Ask Dave-I’m reeling from a breakup!

She and her partner were rock-solid—and then it was all gone. How can she recover?

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
Recently, my girlfriend and I split after almost seven years. I thought we got along fine; we never argued, we loved each other, and loved hanging out together. Just a few months ago, we were considering
Out of the blue, she said she needed to move out.
buying a house together, talking to an adoption agency about kids, and buying new furniture.

Then her father passed away. Out of the blue, she said she needed to move out. She left without much explanation other than saying she needed space. Ugh! We were supposed to continue dating, but live apart. That never happened. Once she was gone, she said she wasn’t attracted to me anymore and started going out every night with friends.

We still talk occasionally. I can’t get over how she left without telling me what was bothering her. I don’t understand how she could go from total commitment to moving out three months later. It’s been almost four months and I’m still devastated. I have never felt like this about anyone ever. She is The One for me. How should I handle this situation?
–Heart... broken

Dear Heart… broken,
First of all, I am so sorry this happened to you. A sudden breakup is like a sudden death; shocking and impossible to comprehend right away. Often after the death of a parent or close loved one, people react in extreme ways. Withdrawal is more common than you think. But that’s no excuse for leaving you in the cold.

Second, you say you’re sure she’s The One for you. That’s low self-esteem talking. Someone who’d walk out on you in such a hurtful, selfish way is not the kind of caring partner who’s deserving of your undying devotion. Partners owe it to each other to communicate, even during rough patches where, understandably, someone needs space or time to grieve.

Of course, even the best relationships sometimes end. Hopefully, the two partners will be kind and caring to minimize inevitable break-up pain. But while it’s true that you cannot always predict how a relationship will end, you can control how you handle whatever twists and turns life throws you.

You’re in touch with her and I question whether that’s a smart move for you. Can you be friends? I don’t know. When two good people just can’t make a go of their romance, you can stay friends, with a few caveats:
  • There’s genuine caring, respect, and solid communication.
  • It’s much easier if the decision to part is mutual.
  • There are no serious violations of trust during the relationship.
Put away pictures of the two of you and redecorate.
In your case, none of these three apply. The only reason I’d stay in touch with her is if she’s willing to explore the reasons behind the breakup in a caring, respectful way. You deserve to know why your seemingly rock-solid commitment had cracks in the foundation without your knowledge.

Most importantly, the biggest issue in your dating life right now is not whether you should start seeing someone new or wait for your ex. It’s your decision, but I certainly hope you’ll turn the focus away from her and toward healing yourself. You need to get healthy and grounded before considering a reunion with your old relationship or attempting a new one.

Here’s a six-point plan for getting back on your feet after such an abrupt breakup:

Get support.
Stay busy with friends and family right now! This is the crucial first step. You’re facing a huge emotional void that people close to you can help fill.

Accept the breakup.
In his book, It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken: The Smart Girl’s Break-Up Buddy, author Greg Behrendt throws a glass of cold water to jolt readers out of denial. His message is that you can’t make a person love you, and why in the world would you want to be with anyone who doesn’t want to be with you?

Try something new.
Now is the perfect time to do those things you’ve wanted to try but, for whatever reason, haven’t had the time or inclination. See friends you haven’t seen for a while, volunteer, try a new hobby, go back to school, or work out more (releasing endorphins fights depression). By staying busy and focused on positive things, you will make the most of your transition.

Protect yourself.
I’m sure you’re experiencing enough painful memories in your once-shared home. To the best of your ability, try to avoid constant reminders of your ex. Inside: Put away pictures of the two of you and redecorate to give your space fresh energy. Outside: If there are special places that you and your ex shared — bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and local hangouts — avoid them, especially at first.

Learn lessons.
Every relationship offers lessons for you to learn. What can you learn from what happened? Were there warning signs that you see now, but didn’t face then? Hopefully, with experience comes wisdom that you’ll bring to your next relationship.

Get closure.
You can’t control whether your ex will be honest and nurturing with you. But try to talk with and listen to her about what went wrong. Yes, it’s important to respect space and privacy at a time like this, but it’s also important to get closure. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

Bottom line: Refocus your energy on yourself. Before you can move on from this abrupt breakup, you need to heal and boost your self-esteem.

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Send your dating questions and comments to him at
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