January 4, 2023 at 9:07 am #413166
33M, break-up was a little over 5 months ago, initiated by her due to my dismissive avoidance nature / ego / communication problems / lack of vulnerability / etc.
We were together for 3.5 years, first 2.5 years were long distance with frequent trips around the world, and the last 12 months were living together in the same country.
Timeline of events:
– She initiates the breakup on 1st August – I said it’s mutual and say goodbye without talking it out or challenging her, to protect my own ego
– 2 weeks later I meet her in person to apologise for how cold I acted during the breakup, we talk for hours, she doesn’t want to change her mind and wants to be friends
– Another 2 weeks pass and we meet again, we talk for hours again, she is still firm in her decision and wants to be friends
– Another 2 weeks pass and we hang out as friends and watch a movie, don’t discuss the breakup, shoot the shit and head our separate ways – feels extremely weird afterwards
– We then decide to go no contact indefinitely to give each other space and I start doing therapy, reading books on relationships and attachment styles, etc. and getting a much much deeper understanding of where I went wrong
– After 45 days of NC (mid-November sometime) I send her an email saying I’ve learnt a lot, have fully accepted the breakup and that it was the best thing for both of us, want to share my learnings, and pay her a more sincere apology.
– We meet in person end-November, have dinner, catchup, laugh, etc. and then we got to a quiet place and I apologise remorsefully (and break down in tears halfway through unintentionally) for everything that I did wrong. I end the meeting by saying “I’m not saying we get back together but would you at least be open-minded to getting to know a different side of me?”.
– She says she’s blown away by the apology and by the display of vulnerability, needs time to process, and will come back to me.
– She emails me a week later with the following:Thank you so much for opening up to me last weekend. The things you apologized for and the way you apologized brought me a great deal of solace. I know it was extremely difficult to get where you are today emotionally, to write me that email, and to express yourself in person in such a vulnerable way. You have always impressed me and last Saturday, while revealing a side of you I had never seen before, was no exception.The last thing I want is for this email to hurt you, but I think being completely honest with you will help us both avoid more hurt in the long-term. So in that spirit, I want to be transparent about where I stand.My takeaway from our conversation is that you would like me to be open to getting to know you again in your new state of mind. I am open to this.With that said, and again I truly apologize if this stings, I’m not in love with you anymore. The pain I felt during our relationship was too much and I lost the deep love I once felt for you. So it’s not about not being able to forgive you, or not believing in your sincerity. I just don’t feel the same way anymore and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get those feelings back.Let’s say we decide to spend time together occasionally over the next few months and see where things go. I fear that we will have a great time and rebuild our friendship, but I still will not be able to fall in love with you again. And if that happens, I fear that will hurt you even more than you are hurting now, and will drag out that anguish longer.At the risk of rambling a bit, I see being “in love” with someone and loving someone as very different things. From the moment you clairvoyantly announced the career fair on the Picnic elevator, to today, I have loved you and always will. I do struggle to see a future for us, but I just don’t want you to think I can’t see the incredible person that you are.No rush to respond, and of course let me know if you want to discuss more in person.
– I then respond a week later saying I feel unsure / vulnerable about the whole situation and need a bit of time to process and work on myself a bit more and I’ll come back to her as soon as I am able to do so. She responds back saying take your time and that she “also feels vulnerable” and “the whole situation is scary for me as well”. This was early December.
– It has since been another month of no contact, and a total of 5+ months since the breakup.
My mental health has suffered a lot and I am wondering what I should do from hereon. I still want her back but I’m starting to realise it may not be possible anymore.
Do I try and re-attract her / reignite the “love” at the risk of continuing to damage my mental health?
Do I stay in NC indefinitely and wait for her to reach out?
Do I focus on healing myself and working on myself and reach out whenever I am ready?
Do I send a goodbye message and cut the chord forever and move on?
Does anyone have any advice?
