How do I move on from a three-year relationship?

It's been about three months since I ended a three-year relationship with a woman I do still love and care about. I wasn't the best person in the relationship, and I will admit that I was selfish at times. Perhaps I should've ended it sooner. Every time there were problems, I'd tell myself, "No, I love her, this has to work."

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that she didn't make her own mistakes, but I can't help but think that some of them were due to me leaving countless times (roughly four) and then coming back. I know I hurt her deeply.

My initial reason for leaving all the time was that she was too clingy. Even when we were doing well, she required a lot of my attention. She did not like my best friends because she believed they encouraged my bad habits (bad by her definition). If I wasn't catering to her, she'd say I wasn't being a "real" boyfriend. I remember buying her flowers and her being really disappointed because they weren't big enough for her. I thought they were decent and beautiful.

At times the relationship was abusive on both sides. I guess I'm writing because I feel really down about the whole thing lately. I can't help but feel sad and regretful about it all. I wanted to text her on New Year's, to wish her the best, but I wasn't sure if that would do even more harm than good because I don't know how she feels about me now.

Sometimes I think breaking up with her was best for both of us. Yet other times I feel so stupid for leaving because all she really wanted was to love me. Any ideas about how to move on and feel less sad?

– It's Over

You're grieving a big breakup. Sometimes that takes many months, especially when there's a lot to process about what you let go.

I’d be worried if you moved on without feeling sad or introspective at all. You should be thinking about what you learned and how you might be a better partner for someone new. It makes sense that you're feeling a lot of things at once, including gratitude, shame, sadness, hope, and confusion. It means you're paying attention.

It does sound like the breakup was necessary. You couldn't be the boyfriend she wanted, and she wasn't the right kind of partner for you. Also, you say the relationship was abusive.

That's one of the many reasons I think you could benefit from talking to a professional about all of this. You want to be thoughtful about your mistakes so you don't repeat them. You need a place where you can make sense of how you can love and care for this woman – and wish her the best – without being in her life.

If you're not in counseling already, take that step. And for now, when you want to send this woman a text to let her know you hope she's OK, just say it loud. Imagine her getting the message. Let this breakup be a real ending.

– Meredith

Readers? Therapy?