[Two Pronged] My first boyfriend broke up with me
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
Last January, I had a simple life: I don't go out a lot, only have my family and a small circle of friends, never had a boyfriend or even a suitor.
I used to ask: Am I ugly? Is something wrong with me? My family and friends assured me that was not so, that maybe it's not yet the right time, but I find it hard to believe. Reality speaks otherwise.
Then I started using a dating app, and loved the attention that I am getting. It boosted my self-confidence to be liked and admired. But I realized that none of that is genuine. Guys there will use flowery words just to get laid.
I lost interest and deactivated my account. But before I did, I received a direct message from a 40 year-old guy (I am 24). He seemed different, interesting, and harmless, so I agreed to meet him.
I didn't like him that much at first. But he made me feel safe and comfortable. I liked how easily we connected and skipped the awkward part. I liked the way he handled me and prevented me from over-analyzing things. He made me live in the moment that night and just let things happen.
I liked that I don't need to worry if he will call me again because I know he will. Everything was new to me; everything, a first time.
I promised myself that I wouldn't let my guard down. I know the downside of this set-up, how it works and how it ends.
Then it hit me: how come I was in this situation? This is not how I pictured my love story. But it's too hard to leave. I know I am starting to have feelings for him.
It started to hurt a lot. The harder I try to make the relationship more than what it is, the more he'll drift away. So I chose to give up the battle and walk away. It took a lot of courage because I am not just leaving him, I am leaving a part of me too. Weeks passed.
Things are starting to go back to normal for me. I am in the state of mind that walking away is the best decision I've ever done. I realized my value and worth. I learned that I don't have to beg him to give me some place in his life. I don't have to prove anything to him. That is what I thought.
But he came back.
All the heartache that I've been through and tried to heal on my own had been disregarded with just one text coming from him. How silly is that, right?
I know in the eyes of other people, I am so stupid. I just don't care. This is my chance to know everything, to know the answers to all my questions. To receive an apology from him. I believe that I deserve that.
What I thought was a closure for us is a start of something new, of something better. I am not a believer in second chances in love. For me, it is stupidity. But because I am stupid, I took a chance on it, I took a risk.
We made our relationship official and exclusive. Everything is getting into place. He finally said that he loves me. He started mentioning me to his friends (I never met any one of them, though). He introduced me to his mother and sibling (he introduced several girlfriends way back then already). We were talking about the future (the possibility of having kids, moving in together, etc.). I really thought we were far better off than the first time.
But I am wrong. We had issues and I admit some of it were stirred up by me. I didn't expect his next move. He suggested we were better off as friends. I broke down.
I am so mad because what happened to all our future plans? What happened to the "I love you" and "I don't want to lose you"? I thought we were better.
I felt cheated on and given false hopes. I even apologized to him for us to fix things even if it means that I have to swallow my pride. But still, I didn't hear anything from him, he ghosted me.
I really felt bad. I am so mad at him and myself. I feel like I have no value, that is why it is so easy for him to do that to me. I doubted myself even more.
Everything was at its lowest point, my self-respect, self-esteem, self-confidence. I feel so unworthy.
And you know what's funny? He even texted me "Merry Christmas" like nothing happened. He is guilt-free, like he did not do anything wrong.
It's been 3 months since the last time we've talked but every time I look back and think about what happened, I am still raging with anger. Tell me, how do you forgive someone who is not even sorry? How do you forgive someone who is living peacefully and having the time of his life while me I am still dealing with the aftermath of what he did to me?
Maybe what I am asking is how to be totally and truly okay?
Thank you for your email.
Your story seems to fall into two distinct parts – before and after your reconciliation.
Up to meeting your (now ex) boyfriend (let's call him Nate) you had never had a boyfriend so a relationship was always going to be a big deal. Your initial internet search was unsuccessful but just as you were going to give up Nate popped up. He doesn't appear to have impressed you – you didn't like him very much but described him as harmless – but you persevered because you felt safe and comfortable.
Despite all this, you say "I promised myself that I won't let my guard down. I know the downside of this set-up, how it works and how it ends"?
Although everything was going swimmingly up to this point, it seems that you had very low expectations as to the outcome because it was not developing as you had hoped, and so you eventually terminated the relationship and felt that you had made the right decision.
Then came Part 2, or as you put it, "he came back." And against all the odds, and everything you had said before, you let him. Why? It was apparently "my chance to know everything, to know the answers to all my questions. To receive an apology from him." The logic of this unfortunately eludes me. Having successfully exited a failed relationship, you rekindled it in pursuit of knowledge and an apology. To say that this was a recipe for disaster would be putting it kindly.
You don't tell us what honeyed words this 'new' Nate used to persuade you to let him back into your life, whether he revealed the fountain of all knowledge, whether he apologized - but back he came with a vengeance, ending up introducing you all around, talking about a future full of the usual trappings of domesticity: setting up house together, kids etc. And then, inevitably, the whole house of cards collapsed, the 'old' Nate reappeared and, lo and behold, he wants to be just friends.
I can imagine how angry this whole saga has made you. Nate burned you not once but twice and that can be deeply wounding. Now is when people will unhelpfully tell you to move on, get over it, 'there are plenty more where he came from' and other such folk wisdom.
But actually a little introspection would do no harm. Consider how low your expectations were both times round: first, you knew how it would end and second, all you wanted was an apology. With such a mindset, you were unlikely to achieve everlasting happiness, particularly after choosing 'harmless' Nate. And did you ever consider why Nate was still single at 40? Did commitment phobia ever spring to mind?
At only 24, you can chalk this up to experience, learn from what has transpired and enter your next relationship bearing some honorable scars from your first skirmish in the battle of the sexes. We can all seek nirvana but real life requires us to keep our feet on the ground at least some of the time. You now understand this better than before so sally forth and put your newfound knowledge to good use.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. In his answer, Mr Baer said: “As you put it, ‘he came back.’ And against all the odds, and everything you had said before, you let him.” In other words, by himself he couldn’t have come back into your life even if he wanted to do so. But since you let him, he was able to.
Fair enough. We all do what we think works best for us and if we are emotionally healthy, we move on from that when it doesn’t.
While you are “still raging with anger,” you have already started to ask yourself some questions about moving on (which is a good sign). In fact, your anger itself is a good sign. Freud was the first one who suggested the connection between anger turned inwards and the onset of depression in his classic paper, "Mourning and Melancholia."
Some, especially psychiatrists with a biological bias, have scoffed at Freud’s suggestion, making every mood disorder a malfunction of neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, etc. the culprit.
However, my clinical experience and many other commentaries (see here and here) suggest Freud was right as far as many depressed people are concerned. You too were angry at yourself for a time, but I am so glad you have moved on from there, directing this healthy anger at the man who lied and let you down.
You are, however, asking yourself the wrong question: “how do you forgive someone who is not even sorry? How do you forgive someone who is living peacefully and having the time of his life while me I am still dealing with the aftermath of what he did to me?”
Answer: You don’t.
I hope, in time, you will stop beating yourself up for letting Nate into your life. He taught you what nobody else – even family and friends who loved you – could: that you are a beautiful woman who men (including cads like Nate) find attractive enough to pursue and try to come back to.
It is difficult to answer your next question: “how (can I) be totally and truly okay?” since each of us finds our own idiosyncratic way towards “okay-hood.”
However, I can’t help feeling you are already well and truly on your way to getting there in the very near future.
All the best,
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