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can't get over this breakup (1+ years) and it's wrecking my life


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Okay, some thoughts in response to your last two posts.

 

A pocket theory of mine is that it's the most senseless of relationships that take the longest to process. Speaking for myself, for context? I'm 40, with four longterm relationships in my adult life. Cliff's Notes: two were genuinely wonderful and loving, and two were genuinely toxic. The end of all of them was devastating, regardless of whether I pulled the trigger or was handed the pink slip, but the toxic ones? Well, toxic is toxic. Took a bit longer to get clean because I had to figure out why I wanted to get so dirty in the first place. Once I could isolate that—and accept it—the mystery was lost and the lessons could be lived.

 

In your case that's the million dollar question, no? Odds are high that, if I met you before you ever knew he existed, you would not have described your ideal romantic partnership as one in which you existed in a permanent state of pining—for more commitment, for him to grow up, for everything that felt almost real or kinda real to feel, you know, real real. Oh, and I suspect you wouldn't have said, "My ideal love? He will go back and forth between me and another woman like a pinball until I feel like one of those cars in a demolition derby."

 

Obvious conclusion, then? That this was simply not your "big relationship." It was a relationship, with big feelings, but the big one, in terms of what you actually want? That is still out there, a land not yet visited. If you were writing the above as an octogenarian inside a nursing home in the age of the coronavirus—well, I'd join in your referring to all this as the final chapter of your life story. But given that you are very literally just starting out on the journey of life—with much, much more before you than what's behind you—I just can't subscribe to that tragic narrative. It's literally false, and I do wonder why you're so bent on thinking of what is actually the beginning as the end.

 

If you really want a partner, like really really? Well, that should help put this guy into perspective. Something like: good lay, bad boyfriend, terrible partner material. Trying to lean on a guy like this to get through hard times? It's like leaning on spikes. Makes a hard time even harder, every time.

 

I wonder if you can find something of a ballast by having this kind of cold-water conversation with yourself, reminding yourself just how far this always was from what you genuinely want—and, most critically, forgiving yourself for getting all sorts of strung out anyway. Because, hey, it happens. Because it's okay. Because you are 30ish, not 70ish. Because those very steps I'm outlining here—self-reflection, self-forgiveness—can be a source of joy that closes the door to this chapter, and chapters like this, and opens the door to new ones.

 

Chapters. That's all life is, really. Think of your life as a great novel, with this being a kind of boring, dramatic, overwritten chapter a third of the way in. Even Tolstoy has a number of those, so you're in good company. My own life is filled with some pretty tedious chapters—similar stuff, experienced in my own way—but I'll judge it all when my heart stops beating, not when I'm still just getting started. Which, like you, I am.

 

Thing is, at the moment, you seem to have mistaken this chapter for the story, so you keep replaying it and reliving it. Wonder what your therapist said about that, or if maybe a different therapist is in order in helping you turn the prism at a different angle. From what you're writing? It seems that you are a bit prone, for instance, to value wanting over having—the pining stuff—which might be worth exploring. I think of that as a kind of cheat code for vulnerability, since it keeps you one step removed from reality, which seems to be the nuts and bolts of this relationship. You got kind of hooked on longing, and rather than go through withdrawal you're still finding a way to keep that high going, to the detriment of your health.

 

Just riffing here, hoping something sticks and helps you pluck out the thorns.

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Hm, my best friend got married in her early 30s and went on to have a family.

 

Why have you decided you're never going to fall in love again?

 

 

I originally did think I would move on and have other things in my life. Certainly, when I was younger, I’d be miserably heartbroken and then six months, a year later, I’d meet someone else and get a fresh start. But this time it …. just didn’t happen and I read some statistics about women my age and starting over and realised how improbable it would be. It seems like when you’re my age you’re either with someone or you’re going it alone. Maybe I’ll get another chance when everyone starts getting divorced in 15-20 years. But I already feel like the romantic, sexual part of myself has withered and died and by that point I’ll probably be so isolated and weird and celibate that beginning again will be impossible.

