break up with me and I was venting to a mutual friend about why and she said, ultimately, it was none of my business. Which was an interesting way to think about it.

    • I have a friend who insists that other peoples opinions/thoughts about her aren’t her business unless they choose to share it.

      It makes sense when you think about it in terms of how I think about other people. I may not always recognize how; but, my thoughts about others are usually so entangled with how what they do affects me or how I’d do it differently that very little of that thought is about the other person.

      • I love this. Wish I could internalise it!

      • Somuchthis said:

        That is a great way to put it. Love this.

  3. Jenny-Jenny Kickpants said:

    If you need to see an example of someone reacting to similar circumstances with enviably unflagging self-worth (and really, who doesn’t?), see Kevin Corrigan in Walking and Talking. It’s been awhile, but I believe his explanation for dumping the much more conventionally attractive Catherine Keener is, “I know you think I’m ugly, and I just don’t need people like that in my life.”

  4. elsiekate said:

    my now ex-wife of 14 years told me that the woman she had cheated on me with had told her that she thought my ex-wife deserved to be with someone who was less fat than i was. i developed an eating disorder that lasted for two years, and wound up messing up my metabolism probably to the end of time.

    and you know what? thinner me got a lot of dates but fatter me (because of course i put any weight that i lost back on–and now my body thinks it’s starving all the time so it hoards those precious calories) gets a lot of dates, too. there are people out there who will think that they are lucky to get to date you and i hope you meet them, date them, and have wonderful times with them. take good care of yourself.

  5. secretrebel said:

    Letter writer, I imagine you saw yourself with someone kinder and less superficial than your ex turned out to be. Don’t take his opinion as an inditement on yourself.

    “Conventionally attractive,” isn’t exactly a term of high praise. What’s this guy going to say to a future girlfriend. “I like you because you are conventionally attractive.” I hope he’s able to grow up someday and find better indexes of value for himself and his relationships.

    Tell yourself that you are wildly unconventionally attractive with many fine qualities this dope was too blind to see and be prepared for him to drunk dial you 6 months from now wondering why you and he didn’t work out. at which point you can say “haha – no”.

    • JenniferP said:

      PSA: This guy will DEFINITELY drunk dial the LW and try to get back in her pants/life. That’s how guys like P. roll – he was already hugging up on her a week after the breakup!

      • anon//anon//anon said:

        Seriously.

        LW you should know that there are a lot of men out there who have trouble coming to terms with the fact that they are attracted to women who aren’t “conventionally attractive.” So while they wrestle with the fact that their preferences don’t line up with the status object / arm candy they were told they ought to want in a woman, they take out that inner conflict on their partners.

        It’s such bullshit, it’s so hurtful, and really LW: it’s not about you. P. has issues around attractiveness. You are not the one with the issues here.

        (Also, take some time to evaluate whether you need to kick your therapist to the curb. Because WTF WTF WTF.)

        • tinyorc said:

          “there are a lot of men out there who have trouble coming to terms with the fact that they are attracted to women who aren’t “conventionally attractive.””

          I seriously believe this is the source of so much misogynist rage against fat/non traditionally feminine women. They hate us for existing because we give them confusing boners that they would be embarrassed to tell their bros about.

          • extinction said:

            I have an online presence/fanbase not related to my looks, but there are plenty of profile photos available of me. I also am unconventionally attractive with an eclectic style, and I receive the most criticism from random internet dudes about my haircut. I keep it shorter and have had some version of an undercut/mohawk for years, and I still get baffled at how UPSET some dudes get about it. Undercuts are becoming more in vogue these days, but I’ve had comments leveled at me that range from accusing me of being a lesbian (in a “I reject you as a sex object because you’re probably butch or something” way) to lamenting how precious a woman’s hair is, and how sad it is for me to cut so much of mine off. All from total strangers. Also from total strangers: being fetishized precisely because of my haircut and the way I dress (the old goth/punk girl sex kitten fantasy crap). Opposite reactions, but in both cases I’m not seen as a “proper woman”.

          • thepaintedlady said:

            Oh my god, YES. I am female and six feet tall, and I’ve always considered it a deal breaker when a man makes a joke about how I’m “tall enough” when I wear heels, and I’ve never liked people who say things like that. I could never really articulate why that was, but then it finally struck me that the problem was, someone who says that sort of thing is essentially saying, “You are not the kind of pretty that I need you to be, and I’m not comfortable that you’re actively trying to be something that isn’t my/most people’s idea of attractive.” And I wear heels a lot because I love them and they make me feel grown-up and powerful and fuck you for thinking that’s your choice.

            The comments about my height+heels used to fluster me because it felt offensive but for reasons I couldn’t articulate. And now, I usually give a big-eyed stare and ask how tall I need to be so I can wear heels. And when you force someone to actually think about it in those terms, they either realize they’re being offensive, or they’re so pissed off I usually don’t have to deal with them much after.

          • That is a good damn point.

          • Seriously, why do some people take it so personally when they don’t like your hair, clothes, makeup, lack of makeup, whatever? I don’t understand how they can be offended when we don’t present ourselves in the exact manner that would possibly make them want to sleep with us.

            (Total aside: @extinction, THANK YOU for naming that haircut. I first began seeing it in the mid-90s and loved it — everybody looks good with that haircut — but I asked around and searched the net and couldn’t ever find out what it was called. Undercut undercut undercut.)

          • Palliser said:

            I agree so much with this. I was a tall/big teen and I swear, boys would go out of their way to be cruel to me. It was bullying that in retrospect had such a nasty sexual edge and was all about them feeling something they couldn’t reconcile with their ideas.

            I ended up going to women’s college partially to hide from young men for a while and I will be grateful for the rest of my life to NYC for embracing all kinds of beauty.

        • Clytemnestra's Sister said:

          This. So much this.

          If you read Dan Savage, every now and then he gets a letter from (usually) a young-ish (teens to late-20s) guy wanting to know why he desperately wants to bang fat women, and lusts after fat women, and what is wrong with him and why can’t he just be with whatever thin woman he happens to be dating at the time. Sometimes the end result is the letter writer just stops sexxing his current partner which makes both of them miserable, sometimes he just starts abusing and berating the fat women he is attracted to but can’t (aka won’t let himself) date.

          The answer is always the same: get over yourself, get over what other people will think of you if you date That One Person, and maybe go see a therapist to help you work through your issues before you start dating another poor person who you will treat badly.

          The good news is that a lot of them will grow out of that, sooner or later, and gain strength and wisdom with maturity. (It works for people in general, too.) A close relative of mine went through a phase of dating “hot chicks,” before coming to realise that what he really wanted were SMART women, and no matter how nice the outer packaging, if she didn’t have serious brains he wasn’t interested.

        • I was with one, unfortunately, nearly 20 years ago. We met through a penpal service (this was before online dating) and we had enough in common and liked how each other looked. He knew what I looked like and what I weighed. I lived in Indiana at the time, and he lived in Denver. Things were fine until we started talking getting together then he started bugging me about my weight. I tried to end it, but lt myself get roped back in, and moved out to be with him.

          I put up with his badgering about my weight–which included snide comments about “I love you but I have to look at playboy/think about women hotter than you to get it up”–and his back and forth feelings about me. One day, I was hoot and he loved me, the next it was ‘Lose weight or I can’t introduce you to my parents.’ I dumped him after six weeks. He tried to rope me back in, and this time I wasn’t stupid. I didn’t go back. Part of this dude’s problem was while he was pretty nice looking, athletic, etc., he wanted a type way out of his league, and his plan was basically find someone whom he thought had the inner qualities he wanted, and hassle pester and browbeat her into being what he wanted on the outside. Sorry buddy, but that wasn’t me, and never would be.

          Now I did let myself get roped into a less than stellar rebound relationship almost immediately after with someone who said they liked big girls, but he turned into an asshole a year and a half later, and I was too low in the self esteem toilet to dump him. he finally dumped me for someone else, and that was in 1999. Took me until 2007 to finally decide I was ready again, but it was time well taken.

          • Should be ‘hot’ not ‘hoot’ though that typo was a hoot!

          • Erin said:

            Holy crap, the first guy. What the fuck.

        • Sometimes you totally change that dude’s dating habits. I have an exbf–with whom I’m very close–who said the other day that he can’t really date the kind of girls he used to date before me, because I’m so perfect. :P I’m attractive but not magazine-cover pretty, and I’m not a teensy club chick, just a strongly-built, muscular woman. He said that he struggled for a long time (we dated 3 years ago) with the fact that he was so attracted to me when I’m not what he felt like he should be dating, and finally realized that all that cultural crap was crap, and he doesn’t get naked with culture, so he should probably be enjoying what he finds attractive.

    • M Dubz said:

      “I imagine you saw yourself with someone kinder and less superficial than your ex turned out to be.”

      A WORLD OF THIS. I just made a FEELINGSPOST about being in the same situation when I was younger, and so much of the hurt and pain was realizing that the sweet, loving, attentive man that I had fallen in love with didn’t really exist.

      Also, re: drunk dialing. Every time I run into my ex, he flirts up on me and tries to impress me, and it’s been five. damn. years.

  6. therufs said:

    UGH, what a douchecanoe. I’m so mad at P I just want to stomp on his feet. UGHHH.

    • therufs said:

      ANYWAY, I’m very sorry that guy was ever even in your time zone. Inarticulate rage is subsiding.

      Here are some things I did when I was like “my body sucks”:
      * started jogging (because I used to hate jogging, and I thought “hey, if I jog, I’ll hate jogging instead of hating my body”. I don’t hate jogging anymore, though!)
      * painted my fingernails ridiculous colors
      * tried on a lot of cute shoes
      * hung out with team me
      * slept a lot
      * enjoyed a number of cupcakes while thinking with smug satisfaction about how upset it would make anyone who thinks it’s their job to judge how I look
      * went to the mall and tried on every prom dress in my size (this was a long time ago, but I remember it being very effective)

      You are awesome. Good luck.

      • Beth said:

        I love love love this list. Thank you!

      • thathat said:

        I especially love the cupcake one, just because, heh, what a great way to remind yourself “screw the haters, I have baked goods!”

        But I’ve also gotta say, the dresses on is particularly effective. I’ve never done it as a cheer-up myself, and I am NOT a dress-wearin’ person most of the time, but there’s something about seeing yourself in one of those flattering mirrors, in a flattering dress, even if you aren’t going to buy it that makes you say, “Hot DANG, girl, you got it goin’ on!”

        • M Dubz said:

          In recent years, as I have made the transition from plump to fatass (thanks PCOS, I love you tons!) I have really stepped up my fashion game. I feel so much better about my body when I am able to adorn it with creative clothes and cheery makeup!

      • I wanted to second this list, and add: the times I have felt best about my body were times when I could DO something with it. Like, I could see it as an amazing thing that could dance or ride a bike or build something, and it has worth for what it can DO, and it felt GOOD to do it. It didn’t improve my opinion of how “beautiful” it was, but that seemed so unimportant to me. Like, my body is AWESOME and that matters more than pretty. YMMV, but that way of thinking felt really good for me.

        • They did a thing where they asked a bunch of young girls what they liked about their bodies and it was almost universally things it could do. Like how they could jump around and run and dance and stuff. Sadly societal beauty standards were already creeping in, these kids were only like 5-7.

          • Well… when I was a little girl, I just plain wasn’t thinking that much about what my body looked like yet. I was busy. I actually think it’s great for little girls to focus on what their bodies can do as opposed to what they look like.

        • Anisoptera said:

          Yes this so much! I got such a huge self esteem boost from doing physical activity and it changed my relationship with my body entirely. It started with bike commuting, and then running and swimming crept in. And I started thinking about all the awesome stuff my body could do – how my huge leg muscles were *strong* as opposed to ugly and massive looking. I started thinking about my fat as annoying extra weight that slowed me down rather than hideous shame padding of shame, and seriously that was a huge positive change in my life, making fat just a mechanical fact of my body.

          It’s not the only way to feel better, and some people’s bodies aren’t going to cooperate with this plan thanks to injury/illness/disability. But if you can it’s a great way to shift from focusing on how your body *looks* to what it can *do*.

          • laughingdove said:

            When I think like that, my fat isn’t just extra weight–it’s a tool to me, something that I use as a counterweight and a shield and a reasource. It’s heavy, but so are my bulky muscles, and they are also my tools. It’s kind of amazing just how much you can actually do with fat, though, if you learn.

          • Anisoptera said:

            Hah – when cycling especially fat is just dead weight I have to lug up hills. But certainly when I was doing martial arts it could be useful – I’m extremely hard to knock off my feet. Very entertaining in train stations when some entitled dude expects me to scurry out of his way while he runs madly through a crowd and instead I just let him run straight into me and bounce onto his arse. :-)

          • laughingdove said:

            Yeah. I was always fat, so a lot of my movement is based on weight shifting (horse riding also did this). I have a punch and a kick like a trainwreck. :x It’s also pretty useful for manhandling animals, which I did a lot when I was younger (mother was a vet nurse, and horses yet again).

          • DFTBAwkward said:

            I want to push back on this “fat is annoying” idea a little bit. It may not be particularly helpful to LW right now to hear about how fat is annoying and hinders anyone from living their best, fullest life. I second finding a physical activity you like! That’s great, and it’s a way to celebrate what your body can do. But LW, you can celebrate what your body is capable of without viewing your size as a limitation.

            LW, I am a ~260 lb lady who likes to run. There are fat ladies who like to do yoga, who weight lift, who belly dance, who kick box, who bike, who swim, who play frisbee, who do ANY NUMBER OF THINGS THAT YOU MIGHT WANT TO DO! Your lovely wonderful body will help you on the journey. It’s here for you! No matter what size you are! And that’s awesome.

            I also want to say that for me, I really like the advice about trying on clothes that make you feel good. For me, fashion has absolutely been a self-care thing. Learning to dress my body well in clothes I like has helped me learn that my body is GREAT and worth caring for and loving. I am not sure what size you are, but if you are sized out of most straight sized stores (like me!), there are still some really great stores and resources for you. if you need them, reply back to this comment and I can make you a list. But regardless, I think this is good advice. Just like this one dude’s opinion doesn’t dictate your worth, neither does the size of your body or the amount of fat you carry around. You are lovely and special just the way you are, and you deserve to take care of and love yourself just the way you are, right now.

          • Anisoptera said:

            I’m 100% behind the idea of not letting fat stand between you and the kind of life you want to lead and the things you want to do. My mention that I find my own fat annoying in a mechanical way is by no means meant to indicate that everyone else should do likewise – horay if you don’t. For me it was a massive improvement over finding it shameful and disgusting. DFTBAwkward we are a very similar weight and I too run and also cycle *a lot*. It is awesome and I love it! The idea that we can’t be fat and athletic is toxic and dreadful and entirely counter productive. I did not mean to suggest that anyone should let fat stand between them and the life they want to live. You can still have a conflicted relationship with your body and go out there and try the things you want to try.

        • Oregonbird said:

          The Captain suggested a coloring book, and I’ll offer something in the same line — the wonderful, unconventional pin-up Hilda. It isn’t just that she’s entirely comfortable in her own skin, its that, unlike pretty much every image of woman put on canvas, paper and screen, she’s not there to exist for others. A pin-up doing the unimaginable — living her own life, on her own terms, happy with her own company.

          I don’t know what you look like, but I know what your ex objected to — you look like *yourself*. For some men, that is an outright challenge, one they can’t handle. The most amazing hostesses in society have been striking women who took unconventionality of feature to the limit; the greatest writers, artists, dancers, have never been conventionally pretty. Women of science, education and advocacy were not pageant queens. The most beautiful old women were plain young women.

          If you need to focus on your looks right now, go right ahead and do that. Massage, yoga, new wardrobe, purple and blue streaks — whatever helps. Think about your therapist while you’re letting this bad event recede into the past, too; has she steered you wrong, way wrong, badly wrong, before? Into pain, instead of into a better path? Maybe while you’re learning to live without your ex’s opinion, you can introduce yourelf to a new therapist, and revitalize your personal enlightenment.

          • tinyorc said:

            Seconding Hilda, she’s wonderful. And yes, my absolute favourite thing about her is that she’s always DOING something. She’s not just sitting around in lingerie looking coy for no apparent reason. She’s sailing, picnicking, biking, reading, getting into sticky situations, and generally having a lovely time with body unabashedly exposed.

      • J. Preposterice said:

        ” started jogging (because I used to hate jogging, and I thought “hey, if I jog, I’ll hate jogging instead of hating my body”. I don’t hate jogging anymore, though!)”

        A+

        I run (I started running because I needed to be fitter to play a sport I liked), and I…sort of like running, but it also frees me from criticizing my body for the time I am running, because I am too busy going “oh my god, fuck this hill, fuck this entire city full of hills, fuck that puddle…” That might not sound all that great, but I get a lot of random free-floating anger (not just body-hatred) out that way, AND I get rewarded with endorphins.

        Then after it is over I get to shower, and feel warm and stretched, and snarf up noodles while feeling like I did something.

        • Cady said:

          Love this so much. I hate-jog too, mostly at night on country roads, and snarl my way up every hill. But the downgrades are worth it!

