I Am Desperate for Closure From the Sudden End of a Seven-Month Relationship

Q:

While I (40) was going through my divorce from my now ex-wife, I met a woman (45) online who lived in another country and matched with me. We hit it off and really connected — so much so that she flew to my home country to meet me, and then I spent Christmas and New Year with her in hers. We had an incredible time together both times – it felt like we’d always known each other, had very little conflict, and resolved any ‘scratchiness’ in a mature way. We are both introverts with similar interests, working in a similar (niche) field, and we marvelled over our perfect match.

She is relatively newly out (a year or two, though she never specified even when I asked), and had only had one (non-serious) girlfriend before me.

In the course of our 7-month relationship, she told me she’d love me forever, she loved me unconditionally (!), that she wanted to marry me one day, and all the other romance-fiction things we all want to hear. I do of course recognize a lot of this hyperbole from my early days of coming out, when there are huge professions of love and commitment, which are often tied to the excitement of finding oneself, being with a woman, blah blah. Burner girlfriends are a thing!

After I got home from our Christmas trip, she started pulling away due to work pressure and personal issues, and had what she described as a ‘midlife crisis’. She wanted us to talk less and felt constantly overwhelmed. I respected her space and was fully guided by what she wanted in terms of communication, online time spent together, etc.

We were always due to meet up in February for a few days and stay together at my sister’s house, in a country we were both going to fly to. However, two days beforehand, she got cold feet about staying with me in my family’s home. Having been incredibly patient, supportive, and understanding for the past seven months we’d been together as she faced work challenges, major surgery, family upheaval, and now a personal crisis, I admittedly felt annoyed: I had planned this holiday for almost a year (since before I met her), and I would be visiting my sister, niece and brother-in-law in their new home country for the first time. My girlfriend had essentially invited herself along, though I was really happy for her to be coming, but the focus was always going to be on my family. For this trip, they were my priority.

Despite my annoyance, I remained as patient as I could with my girlfriend, telling her that whatever she decided to do, I would support her. As a fellow introvert, I really dislike staying with people and I fully understood where she was coming from. I was supportive, but also felt that as a 45-year-old woman, it was up to her to ultimately decide what she did and didn’t feel comfortable with, rather than lumping it on me two days before we were due to meet.

I did my best to handle my resentment privately, but told her I was anxious about us meeting up as things had been ‘off’ between us, and I didn’t want to have to focus on our relationship when I’d planned to be putting all my energy and attention into my family. I was flying around the world to see them, they were hosting me, and my girlfriend had simply asked if she could join. Everyone was excited to meet her (maybe a lot of pressure — I get it), but the bottom line was that I wanted to focus on my family and not my relationship issues.

I suggested that maybe we shelve the idea of meeting up at my sister’s house and instead wait until May, when she was due to come to my home country for a month. She agreed, and then promptly broke up with me, telling me we were a ‘communication mismatch’, that I don’t understand her industry (nuts, since we are in the same one!) and I don’t ‘listen to her’. She had said she’d wanted me to comfort her when she’d said she was uncomfortable staying at my sister’s, and I hadn’t done that. I could tell she’d made her decision and even asked if there was someone else, since the breakup was so sudden. She said no, and I believe her.

I was very upset, and very, very angry. I felt that she had promised all these things to me throughout our relationship, things I knew in my gut she shouldn’t be promising, and she simply ditched me when we hadn’t seen eye to eye. I spent a few weeks really angry, then started feeling a lot better and barely thinking about her.

Now, it’s been three months since the breakup, and I find myself back to thinking about her – but now, with sadness. I miss her, and wish I could reach out to her, but after our 5-minute break-up call late at night, I never heard from her again — save for a brief WhatsApp message in which she said if I ever had ‘questions’ for her, I was ‘welcome to ask’ (this was after I’d sent an angry post-breakup message about how I didn’t think she was really gay) — and then blocked me!

After some weeks, I emailed her a long, heartfelt goodbye letter (not to win her back), and had no reply. This radio silence and ongoing blocking has left me confused, angry, and lacking closure, and now, back to feeling sad.

I really want to reach out to her. I feel the relationship had so much potential, and she seemed so in love with me, and so sure about us. She even spoke about us one day moving to her home country together, and seemed to have a solid plan in place! I loved her and I miss her.

I don’t understand why she pulled away and then, virtually out of the blue, broke up with me and blocked me. I miss her, I dream about her, and I can’t even stalk her online because she doesn’t use social media! (Maybe this is for the best).

Should I try reaching out to her one more time, asking if we can talk (phone or video), and try to get to the bottom of what went wrong, for my peace of mind? Or am I wasting my time? Could her ‘midlife crisis’ be the reason she broke up with me? Is she struggling with her gayness? I am desperate for closure and any light you could shine on this would be most helpful! I don’t want to seem desperate in reaching out to her but I also really want closure!

A:

Breakups are hard no matter how long the relationship lasted. And I understand your sadness and your desire for closure. It is extremely human to want closure after a relationship ends suddenly with someone we felt a genuine close connection with. I am, however, going to give you a bit of tough love today.

