DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: About 4 years ago i met this amazing woman in the gym we were both attending in Paris. She was extremely kind, empathic, caring and everything one hopes to find in a S.O. We started chatting and within a month we were dating. I was still a virgin when i met her (aged 21). It wasn’t that I was that shy nor that I didn’t have dates, for some odd reason I hadn’t lost my virginity until then and I wanted to lose it with someone that I trusted. She was that person.
Everything was good but there was a problem: Me. I am an insecure asshole. Soon after we started dating I became very jealous of her, particularly her past (after all, she got to have sex before me while I had to wait 21 years, which just kind of make me feel inadequate) and her present. I just didn’t like that she was my first while I wasn’t hers. I also had a morbid curiosity in being with other girls too and “recover the lost time”.
We were both taking the relationship very seriously, and I felt like I was going to marry her someday (she was a bit older than me and we had actually talked about it a few times), something I had mixed feelings about because she was amazing but at the same time I wanted to have a past of my own and experience other women. I just regretted really she being my first and having found such a great person at first try.
As a result we always had a problematic relationship. Every now and then I would turn ape s
t crazy and freak out over details of her past sexual life or be jealous of her male friends. All because I wanted to have had experienced it too. For the most part we actually had a great relationship, we communicated really well and we were very close. But of course, me ruining the relationship with these pathetic scenes would deteriorate the relationship, no matter how good the rest was.
Now, this girl is a f
king saint. We were in this for 4 years! She always waited for me to “heal” and change. It eventually grew better but it never completely went away. A few weeks ago everything changed: She was talking to a male friend of hers who came out of town and who she views as almost her “brother” in the bedroom next to where I was for a few hours. No problem for me there. But then I heard something “suspicious” and I became convinced they were having sex (even though everything was 100% normal when I confronted them). That was enough for her. She broke up with me. Finally.
She told me that we were over for good. That there was 0 chance of us getting back together, even though she still had feelings for me. She seemed very convinced of this. I was hurt but I agreed. I’m an idiot and I never meant to hurt her, but she gave me enough opportunities to change and I didn’t take them. All my fault. So I moved on, I still loved her and wanted her back, but I knew there was little chance we would get back together.
For the first few days i was in grief. I wasn’t in the mood to go chase someone else. I wanted to meditate about myself and I felt it would be disrespectful and inappropriate to just go date someone else right away. I chatted with girls and even had one very interested in me in a party I went to, but i didn’t take the opportunity to mess around.
My ex didn’t feel the same way. She claims she thought that our relationship was 100% over. So less than 2 weeks later she was already having sex with a guy she had met even before we broke up.
About 3 days or so after she had sex with this dude I contacted her I didn’t know about it then) because I wanted to talk and I had to pick up some stuff I had in her apartment (and also, hopefully, manage to somehow convince her to come back to me). While we were apart, I actually came to realize how awesome this girl is and how much I actually love and how stupid my insecurities are, and how I actually would like to marry her someday. She tells me she had sex with this guy because she was trying to move on, as she thought it was really over between us, but she realized that she was actually way more in love with me that she ever thought and that she wants me back.
Frankly, I deserve it. I didn’t treat her 100% right, she took a lot of s
t because of me. I risked it and here’s my payment.
I was very hurt to find out about it, even though I thought it would have been a possibility. For once, I don’t get why she would be so quick to date someone else after only 2 weeks break up. She says she loves me but I don’t think she would be so quick to rebound if that was the case. It’s as if our 4 years together meant nothing to her. It makes me doubt of her character and makes me think she was already cheating on me with him or thinking about it (she says it’s not the case, that she never wanted to be with him while we were together). She says she’s going to talk with this guy and tell him she’s not interested anymore.
Secondly, even though she says she’s done with this dude, she doesn’t look so sure about it. She seems confused. When I went to her apartment she actually had a coffee date scheduled with this dude for that afternoon. She called it off, but she told me I had to “decide myself about getting back together” as if she was counting on me to tell her yes or no so that she could just go back to this other dude or ditch him. She says it wasn’t the case. I’m not sure.
Lastly, I’m no good for this girl. Let’s be honest. With my jealous history it would be very hard to me to get over this rebound fling of hers. I would probably blame her for the last of the relationship. I would really have to be the “better man”, something I’m not sure I could do. I don’t want to hurt her anymore. Besides, as far as I’m concerned she may not really love me. She’s been 4 years with me. 4 years of attachment is something hard to get by and it’s only natural she thinks she “misses me” after she’s been with someone else and didn’t feel the exact emotion of validation she was used to feel. But in reality, deep down, it’s all an illusion based on habit.
I really don’t know what to do, Doc. I love this girl and I miss her. Part of me wants back together. But this relationship is probably just so shattered already, is not worth saving. Some things are just better off dead. This dude she had sex with seems like a good guy who likes her. I just want her to be happy, maybe he’s the best option. As for me, I probably need to meet other girls, live a little bit. Maybe in a few years, if she’s free and I’m free and we’re both on the same page we could *potentially* work. Or not. I wish things would have been different. But I know I’m the one who’s mostly to blame for this.