        • minuteye said:

          For years I avoided running (even though I was interested in getting into it), in part because I was worried other runners passing by would judge how slow and sweaty and gaspy I would inevitably be. Then I actually tried it… and realized that other people are probably way too focused on their own pain and exhaustion to bother judging me. It was a very freeing revelation.

        • THIS is why I need to start boxing class again. Seriously. I need a garage I can put a pummel bag into.

          • Epiphyta said:

            A woman of my acquaintance started boxing on a dare and wound up becoming an instructor — she realized after a couple of months that more women needed the opportunity for socially-sanctioned hitting.

          • Ve said:

            “she realized after a couple of months that more women needed the opportunity for socially-sanctioned hitting”

            Amen to that. Months ago I was legitimately trying to figure out a socially-acceptable, not-too-dangerous way to relieve such aggression.

        • Courtney said:

          LOL. Love that. I don’t run because I have wobbly ankles that are prone to sprains if you look at them hard (seriously, if you see me running, RUN. Godzilla might be after me.)

          When I have a ton of anger and need a physical outlet, I lift weights. It gives me a place to put the adrenaline that doesn’t make me feel sick, with bonus endorphins. Plus I imagine what I’m doing is pounding the hell out of the person who pissed me off. Leg press is really fun when you imagine how high and far someone would fly if you were kicking them with the force you use on the leg press machine. Sublimation is a beautiful thing. :)

      • I am in my late 30’s and the prom dress trying on scheme appeals to me…

        • Clytemnestra's Sister said:

          I’ve thrown out plans with some friends of mine that we all go find awesome prom dresses at a thrift store, go out for 80’s night at a local nightclub, and have the bestest throwback evening ever. So far everybody is quite keen.

      • I have to say, getting clothes that fit and look good on me is a HUGE confidence-booster. It can be kind of disheartening to shop around and find that you’re sized out of most “fashionable” stores (I’m making the transition to “plus size” this year), but it actually made me get more creative with what I wore and I ended up trying some stuff I wouldn’t have tried otherwise and it looks really good. Nothing makes me feel uglier than wearing clothes that don’t fit.

      • Anne said:

        theruts’ ideas are great!

        I grew up with a parent who hated her body and when I started gaining weight I was worried I would follow in her footsteps. What really helped me was focusing on experiencing life -through- my body. Making a ritual out of bathing and enjoying the sensations. Wearing a beautiful perfume. Eating well-made food with intense flavors. Picking out clothing to tell the story of who I am.

        Remember, you are not an object to be looked at – you are a complete human being who can go out and EXPERIENCE beauty in the world.

    • unlurking said:

      I am so angry at this guy, LW, and I think you are AWESOME.

  7. attica said:

    Yeah, I love the reddit whinge: “I feel so bad being a bad guy. Not fair!” Um, dude. Forgiveness will come when you cease douchecanoeing, methinks.

    • staranise said:

      “But WHYYYY do I have to deal with the consequences of my actions? Can’t that woman just clean up after me emotionally the way I expect my girlfriends to?”

      • staranise and attica for President.

    • mamacitaconpistoles said:

      I NO RITE?

      “I hold myself to a stupid standard by expecting myself to have these conventionally acceptable things, never mind how my heart feels… now I need to forgive myself for hurting someone I like because of my fear of other people’s judgment”

      is not really grounds for a lot of sympathy.

      Nor is

      “Alas, I lost interest in someone and want to feel okay about the fact that I didn’t extract myself in the kindest possible way but I am worth it.”

      Is also not really what I would call heavy on the sympathy gathering, either.

      Oh, ex-dude. You really don’t get to pass go and collect $200.00 for something like that. Thankfully this is not LW’s problem. Because who even wants to deal with that silliness? Yikes.

      • JenniferP said:

        I mean, go ahead and break up with someone you aren’t feeling your mojo with! People get to do that! But enough with the “Alas…”

        • M Dubz said:

          Yeah, you can break up with whoever you want for any reason but your ex has an equal right to think you are an asshole for as long as is necessary to heal (or for as long as you continue to remain an asshole).

        • mamacitaconpistoles said:

          I am sorry- I didn’t mean to say he shouldn’t want to split up with his ex. Of course he can, and should if that’s his feeling.

          I hope he does become okay with his preferences, whatever they are, and forgives himself for hurting LW. It will be better for him and the people he dates in the futures if he does.

          Which isn’t really about LW’s problem, really. So, sorry also for the derail.

  8. LW, I’m so very sorry you had to deal with this. I experienced something similar, except it was 2 dates instead of 2 years, and he called me and said “I think you should stop dating altogether until you’re less fat”. I sobbed all night and couldn’t tell the story without crying for about a month…It hurt like hell, not what he said or what he thought of me, but because he echoed the judgements I had about myself. I’d never had a problem getting dates, before or after that, but my confidence was shaken & it took me a long time to move past it. Give yourself time to heal – feel what you feel, but don’t wallow. I know it’s cliche, but learning to love yourself no matter what, and being 100% ok with you & how you are will be the best thing to come from this. Oh and get a new therapist cause the one you have doesn’t sound like the greatest one. Best of luck.

    • I think that guy should stop dating until he’s less of a wanker. I can imagine loving a fat person. I cannot imagine loving a wanker. I suspect I am way not alone…

      • M Dubz said:

        Here, have a fresh baked chocolate citrus internet fried in butter.

      • ReanaZ said:

        <3

    • mamacitaconpistoles said:

      Wow… he. Wow. Since when was he appointed the Dating Acceptability Rush Committee Chair whose business it is to let people know if they are worthy of dating anyone?

    • Muddie Mae said:

      What the ever loving fuck?! Who says that to someone? Yeesh!

    • Marvel said:

      “It hurt like hell, not what he said or what he thought of me, but because he echoed the judgements I had about myself.”

      This is such a good summary of why so many people’s comments have hurt me in various ways over the years.

    • Shores said:

      What a douchecanoe on legs ! Reminds me of a guy I almost-seriously dated: He said that I am much more hoter than his former “fat” girlfriend: stopped dating him after that comment. Fun fact: Met his former girlfriend two years later (didn’t know it was she at first): Great person and an amazing violinist, we keep in touch. Have no idea as to what happend to the sexist shit I’d menrioned.

  9. mythbri said:

    LW, I would suggest that along with the Captain’s advice, unless you have any specific reasons for keeping your current therapist (lack of options, resources, etc.), you look around for a new one to help you through this difficult time.

    Your therapist gave you bad advice, and unfortunately that has resulted in huge emotional consequences for you and might call into question their ability to help you in the future. If you can, it will do no harm to at least look, and have initial interviews or conversations with new professionals who might be a much better fit for you.

    The Captain is right. P’s reasons for breaking up with you are just, like, his opinion, man, and you’re honestly better off without someone who sees you as a prop whose appearance supposedly Says Something About Him.

    Take care of yourself, and I wish you the best.

  10. Fish said:

    LW, that sounds super hard and painful and I’m sorry. :(

    It sucks to have spent two years with someone, only to find out that not only are you two not compatible (because P is shallow), but that you both could have saved a lot of time if the other person had just communicated better.

    On the bright side (which will hopefully get brighter the farther away in time you get), at least you won’t waste any more time on P. You’ve dodged a bullet. Someone who takes 2 years to communicate about something that bothered them from day one would probably have just caused all sorts of other problems down the road.

  11. My first boyfriend (I was 23) told me, after our second date, that he couldn’t ever be monogamous with me because he wanted someone his friends would find fuckable. LITERALLY HIS WORDS. And the fucked up part? I understood. Of COURSE he’d be ashamed of me…I mean, look at me. I consoled HIM. And stayed with him. For three years, I wasted three years of my life with someone who wouldn’t go out with me in public. I wish I could hug the girl I was then and drag her the fuck away from that cowardice piece of shit.

    • Erin said:

      What a horrible fucking dude. Glad you’re out there and also hypothetical hugs to your former self.

    • thathat said:

      This letter+this comment section is giving me a list of faceless dudes that I just want to smash upside the head with a mallet.

    • staranise said:

      And not even him, but his FRIENDS? Like, “I’m not going to do something that may be very important to you, because I might lose face in front of other dudes”? WHAT A PILE OF CRAP. I’m so, so sorry.

    • Oh dear god that’s awful. He deserves to find a girlfriend who tells him, “Oh hey, I fucked all your friends.”

      • Jiggs said:

        I VOLUNTEER!

        • RP said:

          My brain added “as tribute?” before clicking the link. Thanks for the laugh!

      • Mary said:

        Bwahahah. I wish teen films were less socially conservative so that someone could make a film about a dude who tells his girlfriend that he needs someone all his friends think are fuckable so she fucks all his friends and then waltzes triumphantly into the sunset.

        • Jake said:

          20 years ago, Kevin Smith could have made the hell out of that film.

          • Mary said:

            Ha! Yes.

      • Best sort of girlfriend for him would be the inflatable variety.

  12. popesuburban said:

    Oh, gee, I think you dated my worst ex, LW. Sorry about that. He really does suck out loud, doesn’t he? I would really like you to know that there is nothing wrong with you, not at all, and P’s shitty opinion is not shared with anyone you want to know. How do I know this? How can I possibly know this? Well, because I dated P (as in, the Platonic ideal of Douchebag; I sure hope it’s not the actual same dude).

    We had an intense thing, my P and I. We were just on our own in college, and it was great! We could do whatever! We were so cool! Yes, let’s date! And it was really fun, and we did our best with some really demanding courseloads, and we were really looking forward to winter break when we could hang out again. And then he slipped a letter under my apartment door breaking up with me, on the day of my last final, about five days before Christmas. That letter really hurt me for a long time, and, like you, I felt shattered and unworthy. Like there was something massively wrong with me that people had just been too polite to point out. I spent a solid three months crying and not going out; I’m pretty sure my best friend will be canonized for putting up with me, especially since she never liked the dude anyway.

    Then another friend basically dared me to come to a party and mingle again, and I did, and no one thought I was an evil bee. In fact, people talked to me and had fun, and it was easy. And I realized I really missed going out– which led me to remember that I had been a lot more social before, which my ex had complained about, even though he was really bad at making time for me, and which meant his stupid letter about “not wanting to be the only person” in my life was just a bunch of bullshit lies! Now, during this time, P sure did want to be friends, and he was such a sad panda, and he made more of an effort to be in my life than he did when we were together. So if he’s a liar, and he’s still spending time with me, I’m…probably not a bland, needy mutant of boringness. In fact, I’m a fun person who people want to know, which is why my friends helped me, and why P still wants to know me. Eventually, I got up the guts to have a come-to-Jesus talk with him, and it was so gross and self-serving that I walked out of his apartment that night and never spoke to him again.

    It was all a smokescreen, what he put me through. He wasn’t evil, no, he was just a kid who was not ready to date. He didn’t have the awareness or the common decency to say that, though, so he needed to find something untrue (and, even if it were, relatively minor) about me to hang his feelings on. It wasn’t, ultimately, about me at all. It was about P and his problems, and his inability to be forthright. Your P is making something up so he can do what he wants to do, and have what he wants to have, and avoid consequences– and that is some goddamn bullshit. You’re not ugly. You may be weird, but it is magnificent! I would love to talk about style with you, being weird myself. You’re lovable, and valuable, and not at fault here. Someone lied to and about you, and while that’s shitty, it’s not a reflection on you. I hope you can surround yourself with a great Team You right now, that will remind you of all the reasons people love you.

    • softestbullet said:

      Then another friend basically dared me to come to a party and mingle again, and I did, and no one thought I was an evil bee. In fact, people talked to me and had fun, and it was easy. And I realized I really missed going out– which led me to remember that I had been a lot more social before, which my ex had complained about, even though he was really bad at making time for me, and which meant his stupid letter about “not wanting to be the only person” in my life was just a bunch of bullshit lies!

      Whoa. Hmmmmmmm. This is making me rethink some things, thank you.

    • M Dubz said:

      My Darth told me, during our sad panda phone call that led to me finally officially dumping him, that I thought I was “wimpy.” Which is hilarious. Because I am such an assertive lady about Good Communication and Addressing Problems and Taking No Shit, while still being pretty diplomatic.

    • edelc said:

      [i]’It was all a smokescreen, what he put me through. He wasn’t evil, no, he was just a kid who was not ready to date. He didn’t have the awareness or the common decency to say that, though, so he needed to find something untrue (and, even if it were, relatively minor) about me to hang his feelings on. It wasn’t, ultimately, about me at all. It was about P and his problems, and his inability to be forthright. Your P is making something up so he can do what he wants to do, and have what he wants to have, and avoid consequences– and that is some goddamn bullshit. ‘[/i]

      this…this is what I got from the original post. LW said that the arsehole had commitment issues, I think the whole ‘you are not conventionally attractive’ is self-serving bullshit. I think he got scared, especially after a family get together..’oh you too are so cute together, when is the big day…yadda yadda’…all that stuff that families say…I suspect that that scared him, and he backed off..

      Cognitive dissonance means that his view of himself as a nice guy, couldn’t include the fact that he is scared of commitment, so he needed to search around for another ‘reason’ to end things..and he picked the most shitey-arsed one imaginable.

      If I were even more cynical than I am, I would think that he deliberately chose to give as a reason something that was hurtful..because that would have been (and was) the fastest way for him to exit from the conversation.

      • popesuburban said:

        Word. This kind of thing is why I wish more people could hear about and embrace the idea that it is okay to break up with someone, even if they are “perfect” on paper. Sometimes, two perfectly lovely people do not work out, or stop working out. That is sad, sure, but I think it’s a whole lot sadder to stay in a sham relationship, or go through the process of forcing blame on someone/something. Like…shit happens sometimes. No one ever has to be with someone they don’t want to be with, and not every breakup has to be because someone did something awful or is not good enough. I’m not sure the P from the letter would have benefited from this line of thinking, because I’m cynical about the same things you are, but I bet a lot of people would be happier if they could become one with the “it’s okay to leave.”

      • Courtney said:

        Yeah. The is an ex in my past who dumped me after about 2 years citing looks and class reasons. The next two gals he dated looked like they could be my sisters or cousins. He still tries to get in touch with me every few years, and we broke up in the late 90s. The family thing–his mom hated me, and constantly treated me with disdain. She clearly felt I wasn’t good enough for her precious snowflake, and I’m pretty sure he broke up with me because he caved to her idea of what he should have in a life partner.

        And you know what? It doesn’t matter that he really was attracted to me. How could I possibly stay involved with someone who is willing to hurt me to please his parents? Someone else can hitch their wagon to that rock.

      • Laughing Giraffe said:

        Also a good reason to avoid ever pressuring people about their relationships. I have gotten so much random crap from the people I have the least reason to tolerate it from (my distant uncle, my boss, etc.) about when I’m getting married or having children. If I am not married or having children, it’s safe to bet that either a) I don’t want to or b) I can’t. In either case, it is hideously inappropriate to quiz me about the subject. My response to, “Soooo, when are you getting married?” is usually, “When I know, I’ll tell you. Hey look, a shiny new change of topic!”

  13. I’m really sorry this happened to you, and I think you’ve done absolutely the right thing by blocking him everywhere. I hope you can remember this is one person’s opinion, not the final verdict.

    That being said, I’m not sure I agree with the idea that “why did you break up with me?” is a question we don’t really want answered. I’ve had breakups where the person told me why, and it was horribly painful, but ultimately I benefited. They broke it off because I was insecure and clingy. The difference was that that was something I could change, as miserable as it made me at the time. Looking back at my 15 year old self, my now-self would break up with me too.

    • Elsajeni said:

      I think there is sometimes the possibility that the answer to “why did you break up with me?” will be beneficial, if still painful, for the person asking to hear — that it’s about a behavior they can change and would benefit from changing, or there’s something else they can learn from it to take into future relationships. But I think there are almost always better (safer, less painful) ways to get that information than “at the time of the breakup, directly from the person who just broke up with you.”

    • houndsofgrey said:

      I feel like if the Reason is an actual behavior that you can totally change, it would also be noticed and mentioned by friends, family, coworkers, teachers, etc. For example, someone might break up with you because you’re chronically late, or blow off plans for whatever was offered most recently, or because you’re needy and whiny, but you know who *else* would notice that stuff? Anyone. Everyone. If you’ve got people who are voluntarily in your life, they will see your personality and behavior as well, and they’ll tell you exactly how you’re working their nerves. These people can (and should!) say something if they want the behavior to change because they’re not to the “done with your shit” stage. They’re sticking around to see if you improve. Guy Who’s Done With You? He’s not going to say anything that *doesn’t* hurt. He can’t: he’s LEAVING. He could say he’s breaking up with you because he likes the way someone else’s kitchen is decorated, likes it better than yours, and it’s going to sting because he’s not just telling you that the wallpaper was a mistake, he’s telling you that the wallpaper is so ugly that he literally can’t stand to ever be naked with the person who bought it.

      Also, if you’ve got friends and people who are voluntarily involved in your life, that means that ANYTHING about you that This Guy couldn’t deal with is NOT insurmountable – other people are cool with it, and like that about you, so someone out there will like that about you AND want to see you naked.

