DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I was dating a girl from another country. The first year we basically lived together and everything felt like a dream. At the start of 2018, she had to move back to Europe. She wasn’t sure about whether she wanted a long distance relationship, but we decided to give it a go.
We were able to see each other 4 times during the year, but as time went by I noticed she was starting to pull away. She would text me less, not bother setting up Facetime dates, etc. I decided to tell her about this, and she simply said she was busy and not on her phone all the time. Eventually time passed and during the last weeks of December, I would notice she wouldn’t even bother to text. I decided to address the elephant in the room and she said we needed to take a break. I agreed and made sure that we both knew how to act during the break (would we see other people, etc).
Halfway through the break, she asked if we could talk. I had honestly been having a hard time during the break, since I really missed her. I decided to reach out to mutual friends and ask for advice on how to make amends and fix things. When she called me, she told me that some of our friends had reached out to her. She didn’t seem to keen on continuing the relationship and I honestly wasn’t going to force her into it if she was ready to move on.
She however wanted to be friends. I still had very strong feelings for her and the next day decided to tell her that I would always cherish our relationship together but I couldn’t be friends with her right away because I needed the time to heal and settle how I felt for her. I removed her from social media which seemed to have upset her. She sent me a message saying she was upset and that I hurt her.
I know am starting to question if I did the right thing by going the nuclear option.
Second Chances, Second Thoughts
DEAR SECOND CHANCES, SECOND THOUGHTS: One of the biggest questions that a couple faces following a break-up is “What should we do now?” It’s an easy enough question to answer if the relationship ended badly: the hard feelings, the anger and other factors that triggered the break-up in the first place usually make it a no-brainer. Similarly, if things ended amicably and you still have that core of affection and respect for one another even if the relationship didn’t work, it’s easy enough to say “yeah, we should stay friends.”
Other times, it’s not so clear.
Of course, there’s a lot of cultural pressure to say that you want to stay friends after the break-up. It’s what you’re expected to do to prove that you’re both mature adults and that this is all just fine. But to be perfectly honest: not only are there folks who aren’t in a place where they can handle that, but not everybody wants that in the first place. Not everybody wants to stay in contact with their ex, even if the break-up wasn’t so bad. Sometimes you want a clean and complete break so you can heal and move forward. But it’s not always easy to say this, especially if it wasn’t an ugly break-up. There’s that expectation that of course you’re going to stay friends because why wouldn’t you?
Well, there’s always the fact that your ex treated you pretty shabbily over the course of your relationship. Sure, the end of your relationship was fairly low key and non-dramatic but the circumstances that lead you there were painful as hell. In your case, SCST, your ex was kind of an asshole to you. She treated you with some serious disrespect over the course of the time you were apart. It was clear that she saw the relationship as an increasingly low priority and treated you like an afterthought. If she was having thoughts about being in a long-distance relationship, she could have brought those up directly or she could have done the honorable thing and ended the relationship herself. Letting contact dry up and pretending that there weren’t any problems – especially when it’s causing you actual distress – is a pretty sh
ty thing to do to someone you care about.
To my mind, it’s somewhat rich that she’s giving you grief over the fact that you’ve cut ties when she was doing the same thing to you. The only difference is that she was performing the death of a thousand cuts, while you cut the head off in one go. So while your cutting her off and taking the Nuclear Option may have hurt her, that was hurt that she earned.
I think you did the right thing, SCST. The point of The Nuclear Option – removing them from your social media, blocking their number, filtering their emails and otherwise cutting contact – isn’t about “we broke up and now you’re dead to me”. It’s an acknowledgement that break-ups hurt and you need time to let those wounds heal. Those wounds can’t close if you’re continually picking at the scab by Facebook stalking them to see if they’re dating anyone or reminding yourself about how much you miss them by following their adventures on Instagram. Nor, for that matter, can you heal if they keep coming around and reopening the wounds, whether they intend to or not.
That’s why many times the best thing you can do is lock them away. It doesn’t need to be forever, but it does need to be long enough for you to do what you need to in order to heal. And while it may suck for the other party… they don’t get a say in things. Your healing process is for you, not them.
And while we’re at it, your emotions aren’t a democracy. Other people don’t get a vote in how you feel or what relationships you want to pursue. You’re not obligated to be friends with somebody after you break up with them, just because they want you to.
To be blunt: if your ex wanted to stay friends after the break-up, then she should’ve acted like one before you broke up.
ASK DR. NERDLOVE: Dear Dr. NerdLove,
How can I get a life?
I live with my family, and having spent a tolerably happy childhood, am almost an adult. Since the last year or so, however, my relationship with my father has grown rather cold, and he seems to have lost his affection for me, which has almost broke my heart.
I have no friends outside of my family (a few acquaintances and half friends, but correspondence is very scarce and our seeing each other even more so) and even between my family members there is little intimacy, agreement, or pleasure to be found.
I want to be happy and fulfilled, but instead I am bored, vexed, and lonely most of every day. I want to make friends, but I do not go anywhere but church, and I hardly know of any opportunities. Very few things actually thrill me anymore. What to do?
A Confused and Lonely Friend
DEAR A CONFUSED AND LONELY FRIEND: The answer’s in the question, ACLF.
You don’t go anywhere but church and you don’t have much contact with people outside of your immediate family. Changing those two factors in the equation will give you profoundly different results. Going out and pursuing interests outside of church will put you in contact with folks who share those interests. And if you aren’t sure what interests you may have outside of the church and family… well, now’s the perfect time to start exploring, trying new things and seeing what strikes your fancy.
But there’s a couple parts of your letter that leapt out at me. The first is that your relationship with your father’s suddenly started to become distant and cold and that you don’t have much happiness in your life.
Without knowing the circumstances surrounding things with your father, it sounds like you may be having issues with depression. As you start making headway finding new places to explore and new people to hang out with… consider talking to a counselor or therapist. They might be able to provide you with some insight about your emotional situation.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)