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Struggling after break up of 3 year relationship - please help


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So sorry folks, this is quite long, but - please - if you have time to read it, I would really really appreciate it. I am in big big trouble here and you guys seem really supportive and great after reading other posts.


Today is Monday. My boyfriend of 3 years broke up with me on Saturday. To say I am struggling is an understatement. In my worst moments I just don't know how I will carry on. I don't feel like I'll ever see the light in anything again. I can't imagine one single thing that will excite me or give me even just a moment of happiness again. Right now, I can barely put one foot in front of the other.


The background is this:


We met three years ago at a time when I had not come out of a short but intense 6 month relationship where the guy had chased me for the 6 months prior; then when I actually started to have some feelings for him he dumped me unceremoniously. At the time I thought it was the end of the world - I think I have a tendency to feel even more panicked about things when I don't feel 'in control' of a situation - but I got over him in 6 weeks, although I still felt very down. I got some professional support and somehow moved through it - realised the guy was a jerk and started to open my eyes to the possibility of dating other people. Rightly or wrongly I made this move into dating quickly, and two months after being dumped by 'the jerk' (he really was) I met my ex.


I was new into my city and when I went on dates I took the view that it would be a good chance to meet new people, see what developed. So when I first met him I didn't know if he was boyfriend material but I thought he was cool and interesting and so we went on more dates. Pretty soon I developed feelings, we both did and four months in we said our first I love yous. I was happy, I think we both were. About a year into our relationship, my brother who I had moved in with when I arrived in London, emigrated and I spoke to my ex about us moving in together (he owns his own, very beautiful, flat). He wasn't ready. And I found that hard - especially at our ages - I was 33 at that time, he was 36 (now 35 and 38 respectively).


Every six months or so I would have a slight meltdown and start a discussion about moving forward. If he loved me, I reasoned, why the reluctance to do so?


Last summer, at over two years in, he agreed that when my lease came up for renewal in the august I would let my flat go and move in with him. To cut a long story short, he did an all time swerve on me right before my lease was up and said he wasn't ready, saying that decisions like that shouldn't be made out of practicality, that it should be when we both wanted it. It was so hard to get over that. I was hurt beyond measure, yet he was telling me he still thought we could 'get there' and over time I relaxed back into the relationship. By Christmas of last year we got to the stage where we weren't spending any nights apart (some might argue that at 2.5 years it took a long time to get to this point). For the last 6 months I only went back to my flat to get mail and pick up the odd item of clothing I might need. I spent all the rest of my time at his place (although it did not feel like my home, and I never allowed myself to call it that). If I was there alone he would often tell me to 'make myself at home' - way to make someone feel like a guest, huh?


Over these last 6 months, I reasoned with myself that spending all my nights at his place (which didn't mean we spent all our time together - at least two nights of the week we'd go out and do things independently but it was nice heading back to the same place after) was a really positive step for us and that I should be happy with the progression. Somehow, though, I feel I became a bit 'bratty' and would get sulky with him when I saw things like marriage on the tv. I tried hard not to but one of my faults is my absolute inability not to plaster my feelings all accross my face. If I feel it, you will see it. On the other hand, he is the master of self control. This has been quite a defining feature of our relationship in many ways. My heart was always on my sleeve and I was often chasing him to show his feelings more.


He was understanding when we would get into the difficult phases of discussing if / how we might move forward. But he could never promise me anything other than that he wanted it to work between us and he wanted the same things as me (the fairytale, we called it).


The most recent time we got into this was three weeks ago. He woke up one saturday morning feeling that I had been unhappy for some time. I don't think I had particularly - I think I had just been doing some of the abovementioned bratty stuff. It was one of the toughest conversations we've ever had and for me it started to feel like the beginning of the end. I told him that since the previous summer I had felt like I could never see him actively wanting us to move in together, never mind moving any further forward and he told me that it saddened him to hear me say that but that he couldn't offer me anything tangible that would alter that opinion. Tough. I asked him why he thought that was. He said he didn't know. I suggested it might be that while things can seem like they should work 'on paper' perhaps the 'indefinable' quality you need to feel to move things forward wasn't there for him. He asked me to stop that conversation because he feared that we might not be able to go back from it (ie he felt there was a good chance I was right - and that it might not be because he is a commitment-phobe, but instead because I wasn't the right person for him).


