You Need Help: Is It Really Over?

Q:

Hi, my ex and I were together for close to 3 years. She broke up with me just over a month ago via text. Didn’t want to talk much and was eager to cut me short when we met up for the last time before the breakup. She got a new job just that week and suddenly decided that she wanted to focus on her career. It was just snap a decision made quickly without considering me. That career thing was probably just an excuse to get rid of me. She was cold and distant and seemed almost like a completely different person. Nothing I said could get through to her. I had no choice but to accept her decision, but it really hurts, as I feel blind-sided and it’s hard to come to terms with what happened. What do you think? Is this really over?

A:

I want to start by saying that I’m really, really so sorry this happened to you. Whatever else your ex has going on in her life, whatever her reasons or motivations might be, the way she treated you is really not ok. Being who I am now, I would never end a three-year friendship so coldly, let alone a relationship (unless there was abuse involved, but that’s a whole other situation, so let’s set it aside for the moment). At the very least, she should have been willing to talk about where this decision came from for her. And I don’t say that because I think it would give you some kind of closure (it wouldn’t) but because it’s just basic decency.

Unfortunately, your relationship really is over. Your ex pulled the plug, albeit in an incredibly unexpected and unkind way, but it’s over, nonetheless.

I can only speculate at your feelings, but I’m guessing that part of your pain may come from two places: first, an undermining of your reality and second, a lack of control over the situation. Based on what you described, this break up came out of nowhere, and your ex controlled it entirely – including your ignorance of the fact that she was ready to move on. When I was faced with a somewhat similar situation, I realized, after several months, that part of how I was feeling was tied not to the fact that we broke up but rather how my ex broke up with me. My breakup was different from yours in a lot of ways, and the details aren’t particularly relevant to get into right now, but the commonality is this: one day we were together, and then the next I very unexpectedly found out that my ex and I had extremely different understandings of what our relationship was and what the future might hold for us.

It’s really deeply unsettling when something like this happens, and it can undermine your own sense of judgement and your own understanding of your experiences. A close friend of mine who went through a similar breakup reflected on how the suddenness of it made her question whether what she and her ex had was even real? Had she just been making up the sense of closeness she and her ex had for the years they were together?

The incredibly important conclusion she came to was that what she and her ex had was real. She actively affirmed her own reality, and I know this isn’t the question you’re asking, but I very, very strongly encourage you to do the same. Perhaps I am projecting, but I wonder if buried in your question, “Is this really over?” is a desire for confirmation that you truly had a shared experience of intimacy with your ex. You did. No matter what your ex’s current situation, she can’t erase that she was an active participant in your relationship.

But the fact of the matter remains that your relationship is over: Your ex ended it. I wonder if part of your grasping onto this relationship stems, not only from the fact that you clearly cared about her and about your relationship, but also from wanting to reclaim the agency that was taken away from you because of how your ex broke up with you. Again, I may just be projecting, but in my own experience, part of what was so deeply upsetting was the fact that I had been left in the dark for so long. All I had wanted was a little bit of honesty, to know what I was in and what I was getting into, rather than to have that ending thrown at me so unexpectedly.

It took me a long time to arrive at this, but eventually I had to ask myself: “Much as I might still love my ex, do I really want to be with someone who treated me this way?” The answer, quite simply, was no. I knew I deserved better, and I don’t know you, but I really believe that you deserve much, much better than your ex.

This isn’t to say that people can’t recognize their mistakes and make amend. There are certainly times where I have very, very deeply hurt people I really love, and they have welcomed me back into their lives, nonetheless. But I had to earn that. I had to reflect on my behavior and have an honest (and very uncomfortable) conversation with the people I hurt, and there was never a guarantee that they would or should have trusted me in the same way again: I apologized because I knew it was the right thing to do.

Your ex hasn’t earned that. Her coldness and her unwillingness to even talk to you, the fact that she broke up with you over text — she has a long way to go in her journey on communicating better and treating people with kindness and respect. That isn’t to say she won’t get there, but that is the journey of her life and not yours: your paths have parted.

