April 6, 2012
Getting over it on October 5, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Here’s a tough one. I can’t believe I’m writing, but I’m looking for some sort of outlet here, for a problem that no one seems to want to acknowledge or address: how to get over the end of an affair so I can move on with my life.
You see, I’ve been in a virtually sexless marriage for almost 7 years. We got married very young (23/22), and even though we were sexually active, and enjoyably so, before we got married, my attraction to him started to wane before we got married. Trying to be mature and patient, I attributed this to the new responsibilities we faced as adults and believed that we would get back on track once we were living together and got our lives moving. Unfortunately, we never ending up addressing the problem, and basically avoided sex and never really developed a sexual relationship in our marriage. In the meantime, we continued to build a good marriage in many other ways, and have been loving, compatible companions.
Anyway, here’s the real crisis (or the additional one): several months ago I had a very brief affair. I had felt so lost for so many years, had doubted my basically ability to feel desire, and once I did, and had the opportunity, I took it. I never thought I was the kind of person who would be unfaithful in a relationship, but now I’ve learned that it’s not really a “kind of person” kind of thing. The other guy was going through a divorce, and we had been friends at work for several years, and suddenly things started happening, and we both let it happen, fully conscious (I do take full responsibility and won’t fall back on the “it just happened” excuse). Anyway, he ended things, saying it was too hard for him that I wasn’t fully available to him, and that he knew I needed to work things through with my husband and find out where all that was going, and he wanted us to continue our friendship and put up some boundaries between us. I agreed in theory, but felt so lost and confused and rejected in a way, knowing all the while it didn’t make any sense, but feeling hurt all the same. Well, I couldn’t handle any of it — the deception, the doubts I was feeling about my attraction to my husband, the confusion, and when my husband asked me, I told him the truth. He was devastated, shocked beyond belief, and actually became violent and smashed things in our apartment and went to my office to dig around and find out who the guy was, and went to his house and punched him. He is not usually a violent person, though he has always been very jealous, but I must say that this was out of character for him (and me, as well, or so I thought).
April 2, 2012
The Predicament of the Week from October 5, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Sorry for my verbosity, but after I wrote this litany of patheticness I felt like deleting any part of it would be like cutting off a limb. Please feel free to skip over any drivel you feel unnecessary.
I used to be pretty good at handling my romantic entanglements when I was younger, but now everything seems to be a big mess. I am really at a point where I am so confused and no longer trust my gut instincts. I have been on this manic roller coaster for almost a year and a half and I just don’t know what to do. I should be happy — I have a very successful career on Wall Street, am intelligent, creative, and have the means to do or go wherever I want. I have a wonderful family, supportive and caring friends, and I know that I am loved.
But my life is not perfect. I was divorced earlier this year after 4 years of marriage preceded by 5 years of dating. It wasn’t one of those messy-throw-all-the-china-at-each-other type breakups. We just got married too young (we got engaged when I was 21 — I am 28 now) and realized that we both changed and wanted different things. We tried to work out our differences, but it just wasn’t meant to be. So we cried, separated, cried, got divorced and cried some more.
People, you have no idea how much more there is after the jump
December 12, 2011
No boyfriend, no cry, on September 7, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
I’m 17 and my boyfriend of almost four months just broke up with me. The problem is, I am not very upset. I cried for about two days, but now I feel fine. I loved him and everything, but I thought I would be more upset. Is this weird?
By plugging these numbers into Breakup Girl’s Supercomputer, I confirmed that 2 days is the exact right amount of time for a 17 year old to cry over a 4-month relationship. You, wisely, did the purgefest that Frantic skipped. Well done. You’re totally fine.
August 18, 2011
A quickie from July 13, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
My new boyfriend says he is on the rebound from a woman he dated for three months (the majority of their relationship took place over the phone). Go figure. She is also 18 years older than he is. Anyway, rebound to me means get over it. I told him to call me when he figured things out. Is there hope or do I really care?
– Nagged in NY
In this case, “rebound” to me means “Let’s sleep together when I feel like it.” Enough said.
April 14, 2011
Special shoutout from June 22, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Just discovered your website and it’s lovely. Congrats on great design and good common-sense advice. I also wanted to share a breakup story with others. I was involved for years (off-and-on) with someone who I came to believe was my soulmate. Unfortunately, he had a teensy little problem–he didn’t want to be with me, although he said he loved me. Not being the most pathetic person on the face of the planet (only the second-most pathetic), I finally broke it off. A year later, I was still in pain. Then, I met a man through an internet personal service. The day I met him, I stopped thinking about my lost love. My internet man and I are now living together and I’m as sure as one can be that this is for life.
