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"The Grass Is Greener" Syndrome


Mayday11

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The Grass Is Greener Syndrome

(AKA; itchy feet, quarter life crisis, early-twenty-itus)

 

I thought I would put together a thread here to provide some information on and a place to discuss this particular type of break up. I've had relationships end because of it along with a few of my friends. In addition, I've had friends be the ones stricken with this 'syndrome', so I've seen how it plays out from both sides. Hopefully, I can provide a little insight to help those of you going through this type of breakup. The more we understand something, the more comfortable with it we become and the less scary it seems.

 

In my opinion, outside of infidelity, this is one of the toughest types of breakups to go through. It seemingly comes out of nowhere, seems to have no rhyme or reason behind it, and it can strike even the best of couples. In your 'run of the mill' break up, there's usually an identifiable reason or set of reasons that led to the split, such as personality conflicts, fighting, different life goals, etc. These breakups are also difficult, but I've always found them a bit easier to cope with because you can identify a cause to the effect. Not so with the grass is greener syndrome. It's like going through a root canal even though your teeth are perfectly healthy.

 

This syndrome usually tends to fall on women within the age range of 20-25 (it happens to men, too, but seems to be less often). It usually happens in a long term relationship (maybe two or more years) when the couple is about to make a much larger commitment to each other, such as an engagement or marriage. It's as if the mixture between the person's young age and the thought of making such a huge commitment almost makes them want to go on the relationship equivalent of the Amish's Rumspringa.

 

Some of the classic symptoms of this are as follows:

 

* Reasons for the break up are contradicting or sound like the dumper is grasping at straws for reasons. As if they are trying to convince themselves of it, too.

 

* Not much warning that something is going on before the actual break.

 

* An extreme change in lifestyle, such as suddenly starting to drink a lot, party a lot and hang around people they normally wouldn't.

 

* Wishy-washiness on the part of the dumper. They love you, but aren't IN love with you. They say that this doesn't mean you two are over forever and maybe someday down the road you'll be together again. At the same time, they'll tell you to move on.

 

* Quickly entering new relationships with people they aren't very compatible with.

 

 

One of the biggest problems with these sorts of breakups is that the dumpee will be more likely to want to stick around in the dumpers life. Due to the dumper's extreme mixed signals and the fact that they'll try harder than usual to keep the dumpee around as a friend, the dumpee will make all sorts of excuses to stay around. They'll say things such as "She's just confused, so we're going to remain friends and see what happens". These sorts of breakups need to be treated like any other kind of breakup. Give the dumper as much space as possible and gracefully bow out of their life.

 

The thing to keep in mind is that in these sorts of breakups, the dumpers themselves don't have any sort of answers to give. They're usually just as confused about the situation as the dumpee. This often adds more pain to the dumpee because they're just looking for some sort of reason as to why they're being hurt so badly and get completely frustrated when the dumper can't give them one. They think the dumper may be acting cruel or like the dumper is hiding something from them. This is usually not the case. The dumper isn't giving any answers because they don't have them.

 

Now for the good news. If the dumpee does completely exit the dumpers life and resist the temptation to remain friends, the chance that the opportunity for reconciliation will arise is actually quite good. If the relationship was a good one, the dumper will find out eventually that the grass isn't greener, it's just different grass and may even be a little worse than the pastures they left. However, that doesn't mean that a reconciliation will happen. Due to the hurtfulness of this type of breakup, the dumpee will most often refuse the offer for reconciliation when it eventually comes up (which can be months or over a year down the line). Since the breakup happened out of nowhere and for no real good reason, it can be difficult for most people to get the trust back in the relationship. The fear that they'll suddenly be dumped out of nowhere will hinder the relationship from developing into anything. This is why I said the "opportunity" for reconciliation is a lot higher and not that actual reconciliations are common for these types of breakups.

