Q. I’ve known my ex for about three years. When we first met, I was still recovering from a series of rough breakups, one of them with my high school sweetheart. Needless to say, I found her company comforting, and it’d be fair to say that she helped me rebuild myself and my self-esteem. After about two years of missteps and talking, we started dating in the late summer of 2020. Our romantic relationship didn’t go so well. Unfortunately, we had both been through our first deployments with the Navy that year, and reintegrating into the “real world” (which was a different landscape due to COVID-19) and the stresses that it brings caused fissures, fractures, and eventually she initiated our breakup.
We remained friends, though we were both standoffish in our own ways, and it took until our deployment this year to fully reconnect and start talking again. The thing is, a part of me will always hold feelings for her, and while I’ve tried less extreme measures to put distance between myself and her before, I inevitably get drawn back to her. I’m not a particularly hard person to read, and I think she sees that I get confused over her intentions (we spend as much time together as work allows, talking, eating meals, etc., and she only spends that free time with me). She regularly reminds me that I “shouldn’t get my hopes up,” which stabs at my heart like a dagger, even though I know that there really is no chance at our romantic relationship rekindling. In about a month, I’ll be transferring half a world away from where she’s currently stationed. My question is: Should I go and remove myself from her life, or keep up this facade of pretending we’re friends and things are OK? I told her the other day that when it comes to her, the only hope I have for the future is happiness on her terms. I just don’t think that for her happiness, or my own, I can realistically remain in her life the way I hoped. She’s the yin to my yang, opposites in all the ways we need them, but I’m tired of being confused, and maybe she is too.
ADRIFT IN THE SEA OF CONFUSION
A. “In about a month, I’ll be transferring half a world away from where she’s currently stationed.”
I think that’s the answer. My advice is to contact/see her when it feels right over the next few weeks, but to prepare your brain for a real ending when you leave. It’s not that you’ll delete her from your brain, but you’ll begin to think of her as a real ex instead of a friend with potential.
She’s telling you not to get your hopes up. That’s a vague (maybe immature) way of saying, “I like you around and know you’re into me, and I don’t want to cut you loose, but … I make no promises. Maybe someday in the future.”
But we’re in the present. There’s no way to speed up a maybe.
Making massive decisions about her over the next month seems unnecessary. Just see her, say goodbye, and then let this deployment be a real departure.
She’s not your soul mate, by the way; she’s just someone you really like, a person you met at an important time. There are other people capable of engaging with you that way. You’re more likely to find them if you make space for something new.
Welcome to the yo-yo treatment: She pushes you away, but keeps the string attached to pull you right back in.
It seems to me that this “problem” is resolving itself. You’ll be half a world away.
As long as you are pining away for this one person, you will miss out on all the others who pass by. You have to let this one person go.
After you part, don’t let her live rent-free inside your head. Oh, and thank you for your service.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.