‘I believe in my heart that this is not the end of our journey’

This event will have cotton candy. I'm bringing the machine.

Dear Meredith,

This is a breakup letter. When J and I first met, it was love – or at least some sort of connection – at first sight. At the time, I had finally ended a serious relationship that had been on-and-off for a long time, and I was setting up a life after college. J was finishing his undergraduate career. We started dating, and I've never felt so at ease with a partner. He truly brought out all the best parts of me.

He told me he loved me first, and was eager to introduce me to his family as his girlfriend. Our sexual chemistry was beautiful. Eventually, he was offered a job that took him about 90 miles away. We made it work pretty well for about one year. We both felt that the inconvenience of a 1.5-hour drive to spend weekends together was worth it because of our connection. Yes, it was difficult, but everything worthwhile takes some sacrifice, right? He began telling me he might be interested in looking for a house so that I could eventually move in. He was telling me that once I got into graduate school, he would be able to find a job wherever I got into school. He was telling me that we would be able to make it through anything. With all of these statements, I took them as they were. I didn't want to pressure him into anything.

We hadn't seen each other for two weeks, and yes, during the week leading up to the breakup, I could tell we were a little disconnected during our phone conversations. I thought everything would be fine once we were sitting next to each other. When I saw him, we were going over some of the fun plans I had made for us, and he did not seem excited about them – which is when he admitted he thought we should go on a break. I was floored. We had just made plans for him to attend a wedding with me in Europe.

Honestly, even a month after the breakup, after constant and draining reflection, I don't get what happened. Yes, I know distance is difficult, but we were always on the same page, and there was never a discussion that we were getting to an unmanageable point. He wrote me a letter that said the issue is timing. He said that although he has a connection with me that he has never felt with anyone before, he is doing this because he does not feel ready to commit, and that in order for there to be any potential for us in the future, this break must happen now. Based on advice from your podcast and others in my life, I know I just need to move on and live life like he does not exist. I’m trying. But my concern is that the human brain is capable of a lot, and I believe in my heart that this is not the end of our journey. I'm concerned that ignoring the feelings and replacing them with the logic that we will never get back together sets us up for that. At what point do you believe in your gut (that it's not really over), and at what point do you let your mind convince you otherwise?

– Confused

In the column and on the podcast we talk a lot about letting go. Moving on like a relationship is never going to happen again. Accepting that it's over for good.

But we don't always talk about when you're supposed to do that. The answer to that question depends on the specifics of the breakup.

With many breakup letters, it's clear that the relationship is over forever. People understand what they're grieving, and that makes things easier. But with ambiguous breakups like yours, it can take more time.

You say that your gut is telling you that this break is temporary, and maybe you're right. But it's also possible that you just don't know yet, and that's OK. There is no need to figure it out right this second. You're allowed to continue your routine, keep busy, hang out with friends, go to work, and then see what your gut tells you in a few more months. After more time you might say, "I'm starting to like this break. Maybe it should be permanent." Or maybe you'll hit that stage of grief that involves anger. Then it'll become necessary to change that getting-back-together narrative in your brain.

A month in, you're still figuring out what he means by break, how you feel about it, and how your connection to him will change when you're not in his world. I hate to be ambiguous, but you just have to play this out and see if your gut starts to tell you new things. Give it a few more months and it might.

– Meredith

Readers? I think episodes 3 and 7 led to this letter. Mostly 7. But ... how long should anyone hold out hope during a break?