Question #178: “I want someone to kiss and be kissed by.”

Young couple from Pixar Movie "Up" lying on a blanket looking at the sky, with a caption "Pixar created a better love story in 8 minutes than Twilight did in 4 books."Hello Stranger.

So, nearly three years ago, I got dumped. It’s not the first time I’ve been dumped, but it was the only time I’ve been in love. The problem is that I’m just not coping with it well. I still find myself missing my ex and the conversations we used to have. I still dream about her, and sometimes that ruins the rest of my day (or week).

I want to write her and ask her if there’s any chance she’d like to give it another try. If I thought she’d say yes, I would. However, I’m pretty sure the only thing that would result from such an attempt is that she would know I’m still hurting. She’s not responsible for the pain, but she is a good person, and she’d probably feel bad about it anyway.

So I have to move on. I’ve been on a couple of dates, but, while the women were perfectly nice people, I didn’t really feel the need to ever see them again. I’m guessing that I’m not quite ready to date again, but after three years, I don’t know what it’s going to take.

I want someone to cook for, to eat with. I want someone to watch movies and shows with, to trade books with. Someone to hold and be held by. Someone to kiss and be kissed by. I want to happy, and I want to share it.

But I have no idea how to get from here to there. I feel lost.

Thanks for your time,


Dear M.,

This paragraph of yours is something else:

I want someone to cook for, to eat with. I want someone to watch movies and shows with, to trade books with. Someone to hold and be held by. Someone to kiss and be kissed by. I want to happy, and I want to share it.

Simple, beautiful, to the point, exactly right. You should have it! You will have it, I think.

You get it by meeting more women and going on more dates with them. Three dates with three ladies that went nowhere is a drop in the bucket. Those aren’t failures, by the way, they are just more information about who you like and who is not for you.

There’s a short story I love by Elizabeth Crane called “When The Messenger Is Hot,” and it describes an awesome first date with a handsome, kind, sexy, seemingly perfect person that goes nowhere, like the universe sent her this dude to make her dinner and blow her mind and then he disappears and it’s maddening? The character decides is that it’s a glimpse of how good things can and should be. She got a taste of what she really wanted and she’ll know it when she sees it again. That’s definitely happened to me, where oops, we are probably not going to date but something about you just reset my whole picture of what is possible and once the fog of thwarted desire and constantly checking email clears I can decide to feel good about it. :checks email:

You can use online dating to meet more women (with the advantage of knowing that they are also looking for someone to kiss and be kissed by), but I’d also suggest going out and meeting more people in general. Find something – Volunteer work? Sports? Improv classes? Language classes? Cooking? Music lessons? Board games or RPGs? – that a) involves other people, b) meets regularly so you will see some of the same people over time, and  c) you’d like to try or do more of it anyway. It’s important that whatever you choose is something you’d like for its own sake, everyone can tell when you’re just there to meet chicks. What you are there to do is to meet lots of people and get out of your house and your head for a while. Some of the people might be women who are interested in dating you, some of them might be cool new friends, some of them might be people who introduce you to women who are interested in dating you, or your next job, or other cool new friends and you can’t be goal-oriented about it or you’ll ruin it. is here for you. Throw yourself in.

I think going out and being more social is going to help you with your other problem, too.

As in, please don’t write to your ex-girlfriend. Trust your instincts (that it would upset her) and do not contact her. After three years of being broken up, this isn’t about her anymore. She is a construct. Your memories of her are making a hologram in your head, and going back to that hologram over and over again has become a habit that you can’t break. It might be good for you to talk with a therapist about how to break up those patterns of thinking. Three years is a long time for a dream or a memory to ruin your week, and you do NOT have to keep feeling like this.

While you decide what to do about therapy, I want you to try two things.

First, set aside a weekend to grieve for your old relationship. Take out the photos, the emails, the mix cds, a copy of Jeff Buckley’s Grace, maybe a re-viewing of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Up. Remember everything. Wallow in it. Write her a long letter and completely spill your guts. You will not be sending this letter, so maybe do not compose it in any kind of email program, but get it all out there and fully feel the feelings. Give yourself permission to be as sad as you feel. At the end of the weekend, put the letter and all the stuff that reminds you of her physically in a box and lock that thing away somewhere, then call a friend and get yourself out of the house for a couple of hours.

