DEAR CAROLYN: I’m 26, he’s 27. Dated for about a year, fell hard and fast, moved in together after about six months and were beginning to talk about getting engaged. I thought I had found the one.
But I messed up several times during the relationship and hurt him (never physically cheating, but being inappropriate with other men). Two months ago an incident happened that was the last straw, and he ended the relationship and moved out.
I really do love him and want to be with him. Over the last two months, I’ve tried to repair the relationship. Including going to weekly counseling, expressing my feelings and apologizing, trying to do gestures to show him how much I care and want to work on things. I’ve realized how damaging my behavior is, and I feel ready to move forward and make a real change.
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He says he still loves me but isn’t sure the relationship can be repaired. I understand the trust has been broken, but I really do think the relationship is worth fighting for. I feel like counseling and reflection have helped me see that I can be a better partner, but I’m not sure how to show him I’m sincere.
Or maybe I’m deluding myself and if he hasn’t decided to try with me after two-plus months apart, it won’t happen. Then again, maybe I’m being shortsighted and two months isn’t that long at all.
— Sad in Maryland
DEAR SAD IN MARYLAND: You’re being shortsighted, yes, but in a much more dramatic way than in the best-case scenario you give.
I’d even call it rush-sighted. You moved in at six months, you talked engagement in less than a year, and you managed to fit inappropriate behavior with more than one man in that brief window, and you’ve apparently overlapped these recent two months of “counseling and reflection” (less than two, actually) with a deliberate push to get him back that you’re already set to abandon for Plan B.
As I read your letter, I had the sound of a fast-forwarded tape in my head.
Slow down, please! Way, way down. As in, recognize that thinking about this just in terms of this guy, or any guy, is being shortsighted. This is about repairing your relationship with yourself.
That’s what your behavior is telling you: The impulse to be with this guy that guy the other guy, wait no the original guy, is just a symptom of not being at peace with yourself.
The attention of others is a balm mixed with a sense of purpose, bringing happy feelings with the (in this case, false) assurance that you and your love interest are moving together toward something.
And while that is often a good thing, it decidedly isn’t when it’s a distraction from problems that need your attention — and an excuse not to deal with them.
When you treat therapy and “reflection” (I’m tempted to link to the fast-forward sound again here) as means solely to the end of getting your favorite distraction back, then you’re missing the point. The best partners are the ones who know and like themselves — well enough not to need the validation of others. Stop chasing love, breathe, show yourself how sincere you are about turning your life around.