Q. I wanted to write because I’m at an especially low and weird point in my life after a breakup.
I’m a 34-year-old guy, and I’d describe myself as someone who has a good, stable life. I take care of myself physically and mentally, I have a solid career, a great group of friends, and good hobbies (music). Also, I come from a very loving family. That said, I grew up in a very small town where the values my family and I had were quite different from those of my peers. As a result, I felt like an outsider — a feeling I still have today, even though it’s no longer true. As a result of my past, I’ve always been anxious and shy when it comes to socialization, and I’ve had to work hard as an adult to overcome that.
It hasn’t exactly made things easy in the romance department, and despite having three serious relationships so far, finding and maintaining romantic relationships feels impossibly challenging and rare. I can lead a happy life while single, but after a somewhat recent breakup, I’m struggling to get my self-worth, confidence, and happiness back up to where it used to be. After going through an easier breakup at the beginning of the pandemic, I met this new woman online several months later, winter of 2020, and we connected right off the bat. To date, I’ve never felt more connected on all levels to a woman, so I felt like I hit the jackpot. We had some distance between us, and I was working remotely, so the relationship just took off. Not long after we started dating, I would visit for several days (sometimes over a week), living in her house with her. The first few months were bliss, and she was openly enthusiastic and as interested as me.
Then things felt like they began to change, and not in the “just the end of the honeymoon phase” kind of way. Slowly, she began to subtly criticize things about me, and make sarcastic remarks and “jokes” to me. What confused me is that intermittently she would express how much she loved me and how lucky she was to have found me. In the very end she told me she had feelings for a current friend. Surprisingly, she wanted to hold on to our relationship. Needless to say, that was it.
Anyway, it’s now been several months, and I still feel sad, angry, and confused on a daily basis. Even worse, my confidence and self-esteem are at an all-time low, so meeting new people feels impossible. It feels especially hard being in my mid-30s because at this point I have much less time and energy to go out and do things where I might meet new people. I know this is super long (sorry). What advice do you have for someone like me?
DAZED AND CONFUSED IN THE BURBS
A. I’m sorry the relationship left you feeling this way. It sounds like you forgot how great you are.
How do we reset after a bad breakup?
1. We move around as much as we can. Like, physically. This is a great time for walks, exercise — whatever your body can handle. 2. We plan stuff to look forward to. Dinner at a fun place, a get-together with two friends ... it doesn’t have to be some massive trip to another country, just a change of scenery. (Again, within reason. Whatever’s affordable, even if it’s a day trip.) 3. Some of us get bangs. You don’t have to do that. But a style change can be nice. Make it a new coat, actually. I truly believe that when I am at my most self-confident, it is because I have shown up in an incredible coat. 4. Spend time with people who think you’re cool. It makes you feel cool. 5. People know I like to recommend watching TV, which isn’t an emotional boost for everyone, but I swear it can help to watch shows that remind us that excellent characters can get dumped, feel low, and then move on to better plot lines. Books work too. Life does imitate art and vice versa.
You say you ended a relationship right before you started this recent one. It seems that finding dates and possible partners isn’t impossible for you at all. That’s pretty great, right? You can do more of the looking later because there will continue to be great single people out there. For now, feel your feelings and do all the steps.
Also, check in, please. We love an update.
This is going to sound harsh when I don’t mean it to: Limit the navel-gazing. Your thoughts predict your behavior, and you’ve got to get out of your head and back into the world. Do all the things Mere said, and give it time. Endings are inevitable; it’s how you respond to them that changes your life for the better.
Breakups usually feel bad. Be grateful that she exposed herself to be who she really is before you made a life-changing mistake.
I had a terrible breakup when I was 29. We were engaged, wedding planned, etc. She backed out, devastated me. But I got back in the game. Dated a few people, met my current wife, and got married at 33. But it was rough from 29 to 30. You get depressed, doubt yourself, get frustrated, get mad at all the time you feel was wasted, etc. But there’s millions of single women. Been married almost 18 years now. Three kids. Got through the pain and it was worth it. She’s out there.
Be proud of the person you are, flaws and all. We all have them. The right person for you will be someone who doesn’t make negative comments as a joke to undermine you. You may not find the exact same thing but that’s OK. Kindness and mutual respect matter. And ... great coats.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to email@example.com or fill out this form. 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.