Q. Two months ago I broke up with my girlfriend of four years. No seminal event — things between us simply deteriorated to the point that we spent the majority of the last year together fighting all the time. She has recently re-initiated contact with me via e-mail, and we met once for lunch about two weeks ago. Things were perfectly cordial.
She has since made it clear that she is interested in getting back together. Given how long we were together and how briefly we’ve been apart, I could only see that happening successfully further down the road, once we’ve both had the opportunity to process and discuss what went wrong between us. I’ve tried to communicate this to her, but she is of the opinion that I must either commit to getting back together right now (“It’s been two whole months!,” she says), which to me feels like forcing the issue, or tell her that I never want to see her again. I still care about her, but I know that if we reunite too quickly it will all end the same way it did before. Am I being unfair by not taking a firm position either way, or is there some middle ground here?
A. It seems to me that you’re either going to work on this relationship together . . . or let it go. I’m not convinced that space is going to give you clarity. It’ll only give you time to decide whether you prefer life without this woman. It’s unfair to ask her to wait around while you adjust to being single.
You’ve been together for four years. You either want to work things out or see how it feels to be on your own. If you choose time apart, you can’t call it a break for self-discovery. You have to call it a breakup and accept that her journey to self-awareness might include moving on.
I understand your need for space and time, but we can’t press pause on long relationships when they get weird. If she continues to wait around against her will, she’ll become frustrated and resentful. I’m not sure that any relationship can bounce back from that much stress.
Take a firm position. Decide to work it out as a couple, or go your separate ways. If your gut tells you that you really want space, take that as a sign that you really want to be on your own.
She sounds pushy; you sound wishy-washy. She is being unfair by demanding, and you are being unfair by wanting to keep her in limbo.
Ask her if she has ideas about how things can be different and what she’s learned from the time apart. Ask yourself the same questions. If you both have good answers, then go for it; otherwise don’t.
You can’t “not get back together now” and think the two of you are on hold. If you decide not to reconcile (which would be my recommendation) you have to understand that you are breaking up- forever. Are you OK with that?