Second, as a more ongoing thing, try acknowledging the patterns of your thoughts about her and then re-setting or re-routing them. Use a script like this: “I am thinking about my ex-girlfriend right now. Yes, I miss her, and I am sad that things ended, but my brain has a bad habit of taking me back to those events. I am going to think about something else now.”  Change the subject on your brain like you would with an annoying coworker or nosy relative.

Don’t beat yourself up for having the thoughts or feelings. It won’t help you and will only delight and feed the Jerkbrain. Just, when you start thinking about her, stop yourself and step back and acknowledge everything that is going on. Acknowledge that what you are doing is grieving, and see if you can actually get your brain to change the subject, just a little bit. Sometimes it helps to keep a log or journal of when this stuff happens, you might find certain patterns or times of day that trigger your thoughts about her. If you do, add it to the list of stuff you describe in your head. I know for myself after a breakup (or any kind of loss) that early mornings are the hardest, because being asleep meant I could forget and waking up meant that the knowledge would come flooding back in. What helped me was making a very simple list of things to do right when I got up, stupid obvious stuff like filling the kettle and taking a shower, and kind of narrating that list in my head as I did it. I knew that mornings were hard for me, so I tried to make them as easy as possible, and I knew that once I was out the door and at work I’d be fine.

I hope you feel better soon. You are TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING and worthy of every good thing, including love. Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott and I are here for you. (Jedi Hugs).

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

50 thoughts on “Question #178: “I want someone to kiss and be kissed by.”

  1. Ah, LW, I have no advice (El Capitan is as always the epitome of THE AWESOME), but your letter reached out and tugged at my heartstrings, so I had to write to tell you there is love, and I am sending it your way. Jedi hugs!

  2. I really like the advice given here, as always. I think that the most important thing to do at the moment is to get out there and do things, not just to find dates, but to become M. the terrifyingly amazing dude again. I don’t know if you have let your self do this, but it really is one of the more important post-break-up steps

  3. Love, love, love the addition of poetry to your posts — they enhance the experience tremendously! Spot on advice to LW — acknowledging what you want to have and what you want to give … ah, perfection.

    1. I concur wholeheartedly! Boy oh boy, do I love this poem. (And I think I read it first here, maybe back in the Spring? All I remember is I read it, loved it, copied it out into my journal so I could pour over every line, and then I went and bought a copy of Walcott’s collected works which purchase I did not regret one bit.)

  4. 3 years? And he still feels this way? I think some therapy is in order before any serious attempts at dating are made. It’s just not healthy to let one person have this much sway and take up this much psychic space.

    1. I agree that some therapy might help, but concurrently with other efforts.Therapy isn’t a prereq to living parts of your life.

        1. Specifically, we all have things that we “should” be over that we’re plain old not over, and therapy gives us a safe place to be as not over those things as we need to be (until we talk them to death and our brain gets bored and decides to move on).

  5. I must echo the Captain’s advice. I’d also advise you to cook for your friends (and accept any cooking from them), swap books with your friends, laugh with your friends, etc. And I will second her advise to go out and do things and meet a lot of new people.

    Try–you like reading or cooking? They have meetups for those, and for I swear, EVERY SINGLE INTEREST out there.

    Also: are there things you enjoyed doing/wearing/watching/eating/whatever that you ex couldn’t stand? WELL INDULGE IN THEM. Not as a way to say IN YOUR FACE EX but as a way to say “Hey! I don’t have to worry about someone giving this the stink eye. Yay!”

    Also, keep very, very busy on the weekends. It doesn’t have to be huge plans or anything–but maybe have, say, a few friends over for Zombie Apocalypse Movie night on Saturday (and meet up with someone Saturday afternoon) and have friends or family over for dinner/lunch/coffee on Sunday. Have something going on every day and every weekend night for a while, so you don’t have time to feel lonely or miss your ex quite so much, AND you’ll hopefully be thrown in the path of interesting people who you want to get to know better/who want to get to know you better.

  6. Hey there, M. I completely identify with these feelings. I carried them around with me for a long time, only minus the “dumped by my love” part because (Jerkbrain Monologue Alert) no one had ever found me worthy of loving. Oh, sure, my friends were wonderful! Great people! And I had fun and life and interesting experiences! But I wasn’t anyone’s #1, never had been, and some days (not every day or even most days – some days) that just rankled. I just KNEW that I would be a great partner to someone, but someone took their own sweet time to show the eff up.

    M., you’ve had the experience of having a Person, and being a Person to someone else. Even though it’s over now, honor that experience, and know that you have been loved. When your next Person shows up in your life, you’ll have been prepared by that experience. A good derail for the Jerkbrain is “Yeah, that’s over now, and it prepared me to meet someone even more excellent.”