 

So, my heart goes out to all of you enduring this particular type of breakup. Just remember, it's not your fault and it's not the dumper's fault, either. It's just due to human nature and unfortunate sets of circumstances. No amount of picking your ex's brain will result in any sort of meaningful answers to the questions that plague you. Just remember that this is a phase and it doesn't last forever. So, as long as your ex is in this phase, all you can do is go about living your own life and making yourself a better person.

 

If anyone has any questions, I'll be happy to give you my opinion on the matter.

 

Good luck, everyone.

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Wow, good insight. I can identify a few of these symptoms with my ex, actually all do apply. Even though I really don't believe that you can categorize people, I can really see some of these being applied to my ex. Crazy.

 

I not sure really about the reconciliation portion of the post. My ex seems happier and living her life and I'm pretty much out of the picture. But I guess it remains to be seen what will happen.

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I didn't know younguns could have a life crisis. I never did. I waited until I was at least forty;-) When you are younger, you are supposed to be discovering yourself and you will have many relationships, careers, and friends. It's not a crisis, it's normal. A crisis is a child born with birth defects, bankruptcy where you and your family are left homeless, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Those are a crisis. Changing partners is just part of life. It's not a crisis. Though it does hurt, I'll give you that.

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Mayday, Mayday...man, I was feeling a little sad. I came to ENA, picked up this thread by the subject, and suddenly found out: it's from Mayday. It's gonna be a good read.

 

When I read that above, I laughed. It was like "are you talking about me?". The second last point was the best one. My dear ex:

1. had some contradictions when breaking up. Body language told me she didn't really want to break up, but she did anyway;

2. we had our share of problems, but it was nothing that would cause a break up. At least, not without some fights before

3. yes, she started partying a lot. Before, it usually was once a week, rarely more;

4. yes, she WROTE that. "Don't know about the future, maybe we'll be together again". And told me to "live my life" (correct translation?), to move on.

5. new guy in the picture exactly 2 weeks later. Some incompatibilities already known;

6. She's 25 (until next Tuesday)!

7. Long term relationship (5.5 years), never had a break up, lived together for the last 2.5 years.

 

All checked.

 

Mayday, I hope you're right. I've been working on myself for weeks now, both mind and body. My body is noticeably better now. I'd say almost as good as when we met. My mind is better, but not as much.

 

Thanks again. Your posts are always between the best I've read here.

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I read this post and I m speechless because of how much it applies to what im going through with my break up. All those classic symptoms mentioned applied to my situation almost word for word. Its scary. Mayday, what you wrote seems to correlate to my situation, please read my thread and tell me what you think, thanks.

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This is almost what I am going through, I think... except that I was also leaning a little bit toward a break. I think on her end of it, though, most of this definitely applies.

 

Well, maybe at least a little bit. She seems to be pretty freakin' compatible with her new boyfriend. But the early 20s bit, the love but not in love, all that stuff...

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oh god... i dont think i have read anything that has fit better to my situation. SHE DID THIS TO ME! I mean almost word for word. Five year relationship getting ready to propose * * * * ty reason for the break confused and didnt seem like she wanted to do it. She even really wanted to be friends! BAH everything fits!

thats so MESSED UP!!!

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This topic hits the nail on the head.

 

I recently transitioned from a 2-year relationship with my college girlfriend to a long-distance relationship as I was going overseas to work a one-year position after I graduated this June. During these two years we have never fought or argued. The relationship has been the smoothest one I've had to date.

 

Everything goes smoothly for a month - we talk online everyday, Skype each other, tell each other I love you, etc. Then she drops the bomb on me -- she's been wondering "what else is out there" and wants to "date casually." I've always been a cool boyfriend willing to give her the space she needs - back in college I never got jealous when she went out partying without me - so I agreed that we should try an open relationship for a while. She agrees, tells me that she loves me, and that I'm still her boyfriend and she doesn't want to leave me.

 

One month later, I start seeing some confusing signals from her and a drop in commitment. I bring this up over the phone, and she starts giving ambiguous answers. She's been doing "a lot of thinking," but "doesn't know" about our future. All I want is for us to give the relationship a shot again after I get back, and she can't promise me that. I tell her to think hard about these issues so we can clarify them another day.

