Life is a bit awkward for me at the moment – so I thought you’d be my best bet.
I had a seemingly-lovely partner, who broke up with me a fortnight ago after 3 years together. I’ve had to move out of our home and the give up all of our shared exciting plans for the future. He says it’s because he wasn’t sure if I was ‘the one’; I say it’s because in the end he was Peter Pan and wasn’t quite ready to grow up. This makes me sad, obviously, but worse than that suddenly everything is so confusing and unstable.
In the first place everyone I know (even still) calls him ‘Mr. Perfect’ (not to his face obviously) and talks about how we are (were) the perfect couple. In moments when I believe it, I’ve tried trotting out the line ‘yes, but the right guy isn’t the one who breaks up with you’ only to receive sad knowing head-shakes. It’s like suddenly everyone’s acting as if our break-up fractured the Elizabeth&Darcy dream (ironic as my mother named me Elinor in a fit of literary fancy).
It makes him feel like a bigger loss to me, but also kind of like everyone thinks I’ll never meet anyone like him again. Ouch. It’s kind of freaking me out.
Finally, as you ‘divorce’ men, and not their family, his family have had free reign to call me. Previously they called me about Christmas presents and Thanksgiving Plans, in this case they called to tell me what a huge mistake they their son is making. His parents had a big FeelingsCall with me yesterday, in which they poured out that they had thought I was ‘the one’ and they were so surprised, and did I see it coming? His mother guessed he wasn’t ready, but he was immature and so on. His sister FeelingsMailed me about how she doesn’t want to lose me, she doesn’t have any other sister, and please please can I keep her in my life. I am genuinely glad to know I still have a relationship with them all but am still totally lost. The sentiment is nice, but they told all this stuff to me and not to him – he told me he that his mother just said ‘you have to do what makes you happy’ to him while she had a 50 minute dissection to me. So awkward. What do they want me to do about it? I can’t be ‘Miss Fix It’ with this problem (I tried…), and somehow the fact that his family and my friends and everyone I know seems to be reiterating that it’s wrong and a mistake doesn’t help me. I really don’t think he is coming back.
I put a lot of myself into this relationship, and always supported him but in the end he just wasn’t ready. I don’t think that was my fault, but I’m frightened it has trapped me somehow anyway. I get there are a lot of people out there in theory (Boston is a big place, I know…) but he does feel like one of a kind to me. And while I’m a good girlfriend, I’m not good at dating – I’m caring and stable rather than fun and flirty. What if he just wrecked my only amazing relationship? We were happy, and what if I never meet anyone like him? I’m 29 and suddenly feel very old, when I never have before. I’m shy, it’s hard for me to meet people, what if that’s it and it’s too late now?
Is there anything you can say to reassure me? Somehow, my friends with their sad eyes don’t seem to be helping.
First, I’m really, really sorry. Breaking up with someone you loved sucks. Losing your home and having to start over completely from scratch sucks. And having to comfort his family for a shitty situation that is actually YOUR shitty situation? That REALLY sucks. And having your friends try to sell you on the idea that this was your one shot at love when you could really use an “I’m sorry, that sucks”? I BASICALLY HATE THEM RIGHT NOW, so it’s a good thing I am not in Boston. If they are still doing this the next time I am in Boston tell me and we will have beer, chowder, and me giving them a good talking to about how that’s not how you treat someone who is sad.
Here are two posts about keeping your cool after a breakup that might help:
And let me throw in:
You Don’t Have To Be Friends With Your Ex (OR THEIR NEEDY FAMILY)
But now I’ll write some stuff just for you.
A good amount of time is going to go by before you really feel better. Time is really what heals you.
I have been in love -really in love – more than once. And every single time, the ending was painful, and every single time, my brain and my heart looked for a way that it could maybe still work out for a long time afterward. “But it was so perfect? Except for that one glaring thing that was not perfect? But it could have been so perfect?” And every single time I’ve come to a place where I heal and let go – my heart feels complicated and a little sore, maybe, but it’s like I’m watching everything associated with this person from a great, great distance.
I can’t help you go through the process any quicker, but I can promise that time will do its work and heal your heart. And you’re going to find out as you grieve that he was not so perfect, and he was not so perfect for you.
For example, he sounds like someone who left you to carry the emotional water of his relationships with his family. They carefully manage him with “do what you want to do, son” and then vomit everything onto you. “Holiday planning/difficult emotional discussions = women’s work.”
