Why am I still stuck on him?

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Dear Meredith,

Way back in the summer of 2009, at the age of 21, I met "C" online and then in person. That meeting lasted hours as we talked about anything and everything. I knew something he was different; it was the way he made me feel and his disposition in general. That first meeting led to many more, each week. Living a bit of distance from each other (about a hour), we saw each other every weekend. It was the first time I was able to really give myself to someone without feeling the fears or self-consciousness I generally would have with others.

Then, toward the end of the summer, as the beginning of my stressful senior year of college loomed and C was about to start his graduate school career, I managed to contract pneumonia, sidelining me for weeks. Not only was my physical health impacted, but my emotional health, as well. At that time, I experienced a shift and change in my feelings towards C. Maybe it was the way he voiced his sentiments that led me to believe he didn't take my illness seriously, but I acted out of haste. During my illness, I quickly ended our relationship and failed to give it another thought. After I recovered is when reality finally set in about what I'd done. I started my senior year of college in a melancholy state of mind, believing as though he were the one who ended things instead of me. Even when he reached out to me about meeting up again in person, I told him I didn't think it was a good idea. In other words, I broke my own heart and for the life of me could not figure out why.

It's already 11 years later now; he is married, has a young son, and lives minutes from me. Despite how long it's been, I still think of him most days, some more than others. I've been thinking of him more and more, so much so that I reached out to him via Facebook in March. I wasn't really expecting a response to my message, in which I said I was sorry for the way I handled things and that I'll never understand why I did what I did.

His response to me was surprisingly quick and understanding, but he said something I didn't quite understand – that I probably had forgotten the reason now, but knew it back then. He wished me well and said I was a good person and would find someone. In reaching out to him, I don't know what I wanted or expected. Did I want him to say I broke his heart? Or that he thought of me all the time, or that he still thinks of me? I don't know. He is married, happily so, I assume, and he has a child; he is not mine, and I know I have no business meddling, and it isn't that I want to meddle.

Maybe it is that I want him to say I impacted him or that I meant something to him. I'm not even sure, but I think of him all the time and I don't know why. In any case, I'd love it if you could provide some insight, Meredith.

Thanks so much for reading, I know it's long and drawn out, but I'd really appreciate any feedback and direction you could provide on the situation.

– Stuck

We've heard from a lot of people who've been contacted by exes since March. It's interesting to get the other side of this.

You contacted this man looking for validation and closure. You got both, as far as I can tell.

He didn't tell you he was madly in love with you and that you broke his heart, but that kind of talk wouldn't help with the closure part of things. Instead, he told you there was a reason you ended things back then, even if you don't understand it. That is good to know. Perhaps he was impatient and unforgiving when it came to your illness. Maybe the stress of senior year and dating a grad student was going to be too much for you. He's basically telling you to have faith in your past decisions and that there's no reason to dwell on them anymore.

Also, if you read between the lines, it's clear that you were important to him. It's not as though he responded, "Why is this a big deal to you?" or "Um ... who's this?" He was quick to acknowledge your concern and told you you’re a good person. It was a kind interaction. He understood why it was important to you because it's an important part of his history too.

I believe you're stuck on this man because you miss that one summer, because it's a nice place to visit in your mind when life is confusing and stressful. But you can't go back to that time – and really, the partner who was fun at 21 and 22 might not be so great for you 11 years later. In the present, you need someone with different qualities. What kind of companion do you want for your grownup, 2020 life? (Actually, let's say 2021 because 2020 is hard to think about right now).

As you figure this out, date when you can (when it feels safe), and remind yourself that you’re building something from scratch. You're not looking for another C. Let him stay in box in your brain labeled 2009. That's where he belongs.

– Meredith

Readers? What does it mean when you're stuck on someone from the past?