Relationship break?

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    Having some serious trouble in my relationship right now. We have been together for 2.5 years. We met in college, had one year together there, and then had about a year and a half living long distance, 3 hours apart.
    We are very compatible on many levels, have many similar interests and have been deeply commuted to each other. We planned for a future together, travelled together, and our families liked each other.
    One year ago he made out and talked a lot with a mutual friend when I was abroad. This was very devastating but we travelled through our summer anyway and resolved to work through it. It was difficult when we were long distance and we argued a lot, as it was hard to work through these issues apart. A few times in an argument he said he wanted to break up, and I convinced him we still had a bright future ahead of us. He was very commuted to us getting better and even went to counseling with me.
    This spring I finally graduated and we were living in th same city again. The summer has been hard though – he has started a new, full time job, and has been stressed and unhappy. We have argued a lot, not sure why. We still love each other and have had many good times despite this, but two weeks ago he said he wanted to break up. I was so hurt an confused and it came out that he had had some phone sexy talk with someone he’d met and he didn’t know how to deal with it. I forgave him and we resolved to move forward. I took a few days and really had an epiphany after seeing this site. I wanted to move forward in love, and not let these things bring us down from the love we had shared and let us finally have the chance to rebuild
    Yesterday he told me that he thought he wanted a break but thought it wouldn’t end well… Then he said he wanted to break up again!!
    I asked him to think about it and emailed him today saying that I wanted him to take two weeks to think about it, like a real break. I really cannot believe that this is what he wants, I think he is just feeling worn down but I don’t really know why.
    I love him desperately and he even said he still loves me, just that he feels he’s not putting as much into this as he ought to. He’s my best friend and I can hardly stand the idea of letting him go. He hasn’t replied to my email yet, sent it this morning.
    What do I do? I want to be able to stand on my own two feet and show him how I feel now about love, and I’m so worried he won’t even give me the chance.

    Buddhist Wife

    Hello Dee,

    I’m sorry to hear about your relationship troubles.

    It seems to me that there isn’t a great deal you can do right now. You only sent the email this morning. He may need much more time to reflect on the contents of your email and to think about what it means for him.

    I can appreciate that it is hard for you to wait as this is a very painful situation.

    When he does get back in touch with you, I think you need to listen very carefully to what he is saying. Don’t try to look for hidden meanings or allow what you want to be true to blind you to what he is actually saying. It seems like he has given you some very mixed messages in the past.

    If it does come to pass that the two of you go on a break, instead of being broken up, I think you need to take the time to think about what you want. Do you really want to be with a man who cheated on you twice? Do you trust him? Can he give you the sort of life you want to lead?

    I really hope that you can find health and happiness.



    I’m sympathetic to the struggles you’re facing, and agree with most of what Buddhist Wife said. It sounds to me that your happiness and well being have become dependent on him. This is normal, especially early on in life… but leads to unnecessary heartache. A few ideas came to heart as I read your words.

    The first is that most of your writing is done from his side. What he did, where he was coming from, and how his actions made you feel. Consider that in order for you to find your heartsong, that inner voice of love and wisdom that pulls you toward your dream, it is important to step back and look at your side.

    Sometimes when we are new to love, we find someone that we feel is the “love of our life”. All our loving feelings pour out toward the person, and they become a symbol, a gift, an avatar of loving feelings. This is very dangerous, because if the way they return the love is sketchy, our heart becomes very hurt.

    Instead what we can do is invest our love into our own body. We take time to self nurture, to hug ourselves and become the source of our own love. Taking baths, following our hobbies, meditation (especially!), wish ourselves happiness and peace… all these activities often take a back seat when we’re in a relationship with a romantic partner. This depletes our batteries, and we get hungry for love. Then we seek it in our partner, but if their batteries are depleted also, it becomes stale, argumentative, petty fighting and so on.

    Perhaps the break is good for you, too. It will give you time to settle your debts with yourself, finish or get started on the to do list, and practice self care. Then, you’ll be energized enough to reconnect with him from a place of strength, rather than need. Also, consider checking out the work of Pia Melody, her words are like a fresh spring rain.

