‘I have a bad habit of being silent’

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Chat at 1 p.m.

Hello Meredith,

Hope your day is going well.

It has been six months since my girlfriend of eight years broke up with me. We are in our mid-50s. We frequently told each other "You are the love of my life." As in any relationship, we had our ups and downs. We had an incredible love and was certain we would be together for the rest of our lives. Each of us had been married and divorced once before. Several times we discussed marriage, yet we agreed not to marry. In my opinion, I told her it would add undue stress to the relationship. I am pretty sure that had she wanted to marry she would have told me. We could discuss any issue openly.

Six months ago we went out for lunch and I did not speak a word to her during the entire time and then did not speak to her after the lunch for several days. There was no particular reason for my behavior. Right before the lunch she told me "I love you very much.” Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of being silent when I am angry or depressed. Several times during the relationship, I would not speak to her for days because I was upset about something. This particular time was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Thus we separated.

During the first three months I reached out and try to resolve the situation. I did not pressure her to come back to me; I would generally text her twice a week. I apologized for my behavior and told her I was in therapy. Last month I texted her, "Can you be frank with me as to why we have to go our separate ways? Is it because you no longer love me? I can understand and accept that." Her reply: "Feelings just don't stop overnight, but I know I don't want to be together anymore." My reply: ”Tough but understandable."

Other than texting her "Happy Birthday" and "Happy Thanksgiving" (she would reply “Thank you. Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving."), we have not communicated. Is there any hope for me and us? Thanks.

– Silent

This is easier said than done, but you have to put all of your effort into therapy right now. There is hope for you (I mean you, as opposed to the relationship), but you need to figure out why you shut down during difficult moments, and how you can process negative feelings without making the people around you feel lost for days.

Focus on all of this in therapy. Do the work for you – not to get her back. Grieve the loss of her and talk about that in therapy too.

I do think it might help to set some boundaries with your now-ex. You can ask her whether these holiday acknowledgements and therapy updates are welcome, or whether she'd prefer not to receive them. You can say, "There is a desire on my part to let you know I think of you, or to show you that I’m doing the work to be better. If that's something I should stop doing, I understand." Frankly, it might help you a lot to stop these messages because again, you're doing this work to become a healthier person – for yourself. It’s harder to focus on that process if you're waiting for a text or her approval.

I'm so glad you've found a therapist. I hope there are also other people in your life who can keep you social. Friends who know you well, even if it's just one. Full isolation doesn't help anyone.

You should have hope for yourself, so let's start there. Just figure out the boundaries so you can put your energy in the right place.

– Meredith

Readers? Should the LW be contacting the ex? Is there anything the LW should ask the ex about the future?