We tried hard to get back on track but I was suffering major insecurities by this point - not least because of the fact that his job (in tv) brings him into contact with glamorous beautiful types all the time - and, although I think (am told) I do pretty well for myself in this department, when someone is effectively saying to you that you might not be the one, it's hard to keep your self esteem in check when you know that they're surrounded by sexy young things. And he is a very attractive man.


In the last couple of weeks he kept asking me to hang in, have faith and to take the leap with him. He felt we had strengthened over the last year and thought we could keep doing so. However I'd said a couple of things during this time that I guess really worried him - the main one being that I didn't think I could ever sacrifice getting married. Then last week my letting agent contacted me saying that I needed to decide whether to resign my lease again. Of course I mentioned it to him saying that if there was any chance he didn't want to be committed to this relationship in the foreseeable future he should tell me because I wouldn't necessarily want to live on his doorstep (we live just 5 mins apart - take the same tube station to work - that kind of thing). He was shocked by this and saw clearly that I didn't see my place as a home (I didn't - it was somewhere I went when he and I weren't together). Last Thursday he said I shouldn't resign the lease and should just be at his place as it was clear to him that whatever happened I didn't want to be in my flat. It was a curveball I didn't see coming, but nor did I really believe he was comfortable with it. God knows why he mentioned it then. We agreed to think on it some more and last Friday I told him I wanted a shot at that - that I thought we needed to change something, that this would actually take the pressure off things, albeit I would be moving in for practical reasons not because he had a major desire for us to live together. He said he needed time to think but was still telling me independently that he wanted it to work.


On saturday morning he got up, got some tea, came back to bed, held my hand and told me was worried. I knew what was coming and my heart dropped to the floor. To cut this part short, he has finally told me that while he loves me (in 'that' way, the 'in love' way - I checked) he doesn't feel enough for me to have faith that we will be the fairytale for each other. he says he's not even sure he wants it but he at least wants the chance of it, which means not being with me.


I am struggling with how only a few days ago he wanted it to work and now he says he is sure that he wants to break up. He keeps saying that while our life together was lovely and so close to perfect; that while he loves me more than he's ever loved anyone; there is still something missing for him and he is resolute that this is now over. I don't know if it's worth mentioning but his only other relationship of proper significance (which also lasted a few years) ended up the same way, although she issued an ultimatum and i didn't.


He is making himself very accessible to me during this break up and I am having a hard time not abusing that. I am texting a lot, asking questions, trying to make sense, deluding myself he might change his mind when I know deep down he won't. I am guessing this is bad behaviour. He is keeping in touch with me too which gives me some temporary comfort, like an addict getting a fix, but I wonder if this is out of pity and concern because he knows I am broken over this.


I'm also trying to get to the root of how i feel. In many ways it was the relationship I had always wanted. We were so compatible. He was dependable and trustworthy. Life always looked brighter and shinier when I was with him. But as you can see from the above it was so fraught with difficulties from early on. Most recently I had got to thinking that I knew it wasn't ever going to work out. My gut told me that and I believe in that strongly. But I wanted to get myself into a place where I was more ready for it to be the end. I don't know whether that was ever realistic.


I just don't know what to do now. I'm so scared. 35, frightened like a child and worried time is running away from me. It's worth noting that I have never really been single - 6 year relationship from 18; 6 year relationship from 25; 6 months with the jerk and then 3 years in this. I am petrified of being alone. I don't know how I will fill my time - especially weekends as I can't think of a single thing that will being me even a modicum of happiness. I really mean that. not one single thing. the best i feel i can hope for is complete boredom. when i look ahead over the coming months I literally feel total and utter panic. in that regard, i don't know whether my current feelings are more about fear of being alone than they are about him, given that I ended up feeling myself that the relationship was never going to work out.