I am unsure if her email is a soft way of saying “it’s not going to happen” and I should move on, or if she is genuinely open to getting to know me but the chances of falling in love are extremely small (but not zero)?January 4, 2023 at 10:31 am #413195AnonymousGuest
As I read your part in your original post, I was very impressed with your organized thinking, with how factually and clearly you presented yourself. I then read her part in your original post (her words), and I was even more impressed with her intelligence, emotional depth, care and tact.
At the end of Nov 2022, you apologized to her remorsefully, and you genuinely broke down in front of her crying, which is what she wanted to see for a long time, one would think: your vulnerability. But she did not fall in love with a vulnerable man, did she? She fell in love with a man who lacked vulnerability.
She broke up with you “due to (your) dismissive avoidance nature / ego / communication problems / lack of vulnerability“, but she also fell in love (and remained in love for a long time) with a man who was dismissive, avoidant and lacked vulnerability.
Following your genuine display of vulnerability, she felt “a great deal of solace“, but not the in-love type of love: “I’m not in love with you anymore.. I lost the deep love I once felt for you… I do struggle to see a future for us“.
You wrote: “My mental health has suffered a lot and I am wondering what I should do from hereon. I still want her back but I’m starting to realise it may not be possible anymore. Do I try and re-attract her / reignite the ‘love’ at the risk of continuing to damage my mental health?“- my answer is no. Her in-love feelings will withdraw even farther if she becomes aware that you are trying to re-attract/ re-ignite her love.
“Do I stay in NC indefinitely and wait for her to reach out?… Do I send a goodbye message and cut the cord forever and move on?“- yes but after you see her one or two times, times in which you present yourself not the dismissive- avoidant man that you were before, and not as the vulnerable, perhaps desperate man you became, but instead: present yourself as a genuinely strong man, one who is kind and caring but also as emotionally independent of her as can be.
As intelligent as she is, she is not likely to be in control of her in-love feelings. There is a saying, the heart wants what the heart wants: she may not be able to feel attracted to/ in-love with a vulnerable-appearing man, even if she thinks that a vulnerable-appearing man is what she wants.
I am not suggesting that you dishonestly manipulate her by appearing this way or that way. What I am suggesting is that you bring to the surface the genuine strength within you, and present it to her. If she gets her in-love feelings back, it will not follow more displays of vulnerability of the desperate kind, and not following the kind of I-don’t-care/ dismissive-strength (which is not really strength). It will happen- if it will- following witnessing your genuine, decent and caring strength.
“Do I focus on healing myself and working on myself and reach out whenever I am ready?“- I would say yes to the first part, no to the second. If you work on yourself with the thought and intent in mind that you want her back, your work will not succeed.
“I am unsure if her email is a soft way of saying ‘it’s not going to happen’ and I should move on, or if she is genuinely open to getting to know me but the chances of falling in love are extremely small (but not zero)?“- show her that strength, and even if she is currently sure that she doesn’t feel those in-love feelings for you anymore, she may get those feelings back quicker than you can imagine. But real strength, on your part, means that you do not place your mental and physical health in her hands, subject to her feelings and her choices!
anitaJanuary 4, 2023 at 11:36 am #413198HelcatParticipant
I’m sorry to hear about your break up. It’s a good thing that it is starting to sink in that you may not get back together. It sounds like her messages since the break up have consistently read that she doesn’t want to get back together. It does sound like she is open to friendship. Is this something that you are comfortable with?January 4, 2023 at 1:25 pm #413205
This is my first time on this forum and I’m blown away by the thoughtfulness and detail of your response.
What you have said regarding showing her the balanced version of me (I.e. strong but caring, kind but emotionally independent, etc.) makes so much sense and its given me a clear path forward, removing a lot of my mental anguish.
So thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I do have a question that perhaps might be too much in the nuts and bolts but…. how do I go about meeting her again once or twice?
Do I re-initiate contact and say I’ve had time to process and let’s be friends? Or do I simply wait for her to break NC (which she may never do given my last message basically said “I’ll come back to you as soon as I can” thereby unintentionally putting the ball back in my court)? Or do I wait to bump into her naturally? (Which could happen as we live in a similar neighbourhood)?
To further complicate things she is planning to attend a mutual friends wedding this July. The groom is one of my best mates and I introduced my ex to the bride a couple of years ago and they ended up becoming really close friends.
