He Wants Her Back!
Q: A few months ago my girlfriend of five years and I started running into the usual petty little problems. I, being 23, didn't feel like dealing with them. Because I wanted to know what the single life was like, we went on a break. After a couple months she decided to end it completely by announcing that she found someone new. I was shocked and devastated. You see, I never fell out of love with her, but was just confused and curious. I tried to get her back but it was too late, since she'd already moved on. Now I feel lost and lonely. These past five years I have put EVERYTHING into this relationship, and now that she is gone I have nothing. I let my grades suffer in college, I have no money. I let my friends go too. Now I am living in a seven-person house with her (different rooms) and I feel lost. So, I have a few questions. Am I really in love with her? It seems I have forgotten all the reasons why I initially decided to go on a break, and all I care about is her. Is this just because she has a new boyfriend? I know she still loves me, and she even admitted that she is unsure whether she went out with someone new to make me mad. Should I move on? -- Steve
Dr. Susan: Short answer: it's hard to get over someone you've spent so many formative years entangled with, but yes, you're young and it's time to move on. You don't have "nothing." You have yourself, and eventually, if you make some changes now, you'll realize that's enough.
It doesn't matter if she still "loves" you. She may have gone out with the new guy because you two had broken up (that's what a break is, essentially, right?), but she's moved on and is with him now. Even if you did convince her to come back and give you another try, you'd have intense jealousy to deal with on top of those "petty problems" that split you in the first place. No small matter!
And what do you mean you put "everything" into this relationship? You had a few minor problems and you were ready to go out and be single again? I'm glad you did, though, in a way, because tying yourself to someone from the age of 18 on can be problematic. I get the impression that you very much need to be single -- not necessarily to sow some wild oats but to learn how to be an independent person who doesn't screw up his grades, alienate his friends, and forget how to make money because he's not in a relationship. Hey, I love to be partnered too, but if you let your whole world fall apart because your girlfriend has moved on, you're probably not going to be much of a partner for anyone. That level of co-dependence is unhealthy, and it indicates to me that you have some growing up still to do. Sometimes we latch onto someone in order to avoid the tough transitions of life. (I did it, and my first marriage was hell as a result.)
So try to stop feeling sorry for yourself. I don't think you love her so much as you miss being part of a couple where all of life's hard choices were buffered. Dust yourself off. Get out there, a little at a time, and get involved in something new. Decide if your college courses are meaningful to you, and do the work, or else switch majors. Right now you're obsessing. I don't blame you, but it will get you absolutely nowhere except into deeper misery. And when you can, find another place to live. Seeing her daily is a constant reminder. I don't know how you bear it. Oh. You can't. So change something!
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.