    With warmth,


    Thank you both so much… I don’t think I’ve ever had such thoughtful, caring responses to my problems from people I don’t even know! Thank you so much!

    I agree with what both of you have said. I have been doing a lot of thinking today and I am going to do my best to not sit around and wallow in my sadness and try to use this time to do some good for myself and reflect.
    The problem right now is that I am completely panicked because he has not responded to my email, even though I wrote in it that I wanted him to let me know what he thought. I tried to be as mature and unselfish as I could and basically just wrote that I think, given the length and amount we have both committed to this, that we ought to really give ourselves time to consider what he want.
    I am paralyzed with fear that he won’t reply to the email and/or won’t consider taking the break and will just break up with me. Today I realized again that I have been being incredibly selfish and hypocritical to him for the past six or seven months and I sobbed outside my house when I realized what I had been doing. I had been needing him to fix my own problems and asking him to change himself to give me what I needed. And I had thought the whole time that I was doing all the right things and trying to move our relationship forward. No wonder he doesn’t feel like we’re clicking any more. I’m so upset with myself that I was doing this to the person I love most and I just desperately want him to give me a chance to find myself and give him the love he deserves. And hopefully he can do the same..
    I don’t think he’s very sure about what he wants, because during our last conversation when this happened, he was changing his mind every ten minutes. Every other time he has mentioned breaking up, I talked him out of it and he always was happy that I had. I have a hard time believing that it’s permanent this time but the fear that it is and that this will end is killing me. I love him so much and I know that we have a lot that connects us.


    Also I am going to try meditating. Tried today and will do it again tomorrow. Thank you so much for your advice.


    Matt, thank you for all your words on this site. They are so helpful on so many levels ! X Trixie-Belle


    He replied to my email this morning. I won’t post the whole thing because somehow that feels disrespectful, but it was a very polite and sincere email. He wrote in the first paragraph that although he really respected me and the time we’d spent together, and then “With all of that in mind, I just don’t feel like we should keep going.”.

    THen he wrote:
    “If you want to opportunity to meet up and talk about it, I’d be more than willing to have that conversation. I’m not going to make any promises about thr outcome, nor do I want this to turn into a long-winded attempt of logicing at each other about why we feel the emotions that we do.”

    He said that he thought the break was a really mature and good idea and that “I think that it would be best to do so” and that he would make time to meet me when I wanted.

    My heart was pounding and I almost cried when I read the first part of it. After reading again a few more times, I guess I can see that he’s willing to postpone any final decisions until then, that he thinks some time would be good.
    My head is just absolutely filled with fear and pain. I can’t believe that after two days of not talking, he doesn’t miss me badly enough to want to change this. And now I am in a panic that he is just doing this break to appease me, so I can accept what he;s saying.

    I have been spending the last two days trying to really pick myself up and not just sit around being a mess. I’ve been much calmer than I’ve been in other breakups and I feel like I have learned more about myself in the last two days than I have in the last two years. I have been trying to tell myself that all of these improvements need to be done for myself, but of course every time I realize something, I just want to call him and tell him how much I am going to change. I didn’t want our relationship the way it was going either, and if I am changing so much, it can only be better now!

    I hardly know what to do with myself.

    Any thoughts or wisdom? I could use some…


    Hi Dee! My heart goes out to you! I went through the same thing a little over 2 weeks ago. My ex and I had been together 2 years…I thought what we had was amazing…but i knew something was wrong. He put up walls…began pushing me away…the more he became distant…the more I paniced and became insecure. I finally had enough and I asked him what was wrong…he said he needed space. We broke up that day and I thought the world ended. The first few days I was in total shock…could not eat or sleep. I felt like he died…or I died. It was simply awful…BUT…as the days are passing I am getting stronger. We have not spoken (exchanged some emails…but that is it). I decided I really needed to soul search…I hated that I felt so insecure! I am a secure woman (or so I thought). It’s very hard letting go…but shift your thinking if you can…and take this opportunity to learm about YOU! And learn to LOVE you! I have been reading some great books and meditating. A return to love by Marianne Williamson is amazing. Trust that this is happening for a reason!