Now, I believe that we have to heal ourselves and can’t look to another person to do it. I was starting to heal when I met my current man, but falling in love again sure helped. And I also realized that, problematic as my earlier relationship had been, it also got me in touch with my need for love and passion so that I was ready when a real love came along. It’s been said many times, but it’s true. First you gotta love yourself. Then love will always follow. Good luck to you and your website.
Breakup Girl responds: Did everyone get that part about not holding out for a healer — and doing it ourselves? Yep. It’s like what I told MixMasterMama/Scab Picker last week: make the breakup tape; don’t send it. Don’t make your Moving On contingent on some hoped-for re/action by the other person. Just wanted to highlight that.
April 7, 2011
Mixing it up on June 15, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
I seem to be riding the breakup wave — mildly okay with the whole thing one minute, wanting to do damage to myself the rest of the time. In an effort to try and feel better, I’ve been listening to all the music that might not make me feel better, but that makes me feel like someone else “knows my pain.” My dilemma is this: do I send my ex a mix tape of all the songs that express what I was never able to say? I think that 90 minutes of Ani, Jim Croce, Mary J. Blige, etc. would be a nice little purging. What do you think?
– Scab Picker, or Mix Master Mama?
Dear, well, Scab Picker,
Here’s the problem. 90 minutes of Ani, Jim, and Mary means at least three weeks of SP/MMM waiting by the phone/mailbox/computer for His Response. Which is not guaranteed to be satisfying, or, in fact, to come. And where does that get you? The term “loop” — as opposed to “fast forward” — springs to mind.
March 30, 2011
Summer leavin’ from June 15, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Love you, love your column! THE love of my life destroyed me last summer and I still haven’t gotten over him. I have dated a whole bunch of men, tried to keep busy etc….but can’t stop feeling that I have lost the best thing I ever had. I just keep thinking I don’t want him to be happy because I am not. I thought I was doing well for a long time but lately it has all come back to me. Help me! I want my ex out of my head.
— Hopeful to Heal
You did lose the best thing you ever had. Until that point. And at this point, it’s all coming back to you because, well, you still know what you did last summer. I mean, really, the teeniest things — the whiff of a scent, the note of a song — remind us of loves and losses; how ’bout when that reminder is … the sun ?! And so, even at this time of increased slothitude, you’ve got to do more than “keep busy.” You’ve gone past the statute of limitations for “distractions.” You are still just treading water, gulping brine into your empty heart and lungs. You said it yourself: you do not want him to be happy because you are not happy. This is the problem: not getting over him, but changing what’s around you. What will make you happy (no fair saying “him”)? Grad school, a road trip, new curtains? Figure it out. For real. And at the risk of sounding glib, DO THAT.
March 29, 2011
Getting un-stuck on June 15, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
You may remember me as the one whose boyfriend dumped me by cassette tape last year [that's another story for another column -- BG]. Since then we have broken up and gotten back together probably five or six times. After the last breakup we decided to be “friends” but started having four-hour-long online conversations that revolved mostly around cybersex. Perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking that this was going to be the beginning of the NEXT phase of our relationship … until last week when I forced the issue and flat-out asked him if he’d already found someone else that he was seeing…and he said yes. When I said, “You’ve been having those conversations with ME and seeing someone else?” he told me to stop giving him my “self-righteous bullsh*t.” (Keep in mind we’ve been seeing each other on and off for four years.) Anyway, my question — yes, what IS my question, you are asking — is, even though the guy is a louse, and seems incapable of being honest with me, and clearly doesn’t care much about me…WHY CAN I NOT SEEM TO GET HIM OUT OF MY SYSTEM? Thanks for any insight you might have: your website, Jonathan Kellerman books, and Haagen-Dazs “Dulce de Leche” ice cream are the only things keeping me going right now.
Breakup Girl’s response after the jump
March 28, 2011
Trying to move on on June 15, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Okay, I can’t believe I’m doing this, because I know the answer. The answer is to get over him, but I guess my question is how. I’ve been in love for four years with someone. He’s been unreliable, I’ve sworn never to see him, then he appears all lovable, etc. Old story. Two nights ago he told me on the phone that he’s getting back together with his ex-girlfriend, one of the two women he’s ever loved (no, the other is not Mom; however, it’s not me, either).
