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Ask Lynn: Are They Broken Up…Or Not?


Their relationship ended, but now she’s telling him not to move for a new job. What’s going on?

By Lynn Harris

ear Lynn,
Three months ago, my girlfriend and I parted ways after a year and a half. Both of us had things going on with school and work, and we needed time to straighten things out. So we decided to split up and figure things out with our careers. Basically she wanted nothing to do with me—no phone calls, no
I want it to work, but I don’t want to pressure her.
emails, or text messages. Here is what is strange: About every two weeks or so, she calls to see how things are going. And what really messes with my head is I have told her I want to leave town for work, but she doesn’t want me to go. I think about this lady all the time. What is she doing? I want it to work, but I don’t want to pressure her. What do I do here?
– Brett

Dear Brett,
Here is what your ex is basically saying:

“I never want to speak to you again… except when I call.”

And:

“Now that we’re single, both of us can do we please…except you.”

Or, to summarize:

“It’s over, except when I’m lonely.”

Brett, she can’t have it both ways. And you can’t let her. As you said, it will mess with your head. You don’t want to pressure her? She, passive-aggressively, is pressuring you.

What exactly is she up to? Well, either she is not awesome at breaking up (it’s not easy!),
If you remain serious about this relationship, then get serious.
or she wants you back. Or both. It’s pretty clear that at first it was too painful for her to be in touch—and then, soon thereafter, it became too painful for her not to be in touch. And the thought of you leaving town? She’s not allowed to tell you not to go, but she is allowed — privately — to feel sad about it. That is, while her back-and-forth actions are not OK, the feelings behind them are entirely normal. Hey, why would you want to date someone you wouldn’t miss?

So you’ve both got to decide — together — what’s going on here and what to do about it. Is this a normal case of missing each other (and, in her case, acting on it) after a relatively on-good-terms breakup? Or is it second thoughts? For your part, if you really think that your move for work would be important — after all, you said your breakup had to do with freeing yourselves up to focus on your careers — then fine; you’ve got to stick to your guns and maintain the separation on terms you can both agree on.

But Brett, you also say you think about her all the time. If you remain serious about this relationship, then get serious. Talk to her. Ask her what her intentions are. If you two are going to get back together, it’s not going to happen via occasional phone calls and outbursts of clinginess. It’s going to happen because you sit down and think hard — and talk honestly and openly — about what it will take to make things work this time around. Is it possible to pursue both your careers and… each other? If this job opportunity of yours is pretty plum, would she be willing to move? Or would you be willing to stay put in order to stay with her? Ask her—and ask yourself. Either you’ll finally get closure—or open up new possibilities.


Lynn Harris (www.lynnharris.net) is co-creator, with Chris Kalb (www.chriskalb.com), of the award-winning website BreakupGirl.net — you can visit BG's blog to discuss this letter! A longtime journalist, Lynn has written about dating, gender, and culture high and low for Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Times, Salon.com, Nerve.com, and many others. She is currently the communications strategist for Breakthrough, a transnational organization that creates pop culture to promote human rights. Submit your own dating questions for Ask Lynn via bg@breakupgirl.net. Your question may be answered in a future column.
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