Advice

On the end of a long-term relationship

I just had a four year relationship come to an end, he said he did not have romantic feelings for me anymore. He also said we had no disagreements or arguments, that we were complimentary, and it wasn’t what he was looking for. I’m so confused. It hurts, and it is shit. I love him and all the moments we shared. He still comes to me when he deals with some issues and says he finds comfort in me. I absolutely want him to be happy even if it’s not with me, and will be there to comfort him. It’s been very hard to rid of the feelings, but what am I even doing. Yet, I have a question or a few questions. 1) How can someone feel all these intense emotions for another person who has stopped feeling the same? 2) How can someone just not be in love one day? 3) How do I stop having feelings for him? 4) How can I still be a person to help him, without hurting myself?

 

1. He’s already had time to come to terms the end of the relationship. You haven’t. It’s perfectly normal for you to be feeling intense emotions right now. I promise, those feelings will eventually subside.

2. It didn’t just happen one day. It was a process, one that took time, and one for which you are not responsible. Your instinct will be to find ways to blame yourself, but this isn’t on you. Four years is a good run. The relationship simply ran its course, and he was ready to end it before you were. (I doubt you’ll believe me, but if it hadn’t been him first, eventually there would have come a day when you would have been ready to end it.)

3. Time, distance, and personal reflection. Those are the ingredients required to stop having feelings for him. I have no idea how much time it will take you. Distance includes both emotional distance and physical distance. As for personal reflection, that’s going to be tough. This is your first time dealing with a broken heart, and being new to the process, you’re just gonna have to find your own way.

4. You can’t continue helping him without hurting yourself, nor does he deserve to find comfort in you after ending the relationship. Stop being there for him. Stop comforting him. Stop letting him take advantage of you. (Yes, he is taking advantage of you.) This will prove difficult at first, but it is absolutely necessary in order for you to move on. He broke up with you. That means he doesn’t get to have you anymore. I can’t stress that enough. He doesn’t get to have you anymore.

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27 thoughts on “On the end of a long-term relationship

  1. Mango says:

    That last sentence. Absolutely. When he breaks up with you, he loses ALL rights to come to you for anything whatsoever. And he is 100% no longer your responsibility. He had every right to break up with you, but he lost every single privilege that comes with dating you. He can’t have both.

  2. guy says:

    The first 2 sentences explain exactly how I feel in my 3 year relationship, but I have not broken up with my girlfriend yet. There never seems to be a time that makes sense–too many birthdays, planned trips, mutual friends, etc–to end it, but deep down in my gut I know it’s over. The last thing I want to do is have her feel how OP does. Is there a best way to go about a long-term relationship breakup? Should I feel this guilty? Should I wait it out to see if things change?

    • The Coquette says:

      If you’re done, you’re done. Stop wasting her time and end the fucking relationship. Make it swift, clean, and merciful. Be kind, be firm, and then be gone. Show her as much respect as possible, but don’t drag it out. If you’re the one doing the breaking, then she gets dibs on whichever mutual friends (and mutual property) she wants.

    • Light37 says:

      It’s going to suck no matter what you do, so cut it off clean and fast. If nothing else, consider how she’s going to feel if she finds out that while she thought everything was lovely, you were plotting your breakup.

  3. VeryOn says:

    That last sentence made my heart creak like an old floorboard in an abandoned house.

    I used to think it was easy to remain friends with someone after breaking up. Never sent anyone away angry. Always hugged. I felt so good at recognizing the end and throwing flowers on the grave…but then zombie fucking relationship would rise on the first full moon and slowly traipse after me as I swung at it with a guilty bat until I was exhausted! We would collapse on that dirty ground together and the circle of zombie life would begin again. Don’t let the zombie get you. And don’t beat yourself with the guilty bat either, you’ll never hit a home run. Zombies don’t run very fast but they are surprisingly good at dialing phones and sending text messages. Ignore them.

    Yay ambien comment.

  4. Anna says:

    On a slightly unrelated note, time and distance isn’t an option for me and my ex so I want to take him to therapy (a one off session with someone who deals with couples). We still need to work together and we have lots of close friends in common, probably will for the couple next years. This was a bit of a first love and I really wanted to be his friend, but he’s been such a relentlessly vicious and hateful dick for the last two weeks (when not staring doe eyed at me at the national conference we had to attend together last weekend), that now I would prefer for him to get the hell out of my life if I could.
    So yeah therapy: I have to live with him, I don’t want the next girl who dumps him to go through what I went through, and he still has the emotional vocabulary of a 14 yo (living with his divorced dad in their bachelor pad since 16 hasn’t done him any good), so a session or two may be valuable experience for him.
    Now I have to find a way of offering this option without sounding like I want to get back together and without belittling him.