 

One month later (September), our communication is steadily getting worse. I feel like I'm the one doing all the work when it comes to instant messaging or phone calls. Nothing happens unless I take the initiative. I bring up our relationship chat from the previous month in our phone call, and after some amount of pressing she admits that she can't see herself dating me after I get back, because "things are just different." Meanwhile, her social networking profiles make it obvious that she enjoys the company of this guy she met over the summer.

 

I'm due to visit her in November (this was planned months ago), so we have a chance to sort things out face to face. But everything the OP mentioned is true - this situation comes out of nowhere and is incredibly painful to deal with because it leaves the couple in ambiguous territory. It's not a loss of love or personal problems that end relationships like these, but rather some desire to go find that greener grass. During the course of my relationship with her I thought about the same thing too, but in the end I decided to stick through and work on our relationship. It was probably at its highest point when I last saw her, so part of me is always disappointed that that's when it started crashing down.

 

As a first time poster who just found this website yesterday, I'm happy that there are veterans offering their advice and observations on the forums. Keep up the good work.

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I didn't know younguns could have a life crisis. I never did. I waited until I was at least forty;-) When you are younger, you are supposed to be discovering yourself and you will have many relationships, careers, and friends. It's not a crisis, it's normal. A crisis is a child born with birth defects, bankruptcy where you and your family are left homeless, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Those are a crisis. Changing partners is just part of life. It's not a crisis. Though it does hurt, I'll give you that.

 

Honestly, that sounded really condescending. Of course it can be a crisis when someone leaves you.

 

Some people commit suicide because of break-ups. Would you consider that a life crisis?

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How about: after two years the release of the "falling in love" chemicals has slowly decreased to a much lower level. Given that the relationship always was good the "love" chemicals are abundantly there. Because this process is slowly (and people just aren't aware of this process), it is hard to notice what is happening until a later stage. However, at that point an awareness of "I am lacking something in my relationship" starts to manifest itself; the "rewards" of having lots of "falling in love" chemicals running through your body are missing. It is difficult to explain why; everything is wonderful and great after all but that extra spark is missing. At this point you have a lot of variance because each person handles it differently: sit it out, find a reason, change yourself, sudden breakup etc.

 

It is pretty common for these people to fall in love quickly with another person who they don't even have to be compatible with. Their body is lacking something they want back. If they come accross a stranger that seems interested and that sparks them just a little, their brain makes the promise of another two wonderful years full of chemical pleasure, and that is a very strong (subconscious) motivation to go with that person.

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I feel like I'm short-changing you with a reply like this, because it's just like everybody else's. Things with my previous ex (should she be referred to as an ex-ex?) were pretty much as described, and I'm 75% there at the moment with my recent ex.

 

Hurrah for Mayday11

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I didn't know younguns could have a life crisis. I never did. I waited until I was at least forty;-) When you are younger, you are supposed to be discovering yourself and you will have many relationships, careers, and friends. It's not a crisis, it's normal. A crisis is a child born with birth defects, bankruptcy where you and your family are left homeless, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Those are a crisis. Changing partners is just part of life. It's not a crisis. Though it does hurt, I'll give you that.

 

LOL, the names listed are simply what I've heard this sort of breakup referred to and have absolutely no bearing on anything. If anything, it should be called "being young and confused", but that's just not catchy enough.

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That could be a part of it, but I think that sort of situation is almost a different type of breakup. I have a good friend who always seems to end a relationship once the 'honey moon' period ends (which is usually around a year for her). I wouldn't say she leaves them due to thinking the grass is greener, but rather because she has a strange outlook on love, in my opinion.

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Mayday, based on the cases you've heard of, how high is "quite good"? 50%?