 

Beyond my age, the biggest problem is that I have had no interest in anyone I’ve met or seen on dating apps in the nearly 18 months since we broke up. I can’t see that changing. Maybe I’m unreasonably picky but I have genuinely and earnestly attempted to date people I’m not really attracted to or interested in. I have given them repeated chances and waited for feelings to evolve, but I still have to force myself to respond to their texts, I still duck out of meetings on flimsy pretences, their interest in me still feels like an annoyance or—if I’m being more empathetic—a burden. At best it’s deeply depressing and at worst (sexual encounters), it’s downright traumatising. Everything is just a consolation prize for not having him and I’d rather be alone than trap myself in a relationship with someone I barely tolerate, much less love.

 

Then I’m also apparently terrible at dating. I just never play things right. I think ex picked his gf just because she played the situation better than I did. (I cannot forgive myself for ing up our relationship through anxiety and then not asking for enough. Somehow I have to live with my responsibility for spoiling my own happiness.)

 

AND then there’s the problem that men just seemingly never love me—or in this case, never love me enough. They just fall into a kind of sexual enchantment with me that they end up resenting. A male friend said something clarifying to me when ex and I briefly broke up once before, which really changed the way I approach dating. “Men will happily have sex with you but they won’t commit to a relationship unless you’re extraordinary. I was sleeping around and then I met [wife] and she was so extraordinary I instantly wanted to commit to her. And you [name] just aren’t extraordinary.” If I magically found someone I liked as much, it would just go the same way and I don’t have the emotional energy now that I know how the narrative ends.

 

The combination of those factors just make it so unlikely that it’s not even worth my effort to try to find someone. And, as I said before, trying just reminds me of what I lost (ex and the relationship he nearly gave me). Scrolling through dating apps actually makes me just sob. There’s just no one comparable.

 

So yes, that part of my life is very much over. I’ve never before gotten over someone without meeting someone new. All the narratives about moving on revolve around that too. But I really need to learn how quickly I’m not flattened by grief for the rest of my life. I’ve accepted I’ll always be somewhat sad about not having him and not having a partner, that this was a breakup that irrevocably made my life much lonelier and smaller, but right now the grief so colossal and overwhelming it still makes me physically ill nearly 1.5 years later. That needs to stop.

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It's a choice you're making.

 

You can tell yourself whatever story works for you. Apparently this one does.

 

If this is how you choose to live your life, nothing anyone tells you will make any difference.

 

Just remember, life hasn't read your story and the world is not obligated to follow along. Things happen whether or not you think you want them to.

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It's a choice you're making.

 

You can tell yourself whatever story works for you. Apparently this one does.

 

If this is how you choose to live your life, nothing anyone tells you will make any difference.

 

Just remember, life hasn't read your story and the world is not obligated to follow along. Things happen whether or not you think you want them to.

 

Not to be obtuse or annoying but I don't really see what choice I'm making here. The only active choice I've made is to stop wasting my time and other people's by forcing myself to date people I'm not interested in and to stop making myself sad by using dating apps.

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The choices we make are not always conscious. Psych 101. Still, they are very much choices: active engagements of our spirits that, over time, add up to who we are. Right now you are choosing to find comfort (or attempt to) in the above story. Drinking is an easy analogy. Let's say I "choose" to have a glass of wine with dinner, one glass. But when it's empty, I top it off, again and again. I just chose to drink a bottle of wine, but only one glass was a conscious choice, the other four were less than conscious—and dangerous, if that becomes a daily choice made subconsciously.

 

Therapy, among other things, is basically about getting to the root of such choices—the unconscious ones that don't serve us—so we can make new ones.

 

I'll meet your statistics with my own life. I'm 40. Urban guy, with urban friends, for context. Artsy types. No one I know—and, I repeat, no one—found their forever person in their 20s. We were all over the map back then, guided by lofty dreams and fiery loins. Adults, technically, but still running on some adolescent fuel. It had to burn off, not always gracefully. Many are still searching, some continue to skid across the map—all good. The ones who are partnered up, with rings and babies? That stuff started happening around 35. Life. It keeps going, is the point, especially if you choose to stay open to it. You are choosing to close off to it.