I was planning to not attend this wedding or ask her not to go or ask the bride / groom to uninvite her but I realised it’s not right for me to do either of those things and I can simply not go if I feel uncomfortable.
I guess my question is – how do I go about arranging to meet her again without making her think I’m trying to re-attract her and also without her thinking that I’m happy to simply be friends?
Feels like I’ve painted myself into a corner here but maybe I’m just not thinking clearly enough or over-thinking.
My worry is if I go down the “let’s be friends” route, and 2-3 months later everything fizzles out and I end up hurting again, then she’ll still go to the wedding because she thinks I’m okay being friends but I’ll be torturing myself mentally seeing her there.
Thoughts?January 4, 2023 at 1:35 pm #413209
Hi Helcat, thank you for the kind response. It’s not something I’m comfortable with at this point in time, as I have a lot of genuine love for this person and being friends will only prolong my pain / healing.
I feel like after my last msg saying “I’ll come back to you” a month ago I’ve trapped myself into a corner and I can’t think of a way forward that puts me back in a position of strength and outcome independence and throws the ball back in her court.
Any ideas how I move forward?January 4, 2023 at 8:22 pm #413212AnonymousGuest
Dear Hamza: I will be able to reply to you Wed morning (in about 10 hours from now)
anitaJanuary 4, 2023 at 8:37 pm #413213
Thanks Anita, you’re a life-saver, speak soon.January 5, 2023 at 6:19 am #413232HelcatParticipant
I think it’s difficult because you said you’re not able to be friends with her because it would be too painful. To allow things to naturally develop, you would have to spend time with her again and be okay with the idea that a relationship with her may never happen. This is someone you love and you say being in communication with her is harming your mental health.
It sounds like you know what you need to do. The question is, are you ready to do that yet? Or do you need more time to process everything?January 5, 2023 at 7:39 am #413234AnonymousGuest
You are very welcome and thank you for your very kind words, a pleasure for me to read! I read your recent posts and then re-read most of your original post, taking my time.
“Do I simply wait for her to break NC (which she may never do given my last message basically said ‘I’ll come back to you as soon as I can’ thereby unintentionally putting the ball back in my court)?“- no, don’t wait for her to contact you because you told her that you will come back to her, and a strong man keeps his word!
“Do I wait to bump into her naturally? (Which could happen as we live in a similar neighbourhood)?“- no, a strong man does not avoid taking action and waits for a chance-meeting, a strong man (true to a strong woman as well) makes things happen in a direct way.
“Do I re-initiate contact and say I’ve had time to process and let’s be friends?“- yes to the first part, no to the second. In regard to the second part; no to friendship because you don’t want to be friends with her, you want to be lovers, so suggesting/ agreeing to be friends would be dishonest on your part. Keeping in line with the strong-man themes: a strong man is honest about his feelings and motivations.
Let’s look back at part of your timeline: in mid-Nov 2022, you sent her an email saying that you learned a lot and that you “fully accepted the breakup and that it was best thing” for you and for her. At the end of Nov, in a meeting with her, you got emotional and told her: “I’m not saying we get back together but would you at least be open-minded to getting to know a different side of me? “, which showed that unlike what you said earlier, you did not fully accept the breakup and that in your mind, it was not the best thing.
In her email, she told you (paraphrased): I am not in-love with you anymore, so I am okay with getting to know a different side of you as a friend, but I am afraid that being friends will not be enough for you and you will get hurt all over again. After her response, you emailed her in early Dec: “I feel unsure / vulnerable about the whole situation and need a bit of time to process and work on myself a bit more and I’ll come back to her as soon as I am able to do so“.
Your early Dec email above was very honest: good job on your part! And seems that she appreciated this email as well and positively re she responded, saying that she feels vulnerable and scared too, just like you feel (“‘also feels vulnerable‘ and ‘the whole situation is scary for me as well‘”).