I also worry that I met him as soon as I came to london, so all the things that i might go and do are ALL reminders of him - so very painful. he makes a programmes that are shown on tv, so I need to be careful to stay away from watching or hearing anything about those too.


on top of that, i find very few people attractive. i'm scared i won't meet anyone as good as him - he is handsome, successful, accomplished, fun, cool, and thoroughly decent. i say that trying to have a completely objective view. he is trying to do the right thing by me in this break up. as i said he is prepared to handle things in any way i want and is howing lots of kindness. he wants us to be friends. he says he doesn't want to lose me from his life and that he has been so lucky to know me. I want him in my life too, but i know the general wisdom is that you have to let go isn't it? but what if the main source of my pain is the loneliness, and that i came to terms with 'us' not being right some time ago. does that mean we can't be in touch now?


im so confused. im worried about spiralling into depression. i don't have the hugest network around me; and a couple of my closest friends are in relationships and are only making themselves available to be there for me when it suits their relationship schedule. My dad and step mum live abroad, as does my brother. And our family is pretty fractured anyways. My mum committed suicide when I was 9. There are a whole load of abandonment issues I have related to that, I fear, but I guess that's another story.


Please please help. Thank you so much to those that take the time to read this and respond.

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I think that you nailed it towards the end when you asked in the main source of pain was loneliness and fear of being alone. That, in your heart of hearts, you came to terms with "us" not being right....but stayed out of fear of being alone. It sounds like you both are on the same page --- "the one" doesn't feel ambiguous....


I think you should try living on your own for a while, but it doesn't sound like your ex has any problem being in touch. Just try not to make him a crutch.

Good luck.

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I'm sorry for your pain... i know it it hard to have your life so wrapped up in someone and then have this happen.


But the first thing you need to focus on is that you deserve better. You deserve a man who loves you enough to not make you live out of a suitcase at his house for 3 years! I just don't think he loved you in the way he should, or he would be thrilled to marry you at both your ages. I also think that maybe he is someone who never wants to get married, and definitely wants to protect himself and his possessions and finances by keeping you unentwined in that part of his life. He wants his options open and has made that very clear by having things be at his discretion/option, including not allowing you to officially live at his house.


His life may be exciting and dynamic enough that he doesn't see a wife and family as a priority because he is so into his work. I know quite a few men like this. And they will do nothing to jeopardize their freedom or ability to come and go as they please to pursue their work.


I think the first thing you should do is call a counselor to talk about your fear of loneliness. Honestly, it is better to be alone than to be with someone who doesn't really want you or won't make a commitment to you. At least you are free and available to look for someone who WILL want you and be happy to marry you and have a family life rather than expect you to live out of your suitcase at his place.


You need to learn how to place the center of your happiness and self esteem inside yourself rather than giving it away to someone else who might not treat you with the care you deserve. A counselor is best able to do that.


Next, don't agree to be his friend while he breaks your heart and goes about the business of finding a replacement for you. How are you going to feel when he shows up with a new GF, probably sooner than you think! He is being selfish, where he won't agree to be with you as your partner, but he doesn't want to let you go so you can do your healing and find someone new. You can waste a lot of time hanging onto an ex as a supposed 'friend' when what you are really doing is postpoing really accepting it is over and getting on with your healing. Don't let your own back be the bridge that he uses to climb out of your life and into another woman's! What frequently happens is he'll pay a lot of attention to you as a friend while he weans himself off you, then once he meets someone new he really likes, all of a sudden you won't hear much from him at all.


If you stop contact with him, there is always a chance he will immediately feel the void in his life without you there and recognize your value to him and consider getting back with you. But if you are just a friend, there whenever he's lonely or bored, he has no incentive to even think about getting back together. He has you to tide him over until he meets the new you!


So make that appointment with a counselor to help you thru this and to have someone to talk to and deal with this. And be kind to yourself and try to do things you enjoy, even if at first you are just going thru the motions. You can and will get over this if you give yourself time. You should also try to widen your circle of friends rather than rely on a BF to meet all your social needs... join some clubs for things you are interested in.