 

Things I see in your last post, in others? A heavy emphasis on sex and sexuality as currencies of romance, of meaning, of self-worth. This ex, for instance? I literally can't find anything particularly genuine about him aside from that the sex was hot and that it felt great to be an object of that kind of lust. Remove that, and what's left? Noise, drama, pain, dislocation, a connection that was always turbulent and turned looney tunes when he started comparison shopping. Not so romantic, all that, at least not in any way, shape, or form that fits into the ideas of romance you're mourning in refusing to mourn him. Adolescent fuel. Egos.

 

Part of your current frustration seems to be that you haven't been able to replace that with...more of the same. That you haven't been able to swipe right, flirt a bit, and find yourself swept up in a consuming, dramatic, sexually charged romance that reduces this one to a footnote. Sorry, but to my eyes that frustration looks like growth. It looks like adulthood, rather than adolescence. It looks like you, or part of you, demanding something different: something new, rather than more of the same. Not whiskey to replace the wine, per the earlier analogy, but, I don't know, something that is actually healthy rather than toxic.

 

But to really get that? Well, at some point you're going to have to choose to not valorize this guy, and your connection with him, as the highpoint of romance. You have that power in you, but it requires humility—letting your ego starve a bit, and getting comfortable with a less epic story: that this was a stab at romance that lacked almost all of the ingredients required for romance. If you can't find the humility in a vacuum? Ask for some help.

 

The more time you spend getting intimate with what you really want out of intimacy—all the things this man didn't provide, all the things that cursory swiping cannot provide—I suspect you will feel something shift that leads to making different choices than the ones you're making now, actively and passively.

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Things I see in your last post, in others? A heavy emphasis on sex and sexuality as currencies of romance, of meaning, of self-worth. This ex, for instance? I literally can't find anything particularly genuine about him aside from that the sex was hot and that it felt great to be an object of that kind of lust. Remove that, and what's left? Noise, drama, pain, dislocation, a connection that was always turbulent and turned looney tunes when he started comparison shopping. Not so romantic, all that, at least not in any way, shape, or form that fits into the ideas of romance you're mourning in refusing to mourn him.

 

This is something of a revelation for me. Blue, reading this affirms it. This pretty much sums up my last relationship that took such a toll on me. I'd never experienced sex like that. I equated the lust with love. Sex felt like souls melding. When it was gone, so was my soul...so I thought. The rest of the relationship was toxic, immature, and corrosive to my self esteem.

 

A pocket theory of mine is that it's the most senseless of relationships that take the longest to process. Speaking for myself, for context? I'm 40, with four longterm relationships in my adult life. Cliff's Notes: two were genuinely wonderful and loving, and two were genuinely toxic. The end of all of them was devastating, regardless of whether I pulled the trigger or was handed the pink slip, but the toxic ones? Well, toxic is toxic. Took a bit longer to get clean because I had to figure out why I wanted to get so dirty in the first place. Once I could isolate that—and accept it—the mystery was lost and the lessons could be lived.

 

Ive had similar thoughts. My marriage ended in a terrible way but was much easier to process. I think this is because I knew that my ex wife was a good person that genuinely cared about me. The ex girlfriend never seemed to genuinely care about my well being. I think this leaves you feeling like there is something wrong with you for not deserving that care.

 

OP, having been where you are and now in a healthy, loving relationship, I can tell you that it will fade. It just takes you getting to the point that you are absolutely sick of feeling the way you do. Unfortunately this might mean exhausting yourself in misery for a while. I think what helped me is to pray to God to help me let her go. I didnt pray to get over her or to get her back (I'd done both before). I just prayed to let her go because it was only ME that was holding on to anything.

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Thanks for the response. I’ve been mulling it over.

 

 

I'll meet your statistics with my own life. I'm 40. Urban guy, with urban friends, for context. Artsy types. No one I know—and, I repeat, no one—found their forever person in their 20s. We were all over the map back then, guided by lofty dreams and fiery loins. Adults, technically, but still running on some adolescent fuel. It had to burn off, not always gracefully. Many are still searching, some continue to skid across the map—all good. The ones who are partnered up, with rings and babies? That stuff started happening around 35. Life. It keeps going, is the point, especially if you choose to stay open to it. You are choosing to close off to it.

