After reading relationship books, I want to try again

We chat at 1 p.m.

Hi Meredith,

My ex broke up with me two months ago and I was devastated. We dated for a little over a year and a half, lived together, and it was the best relationship we've ever been in (we're both 27). We share similar values, a similar sense of humor, and supported one another in our careers. I really thought this was someone I could solve anything in the world with.

Suddenly (to me, at least – apparently he'd been thinking about it for some time), he wanted to break up, saying that while this was the best relationship he's ever experienced, he felt that he was still not in love and couldn't imagine marrying me. That it would be "perfect" if only he was in love. To be clear, he is very strict with the word love. To him, love is nothing short of "I want get married and spend the rest of my life with you." He has never been in love before, and our relationship is the longest one he's ever been in. Part of his uncertainly has to do with the fact that we're both rather passive when it comes to relationships and it hasn't felt like we were moving forward. In some of his past relationships, the other person was more aggressive in asking big questions and moving things along to determine compatibility.

Sometimes I felt like he had such a strong idea of what I should be, or who he wants his future wife to be, and being compared to exes made me insecure and withdraw. I wanted desperately to talk to him about big things, but I never built up the courage. I've taken the two months to work on my insecurities and self-confidence. I've read books about relationships and learned a lot about what makes them work. But all this reading has led to me believe that we struggled due to our own lack of skills and tools.

I am struggling because I feel like things would have progressed if we were both better equipped for building emotional intimacy. I know it doesn't matter because we've broken up, and he doesn't want to try to work on things. But part of me wants to reason with him, to say that we might work if we both wanted to try with a new, better approach. Is that a pointless request?

After a not speaking for some time, we started talking again on the phone and online in the last two weeks about general things. News, work, nothing deep. I want to ask him if he's open trying, but I don’t know how to bring it up. I know it's possible for me to find someone else to be happy with, but what if there's a way I could just make things better with him? What do I do?

– Unresolved

Well, the first thing you should do is tell him that these phone calls and messages aren't helping you move on, and that unless he wants to work on the relationship, you need to set boundaries. I'm sure those books taught you all about the importance of boundaries and how to be assertive about your needs. Use those lessons and tell him that if he doesn't love you, he shouldn't be on the phone with you talking about "general things." When you break up with someone, you don't get access to them as a friend. If he misses you so much that he feels compelled to reach out, he should consider why.

To answer your big question, I'm not a supporter of you asking him to work on things or using your energy on him instead of someone new. He was clear about the fact that he wasn't "in love," which doesn't leave you in a good place to fix anything. You shouldn't have to convince him that he loves you. I fear that if you reunited, you'd spend most of your time together thinking, "Is it better now? Do you love me now? Am I marriage material?" That's too much pressure.

The other thing to consider is that as much as you were a great match in many ways, you weren't in others. You never felt like you were enough. You didn't feel confident that you were living up to big expectations. It might be nice to find a partner who makes you feel adored. It's easier to be assertive in a relationships when you know you have a partner who is very into you.

Take a few more months and consider looking for that.

– Meredith

Readers? Try again?