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thank you mhowe and lavenderdove. i can't tell you how much it means that you have responded on here, and with such understanding advice. it's good to have things I can re-read when i am really feeling at the depths of despair.


the counsellor suggestion is a good one. i've read a lot of posts on here over the last day where people have said they're still heartbroken years on. i am frightened beyond belief that i might still feel like this for that long. I want to do everything in my power to heal myself as fast as possible. I wish someone would invent a fastforward button for this kind of thing.


feeling horrendously sick at the thought he could find another girlfriend anytime soon...

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As you have been living together for the past year pretty much every night, and since "the other woman" isn't the reason you're breaking up, I wouldn't worry to much about getting replaced too soon. I think you will feel better if you take control of the situation and get your own place. It's hard to move on when you're under the same roof.


I have a friend who is going thru the same thing you are --- she knew that the relationship was not the "right one" --- and not for anything really bad --- it was just a feeling of it not being everythning she wanted it to be....and she is now dating someone much more suited to her. But you need to be on your own for a bit first....you've never really experienced that....it's actually quite fun!!!

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Most people who are still pining years later are really dealing with other psychological issues beyond just breaking up with a person. And most of the time, those who are pining are those who won't seek help for themselves in dealing with those issues, and don't take the advice of counselors whose job is to make sure depression doesn't settle in (i.e, they don't listen to anyone else and make that lost person their holy grail and shrine, or refuse to take therapy or antidepressants if they are diagnosed with depression).


So you will get better if you do take charge of your own healing and see a counselor if you are terrified of being alone, and make a pact with yourself to reach out and do things that will enrich your life and make you happy. Right now you are too close to the breakup to have perspective on that. And your pain now is equivalent to the pain one feels right after breaking a bone or surgery... of course you are miserable! And of course you won't feel better right away, but it will get better as time distances you from the breakup and you take steps to heal yourself. It does indeed get better, and you sound like a lovely thoughtful person so can indeed pull yourself out of this with patience and some time.

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thank you all. a couple of my work colleagues have reached out to me by email this afternoon (i have fled to the countryside to be with my gran this week - I am lucky to have such an understanding boss) - one offered for me to go stay with her in three weekend's time - long walks with her dog, that kind of thing. another has offered to come back to my flat with me the first time i go back and has invited me to a mutual friend's bbq this weekend. i will try and find the energy to go. as you say lavenderdove, i guess it's about going through the motions and trying to keep moving through the pain right now.


i texted my ex a bunch of questions this morning. for now i am feeling that it helps me to hear he still has 'in love' feelings for me even thought we cannot be together. I feel so juvenile writing that. he signed off this morning by saying he will text me later. i think knowing he is planning to get in touch later has stopped me reaching for my phone for the rest of today but i don't want him to contact me if it's just out of pity. should i say that to him? i am old enough to know that i should really just quit the contact altogether but i know myself pretty well and i get panicked about this kind of thing. i will be seeing him at the weekend to get the rest of my stuff. i already know i will be scared but looking forward to seeing him. because i still want to be with him. Ouch. this hurts so bad. any thoughts on this?

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he also has a work party tonight that loads of beautiful people will be at. and he's now free and single. i feel total panic thinking about that

Never settle for being second best. He kind of warned you that his last ex and him split over an ultimatum which made you avoid giving him the same! And if he does meet a girl she can not live with him for 'x' amount of years while he ponders the whole fairytale all over again. Some men never want the roses around the door and the matching jumpers (urgh not sure I do! Haha!) but throw crumbs that you 'might' be the one. He's hedging his bets. He'll never get married. I bet in 15 years when you're all fat and happy with your husband this guy will be slathering on the Grecian 2000 and still stringing girls along x


Your friends all sound fabulous! You WILL have the beSt time!

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oh and fyi, i didn't know she gave him an ultimatum until after he broke up with me and i asked him for the story. i already knew they 'wanted different things' and what that meant but i didn't feel the need for the details. however i asked post-saturday morning to try and get a feel for what to expect next.


i don't believe in ultimatums anyways. where's the victory in somone being with you because you demanded it? as you've all said, it's better to be with someone that truly wants you. how come my head knows that and my heart doesn't? idiot.

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does anyone have any thoughts on this: is it possible for me to try and build up my life, accept all the invitations that come my way (even if making myself go through the motions) and try to wean myself off the ex while still having contact? Like i said in an earlier post, the fact that he is in touch of his own accord is stopping me going nuts and contacting him constantly. is this workable? does it even make sense?