I really do understand how hard it is to believe in this new reality that’s been so casually thrust upon you. And I am really, really sorry. I wouldn’t wish a breakup like that on anyone. Center yourself: center your feelings in all their conflicts and complexity, center your experiences, your reality, your agency. Learn what you can from this by reflecting on how you want to be treated by a partner and how you would like to treat others and carry yourself moving forward. In the end, I know and believe that you’ll get through this.


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.


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himani

Himani is a dabbler of a writer. Her work includes reviews of media centering Asian stories, news and politics, advice and the occasional personal essay. A stickler for privacy, the best way to reach her is by email: himani[at]autostraddle[dot]com.

Himani has written 35 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. slightly different thought on the ex – though i’m not qualified to offer advice here. when people break up, maybe one person doesn’t owe the other an explanation despite the previous intimacy, but denying it is rather a strong statement that the person has either changed significantly, or is not who they seemed to be. it’s a hard conversation to have, but something people do when they care about the person are ending things with.

    that lack of concern is no comment on the question writer, but a point about the ex – processing out that way suggests she is not fundamentally a kind/considerate person, though may appear that way when relationships are new.

    hopefully all the points Himani made help. that other person’s decisions make her not worth time spent wondering about her – focusing on yourself is the minimum you are due.

    • Thanks as always for reading @msanon! I appreciate your perspective, and I think you’re right that the ex’s behavior speaks volumes. For me personally, I think I go back and forth with this line of thinking (again, acknowledging that the specifics of my situation are different from the letter writer’s). Sometimes, I feel as you say, “she is not fundamentally a considerate person,” but that can sometimes lead me to undermine my own judgement of why I even dated her in the first place or if what we had was just a lie all along. It’s really hard for me to actually hold both and that’s why I’ve personally found it most helpful to try to land in the place of: “What we had was real, I actually really cared about this person, but she also had some growing to do when I knew her and I deserve to be with someone who is willing to do that work.”

      Admittedly, this probably has a lot more to do with my own baggage and issues around love and relationships than is probably universally applicable, though, so I appreciate your offering this perspective more explicitly than I spelled out in my reply!

      • i hope the above doesn’t encourage you or the writer to questions yourselves – you can’t know everything about another person until they show themselves to you. i’m guessing the exes in each case presented very differently in the beginning to the end. that’s true in any relationship, i guess, but intimate ones are the hardest in which to experience that dynamic.

        thank you for sharing your experience, that makes it easier for those who are in the middle of it not to feel alone.

  2. Ooofff, sorry for what you’re going through. I can’t add anything more to Himani’s answer, I just wanted to add that I’m going through something similar at the moment too, and this phrase “it can undermine your own sense of judgement and your own understanding of your experiences” is something I’m really struggling with. My ex broke up with me (also via text) for someone else a few weeks ago and then later blamed me for the breakup, saying I should have told her that I wanted to be with her. I thought we were already together, I thought the relationship was going really well, I thought she felt the same as I did. I’m still trying to figure out all the things I was wrong about.

    Anyway, sorry I have a general question, I hope it’s ok to ask here: people saying “you deserve better than your ex”; is the actual intention of that phrase “you deserve to be treated better than your ex treated you”? The idea of someone being “too good” for someone else I don’t understand. People have been saying that to me recently to try and make me feel better but it just makes me uncomfortable. I’m probably misunderstanding it.

    Thanks for your post Himani, I found it helpful.

    • Oh, I’m so sorry this happened to you! I wish you lots of peace and great future love and hopefully a little solace in knowing you aren’t alone.

      I can’t speak for anyone else (obviously) but when I say “you deserve much better than your ex” I both mean what you said of “you deserve to be treated better than your ex treated you” and also “you deserve a better person than your ex has revealed herself to be” (alluding to msanon’s point above that when people behave in such inconsiderate ways it speaks volumes about their characters). I understand what you mean about not wanting to be “too good” for someone, but I really mean it as an encouragement of centering yourself in the truth that you deserve someone who will be honest, kind and respectful with you and of your feelings, who will treat you with true care, love and affection.

      I’m glad the post was helpful! Good luck! Surround yourself in all your creature comforts and with the people who love you! I wish you the very, very best.

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