sad in st louie

Dear Kat,
I met this beautiful girl 2 years ago and we started dating. She was an amazing human being. I thought that maybe she was the Trinity to my Neo, you know, The One. Well, this was not to be so and she broke up with me. I was so depressed for months that I did not know what to do with myself. It didn’t help that I was unemployed and verging on homeless at the time. Just as she did things took a turn and life perked up. I landed a good job, found housing and all in all managed to turn things around. And although we remained broken up (we had a lot of unresolvable issues), we managed to stay friends.

The other day we went out together and she snapped some photos that she posted on The Facebook. In the photos I have a huge fake grin that looks like I’m happy, but in reality I was incredibly uncomfortable having my picture taken with her. My friends all think I should never talk to her again, but she’s really not as bad as they think. She’s not very outgoing but I love people and crowds. She told me that the thing that she hates most about me is the way I behave when I’m around people. Anyway, she posted the photos and all her friends back home commented on how pretty a couple we were. She immediately posted that unequivocally we were not a couple. This sliced open old wounds and I am miserable. Should I stop hanging out with her altogether? I thought I was getting better over the break up but apparently I have slid back into misery. Advice?

Sad Sack in St. Louie

My dear Sad Sack:

This is painful for me to read. Sometimes hanging out with your ex can be the most painful experience in the world. My mirror neurons are hurtin’ for ya.

I have always been proud of my ability to be friends with exes. Most of the people I’ve dated have remained my friends — some more close than others. There are a few exceptions, most notably when I was angry or too hurt to deal with the person after we broke up, or sometimes because the other person was too hurt to be my friend anymore.

sad sad sad

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos

I talked with a shrink once about how bad it made me feel not to be friends with someone I was that close to, and he spun it the other way. If you’ve gotten so close to someone that you felt they shared your soul or whatever, of course you’re not going to be able to be half-close to them. Being soulmates is an all-or-nothing bet most of the time, and sometimes you’ve just got to take the nothing.

Breaking up requires a period of mourning. As I’ve said before, you can usually count on your mourning period lasting at least as long as half the time you were together. That can be a very long time to heal. And you may find that you need to sever your ties with your ex to make the healing actually happen.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be friends again later on in life. If it hurts you too much to be around her, and even your friends are telling you it’s bad news, I think it’s time to take a break.

Let her know you need this time off and ask her to respect your boundaries. Block her on Facebook for a while so you don’t have to see news feeds about her — you don’t have to defriend her per se, but just make sure you’re not getting pictures and updates every ten minutes about her. Ask her not to call you. Take her number out of your phone. Tell your friends about it and they’ll jump in to support you.

You can set yourself a goal of a few months (or half the time you two were together, if you want to be really official), or just make it an open-ended moratorium until you feel better enough to talk to her again.

Think of this process as peeling a bandaid off. You can do it real fast so it hurts all at once, or you can do it slowly and prolong the pain. You’ve already broken up, which is the wound under the bandaid. Seeing her again is the adhesive. Okay, lame metaphor, but you get the idea. Not seeing her will probably hurt a helluvalot, but seeing her and having these little pins stick into you every few weeks is the other option.

You are probably going to see her in public, especially if you have mutual friends. I’ve already written about what to do if you see your ex in public, but my best advice in this arena is to limit your exposure to her as much as possible. You’re the one who needs the space, or else she would have taken it herself. So you’ve got to be the proactive avoider. I know, it sucks having to limit your social life, but it’s for your own good. Avoid the bars she goes to; don’t attend events that she’s been invited to; find new places to go. Don’t go places that remind you of her, either, as hard as that can be.

Also, it sounds like you’re starting to realize she’s not perfect: you said she’s not very sociable. She actually criticized your personality, which isn’t a very nice thing to do. Try making a list of things that aren’t great about her, stuff you probably missed when you were in your swoon stage. Everyone has flaws. Perfection is just in the eye of the beholder. Bust through that membrane and concentrate on the traits that make her somewhat unbearable. Ask your friends for help. It’s not character bashing just for the sake of character bashing — you’re trying to get over it. This can help.

As usual, you know deep down what you need. I think forced breaks are fabulous ideas. People you love are a hard habit to break, but when the bond has been broken, you’ve got to do your best. It’s like quitting smoking. Hard now, but so good for you in the long run.


5 Responses to “sad in st louie”

  1. September 8, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Nice post, I recently went through something similar. I would add that I don’t love open moratoriums, mainly because I can sometimes convince myself I’m cool with it way too early. Forcing myself to wait til a specified date seems to help.

  2. 2 Consuelo
    September 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Riddle me this: why does it always seem like females want to remain friends while the male is more like “either get back with me or get the hell out of my life?” Don’t women have that “get out of my life” feeling as well?

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