    • Becky says:

      “Breaking up is always hard to navigate, and this break up is even more complicated because [situation]. I think having a mediator would help us transition to friendship in a healthy way.”

      but mostly you should get the fuck outta there as quickly as possible

      • Anna says:

        I’m doing my thing, don’t worry 🙂
        I have more power in this situation than you seem to imagine, and I am not willing to give up the political engagements I’ve spent most of my adult life at for one person. (Also, I’m shit scared at how this discussion will go down in a couple of hours)

  5. Becky says:

    This describes me except he is being respectful about not leaning on me emotionally, it was five years and a marriage, and also we have a kid together.

    I feel so fucking lost. We’re mutually committed to staying friends for the sake our kid, and I’m confident we can. I still like him and I still love him, but I feel like I’ve lost a limb and I have no idea if/when it will ever get better.

    • Giuliana says:

      It sounds like your marriage was a success even though it didn’t go till death do you part. You were happy together, you have a kid, and you both have the good character and respect for each other to be kind to each other for the sake of the kid you mutually love.

      It will be better. You’ll wake up one day and your limb will be back. You might not even notice it until you’re using it, and you’ll look down and say “oh wow, it’s back! Hello old friend.” To combat feeling lost, do things you enjoy, your hobbies, find a new hobby, get some exercise that you enjoy because it is great for stress, spend some good time with your friends, and maybe try something new or something you always wanted to try. Join a group or club and meet some new friends. Maybe you’ll even fall in love (but don’t expect to.) Also, if you can afford it, treat yourself to a nice hour long deep tissue massage. If that’s too expensive, maybe take a nice hot bubble bath a couple times a week. Indulge taking care of your body and mind during this time in healthy ways. Stress can hide out in the body, so being extra kind to yours right now will do wonders.

      If at times it is too unbearable, take your day five minutes at a time. You go five minutes, look at your watch, and say “it has been five minutes and I am still breathing, now I will get through the next five.” Might not work for you, but it is a suggestion in case, I found it useful myself in hard times.

      You will be just fine in due time.

  6. ktk says:

    God, I wish I could’ve read this when I was going through my first breakup. I got dumped, but for the longest time, my guilt at not being able to be there for him anymore was ENORMOUS.

  7. daisy says:

    Ohhhh yes. Same boat, sister.

    What if my ex insists on telling all our friends that it was mutual? What does that mean?

    • bea says:

      If you ended the relationship, it means your ex is struggling with their pride and they want to appear to have some control over the situation.
      If it was your ex who ended it, it’s likely that they’re not comfortable taking full responsibility for the end of your relationship.

    • Rainbowpony says:

      He might think it’s a polite white lie. If you don’t think so, maybe send him a quick polite note telling him otherwise.

      I’ve done this before, just because I thought it was nobody’s business.

  8. Sally says:

    What do you do when the break up was mutual and there’s a legitimate chance your ex might kill themselves without your support? I’ve been focusing on trying to help him open up to his mother and seek therapy (he’s willing to try but it’s a painfully slow process.) Most of the help I’ve been offering has been practical (information on local mental health services, the contact details of various employers, templates for potential discussions with loved ones) because I’m worried about him becoming emotionally dependent on me.

    I don’t feel an obligation towards him as such, and I’ve established and enforced some boundaries, but my willingness to help is in no small part driven by fear. It isn’t like I’d feel responsible for his death were he to kill himself, it’s just that I’d be so fucking sad.

    • Chrissy says:

      Well, the party line on this seems to be that if they call you up and threaten suicide, you dispatch the authorities to their location. If he’s leaning on you that heavily, there’s a chance that you would be the person that he would call. I’m not sure what makes your fear “legitimate,” but there seems to be a little bit of codependent behavior there. I’m not judging, by the way; I have codependent traits and I tend to sniff them out. I wonder if your fears might be amplifying the possibility of his suicide attempt in your mind. Just some stuff to chew on (as if you didn’t already have enough on your plate).

  9. Ali says:

    God damn. I was there once. Definitely cut off contact. I couldn’t do that for so long and it took me years to get over him as a result.

  10. Kristi Walker says:

    Everyone is being a little easy on the OP, in my opinion.

    OP, you’ve been hurt but you’re setting yourself up for more hurt. And I think you know that already because most of us have been there and hated ourselves for it later. (hence the letter to Coke)

    Shut him down. Tell him in no uncertain terms that he was very clear that he didn’t want to be in a relationship with you and being his sounding board (doormat?) is bad for you. Tell him flat out not to come back or call or text or reach out or anything else until you decide if and when you are ever ready for that and you may never be and he’ll have to be OK with that and then go cry a good cry and shake that shit off. He’ll try to excuse his behavior and you’ll want to believe him. Stop. Respect yourself and do it well.

    Basically, grow a pair. Mean it. The guy is using you. He’s using you because you’re easy and available (what he’s calling “comforting”). Gross. It’s gross and cruel, even if it’s not intentional. And you’re lying when you say “even if it’s not with you”. You want it to be with you, so you’re allowing yourself to be his doormat. Don’t be that girl. Just stop. You’ll thank yourself for it sooner rather than later.

    ps…I’m sorry you’re hurting. That feeling sucks. It’ll go away. They all do.

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