Q. My ex boyfriend and I have been dating for about 7 or 8 months before he split up with me. We were best friends first for about two years. We had just got back from a holiday in Spain together. It was an amazing holiday we had a lot of fun, nothing gave me the impression that he doubted our relationship. Then two days later out of the blue he came to my house and broke up with me.
He was crying as he did it and the only reason he gave me was that his feelings for me had just changed… but yet he claimed I was his everything and that he still loved me. So that week after the break up was awful, I felt betrayed because I couldn’t comprehend why he would breakup with me when he loves me! He knew how much I liked him and there he was taking days off work to meet my parents and booking holidays with me. Because we were best friends first we had so much together and our sense of humor was similar. I just couldn’t understand how his feelings had just changed so I thought his feelings for me couldn’t have been very strong from the start and I was just a schmuck was falling for it.
We barely spoke but just under 2 weeks after the break up, we met up to exchange belongings we had from each other. When we met up I was shocked, he was in a worse state than me (and that was saying something). He told me had barely been eating, not sleeping, crying a lot and just generally really upset. The whole meeting (which was about 2 hours) he cried for a lot of it, would hug me really tight, kept stroking my hands and face when he kissed me he gripped the side of my head like he didn’t want to let go. He said he loved me, he missed me kept talking about how perfect I was on the inside and outside. When asked if he thought he made the right choice and would consider getting back together he stood by his story of how his feelings had just changed and wasn’t sure why so this left me very confused.
Since then I’ve been reading various articles about why someone would subconsciously sabotage a relationship and they seem to relate strongly to my ex. One was the fear of commitment which I’ve always known he has. He’s 21 and was never really interested in having a relationship before me, and i’m 24. I dont want to get married anytime soon but that’s what I want and I’ve talked about that I think i freaked him out a bit. One thing I’ve read in one of your articles and others is about the fear of abandonment.
When he was younger his mum and dad divorced and his dad never made him feel valued and never seemed that interested in him. His dad has just had a birthday party and invited his brother and sister but not him. He said he wasn’t that bothered but he must be, it is his dad after all. Also his mum and step-dad of 10 years have recently broke up and my ex said to me he missed having his step-dad around.
So everything I’ve read in these articles seem to fit and have made it seem likes he’s trying to push me away, like the confusion he said he’s going through about how he loves me but doesnt know why his feelings suddenly changed. Oh he also said getting back with me would be easy but he doesn’t want to hurt me again in the future. Also how he wasn’t valued by his dad and might not seem worthy enough for me. I live independently, have a great job and a great set of friends where as my ex still lives at home, dislikes his job and a lot of his friends basically sit around and get wasted which he dislikes.
My question is if he is subconsciously trying to push me away how do I get him to realize this and help him?
A. Thank you for your question!
It is very obvious that 1) you are very confused by his actions and in a lot of pain and 2) you have done a lot of work to try and figure out what is going on. I am sorry you have to go through this and commend you for your efforts!
It is often difficult to know why people do the things that they do, what we have to do is accept their actions and words at face value, we rarely get it right when we try and read between the lines. Standing back and looking at this with no emotional involvement there are some patterns that stand out.
The first is that he is a person who is sending you mixed messages; he is playing with your emotions. I understand he is confused but rather than working things out for himself and THEN talking with you, he is dumping all of his confusion onto you. That is a sure sign of emotional immaturity! Unfortunately, you can’t sort out his confusion for him. This is his journey and his path. Let him do his work. When he gets tired of his own suffering he will begin the process of self-discovery.
A second sign that he is not ready for a deeper relationship is the fact that “my ex still lives at home, dislikes his job and a lot of his friends basically sit around and get wasted which he dislikes”. Not only is his relationship with you a mess, he is also not taking care of his life responsibilities. The way he is conducting himself in general is from a place of great youth. This is not a judgment of him, he is still very young in age; most people do not begin the maturation process until their 20’s. During that decade, we begin to get a clear sense of our selves, what we like/dislike and why, who we are in our personal and professional lives. Since he has not yet gone through this process he is just not in a place in which he is ready for a committed relationship.
An important lesson for you is that you can’t get him to realize what he is doing and help him fix it.
Whenever we start trying to “get him to see”, “make her understand” “help him to realize”, we are trying to control that person. I am sure that is not your intent and it may not feel that way, but that is what it is. Think of it this way, whenever we try to get someone to do, or not do, something that we want, we are entering control territory. Also, it is never ok to try and help someone unless they ask. Unasked for advice is never appreciated; it will help you in all your relationships if you abide by that rule of thumb. Lastly, it is not your job to change him, even if it is for the better. He gets to be exactly where he is today. Women (and men but it is usually women) create a lot of issues and get into bad relationships while trying to help, or improve, our partner. It never works! Instead if going for a fixer upper find a man who has already gone through some of the maturation process.
The late, great Maya Angelou once said, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
There is so much wisdom in this very simple sentence. As a society we are not taught to recognize, evaluate and accept red flags with partners. This young man is showing you who he is so believe him. Give him the space he needs to either crash and burn, or grow up, or do both. The choice is his and we should all respect whatever choices he makes. He is the expert of him and we cannot make better choices for him.
Begin your healing process by letting him go.
Staying with this young man will only lead to unnecessary heartache along the way. As hard as going through the grief process is, it makes us stronger and more resilient in the long run. It is also important to make note of which qualities you like and dislike in this young man so you can carry that information forward to your next relationship. For example, a quality I see that you liked was his sense of adventure and you were good travel partners.
Avoid your next heartache and do yourself a favor, don’t settle for someone who doesn’t yet have all of his ducks in a row.
Cynthia Pickett, LCSW