Breakup second thoughts

This is a repost blog.

Original material written by Letter Writer #141 on Captain Awkward. Click through to reach Captain Awkward’s advice.

25 Nov 2011: Question 141. Breakup second thoughts: Can these pants be fixed?

Dear Captain,

This is a question about tailoring ill-fitting pants.

So there’s this lady in my life. She’s a fantastic lady. I met her last summer and we connected pretty much instantly. I was coming off some serious heartbreak, she was coming off some other drama. So we took things slowly, but we started to develop feelings for each other.

After a couple months, I moved back to school and she moved back to work a few states over. I was hesitant to get into a long-distance relationship: I’d done it before and hated the logistics and the lack of face time, and I didn’t want to take things with her any faster than they’d been going. But we decided to stay in touch and see how things developed on their own.

And they did develop. We talked every day. I liked talking to her on the phone, which was new for me. We wrote back and forth. We sent each other poems and pictures and articles and random things that made one of us think of the other. I went to visit her and loved her company as much as ever. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I might be falling for her.

But then a lot happened. I had a depressive episode that lasted for a couple months. I hated my program and being a student and living in my town. I was nervous about the future. I cried a lot and had a panic attack once and felt really trapped and awful. There was a day that was the worst day of my life where I wondered what it would be like to step in front of a bus. And somewhere in the midst of that, I realized that this woman was not the woman I was supposed to end up with.

Or that’s how it felt, anyway. It was this weird, strong intuition. It felt like all the taking it slow” had been because I hadn’t been sure if she was the right person for me, and now I was sure that the answer was no.” And I couldn’t be with her in good conscience, knowing that, because I suspected that she didn’t feel the same way. So — trying to be as clear and kind and gentle as possible — I broke up with her. It was miserable.

She took it hard, but she understood that she couldn’t change my mind for me, and didn’t want to try. That’s not how love works, she said. And it’s not.

But I still feel that connection for her that I felt the first day we met. There’s nobody else in my life I’m interested in at the moment. (In fact, I don’t want to date anyone right now. I want some time off from the heartache, and I’m kind of a serial monogamist and feel like I don’t know who I am outside of relationships, like I haven’t built real boundaries for my self yet. This is a big deal.) We’re still friends, we still talk every day, we still love each other. I am doing my damnedest to be totally honest about my feelings and not lead her on in any way; she assures me that she knows where things stand between us and is okay with that. I’ve more or less climbed out of my depression and have just started therapy, which is awesome.

Oh Captain, is there a way to make this relationship work? Being less depressed doesn’t make my intuition about the two of us go away. I still don’t think she’s the right person for me to be with. But I want her to be, so badly. She’s smart, down to earth, supportive, gorgeous, with an incredibly beautiful soul. (Also, we’ve barely scratched the surface of our sexual potential together and that drives me crazy.) It’s just this FEELING, this not being as in love with her as I wish I were. It feels like a limit — like, I’ve reached the maximum amount I can be in love with her, and it’s not enough. It doesn’t feel like a choice. It feels like I’m not getting to be with this person because of something I can’t control. That thing just happens to be this knowledge in the pit of my stomach.

Will that ever change? I’m not quite waiting around for that to happen — after all, we are still broken up — but I’m not NOT waiting around for it to happen, either. I don’t want to get back together with her if I feel this ambivalent; that’s not fair to either of us. She deserves all the love in the world. Could I ever be the person to give it to her, or should I just give up on this? Can you tailor pants to make them fit, even if you’re not sure why they don’t? Is it possible for them to fit eventually? Will the pants size of my love change to accommodate them? In a month, or a year, or five? Does that ever happen?

[FWIW, I’m a 25-year-old woman. She’s 28. And thanks for your whole website full of amazing advice…I am a dedicated reader and lurker.]

Fix My Pants, Please?

25 Jan 2017: LW #141 here, from the distant past of November 2011!

My particular situation ended up working out differently from how I’d expected. I went to therapy for a while and realized I’d been depressed for, well, pretty much my whole life. I played medication roulette and continued talk therapy with a kind and patient therapist. It took a while, but I ended up being able to tease out the I’m not ready for a serious relationship” (true!) from the I don’t love you enough” (actually, not true!). Commenter who asked whether that was depression speaking had actually hit the nail on the head. I wasn’t feeling love because I wasn’t feeling much of anything other than numbness and pain.

Five years later, my depression is 95% managed, I still talk to the kind and patient therapist occasionally, and the lady and I are going to get engaged sometime in the next couple of years. It’s really amazing to be able to feel intense emotions and not be too afraid of being sucked into the maelstrom of misery that I used to experience so often. But mostly, I just wanted to write again to thank the Captain and the commenters for their wise and compassionate advice. This site has taught me a lot about how to set boundaries and create healthy relationships, not just with my partner but with everyone in my life.


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September 19, 2023