      Basically, I don’t think that the break-up talk should be treated as an exit interview.

      • photondancer said:

        “because you’re needy and whiny, but you know who *else* would notice that stuff? Anyone. Everyone”

        Maybe in your experience, but not in mine. People can be very different with a partner than they are with everyone else. I have noticed that I can be quite clingy and needy in a relationship but would be surprised if any of my friends would say this about me. Certainly, so far none of them have.

        • Linden said:

          I’ve had men tell me I’m clingy in the past, too. In hindsight, I’ve realized that some of my behavior was due to me needing to practice better self-care, and some was due to them yanking my head around by blowing hot and cold and engaging in asshole behavior. Sometimes “you’re needy/clingy” is really a guy saying, “I don’t want to treat you the way you want to be treated, so I’m going to make you wrong.”

          • Angela J said:

            YES. THIS. Some people are broken and can’t own their shit so they do this. Thank you; very well stated.

        • jenfullmoon said:

          Seconded, I was a stage five clinger when I was in relationships. You can’t act like a clinger on friends in the same way, though I used to be fairly “too much” on them too. I have learned to hold the hell back and stop trying to get other people to fill my empty hole. Especially since clinginess runs in my family (my mom and my grandma, HOO BOY) and I am trying to not act like them on other people the way that they act/ed on me.

      • Even if the bad behavior has only occurred around the person who’s breaking up with you, that person will quite possibly have mentioned the bad behavior beforehand. Or offered it voluntarily during the breakup. Making a break is easier if you feel like you have justification in the form of your partner’s bad behavior.

        (Of course, as is repeated here often, not wanting to be in the relationship is justification enough. But it still feels less icky if you believe your ex did something specific to chase you away.)

      • OP here – None of my friends or family would have commented on this behavior because I acted differently with my boyfriends than I did with them. I expected them to be my savior, my everything. What can I say, I was 15 or 16. Also, this wasn’t the guy trying to fuck with me by making me the bad one. I really was a difficult girlfriend. I grew up and I think this was part of it.

    • Thing is, insecure and clingy is a subjective statement. Basically this guy meant ‘clingy for me’ not for all men everywhere. A lot of men are also super clingy ( for me!) and would probably love a gf that wanted to be with them all the time. If you are insecure I am surprised you didn’t know this about yourself already. Not arguing with your experience and I’m glad it helped, but in the main I don’t think having someone who you know doesn’t like you enough tell you why is helpful. Because most often it’s things you cannot and should not change about yourself. When I look back at the men I dumped (I’m straight) it was usually because of heir personality. I normally liked them as people and friends but just not as an intimate partner. (Apart from the bastard. Who was hot but awful). The but whyyyyyyy convo is pointlessly hurtful then.

      • Lurkylurker said:

        De-lurking to say, yes, and thank you. I was told by both of my two serious ex-boyfriends that I was too clingy. For a long time, I fretted about it and tried very hard to perfect my non-chalant act, with the result that my relationships felt awful and unsatisfying and a lot of hard work. Then I met a guy who liked my clinginess and who was actually even quite clingy himself. We are now married and happily spend every possible waking moment together.

        I wish people would stop with the pathologization of clinginess. Nowadays most people know about the importance of matching sex drives in a relationship – why not matching attention drives. Some people just want more of it in a relationship than others.

  14. Captain, I cheered aloud in my head when you got straight to the point about “perceived status.” Sometimes I just love you so very much.

    Also I am LOLing at this guy, who will eventually turn into the “I don’t understand why girls just want me for my money.” dude.

    Hint: It’s cuz you love yourself some transactional relationships motherf**cker.

    • I also think that people who think in those terms – of the “status” that comes from a conventionally “hot” partner – might also be REALLY bad at ACTUALLY noticing what they’re attracted to in reality! They’re so fixed on having some kind of universally, objectively, peer-reviewed attractive partner that they’re not focused on finding out what makes THEM tick – in this case, an unconventionally attractive, eclectic woman. So they give themselves cognitive dissonance and confuse the crap out of said unconventionally attractive, eclectic woman by spouting a bunch of rubbish about not being attracted to them, despite having sex with them and showing other signs of attraction for many years. The Captain pointed to this, but I just wanted to flesh out the idea that P might be as much confused and confused at his own confusion as he is a coward – which doesn’t make it any less hurtful for the Letter Writer, except that she might be able to look at the situation and go, “Well. Clearly that dude didn’t even KNOW what he thought, and was just scrambling. Let’s not go with HIS opinion.”

      • espritdecorps said:

        I find this probably true, but not helpful when you first break up.

        When you think of him as confused and scared of what he really wants, it’s far too easy to take him back a month later when he comes back with all that sincerity and regret in his sad panda eyes.

        That line of thinking is for 5 years from now, when you happen into him while getting coffee on the way to work, and he’s still pulling the same shtick. You can pity him then.

        Post break up, he’s a manipulative sadist who used your best, kindest, most loving self against you. You don’t take that guy back.

        Whether or not he is deliberately unkind, the effect on the women who date him is the same. Let him be a shithead and move on.

        • Sarah said:

          I’ll second this! Especially because I think that P will drunk dial/Facebook message/something within 6 months and the LW needs to be able to totally separate.

          I had a guy who I was involved with – who had told me he loved me, who had asked me to marry him – completely disappear after I said I loved him. Just fell of the face of the Earth. I deleted him, I blocked him, I went on with the process of moving on. It feels really hollow, doesn’t it, LW? To suddenly not have any route to contact this person who was so important and still hurt you so badly? It feels weird and artificial and bad, even though it’s healthy. And then last night I posted a picture of myself all glam-ed up for an event and said, “I feel pretty, oh so pretty.” Boom. Message from Darth. Didn’t even realize he could see it!

          If I were thinking about all of the things that have likely hurt him and how much he’s struggling…well, yeah. I’d probably be messaging him back. There is a part of me that does want to, and if I were trying to be compassionate and kind to this morally questionable jackass who played me like a fucking fool, I’d feel bad for ignoring him. Instead, I’m repeating every terrible thing he’s said/done ever in my mind over and over and over until I’m ready to laugh at how terrible my taste was for a while.

          LW, take time and call him names in your head. Seriously. Do everything you can to remind yourself that his is not an important perspective in your life. Remind yourself of how he’s bad (like, WAY bad) at emotional intimacy. If he contacts you again, replay scenarios where he was a douchewaffle until the urge to respond goes away. He is unimportant, his opinion is irrelevant, you are a magnificent ball of awesome.

  15. Juls C said:

    My first time commenting! Oh LW I feel for you ’cause I have been wandering in your shoes for about 7 years, but without the relationship. As a cis gaysian lady, I fell really hard really fast in my first real relationship (emotional entanglement) with a woman who I thought was wayyy more attractive than me. She suddenly pulled a “fast fade” after pleading to be “friends” with no ability to communicate appropriate boundaries and/or respect that my boundary was that I was so lovesick I just wanted to be around her. Ugh, that me was desperately in need of knowing WHYYYYYYYY.

    Again, how attractive you are is very relative. No one person is “universally” attractive to all people. I hope you can believe that all the things that P disliked about you are things that will help you find people who are most definitely into you. They will like that you have your own style, sense of self, and confidence that you are one totally awesome person!

    One of the things that I love about lurking in CA’s community/blog is that there are so many of us that go through so many breakups-awkward, painful, terrible, no good very bad breakups. And yet, many of us learn to be gentle, remind ourselves that we were a full complete person _before_ said person and you will continue to be a person after.

    Since you can only really control/be responsible/accountable for yourself, I would focus on doing activities that can temporarily distract you from the pain and/or work through it. I can recommend that keeping 1 journal of positive things/steps you are taking or things you enjoy doing and 1 journal of not-so-positive thoughts worked well for me. The trick was to only revisit the Positive thoughts journal. As a reminder that everyday I was spending more time getting back to version of me I wanted to be and spending less time worrying about someone who could not be the type of person I need for the long-term (seriously communication and boundary-respecting are KEY for someone like me who grew up in an abusive household). It’s odd because the pain is so fresh and raw, but over time you will be making small measures that add up to leap years from how you feel now. It was so necessary to take all those years to work through that initial raw burn because now I have some perspective of what works, what doesn’t, and work more towards attracting people I want to that are totally into me, people that make me feel good, people that I reciprocate.

    I hope this isn’t too ramble-y. I really wish you the best.

  16. Katete said:

    Constantly, the hardest thing in life for me is when I realise that the model of the world I have in my head, and all that it contains, doesn’t align with the actual world out there. It’s worst when it involves people. Say I’ve known a person for a long time, and I’ve mentally built up a kind of “this is the kind of person they are” thing for them. Then, either they change, or maybe they initially were hiding traits they thought I wouldn’t like and stopped keeping up the act, or maybe I just overlooked things I shouldn’t have. Whatever the reason, eventually it gets to a point where you can’t keep it up. Mental-picture-of-person is so obviously out of alignment with real-person that it hits you all at once. And it’s painful.

    I’ve not gone out with a pile of fresh coprolites like P in the story here, but this kind of revelation isn’t limited to just dating. For me, realising the kinds of people many of my family members are, whom I love dearly, took vast amounts of therapy just to accept. I wanted so badly to cling to the mental picture of them as the loving, nice people I’d had in my head and had been building on since I was born. But these weren’t a few small details I had to change, like when you find out that you were mistaken over someone’s fruit preferences. This is fundamental personality stuff, where you end up going back and questioning everything you can remember them doing, and seeing a lot of it through a new filter and realising that it probably didn’t mean what you’d thought it did. It’s hard and it hurts but it needs to be done. And the best way to minimise the unpleasantness is to keep away from the person in question, as The Captain says.

    It’s hard enough when little things build up until this painful realisation hits you on its own, but for someone to drag you into it is awful. He’s obviously shallow, but initially her lack of supermodel looks didn’t bother him much, or he didn’t put much thought into it–he possibly wasn’t thinking in the long-term, and doesn’t know himself well enough to realise that he can’t be happy with anyone who doesn’t look photoshopped. But eventually it becomes clear for him that the relationship is serious and possibly going somewhere more permanent, and he’s pent up 2 years’ worth of “I hate being seen in public with this accessory which isn’t as pretty as all the other stuff I own” (because, frankly, if someone breaks up with you because they’re ashamed of being seen with someone who doesn’t look good enough for them, then this is what it really means). Him being all physical after a week? Yeah, he’s attracted to you. As far as being a person is concerned, you’re fine. But as a possession to show off to others, you’re not good enough. That’s what’s going on here. And it’ll be hard for LW to accept that the person they were going out with was not the person they thought he was. I hope you manage it without any unneeded trouble, LW. I really do.

    Oh, and LW, get a new therapist. There is nothing ever to be gained by finding out why someone breaks up with you. You don’t get closure or any nonsense, you either get “I’m not good enough” or “they’re not good enough and I’ve wasted years on an asshole.” Or a combination. No outcome is good here. But don’t take this as meaning that it’s your fault that P turned out to be a shallow arschloch who cares more about you as a possession to show off than as a person. That’s all on him. He feels bad for dumping an awesome person because he wanted something that’ll look better on his mantlepiece? Good! “How do I feel better about making someone feel bad?” How about you start by not being the kind of person who unnecessarily makes people feel bad? Ugh. It’s great you’ve blocked him. Keep it up, find a new therapist, and do what you can to feel good. It’s not worth it to let someone that superficial, someone who cares so little about you to throw you away for such a stupid reason, get you down for too long. You didn’t know what kind of person he was before–now you do. Now you can gradually realise that you were trapped with a piece of used loo paper but didn’t know it, and now you’re not held back by such a waste of space. You’re free!

    • attica said:

      +1 for ‘coprolite’, a word that needs wider usage!

      • jenfullmoon said:

        Hah, yeah, I thought, “coprolite, how FANCY.”

      • Kootiepatra said:

        *sneaks off to Google “coprolite”* *finds definition* *giggles endlessly and incorporates into vocabulary*

    • parker said:

      “Him being all physical after a week? Yeah, he’s attracted to you. As far as being a person is concerned, you’re fine. But as a possession to show off to others, you’re not good enough. That’s what’s going on here. ”

      I just want to call this out. LW, I think it’s important to note this – you’re not unattractive! You’re not even unattractive TO HIM. P’s just got some kind of messed-up idea of what his partner “should” look like to meet some kind of bullshit societal expectation that he was raised with. You will find someone better, someone who is also attracted to you but is not a terrible person who ditches people over petty, shallow BS.

  17. Samantha said:

    LW – I once had that post break up dinner, where he told me I wasn’t the right fit but he did say:

    “I want to have kids, and with your body type — you look like you’d bounce back well. I want a hot wife.”

    Yet continued to go on about why our personalities don’t match.

    I know it hurts to second guess yourself and lose your confidence in one simple blow. It comes back ;) Surround yourself with people who think you’re THE most amazing person (because, you are!) and you’ll get your groove back.

    Beauty is only skin deep but a shitty personality leaks from the inside out. He’ll learn that lesson.

  18. Jane said:

    Oh, hell, LW. That hurts so fucking much. And, okay, no, you shouldn’t have kept pushing him for reasons, but what he said he should have never fucking admitted to. If you care about somebody, you DO NOT SAY brutally cruel things under the guise of being honest.

    LW, you seem to be doing something that I find myself doing a lot, which is: allowing one new piece of information to undermine your memory and understanding of big chunks of your past. I want you to try not doing this for a little bit, even it seems impossible (how can you not re-assess when new information comes to light????)

    Please trust your past self. Trust that you felt what you felt and that the relationship you experienced was true and real when you were experiencing it. We all get to write our own stories, and his version is no more legitimate than yours. “I was with a guy and we were in love, until he decided he didn’t want to be with me anymore,” is just as legitimate as whatever [the fuck stupid-ass] story he is telling. You don’t have rewrite the whole history of your relationship because of the way he now understands it. There’s really nothing to be gained from making yourself the villain in your own narrative, even if right now it feels more true. Truth is pretty subjective little motherfucker.

    Trust you future self, too. She is strong and kind and fierce, and she has intense compassion for the pain you are in right now. She does not think you are stupid for having loved someone who didn’t love you back in the way you deserve, and she loves you more intensely than ever because she’s been caring for through this pain.

    • queen of scarves said:

      + 10,000!

  19. For what it’s worth, there was a really interesting article on the OK Trends blog (analyzing OKCupid data) a few years ago about how “conventionally attractive” women get fewer messages than those who are more polarizing. It was a good reminder that if you’re looking for a partner you don’t have to attract ALL THE PEOPLE, just find the people who dig what makes you unique. Here’s the link: http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/the-mathematics-of-beauty/

    • jenfullmoon said:

      Really, all you need is a guy who finds you hot, regardless of your looks. Remember, there are always people out there who are uglier than you who have managed to have happy marriages and find someone.

    • annejumps said:

      Ha, I figured the conclusion of that post would be “Unattractive women have more time to reply” and I was not disappointed…. /cynical

  20. softestbullet said:

    My take is that this isn’t so much about attraction, this is about perceived status, about seeing you as a “thing” that is somehow the measure of his own worth. You weren’t good Trophy Wife material (in his opinion), oops! That’s way more about him than it is about you.

    Yeah, word. Being pretty = being visually unobjectional; you’re HOT, and I’d bet he loves/d you. But you can do better. You can get a handsome guy who doesn’t look down on you.

    Did he post on reddit knowing that you go there too & your accounts are connected in whatever reddit way? He shouldn’t have, ugh.

    • LW #557 said:

      He did post it on a subreddit he knew for a fact I frequented. In a reply to a post, he stated that he figured I’d probably see it and react, so, yeah.

      • anon//anon//anon said:

        Whoa. I’m really sorry he did that. That’s just way over the line.

        Glad you have him blocked on social media! Good move!

      • popesuburban said:

        Holy crapapples, that is mega-shitty and ultra-passive-aggressive! I made a series of comically exaggerated faces at that little nugget of awfulness. This is not someone whose opinion is reliable or worthwhile. That he thinks that is an acceptable thing to do tells me volumes about who he is– and it’s not pretty. You dodged a bullet on this one, you fantastic person, you.

      • staranise said:

        OH MY GOOOOOOOD this guy just keeps getting worse and worse. Bet you money I wish I’d lose that he’s been fantasizing about you reading it, feeling sorry for him, and forgiving him. Because god forbid he have to actually live with the pain of a breakup, instead of getting you to fix it for him.

        • LW #557 said:

          He is definitely not under that delusion.

          A few nights ago, in a very ugly rage, I ended up writing a really long, really pissed off post on a subreddit completely dedicated to insane diatribes that I knew he didn’t follow. Since I had deleted the Reddit account he was originally aware of (because I did not and do not want him in my life in any capacity), it was under a name he wouldn’t recognize.

          The response was overwhelmingly in my favor, and I actually may have made a half-dozen internet pals out of it. All of the replies were spirit lifting, hilarious, empathetic. It was honestly the first time that I felt understood and not alone. But, somebody was able to connect the dots and linked it to him.