 

You really can't put a percentage on these sorts of things and I'd be misleading you if I did. But, in comparison to breakups that happen due to solid, identifiable incompatibilities, breakups that occur due to 'the grass is greener' syndrome seem to have a better chance of reconciliation from what I've seen. I imagine this is because once the 'phase' is over, the dumper realizes what the dumpee has known all along: that the relationship was actually a pretty good one and any problems with it could easily be dealt with. On top of that, since these sorts of breakups happen in long term relationships, there is already a pretty solid bond between the dumper and dumpee.

 

Of course, I should remind everyone that this doesn't mean it will happen. I would feel terrible to give people false hope.

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That could be a part of it, but I think that sort of situation is almost a different type of breakup. I have a good friend who always seems to end a relationship once the 'honey moon' period ends (which is usually around a year for her). I wouldn't say she leaves them due to thinking the grass is greener, but rather because she has a strange outlook on love, in my opinion.
How do you know she leaves because the 'honey moon' period is over? Because of the repetition. How would you know if it only happened once or twice, because the girl in question would learn to deal with it?
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There are quite a few replies from the 'dumpee' and not any from the 'dumper' and as the 'dumper' in my relationship, I wanted to put this viewpoint out there.

 

I was immediately drawn to this post and opened it up with trepidation as I knew I was probably going to read about myself. I have been trying to break up with my boyfriend since June and have not been able to go through with it because i am terrified that I am suffering from the 'grass is greener' syndrome. We have been together for about a year and a half. At the beginning of our relationship I was in constant fear that he was going to leave me. I have a slew of issues and a big one is abandonment. Anyway, we got serious pretty quickly (we had known each other prior to dating and it was easy to get involved quickly). It was a very easy, fun relationship, no big sparks, but safety and security (when I was not freaking out). He was very good to me in helping me through my insecurities. We moved in together after only about 4 months of dating. Not smart. Around the same time, I started a new job and met someone that I liked very much. It scared me and made me angry at myself. I denied it for a few months, meanwhile my bf and my relationship was plodding along. He definitely kept me at arms length and would rarely tell me he loved me. That did not help my abandonment issues at all.

I tried, unsuccessfully to deny my growing feelings for the other man. Eventually we fell in love. But I am so afraid that it is just a 'grass is greener' thing and is simply just a different pasture and I will do this same thing to him at some point. I do want to point out that we are ridiculously compatible and so much alike. We have tried several times to end things between us and every time we come back together. BUT, every time I try to break up with my boyfriend I panic and go back to him.

After the first time i tried to break up with him, I think he realized his feelings for me and has been so loving and great to me since. I do believe that I do love him, but am not in love with him. But I worry that i just don't know what in love is.

The other guy stuck around a lot longer than I thought he would, but he is finally fed up (I know, good for him). I do not want to lose him and I think I may just need to take a chance without knowing if this is real or not.

In response to the reply from the person who said their ex is crazy, I would like to say that I am not crazy, I have just been put in a crazy situation. I want to do the right thing and I have been in so much pain trying to figure out what that is.

Please, may I have feedback and anyone who has been through something similar. I am scared and overwhelmed and just want this all to end.

Being on the other side is not better...

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Just wanted to object that this mostly happens to women. So far I call this "sophomore slump"... I see a ridiculous trend in men who hit the age "20" and go absolutely psychotic. Afraid of the future, their partners, themselves, pretty much everything, and totally shut down. Happened to me. The guy came back and I was already gone, after 8+ months of maltreatment.

 

Have yet to see it in women.

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I read this yesterday and it made me feel a little bit more at ease, but as usual my head started making me think that there was hope with my ex and I. The sad truth though is that I know its not a good chance that things will reconcile, but I'll post my story anyway.

 

I was with my ex (she's 20. I'm 21) for almost 2 years. We had talked about living together, having kids, getting married, that sorta stuff. A couple weeks before we broke up, I didn't really notice much change in her demeanor. At least nothing that was obvious.

