Crushed. Battered. Exhausted. Confused.

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    Last year, my boyfriend of 8 years, let’s call him A, dumped me out of the blue. He became distant and left a month later, saying he had no feelings for me whatsoever, that he did not love me anymore. I was devastated. I lost a fair amount of weight. I cut off from our common friends too. I was sucked into this whirlpool of self-blame and self-guilt, convinced that had I been a better girlfriend (believe me when I say I wasn’t a good one; I was needy, clingy, nagging, and probably toxic), he wouldn’t have left. The month before the breakup had been pure torture for me: he had become very distant and cold, wouldn’t touch me at all (would withdraw if I tried to hold his hand), did not even look at me, and the such. So yeah… I was crushed. He returned all my stuff and told all our friends and some of mine too that we had broken up and that there’s no chance of a reconciliation. A month after the breakup, my grandmother passed away, followed by my best friend moving out of town. I’d been having constant stomach ache and digestive problems, and I got myself checked, to be diagnosed with IBS-C. I was in constant physical pain.

    Almost 2 months after the breakup, a good friend of mine, let’s call him B, someone very close to my heart, who’d moved to another country the year before, told me he’d been having feelings for me since a few months. He’d missed me after moving there and realized he has feelings for me. I don’t know why but I was delighted to hear that. But initially, I refused a relationship, as I simply wasn’t ready, and I did not want to rebound with him. He’s somebody I care about a lot. But we did continue talking, and I realized I had started developing feelings for him too. I told him weeks later, but we did not start dating, just continued talking, connecting and bonding well. I’d have these bouts of thinking about my ex, and I would then feel like I was betraying B somehow. I would get extremely anxious, even though he was very understanding, and would need a break from him. We’d stop talking for a couple of days till I calmed down, but we’d always get back. He made me really really happy. He was going to visit out home country for the Christmas break. We decided we’d spend the month together, and if all went well, we’d start dating. The month went by, and it was beyond beautiful. He asked me out, and I said yes. This was 7 months after the breakup. I was happy, genuinely so, and felt that life wouldn’t be so bad after all.

    Nine months after the breakup, my ex got in touch with me, after absolute silence for 9 months, except to wish me on my birthday, saying he wanted to get back. I met him, more because I wanted answers. But everything about my ex made me extremely anxious (I have generalized anxiety disorder and have panic attacks, took therapy for a year a couple of years ago), anxious enough to tremble and have trouble breathing. I met him regardless. He said he’d been having an extremely tough time since the breakup. He’d been studying and had been extremely worried about getting a decent job. His mother had been unwell and undergoing treatment. There were financial issues at home. He cried. A lot. I couldn’t understand what I had done. This was after the breakup yes? He said me suggesting he take therapy scared him (backstory: he had been showing some signs of depression, and I had suggested we go to my therapist, with whom I’d spent a year), and he added that suggesting we take help is not the kind of support he needed. He just needed me to be there for him. I still couldn’t understand, so I tried to ask more questions, but whenever I tried that, he’d start crying and trembling. So I avoided it. He got dizzy in the middle of it and asked me to buy him some food, which I did. He had come to me after he’d secured a job and so was in a better position to look at other things in his life. I said I was wasn’t sure and did not tell him about B yet. After that we got to talking about our friends and catching up. We laughed together, and it was quite pleasant.

    Two days later, we met again. I told him I still did not understand why he broke up with me. Just because I suggested we see a doctor? As someone who has struggled with mental health since years now? He said that at the time, he did feel he had no feelings for me and felt that there is no point in dragging this relationship. So he ended it. Pathetic as it may sound, I broke down in front of him, remembering all the hurt and the pain. I then told him about B, and he said that if these 8 years and him meant anything, give us a thought. He said he’s understood himself a lot better in the time we’ve been apart, and he now has matured. He didn’t value me earlier, and he messed up. He missed me (he cried while saying that). My anxiety was through the roof, as I wasn’t sure what I wanted. Here was my ex, somebody I had spent most of my adult life with, someone I had been madly in love with, someone who knew me inside out; add all that to the comfort and familiarity associated with him. He had been home to me. And on the other hand I had B, someone who loves me dearly, is willing to work it out as much as possible with me, despite my baggage, someone I care about deeply. I couldn’t stand the thought of hurting him. I was crying hysterically because of the anxiety because of this dilemma, and my ex calmed me down. With that came the sense of warmth, comfort and familiarity associated with him.