Back to your last words to her: “I feel unsure / vulnerable about the whole situation and need a bit of time to process“– I am asking you: are you currently sure that you do not want (and will not be okay with) a friendship with her, and that what you want and desire is a romantic relationship with her?
anitaJanuary 5, 2023 at 3:18 pm #413257
Thank you again for your response, means a lot to me that you’re taking the time to help me and let me know if I can repay the favour in any way.
Ok, being a man of strength and a man of my word is very important to me so I can see why I should be the one to contact her.
That said, I am indeed sure that I will not be okay with a friendship with her, as it stands currently. And I do still desire a romantic relationship with her.
I feel for this state of mind to change may take many more months if not years, and maybe I’m being naive or overly-attached given it’s my first real love, but maybe some part of me may forever desire to be in a romantic relationship with her.
Or maybe I’m not trying hard enough emotionally to let go and move on and accept friendship as the best way forward and develop the mental strength needed to pursue that.
I guess the problem I’m facing is, a strong man should be honest about his feelings / motivations (I’m unlikely to be okay being friends and desire her romantically), a strong man should also keep his word (I should re-initiate contact like I said I would), but if she feels that I’m still not over it and am trying to re-attract her that this will only push her in-love feelings further away.
Which is a conundrum.
We both live in Hong Kong and she’s relocating back to the US (where she’s from) in August. I was initially moving to the US with her.
In accepting a friendship it feels like there is very little for me to gain, and everything for me to lose (even if I “get over it” however long that takes, there’ll always be a risk that I’ll end up getting hurt again, esp if / when I hear about her being in another relationship). Not to mention further loss of dignity and self-respect by continuing to want her in my life when she has made the decision to not be a part of my life.
And she has everything to gain (comfort of knowing I am there as a “friend”) and nothing to lose.
I’m truly at a loss as to what to do.
If I don’t ever reach back out, I’m not a man of strength / my word.
If I reach out suggesting anything other than the fact I’m completely over it and happy to be friends, then it’ll just push her away.
And if I reach out suggesting to be friends, then I’m putting myself at risk of more pain and being disingenuous.
And if I wait to fully get over it and not desire her romantically, then this could take several months / years, after which reaching out wouldn’t matter anyway as we both would’ve moved on.
Do I need to simply continue to wait and process until I can fully let go and be ok with friendship (if I fully let go, which I’m not far from doing, then I dont necessarily want or need a friendship), and not re-initiate contact until then, irrespective of how long this process takes?
I’m completely at a loss as to what to do.
Sometimes I feel fully letting go and moving on is the most important thing, in which case I can message her in a few months or years however long it takes, or never. My true healing being the bigger priority here than keeping my word.
Other times I feel like I need to show her the new stronger version of me (as you suggest), as there’s always a chance those feelings can redevelop.
So I guess therein lies the contradiction.
In order to show her this side, I need to be okay with a relationship never happening. But if I’m truly okay with a relationship never happening and don’t “need” her friendship either, then I shouldn’t put myself in a position where I might get hurt again.
I guess I’m just repeating myself at this point.
Let’s say that the most important thing for me, above whether she falls for me again or not, is to be a man of integrity and strength, is to keep my word of reaching back out to her, and is to “reset” her last memory of me as someone strong rather than as someone weak.
And let’s say I reach a place of inner emotional strength that I’m okay with the idea of a relationship never happening and won’t feel hurt by this, but I’m also okay not needing a friendship per se.
What would be the best way forward and/or what should I say to her when I eventually re-initiate contact?
I feel like I’ve already lost all respect in her eyes by first pretending I was mutually ok with the breakup, then trying to get her back, then trying to be friends, then going NC, then saying I’ve accepted the breakup, then crying in front of her indicating that I’m not ok being friends, then saying I’m unsure how I feel, and now once again putting myself in a vulnerable spot by reaching out (and risking more confusion / pain) or never reaching out (and being seen as weak / not a many of my word).
I feel I’ve made every mistake in the book and have gone from someone she respected and loved to someone she doesn’t respect and love, or worse yet, looks down upon.
This process has caused me tremendous pain in the last 4/5 months, serious mental health issues, breaking down in tears every day, suicidal thoughts, anti-depressants, insomnia, anxiety, drop in job performance, etc.