          Considering that the post was made (a few days) after the one he initially made, he is absolutely not under the impression that I am reading over his sad-dad tale of woe and feeling so sorry for how he let me slip away because society hates weird-dressing uggos. He is 100% aware of how grossed out I am for having let such a pathetic shitbag sleep in my bed, that I can’t even look at my Momz’s wedding photos without wanting to vomit on him because he’s in so many of them.

      • Emmych said:

        FFFFFF THIS IS LITERALLY WHAT MY EX DOES IT IS SO INFURIATING

        He is purposely putting you in the uncomfortable position of having to either cut and run from a place you hang out, publically become The Bitch so people will jump to his aid and ostracize you, or forgive him for what he’s done so he can let himself off the hook.

        Do not give him the satisfaction of the latter two. This is a fucked up, manipulative thing for him to do. He may sincerely regret his actions, but I can tell you right now that giving him a reason to let himself off the hook will make you feel awful.

        So frequent your hangout space! Don’t let him chase you out. Don’t publically (or privately, even) engage with him. Post in other threads so he knows you’re still there, but you’re ignoring his feeble attempts at prodding you back into contact.

        Above all (and I am 99% you know this already!), DO NOT GET BACK INTO CONTACT WITH HIM. This guy is a scummy, selfish asshole, and you don’t need someone this poisonous in your life. Maybe one day he will stop being such a jerk, but that day is not today, nor is it any time soon.

        You keep doing your thing and look after yourself. Any interactions with this guy will probably wear you the hell out, and trust me: it is super not worth it. You will become happier with every day you do not speak to this dude.

      • therufs said:

        Any chance the mods can intervene? (I’m kind of new to the reddits but today I reported a much-upvoted, super-offensive post and it was gone within the hour, so I’m just flush with the heady thrill of victory)

      • Muddie Mae said:

        You may already have this set up, but if not – take a look at the Reddit Enhancement Suite. It has some functions that will let you hid his posts/comments or highlight or tag them, whatever works best for you to essentially block him there.

        • LW #557 said:

          I do have that app! He was tagged “Asshole Ex :(” and then blocked from my view.

          • mamacitaconpistoles said:

            You are wise, LW. Very wise.

          • Megan M. said:

            Good for you! The Captain and numerous commenters have given you excellent advice, but can I just say, I am absolutely horrified on your behalf and this P. guy sounds like a MAJOR DICKWAD. I hope you never, ever have to interact with him again.

          • Seriously, blocking him on social media was so very wise and shows so much foresight. You’re already handling this with more class and dignity than this douchecanoe deserves.

      • M Dubz said:

        FAAAAAAAAAIL. ENDLESS FAIL.

      • mamacitaconpistoles said:

        So the real text of the post should have been:

        How can I ask my ex to forgive me? Even though I told her she wasn’t hot enough then and am telling her I think I deserve someone hotter now? Because I am ever so special and wonderful and deserve this thing and everyone should understand how haaaard it is being haaaaaandsome when I have to deny myself all jooooy?! So clearly I shouldn’t have to feel bad because have I mentioned I am special?

        Which… dude no. It’s bad enough if he did that somewhere you weren’t likely to see it. It’s worser and worser now that we know he expected you to see it.

        P, man, way to go, champ. You are just scoring classy points all over the joint.

        LW I want so much more for you than whatever this guy has to offer.

      • Ha ha, wow, what a repulsive jerk he is.

        • Suzy said:

          Pretty on the outside, rotten and blighted on the inside. Holy fuck, like.

      • Ugh. Post-baiting. I hope he got flamed by disinterested Reddit parties.

      • LDN Layabout said:

        Please please please take this as a sign of what he is: a giant, cowardly douchebag. He wants you to see this and know how bad HE feels and it’s asking for forgiveness without being a decent human being and working at it.

      • That guy is the worst! You deserve someone less ugly on the inside!

      • Sarah said:

        Terrible. Human. Being. I am so sorry, LW!

    • remi said:

      I know absolutely nothing about Reddit, having never used it, but assuming people are updated when a friend on the site posts something? Yeah, that’s probably exactly what he was hoping for. She’s blocked him everywhere so how else is he supposed to let her know that he feels bad about being a shithead and needs her to console him for being a shithead? If he were at all decent he’d realize that being blocked everywhere = back the fuck off she does not want to talk to you or be reminded of you or have anything to do with you. This dude, after being pretty much the worst kind of person, is continuing to be the worst kind of person by putting his own desire to hear “No, it is totally ok to be shallow and hurtful and needlessly cruel!” over her need for him to stay the fuck away. He is, from the sounds of things, the most uselessly shallow self-serving kind of guy, and the LW is better off without him.

      • photondancer said:

        “being pretty much the worst kind of person”

        Oh come on. He’s deceitful and weak for going out with someone he wasn’t proud of but that doesn’t make him a sociopath. And he didn’t tell her about her looks until, as she admits, she practically forced it out of him – he tried to avoid saying it for quite some time (‘hemmed and hawed’, ‘gave weird reasons’). Presumably his avoidance was because he knew it would hurt and he was decent enough not to want that. Weak enough to say it anyway and then whine online where she’d see it instead of saying “I’m not going to discuss this any more” and leaving. They’ve both had a lesson in why one should let well enough alone but since both also sound clingy, it wouldn’t surprise me if they end up together again some time down the track. Seen it happen.

        • Kitn said:

          This response seems incredibly unhelpful. “Both sound clingy?” It sounds, to me, like LW made the unfortunate but COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDABLE mistake of asking for an explanation when something inconceivable happened in hir life, ie a breakup with a dude who gave every sign he was into the relationship.

          The dude, on the other hand, dated hir for two years and then broke off the relationship, cuddled up on hir a week later and just all around sent confusing messages, before straight-up saying that the LW doesn’t meet his standards for Trophy Object Made of Arm Candy. And then posted it on Reddit. Where he knew zie would see it. That sounds pretty much the worst to me. (No, maybe he isn’t a sociopath. But he treated the LW terribly, so I feel like we should avoid gazing into their future and imagining that they’ll “end up” together. That seems cruel in light of his behavior and hir feelings.)

          LW, I hate that this guy hit you in your insecurities. I’ve had that happen from family members, from strangers, even from little kids (“Why does your face look like that?” UM, JUST LUCKY I GUESS, SMALL CHILD), but never from someone I was in a relationship with. I can only imagine that it would be devastating. There’s been a lot of great advice here about ways to take care of yourself. For me, the thing that helped the most was reading about other people who have gone through the process of accepting the parts of themselves that society says they shouldn’t. If I could recommend the blog Shakesville, there’s a lot over there that untangled the idea of “conventionally attractive” for me. Good luck, LW. I’m sending all the good vibes I’ve got your way.

        • LW #557 said:

          Whooooaaaa.

          So, first off: Not sure if you saw my comment, downthread a bit. It’s long, so I totally understand if you saw it and were all like, “Nah, pass.” But it clarified that I did *not* force it out of him. All I did at that diner was critique his breakup technique (involving spending the night at my house after dumping me and then PUTTING HIS DIRTY SOCKS IN MY LAUNDRY BASKET), tell him that it sucked that he wouldn’t tell me about his doubts bout living together, agree that we (read: he) had communication issues, and then after he dropped the phrase “conventionally attractive,” I told him we were not going to be friends, ever.

          He offered his opinion of my appearance very willingly. The hemming and hawing I mentioned? That was him bringing up our communication issues, which incidentally I also did not ask about. The him not wanting us to live together was weird because, as I said, I did not at all want to live with him at that stage, because I love my house, my room and my roommate and our cats, and the dude was allergic.

          I agree that meeting up with him and telling him how confusing he was being was a baaaaaaaaaad idea. But it’s not like he gave a reason, and I was like, “NOPE THIS DOESN’T KILL MY SOUL ENOUGH, NEXT.” I’m not terribly masochistic.

          I’m also honestly not a clingy person. In fact, I tend more towards independence and alone time to the point of it being a bit destructive to relationships in the past. The only post-breakup contact I ever initiated was asking to meet up at that diner. That’s it.

          And, as far as your prediction, I’m gonna have to get all Taylor Swift here:

          • Reading this comment, my opinion is that he actually DOES have very strong feelings for you, and wants to be in a relationship with you, but he’s insecure as hell and also scared of how strong his feelings are. Not that this excuses his behavior AT ALL. He’s a jerk and you are well rid of him.

          • rapunzel said:

            YAS LW

            I saw the above comment earlier today (when I didn’t have enough internets to comment) and logged back on now specifically to express confusion as to where photondancer was pulling “needy” from? And what exactly that statement was supposed to contribute to the discussion?

            But you have already dealt with the matter AND made judicious use of Tswift, fantastic

        • JetGirl said:

          P? Is that you?

  21. theocraticjello said:

    I am so angry that anyone would do that to you, LW. First the therapist and second this jerk you spent two years of your life on, who is . . . just a jerk. I’m having a really hard time being polite about him.

    I found it rather telling that even the friend you consulted had no idea he was going to break up with you, and he had still been sleeping with you, and had you to his families event. What a jerk.

    Now for story time. I had this roommate that I lived with. He was a young cis male, that went on and on about his heartbreak at losing this gal he loved. I lived with him for a year, consoling him over his loss the whole time, before he mentioned he dumped her. Why? She wasn’t thin like he liked anymore. He had started dating her when she was in the midst of her eating disorder therapy, and as she gained a normal weight level, decided she was too “fat” for him. Now let’s be clear, that gal was nowhere near fat in any reasonable sense of the word. When the household balked at this, he then did a whole “I know I’m a terrible person, and I feel awful” song and dance. Very much like your P’s reddit post.

    He never got much sympathy from us again. He moved out soon after when he didn’t have a sympathetic shoulder to cry on anymore. He preferred his reality of “the one that got away” to the fact that he deeply hurt someone.

    • unlurking said:

      HOW. GROSS. And so amazing on her on successfully treating her eating disorder! And on lucking out by being dumped by that jerk.

  22. Bunny said:

    The Venn Diagram between the Conventionally Attractive Ideal and what any given individual is attracted to is never, ever, a circle. Some people prefer more of the CAI markers than others. Some people are into people who look like the CAI’s opposite.

    Some people are so wrapped up in the status conveyed by dating someone with the CAI that they feel insecure about their own preferences, and end up shitting all over the lives of the people they date unless and until they get the fuck over it.

    It sounds like your ex is one of those insecure people. And you deserve far better than to be a learning experience on his path of Getting The Fuck Over It. You deserve better than him.

    • I would like a +1 or Like or Yes This button for this comment. Actually I would like all three, and the ability to click them all multiple times and have that be meaningful, not just toggle my status. I have only one caveat: “You deserve better” means that you deserve better than the poosmear he revealed himself to be in that last conversation, and it is not your fault or anything bad you did that allowed him to get away with being that dude while you were together. He was super ashamed and super careful so you only saw his actual attraction, not his stupid well-hidden shallow shame. And that is not your fault, okay?

      • Bunny said:

        ” I have only one caveat: “You deserve better” means that you deserve better than the poosmear he revealed himself to be in that last conversation, and it is not your fault or anything bad you did that allowed him to get away with being that dude while you were together.”

        YES THIS! Thank you for adding that caveat. It was in my head being thought when I typed my comment, so it’s good to have it out there explicitly.

    • The only thing I’d add to this is that the size of the Conventionally Attractive Ideal circle can vary hugely depending on who is drawing it. This society doesn’t even agree on what meets that standard.

  23. Phira said:

    I am not a therapist, nor am I involved in mental health professionally or academically, in any capacity … but WOW I also wanted to shake your therapist. No no no you do not want to pressure someone to justify a break-up because … then they’ll justify it! And you will still be broken up and you will still feel sad, probably worse.

    Anyway. I am a curvy gal, and not in the “conventionally attractive curvy” way, but in the way where my hips are really wide and I’ve got weight on my arms and I weigh more than my future father-in-law … and I am happily engaged to a super awesome person whom I love dearly, and I don’t feel any doubt about his love for me or attraction to me. He’s constantly telling me how much he loves my body, and he’s making those comments because he genuinely loves my body and wants me to know it, not because he thinks I’m feeling insecure and just wants me to feel better so we can bang.

    So it’s easy for me to say, “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll be fine!” I mean, you WILL be fine. But it doesn’t feel that way right now, it won’t feel that way for a while. That’s OKAY. You know, logically, brain-wise, rationally, that things will be fine. That eventually, you will heal and not want to date P anymore, and that, like many people, you will meet someone else and fall in love with them and wonder how you could have ever been so happy in that old crappy relationship.

    But you’re also really sad and you’re grieving and you’re hurt, and all that knowledge and logic is irrelevant for a while. That’s normal. It’s normal that you’re going to be stressed at not “getting over it fast enough,” and you’ll feel frustrated that you won’t be able to montage through to the part where you don’t miss P. That’s normal, too.

    Just take care of yourself. Keep going to therapy, keep blocking him on social media, stop looking for his posts if you can help it, do things that make you happy … and don’t worry about other people having P’s opinions about your looks.

  24. LW #557 said:

    Hello all! LW here.

    FIRST: Thank you, Captain, and thank you everyone else for your kindness and encouragement and empathy. These past few days have been wicked on my self-concept. I felt like I was kicked in the gut while I was already on the ground, bleeding.

    Okay! Now for some clarifications! They are going to be long because I suck at being pithy! Sorry!

    I totally one hundred percent agree that meeting up with P again is quite possibly the worst thing I’ve done in this breakup.

    However, I did cut out a bunch of stuff for length, because what I wrote in was already hella wordy. It doesn’t change any of the Captain’s advice or perspective, but it may just paint a clearer picture.

    1. My therapist’s suggestion that I do this was far from a command. It wasn’t even a particularly strong suggestion. What happened, is that I expressed having obsessive thoughts about the past month before the relationship, and how every single indicator was that P was on the same page as me re: us. I told her that the overwhelming feeling was confusion, more so even than sadness. What she ended up saying, was that only I could decide if finding out the real reason was for the best, but that she felt it may make more sense to me to just talk to him about it. To which I, being motivated for the first time in a week and a half, said, “Yeah! Maybe that will help!”

    *ERROR NOISE*

    This was our first ever appointment, so I don’t know how much of an indication it is of her skill as a therapist. I have another appointment lined up for the 31st, so I’ll talk over what happened and then deal with the fall out of all this. Probably after that I’ll be in a better position to judge if she’s the therapist for me. For roughly 15 years, I’ve been in therapy off and on and I totally know that some therapists are just… not good.

    2. P and I, after breaking up, have had a total of 3 interactions.

    i) A phone conversation where he told me how alone and mournful he was, and about his day and plans for Spring Break, and asked to meet up in person one more time because he, quote, “thought we could comfort each other.”

    ii) The day after that conversation, which was three days after the split, he came over to my house and we ended up having the ever cliché breakup sex. Which I did not at all think was going to change anything, it was kind of what we did best for each other. Despite everything else, we did always have a very, uh, active and adventurous sex life.

    iii) That ill-fated diner meet up. Fun facts: He initially wanted to do this at my house. Which, after the last time we saw each other, I thought was an awful, no good, very bad idea. So, I rejected that. Then, he suggested where we had our first date, but fortunately he couldn’t find any parking spots.

    3. Meeting up with him wasn’t just about finding out about why he dumped me. Another major reason was to communicate that how he broke up with me was super confusing, which was another thing I had ranted to my therapist about. Also, he had my Hitachi Magic Wand, which I had lent to him, and well, I wanted it back.

    4. I never actually asked him why he broke up with me, except on the night it happened. The night before the meet-up, a good friend asked if I really wanted to know if the breakup was caused by say, him cheating with me, or some other awful reason. And, when I really thought on it, I was like, NOPE! I didn’t! Instead, how it came up, was by me expressing that the mixed signals, as well as being confused by the reasons, led me to conclude that he probably didn’t plan it out at all. And I deserved to be with somebody who would think good and hard about that sort of thing first, and talk to me about any problems, before dropping breakup bombs everywhere.

    Which is when he said something about the housing stuff. Which, again, was weird because I freaking love my living situation and was not ready to live with him yet anyways. But I honest-to-goodness didn’t press that issue. I completely believed, and wanted to believe, that he did this because he couldn’t even figure out how to talk to me about the doubts he had about us. Then he said that he felt we had communication problems, which I totally agreed with. And then he blurted out all that stuff about how he always thought he’d be with somebody more conventionally attractive.

    I completely agree that asking to meet up with him to critique his breakup technique was ill-advised, I agree that he probably felt cornered. But I honestly never pushed the issue after he brought up housing. I just said that it sucked that he never felt he could talk to me. Which, yeah, I don’t think was much of an invitation to shred on me just to end the conversation. In fact, after he said that, I paid for the meal and told him I was going to walk home. He told me that he would drive me since I paid for the meal, and anyways, the Hitachi Wand was in his car. He very much wanted to extend the conversation, probably in the hopes that I would stop being upset with him.

    OKAY DONE WITH MY LONG CLARIFICATIONS!