Let’s start here: You write about all the intensely romantic stuff said about the beginning of the relationship and attribute this to the fact that your ex was newly out. And sure, I think that could be playing a role here. But I think even beyond being newly out, it’s just common for New Relationship Energy to yield hyperbolic declarations of love and romance. This is especially true in long distance relationships, too. All of my relationships have started out long distance, so believe me when I say long distance relationships are real! They do, however, also sometimes come with different stakes than other relationships. For some people, it’s easier to make grand declarations of love over the phone or in messages or even in person when they know they’re going to turn around and head back to their own place. I’m not saying the feelings she expressed weren’t real; I just mean that sometimes it’s easier to say things earlier on when it comes to long distance relationships. It’s also easier for things to remain pretty conflict-free. You’re with each other for fixed amount of times, so there’s a tendency to focus on positive, easy things and ignore the “scratichness.” I’m not saying any of this to downplay the relationship and what you had but rather just to add some more context for why she may have made big declarations early on and then started pulling back.

The holiday with your family situation is tough, because it does sound presumptive of your ex to have invited herself. I think you did the right thing ultimately by suggesting she not come when you felt her pulling away, because that is indeed your boundary your set! You’re right; she should be able to make her own choices herself as an adult, but it is also ultimately up to you to decide since it was your family’s trip.

Now, I don’t think your ex is being entirely reasonable for some of things she said to you, like that she expected you to comfort her about her discomfort with staying at your sister’s. That doesn’t seem fair. But I also think there was some hurt caused on both sides here. I’m sure you know this, but it’s incredibly unfair and hurtful for you to have angrily told her you don’t think she’s really gay. I get it! We say hurtful things when we’re hurt! But I see other parts of this letter where you could come off as dismissive of her queer journey, including that stuff at the top about thinking she was only doing bold declarations of love because of being newly out or suggesting she was treating you as a burner girlfriend. I don’t think this is necessarily an issue of someone being new to queerness but rather just normal, human, early relationship problems. Also, if she says she’s having a midlife crisis, you’ve gotta believe her. It sounds like she was in no way ready for a relationship at this time, and while she perhaps could have realized this sooner or done something about it sooner, that’s easier said than done.

It sucks to be blocked, but it is not inherently bad for her to do it.

I know you miss her, I know you loved her, and I know the breakup was sudden. I can’t speculate on all of her motives or everything leading up to the breakup, but it does sound like once the relationship started getting more serious, she pulled away, which is common to do when people are in messy places in life, like a midlife crisis. It sounds like she wasn’t in the right place for a relationship, and if that’s the case, then she ultimately did the right thing by ending it. Just like long distance relationships can be hard, long distance breakups can be a real doozy! They often do come with even firmer boundaries, because it’s easier to cut off another person when you live far away. It’s not necessarily the “right” thing to do, but it’s just how some people process and deal with breakups. I think especially if some angry things were said in the heat of the moment, it makes sense she ultimately blocked and disappeared. I don’t think it’s for either of us to determine or prescribe how she’s feeling about her gayness or even about her midlife crisis. This is her journey for her. And by obsessing over it, I fear you’re only making yourself feel worse.

People do all sorts of dreaming at the beginning of a relationship, and while I don’t think she was lying about her feelings, I also think it’s hard to really see how a relationship functions and fits in the first year, especially without cohabitation or at least physical proximity (cohabitation doesn’t work for all couples!). The connection between you was real, but I think it also could have been impacted by the sporadic nature of your meetups, especially if they often took place over holidays.

I personally don’t think you should reach out. Mainly because none of her behaviors have indicated she would want that or is in a place for it. Closure is alluring, but it’s not guaranteed in breakups. People don’t always owe us closure. Sometimes closure is something we have to seek within ourselves rather than relying on another person. I don’t think she can really tell you anything at this point that will ease the pain of this breakup. You may never know the real reason she broke up with you, and I can’t read her mind either. It’s also just true that some relationships that work well mostly in an online space don’t work as well in person, even if you don’t feel that tension in person. I know closure sounds like a balm, but reaching out could actually result in just prolonging this mournful state and also make her resentful of you. Mourn the relationship, move forward, and perhaps do some introspection to learn and grow from it, recognizing the lessons you’ve learned instead of just dismissing the relationship as a failure. That’s the best closure you can give yourself.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 861 articles for us.

3 Comments

  1. That letter definitely was a relationship in 3 acts. I agree with the advice. Too much time has passed with no responses. That mental energy could be better put to use in maybe planning more trips to other alluring destinations. :)

  2. Reach out one more time if you want and then take that as your answer. It probably won’t get you what you want, but it probably also won’t traumatize anyone or ruin anything that wasn’t already ruined. Like, your ex will talk shit about you behind your back, but there’s no way she isn’t already doing that. You’ve got nothing to lose! And probably, nothing to gain! Which you obviously know, because why else would you be hesitating to try? Clearly not for the sake of avoiding conflict.

    Then again, this is a woman who invited herself along on your family vacation and then dumped you because you didn’t immediately comfort her about the logistical problem she caused, clearly neither of you were wearing your big girl panties that day and frankly I’m not sure anyone in this situation even owns any. Work on the qualities that led to this melodramatic shitfest (and probably the divorce, too) or find yourself a woman who’ll key your car for talking to Sarah at the co-op and at least take each other off the market for everyone else’s sake.

  3. Honestly, read the letter back to yourself and ask if you really miss this person or if you miss being in a relationship. Because as you’ve laid it out she doesn’t seem like a good fit at all.

    A particular red flag for me was when you specified that your trip (that she invited herself on) was about focusing on catching up with your family and she turned it into wanting you to comfort her, almost as though she didn’t like the idea of your attention being directed elsewhere.

    From what you’ve written it seems like you did a lot of compromising and making allowances before the break-up and before harsh words were said on both sides. Do you actually miss that?

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