    My Person did finally show up, and one time, I was leaning against his bed and accidentally put my hand on a box. “What’s this?” I asked. He tried to shove the box further under the bed, and now I REALLY needed to know what was in it.

    Finally he said, “It’s old love letters I haven’t thrown away yet. I’ll toss them out.”
    I said, “Don’t do that!”
    He looked at me quizzically.
    I said, “Whoever sent you those letters loved you when they wrote them. And whoever they are, they turned you into the person I met and fell in love with. They’re yours. I’ll never read them.”

    I don’t even know where that box is, now, but I hope he hasn’t thrown the letters away.

    Go out, M. Do things. Meet people. Be open to love. You’re always becoming someone new.

    1. I’m glad you said that about those letters. I keep my wedding ring from the failed first marriage that barely lasted a year. Some people might think that’s weird, some dudes might be uncomfortable with that. But that marriage was me. I lived it. It shaped a lot of how I view marriage and relationships in general now. It’s a reminder to me of what I used to be like. I might someday get rid of it, but for now, it’s still a marker of my life.

    2. Commander Logic, you’re a woman after my own heart. My current Person did a huge purge of his ex-wife, way beyond even the bounds of their hostile breakup, to me. I’m grateful he doesn’t have pictures of her around his apartment (I can’t claim the same) but I am glad he kept his wedding ring and a few select important photos of that time, for the historian in me.

      The box you pack up and stick away when the pain is still new and stabby? Revisit it in a year, or two. Or ten. Purge out things that you can’t remember why you kept them (a twig? what was this from?) like Harriet Smith does with Mr. Elton’s mementos, and keep the real treasures (photos of the night you said the L word, plane ticket for that vacation). Your box will get smaller and smaller but mementos you have left will be the ones with real meaning, and not detritus imbued with magical connection powers.

      When you’re as old as I am, you can sweep all the surviving exes’ flotsam into one tidy little plastic shoebox and call it “my journey,” and maybe even show it to your Person.

      The being busy advice is the bomb diggety for any cause of loneliness!

    3. yes. keep the special things. TheEngineer hubby has the album of wedding photos from his first wedding…because it contains the last pictures of his parents together. i have photos of the recent ex because hey, 16 years marriage PLUS two kids and there are photos of all of us. TheEngineer wants me to hang the pictures, and i will once we move.

      plus, the recent ex and he are friendly, and he’s over here most weekends to do laundry and help me clean.

      the pieces of your past are important, as long as you accept them as pieces of your past that made you who you are now and not things you find chaining you to that past.

      1. Hear, hear. My parents divorced when I was 5, and basically all of their life *together* ended before I was storing any memories. The result is that, as an adult, the photos of them at their wedding are very sweet to me–a different life, maybe, but one I’m glad to be able to visit in an album. It became even more important to me that they hadn’t “erased” each other from their lives when my mom started to lose her memory, because I could ask my dad things about the family and their past without it being taboo. Just because a relationship ended doesn’t mean it was a failure, and I salute you and TheEngineer for acknowledging that.

      2. YES. As a child of divorced (and remarried) parents, and whose dad died recently, believe me when I say that your children will appreciate it more than you may ever know. Being able to see pics of my parents together, even though I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen them together that I recall, is priceless.

  7. The Captain has this absolutely right. M., you are still in the midst of grieving for your ex. For whatever reason you still need to give yourself room and time to grieve. I really enjoyed this post about the process of getting over a relationship:

    I agree with the idea of taking a weekend to really grieve, but keep in mind, these things tend to happen on their own damned schedule. So, stay open to the idea that you will still be sad for a while. And that right now, you are most likely just beginning the process of small-scale self-reinvention that happens after a breakup. You should be conscious of finding new ways to engage yourself with the world, and new ways to spend your time. If there’s a hobby you’ve always been tempted to take up or some subject you’ve always wanted to learn about, well, now is your moment!

    If the idea of being able to contact your ex is just way too overwhelming or tempting, I also actually recommend that you remove the ways you still have of contacting her. Delete her number, etc. This may seem like overkill, but it will wake you up to the fact that it’s over. You can write letters (or texts – I used to do this with the “drafts” section of my phone) but make sure not to send them.