    Both A and B told me to take all the time I needed to decide. So I began thinking. I’d been with A for 8 years and had looked forward to getting married to him. I had been so into him I’d forgotten myself. He has supprted me throughout my mental health issues. And it would be a lie if I said I was over him. I was not. But since Day 1 of the relationship, he had taken me for granted. It was very evident in his behaviour. I had always had to beg for attention and his time. We’d spend time together only if I got really mad or at his convenience. It made me feel he didn’t really love me or need me as much. In the last year of our relationship, a gap had formed between us, as I had gotten busy with my own life and did not badger him for time or attention anymore. I’d made new friends and worked out everyday. He’d always been a very reserved and shy person, and he had communication issues, adding to the gap. This is something I did not want to go back to. I cannot beg for attention and love anymore. I just can’t. But what if he has changed like he said? Will things be better now? On the other hand, B loves me dearly, showers me with attention even from miles away, puts me first, and is really very compatible with me. If I go back to my ex, and it does not work out, I will have blown something really good with B. He will not take me back. Also, I will have hurt him terribly. What if going back would be a huge mistake?

    I spoke to a lot of friends, and all of them told me not to go back. My mom said so too (she loves B, so there might be a bias there). I thought and thought and thought and drove myself crazy. One thing that really hurt me was that my ex had not apologized once. Not once. Not for breaking up. He had all the right to do that. But for doing it as harshly as he did (it was a really ugly breakup; another pathetic thing: when he was leaving, I had fallen at his feet, begging him not to go, every ounce of self-respect out of the window). He did not ask what I had been up to these 9 months until I told him about my grandma and IBS (which is extremely painful for me). I felt numb, felt I had nothing more to give him. All these things made me think that it was probably not wise to go back when something really good is there with me. And so, I messaged A, saying I don’t really think it will work out. He asked me to meet him, but I refused, and that was that.

    But it wasn’t. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about my ex, wondering if I’m making a mistake. It causes me a great great deal of anxiety. I can’t understand why this is happening, when I was so so happy with B just a month ago. This is affecting my relationship with B as well, which I had really wanted to work. All these thoughts are making me severely anxious and depressed. I haven’t slept properly in weeks. I am always nervous and on edge and full of guilt. I am questioning everything I have done. I am wondering if getting together with B so soon was a bad idea. If I hadn’t gotten him involved in me, I could have saved him from all this mess. I don’t know if it is my anxiety playing tricks on me, but I feel all my feelings so far have been a lie. I am a horrible and a weak person. I cannot get these thoughts and my ex out of my head. I don’t know why. I don’t know what to do anymore. Should I go back to my ex? I even have this crazy idea that my IBS troubles will vanish if I go back to my ex.

    I am extremely depressed, and B knows this. I am not interested in anything anymore, and it is affecting our relationship. I don’t even want to live anymore (don’t worry, I won’t do anything to harm myself). This quarantine is not helping. I don’t know which thoughts are mine and which are anxiety’s. Oh God… I’m such a horrible person…

    Sorry for such a long post. If you read it all, thank you.


    Hi there.

    Sorry to hear you are struggling with this, especially in this difficult time for all.

    If it helps, even though I don’t know you I don’t believe you actually are a horrible person. Especially since your concern for B and his feelings shines through. I think you are simply struggling to come to terms with making a difficult decision and the second-guessing yourself and anxiety surrounding it. Once you are sucked down into the spiral of anxiety and negative thoughts, it feels like there’s no end of the tunnel and blame yourself for everything. It is pretty much impossible to make good decisions in this state.

    I read your entire posting. One of the best things I’ve found this forum can help people with is to help people see their problems through a different perspective. It’s often easier for a stranger to see what’s really likely in the situation and what’s understandably emotionally-driven.  If I read the “facts” of your situation I see;

    – You had an eight year relationship with someone that you expected you would marry and spend the rest of your life with.  You believe he provided strong support for helping you through your mental heath issues and the length of time you spent together means he is very familiar, a safe place to you. The relationship also had some major problems, in particular taking you for granted from an early stage, eventually resulted in a wide gap between you as you looked to become more independent of needing his attention, gaining friends, exercising well and generally becoming more confident, less anxious.

    – He abruptly and painfully ended the relationship 9 months ago, with no contact apart from a Happy Birthday message until the out of the blue reaching out to meet up & wanting you back.  When meeting up, he was not apologetic and not interested in how you had been, what had happened to you. He was very emotional and wanted you to support him and take him back. If you tried to question him, he became more emotional so you couldn’t discuss it further. He says he has changed. He calmed you down when you became emotional and it reminded you of how he used to do that for you.

