I'm still in love with my ex boyfriend from TWO years ago. Help!

A CUTIE PIE:

I fell in love with my second boyfriend almost immediately, we stayed up talking all night the first time we met. It was freshers and we were in the same flat. We were 19. We got together six months later and stayed together in total about three years. We lived together for two of these. For the first year and a half-two years he was perfect but honestly maybe he wasn’t even then as I can’t trust myself anymore. 

At around the 2 1/2Yr mark he starts losing interest. He lied about hanging out with a female friend which I wouldn’t have cared about, I only felt uncomfortable with the lying. He missed lots of stuff that was important to me, like my graduation. He started saying things like ‘that’s just the way things are’ if I was unhappy about something. He accused me of getting in the way of his ambition if I complained about him cancelling on me three times in a row to go for work drinks. Then one day he came to my house and just ended it. He said he’d resent me if he didn’t get a job out of the internship he was doing because of me so he ended it. I begged him not to and asked if we could speak when it was over and he said yes. He called me drunk and said he still loved me. He talked to me just enough to maintain hope. I waited seven weeks to meet up. Even after all that time waiting once we’d met up and got on well he said he was unsure so I gave him a week. During this week we sexted (initiated by him) and I sent him pics under the impression we were basically on again but then he still said he wasn’t certain. 

I don’t know what it says about me that I tried so hard to get back with someone who was clearly treating me badly. I can’t even remember a time of him apologising or making an effort to show me he felt lucky in any way. Once we were back together I found out he’d been on bumble during the time we’d been apart. He swore nothing had happened and made me feel bad for questioning it. 

We were together six more months, he didn’t make a lot of effort and planned to go on a six month cycling trip with friends which loomed. I broke up with him the second time because it felt like I was constantly waiting for him to be ready. Like one day he would want to just be with me and I wouldn’t have to try so hard to make him love me anymore. It felt like my life was on pause waiting for him to stop prioritising everything over me. He made me feel extremely guilty and said he’d always put me first but just couldn’t get me to see it. He told others this too so I don’t know if he believed it. Once we were broken up I raised this with him and he said ‘my friends come before most things it’s nothing personal’ which made me feel like he’d lied when he tried to guilt me into thinking I was so demanding and couldn’t see his love. The relationship left me feeling confused about my understanding, confused about my sense of judgement, guilty for my lack of patience, heartbroken for not being enough for him. All I ever wanted was him and when I said this to him he said that was unhealthy. I was so embarrassed and believed him. He said I was too much. I almost believed that because it was so hard and I still loved him, it was real. 

About six weeks later he’s on holiday in Africa with a new girlfriend. It’s very public on Facebook so I just delete him and then it. We stay in contact for a few months despite me asking him to not contact me and ignore any messages but then I stupidly call him out on how he treated me he gets nasty and is completely different from the person I think I know. He tells me it’s unhealthy for us to talk and cuts all ties. I say I don’t think he was ready for a serious relationship and he says maybe he wasn’t but he is now. His mum continues to communicate with me for almost a full year after until I block her too as it’s too upsetting for me. 

Anytime I saw him on social media I felt so upset I couldn’t function for a few days. Sometimes I think I see him in the street and can’t breathe. I’ve thought about suicide a lot. I’ve also had another boyfriend and got a masters degree so I haven’t just been moping around with no effort to move on. I now haven’t spoken to him or looked at any social media for over a year. I’ve been to multiple therapists and they talk about him and it’s not the person I know— except that they’re just going by exactly what I’ve recounted so it must be. I feel like maybe I’ve got it wrong and I AM too demanding and difficult and couldn’t see but that makes me a very different person than I thought. It makes no sense that after two years I’d still regularly cry myself to sleep at night over it all. He is still happily in love with the girl he met immediately after me. 

How can I still feel like I love him after all of this? How can two people be on such different pages? What does it say about me that I’d want someone that treats me badly? How can I feel confident and safe in the way that I love people again? How on earth do I finally move on? 

HELP. 

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SOPHIA

I’m going to be real frank with you here: there is not much I can say to you that multiple therapists should not have already said. And it does seem like you don’t believe what people are telling you about him. HOWEVER, I have no idea what they actually said to you and I have no idea if me telling you the same thing they told you will help you reach a turning point faster. So I’ll tell you what I think.

That said, because of how much of your life this is taking up and because this has led to you to suicidal thoughts, I insist (“encourage” but like so strongly it’s an insist) that you continue to talk to therapists about this. A lot of therapists are doing skype/zoom sessions, please take advantage of them if you can afford to.

Ok, here’s my take.

I don’t actually think that you’re in love with him. I think he was abusive and somewhere in your brain or your past or your TV viewership patterns you got the idea that people who treat you like shit deserve your love. That when someone isn’t satisfied with you that it is about you and that you must work to earn their approval. You then took that complete misunderstanding (one that a lot of us have) and made it not only one type of love, albeit an unhealthy one, but your entire definition of love. You decided that people who don’t want you around must be The Most Worthy. That impressing people is how you “earn” their love and the people whose love is the hardest to earn are therefore the most worthwhile.