    So, since I sent this in, I’ve been in a much better place. I’d been StairMastering every other day since the breakup, and since I’m in school I’m already getting out of the house every day. I also have the most amazing and supportive Team Me ever! I ended up downloading a block app for my browser, and his Reddit account page is the first thing I added to it. I’m super ready to let go of this, and move on, even though I know it’s a long looooooong road ahead.

    Now, the only lingering feeling is deep, seething rage. This guy is in my mom and her now-wife’s wedding photos. My entire Instagram account is littered with pictures of us. When I packed up his stuff in my house, there were two decently-sized boxes, and even know I keep finding stuff of his. This dude infected my life for a long time.

    But, even though it sucks knowing why he did this, in a way, it helped turn my heartbreak into “FUCK THAT GUY AND THE HORSE HE RODE IN ON.” The night of and day after that conversation were the roughest, but after that, it’s been 85% super motivated to get on with my life and doing everything possible to make it hard for either of us to get a hold of the other, and then maybe 15% feeling shitty about myself and/or kind of hoping he gets hit by a bus full of bikini models.

    Zero percent of me wants to get back together with him. So if he does try to get some sort of drunken booty call, he’s SOL because I’ll be way too busy with my fabulous unconventional life.

    • remi said:

      May I just say, you are the single most awesome person I have ever encountered. I think you might be my hero!

    • trialblogk said:

      Just wanted to say that I too would be eager to retrieve my Hitachi magic wand, so I find that a very legit reason.

      • Xenophile said:

        +1.

        • Emmych said:

          Agreed x100000

      • Phira said:

        As I was reading, I was like, “UM FUCK YEAH get that back!”

    • Bunny said:

      LW, Your ex sounds like even more of a [CENSORED] than before! I’m so glad you’re doing well and dealing well. You, LW, are awesome.

    • Annima said:

      LW, you’re an awesome, awesome lady. And your ex seems like a total shithead, it’s great that you got rid of him. After your comment, his post on reddit sounds more sadistic than looking for a consolation for being a dick, especially that he knew, you’ll probably see it. But what matters now is that you’ll have a great life without him. You’ll kick ass, you’ll laugh till you cry and you’ll be loved just as you are. He can die eaten by the tortoise – long, painful and ridiculously stupid.

    • Mary said:

      >>and/or kind of hoping he gets hit by a bus full of bikini models.

      Bwahahah! LW, you are awesome. I am so glad to hear you are healing and moving on!

    • MrsMorley said:

      Dear LW,

      Your clarifications make your shrink seem slightly less idiotic, but only slightly. They didn’t direct you to the convo, but they sure didn’t recognize how unlikely it was to be satisfactory.

      Additionally, you’ve given me the chance to offer an actual future recommendation:
      If you break up, request that your ex pack your stuff in a box that you can pick up or they can send or drop off or whatever.

      I suggest this because:
      – it’s easy for the ex so they are likely to do it
      – it’s easy for you so you are likely to do it
      – it cuts down on chances for in person interactions – which are awkward at best
      – it allows you to write fin

      Everything you’ve described of your own behavior shows you to be awesome.

      Go you!

    • staranise said:

      \o/ LW, I am so glad to hear that. Also, you sound pretty hilarious. Bus full of bikini models indeed.

    • M Dubz said:

      … because it will lead to you vanquishing your Darth Ex. Which is what you are doing. Because you are the best. And because Fuck That Guy.

    • citrine said:

      “It was kind of what we did best for each other. Despite everything else, we did always have a very, uh, active and adventurous sex life.”.

      This part – LW – he is so completely attracted to you. In fact, I’m pretty sure karma is going to kick in here and he’ll eventually end up with someone conventionally good looking who is also conventional in bed. And he will never completely get over you.

    • mamacitaconpistoles said:

      Note to self: Take Magic Wand into diner rather than risk having to drive somewhere with a break up dude after meeting in a diner. It might be a bit embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as sitting in a car with such a dude.

      (I learn all kinds of stuff on this here site.)

      Also, LW, you sound admirably even keeled.

    • “Also, he had my Hitachi Magic Wand, which I had lent to him, and well, I wanted it back.”

      This is a totally legit reason.

    • … he wants… to keep having sex with you… even while he proclaims to the world (and internet) that you’re not good enough/hot enough?

      I… my WTF twitch is going now.

      “Comfort each other” is universal code for “bang out the last of the feels” so I’m glad you saw that for what it was. Nothing wrong with falling for it, just so long as you *knew* that it didn’t change anything, which you say you did.

      Hit by a bus full of bikini models shall indeed be his fate. We can put an ad out – the girls will volunteer to mow his ass down!

      • Suzette said:

        I have another good fate for this guy: he meets the Conventionally Attractive Trophy Woman of his dreams, and marries her…and then the sex isn’t that great and they can’t really talk about anything except shopping and drugs, and they fight all the time, and he finds out that she’s using him for his money, and she steals his expensive watches and sells them on eBay and then ditches him… because he’s older now, and has lost his hair, and is not as Conventionally Attractive as what she thinks she deserves. And he has the sadz.

        I’ve gotten to watch this exact scenario play out with an ex – from a safe distance – and good Lord, was it entertaining.

        • Mary said:

          Harsh on the woman he decides is sufficiently Trophy, though. She doesn’t deserve him either!

    • Marvel said:

      I would just like to say that you are AWESOME!

    • Shores said:

      Good for you. But I pity the poor models so I would go with a magical neon sign “I am a douche bag” floating over his head.

    • Kitn said:

      HOLY CARP. YOU ARE SO AWESOME. Like, you just did all the things that you should do after a terrible breakup and then were like, oh, WHILE I’M AT IT, I’ll do these other great things for myself as well! You have an incredible mindset and gah! I feel like I want to ask for your autograph or something. I’m so happy that you’re feeling better.

    • miss_chevious said:

      “When I packed up his stuff in my house, there were two decently-sized boxes, and even know I keep finding stuff of his. This dude infected my life for a long time.”

      Yep. As someone who was dumped by a live-in partner, I can tell you that stuff is going to continue popping up for a while, now. But I can also tell you that after a certain period of time, it’s not emotionally impactful anymore and you can just toss it out or replace it (or keep it!) without it dredging up a lot of crap with it. It just takes time, and you seem like you’re on the right path. Best wishes!

    • aebhel said:

      A phone conversation where he told me how alone and mournful he was, and about his day and plans for Spring Break, and asked to meet up in person one more time because he, quote, “thought we could comfort each other.”

      Augh, god, do I remember that line.

      LW, you sound like an awesome lady, and you are way out of that douchebag’s league.

  25. Emmych said:

    Just wanted to throw in another WOW what a fucking gross loser dude. This reminds me of my ex (the whole IT CAME FROM NO WHERE… aspect), and whoo Captain did I ever need to hear the thing you said about that!

    LW, I really think you need to focus on what the Captain said about how your ex saw a partner as a “trophy” sort of deal, since that is key here. That is going to be a hard thing, and it’ll be hard not to feel used and manipulated for 2 years. My advice? Feel it! Get fucking mad that this asshole wasted two years of your time because he is a douchecanoe and cannot exist without a relationship. Get mad that he is clearly a cowardly fuck nugget, and that this is p much all on him.

    Finally, I would think about this from another angle as well: maybe this is another excuse. Maybe this is the reason he has given himself for dumping you, because it’s a ~reason~ and not just “I am too emotionally inept to have a real relationship right now”. It won’t change anything, but it may bring you some comfort!

    Ooh, one more finally: he knows he is being a huge douche. This is why he is trawling reddit and looking for sympathy, responsibility dissolving backpats. It is an immature, shitty thing to do, and you should give that a wide berth. Right now he is probably overwhelmed by his assholeishness, and if he’s as poor in his emotion-handling skills and is as self-centred as you imply, then he won’t be taking accountability any time soon.

    • Polychrome said:

      I think there is a worse possibility for why he is trawling reddit & saying hurtful things where he knows his ex can read them. It’s not because he knows he’s been bad and wants to be made to feel better about it, it’s because he feels *really* *really* dizzyingly powerful knowing how badly he can hurt her. It might have surprised him and he might be finding it kind of delicious and hard to let to go. Like if she’s not calling for more follow ups how else can he get that sadistic feeling of WHEEE I am a crusher of souls? When in all of his other existence he’s been a mousy little bower to convention?

      • Emmych said:

        Hrm, you could be correct in that! I don’t know if most people are that deliberately cruel, though. I’d say it’s far more likely he is looking to be ~forgiven~ and ~let off the moral hook~ so he can continue going on with his life and not being filled with Bad Feelings anymore.

        I mean, he is probably super sad and upset that this relationship is over! It was two years of his life! But, you know what really gets in the way of quietly grieving? The knowledge that you were a massive asshole at the end and that your ex’s anger is actually super justified. I don’t think he can deal with that, and I think he’s looking to be absolved from his guilt so he can get on with the grieving. I also think he wants to keep LW in his life for the support/gratification/ego stroking factor, and her being justifiably mad at him kinda gets in the way of that.

        Alternately he isn’t grieving at all, because he is a fuck trumpet, but the Bad Feelings are getting in the way of him doing whatever it is he does.

        Basically, whatever the reason, it’s not LW’s problem, and it doesn’t change the fact that P is a total scrub.

        • boutet said:

          Maybe a bit of both? I’ve had several asshole “friends” who would passionately exclaim about how they “ruined so-and-so’s ENTIRE LIFE!” with whatever petty and cruel thing they did to them back in grade school, or dumping them in college or whatever. It’s like a combination power trip (I’m such an important part of their life that my least action can ruin their entire past present and future!) and genuine noticing that they fucked up. It’s just such a selfish view of themselves fucking up.
          Like, it’s not that they’ve screwed up and need to change. They’ve screwed up FOREVER and the other person is screwed FOREVER so they’re the dramatic anti-hero who hurt someone and can never know love again, and has to be consoled and healed and blah blah fart. The kind of person who just apologizes over and over and over (and over) until you think they must just be saying it to be forgiven again and again.
          So a little bit of power trip mixed in with a little bit of knowing they screwed up, but lacking the effort to change or grow.

          • Jane said:

            I don’t know how useful it is to see shitty fucking exes like this as profoundly normal, profoundly do-not-have-their-shit-in-order type of people: but that’s really what I think this ex is. I don’t think he’s a sociopath, just that he has massive emotional hangups (as already expostulated on by the LW!) that he has never coped with. When you are battling with horrible terrible no-good insecurity, it is really fucking comforting to be able to tell yourself that you impacted someone’s life — and sometimes it feels better to say “Yeah, I left permanent scars on that person,” than it does to say, “It did not make a difference that I was in that person’s life at all.”

            There are so many overwhelming fears that you have to learn to cope with when attempting the great Being With Another Person In Pants and Mind project — the fear of being left. The fear of being forgotten. The fear of settling. Like: I’m not saying there’s only one way to Relationship, but on some level you have to go in knowing, “This might not last. This person might not love me forever. This person might hurt me. I might hurt this person. This person might do all these bad person-like thing that have to do with them and me not being a mind-meld!” You have to have kind of have safety nets and backup plans and most importantly, coping skills, in place for if the worst should happen, in order to enjoy the best that could happen.

            I think P. did not get his shit straight enough before embarking on this relationship and allowed himself to be overwhelmed by fear. Vis-a-vis the Reddit thing, he’s afraid of being the bad guy, because what does that say about his worth as a human being? On the flip side, he’s scared of being nothing to the LW, because she moves on like a healthy human being, then doesn’t that mean their relationship meant nothing to her?

            The reason I believe in this angle is that I think it can be unnecessarily painful to tar an ex-love or ex-friend as Utterly Balls and Shit Forever The End, because even if they are big ol’ fuckwits you did invest years of your life with that person. I think P. probably had a lot of potential and a lot of good qualities, which is why the super-awesome LW was in love with him for two years! I also think he needs to do some serious emotional labor before he can be in a relationship with a grown-up. He’s a big like a charming old Victorian house with no electricity, plumbing, or structural trustworthiness that way — lots of character! No function.

  26. golden peanut said:

    LW: I’m sorry, and I support your scorched earth policy on erasing him from your life.

    General thoughts:

    I think this (never ask “why”) also falls under the “closure is something you give yourself” heading. Rarely do we hear something we like when we ask someone why they hurt us.

    Related tip: Don’t tell someone why you broke up with them. Even if it’s true, telling someone “You’re too ________” or “You’re not _________” is just hurtful. There is a reason why phrases like “It’s not you, it’s me” came about. Use them, accept them.

    • golden peanut said:

      Oh, and CA:

      “Why didn’t I see the signs that this was coming?”

      The answer to this one is: Because he didn’t want you to see any signs.

      Thank you for that. It is helpful to me at the moment.

    • Emmych said:

      Yes yes yes yes to that last part.

      There is literally no reason to tell someone why you broke up with them. You can hold your ground and say, “I hve broken up with you. End of discussion.” You do not have to get into the “it was your flaw that made me leave!!”

      Because, here’s the thing: it will never come across as “It was x thing about you, and I’m not compatible with that. You will find someone else who is, but it isn’t me.” It will always, ALWAYS come across as “it was x thing about you. It is your fault this relationship is over, because there is something wrong with you.”

      So yeah, folks, don’t say why. Don’t do the thing. If you are breaking up with someone, the kindest thing you can do is leave them alone.

      • Part-time Jedi said:

        “Because, here’s the thing: it will never come across as ‘It was x thing about you, and I’m not compatible with that. You will find someone else who is, but it isn’t me.’ It will always, ALWAYS come across as ‘it was x thing about you. It is your fault this relationship is over, because there is something wrong with you.'”

        I don’t know about that. When my boyfriend of 5 years broke up with me, I was completely devastated, until he told me that the main reason was because I had made it clear that I never want to have biological children. He had thought about that, and decided that he DID want biological children, and wasn’t really onboard with my plan to adopt teenagers from foster care.

        After that, I was able to tell myself, “Yeah, he was right, there was no possible way that was going to work out long term. We were just not compatible with each other.” It helped to know that it wasn’t something I had done, there wasn’t anything devastatingly wrong with me, we just… didn’t want the same things.

        • aebhel said:

          IDK, I feel like “I broke up with you because I want biological children and you don’t” is fundamentally different in some way than “I broke up with you because you’re ugly.”

    • Twitchy said:

      I think this might vary from person to person. I’d definitely rather know why someone left me than not. I mean, hopefully because whatever the problem was, we’d discussed it and tried to work it out before they decided they couldn’t hack it anymore. But even if they just came to me and broke up with me, I feel like a reason would make it feel less ‘out of the blue.’

      I’m a bit like the LW, I analyze and overanalyze and work myself into knots about why people did things I don’t understand. A reason, even if it’s a painful one, can set my mind at ease and let me stop obsessing.

  27. IMO there’s only one way it’s remotely acceptable to tell your partner “I never thought I’d end up with someone like you” – if you follow it with “I love X, Y, Z about you, you’re everything I never knew I wanted.” And even that is a matter of opinion, some people wouldn’t necessarily like it even though it’s, on the face of it, complimentary. It brings a bit much attention to things you’re not, even if it does counter it with the things you are, and I think it has to be delivered a certain way at a certain time.

  28. MrsMorley said:

    Dear LW,

    I’m mad at your therapist for giving lousy advice.

    That being said, your ex was an ass to have held on for two years when on some level his foot was out the door. That was dishonest of him.

    And he clearly did find you attractive.

    So, can you trust other people in the future, even hotties?

    YES! You totally can. You will meet men who think you’re completely beautiful and sexy and who will say so in no uncertain terms.

    So in the mean time, and forever after, do great things with friends and family. Do great things alone.

    The rest of your life is free of someone who didn’t value you. Yay! You’ll have people who appreciate you around you.

    Go you!

  29. “the act of asking for the reason someone doesn’t love you anymore means you’ll get the reasons that someone doesn’t love you anymore”

    When you put it like that it’s so… obvious. heh.

  30. JM said:

    Yeah, getting the true reason why someone broke up with you is never going to make anyone feel better. For me it’s always felt like “Okay, you stabbed me. It doesn’t matter why you stabbed me, or how you feel about stabbing me, you stabbed me. I don’t really need to stop to talk about why you stabbed me, I really just need to get out of here to somewhere I feel safe. Maybe one day I’ll want to hear why I was stabbed, but right now, I just want to be safe” In almost all cases you’re not going to get back together (And even if you are, knowing your partner could break up at any moment is not the basis of a secure relationship), and so all it does it increases your hurt, and potentially puts the blame for the relationship ending on you, when it is just as likely to be due to both yourself and your partner, or just an incompatible relationship settling apart.

    Why couldn’t you see this you wonder? Because you didn’t want to see it. You wanted the relationship to continue, so any fear or anything not going well was minimised to focus on the positives. And before that sounds blamey-we want happy things to continue, it’s a positive optimistic way to live. Just in relationships it can slip you up sometime (Gawd-I remember a relationship where I had a weekend away with my then gf where we did not touch each other, not even to hold hands, for the entire trip. Unsurprisingly to anyone else in the world I was dumped three days later, but that was still a surprise to me).