    – The people who know you and the situation well all advised you against returning.  Whilst you were still happy, confident, you considered everything and decided the same – that returning to him was not the best choice for you.

    – You are now plagued by doubts and reliving the pain of the breakup, making you feel like you are being unfair to B.

    So, my take, if it helps?  It’s a very different thing to choose not to return than it is to deal with the aftermath of a horrible break-up. Choosing creates anxiety about whether it’s the right decision for you, taking responsibility for what happens. Everything you have written suggests it was the best choice for you based on what you have shared.  You made the decision when you were feeling well, balanced. People who love you and want the best for you agree. Your ex has presented no evidence he has actually changed – indeed his behaviour in your meeting indicated the opposite, still being focused on himself and his own needs. But the anxiety involved in having to make the decision has sucked you down so much, triggering your painful IBS too – so that now you struggle to remember all that. All you know is that when you feel bad like this, he has always been your go-to, your home, to feel safe and secure again.  So instinctively, you believe that if you return, it will be that way again.

    You say both A & B are willing to give you time, as they should be.  What I’d suggest is you focus on yourself. Get back out exercising, get into the fresh air. Eat well. Spend time with friends. Stop torturing yourself with the decision until you are in a fit mental state. My money’s on once you feel better in yourself, your doubts about not returning to your ex vanish and you realise you are strong enough without him. If you still think he’s the best man for you then, then you know you are choosing him for positive reasons – not out of fear of losing your safe place.

    I hope it helps. I’ve been through a similar breakthrough and it’s tough. The first real relationship after something like is hard regardless of how good it is, learning to trust again is huge. I really hope it works out for you but look after yourself first. I’m sure others will be able to help more & if I can, just let me know.


    Hi Michelle,

    Thank you so much for reaching out to me.

    The thing is, my post has been posted twice by mistake. A couple of people have replied on that thread as well.

    You see, when my ex asked to meet, I was happy with B. But as soon as he messaged, I was thrown into anxiety. I met him anxious and have been anxious since then. So I wasn’t exactly what you would call calm and happy.

    Everything about him brings in pain, something I’ve never felt in my life before. I’m feeling guilty about everything that has happened so far, as if it is my fault.

    I have so many thoughts in my head that I don’t even know where to start.

    I met and started dating my ex when I was 16. He was understanding, patient and caring. I’m not really an easy person to be with. I really was insecure and jealous and quite quite clingy. But he never really made a fuss about it. We had our ups and downs, including my mental health issues, and he was supportive throughout. I am a short-tempered person, and he’s quite calm, so we complimented each other perfectly, or so I felt. I admired how he could be calm in stressful situations, when I could be a mess.

    I have this weird thing. I dated 2 guys before him, nothing serious, just teen relationships. But I was always uncomfortable in those relationships, having a knot in my chest. But with him, I never had that discomfort or knot. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t. I found him to be a wonderful person, and I fell deeper in love with him. It would not be exaggerating if I said my world revolved around him. The only major issue I really had with him was that I had to beg for his attention and time, like I mentioned earlier. Multiple times throughout the relationship I felt I was not as important as his family and other friends were. I felt I was being taken for granted, and I wondered if I actually mattered or was loved at all. I even felt that maybe I was too needy.

    In the last year of our relationship though, things had changed. I had been taking therapy. I had developed this obsessive thought process, where I concentrated only on his perceived flaws. These thoughts disturbed me immensely, and I spoke to my therapist about it. She said these were intrusive thoughts, thanks to my anxiety, and taught me how to work around them. But something was still amiss. I can’t place a finger on it, but something was just… off. I talked about this with my therapist as well, and she said many times couples grow at a different rate, and that I probably was growing wider and faster than he was, leading to this gap between us. She suggested I take a break from him. But the thought of leaving him made me weep. I knew I wanted to be with him, and so I felt we will work this out, whatever it was. We suddenly didn’t have much to talk about. He was a quiet person anyway, but here he became quieter. He was preparing for his entrance exams, and he said staying home all day and just studying, he didn’t have much to talk about. I let him be, thinking he does make sense, and things will be okay once he gets into college. But nothing changed. I knew how much pressure he was under, long days and all. I thought once his course is over and he gets a job, things will be alright. I had stopped badgering him for attention and time, mostly because I knew how busy he was, but also because I was exhausted. I felt I was the only one giving any sort of effort in the relationship. I was the only one who needed the other one. I was lonely, and felt he just wasn’t there in the relationship anymore. I felt neglected and avoided. He simply wasn’t “there”. But again, I thought everything will be fine once he gets a job.

