A Reader Writes…
Thank you for your insightful books! I’ve read ILYB and HCIETYA. My ex-boyfriend (29 years) and I (26 years) have been together for more than four years and about 5 months ago he told me he had feelings for a colleague of his and decided to break up with me. I’ve never felt so awful! We remained having contact and he told me he he still loved me deeply and didn’t want to lose contact. This made me feel very hopeful that we’d eventually end up together again.
Unfortunately about a month ago I found out that shortly after we broke up he’s had lots of (sexual) contact with his colleague and that he’s been lying to me about his contact with her (he told me there was nothing going on between them all that time). That was a real slap in the face and I got very angry with him for lying to me.
Ever since he’s been feeling extremely guilty and confused and realizes how much he has hurt me and seems genuinely sorry for lying to me. He has also told me he realizes how great I am and that we could’ve continued having a wonderful relationship if he hadn’t made such a stupid mistake. However he also feels that he cannot offer me anything at the moment as he is very confused about his feelings and why he has acted the way he did these last few months. I’ve never seen him cry so often and I’m worried he’s overstressed. He hardly sleeps and can’t seem to think straight.
I really don’t want to lose him and I’ve already told him I’d like to give us another go, but he says he can only start a relationship with me again if he’s 100% sure about it. He’s very afraid to hurt me again and he’s afraid to completely lose me if it doesn’t seem to work out after all. So now we’ve decided to stay in contact and I’m trying my best not to push him into making a decision. But it’s costing me a lot of energy and I think about him constantly. In the meantime he’s trying to work less, but he still has contact with his colleague as they’re working together on a project. However he’s decided and told her that this is the last project they’ll be doing together and I know that they don’t have any intimate contact at the moment. But I still find it worrying and very frustrating that they still see other.
So it’s all very confusing and I’m not sure if I am making the right decision for being there for him and supporting him. Or am I being a doormat? I really don’t know how to interact with him at the moment. Whenever we’re together there seems to be so much loving energy and we can really talk about anything and we also try to support each other. But after we’ve been sharing hugs and talking about our emotions he tells me he’s still not sure and it’s driving me mad. Am I being too impatient? Should I just give up? I honestly don’t know how to handle this situation.
It sounds like you are in the worst sort of limbo. Your relationship is over but you’re still ‘friends’, you see each other at the time (so you can’t begin to grief the loss and start the journey to healing) and worse of all…. he’s forever kissing you, cuddling and treating you like you were his girlfriend (so you’re being pulled closer to him) and then he rejects you for the 100th time. I don’t think even the most fiendish torturer could come up with anything better. Has your boyfriend thought of getting a job at Guantanamo Bay?
OK. I’m joking but truly, I don’t think this is doing you any good. So what’s going on in your boyfriend’s mind? There are two competing thoughts – one admirable and one selfish. Let’s start with the latter, we live in a very risk adverse time and people are frightened of doing something they might later regret. So he’s with you…. and coming up to the age when it’s time to settle down and have a family. But what if there is somebody even more gorgeous than you out there? (I know that’s highly unlikely.) SO he starts worrying about all the girls he won’t get the chance to kiss – ever! Hence the desire to sleep with a work mate and see if the grass might be greener elsewhere. So he risks all and guess what…… he discovers that behaving like a seventeen year old in your late twenties is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Then the other half of our risk adverse culture kicks in…. what if I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life and lost the only person who will truly love me? Hence his trying to keep you on side with lies and half truths after you split up and this ‘friend’ with cuddles scenario. Now for the more admirable part of your boyfriend’s behaviour. He did split up before he dallied with this other woman – rather than have an affair. He does not want to lead you on and promise everything is OK when he’s still got a bit of growing up to do.
So what should you do? Firstly, read ‘Are you right for me?’ so you can get an idea if he’s worth hanging around for. (I would also have a look at ‘Learn to love yourself enough’ as it will give a boost to your self-confidence but help you decide if he is somebody who has issues with intimacy and will keep blowing hot and cold.) While you’re thinking what’s best for you, I would give yourself a complete break from contact. This will give you a chance to get your head straight (and not get it turned by kissing and the drama of being pulled close and pushed away.) By this I mean, no meeting up, no texting, facebook checking or emailing for about ten days and after that ONLY occasional emails (one or two a week) for a couple of weeks.
My hope is that this small amount of time apart will help you decide if you want him or not. At that point, meet up and give your verdict. If you’re still sure he’s right, tell him you’ll wait for a couple of months while he sorts his head out too (but STILL keep him at arm’s length). If he still hasn’t made a decision after three months, I would read ‘Heal and Move On’. Good luck.