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Hmmm...it sounds like itd be easier for you but in reality it's making him out to be the all round good guy under the halo of 'being a grown-up'. This NOW isn't about him but about YOU. What if he forgets to text one day or doesn't reply? You're going to be going through all kinds of torment assuming he's met 'the one' or 'anyone'. I love cats, cats don't take no ****, they get hurt so they run off to lick their wounds until they are healed. Dogs come back time and time again no just invade you have a biscuit in your pocket, no matter how bad they're treated.


He is playing this break up on his terms. The first step to getting yourself back is to be selfish. You are going to do this your way. You don't want to turn down a BBQ or party incase he calls like he said he would, stuff him. Go out and enjoy the world. I'll admit, for a couple of weeks all you will see will be couples in love, young ones, old ones, ones in-between.


After this last communication tell him you need time to lock your wounds. Hell it's hard but it's for yourself and not to get him back. Maybe he'll have an epiphany and realise but it doesn't matter, you will be healed and if you do get back together then it'll be a different, new relationship. On YOUR terms, not bending over backwards to keep him happy and avoiding the 'marriage' word.


I hate self help gurus and books with a passion. I'm a fan of getting your slap on and pulling your socks up BUT I would ask you to read (I got mine free with a magazine!) 'he's just not that into you'. It's fantastic and deals with guys who don't or won't commit fully. I made it my bible and read chapters every night. Helped me sleep and rest easy too!


Your end goal and his are very different. You want marriage, he doesn't (think Simon cowell, that'll never happen ;-) ). But in answer to your question, man, you're in your 30's and have great friends, get out there girlie!!!! Xxx

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does anyone have any thoughts on this: is it possible for me to try and build up my life, accept all the invitations that come my way (even if making myself go through the motions) and try to wean myself off the ex while still having contact? Like i said in an earlier post, the fact that he is in touch of his own accord is stopping me going nuts and contacting him constantly. is this workable? does it even make sense?


hi dice7 ,

unfortunately i don't think that is workable. my friend's ex broke up with him in january. like your guy she was very open to him calling her. she answered all his incessant questions and he would still go to her house to watch movies or call on the phone to talk. she was very sure about her decision, there was no third party involved. my friend was not accepting the break up but was coping well as he was still seeing her. then in may she met someone, she said it was the last thing she had expected but now it was going good and she really liked him. my friend WENT TO PIECES, like day 1 of the break up. the ex was shocked because they had been broken up for 4 months by then! but because he hadn't gone through the motions of missing her and... well the first tortuous few months, well now he had to go through them even though it was 4 months later. and my god, he really did.


i think there are two possibilities here. either your ex is just really scared and possibly looking for something extra that doesn't exist. in this case it would really benifit him for you to nicely go NC and take yourself out of his life. he needs to miss you, he needs to feel the consequences of his decision. perhaps it will make him reevaluate his feelings.


the second possibility is that he is finally admitting to himself that something was missing in the relationship for him and now there is no going back for him and he doesn't want to further string you along. however it is hard for him to break up and hurt you so that is why he is keeping in contact. it is not because he wants to hurt you, neither is it because he wants you hanging in there while he finds a replacement, rather he probably he is scared of hurting you more. in this case you still need to go NC. as lavenderlove said, if this is the case he will be open to meeting others and find that special thing that is missing. do not be around to witness that, it will hurt too much.


as for you dice7, well you have figured so much out about yourself already that you just need to feel the fear and go through the motions of starting to live a whole independent life completely happy by yourself. you have never had complete happiness and contentment without a man being involved so no wonder you are so panicked and afraid that you will never be happy again. YOU CAN. you can do this. you need to start reading and researching all about love and healthy realtionship and being happy by yourself. work on it, take this time to do all that YOU want to do. you will emerge strong confident and more ready for a healthy relationship then all the times you got into each relationship you have been in.


best of luck girlfriend

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thanks superfox and charity. charity, your post was hard to read - obviously because it made a bucket load of sense and there's a lot in there that i can relate to, particularly regarding your friend. I now see the danger of being around to witness him find someone new. God. Ouch. It would totally take me back to this point.


i guess i was just thinking that maybe i could build up my life and end up meeting someone new before he does. no way of controlling that though i guess. i want to be a cat. can someone arrange that please? thank you.

