I can’t get over my long-distance ex-girlfriend
I’m 25 years old. I’ve been having a really hard time in the past month due to a breakup. I met this girl when I was 18 and she was 17. We lived in different cities, more than three hours from each other (we still do), so we started long-distance dating. I loved her but always felt as if I was missing out on my life by being with someone while I was so young. Years passed and we had tons of breakups, mostly me breaking up with her.
We broke up last year and stayed away from each other for 10 months. Now I feel as if I’ve lost her for good. Ironically, I feel that she is the love of my life and I want to settle down, live with her and start a family. She tells me that she suffered a lot because of my decisions and now she’s not sure she even loves me any more.
I’ve been trying to fill a hole that she made in my heart when I left her (yes, my own fault) by getting to know other people, and I keep looking for her in other girls. I’m really miserable and I don’t know what to do.
I get letters like this from people of all ages, so you are not alone. I think it’s great you are looking at this with an analytical eye, and well done for taking responsibility for your part in it. It is very easy to look back at situations and relationships and to idealise them; but the fact is, you broke up with this girl many times and that must have been for a reason. What I think you need to really look at is the difference between the reality of this relationship, and how you now recall it (which is probably tinged with fantasy).
I consulted Pamela Gawler-Wright, a UKCP-accredited contemporary psychotherapist (psychotherapy.org.uk), who had some valuable insights. She thought it was great that, “At a relatively young age you have already found that relationships matter deeply to you and that emotions, even the uncomfortable ones, are important messengers of what you might really want in life.” But she also wondered if perhaps you “feel trapped or smothered by intimacy with another person, even while you also want the security and affirmation [that a relationship brings]. Could this also have something to do with how your most important romantic relationship to date has been long-distance?”
Many people in long-distance relationships really like the bits in between meeting up: safe in the knowledge they have someone, but far away as a romanticised ideal, so they can become whomever they want in the meantime.
I think this is what may have happened with your girlfriend and why, now that she is finally gone, you are convinced she is the one. Honestly, I don’t think she is the one, and that’s OK. You are 25, you have lots of years of getting to know yourself better. Instead of trying to fix the pain with going back, you need to face it: look at what it’s telling you about who you are and then fold this experience into your life.
“Your ex has communicated that this painful limbo is not acceptable to her,” Gawler-Wright said, “and it’s important you respect that – let her and you move on. Letting go will also give you a chance to process the pain that you are avoiding by trying to keep your fantasy open of being together for ever.”
Gawler-Wright also wanted you to think about what qualities your ex had that you think are lacking in others you meet. Sometimes, she explained, other people reflect what may be lacking – but that we want – in ourselves, and it’s only by addressing that hole you talk of, that people can really commit to a successful relationship, based in reality and all that goes with it.
One of the scariest things I found as a single person was thinking I might never meet that special someone. I used to think that, if only I could absolutely know I would meet someone one day, I could actually enjoy my single time. Of course there are no guarantees, but this is what I would like you to try to do: be on your own for a while and learn who you are.
Gawler-Wright said: “Do not wish away your time as a single person out of an avoidance of loneliness. Your future probably holds a long-term relationship that will be all the richer for the work you are doing now, so savour this opportunity to grow.”
• Send your problem to [email protected]. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure the discussion remains on the topics raised by the article. Please be aware that there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.