    Now, how to survive this? Ask your friends. This is a break up, and the way to treat it is like any other break up. Everyone has been in a relationship break up before, and no one enjoys it, but everyone has their methods. For me, I’ve always found that grief takes time-you can’t rush it, you can’t skip past it, you just have to endure it. So what worked for me is giving myself time to grieve, but also time to do other things. What I did was:

    -Buy or borrow a large number of books, and place them by my bed. If I felt sad, or needed to have a long intense crying period, I’d go to the bed, and while crying, just read them, one after another, until the crying stopped and I felt ready to do something else. Same would work for DVD’s as well.
    -Make a lot of appointments with friends. I had something planned for every weekend for around 2 months after a break up. You know what’s great about friends-they shouldn’t put the blame on you for a break up, and should be happy to side with you 100%, for at least the initial break up. You can bitch to them, and they can bitch back. Some may have had thoughts about how wrong this guy was for you for ages, and decided to bring them up now.
    -Keep busy. I joined a gym, others started going to plays, or social groups, just something that fills the gap and stops days feeling like they’re dragging on.
    -Block of all communications, and consider, at least temporarily, losing their picture. I just found deleting, or hiding all the pictures of my ex for a month or so made it easier to move on. Now later I felt comfortable seeing them again as a segment of my life just like any other, but if I felt I never wanted to see those pictures again, that would be fine too.

    All the best, LW. You will get through this, because we all do. And we don’t like that we have to do it, but we end up in a better place.

    • Heh, stabbing analogies: they just convey the feeling of being dumped SO WELL. My ex told me recently that he was sorry about how he broke up with me, and if he could have he would have wanted to “work with me more.” I told him that he was currently twisting the knife he had put in my chest and that I didn’t particularly give a crap about how sorry he was about the /way/ it had gotten there in the first place. He seemed genuinely surprised about the idea that there was no way breaking up wasn’t going to be painful for at least one of us, and that his “apology,” which he totally made “for the right reasons,” really upset me. That pissed me off, but made me feel way better about not being in a relationship with him any more.

      My ex, like the LW’s, kept coming back to me to try and get me to assuage his guilt about hurting me. Actually, my perception of the end of this relationship has basically been about him making a mess and then trying to get me to clean up after him. I managed to refuse a lot of it, but the dishes he left on the counter the day he moved out I had to do myself.

      • JM said:

        Did your ex and mine date or were related or something? I had a similar experience, where after the break up, I organised a time to exchange the stuff the other person had(Though she does still have my collection of Y The Last Man comics), and generally didn’t want to talk about it with her (Which really shocked her at the time!), instead talking to my sister, my friends, etc. When we organised to collect each other’s stuff I said I had felt hurt about the lying (She had fallen in love with a friend about six months ago) and she apologised for hurting me, and we left it at that…..until she headed home where she wrote a lengthy email describing in detail why she broke up with me, and how it was my fault. Which lead to a weekend of emails back and forth with each of us blaming the other.

        Eventually I sent a “We’re going no where here, let’s stop talking, wish you all the best, goodbye” emails, which ended the angry emails…but seriously, everyone…break ups are meant to hurt. If you have ever had any emotion invested in the other person, you’re either going to feel hurt or feel guilt. That’s the natural way. That doesn’t mean the break up shouldn’t happen (In the long term future happiness, a break up can be essential), or that you’re going to be an objectively bad person for initiating a break up, but you’re still going to feel bad afterwards. It is not the role of the person you broke up with to get rid of your guilt, anymore than it is the role of the person who initiated the break up to resolve the hurt of the person they broke up with. You are not a part of each other’s life, at least not for now. Let the people who are still a part of your lives, your friends and family, do the supporting.

        Come to think of it, has the Captain done any columns on advice for a person initiating a break up, and managing the resulting guilt? It seems there’s a bit of a gap in the market there.

  31. H.Regalis said:

    This letter makes me think of this old Savage Love column where a guy wrote in asking how he could overcome his attraction to “fat, ugly, hick girls” (http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=255893). I don’t mean that you fit a “type” that your ex has a fetish for, but the whole looking down on someone you’re dating thing jogged my memory of it.

    If the guy was of his own free will dating you for two years, he was attracted to you at some point. If he thought you were so awful, how would he have managed to be in the same room with you, much less presumably have sex multiple times? No way.

    If you’re dating someone and they’re ashamed to be seen with you and consider you beneath them, that says a lot more about them than it does about you.

    I don’t have any good advice on how to stop internalizing all of this guy’s awfulness, but I hope you can work through it. Not everyone out there is like that.

    • Morven said:

      I frequently think Savage is a douche with douchey opinions, but he hit that one out of the park.

    • LW #557 said:

      Dan’s response to that letter was a thing of pure beauty.

      • Shaenon said:

        It’s like that classic Onion headline: “Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My Cock?”

        • H.Regalis said:

          I love that one! I think it’s up there with the “Anne Geddes Starting to Lose It” News in Photos.

          I quit reading Savage Love because more often than not, Dan Savage just pisses me off anymore–“All women are bi! It’s their superpower!” bleh–but there is some good stuff in there on occasion and this is one of those things to me.

          • Polychrome said:

            Anne Geddes losing it. good times :)

        • M Dubz said:

          shaenon, you are a treasure of wisdom.

  32. Rachel said:

    So, you had great sex when you were together, then you had breakup sex, but he still claims you weren’t attractive enough for him? Yep. Reminds me of a guy I know who dumped his lovely girlfriend for “being too flat chested” (I KNOW) but is now dating another woman who is if anything even less boobalicious than his ex. Dude… Just admit that’s not really the reason, mmkay?

    Anyway, this happened to me too, except I spent probably 3 years trying to force this guy to admit why he broke up with me, and eventually he told me all his friends thought I was ugly and kept telling him he could do better. Ugh. But I would like to add that, having spent 15 minutes at least reading this post and all the comments… I have ONLY JUST remembered that this even happened to me. Partly because it was years ago, but mostly because it is just not relevant to my life or my self image any more. LW, I wish this for you too.

    Finally a reading recommendation: this exact thing happens to the main character in Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner, which I found very therapeutic too.

  33. “You are too awesome to be someone’s How Do I Emotions? tutor!”

    Thanks for the reminder; I can always stand to hear this again. I just broke up with my first boyfriend the other night, and I could go on and on about the specifics of the situation (and have, to many people), but ultimately, this is what it’s about. He doesn’t understand his own emotions and I’m tired of being hurt by his clumsiness. He’s a sweet guy, there are good reasons why I love him (which I do — it’s a very long story, but trust me, I know enough to know that I really do love him), and I wish him all the best, but there is only so much a girl can take. And you’re right; it is not my job to teach my boyfriend how to deal with this stuff. He needs to come with that software already installed.

    (And I’m sure at some point this knowledge will outweigh the heartache. In the meantime, I have ice cream in the freezer.)

    • boutet said:

      ‘He doesn’t understand his own emotions and I’m tired of being hurt by his clumsiness”
      YES oh my god yes. I ended up having to slow fade a really good friend into a small dose friend because he was just so awful at understanding the shit that he was doing! I had also come to the decision that he was so awful in part because he was so lazy, and that it was easier to hurt people and have them explain it to him than it was to try to get better at it.
      He would say shit like, “You’re beautiful, it doesn’t matter if people think you’re fat!” and I’d be like, “People? People who? The only people here are me and you, and I didn’t say anything negative about my body” and he’d be like, “It was a cooooompliment and I looooove you, why are you upset?” And my options were: explain his shit, which validated his “inability” and negated blame, or not explain his shit, which gave him the opportunity to bemoan his “inability” and negate blame.
      I loved that asshole but I did not need that storm of shit hanging over our heads.

      • Whoa, I’m sorry, that really sucks. Fortunately, my situation was not like that at all; it was more of a holding-me-at-arm’s-length-while-he-tried-to-figure-out-his-feelings thing. He wasn’t being an asshole; he was just really, really confused. Unfortunately, this had some negative side-effects for me. Alas, the world is not so uncomplicated as to make everyone who hurts me an asshole. Sometimes, they’re just good people who know about as much about how to deal with life as I do (which is to say, not much).

  34. BW said:

    Oh, LW, you have touched my heart. I had a boyfriend break up with me in an email where he outlined the things that were wrong with me with bullet points including my dysfunctional family (as if I could help that) and my vegetarianism (really? it was the tofu?). That man constantly compared my attractiveness unfavorably to old girlfriends even though I was looking pretty damn fine, if I do say so myself. Good grief, he messed with my head so much that it gives me a headache just thinking about it. Now, I have a man who appreciates me, is consistently affectionate, etc.
    Be glad to be rid of this guy. He did you a favor by removing his sorry behind from your life. Better things are going to come your way.

  35. Anisoptera said:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you LW (and I’m glad you feel better now than when you first wrote in)! I know how comments like this from a lover or an ex can just crawl up in your brain and lodge there and shine a horrible light through all your thoughts and just poison your self esteem. We’re so very vulnerable to people we love and trust, just because we, well, trust them, and it can take a while to convince our lizard brain that actually, no, they’re not trustworthy.

    Years ago, when my boyfriend of 11 years dumped me for another (thinner, younger) woman, he had weird goodbye sex with me. I didn’t know we were breaking up – we had had problems sure, but he told me he really loved me and we had sex and I thought, hey, it’s OK, we still love each other. And then right after the sex he hugged me and said he couldn’t do this any more and he was leaving and he didn’t think he’d ever loved me, really. And then he went off to be with the other woman. PSA: never, ever, ever have this one last pity fuck with someone you’re about to break up with. NEVER. Because I felt utterly violated – like I’d been tricked into sex, like I’d exposed myself to an unsafe person. And I felt like maybe that last screw was a test – like he was checking to see if he really wanted to break up with me, and yep, he did, because I was obviously Not Good in Bed. And intellectually I know it was more likely that he wanted one last go around before he ended it >:-( or that he was confused and not sure what he was doing, or thought it would somehow make everything better – basically that it was nothing to do with my qualities as a bed partner and everything to do with his fucked up brain. But my lizard brain couldn’t let it go. It couldn’t let it go so badly that for nearly a year if I thought about sex at all I would suddenly think about that, and feel sick to my stomach. Even if I was contemplating sexy fun times alone, if you catch my drift. I felt so betrayed and violated by that one stupid shag. I felt so judged, and ugly and crap.

    And the good news is, it goes away. I feel sick about it right now, writing about it, but it’s not something I think about any more when I’m contemplating sexy fun times. It doesn’t pop into my brain unwanted at random times to remind me how ugly and bad in bed I am. It is no longer killing my sex life. Because over that one horrible year it faded out and became something I don’t really think about. It became a piece of the past. It became not a judgement on my qualities but a sign that my ex was scum in relationships and I am 1000% better off for not being with him, and gosh I should have ended it myself years earlier instead of trying so hard to make it work.

    The horrible things your ex said will probably reverberate around your head for a while. Because you loved and trusted him, so it’s hard not to believe him at least with part of your brain. But however unbearable they are right now, they’ll fade. They’ll be replaced by new information. However loud his words are in your head right now, tomorrow they will have lost a tiny bit of volume, and they are inevitably going to get smaller and fainter until they are basically gone, and mean nothing to you.

    • Courtney said:

      Ugh. I had a surprise break up like that. We had been together for 8-9 months with no apparent problems–maybe one or two arguments, total. We had a cook dinner in and sleep over date. Instead of watching a movie, he showed me the first episode of a sci fi series that he loved and thought I would be interested in. Then we had sex. In the morning, he dumped me. I figured out a week later that he was dating someone new (and that their first official date was the afternoon of the morning he broke up with me–and an activity we had talked about doing together). A month later, he called me to tell me that he was “starting” to date someone new (the same gal) and wanted me to hear it from him instead of through the grapevine. I ripped him up one side and down the other. He tried to give me a litany of problems that he had with me during our relationship. I said, “You know what? Those are absolutely valid critiques. But this is the first time I’m hearing them. If they were really problems for you, you should have brought them up and given me an opportunity to address them. Bringing them up now is just SHITTY.”

      I did get some good schadenfreude when the new gal dumped him 6 months later.

  36. M Dubz said:

    Oh sweetie. I have been that girl. Five years ago, I started the process of The Longest Breakup of all Time, in which the boy I had been with for a year and thought I would eventually marry, declared that he wanted to go “on a break” when I went abroad. When I came back, he told me he wasn’t sure if he wanted to get back together or not, and when I asked him why (bad move!) he told me that his family disliked me, that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be with someone with my career path, and that I was too fat for him. This is after a year of dating where I was more or less the same size throughout and pretty damn regular sex, mind you.

    It crushed me for about a year. I was insecure about my body and felt incredibly sad and hurt that someone I’d loved so deeply could say such shitty things to me. And then I realized that actually, he was a shallow asshole who cared more about dating someone who was “uncomplicated” and fit into preconceived notions of what his partner should be and look like rather than someone who was actually a partner to him. I slept with a bunch of other people who were really into me. I moved forward on that career.

    I still run into him from time to time. And there’s still a lot of pain love for the parts of him that were good and kind and funny. But Lord, I have no interest in getting back with him, because he’s still the shallow dude who wants someone who fits neatly into the box in his life marked “girlfriend” more than being an authentic human being.

    And you will get to that place too. Sleep with a bunch of people, if that is your jam. Let people appreciate your beauty. Intentionally appreciate and cultivate your inner and outer beauty. And eventually you will start to feel beautiful again.

  37. Anonymous This Time said:

    “A bomb went off in your life, how could you have missed the ticking? The answer to this one is: Because he didn’t want you to see any signs. He deliberately acted like nothing was wrong while he made up his mind, because he wanted to keep the “option” of you open while he decided what to do. He wanted your love, affection, sex, attention, time, the happiness & security of having a ‘girlfriend’, etc. while he made up his mind. That’s on him, not you!”

    My ex did this for 15 years while he fucked around. Except he had made up his mind, he wanted me taking care of him and to be “single”. I’m happy for LW that she didn’t encounter someone like my ex.

  38. Conventionally attractive?! Wow, what a douchewaffle! You’re better off without him in your life, LW. Guys like that are a complete waste of time.

    As Captain said, obviously he found you attractive if he started dating you, kept dating you, and slept with you for that long. He wasn’t really worried about what he thought, because he clearly thought you were attractive – he was worried about what OTHER people would think about HIM, not you. He doesn’t want a girlfriend/lover, he wants a status symbol, a shiny trinket he can hang around his neck/off his arm and show off to people to validate his own worth, which is a massive sign of insecurity. He’s the guy who would run around showing off a trophy/medal/expensive watch/degree to random bystanders he doesn’t know, yelping “See? See? I have a nice thing! This means I’m awesome!”

    That’s what he wanted you to be – he wanted you to be a shiny trinket he could show off to others so they would think “Huh, that guy has ‘insert nice thing here’. That must mean he’s cool.”, whether or not their opinion actually had any kind of impact on his life.

    You deserve so much better, hon. You should never be anyone’s trophy – you are a person, a beautiful, vibrant person who wasted time on a total jerk, but now that he’s out of your life (and you should probably keep it that way, particularly with his creeptastic behavior and bawwing) and you can take care of yourself, which should always be your first priority.

    You are not ugly for not being one of those airbrushed, computer-slimmed, photoshopped models on the magazine covers. You are not ugly for wearing a different thing than ‘insert celebrity here’ would wear. You are beautiful, as yourself, wearing what you are comfortable wearing, and you don’t need someone else’s opinion to justify or confirm that, especially not someone like that jerk.

    Learn to love yourself, and never let people like that hurt you, because they. Are. WRONG.

  39. I rather think it’s great that you heard this from him, because here’s what I think he wanted:
    -a friend he could go to for “comfort” – and you’d give it, and even feel sorry for the poor mixed up lad. And put your own life on hold for this non-existent relationship.
    -a friend who would be shifted out of his social/familial world although he could say “why yes, we’re still friends” with no mention of the ‘comfort’ aspect of things.
    -sympathy from the people around him, who’d then be really delighted when he finally met his CAF (Conventionally Attractive Female), and not be concerned about his treatment of you, because if they even knew that you provided regular “comfort” they’d think you weren’t taking it seriously either, ‘cos you’d broken up, right?

    -a friend he could go to for comfort who wouldn’t know until a few weeks after the event that his last visit was the night before a wedding – his wedding – to a CAF you’d never heard of because her existence wasn’t relevant because you guys had broken up.

    I really, really do think you’ve dodged a bullet in finding this out about him now. He just wanted this whole thing to exist on his terms, and if you hadn’t gotten that news now, in two, three, maybe five years time you’d be copping it even harder.

    Good luck, and congratulations!