 

One night I'm at her apartment and all of a sudden she texts me (she was out with a friend.) She says that she wants me to please leave, just wants to be alone for the night. I ask why, sounds like she's breaking up with me. She tells me its more of a break than anything. So I flip, run home, yadda yadda. I find out from her that night that she has feelings for the guy she's been hanging out with (knew him since high school, never dated him. All of a sudden she had feelings within a day or two.) I stay awake for 40 hours, trying to get her to explain why. I eventually tell her the next night that I'm done, she says she wants me back, breaks it off with the new guy. That night we stay together, but we both still feel something is wrong. The next morning, we agree to take a break, on the basis that she stays away from both me and the other guy to straighten things out. However, she ignores this. She decides to see the guy, while being on a break with me. The next month becomes me being completely paranoid, hating myself.

 

The first week and a half was hell. I didn't know what to do, and frustration/depression got the best of me. I begged, pleaded, texted all the time. Told her I could change, blah blah. I yelled at her, argued with her, we both cried and got angry. Eventually she completely breaks up with me (after I attempt to break up with her five times, and each time I couldn't go thru with it.)

 

We keep in contact for the next three weeks. She says she still misses me, still loves me. But thinks that I should go and date other people, see what else is out there. She claims to be going thru a quarter life crisis, doesn't know if she wants to get married yet, have kids. (I didn't mind doing these things, but I always told her that I'd only consider it when I was done with school and had a good job. I finish school this fall. Keep in mind, she doesn't go to school, lives in her own apartment. Her lease ends in a couple months, so for two months she'd have to live somewhere else. If she had to rent, I offered to help pay with some money from a summer job, but doubted I could live with her). I had never thought a quarter life crisis was real until I read this thread, actually.

 

Anyway, she breaks up with the guy after a month. I had stopped trying to contact her after about 2 weeks of her and the new guy started dating (they were together a little over a month). After a week she tried to contact me over AIM. After some resistance I gave in. We talked about random things, how she missed me, talked about how the new guy wanted to move with her already, live their lives together. She told me how she wanted to move, but with me and not with him. Her sister had a baby over this summer, she told me that when she held it she told herself "I can't wait to have it with (me)," and then realized that she wasn't with me anymore. She kept telling me this stuff, and it kept giving me false hope. And like an idiot I believed it for a while.

 

Eventually she did end it with him, and I asked her She was telling me how she thought she was happy with him, but she was really only having fun. I'm the only person she's apparently ever been truly happy with, but within the month before we broke up she wasn't having fun with me anymore. She wanted to see if she could find someone that could make her both happy and have fun with. (Selfish, anyone?)

 

I was at a loss for a day or two. She had suggested that she continue dating other people, me included. I agreed to this (reluctantly) but after a day or two I finally got my head on straight. I unfriended her on myspace, took her off my facebook. I worked with her dad (her family offered me a summer job at his place. Her family really liked me, and from what I hear her sister wants me back lol. I don't think any of them saw this coming. Her friends didn't either, and they weren't too happy with what she did) and he said that she was shocked that I took her off myspace. She IM'ed me about it, asked me why I did it. I told her I was just trying to forget about her for a while. This was true; the pain of waiting was becoming so unbearable that every thing which reminded me of the relationship only made me more depressed.

 

I checked up with her over myspace. She blogged about how she had all these plans to live with me, but pretty much ruined any of that. And how she has no direction in life. I took this as a possible turn around, but never talked to her about it.

 

Another two weeks goes by. She IMs me again about why I haven't been talking to her (she broke up with me, * * * ) and that she thought we were gonna meet up to hang out. She had suggested this two weeks prior (but was trying to say it was my idea), and when I started ignoring her she used this as an excuse to IM me and confront me about it. Anyway, we did meet one day, had a small dinner, hung out for a bit. It sounded like she just wanted to be friends still, but I didn't bring anything up about the relationship.

 

I went home that night, feeling like * * * * . The next morning, I find out from a friend that a guy he works with is in some band. My ex had found this band on myspace, and she liked their music. Anyway, she had a party at her apartment the day before we met up for dinner, and she apparently got drunk, told him that she liked him, and they hooked up. He then said he stayed over her apartment the same night I went over to hang out with her, and the next night as well.

