Am I the rebound?

Dear Meredith,

This letter could go on for pages. I'll spare you my psychoanalyzing. That's what your reader comments are there for.

My girlfriend is 35 -- ten years older than me. We met at a party about six months ago and began seeing each other casually. We moved slowly at first, but things organically developed into a serious relationship. We work full-time, enjoy each other's company, have overlapping interests, and spend about 75 percent of our time together. Our relationship has progressed quite quickly compared to my longest relationship of four years and hers of ten.

All would be hunky-dory if it weren't for the fact that her ten-year relationship ended about two weeks after we met. They had intertwined finances, property, professional, and social lives. Their relationship ended amicably -- all I know about why is that they had just fallen out of love. Understandably, she was and is still saddened by her loss, which is why I was initially hesitant to start anything more than casual hooking up with her. However, she initially said that things were tough but getting easier, that she was out of love for a few years and so the fact that her relationship was over wasn't going to affect what we had.

Recently (for the past two months) she's been more distant, sad, crying at times, and reflective about her past relationship. When we do things or go places that she did with the ex (essentially everything because they'd been together since she was a student in Boston), she is noticeably sad and sometimes withdrawn. To complicate things, most of their mutual friends started as her ex's, and still are. She tells me she feels like she had lost herself in that relationship and doesn't have anyone besides me and a couple out-of-state friends to rely upon.

It's gotten to the point where she's said she isn't sure about continuing dating, that she's still devastated by the break-up and loss (of her extended family, their home, their life), and that she needs to find herself, but wants to do so with me. She tells me she's a mess, and doesn't know why I'm with her. I've definitely shown and told her in many ways that I love her dearly.

We've decided to stay together and try to weather this storm together. I'm more emotionally invested in this relationship than I've ever been, and don't want to cut things short where I see such potential. On the other hand, I don't want to continue giving all of myself if she is going to realize (in 2 weeks/months/years) that she needs to be single in order to fully recover from this break-up.
Will she get over her loss? Do we need to break things off in order for her to heal? Are there actions I can take to remedy this situation while we stay together? Any advice you have is appreciated.

– Am I a Rebound Boyfriend?, Boston

You're not a rebound boyfriend, AIARB. Your girlfriend adores you. In fact, it sounds like you pulled her out of a long-dead relationship that she was afraid to leave.

But your timing is off. Her head is cloudy. She didn't have time to process the break-up. And she misses her ex -- as a best friend. She's still mourning the loss of him. As you said, it's all understandable.

My advice isn't to end things. It's to ride it out and to tell her to make the most of the 25 percent of her life that doesn't involve you. (And perhaps she could increase that 25 percent to 30.) She needs to talk about what she learned and lost. She needs friends. She needs new hobbies. She needs new memories. She needs some alone time so that she can be confident that when she's with you, it's by choice, not by necessity.

Yes, it would be great if she could be single for a while and then date you. But that's not possible. She has to mourn while dating someone new, and you have to be sensitive as she figures it out. If you guys stay together for a long time, she'll return the favor at some point.

She says she wants to do this with you. All you can do it take her word for it and see if it gets better. And as for guarantees that she won't leave in two years, well, no relationship has that. Not really.
Readers? Is this doomed? Is she mourning the ex as a friend or as more than a friend? Does she have to be single first to make this work? Is age relevant? Discuss.

– Meredith