    In April 2019, after a fight, he said he needed a break from us. He said he didn’t feel what he used to feel for me. Needless to say, I was utterly baffled, scared, and confused. I tried to understand, but couldn’t. He said he doesn’t feel like talking to anyone or doing anything and just wanted to be left alone. And so, I did just that. But he went out with friends, hung out, went for a movie, and the such, making me feel the problem was only me. And so, I messaged saying that if that was the case, he should leave. But he maintained that he wanted me in his life. I asked him multiple times, if he wanted me in his life, he said yes. He said he had been feeling guilty about being with me, and did not think he was worthy of me. This guilt, added to feeling that he doesn’t feel for me and the feelings of not wanting to do anything, made me feel he was probably depressed. I suggested we see my therapist, but that scared him. His behaviour towards me changed. He kind of became cold and distant; he was trying, but it was pretty evident he didn’t want me around. He’d withdraw from my touch. We spoke less and less. It was extremely hurtful, and I cried everyday. And a month later, we had a harsh painful breakup. He told my mother he didn’t wanna be with me as well.

    The pain I was in was excruciating. Which I still get in waves. All the dreams, things I thought I was gonna have with him, gone. Along with it had come the guilt. Had I been a more supportive girlfriend, he would have opened up to me. Had I been more loving and accepting rather than critical, he would have let me in. Had I given him the space he asked for when he asked for a break, he probably wouldn’t have left.

    When I experienced these waves of pain, I felt extremely guilty, because I felt I was betraying B.

    I am experiencing such a pain wave right now, after refusing A. It hits me like a rock in my chest when I think we won’t get married, making me anxious. That he might meet somebody else. I just go, “How the hell is all this happening? How did we get here?” Two of our common friends got married, something I thought I was gonna have with him. And it is killing me, all this pain. The reason I didn’t choose A was that I felt I don’t have it in me to carry the relationship on  my shoulders again. I don’t wanna feel neglected and taken for granted. I simply felt numb, after all this pain. But then, now, I think, what if things have changed? He says he has realized his mistakes, breaking up with me was a huge one. He says he knows I gave my all to the relationship, that he didn’t value me earlier. What if all that has changed? What if I will be happy with him? All this pain and all these thoughts make me feel I wanna go back to him.

    Whenever I think about A, I feel like… I’m going to miss a train or something. Something like panic. I don’t understand…

    I really unhappy right now…


    Hey. Sorry for not getting back sooner. I’m glad to hear you are getting some replies on the duplicate post.

    I saw Anita is helping you work through some possibly related issues so I won’t interfere with that, I’ll stick to the A/B situation and your current high anxiety level around it.

    It’s pretty clear to me that you’re trying to make an impossible choice whilst you are still processing the original break-up. Everything you describe is what I went through after my most painful break-up, as have many many others. It’s a double loss of sorts, both losing the person in your life but also losing all your dreams/hopes/expectations of how your life was going to turn out. It’s like pulling a big rug out from underneath you and everything feels scary, unsettled, different, somehow ‘not right’, like it’s all gone wrong. And that’s the thing – most brain’s/humans crave security, the familiar. Often choosing to stay in situations that aren’t god for them simply because it’s a known, it may not be ideal but it’s safe, non-threatening, expected.  So when it all gets thrown into the air, it’s impossible to be able to think in a clear way without fear being in the driving seat.

    Having made the decision to refuse A, it really is absolutely panic hitting you. Constantly wondering was it the right choice, second-guessing yourself, creating both mental and physical stress on your body and stopping you from moving on to new things, e.g. B.  The thing is, none of the ‘facts’ have changed. All the reasons you choose not to return to A still remain valid.  The only thing that is different is that you have had to choose to let him go, instead of dealing with being let go by him. It creates stress, especially if you aren’t used to making big decisions for yourself about your life.  And it still is your choice. If you want to give it another go with A, you can do so, obviously. But don’t choose to do so out of fear, it needs to be a choice for positive reasons. Don’t let the fear of losing the life you had planned even though you weren’t happy with him or the fear he’ll find someone else be your driver. If you genuinely think you see enough evidence he has actually changed and want to try again before being able to decide, then that may well be what you need to do. I don’t see the evidence from what you have written but you know your situation best. All I see is that everything you write here screams of panic, fear, anxiety – not positive reasons for giving it another go.

    One exercise you can try – what happens if you imagine giving up your current life, the happiness & confidence gained without A. How do you feel about not seeing B anymore? At the moment you are so focused on what you may or may not be missing with A, it’s worth trying the other way around as it sometimes helps make things clearer.

    Take care.

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