 

I got extremely pissed, stopped talking to her. She IM'ed me another two weeks later, sarcastically saying that we apparently weren't on speaking terms. I flipped, told her it was over, can't be friends. She got pissed, said thanks for putting it so nicely, blocked me on AIM.

 

I was so angry I tried to call her and yell at her. She didn't pick up. Two days later, after calming down, I decided to finally end it altogether. Told her that we couldn't be friends, wished her the best. Also explained how I've been feeling over those past 6 weeks, and why I acted how I did. She responded, dissected my email and kinda fired back. She didn't realize I was just trying to give her space when she would IM me and I wouldn't respond. She also knew that I knew about the other guy, said it was "none of my business" (kinda is when you want me to hang out with you so bad to catch up, and lead me on to think that maybe we'll rekindle the relationship). But at the end of the email I think it hit her that we couldn't be friends. I told her it wasn't healthy for either of us cuz we keep looking to far into each others words and actions. She was angry at my friend about telling the guy about the whole situation between me and her (the guy dropped her completely, told my friend that it wasn't worth it for me to keep pursuing it). She wasn't angry at me. She wished me the best too.

 

So I don't know what to think. She seemed to really think that I was still into the idea of waiting around for her. When she suggested that she still date other people, I asked her why she thought that and she responded "I don't know. That's the best plan I have right now."

 

I know that what I did was the healthiest thing for me. It's been three weeks since I said goodbye. It kills me, really. I blocked her on AIM too, just in case she'd try to unblock me and talk to me. I stopped checking her myspace three weeks ago. But I'd be lying if I didn't say that I don't miss her. We were extremely compatible. Laughed at the same things, loved comedies and weird * * * * . Adventures were fun. I think we both just got depressed about our lives at one point and stopped communicating. I told her it was nothing that couldn't be fixed, but she seems to not wanna try.

 

Who knows. I have to move on with my life, but part of me is afraid to let go. I keep hearing that once you move on, if they do come back that you probably won't care anymore. But I find that to be really depressing. I've bettered myself since the break up (less drinking, eating more. No more bad habits). However, I don't know what else to do with my life. Part of me hopes this is just a phase with her, but part of me also thinks that by telling her goodbye I probably decreased the chances of her ever trying to talk to me again, or at least reconcile things. All I know is I have to stick to my guns and stay away from her, cuz my frustration got the best of me when I stayed around.

 

It amazes me how fast this happened though. She went right into another guys arms, left him after a month (she even told me how she was embarrassed to call him an ex), and then hooks up with another guy only 2 weeks after that. This is nothing like her behavior, its so weird. She dumped her second bf for me, but she told me that she hadn't liked him for a long time, but was just afraid to get out of the relationship. And when she was with me she was extremely happy.

 

I dunno. Part of me hopes this is something like the syndrome you talked about, but then again it also seems like something different. Any advice (beyond what I'm already doing now) would be helpful. Just trying to figure things out, I guess.

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It amazes me how fast this happened though. She went right into another guys arms, left him after a month (she even told me how she was embarrassed to call him an ex), and then hooks up with another guy only 2 weeks after that. This is nothing like her behavior, its so weird. She dumped her second bf for me, but she told me that she hadn't liked him for a long time, but was just afraid to get out of the relationship. And when she was with me she was extremely happy.
I've seen worse behavior, in smaller time-frames, without shame and with way older people. She is chasing some very powerful feelings without applying much reason.
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I've seen worse behavior, in smaller time-frames, without shame and with way older people. She is chasing some very powerful feelings without applying much reason.

 

Seeing what ya mean. It's scary to think that though. I mean, it makes me feel like I don't wanna date anymore. Nor do I still wanna have feelings for my ex, (which I do). It's like a crazy circle that my head keeps going in, even when I'm not talking to her anymore.

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