Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Carolyn: I broke up with my fiance four months ago, and although it was my decision and Im confident in it, Im having trouble moving on. I still care deeply for him. He put a lot into the relationship and Im hanging on to guilt. I constantly think about how I could have handled things differently.
We havent spoken in two months. Ive also been thinking about emailing him to let him know Im thinking of him, because it feels so harsh to have no contact. Im not sure if hed want it he hasnt reached out to me either. I dont want to make things more difficult or confusing. Please let me know how you think I should handle this.
BROKEN UP OVER BREAKING UP
You just described, with painful emotional accuracy, the surprising difficulty of breaking up with a good person you care about but recognize isnt right for you.
Its a kind of awful thats hard to anticipate, and I think it partly explains the impulse to vilify exes. When the ex is bad! bad! bad! then youre the freshly liberated hero. When the ex is good, you have to live with being the one who told a perfectly good person, I dont want you anymore. And while its certainly no picnic to be rejected by someone you love, theres comfort in having a bad guy to blame.
I believe were just not used to thinking how excruciating it can be for that bad guy, to be the one who says seemingly heartless things, kicks a loved one out of the house and stops calling. Of course you feel terrible and haunted for doing that, even when you know, intellectually, that its necessary and brave to end a relationship that isnt working.
All you can do is recognize that you tried to avoid causing gratuitous pain. It can also help to remind yourself how you felt in breakups you didnt initiate. You managed, right?
As for emailing him, theres no right answer. It could reopen a wound, but it could help him to hear that you feel weird about the abrupt and total silence. Email only if it feels right and not regularly, or to share your problems, to condescend (Are you OK???), or, worst of all, to seek warmth or validation.
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