Making things right on December 7, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
I am in a very complicated situation involving my ex-girlfriend. We are both college students; I’m 20 and a junior, she’s 19 and a sophomore. We were dating for about a year and a half and monogamous for about a year or so. I broke up with her six weeks ago for many reasons, but mainly because I felt unwanted and unappreciated… I had almost always treated her with love, respect and dignity and felt that she was not reciprocating. In the cases in which I made a mistake, I always attempted to understand her concerns and apologize when appropriate. Although I initiated the break-up, it was not something I wanted to do; I felt compelled by the situation to save my self-esteem.
About a week after we broke up, I found out that she was pregnant. I went to be with her for the ensuing abortion which was obviously exceptionally difficult for both of us.
A few days after the abortion, I heard about some things that had happened in that week. My ex had tried to hook up with a friend of mine two days after we broke up and had hooked up with three other guys in a short period of time. This hurt me intensely… she was my first love, and I hers; I thought it unbelievable that she would treat my feelings for her in such a disrespectful manner. We have tried to talk about things the past few weeks, but about 10 days ago I finally blew up. She was trying to have it both ways… the alternative experiences that she thought she needed with other guys combined with my support and romance. I basically told her to get out of my life because she was being so unfair and cruel to me. She has never apologized for trying to hook up with my friend, and she continues to maintain that she loves me even though she needs these other experiences. I cannot understand that, and it was that insistence of her love for me that drove me over the edge. It felt like she was completely playing with me.
I understand that both of us have been through a hell of a lot. I just don’t know where to go from here. Until she apologizes to me I cannot think of beginning to reestablish our relationship, friendship or otherwise. On the other hand, I understand the massive stress that the abortion caused her. I am trying not to be a complete jerk while maintaining my self-esteem and protecting my own rights. How do I deal with this?
What she did with your friend was way crappy. Especially after you supported her , even post-breakup, through a terribly difficult experience. I know it feels like she was totally playing with you, your feelings, and a respect for your history together. I also think that her Rebound-a-Rama — while involving some poor choices — does not mean that she does/did not love you. Just trust me. That’s what rebounds are.
So don’t hold your breath — or your life — for an apology. Or for reestablishing a friendship. I’m not saying you two shouldn’t be friends — I’m just asking: why should you? Because you Should? Point is, you are being all Mr. Principle about the whole situation, which is not inherently wrong-headed; it’s just not getting you very far in practical reality. Insisting that closure and forgiveness and moving-on are contingent on someone else’s doing the right thing is an excellent way to blame the other person and remain in hell indefinitely. Remember, I’m not saying you’re not justified in being out-of-your-mind hurt and angry; but closure and forgiveness and all of that stuff are never ever up to anyone but you.
So here’s how to be neither a jerk nor a doormat. If she calls about post-abortion stress syndrome, give her the number for the local Planned Parenthood counseling line. (You should have it for yourself, too, you know.) This is not a cop-out. You are the ex; they are the experts. And if she calls to apologize, lovely. Accept graciously. This should finesse — not cause — whatever truce you two may establish. But don’t wait by the phone. Instead, work on the difference between being a good guy and a Better Person. Hint: you’ve got the first one down. Leave it at that.