    • Emmacita said:

      I absolutely agree. I suspect the family reunion a week earlier jolted this shallow, immature, narcisstic man-child into realising that he was conflicted about this relationship. Maybe his cousins or his brothers or someone said they weren’t terribly impressed by his choice of girlfriend?
      In a sense, this is nothing new: it’s in the horrible sentiment made by social ly conventional men who say, ” I wouldn’t bring her home to my parents” but would be perfectly happy to keep on having sex or maybe have her on the side.
      Something that concerns me and I ‘m really not trying to blame the LW was if the LW were to look back at the relationship were there signs that he didn’t think she was all that? did he make comparisons to other women?look askance at her clothes especially when she were going out to meet his friends or family?did he ever compliment her?
      I ask because I was in a similar situation nearlyy 20 years ago (!)where an ex really thought he was higher ranking in terms of social worth/attractiveness. He would look (in an obvious way) at “conventionally” attractive women on the street and tell me about the “beautiful” women he had been out with. I stuck it for 9 months: 9 months of arguing and wrangling and not much peace. No way I ‘d put up with that now.
      The LW dodged a bullet. Imagine being with someone for years who just doesn’t appreciate you at all .

  40. slfisher said:

    I was once bemoaning a breakup with a friend and she said, ultimately, it was none of my business. Harsh but useful.

  41. MamaCheshire said:

    I was thinking about my own relationship history, and actually? Every breakup that I can’t pinpoint a clear reason for exists in soft “we weren’t compatible” or harsh “because Dude was a jackass because only a jackass would conduct a breakup in this manner!” terms.

    Reasons can be obvious and Darthy, like, “Dude, if you can’t trust me not to cheat on you with my GAY friend who is NOT INTO WOMEN AT ALL and you will not shut up about it, there is something really hella wrong with this relationship and I am just done.” Or they can be sad but necessary, like, “I love you and I wish it could work, but we CANNOT cohabit and maintain respect and love for each other, so let’s end this now while we can maybe still admire and love and respect each other as friends and humans?”

    But I think that if you don’t know the reason upfront, if it isn’t THIS level of obvious, it’s going to either be “we weren’t compatible” or “the manner in which this breakup was conducted is Exhibit A of why we should not be together any longer.”

  42. Preludes said:

    I was in P’s shoes in a way with my first boyfriend, so i can kind of see both sides of this, but it doesn’t make it non dickish behaviour at all. For me, I simply found that I didnt find my bf attractive – we had been friends for a year or so, i thought he was an awesome, kind, clever person, but i simply couldn’t force myself into being attracted. That he said “i love you” too quickly was also an issue for me, because it was a lot of pressure while i was already hating myself for not getting pantsfeelings for such an awesome guy. (Hell, i thought, im no picnic and im supposed to be cooler than this feeling of shallowness, and he deserves to be adored!) I wanted out of the relationship because of that, but i never told him why. In the end the reason why i decided to break up with him wasn’t the attraction thing foremost, but because i knew that i was hurting him by my dodgy guilt-induced moods and he deserved better.
    Attraction is personal too LW. You could be a supermodel but he might just not have that spark he thought he had. That he was having sex with you and made it all about ‘your type’ was bloody awful. You are awesome.

    • gmg said:

      Yep. LW’s ex could have said something like “You are great, but I have to be honest that I don’t feel the spark with you that I used to. Staying together under those circumstances wouldn’t be fair to either of us.” Would that hurt? Sure. But it’d hurt a lot less than the narcissistic BS he chose instead.

      • Phira said:

        Right. There’s a huge difference between, “I feel awful because I care about you very much, but I just don’t feel attracted to you anymore,” and, “I prefer ‘more attractive’ people.”

        The first one is very honest and absolutely cannot be helped, and it’s sad but it’s fair. The second is bullshit. I’m cool with looking back on your history of the people you crush on or have relationships or sex with and going, “Huh, a pattern!” But It’s quite another to say, “Well, I enjoy having the sex with you, but you don’t fit into this category that I’ve decided in my type.”

  43. LW, you are awesome, but everyone else has told you that already. I’ve just got one piece of advice to add.

    The background to this piece of advice is that my husband walked out on me, with exactly the same lack of warning, in 2001. He made a pile of very suspect excuses which mainly boiled down to “you deserve someone much better than me”. (Ironically, he was quite right. I do. But then, honestly, so would pretty much anyone.) I was suspicious, for a number of reasons it’s not important to go into in detail, and asked him straight out if he’d found himself a new girlfriend. “Oh no!” he said. “Of course not! How could you think such a thing?”

    So, off he went, and about the first thing I did was to check my credit record, because I knew he had some debts but had never been able to find out exactly how much, and I didn’t want to end up saddled with them. Just imagine my feelings when I discovered not only that he owed pretty much a round £10 000 (heaven knows where all that went, because it’s not as though we had a car or a mortgage), but also that he had a whole string of bank accounts I hadn’t known about, all overdrawn, and several of them registered at a different address. Next time he rang up, I asked him whose address that was.

    “Rachel’s,” he said. I doubt I’d have got a straight answer out of him if I hadn’t taken him by surprise.

    Yes. Well, this Rachel was the person I had suspected him of being involved with, and that was pretty much proof. I don’t blame her in the least, because I’m quite sure he lied to her as much as he lied to me; in fact, over the following few months I was to discover so many more lies that I now wonder if he ever told me the truth about anything. Oh, and a couple of years later I discovered he’d married her. Poor woman. I wonder if she’s worked out what she’s lumbered herself with yet?

    Now I told you all that to tell you this. I am not by nature an angry person. Generally, I am the sort who’ll go for negotiation and understanding first and foremost. But when I found out all this, WOW was I furious. Just like you are at the moment. And what I did with that anger was to use it while it was hot. There were so many things that urgently needed doing – get the tenancy transferred to my name, take him off the joint account, inform the council tax people, you name it – and that took a lot of energy. Thanks to all that anger, I had that energy and then some. I got everything done in jig time.

    So take that anger and use it positively. It goes bad if you let it hang around too long, but it’s a great resource while it’s hot. Good riddance to the awful P, and all the very best for a happy future!

  44. rosemarynotroses said:

    LW/ other Captain Awkward readers, have you seen this week’s Ask Polly column? Because that makes two ‘my boyfriend doesn’t think I’m hot enough!’ advice columns in one week. Probably a sad reflection on how our society encourages men to feel entitled to a ridiculously high standard of bland conventional attractiveness in their partners, but both columns give great advice in response. The other LW’s situation is a bit different, but it’s still worth a read: http://www.theawl.com/2014/03/ask-polly-my-boyfriend-thinks-im-ugly

    • True facts: Both of the LWs in both of the letters are PILLARS OF SCORCHING HOTNESS CLAD IN IMMORTAL FIRE WITH RADIANCE BEYOND PHYSICAL COMPREHENSION and many people find them attractive and many people are in the backgrounds of these women’s lives going “Dang, I like the stuff that LW does and I think she is a super-cutie patootie.” I can tell this through the Internet.

      Weirdly, a thing that I can also tell through the internet is that their partners are both rather damp squids?? weird

      • roramich said:

        AN tell that over the internet!

      • roramich said:

        @elodieunderglass: you are simply THE BEST and I CAN tell that over the internet!

        • It’s funny how attractive the Awkward Army is and how you can tell that over the internet, isn’t it? *wink*

      • M Dubz said:

        yeah. i bet they have bulgy sad eyes and slightly greenish tentacles and look oh so saaaaaad.

        • they keep wondering why they’re beached, and spend most of their time complaining that the secret migrations of birds are responsible for their sorry states

    • LW #557 said:

      I think one way in which I lucked out over the LW over at Ask Polly is that my ex would not have even dared to tell me what to do with my appearance. I make it clear to any and all that I sleep with or date that my hair? My body? My face? THEY ARE MINE. MINE ALONE.

      Occasionally I will ask their opinions if I can’t decide on what color to dye my hair or which style of haircut to get, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. I once had a guy tell me that he didn’t get why I didn’t straighten out my (baby fine, naturally curly and disheveled) hair more often, since it was the only time my hair looked nice. I chewed him out.

      I’m of the “Keep your bullshit opinions on the appearance of others to your dang self UNLESS it is helpful*, asked for, or kind in a non-sexual/creepy way” school of thought.

      Overtime, with this most recent ex, I did notice that the only times he ever complimented my appearance was when my hair was straightened, I had make-up on, and was dressed fancy/revealingly. But he never, ever gave critique like Ask Polly’s LW did. If he had, HE would have been the dumped one because that is an awful thing to do to somebody who isn’t actively asking for it.

      * REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: Once, I accidentally had the back of my skirt hitched up by my backpack, so high that my underwear was showing. A very very friendly lady tapped my shoulder, whispered, “Honey, your panties are showing,” and I thanked her profusely and went to adjust the situation.

      • Baby-fine messy curls solidarity high-five!

  45. KT said:

    I had a breakup (I was the one doing the dumping because I was tired of feeling judged) that ended with the man I was leaving saying “Someone who looks like you will never find anyone better than me.”

    It stung at the time because it reinforced what I believed (that he never thought I was attractive enough for him), but a few years and some wisdom added “at being an asshole” to that statement.

  46. TO_Ont said:

    I don’t know that I’d even take his word for it that that really was the ‘real reason’ why he broke up with you. People often aren’t good at explaining, even to themselves, why something isn’t working or why they make the choices they do.

    It’s also very possible that something just felt vaguely not right to him (possibly connected to this ‘bad at emotional intimacy’ thing?) or he didn’t feel the way he’d imagined he would feel, and when pressed he tried to find some reason for the feeling and this was the best explanation he could come up with that seemed to make sense to him.

  47. TO_Ont said:

    FWIW, I probably wouldn’t recommend telling the guy you find him bad with emotions (or a jerk), either. I can’t see much good (or ‘closure’) most of the time from people who recently ended a relationship getting together to hash things out and tell each other what they see as each other’s flaws. If it’s true (and it sure sounds like it is, jeez), let him discover it himself on his own time or hear it from current friends.

    You guys don’t need to come to some kind of agreement on what went wrong, and if you try, IMO it may just drag things out more painfully.

    Personally, if it was me I’d say it might be better to just make some distance between the two of you. Like it sounds like you’re doing -block him on social media, stop talking on the phone or meeting up with him. Keep that up!

  48. Clementine Danger said:

    LW, I am so, so sorry this dude treated you like this. It breaks my heart and makes me so angry when someone does everything right (like you did) and still gets punched in the soul like this. Jedi hugs if you want them.

    I don’t know P. But then again, in a way, I feel like I kind of do. Going through a whole decision-making process alone? While keeping you in the dark and on girlfriend stand-by? Going online to ask people how HE can feel better about what he did to YOU? Emotionally distant but totally happy to have physical intimacy? Making his own sexist insecurities YOUR problem? UGH. Believe me when I say, with a much venom as a comment on the internet can convey, that this guy is a greasy buttcrack pooflap.

    He also strikes me as a Sad Panda. I will bet both my thumbs that you’ll be hearing from him again. I sincerely hope not, because I wish nothing more for you than the peace you need to move on, but I think he’ll pop up again and make things difficult. Probably by the time you are over the worst of the shock and delayed anger sets in. And I have a feeling he’s going to be Very Sad and Deeply Regretful and looking for a way to make HIM feel better about what he did by nagging YOU for “closure”. If that happens, don’t trust anything he says. All he wants is permission to absolve himself. Again, I don’t know him, but he seems the type. It might get very difficult to keep ignoring and blocking him. My advice would be to stick with it. Keep on ignoring Sad Panda. Sad Panda is sad because he did wrong. Let him sit with that.

    Not. Your. Problem.

    As for his comment that got to you so bad, I don’t want to sound dismissive, but what a load of utter crap.

    He sits around being emotionally distant and deciding the course of the relationship by himself, wallowing in enough entitlement to think nothing of being physical with you after dropping a bomb on you, whining online to get internet benediction for what he did and have I mentioned being an insecure sexist? Meanwhile you work on yourself, you go to therapy, work through your emotions and make healthy decisions for yourself. I don’t know who has the best skin or the most luscious hair, BUT I KNOW DAMN WELL WHO THE MORE ATTRACTIVE OF THE TWO IS.

    Goddamn this makes me mad. Fuck his sexist trophy wife standards and fuck beauty ideals while we’re at it. Attractiveness is not synonymous with physical beauty. You, LW, strike me as a gorgeous person. Not a gorgeous piece of human-shaped meat. A PERSON. A decent, caring person in touch with her emotions and open to growth and change. THAT is attractive. Those are the traits that lasting relationships are built on.

    Fuck him. Let him wallow in his insecurities and entitlement and you keep right on being you. It may not feel that way right now, and it might sting for a very long time, but I promise you that while he sits and wallows, you will grow and flower, because you are beautiful, you are strong, and you can totally do this and come out on top.

  49. Commandant Cray Cray said:

    “I’ve got a perfect body, though sometimes I forget. I’ve got a perfect body cause my eyelashes catch my sweat.”
    -Regina Spektor, Folding Chair

    Also: Fuck him. Or you know, have the satisfaction of knowing you’ll never fuck him again. And he’ll be beating off to memories of your sweet loving. Ha!

    • Commandant Cray Cray said:

      Okay re-read that and wanted to clarify that last bit. The man is too massively selfish to have stayed with you if he wasn’t getting something he enjoyed. As commentators have pointed out above, there’s a big difference between “I am not attracted to you” and “I want a Barbie on my arm.”

      So the touching and two whole years and such–I think you can actually take all this as a sign this guy thinks you’re hot (not that you care at this point, dickhead). The conflict is not about you, but an internal dialogue between “This is awesome!” and “I need to have someone who fits extremely narrow beauty expectations.”

      So yes, I’m going to say he’ll be missing two years of hot sex, and yes, I am going to go so far as to say his fantasies for the next while will be about your bod. The man is massively confused and shallow. I take petty satisfaction in his sexual frustration.

  50. A long time ago, LW, I had a roommate.
    That roommate had a partner, and they had been dating for 2 years! They met in college! They were cool, intelligent, awesome people who did amazing things like politics and roleplaying and conferences and things.
    That roommate broke up with that partner, after partner came back from a trip aboard to visit family.

    So, on the day that partner arrived from a journey of 2000 miles, handed over the gift bought somewhere I don’t know, said partner was told “Yeah, we’re broken up, I realize you wanted to land and sleep from jetlag, but I don’t think you can stay here tonight. Can you have your luggage out of here in, oh, 20 minutes?”

    I know, because I was literally right next to that person getting a cup of tea from my kitchen, and that sentence has been haunting me for years now.

    I decide I have business around town, since I need to go shop my Elsewheres and buy some Notthere’s to go with my NoWayAmIGettingCaughtUpInThatConversation… curtains.

    Fast-forward 24 hours, and roommate barges into my room (here, a XX later, the fact he never quite learned to knock seems an auspicious sign I should have noticed), and declares we are having a drink.

    What this means is, he wants to talk and I should listen, because stuff like “My work” or “My books” or “My time” is not as important as being a sponge to his personal issues.

    That conversation has also been burned into my mind, because it went somewhat like this:

    “So yeah, Partner, we broke up”
    “I was there, I know”
    “Oh yeah, you were. Too bad you left, I could have used your support, Partner would just not stop crying”
    “Uhuh”
    “I don’t get what the big deal is, y’know? I mean, I like her and all, and I guess I’ll see if she’s up for watching a movie in a few weeks…”
    “Uhuh”
    “But it’s just, y’know, I keep asking myself: How do I look when I’m out with partner? What does my friends think? I’ve got responsibilities, yeah? Like, I work with XX Political Thing and I Talk To Important People, like XX, and what if they saw me with partner? It’s like… yeah, so I told partner that, and, what, partner got all upset. Kind of sensitive, actually”
    “Wait, what?!”
    “Yeah, partner just isn’t the kind of person I ever thought I’d be attracted to, and besides, I’ve already cheated on her three times which is a sign that what i really want is someone thin and blonde and curvacious”
    “… I’m moving out in three months, because I… found a job… in a different place”

    I realize that seems comical, writing it out like that, but that… happened. Understand, this is a person I had up until that moment considered a friend of mine, and someone I was even willing to live with, because that side of that person was just something that had never quite peaked up entirely… but in retrospect, there sure were a lot of obvious signs I should have noticed.

    Some people have a very stiff Idea in their heads of what their lives Must Be Like, and anything that doesn’t fit into that scheme is Wrong For Them (But I’ll Accomodate You When I’ve Got Nothing Else Going On), and so they’ll come up with a shitty reason to hurt others based on that. There’s nothing wrong with having desires and preferences, but there is something very wrong with having reasons to hurt others while still getting something, transaction-wise, out of a continuing relationship that can still be broken off at that person’s leisure for any random reason.

    But today, he’s a miserable tool doing boring stuff with a string of other partners he constantly cheats on floating through my social periphery (it’s a small town), that same partner is studying something awesome and is with a person who, and this is the cool bit, does stuff like go ice skating in public and invite other people along because: “Partner and Sir Partner want you to join us…”. I know, I’m their friend, and very happy to be.

    There’s lots and lots and lots of people out there who will love you for you, and do things with you, in public or not, because being with you is the important part of the experience, not what the people eating overpriced lobster while harrumphing about the latest social decay think about your relationship.

    ( Incidentally, there are also roommates out there who respect your wishes re: please knock on the door before entering. Such relief )

    I think giving yourself permission to be in your body might be a good idea. “This is mine, and it’s what I’ve got, and what I’ve got is pretty hot, or maybe not, but so what?” worked for me. Trust me, a random internet stranger, you are beautiful. Everyone is beautiful. Conventionally attractive is a sad phrase, and besides, final note, conventions are odd things – if someone can ask you to be conventionally attractive, can you ask them to conventionally go out and pillage the village nearby and bring the charred skulls of your enemies as a suitable gift?