Last month or so I’ve felt significantly better with the help of a therapist / gym / anti-depressants / mindfulness meditation / and regaining some sense of control after being honest in my very last message to her (I’m unsure and vulnerable and I’ll get back to you when I can).
I feel I’m healing fast and starting to feel quite positive about my future with or without her in my life.
The most important thing for me, above all, above getting her to fall for me again – is to pursue a path forward that restores my dignity and self-respect.
How do I do this?
Walk away forever now, or re-initiate contact as friends, get her to see the strong me one or two times, and then walk away forever.
Extremely sorry for rambling. Incredibly grateful for any advice you can provide and look forward to hearing from you.January 5, 2023 at 3:32 pm #413258
That’s a good summary of the situation.
Though I can honestly say I don’t know what I need to do. When you say “are you ready to do that yet or do you need more time to process”, do you mean heal fully and accept relationship won’t happen and meet her as friends to see how things evolve, or do you mean walk away forever and wish her well?
Those are the two options I feel (or is there a better third option that I’m missing) and I’m at a complete loss as to what to do.January 5, 2023 at 8:29 pm #413274AnonymousGuest
Dear Hamza: I will read and reply in about 11 hours from now.
anitaJanuary 5, 2023 at 11:38 pm #413277
I feel a little embarrassed by the incoherence and rambling of my previous message.
– I am sure that as of right now, I’m not interested in a genuine friendship with her. I’m in a much better place mentally but the risk of regressing and getting hurt again if I opt to go down the friendship route is still high.
– Yes I want another chance at a romantic relationship but I am prepared that this may never happen.
– You have suggested to reach out (as I have told her I will at some point), but don’t pretend to be friends as that is dishonest, but also to not give her the idea that I’m trying to re-attract her which will push her away.
– What kind of message do I reach out with that strikes the right balance and allows me the opportunity to meet her a couple more times and show her my genuine strength?
– I guess what I’m asking for is the impossible – a path that allows me to show her the more balanced / caring / emotionally strong version of me one or two times, a path that isn’t disingenuous, and a path that allows me to walk away with grace and dignity and as little pain/regret as possible.
– I am highly stressed / anxious about my best friend’s wedding in July – my concern is I meet with her a few more times before then, and it doesn’t lead to anywhere and/or I eventually find out that she’s dating someone else, and then I can’t go to the wedding as I won’t be able to bear the pain of seeing her.
– Are the stakes too high and probability of things working out in my favour so low that I simply send an amicable goodbye message now or in the next few weeks/months (thereby keeping my word that I’ll get back to her), and walk away forever and opt myself out of the wedding?
Thank you again for your help and kindness.
are you currently sure that you do not want (and will not be okay with) a friendship with her, and that what you want and desire is a romantic relationship with her?January 6, 2023 at 9:09 am #413288AnonymousGuest
You are welcome, and (in regard to your apology in your most recent post): it’s okay to be incoherent at times.. you don’t have to be perfect here!
“Ok, being a man of strength and a man of my word is very important to me so I can see why I should be the one to contact her. That said, I am indeed sure that I will not be okay with a friendship with her, as it stands currently. And I do still desire a romantic relationship with her“- this is in your first of three recent posts, and it is as clear and coherent as can be.
“Maybe I’m not trying hard enough emotionally to let go and move on and accept friendship..“- when it comes to emotions, the harder you try to change them, the harder they persist and stay the same.
“If I reach out suggesting anything other than the fact I’m completely over it and happy to be friends, then it’ll just push her away“- I disagree: if you reach out to her and honestly tell her that you are not over her, and therefore, you are not able to have a friendship with her, I don’t at all think that this honesty on your part will push her away.
“And if I reach out suggesting to be friends… And if I wait… I’m completely at a loss as to what to do.. I guess I’m just repeating myself at this point“- you are using your rational mind too much in matters that require the heart aka the emotional mind. You can’t solve complex emotional problems with the rational alone. When you try, you end up endlessly repeating yourself and getting nowhere.