What do you think I should do? Should we try again? Spend some time together as friends and see how it goes? Or just go against my first instinct, break the girl’s heart and tell her it’s over for real?
Second Time Lucky
DEAR SECOND TIME LUCKY: Alright STL, I’m going to level with you:
No. You should not get back together with your ex. In fact, the best thing you can do right now is to take a step away from dating in general and her in particular.
When people ask whether or not they should get back with an ex, I have a couple important questions.
First: When did you break up?
Third: Did the circumstances that caused the break up actually change?
There are a few factors involved here. The first is how recent the break up is. When you’re still in the early stages of a break-up, especially it was a long-term relationship, then that desire to get back together often has more to do with the fact that your status-quo has been shaken up more than feeling like you are better together than apart. Humans on the whole prefer stasis to change, and a break up – even a necessary one – is a big change. The longer you’ve been together, the bigger the change; you’re functionally having to learn how to be single again and unlearn the habits you developed in your life together.
Your memories can also screw with you; it’s very easy to discount the negative memories and focus mostly on the positive ones and get caught up in that glow of nostalgia.
So we come to the second question: why? Why, exactly did you break up? Was it a case of circumstance? Were you in the wrong place in life to have a relationship with this person? Did you have needs that weren’t being met? Conflicts that couldn’t be resolved? Or did someone blow the whole thing apart with their actions?
A little self-reflection is incredibly important when it comes to deciding whether to get back together with your ex. After all, if you don’t have the distance and the perspective to understand just what happened, you aren’t going to do well when it comes to that third step.
After all: if things haven’t changed – if the reasons you broke up are still in effect – then getting back together is just going to be the ten minute dance remix of why you broke up. Except this time, the chances of being friends afterwards will be even more remote.
With all that in mind, we come to your situation. Your breakup was fairly recent and it was because, frankly, you were an insecure bag of slop who kept accusing his girlfriend of infidelity because you couldn’t handle the fact that she had a past before you two got together.
But here’s the thing: you haven’t changed. Your past issues with her aren’t in the past. They’re still very much in the present. You are still treating her the way you did while you were together. I mean, s
t, you just got done telling me that you’re half-convinced she was cheating on you with this dude and you doubt her character for her fling.
And look, I get it. It stings to find out that your ex has been with someone else. It hits that part of your brain that asks “what does this say about me?” But the answer is almost always: “nothing”. What it says about her though, is that she just broke up with a dude who was always accusing her of cheating (or planning to cheat) and one of the ways to get over that frustration is to just say “ok f
k it, I’m going to go just have a fling with someone I know and trust”.
In short, it had far more to do with wanting to put s
t in the rearview mirror for her and far less about her having kept this guy in the wings.
But like I said: the things that broke you up are still very much in effect. Quite frankly, a few weeks of having a sad about having broken up are not going to be enough to get over some deeply seated insecurities. I am here from the future to tell you: you will be together for a week or two before you have a fight over her fling. And let’s be real: nobody wants to relitigate the Ross and Rachel “We Were On A Break” case.
However, dating around isn’t going to solve anything for you either. Your problem isn’t your inexperience or the relative lack of experience you had in relation to hers. The problem is how you handled things. While a little envy is understandable – hey, who wouldn’t like to have had those amazing experiences with their partner? – you took your insecurities and made them her problem for four years.
That sort of thing is relationship poison. And quite frankly, this is going to hit every relationship you have until actually address it. Not by going and having all the crazy adventures you wish you’d had, but by talking to a counselor or therapist. These deep-seated insecurities are going to eat away at any relationship you have. Having more partners isn’t going to fix things; at best, you’re going to be treating the symptoms, not the cause. At worst… you’re just going to feel like it’s never enough. There will always be some new thing that you will see as “well, if I could just have this, I’ll be satisfied.” And no. No you won’t. You’ll be tossing experience after experience, person after person into a deep, dark hole that will never be filled.
If you don’t want to have a repeat of this relationship – whether with your ex, or anyone else you may date – then you really need to start the recovery process and root out the cause.
So while I get that you miss your ex, and she misses you, you aren’t really in a position to be dating anyone right now. The best thing you can do for yourself is take time to really work on yourself. And I mean really work on yourself, with someone who can help you handle these issues.
If, after time has passed, you’re doing better and you find yourself in touch with your ex again? Well, maybe you can see where things stand. It may not be another chance at romance… but maybe you can be friends again. And maybe seeing her again will be the motivation you’ll need to do the work.
But until then? Getting back together with her would be a bad idea. Don’t subject yourselves to a repeat of the misery you both have gone through. Focus on yourself for a while, and get yourself back into emotional health.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)