Dear Sara: About a month ago, my boyfriend of two years broke up with me (I’m 30 and he is 31). It came as a heartbreaking surprise. I’ve been in several serious relationships, and this one seemed like a wonderful fit—loving, easy, drama-free. He took most of the steps to advance the relationship in the first year or so, and we had continued to deepen our bond since then.
He couldn’t really give a satisfying explanation for ending things, and seemed confused himself. We were living in a temporary apartment together (he recently moved to my city after finishing grad school) and were about to get a more permanent place, but he said that [he] was having doubts about the city we live in, the job he has, or what kind of lifestyle he wants, and that he needed some time on his own (single) to figure things out—which I suppose means he had doubts about the relationship, too. He’s also going to start therapy to try to work through some of these issues.
Your writing has helped me to understand that our breakup doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me, and that looking for answers as to why it ended is probably futile (thank you!). I know I should probably wait to find someone who is truly excited to be my partner and have me as theirs. But I really love him and cherished our relationship, and I wonder if (after some time) I should ask him if he’d be open to trying again? Is there ever a time when it makes sense to “fight for it”? — H
Dear H: It might be true that your ex is just at a funny place in his life and will come back to you.
The problem is, I don’t think there is any way for you to know if that’s the case. More important, I don’t think there is much you can do to make that happen.
He has told you he needs time to sort things out, and that he needs to do that alone. So I don’t think there is any way for you to be part of that process.
But you can let him know the door is still open. I would do this in a very quiet way—liking something he posted on Facebook, or sending him a quick birthday message. You want to let him know that things are still friendly, that you aren’t holding a grudge. But you don’t want to put him on the spot. If he’s still working through all of this, he might not be ready to answer a direct question about trying again.
After that, I suggest doing what you can to move on. You’re still grieving this relationship, so it’s natural that at times you’re going to daydream and plot about getting back together. You don’t have to stop thinking about him cold turkey, but see if you can wean yourself off these thoughts. For example, if you find yourself fantasizing about your reunion, stop, take a breath and say to yourself “I’ll think about this later.” You can even set a time. “At 5 pm, after I’ve finished all my work, I’m going to think about him for fifteen minutes.”
The point is not to be perfect at this—if it’s 9 am, he’ll probably enter your brain a few more times before quitting time. The point is to give yourself some mental space—some HIM-free space—and to make that space a little bigger every day. I think this is very important because when you spend your days and nights pining for one person, it becomes very difficult to see anyone or anything else
Hope is a tricky thing. It feels good to hope, but a person can also get so drunk on wish-fulfillment fantasies that you lose touch with any other possibilities—I say this from personal experience. Bringing more mental space in your day won’t hurt your chances of getting back together with him, and frankly it probably won’t help them, either. But it will help you center yourself and gain more clarity about what your best next step is. That’s what he’s doing, and I think you should too.
Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her questions here.