DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m contacting you because I need a non-biased opinion about my situation. It’s about my ex who pushed me away, then broke things off via text, then apologized three weeks later. Can’t ask friends or family because they will obviously side with me and just hate on her.
So, first thing I want to start off with this girl I dated for a while had her own problems dealing with anxiety. Just stating that to help explain what happened afterwards. The start of the relationship was fantastic for me and her. The first month and a half were great and a lot of fun, I connected with her on nerd stuff like games, comics, tv shows, a ton of stuff. Then stress starting piling up with her due to her job and possibly looking for a new job out of state which would mean the unfortunate end for us. The weird thing is we talked about it and suggested that we could still make it work. Anyway, as stress grew and I tried as much as I could to help and be there, she started to push me away. To a point that she wouldn’t see me or even have a phone conversation with me. She put up walls and made excuses to not see me, then after a little over a week dumped me.
Three weeks later she texts back to apologize, and explain that she couldn’t handle the stress and was too proud to have anyone help her including me. That and she has had good people leave her and hurt her, so she instead pushed me away and hurt me so she wouldn’t get hurt. I do forgive her, because its over and done with. I’m not someone to stay mad easily. She didn’t try and get back with me or said we should get back together, just the explanation and the apology. (All via text.) Afterwards though I thought of the line from Age of Ultron, where Bruce Banner is done fighting after the intro fight of the movie and says “You know, sometimes exactly what I want to hear isn’t exactly what I want to hear.” It made me realize hating someone who hurt you is easier than forgiving them. Which brings me to my question.
Should I say something to her a long the lines “Hey, if things work out with finding a job close by, and if you feel like you’ve changed and would like to grab a coffee sometime and start over, give me a buzz”? I mean, am I wrong in even thinking about this? Should I believe in the romantic side of me and give it a second chance if there is one? Or was I right in my initial thought and move on, because there is a possibility she won’t change and could do this all over again? Interested in your thoughts.
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
DEAR ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY: OK let’s break this down a little.
First of all: you weren’t with her for that long, as near as I can tell, before things started to pile up. As unromantic as it is to say, a relationship of a month and a half is not a terribly serious one and most people aren’t going to be as invested in one of, say, six months or longer. Relationships can take a not inconsiderable amount of time and attention, especially if you’re looking for something with potential to be serious rather than a casual one. We all have limited emotional and mental bandwidth and that means on occasion we have to prioritize what gets our attention. When things start to pile up and something has to give, a fledgling relationship is going to be on the chopping block. This rarely is a comment on the relationship itself or the person they’re dating; it’s more of a case of “right person, wrong time.”
Now, could she have handled this better? Oh yes. Just squeezing you out – probably in hopes that you’d get the hint dump her – wasn’t cool. It would’ve been better for her to say “Listen, I have too much to handle right now, so I need to end this for now. Maybe we can get back together when things are different,” instead of the passive-aggressive path she took.
The fact that she’s gone out of her way to apologize and at least explain is a good thing, in my opinion. At the very least, it’s an olive branch, an expression that she knew she did you wrong and wants to at least make some amends. Of course, this does make it a lot harder to stay mad at her. I mean come on, how can you hate her as what done you wrong when she stubbornly refuses to be a cardboard cutout of an evil ex and takes responsibility for her behavior during the break-up? The nerve of some people!
And that brings us to your question: do you make any tentative overtures about maybe, possibly get back together? Or do you forgive, forget and put her in the rear-view mirror? Well… that depends.
Deciding whether trying to get back together with your ex is a good idea hinges on two very important questions: why are you trying to get back together and have the circumstances that caused your break-up changed?
Many people who hope to get back with their exes have just refused to move on. Either they’ve developed Oneitis or they’re missing the nostalgic comfort of the known (usually plastering over those unpleasant parts about what the relationship was really like). In your case, you’ve handled things the right way – you’ve made your peace with things and moved on.
So we need to look at the second question: have things changed enough that your relationship will be viable this time around? Is her self-awareness matched with a willingness to do things differently the next time the stress piles up (and it will)? Is she in a better place, where she’ll be more willing to let you in, or at least give you a heads up about what’s going on instead of just squeezing you out?
Personally, I don’t think three weeks is really enough time to make that substantive a change if this is as deeply ingrained a pattern as she implies. But you know her better than I do, so you tell me. As it stands, I think it would be ok to make the offer to at least see each other again and then take things from there. Although if you do get together, I would suggest that you take things slower this time; leaping back in with both feet will only get you hurt again.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)