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i think asking if it is OK to keep seeing him just a little is very much like an addict asking, 'is it OK if i just take a hit or two of crack now and then to tide me over?'


if your goal is getting over him as soon as possible so you can start being happy and find someone who does want to be with you, continuing to see him and text him multiple times a day won't get you any closer to that goal. you're just putting off the inevitable.


if you absolutely panic without him, then you need to start a serious 'weaning' effort. Start by setting established goals for contacting him less and less. As in, once a day, then every other day, then every third day etc. until you are used to the idea he is not your partner anymore. The point is he may be perfectly happy to have these little contacts with you, but for you, it is like getting your fix or hit of crack rather than about getting on with your life. If you just leave it open as is 'i'll just text him whenever i need it' you'll be doing it all the time and desperately grasping onto hope he'll return, when he may be out dating up a storm when he's not texting you for all you know.


Don't put yourself into limbo or suspected animation. You need to take control of your life, and if you just can't bear the thought of not communicating with him, then get out a calendar and mark it with the times you will allow yourself to contact him, starting out with once a day and by the end of the month, no more than once a month! You need to adjust your contact with him to the reality of the situation, that he is not your BF anymore, and you shouldn't be in intimate contact with him all the time if you have to let him go. So if you are too panicked by the idea of letting him go, then set up your calendar, and schedule an appt. with a counselor to talk about it and learn how to let go without panicking.

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charity, out of interest what was the story with your friend and his girlfriend? how come it didn't work out for them? was she accommodating to him after the break up to try and minimise his hurt?


they actually had a great relationship, very healthy and nice and loving but a tragic thing happened to her that i won't disclose here and she completely shut down and said she couldnt be in a relationship with anyone anymore. yes she she was accommodating to him after the break up because she wanted to be there for him, she knew he had done no wrong and she hated seeing him so hurt. also i guess she needed to wean herself off him.he was very shocked and hurt when she met someone else cause he didnt think she was looking for anyone, and i guess she wasn't but... but a so it goes. i really believe the only thing worse then a break up is a break up where you know your ex is with someone else. it will always hurt you but it hurts terribly when you are still in contact and loving them and fooling yourself that you are accepting the break up.

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i'm worried i've gone in and out of denial a bit today. i know it's over but at times over the day i think i have tried to forget that. i don't know. i'm so tired. what is going on??


he is still writing texts to me calling me 'bubs' - his pet name for me. as lavenderdove has pointed out, that is like a crack hit. i have made some positive steps today but how is it that, as the day draws to a close, I am actually feeling as though i have taken a step back?


yesterday and this morning i sat through the pain. this afternoon for some reason i have been trying to forget this is actually happening. is this normal?

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Yes, you will cycle thru lots of feelings... shock, denial, bargaining, anger, depression, then finally acceptance and healing. It is not exactly a straight line thru these various stages when healing and you can get stuck in some stages more than others, but will run the gamut. but healing is really a spiral... you will cycle thru these feelings, but if you fight for yourself and your desire to heal, you will spiral up and out of the pain eventually.


You also have to pay attention to your own feelings... what things help you heal and move forward, and what things pitch you backward and are setbacks? Try to do more of the things that move you forward, and avoid those things that set you back.

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i think the reason you feel that you have taken a step back is because you know the only reason you feel slightly ok today is because he is showing he still cares, calling you pet names etc. therefore you are making your happiness dependent on what he says or does. your instinct deep dowm knows that and that is why you feel you've taken a step back.

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you're right charity. so what does that mean. no contact? i have to see him at the weekend to get all my stuff out of his place. i feel like giving myself a pass on whatever i do this week as it could all go to hell again when i see him anyway. i figure i can be in contact this week and then figure how to handle things properly after the weekend, at which time i will have no need to see him.


is that the sound of denial i hear again. arrghhh.

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