I read your column every day and often contribute to the message board. I have had a bit of baggage in my life and many of your writers have had experiences that I can relate to. Finally, I have my chance to ask a question.
I just broke up with my girlfriend of seven months. Using your advice, I wrote down the reasons so that I would not forget when I got rattled.
Our major issue is communication -- that my ex avoids issues and we do not resolve issues to my satisfaction (I was married before and this was the major issue, so this is a definite deal-breaker for me). When I told her this was a reason for wanting to leave, she said it was the wake-up call she needed and that she wants to change.
What I am worried about is that she wants to change for me and not for herself. I do not want another person to compromise who they are because she does not want me to break up with her. It seems like it is giving me too much power. I don't want power, I want the right person.
In addition, I am having trouble figuring out whether, even if she succeeds in communicating better and we do get back together, I will fall in love with her. It's only been seven months, but it's already been seven months if you get my meaning.
We are taking a week to figure out what we both want (which is to say, I am mulling this over for a week).
My questions are: Should I have fallen in love by seven months? What advice can you give me for dealing with this negotiation phase my ex is going through? and Is there any guidance you can give me for coming to a decision?
– Bad at Breaking Up, New York
I can't give you a timeline for falling in love, BABU, but I can tell you that at seven months, you should want to work it out with her if that's an option -- and you should be excited that she wants to learn to communicate better for you. If the idea of losing her doesn't make you miserable, stress you out, or give you weird stomach pains, this breakup is about more than communication issues. It's about not digging her enough to stay with her.
But know this: No matter what relationship you're in, there's a learning curve for communication. She might not resolve issues to your liking, but you might require more discussion than she believes is necessary. The point is to learn to compromise. And you can't do that if you're projecting the bad stuff that happened with your ex. She's not your ex. Try not to compare.
I'm sure I did advise making a list of the bad stuff for rattled moments (that sounds like me). But keeping a list of the good stuff is important, too, especially if you're prone to focus on the negative. See if you miss her. And if you do, be happy she wants to work on it -- and let her try.
Readers? Is he focusing too much on his ex's faults? What should he feel after seven months? Are his girlfriend's promises really about changing for the wrong reasons or is that simply how people compromise in relationships? What's going on here? When did I give that advice about the lists? I can't remember. So, discuss.