    … erh, social conventions might differ, if you’re not from where I’m from.

    • edelc said:

      ‘I think giving yourself permission to be in your body might be a good idea. “This is mine, and it’s what I’ve got, and what I’ve got is pretty hot, or maybe not, but so what?” worked for me.’

      this is what I needed to hear today…it has been a stressful time for me for a long time..and I have been comfort eating for ages…now i have back to back social events and become hyper aware of all the protective padding that I’ve accumulated …so I needed to read this today. thank you

  51. I’ve been thinking about this thread a lot, and I’d like to offer an alternative/minority-here opinion: I don’t think it’s a rule that communication of this nature is always unwise.

    Yes, people who want to know “why” would be well advised to think ahead to what they might be getting into emotionally, & how they might handle it, & what support they’d have. And on reflection, some might conclude it’s wiser not to risk it. I’m certainly not saying it’s a rule in the other direction either.

    But I know from somewhat similar experiences of my own that it’s possible to hear negative opinions of oneself and process their sting without necessarily tipping into a deep pit of emotional pain, IF you can manage to put the information “into the right box”. And for some people – including me (and see Twitchy’s comment not far above) – that extra bit of the journey can be worthwhile, for the clarity of knowing more about what’s going on.

    What I mean by “the right box”…

    The key thing is the difference between

    a) The Truth About You

    and

    b) The Truth About Some Thoughts In Another Person’s Head.

    Like the Captain said: “Just One Dude’s Opinion” :-)

    Thoughts From Another Person’s Head may or may not (depending on That Person’s wisdom) have any use in terms of understanding _yourself_. But even when not, hearing them can definitely help sometimes in understanding what’s going on with the person who’s harbouring them.

    What happened for the LW was some incoming “Thoughts From Another Person’s Head (subcategories: unflattering opinions + unhelpful beliefs about how the world works)” accidentally landed in the “Truth About Me” box.

    I know that’s a lot easier to describe than it is to avoid. I have every sympathy for the painful nature of the resulting “aieeee this means x y z about me and my future”. Ouch!

    But it is possible to recategorise, if you’re in practice at that kind of reframe & if you notice you’ve done it. And unmixing “People’s Opinions” from “The Truth” in general is a very useful life skill to practise :-)

    The main benefit of allowing that input is the new data: in the LW’s case, “This turn of events is related to society’s bullshit infecting the other person, and it says a lot more about _his_ future than it does about mine”, plus the additional certainty about not wanting to go back to the relationship if given the chance.

    If it was me, I would take the clarity of that “After” over the guesswork of the “Before”, even despite the initial pain.

    (and yes, the LW had some help here with interpreting & consolidating the “After”; it’s a higher risk if you don’t have support for that part.)

    =

    Another possible silver lining is taking the opportunity to consciously think about the opinions which feel painful, and (as Walt Whitman said) “dismiss what insults your own soul”.

    Mainstream media is a continuous drip of poison from companies which profit from conflating (a) conventional physical beauty, (b) other kinds of attractiveness, and (c) prediction of future relationships. For most people in between the two ends of the “conventional beauty” spectrum, our looks are a small-to-negligible factor in our love & happiness outcomes. This is part of why CA’s blog is so valuable, e.g. in flagging up instead emotional skills, communication skills, self-valuing & the courage to be vulnerable.

    Anyone who doesn’t already read it, I also recommend Ragen Chastain’s “Dances with Fat” blog, or other tip top “yay for our bodies exactly as they are” writers.

    The ex didn’t invent that looksist cultural framework, and the LW had already internalised some of it too: “In the beginning, I often wondered how somebody like me could land a guy so freaking hot.” Questioning that thought, & the framework it’s part of, is a powerful inoculation against future bullshit.

    OK, this was a pretty heavy-handed way for the universe to suggest “hey, look at this!” :-( There could have been gentler ones. But the investigation is valuable either way.

    I would add that in the long term, we’re better off in relationships which _don’t_ rest on a foundation of conventional beauty, because conventional beauty standards are suuuuper ageist – especially for women. “Ageing out” of conventional beauty is a high-probability destiny for all of us.

    =

    For the LW: As people have pointed out, your glorious magnetism was able to override for two years even this societally-installed rubbish about what your ex’s partner was “supposed” to look like! That seems to me like a good sign for your long-term future :-)

    Having said all that, there’s another kind of pain which is separate from both of these reframings: knowing that for 2 years, you were with someone on kind of a “false basis”, because he never revealed that element of his thinking until now. For me, that would be the worst part of the experience – the intimate proximity to a kind of fakeness. To me, that has an unsettlingness which is nothing to do with the content. It’s a kind of betrayal, and betrayal can bring up intense feelings in its own right.

    That being the case, I can get why you’d have the thought about not trusting future partners. My intuition is, though, that at some point you’ll get into a relationship where that concern vanishes. You’ll be with someone who’s much more open than your ex, and you’ll somehow come to know and feel sure that there isn’t that kind of a falseness going on. Maybe not right from the start, but over time the trust will build and you’ll have talked about enough difficult things that you know where your partner’s at, & you trust you can handle whatever comes up between you.

    Wishing you luck of that kind :-)

    • atma said:

      Those were the thoughts in my head that I couldn’t quite put in words. Exactly this. Knowing the ex-partners reasons doesn’t say anything about me really, but it helps me put his action in perspective, it helps me process. And most of all, it helps me get the hell over him. He’s that shallow about someone like me? Why would I want to waste another minute on someone who doesn’t appreciate me? I very much prefer a painful truth to a vaguely confusing but somewhat comfortable ignorance.

      • buttonsbuttons said:

        Yes, this exactly. I would also much rather see the painful truth than the vaguely confusing and comfortable ignorance.

    • LW #557 said:

      You hit the nail right on the head. The feeling of betrayal, and like I was tricked into being in a relationship that I absolutely would not have been in, had I known his less-than-rad intentions.

      The point that sticks out to me, when I reflect on our relationship, is that he set the pace. He insisted on the second date, and was the major planner of maybe 85% of all the dates and adventures that followed. I had met his mother and his friends before my people even knew his name. He referred to me as his girlfriend first, he initiated most of our time together, he spent *serious money* on fun-adventure-pantsless-times. When we went out together? He held my hand, his arm would be around my shoulder or my waist. He would dance with me at concerts.

      (SIDE NOTE: It’s not that I never initiated anything, or that I was this compliant fixture. It’s just, that’s how into this he seemed. I am by nature just a very independent and hence commitment-wary lady, so a lot of these things wouldn’t have even occurred to me to do until, say, 6 months of dating? I don’t know. Even when I was seriously thinking things like, “This dude has asked zero questions about me/my life/my opinions, and also isn’t forthcoming about his emotions,” I just assumed that for him, emotional intimacy was something that would take time.)

      And now I look back on that, and feel incredibly weirded out. I marvel at the cognitive dissonance doing all of that took, with a woman he ultimately found unappealing and beneath him. If I had gotten even a whiff of his attitude of “putting up with this until something better comes along,” I would have gotten the heck out of dodge.

      I’m honestly pretty much over the fact that I’m not conventionally attractive. And when I whined to my bestie about this, he said, “Since when have you wanted to be conventionally attractive?” And he’s right.

      In the end, I guess I mostly want those almost-2-years back. I want to hop in a time machine, to the night of our first date, and tell him that it was fun but, sorry! No spark! And then go along my merry little way. Because I was not, and am not, a freaking charity case.

      But, that’s impossible. So now what I have is this lesson in my head that there are *super duper* troubled people out there, who will hide hugely important aspects of themselves from whomever to get what they want. I didn’t even know people like this existed, those closest to this I’ve ever come is reading really tragic stories of deeply closeted people who get married to somebody who was their not-preferred-gender and have kids and do a lot of mental and emotional gymnastics to keep up the farce until it inevitably blows up in their face and now, there’s a very hurt ex-spouse and kids who have no freaking clue what just happened.

      Which is where I am. Before that diner meet-up, I was really sad, but could at least hold onto the good memories. But I don’t get that anymore. And that sucks. But, I don’t know, I’m not sad anymore. Now I’m just really angry and confused.

      • JetGrl said:

        Hopefully, once that anger and confusion are gone, you will be able to remember some of the good times too. P is a jackhole, no question. But one can have fun even with them. It’s taken me a while, but I can now remember some truly amazing moments with someone I now wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. Now you are open to meet someone (or many someones) else, and because you truly are awesome, I know you will have fun then too. Best of luck!

  52. Lori said:

    Once again I get to the end of your letter and I hear myself saying, out loud to my computer or my cat “Man she gives good advice.” Keep on rockin, Captain.

    • JenniferP said:

      Thank you!

  53. DaFunk said:

    I was once involved with a guy who told me, before we got involved, that he always ended up dating women who were skinny and waif-like even though he was “really” attracted to fuller-figured women. And this was true. And that should have been a huuuge red flag, because it was. And he has a possibly-officially-undiagnosed but very real eating/body image disorder (I say as one who knows). And so does his very thin now-wife. With whom, I gather, he is not super happy.
    (So, yeah. We’re not still together. Thank FSM.)

  54. twistpeach said:

    OK, Imma maybe be the exception that proves the rule. I asked my husband, after he let me know that he was divorcing me for his best friend, to please explain to me why we could not work through and deal with our problems like we had done for fifteen years. I had just found his letter of not two months before, talking about how we were going to be okay, we’d get through this, take a second honeymoon, and find our happiness. I asked him to indulge me and tell me why that couldn’t be so any more.

    And he told me. He told me I didn’t settle down enough when I became a mother, he found my passions contemptible and irritating, and he found my adventurousness tiresome. He had put forth a herculean effort to not feel (or admit) these douchey things. He hadn’t wanted to be that much of a douche.

    He told me kindly and humbly, the same way I listened to them… and I can’t tell you how much closure it gave me!! This guy sincerely didn’t like me! He didn’t like who I was, what I liked, or where I was going. For one awful moment, a conciliatory “but I can CHANGE all that” lurched in my chest, but as I looked at the horror of conforming to his desires, I told that impulse to march straight back to its room. I didn’t want to be that woman. At all. And if that’s what he wanted, I actually cared about him enough to not wish him an eternity of discontent. And I cared about myself enough to really not want an eternally discontented partner. Discontented partners SUCK. Moping about the house and quietly insulting you all day. Feh. He could keep it.

    This conversation certainly wasn’t the end of our pain, but the contempt and good riddance he won himself with it saved us ANY misguided attempt on my part to repair our relationship. He thoroughly convinced me that we did NOT want each other.

  55. Kly said:

    I still remember a guy I was going out with for half a year. I felt guilty about wanting to break up with him, I wasn’t even sure why I wanted to break up with him, but I really didn’t want to be around many more. and I did. He spent several months after that sending me love letters and calling me and so on and I had to break off all contact. I felt as if I was a horrible person.
    But that’s not the point of the story. After feeling guilty for a while, I finally told my mother – I was still in my late teens then. So I wasn’t telling her much. But I told her that one of the things he had said to me while we were still going out was “I don’t know why I’m going out with you, you aren’t very good-looking.”
    And my mom immediately said indignantly “you should’ve dumped him a LONG time ago.”
    And I felt so much better immediately. Because I had worried about that for months, but I never thought of it as a reason I wanted to break up with him. I thought he was just being honest, and after all it was true, I wasn’t really good-looking, so he was just telling the truth, and I had no right to be upset by that. And I was young, and didn’t connect that with my subsequent lack of interest in him. In fact, he was an abusive little shit who was trying to make me feel bad about myself. And that wasn’t the only way he did that, either. No wonder I stopped wanting to be around him!
    I know the situations aren’t quite the same. But I want to reassure you that all sorts of people found me very attractive both before and after that. This guy wants to go out with a Photoshop playboy bunny, it is definitely his problem, and not yours. And his being willing to say so definitely makes him not worth another second of your time. Good on you for blocking him.

  56. Jake said:

    I’d add that you don’t want to know if and who your recent ex is dating. You think you want to know these things, that these things will answer the questions and doubts you have, but they won’t.

    My advice I always give. Walk away. If you are confident enough and self-assured enough that you can withstand the emotional turmoil of what you could learn, then reconnect as friends. If you can’t, try and avoid even reading their Facebook account.

  57. Sam said:

    Mostly good advice, but I disagree that you never want the answer to “why did you break up with me?” One of my ex-girlfriend broke up with me because I was jealous, unstable, clingy and melodramatic. She didn’t want to deal with my freak outs anymore. It hurt to hear that, but I’m very glad I heard it. Because of what she told me, I started making more of an effort to learn ways to cope with my mood swings. This has significantly improved my life, and I didn’t make the same mistakes with my future relationships. If she hadn’t told me that, I might not have changed myself. Even the relationships that broke up because of mundane issues told me something. One of my ex-boyfriends broke up with me because we were really incompatible sexually. This caused me to decide that I would prefer to do only open relationships, because I didn’t want to have to choose between breaking up with an emotionally compatible person and having constantly somewhat awkward sex.

  58. SuperFluffy said:

    This is my new favorite advice column. The Captain and the commentors always give thoughtful advice and I really appreciate it. Thanks.

  59. I largely agree with with P wrote, but one thing confused me: “One crappy sexist dude…” – what exactly made him sexist? I am not digging for an argument – I really just don’t understand. From where I stand men can desire whatever the hell they want and so can women for that matter. Anybody who says different is the sexist one.

    • JenniferP said:

      He actually IS attracted to her but sees her as not sufficiently attractive as an accessory. Not cool. Kinda sexist.

      • I think you’re asserting something that he may not think (or feel), and levelling unfounded accusations of sexism against anybody is unacceptable.

        If he does hold that view that makes him just a douche bag, not (necessarily) sexist. Call it what it is and save accusations of sexism for when they’re really needed because such an accusation is powerful and should not be diluted with casual/frivolous use.

        Just one dude’s opinion.

        • embertine said:

          Daniel, it shouldn’t really need to be explained, but treating a person as a decorative accessory is something that happens FAR more to women than it does to men, as a product of a society that treats women as only valuable for their looks. There is a word for this: that word is SEXISM. The fact that this guy did not invent the concept himself out of whole cloth does not mean his actions and attitudes aren’t sexist.

          I agree that unfounded accusations are a bad thing, but I think you will find that most people here also think that ACTUAL FREAKING SEXISM is also a bad thing, and that that is not trumped by one dude’s hurt feelings.

        • anon//anon//anon said:

          Nope, sorry, treating a woman as an accessory in a heterosexual relationship has clearly sexist connotations whether or not the person in question has the intent or full understanding of the cultural background of his relationship decisions – just like embertine said. And on a side note, CA isn’t calling the guy up to make a formal accusation of sexism or serving him papers in Sexism Court. Women can call sexism as we see it, and most of us do in fact have the experience in this area to understand what sexism is, what it looks like and how it works. As well as having the experience to make decisions as to when is the right time to openly call out sexist actions. So, although your concern over “frivolous” accusations has been noted, trust us. We know when things are sexist.

        • I’ve you’re actively seeking out sex with someone for two years, and even still want sex with them after you’ve broken up with them, then you’re attracted to them. You may not *like* that you’re attracted to them, but you’re attracted to them.

          “I want to have sex with that person” is kind of the basic definition of attraction?

          • Palliser said:

            You captured it perfectly, favorthebold! “I want to have sex with that person” is the absolutely the basic definition of attraction. You can want to have sex with a person and not want to date them for good (or in this case terrible) reasons, but if the pantsfeelings are involved, it’s attraction.

        • HM said:

          Right, because god forbid anyone name a specific manifestation of an axis of systemic oppression out in the open where everyone can see it, and therefore contextualize it on that basis and help the LW and other commenters who share similar experiences process it accordingly, rather than just brush the issue aside under the behavioral umbrella of “douchebag.”

          Captain Awkward, the LW, and all the commenters aren’t attributing false motivations to P based on the letter, they’re naming P’s behavior as sexist because it’s accurate to the individual situation and the framework in which it stands. To do otherwise smacks of ignoratio elenchi.

          Or, as you put it, “call it what it is.”

        • save accusations of sexism for when they’re really needed because such an accusation is powerful and should not be diluted with casual/frivolous use.

          Just one dude’s opinion.

          That is such a beautiful example of irony that I almost want to frame it.

        • atma said:

          You need to come here and read more. Maybe hold back on the comments for now, but definitely read. This will help your understanding

        • I see people all the time talking about how being accused of sexism (racism, etc) is such a HUGE POWERFUL thing, but I hardly ever see anyone who’s actually suffered any ill-effects from it past, I don’t know, losing a friend or something. Hell, you know what’s trending on Twitter in Australia today? Yep, the racial slur that gets treated as basically the worst one there is.

          • Commander Banana said:

            Do you mean you hardly see anyone suffering from the ill-effects of being accused of sexism or racism, or anyone suffering the ill-effects of sexism and racism?

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