‘The red flags screamed at me’


My heart is chipping away even as I write this. I just cried in an airport bathroom. My 40-year-old partner – now ex – and I have just broken up (I'm 27). We were together for a year. He proposed four weeks into our relationship and I was overjoyed.

Sadly, I didn't realize the extent of his wounds. He grew up in a very unstable and abusive household. That came up in our relationship a lot. I thought it was my fault – him being upset about me talking to my guy friend, working for my male boss. He'd create arguments, chaos, and drama. I'd be away on business and he'd throw a fit. I thought it was me. I thought I had done something wrong.

I also found him sexting, emailing, and calling his exes. I caught him on dating apps and direct messaging women on social media sites.

I thought it was my fault because I can be vocal about expressing my needs. I'm wondering if I pushed him into this kind of behavior. The last time I caught him cyber-cheating it sent me into a state of depression and confusion, and I became the worst version of myself. It was during that time that I acted out and kissed another man to try to make myself fell better. It didn't work.

I disclosed what happened to my ex, and that's what ended it. We've only been together a year, so you'd think it would be so much easier for me to leave. The red flags screamed at me. But it doesn't stop the massive ache in my heart.

He claims I'm the crazy one, the unstable one with issues, because I kissed another person. I assumed that because he was 40, he'd be a bigger man. How can I move on from this?

– Red Flags

It's time to stop thinking about who's to blame for the end of this relationship. There's no "crazy one" here. There are just two people who couldn't sustain a partnership for a long list of reasons. Comparing your behavior isn't a productive way to get over this.

A very helpful way to process all of these feelings is to talk to a professional about them. You want to know why you didn't address the red flags, and how you got so deep into this relationship despite all of the problems. You also want to examine how it felt to have a partner who objected to you talking to the men in your life. Please reach out to a trained third party – a mental health professional – who can help you figure out how these experiences affected you, and what they mean as you move on to the next phase of your dating life.

Also know that these bad feelings don't mean that you miss this man or want him back. You can grieve something even if you don't want any more of it. The sadness you feel is about disappointment, which comes with almost all breakups.

If you're in the tears-in-the-airport-bathroom phase of this, it might be too early to know how you really feel. Give yourself time, and please talk to someone who can help you through the entire process.

– Meredith

Readers? How can the LW help herself?