Dear RC, I’m worried I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life. Six months ago, I broke up with my boyfriend of five years (we’re both 22), after moving in for the summer with him while on a uni break. At the time, he was moving to Germany for a year to look for work after being unsuccessful finding a job in the UK. Two days before he was due to leave, I broke up with him, citing distance as the reason. He was heartbroken, but I stayed firm.
If I’m honest, there was more to it. He is an extremely talented musician, and I felt insecure that he didn’t consider my career (teaching) to be very creative. I felt like all my time was spent integrating myself into his life and social circle rather than focusing on my own. I was afraid I’d spend my university years in a long-distance relationship, supporting someone else’s dream, and that I would end up alone once that dream became a reality. I didn’t say any of this until we made contact again two months later, which I feel awful about, as I know I should have been upfront about it and maybe had a chance of working things out.
Looking back, I think I let my own insecurities get the better of me – I’m finding it very difficult to distinguish which of my fears were just projections without any grounding in reality. He is the most intelligent, insightful and hilarious man I have ever met, and we were completely in love. He never gave me any reason to doubt him. More than anything, I want to be back with him – my anxieties about the issues above feel so small compared to the pain of being without him. I’ve done a lot of emotional work, and feel like I could handle the potential problems that used to scare me. I worry that it’s too late.
He is back in England and his career is beginning to take off. We met up a few weeks ago, I explained myself and told him I still loved him. He told me the same, but that he wasn’t ready for a relationship. We spent the rest of that day acting as though we were still together, and I had so much hope. Shortly afterwards, he phoned me to say that he’d met someone, although he still wasn’t sure whether he was ready to be in another relationship – he’s introduced her to his family and friends though.
I still can’t let go of the idea that we might get back together once he’s had a period of time seeing other people. I can’t stop thinking about all the things I should have done to work things out before walking away. I feel like I abandoned him at a low point in his life, and I’m finding it so hard to forgive myself. I’m seeing someone new, but I don’t think I can love someone like I loved my ex. I don’t want to lose contact with him, or come across as the ‘crazy ex-girlfriend’. I just wish we could work things out. Hopeful/Deluded
For starters, you need to stop beating yourself up. You broke up six months ago, you’re obviously still quite heartbroken about it, and yet you’re already seeing someone else. That, to me, is confusing things and not allowing yourself time to process the split. Dating someone else when you’re still pining for your ex isn’t fair to this new guy either.
You’re clearly nursing some regrets about the break-up, but here’s what it looks like from where I’m sitting. You were together a long time, and you had valid concerns about the relationship. It sounds like you felt a wee bit eclipsed by him and his career goals, and that you didn’t feel he took yours as seriously. Plus, feeling like all your time was spent integrating into his social circle – another red flag. Did he not spend equal time hanging with your friends and getting to know them? If not, that’s not great. He should’ve been making the effort just as much to integrate into your life, no matter how cool / talented / amazing his social circle was/is.
And, although there is an argument for not projecting too much and living in the moment, I don’t think you made the decision lightly. Long distance didn’t appeal. You were understandably anxious about the future. Maybe you also sensed you were going down different paths and it would become harder and harder to keep the momentum going. Maybe deep down, you wanted more time to focus on your own career and life and friends but you didn’t realise how painful his absence in your life would be. It won’t always be this giant chasm of heartache. But six months on, I’d expect it still to be pretty fresh.
At the end of the day, you’ve come clean and confessed that you still love him and regret the split. To me, it sounds like he still loves you but is now in a different phase – a non-committal one. Maybe he’s trying to protect himself from further hurt, but at any rate he is seeing someone else. You can’t deny that he is actively taking steps to move on.
I think you need to forgive yourself. And I think you need to let go of him. Love is always in the lap of the gods and you don’t know what the future holds, but you need to make your peace with this break-up, be kind to yourself and take time to heal. Maybe he’ll be back. Maybe he’ll always be the one that got away. But remaining in a what-if limbo isn’t going to help heal your little old heart.
Love, reality chick