    One more piece of post-breakup advice for you: Always remember, every relationship you have will fail – until one doesn’t. Don’t obsess overmuch about how you could’ve made things different, try not to think of your relationship with your ex as a “failed” relationship. If you had good times together, grew and learned in the course of the relationship, was it really a failure? I don’t think so 🙂 Keep in mind that the end of a relationship doesn’t mean you don’t know how to have a relationship. It means the opposite. You DO know how.

    And, remember, the best way to attract new people is to be the kind of open, fun, thoughtful person who knows how to have a good time on their own. Again, single time is the perfect time to work toward both serious goals and fun silly ones, because you can do whatever you like. You have the potential to make this a time of tremendous growth in your life. Go for it.

    1. Yes! When my parents got divorced, neither of them saw it as a failure or called it that. Instead, they were happy for the times they had together, and glad that it had lasted as long as it had. Just because a relationships ends doesn’t mean that it’s a failure.

      1. I totally, totally agree. I’ve given this same advice to so many friends, but it’s so hard to really believe because of all of our fucked-up cultural narratives about finding True Love and Living Happily Ever After. Ugh.

  8. I LOVE the idea of thinking of the ex in your head as a hologram, because that’s what they are! But not the cool, EMH-type one on Voyager. The Barclay kind.

    1. Off-topic: I adore your username!

      Every time I read it, it rescrambles to ‘Tiny Pant Thesis.’ Not complaining, mind you. Just sayin’. 😀

      1. 😀 That is an excellent way of reading it! It’s a Cole Porter portmanteau (Tin Pan Alley + antithesis), but someone should totally write a thesis about tiny pants! (Red, Hot Pants, and Blue?)

          1. Tin pants would be super-uncomfortable. Like the Everlast in Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Ow!

  9. Letter Writer, I don’t have any advice for you (the Captain’s is all very sound) but I wanted to give you a hug when I read you letter. ((jedi hugs))

  10. I don’t text, but I have a designated friend, post-breakup, who will receive my mid-day rant/sob/whine e-mails that I would have sent to the ex and don’t, because I have her.

    Good steps, there, LW. There are people to meet out there, and there are people to date out there. Find yourself, find your center, and then reach back out.

  11. Three dates with three women may be a good start, but the Captain’s right that they’re not representative of anything. How many women had you met before the one who broke your heart?

    Ever seen someone on a treadmill put a towel over the timer? Similarly, you need to resist the urge to keep score and focus on enjoying the process of meeting new people and finding fun activities.

      1. I meant exactly the opposite. Most of the girl-gamers I know are absolutely sick of guys who see a girl in a gaming group as somebody for them to hit on.

        1. I don’t believe the suggestion was to see a woman in a gaming group as just somebody to be hit on, but as a way to meet people.

          “I’d also suggest going out and meeting more people in general. Find something – Volunteer work? Sports? Improv classes? Language classes? Cooking? Music lessons? Board games or RPGs? – that a) involves other people, b) meets regularly so you will see some of the same people over time, and c) you’d like to try or do more of it anyway. It’s important that whatever you choose is something you’d like for its own sake, everyone can tell when you’re just there to meet chicks.”

          The advice clearly shows that the idea is to make more friends, and that, in making friends, the potential develops that you’ll either meet someone that you’d like to date or that one of your friends will introduce you to someone you’d like to date.

        2. Well, “join an RPG group to hit on girls” wasn’t what the captain was advising, so once the LW is joining to play games, have fun and increase his social circle, then that shouldn’t be an issue.

    1. I’ve known a fair number of women to play RPGs. If you’re college aged, it’s a perfectly good place to meet people. If you’re a bit older, though, it’s harder to relate with college students.

  12. Good advice by all.
    I’ll just add that as you start spending time with future potential girlfriends, it will make a better impression on them if you seem like you want THEM as opposed to wanting “someone to kiss and be kissed by”, even as romantic as that may sound. At least speaking for myself, I like being liked for me, and I dislike feeling like I’m being slotted into the role of girlfriend.

    1. Good point there, but “I want to be happy, and I want to share it” does kinda suggest he’s not just thinking about himself…

      1. Maybe I wasn’t clear, as the bit you quoted doesn’t really refute the point I’m making. I don’t intend to accuse the LW of selfishness — I’m saying that what I would want to hear as the potential new girlfriend is “I want to share happiness WITH YOU”, not “I’m looking for someone to share happiness with, and you are conveniently located.”
        And I’m not saying it’s wrong to want a relationship for a relationship’s sake, just stating my personal preferences in regard to this type of situation. I think I overstated my point earlier by saying “it WILL make a better impression on them if you…”, because everyone will have different preferences.

