Q. I’m 34 years old and currently dating.
I recently got out of an abusive relationship. He is 10 years younger than me — let’s call him B.
The abuse was physical and emotional, but recently it’s been hard to stop thinking of him. For example, I texted my cousin (same age as B) about seeing her this summer; it reminds me of him and our fun times.
In the past, he made negative comments about my age: He told me when I was 32 that I was too old to have a baby, and that because I’m older I was obligated to pay for our dates.
After dating him, I’m afraid to date, and thinking I’m too old to date younger guys or that I’m not sexy enough. I’m currently in therapy but still struggle with self-esteem issues. I feel he has won.
I’d appreciate some advice and support on how to move on.
A. He hasn’t won. You’re feeling a bunch of feelings, which means you’re working through it. You’re sitting with your discomfort and figuring out what you’ve learned. That takes time.
Let me be clear: It’s OK not to date right now. Taking a break to focus on getting to a good place will not prevent you from finding a partner in the future. All it means is that you’re giving yourself space to feel good again. Please don’t feel like you’re on a deadline to couple up with someone new or better.
Also, it makes sense that you miss your ex and think of him. Sometimes after a breakup, even one from someone who was terrible to us, we think of the rosiest moments — how special someone made us feel. Just don’t forget the rest of it. You’re grieving a loss, but the ending was necessary.
Therapy is good. Group therapy is also an option — something you could add to the mix if your therapist thinks it’s a good idea. Maybe it would help to talk to others who’ve had similar experiences.
Please know that 34 is a great age. When you’re ready, you might love the experience of dating someone who understands what it means to be 34. I’m wondering why it’s so important to attract someone younger. People change their priorities as they age — often in a good way.
Spend time thinking about what brings you happiness now. Focus on those things, then think about what love might complement your better life.
I’ll say it again: Take your time.
Congrats on getting out of this abusive relationship. You are on your way to bigger and better things, if you stay on the right track. WINDCHYME29
Most people reflect on their exes at different times in their lives. It doesn’t mean you want them back. Like a history class, you don’t want to repeat mistakes from the past. AUNTTIGGYWINK
Keep going to therapy, and keep an open mind about discussing meds with your primary care physician at any point. This isn’t about white knuckling, toughing it out, or pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. EACBN
He will not win! Recovering from this type of abuse does not happen immediately. Of course many things remind you of him, and eventually those abusive seeds he has planted will wither away; you will not give them the energy to grow. MHOUSTON1
Find the latest season of the Love Letters podcast at loveletters.show. Meredith Goldstein wants your letters! Send your relationship quandaries and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Columns and responses are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.