Okay, so get over him, move on. But I miss him. And everything I like to do reminds me of him (or her — every time I see a redhead now, I want to spit). And Breakup Girl, I’m so tired. I could take a class, I could go out with friends, I could this, I could that, and it all feels like just filling up time until either he comes to his senses or I die of old age in my studio apartment with my cat. I think I need chicken soup for the soul, or a good old-fashioned spring tonic. Any recipes?
Read BG’s answer after the jump
March 18, 2010
Next Page »
‘Tis the season: Easter, Passover, a delightful asparagus frittata. The New Scientist’s got an interesting thinky essay about which sex has the evolutionary upper hand when it comes to the mechanics of reproduction; there is, thus, discussion of the once-seen-as-all-powerful egg–and the eventually dominant homocentric view that semen “perfects” it. Cue epic battle between “ovists” and “spermists,” then an uneasy truce brokered by the emerging field of genetics. But ultimately (long interesting story short, with other implications not relevant here), the writers (professors of ecology and evolution) conclude that since the mother nurtures offspring inside her body for so many months — therefore wielding more genetic influence — “it looks like eggs rule after all.”
Mothers have more genetic influence; ergo: that’s why men take breakups harder. That’s the theory advanced in response to the NS piece by Alex Balk over at The Awl (h/t The Atlantic). He writes:
Why should it be so that a man has greater difficulty coming to terms with the end of a relationship than his female counterpart? (This is gonna be a very heteronormative discussion here, so gays and lesbians are free to check out some of the fine content at the right.) My research suggests that it all has to do with childhood.
Little girls are often treated as “princesses,” the object of paternal affection in an idealized-but-not-romantic way. This convention is so strong that they are referred to even by non-relatives as “daddy’s little girl.” Daddy is the man who adores them, who sets the template for what they will expect from all other men in life when it comes to affection.
Little boys are often treated the same way by their mothers. “Mommy loves you,” she will repeat over and over. “You will always be Mommy’s little boy.” Mommy makes it very clear that her little boy is most special boy in the world—even more special than Daddy—and that he will be an object of veneration and pride so long as she lives. This also sets a template.
The difference is stunningly obvious: Dads are far less committed parents than moms. Daddy may tell you that you are Daddy’s little girl, he may take you to a Daddy-Daughter dance one night after weeks of prompting, but most of the time he’s at the office, or away for business, or out with his buddies for important “man time.” Young girls, who, let’s not forget, mature far more quickly than boys, pick up on this: The man who says he loves me, they realize, is not at all reliable. He says what he thinks he is supposed to say, but his actions tell a different story.
Moms, on the other hand, are always there. They do the majority of the parenting, of the cooking, of the cleaning, of all the things that we equate with nurturing. To a boy, there is never any disconnect from the message of love he gets from Mommy and the way that he sees it play out in real life.
And this is why men take break ups harder than women. When a woman breaks up with a man, it is Mommy telling him that she doesn’t love him anymore. And Mommy promised that she would always love him! What is so terrible about him that Mommy stopped loving him? He can bury the sadness with alcohol, or watching a lot of sports, or sleeping around, but deep down he cannot fathom how this rejection has happened to him. His cries of pain, either voiced or shown by his actions, are really him shouting, “Mommy, why did you stop loving me?”
Whereas for a woman, she had no illusions that Daddy wasn’t going to leave at some point. Sure, she’s hurt initially, but she knew the score going into the game. And because women are more or less what Science refers to as “mercenary bitches,” even as she’s filling her pint of ice-cream with those fat, salty tears, she is unconsciously determining whom she will settle on next, the better to get her eggs fertilized so that the cycle might continue. [I should note here that a scholarly friend of mine (who is well-versed on the subject of women by virtue of her position as an expert on young adult novels for girls) had a minor dissent to this hypothesis, noting that every woman has one man who legitimately broke her heart and for whom she will always pine; I am perfectly willing to accept this "ur-Daddy" postulation and add it to the literature.]
Also relevant: the fact that men are not culturally conditioned to feel and express and wallow and process after a breakup. This may or may not be a good thing. (Freeing for the dump-er, limiting for the dumpee?)
So what do you guys think? Broadly speaking, does one gender take breakups harder, and why? Discuss! Through fat, salty tears!