        1. I think we’re reading him slightly differently; I very much see where you’re coming from.

    2. Yeah, in general, the sentiment of it is fine, but it’s not at all romantic when dealing with specific people. When asked “Why do you kiss me?” the answer should be “Because I like kissing you.” and not “I want someone to kiss.”

      Context is everything.

  13. Last Saturday I finally gave away two soft toys that an ex gave me back when. I split up with her. it was amicable, we stayed in touch, let each other know about Important Life Events. (Okay, since the split-up happened on my side, maybe it was less amicable from hers, but we continued speaking to each other.) I sort of missed her sometimes and took care not to let her know that, since it was definitely Over from my side despite the sometimes-missing-her.

    But the two soft toys she gave me, back when things were lovely and new, stayed in the corner of the room mostly out of sight, and I saw them sometimes and remembered a lovely boat trip (when she gave me one) and a day out shopping (when she gave me the other). They were delicious jokes when she gave them to me. They held their own memories. But they’d faded.

    And on Saturday, when I and a couple of friends were cleaning another room in the house, and putting together a big box of stuff to go to a charity shop, I went upstairs to the other room and picked up the soft toys and put them in the box, and that was that. Someone will buy them who actually wants them for their own sake as cute toys, and they’re no longer catching dust in my own home. It feels … clean.

    If it’s the right moment to get rid of old mementos, you’ll know it. It happens.

  14. I wonder what advice people would give if the person was an introvert? I get that you should get out and meet more people but if you don’t want too…then what? What happens if you don’t want to rebound or jump into the pool again? Granted I realize this article is about someone who’s looking to kiss again…but I’m just curious…

    1. Online dating was made for introverts, yes?

      I’m right on the continuum between introvert and extrovert, where I love spending time with friends but must balance meeting people with sufficient alone time and have to force myself out the door sometimes.

      If you don’t want to meet people, don’t. If you want to meet new people to date, you gotta meet some people sometime.

    2. Looks to me like the LW wants to have people to be close to. No matter how introverted you are, the only way to get to that point is to meet some people…

      I tend to be shy when I’m meeting new people unless there’s some structure to it, something we have in common- so “Hello, I too am a new person at this university” is fine, but striking up a conversation in a bar is a lot harder. Going and doing a Thing, and thereby meeting other people who are also doing the Thing, seems to be a good way to get around that sort of thing- after all, you have the Thing to talk about.

    3. I guess I have a different definition of introvert than you do? I think of introverts as people who really do like other people and want to be their friends and/or date them, but for whom the typical ways of socializing/meeting people are just difficult and draining. Draining to the point where much of the time it’s easier and more pleasant to be alone.

      Under my definition of introversion, I think the captain’s advice still applies. The trick is just to figure out what kinds of interactions you can handle (and even enjoy) and which you can’t.

      Like, I really dread socializing at cocktail parties. I just feel all this pressure to come up with small talk to say to people, and I feel like I’m boring them and I’m wondering when I can slip away, and I end up hiding out in the bathroom.

      But, I can have a pretty good time at a board game night, because there are fewer people there, and because we have an activity to do together. Don’t know what to talk about? Talk about the game. Don’t feel like talking at all? That’s actually okay, because you’re still participating in the central activity, not just standing awkwardly on the sidelines.

      I do feel like the typical “join an activity, make friends with people from that activity, …, profit” timeline proceeds much more slowly, if at all, when you’re an introvert. For example, I’m a member of a sports team, which is awesome, because I can participate by just playing the sport and not having to be super social. But I don’t really hang out with people from my team outside of practice, precisely because I don’t talk too much to my teammates. Still, with time, it’s gotten easier and less awkward for me to talk with them, so who knows, maybe in the future they will become my friends. But even if that never happens, I’m still filling my time with an activity that I enjoy.

  15. Oh LW.

    It’s been five years, for me. There are days when I feel like I’ve finally reached a state of okay-ness with his absence, and there are days when I feel like I’ve been punched in the damn gut, and there are whole stretches of days in between when I don’t think about him at all. And this is with a partner and two children, all of whom I love deeply, to keep me company in the meanwhile.

    Point being, it’s okay to grieve the end of a relationship. It’s okay to grieve the end of love.

    The Captain has some excellent advice, as always. Be compassionate with yourself, give yourself room to feel your feelings, and then head out there and do the things you love to do.

Comments are closed.