 

I also live in a large city; all my friends are in the arts, open-minded, progressive people. They all, to a one, have found their forever partner. Maybe it’s a cultural or generational thing but everyone I know was happily settled down by their late 20s. The men were maybe a little older (early 30s) but I don’t know a single single woman over the age of 27.

 

 

 

Part of your current frustration seems to be that you haven't been able to replace that with...more of the same. That you haven't been able to swipe right, flirt a bit, and find yourself swept up in a consuming, dramatic, sexually charged romance that reduces this one to a footnote. Sorry, but to my eyes that frustration looks like growth. It looks like adulthood, rather than adolescence. It looks like you, or part of you, demanding something different: something new, rather than more of the same. Not whiskey to replace the wine, per the earlier analogy, but, I don't know, something that is actually healthy rather than toxic.

 

 

I’ve done this though: I had a serious, settled multi-year relationship with someone I loved and had lots in common with but was never sexually attracted to. I thought that was the mature decision. It just bred resentment, put me in situations I regularly found upsetting and violating and doomed our entire relationship. I really can’t go back to having miserable, staring-at-the-wall sex again. I’d really rather be alone than subject myself to that again.

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Thanks for the response. I’ve been mulling it over.

 

 

 

 

I also live in a large city; all my friends are in the arts, open-minded, progressive people. They all, to a one, have found their forever partner. Maybe it’s a cultural or generational thing but everyone I know was happily settled down by their late 20s. The men were maybe a little older (early 30s) but I don’t know a single single woman over the age of 27.

 

 

 

 

I’ve done this though: I had a serious, settled multi-year relationship with someone I loved and had lots in common with but was never sexually attracted to. I thought that was the mature decision. It just bred resentment, put me in situations I regularly found upsetting and violating and doomed our entire relationship. I really can’t go back to having miserable, staring-at-the-wall sex again. I’d really rather be alone than subject myself to that again.

no one is saying settle for bad sex! lol

 

You can find someone that checks all your boxes.

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I wouldn't describe a tepid, attraction-free relationship as "mature" or healthy. More like settling, or, more generously, trying on a mode of romance that didn't authentically work. Which, hey, is something we need to do in life: try things, to better understand our full spectrum. Same thing could be applied to the relationship you're still mourning, of course, but just the inverse: forcing yourself to settle for less than you need to feel settled—and, as a result, feeling quite unsettled. Same coin, different side.

 

Guess what I'm trying to say is that between those two poles of doom is a lot to explore, a completely different kind of coin and currency, at least if you can think of your past as lessons to be learned rather than tragedies that have set you on a lesser path than your peers, or someone an ex is now with. That latter mode of thinking? It's really just ego, which I like to think of as the heart's enemy.

 

I know I used the term "forever person," so I'm backtracking a bit, but for whatever it's worth? I don't much like that idea, because it implies that a relationship is an answer to some existential question, to say nothing of the falsehood that we can understand "forever." Is my current girlfriend my forever person? I hope so, for instance, and do feel this relationship is built from different materials than those that preceded it—in large part because I put in some serious work to grown into a different shape, to say nothing of the work she put in on a hard, wild, and rewarding path that predated me. But I can't really know that answer. Time does, and whatever answer time supplies? It will be okay, the right answer. No other choice.

 

That headspace, I think, is more honoring and respectful of what we have in the present tense—and of who she is, as a human being outside of me—than deeming her the missing piece to my personal puzzle. It allows the relationship—and relationships in general—to be an ongoing series of questions, and to build a sense of security there, in the present tense, not as a solution to past pain or mistakes or a surefire shield against future pain. Things to think about, or not.

 

What you want—a healthy, hot connection built with respect—is far from a unicorn. I'd call it point of entry. But you need to see it that way as well, rather than see this misbegotten, spirt-shredding entanglement as the high-water mark of romance.

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