    Finally it’s OK to cry and mourn. I am learning that now…I tried pushing it away…but you need this period to run it’s course so you can heal and be stronger. Also…call your girlfriends or any one you trust to talk about this…that helped me a lot. And post here…Matt gives some of the best advice in town! This is a great place to come and discuss your emotions.

    I send you much love and peace during this time…xo



    Pema Chodron has a great book “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.” I highly recommend it. I’m really impressed how you’ve been doing your best to use this emotional turmoil to turn inward and uproot unhealthy ways of being. Your connection with him seems pretty far eroded on his side, and as much as I would like to tell you the future, my heart doesn’t give me that kind of information.

    When my first marriage collapsed, I was just like you. I saw my patterns before we ended things, and embarked on a journey of self discovery. Every time I learned something new, I felt like a kid wanting to bring a shiny new toy to my wife. Sadly, her heart had closed to me… so instead of seeing sincere desire and honest growth, she saw it as me trying to win her back. Part of me was doing just that, trying to grow to be a better partner for her.

    We separated and divorced, and it was painful. Just like you I felt the “too late” feeling of regret that brought me to my knees on multiple occasions. Finally, after much praying and hoping I started to wish for her happiness, wherever that takes her. I accepted the pain of loss, and decided that I would honor what joy there was in our relationship by letting her go. I cried and my mind reeled, but it was only my half, my pain.

    The mantra I used to stop the cycles in my thoughts was “I wish you find peace and love wherever you decide to find it.” Over and over I said it, at first through gritted teeth as my mind clung to the past. Then, finally I started to feel the genuine nature of detached love for her. Beyond being “my wife” there was a girl, a woman, and a mother who deserves happiness with or without me. It was beautiful and painful at the same time, to see her fly, but fly away.

    My heart changed through the process, though. I let go of the deep needy love that I had before, and learned to open up the space inside me. It took a few more relationships before I found my soul mate, but when I did, my heart was ready to love unconditionally. My ex wife is one of my close friends now, and she is married to one of my high school friends. My current wife and I are not only unburdened by the icky patterns I had before, but all of the pain that pushed me to grow unconditional love is something I now deeply appreciate, because it taught me not to take for granted the little things. There isn’t a day that goes by that we wouldn’t marry each other again!

    Take heart, Dee. I know it is painful, but that pain is making you alert. What you choose to do with the pain is up to you, and even though you can’t change him or win back an intimacy… the more you accept the truth of what you have, the more you will heal. Then if he comes back, it will be great. If he doesn’t, it will be painful for awhile, then it will be great as you use your wisdom and heart to grow a new relationship with someone who wants to be with you too.

    If you decide not to get the Pema Chodron book, perhaps at least consider adding to the end of “I want to show him what I’ve learned” a little tag “but even if I never can, this is known as a good change, so I will make it for me.”

    With warmth,


    Thank you so much, Matt and Carrie.
    Matt, your compassion and thoughtfulness for someone you’ve never met amazes me. Thank you so much, honestly.

    I definitely connected to your words. When I first wrote to him asking for a real break to consider this, I said that I would use the time as best I could to make myself the stronger and more independent person I want to be. I’ve been realizing over the last few days that I should be doing that not just for his sake, but for myself, too. And that if I want him to believe me when I say I’ve used this time to try to make myself a better person and not just to try to win you back somehow, I’ll have to believe it too. I feel like that’s probably the strongest chance I have to find myself back with him, is if I can honestly feel like I want him in my life because I like him that much, not because I need him or I’ll collapse and die (even if I kind of feel that way right now).
    I’ve also realized something else. One of my biggest fears is that he is not taking this break seriously and is just doing it because I suggested it, to appease me, and will just come to me again in two weeks and tell me over and over again that he doesn’t want to be with me. After a friend pointed it out to me, I guess I kind of realized that if he’s the guy I know and love, that’s pretty unlikely. If he’s the guy I know him to be, he’ll give me a listen. And if he doesn’t, then maybe he’s not the guy I thought he was.