That doesn’t mean you were wrong to love him? Everyone is imperfect – even amazing people who we really love. No one meets all of our needs all the time, or even could, or should even try. I’m just saying, as you get some time and distance from your Partner, I predict that you’re going to find some needs you have that he didn’t meet. You’re going to find some moments where you”could have been happier” (a phrase I always steal from the brilliant Raymond J.), and it didn’t have to be awful for it to end – just, you could have been happier.
I’m still aghast that his family would expect you to comfort them because their son dumped you. I mean, it would have maybe been nice to get a note (not a phone call, a note) that said “I’m really sorry this is happening, we really adore you and wish you the best. Please don’t stand on ceremony – if there’s anything we can do for you, don’t hesitate to reach out.” And if he finds out about their lengthy phone calls, it’s his job to say “Guys, leave her alone. She’s SAD. LEAVE HER ALONE,” and not enable that shit.
So here’s a script for family that you can adapt as needed:
“Over the course of our relationship, I’ve grown to love you very much. I do hope that we’ll stay in touch in the future, and I’m really grateful for the good wishes, but right now I need to make a clean break from (Partner) and that means I won’t be in touch for a while. Thank you for understanding.”
If they still call/write to you, send back a very neutral “Thanks for the good wishes.” If necessary, set their calls to go directly to voicemail and set up an email filter.
As for your friends? Be blunter. MUCH blunter.
Why do friends do this crap? What is their stake in you having some perfect fairytale relationship that is obviously not that perfect? What is so hard about saying “That sucks, I’m really sorry, are you okay, what do you need?” It’s their duty to be nice to you and to help you come up with a really unflattering nickname for him.
So you’re going to have to give them some home-training.
“Hey, that’s unhelpful and makes me feel even crappier than I do. Can you say only nice things to me?”
“Why are you trying to sell me on a guy who dumped me? If the relationship were perfect I’d still be in it. Stop telling me how great he was.”
If you want to be more diplomatic, ask up-front for what you need and give them a template to follow. “I need you to distract me.” “I need us to not talk about him at all.” “I need to talk about him.” “I need to listen to nothing but Adele songs right now.” “Please turn off the Adele songs. Please. No more, I beg you.”
I hope that works, it would suck to have to get new friends right now.
I want to see if we can do something about the narrative that he was Peter Pan/everything was perfect but he’s just “not ready.” I think that’s going to have your jerkbrain asking questions like “But maybe at some point he will be ready? And because it was perfect, he will come back? After all, his family loves me, it can be so perfect and just like it was!” I know you get this, and you’re doing a good job with the mantra of “If he were The One, it would have worked out, and it didn’t, so he’s not.” Keep doing that thing. But when the doubts creep in?
Remind yourself that he wasn’t ready for marriage/a continued committed relationship with you because he didn’t love you enough. He gets to decide that, and once he decided that he did the right thing by ending the relationship. He would have done you both a grave disservice by continuing to perform “the relationship” if his heart was not in it.
I KNOW. It sucks. I KNOW.
But do yourself a favor and take the the question of “When will he be ready?” or “Was he The One…but just not ready…but someday?” off the table. Go with “He wasn’t feeling it, and there’s NOTHING I could have done to change his mind.” Go with “I came really close to getting what I wanted out of love, and that’s heartbreaking, but in the end it wasn’t right.”
Finally, 29 is not “too old.” I can understand you feeling run down, exhausted, and like the best parts of you have been scooped out leaving only a shell. I made some forays into dating a few short months after my last breakup, and we’ll go with the words “hilariously unready to face the dating pool” to describe how that all went. “Hello, handsome gentleman! I have nothing whatsoever to offer you right now. What kind of taco are you getting? No, please don’t touch me. If you touch me, I will break into a million pieces and maybe cry on you. By all means, tell me about the demise of your first marriage.”
I’m not sorry I did it, it gave me some good information, like a) Jennifer, you are hilariously unready to face the dating pool right now! and b) Chicago (like Boston) is a big city and is full of nice nerdy handsome dudes who might be into your thing. So Elinor, when you are ready to meet dudes again? Even if you are shy and want to go really slow and feel some trepidation about it? There dudes will be. And some of them will be not Perfect, like this ideal you feel like you have to achieve and maintain even when it’s over (with the help of the Greek Chorus of your friends and his family), but great. Great for you.