No offense to you but this is fucking bonkers. It’s ridiculous. I don’t want to be rude but this is the worst idea you’ve ever had and unfortunately it stuck around long enough to turn from an idea to a belief and then into a whole belief system.

THIS DUDE SUCKED. I don’t know if he currently does—but probably, let’s be honest. HE SUCKED SO MUCH. IF I WERE YOUR FRIEND I WOULD HAVE BROKEN INTO HIS HOUSE AND PUT CANS OF CAT FOOD INTO THE VENTS BEFORE A HEAT WAVE. And not only does he suck, he was abusive. I don’t care if you don’t want to use that word, but I am happy to! I’ll use it for you. This dude withheld love in every single way possible to make you feel like shit and use you. And the convenient part is that he’d worn down your self-worth enough to make you feel like when it was over it was your fault.

I can say this until I’m blue in the face and you probably won’t believe me, so I’ll only say it once. He didn’t not-love you because you were unworthy of love. He didn’t love you because he was a shit bag who had no idea what he wanted, was abusive and manipulative, and didn’t have the guts to communicate anything he wanted out of his life.

Now, again, it seems like you are unwilling to believe this. That therapists and probably friends and loved ones have told you time and time again that he sucks and that there is nothing there—no information about yourself to be found at all in the breakdown of that relationship. The only lessons to be learned are how to let go. And it seems like this is all information that you don’t want to hear because right now some part of you “likes” (not the right word) the pattern you’re stuck in. You find a certain familiarity with not thinking that you are enough. His story (that you are not good enough) makes sense to you, a person who agrees with him—who also thinks that you’re not worthy.

That is what has to change, honestly. Nothing about the ex is ever going to change. What happened two years ago happened two years ago. It’s pretty set.

Your choices are to believe us when we say he sucks and admit that he was abusive or to keep living the life you are living now where you cry yourself to sleep about him. Neither is a great choice, I will grant you that. Both are painful as fucking shiiiiiiiiiiit. But one has a future and one doesn’t.

So I strongly encourage you to open yourself up to the idea that you are worthy even without his love. WHICH YOU ARE. A lot of people on earth do not have this one guy that you used to date’s love. I don’t have it. I’m plenty fucking worthy without a dipshit like him loving me. And so are you. His approval is insignificant.

Let’s address some direct questions and concerns you had, shall we?

  1. I feel like maybe I’ve got it wrong and I AM too demanding and difficult. Literally a rock would have been too demanding and difficult for this man. When people actually love you, you cannot scare them off by being “too much.” That is not a fucking thing. That doesn’t mean that love doesn’t come with boundaries and limitations. There are unhealthy and healthy ways to love. You wanting to hang out with your boyfriend more is not needy. He just sucked.

  2. How can I still feel like I love him after all of this? Because you don’t know how to like yourself or love yourself right at the moment, so instead of working on that you’re longing for the last time things made sense to you— which was when someone had a piece of shit opinion about you and treated you poorly.

  3. How can two people be on such different pages? One of them is an abusive asshole and the other person is their partner whom they manipulated into thinking she was too much.

  4. What does it say about me that I’d want someone that treats me badly? That you’re used to abuse and that you’re having a hard time letting people love you well. It is very common for people who have dated one abusive person to seek it out again or to long for that dynamic. It’s normal. It’s not healthy for yourself, and you will need to keep working on it, but it is very normal.

  5. How on earth do I finally move on? Keep talking to therapists. Keep working on yourself. Avoid romantic attachments for a while. Find things that make you feel fulfilled that are not about outside validation when you can. There are tons of ways to go about this and unfortunately all of them sound corny to write. Journal, get hobbies, get some exercise, give yourself time, keep going to therapy, read, get angry about stupid shit online, talk to friends, cry, grieve that you and this piece of shit aren’t together, give yourself more time, call family members you love, learn how to make pasta from scratch, give yourself more time. Be gentle with yourself. You are grieving. Allow yourself grief. Stop trying to move past it and go through it.

  6. How can I feel confident and safe in the way that I love people again? Another moment of frankness from me to you, and I’m sorry for how harsh this may sound but: You are going to have to trust the people around you that this guy sucks and that you did nothing wrong that made you unloveable. You are going to have to trust that you were lovable and worthy back then but that he just suuuuucked. That he was not capable of anything beyond being a manipulative asshole. YOU are the one who wrote all those paragraphs up there that described him, not me. Not your therapists. You know. Some tiny tiny part of you knows how bad he was. It’s time to start believing that part of you. Otherwise you will not be able to trust yourself again.

Please, for the love of all things holy, do not get into another relationship for a while. You need space and time to sort your shit OUT. The two most likely outcomes if you jump into something now are that you find someone to replicate the dynamic you had with him [HORRIBLE!!!!!! IDEA!!!! NO!!!!!] or you find someone delightful but do not trust that they could possibly love you because you’re still convinced of your unworthiness, so you push them away which ruins what could’ve been a great relationship [SAD!!! WE DON’T LIKE THIS!!!!!]

Time to mourn, time to keep working, don’t give up on the great project of your life: loving yourself in a really corny, over the top way— so much in fact that unless someone else loves you that much, you will not keep them around.

You’ve got this. I promise you’ve got this. ❤️

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