    I feel more in control and happier when I’m working on something for myself. I’ve been doing a written mindfulness exercise someone had linked to on this site, and I ordered Pema Chodron’s book from the library, so it should be coming in a few days.

    When I think about him or try to analyze what he might be thinking I feel very lost and afraid. I have sent him two short messages since our real email exchange, just trying to get a sense of whether or not we will be exclusive during this time period, and every time I get a response I feel very startled and out of control, really no matter what he has said. He is being very formal (I had been being formal in my first email, so he is probably just following that) but it makes me feel very afraid because I hardly feel like I am talking to the man I know so well.

    I guess I have two questions.
    1. What are some other things I can do for myself? I ordered the Chodron book and a book on Buddhism from my library so I’ll read them when they come in. I have started meditating, just a few minutes, and doing this writing mindfulness exercise, but I still feel like I could use more things to do that will center myself. Does anyone have any suggestions? I am trying to hang out with some friends, my family, etc. But anything else I can do on my own that will feel like a productive thing for me to do for myself, that might help center me a little bit? Time is not really an object, haha.

    2. This is just the beginning of our break and because we didn’t really talk it through in person it’s a little bit vague. I am looking at this break as an opportunity to 1. learn about myself and reflect on my feelings. 2. try to break myself free from ‘needing’ him and get to a place where i want to be with him because i love him (or not, even, and try to honestly think about it) 3. spend some time catching up on things i have not done and friends i have not seen 4. reflect on how i still feel about him, hopefully minus a lot of neediness and 5. maybe try going on a date or something, just because it might be fun. My goal is to be able to come to him in two weeks with my mind open and ready to hear him and really listen to how he’s feeling, not hear just what I want to hear, or freak out when I hear something I didn’t want to hear. I hope that we can both honestly air our feelings and see if there’s any common ground we can find together. The problem is is that I have no idea how he’s viewing this break, really. We didn’t get much of a chance to talk about it. When he replied to my email he simply said that he thought it was a really mature and good idea and that it would be good to be able to have this conversation from a more objective standpoint. In a text message, he said that he felt it was important we both got a breath of real fresh air (not synthesized air, ie not making rules for each other during this time).
    I am debating if I ought to send him an email and ask him how he is viewing this time and/or tell him how I am viewing it. I worry that he might be solely taking the time to back up all his arguments against me, or just hope that I come to the same conclusion as him, that we shouldn’t be together. Should I try to inquire, or tell him how I feel? Or should I just let him do whatever he is doing and hope that he’s taking this seriously?



    Thank you for the kind words. When we detach from needing our feelings to be requited, there is a magic in our heart. For instance, you say that my compassion and thoughtfulness for someone I don’t know is amazing. I don’t see it that way. My world is full of billions of siblings, my dear friends and family. Just because they don’t see it that way is of no consequence to me! Said differently, when we let go of the need for others to feel the same, being loving is really the only thing that makes any sense. We’re all looking for the same peace, the same happiness. In different directions some times, but diversity is strength. 🙂

    Perhaps as you take this break, the end result isn’t as important as the present result. Said differently, there is still the yearning inside for him, and that’s normal, usual and expected. However, it also places the keys to your peace in his hands, which is precarious. There is a real possibility that he is moving on. I like the way you considered that if he is moving on, then he’s not the man you imagine him to be. Who knows? With that being unknown and unknowable, it seems OK to let it go.

    Be patient with yourself, and keep returning to the breath. You have a touch of peace in your heart, and it gets overlooked by the storm of thoughts and desires. There is peace, then there is an email. Then the mind shoots off into many directions, hoping and dreading for favorable futures and painful futures. The peace is lost in the fantasy. When that happens, instead of forgetting and tossing your keys on his side, consider just noticing.

    “Oh my goodness, will he ever be with me? What does he mean by these words?” Breathe! “I remember that peace is available here and now, where is it covered by?” Breathe! “Wow, my mind is unsettled and racing.” Breathe! “This is interesting, the email caused ripples in my mind.” Breathe! “Just ripples”. Breathe! “Just breath”. Peace.

    Your mileage may vary. 🙂

    Here is a guided meditation that I find to be pretty awesome:

    With warmth,

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