I don’t want to break up

A reminder: Please give the letter writer some real advice and empathy in the comments section. I don't mind off-topic conversation (especially in the discussion boards where it belongs) but I don't want the letter writer to get lost in the comments shuffle. - M


After two years together, my boyfriend and I recently broke up. (I'm in my early-to-mid 20s.) I am having a hard time coping with the loss of a person I envisioned spending the rest of my life with. Our relationship began with love at first sight but took us two years to get up the nerve to ask each other out. We lived together for a year but because of a program for his job, he had to move back home with his parents (about 45 minutes away). He and I tried very hard to make time for each other but were both frustrated because so many other things kept coming up that limited our visits. This is the most serious relationship either of us has ever had.

The fight that led to our breakup happened a week before we graduated from our academic programs. He said that we are headed in different directions because he knows I want marriage and kids but he doesn't want those things right now (I am not ready to be a parent for at least another 3-4 years and am fine putting off marriage as long as I know he wants to be with me), but he doesn't seem to hear what I am saying. He said that he would rather break up now than later and brought up other what-ifs for the future, like where I will get a job next year. I did not want to fight about what-ifs and still don't, but once he made his decision he said that if we gave it a second chance until May that we would be "living a lie." He still says that he's in love with me but his continually telling me that this is for my own good is frustrating. I know that we obviously need space right now but I would like us to revisit these issues once the job situation is settled here in a few months.

I don't know how to get around this. We still hang out, but because I am so deeply hurt by this, our conversations eventually end up with me asking for reiteration of his reasons (because I don't understand how the what-ifs years down the road can lead to the breakup of a fantastic, loving two-year relationship), and me telling him how hurt and confused I am. I have also been dealing with feelings of being worthless because I feel as though he feels our relationship is not worth working on and I am deeply hurt by what I perceive as his refusal to fight for me or our relationship.

I don't know what to do, so any advice would be helpful.

– Lost and Confused, CO.

You're not worthless. You're just single. And that's OK. He doesn't want what you want, but that doesn't mean that you're suddenly flawed. It just means that you're sad about the end of a relationship. Be sad. But don't let this breakup define you.

My first piece of advice is to stop hanging out with him. Cut him off. He broke up with you, which means he's no longer entitled to your time. You need to be moving on and these visits are painful. You both need to process this on your own.

My second piece of advice is to listen to what he's telling you. He's saying that if you don't break up now, you will break up later. You want to get married in four years, and he wants ... well, he isn't saying anything definitive about what he wants four years from now, probably because he doesn't know.

You can't negotiate yourself out of a breakup. (Trust me, I've tried.) We've talked about the stages of grief in Love Letters, and you're stuck on bargaining. Bargaining is exhausting.

Give yourself time to mourn and to fantasize about what else is out there. Imagine how it will feel when someone is smitten with you for the first time, because that will happen. Tell the ex that you're miserable to lose him and then then walk away. If he changes his mind, he knows where to find you.

Readers? Can you help her feel less worthless? Can you explain the stages of grief in breakups? Is he telling her everything she needs to know Help.

– Meredith