“I am sure that as of right now, I’m not interested in a genuine friendship with her. I’m in a much better place mentally but the risk of regressing and getting hurt again if I opt to go down the friendship route is still high“- I agree that friendship with her is a bad idea.
“Yes I want another chance at a romantic relationship but I am prepared that this may never happen“- the thing about romantic love is that it is never guaranteed. Trying to make certain that it lasts forever is like trying to hold water with your bare hands: it’s impossible to do.
“What kind of message do I reach out with… a path that allows me to show her the more balanced / caring / emotionally strong version of me one or two times, a path that isn’t disingenuous, and a path that allows me to walk away with grace and dignity and as little pain/regret as possible“-
– Here is what I suggest at this point of my understanding: answer her thoughtful, kind, thorough and honest message with an equally thoughtful, kind, thorough and honest message. Consider and edit (when you feel calm) what I suggest, so to make it your message, true and personal to you:
(1) In her email, she wrote to you: “The pain I felt during our relationship was too much“. Let her know that since the breakup, you focused on your own, post-breakup emotional pain, but you understand that she experienced a lot of emotional pain during the relationship, while you were unaware of it or indifferent to it. You understand that she broke up with you because she didn’t want to feel more of that pain, and you don’t want to cause her new pain by burdening her with your post-breakup pain: it won’t be fair to her. Your post-breakup pain is yours to carry, not hers.
(2) In her email, she wrote to you: “Let’s say we decide to spend time together occasionally over the next few months and see where things go. I fear that… I still will not be able to fall in love with you again. And… that will hurt you even more than you are hurting now, and will drag out that anguish longer“. Thank her very much for caring about your feelings, for not wanting you to hurt. Tell her that you feel that a friendship is a bad idea for the two of you because what you really want with her is not a friendship, but a love relationship, and therefore you cannot be content with a friendship alone; that a friendship is very likely to indeed cause you anguish. Tell her that you don’t want to drag out any anguish for yourself, nor do you want her to be touched by such unnecessary anguish.
(3) Thank her for her honesty, her thoughtfulness and love, tell her that you are forever grateful. Tell her that you want her back as a girlfriend (partner, you choose the word), but you respect her feelings and her wishes, and you want her to do what is right for her. Tell her that she does not owe you anything and that she owes herself a better life and a better relationship than the one she had with you.
– this is it. The message should not be long. I wouldn’t include in the message any talk about how much you hurt or have hurt, nothing further about what you learned from the relationship , no suggestion as to meeting her in-person, nothing about the upcoming July wedding… Nothing about the future and nothing at all that may burden her. Think of this message in terms of her benefit, not yours. After all, this is what love is about, isn’t it?
I see this a message as your best bet, your best chance for a lasting and improved mental health for yourself and for her- separately or together.
anitaJanuary 6, 2023 at 4:39 pm #413314
I like the sound of that approach.
Given she ended her last email with “happy to discuss in person” and we live 5 minutes away from each other, do you think I could relay that message to her in person rather than over email?
And then at least that way she gets to see me in person one last time talking to her calmly and kindly (resetting the image in her mind of me as emotionally fragile etc.)?
I’m also quite conscious of the fact that I still have a lot of work to do regarding my attachment style / communication and relationship skills, and in the slim chance she changes her mind, I’m still not 100% the guy she likely deserves.
With that in mind, what do you suggest:
1. Don’t burden her with another f2f meeting and simply email her back (sooner rather than later, given it’s already been over a month since last contact) with an equally honest and thoughtful message that includes the key points you’ve mentioned.
2. Continue to work on myself for another 1-2 months, and then let her know I’d like to meet her in person again for a quick coffee, and then show her a calmer / stronger me whilst relaying the honesty I.e. still desire to build a romantic relationship, express why friendship is a bad idea, gratefulness and thanks, respect she needs to do what’s right for her, etc.
3. Same as option 2 but meet her sooner (in a couple of weeks) so as to not drag this out and risk her moving on even more, and include in my message the fact that I still have more work to do on myself and I respect that she may or may not want to be a part of that growth journey.
Thank you again.