Q. My ex-girlfriend Charlotte broke up with me about 10 weeks ago. We had been dating for more than six years, and I’ve known her (and loved her) for close to 10 years.
As a 27-year-old, that’s quite a long time. More than a third of my life. I built my future up around this woman, and I truly felt we could have been happy together. We were even engaged at one point.
Both of us have some depressive issues and other things that have made our highs that much higher and our lows that much lower. It’s not the first time she’s broken up with me either. It certainly hasn’t always been easy. I feel like we both matured as the relationship progressed, but I do recognize that I have shortcomings that got in the way at times. I’m trying to better myself as a person every day. I also acknowledge that she ultimately gave up on us. She stopped trying and cut me loose.
I’ll be honest, after putting myself out there for such a long time and watching as love and attraction just died without my partner fighting for it, it makes me not want to ever put myself out there again. Perhaps people will say that this is typical, but it’s all relative.
I know that this is final. I have to believe that. (She’s also seeing someone else at present, and no, it didn’t start before we broke up.) So how do I stop thinking about her? Yes, I can be busy and with friends and all of these things, but is there any way to halt the bad thoughts when they start or when I’m in my alone time?
I hear many things said on message boards and from friends when it comes to these types of breakups. (S)he’s awful, (s)he’s selfish, you can do better . . . or plenty of other empty statements about how great the dumpee is or about how terrible the dumper is. I don’t necessarily find those blanket statements helpful. So what can help me? I’ve been keeping myself busy, but we work in the same building and I’m reminded of her frequently, and it’s just not getting any easier. How do I change my thoughts from false hopes of reconciliation to acceptance?
A. Ah, message boards. I can’t knock them (this column is kind of a message board, I guess), but I can tell you that if people on breakup-specific message boards knew the cure to the common breakup, they would not be on message boards. Right?
You had a six-year relationship during some pretty important, formative years. Charlotte helped you become the person you are — the guy who’s smart enough to know that it’s over. It’s only been 10 weeks. That’s less than three months. Please don’t expect miracles here. Charlotte is dating someone else, but trust me, she’s still processing her loss.
One thing you can do to move this along is to change your routine a bit. Reminders are inevitable, but if you try going somewhere new after work, you might create some independent memories and find some unfamiliar buildings and faces.
I also recommend falling in love with a book series or television show, something you’ll discuss with your new inner-circle, not her. And please, if you have a history of depression, make sure that you’re getting the right treatment/meds. This is a difficult time. Get all the help you need.
You can do little things here and there to make your life better, but you really have to just ride it out. Go find some routine changers and get off the message boards, please. Writing here is one thing, but Googling this stuff every night will make you crazy. Really, your time is better spent watching good TV.
“So how do I stop thinking about her?” It’s one of those things that the more you try to do it, the less you will be able to. You can’t erase her from your thoughts. I have exes from 20 years ago I still about from time to time. It’s just part of life. Is getting a new job a possibility?
Forget all the “she’s awful” stuff. Go the other way. Embrace that you loved this person for nearly 10 years and that there must have been a reason for that. But also accept that it is truly over, think of it as a death, celebrate the god times but acknowledge that you must move on and live a life that pays tribute to what you learn in that relationship. Continue to grow and be a better person going forward. The pain will diminish with time, but it does take time.
The amount of time you’ve known this woman means that she does mean a lot to you and was central to your life. So don’t feel horrible if you have emotions about her which last for some time. I’ve been divorced for over five years after having been married for close to 25. Besides having adult children as reminders, there are lots of reasons why I end up seeing my ex. And many times I do reflect on the times we had. I think you’re on the right track, which is trying to do something with yourself. I think I see very little drama here, there are no ill feelings, cheats, or tormented denials here; instead you’re just living with the fact that you’re moving on from a person who was very important in your life, for a very long time. Yes, it will take time.
Time is all you can use. It’s only been 10 weeks. That’s 3 percent of the entire time you were dating, and 1 percent of the entire time you’ve known her.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not “watch more TV.”
Your are not going to get over 10 years in 10 weeks. It took a long time to create that relationship, it will take a while to undo all of that. Don’t be in such a rush to get rid of a third of your life. Oh, and don’t hang around inside with yourself watching television. Get out and try new things and meet new people. Try a new interest, hobby, sport, whatever it is you have a desire for. Get back into the flow of life. Good luck.
It took me 10 weeks to get over losing my favorite travel coffee mug.
loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@