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Dear Breakup Girl,
I wrote you over the summer about my angsty grieving over an ex-girlfriend.
I spent all summer worrying about it because I broke up with her in the worst
way possible (being a fan of brutal honesty and the better-late-than never school,
it was along the lines of the "I was never really in love with you or physically
attracted to you despite being very serious about you for a year and a half,
which means we're not going to live with each other for the rest of our lives
like we planned" sort of breakup). I expected a little bit of dyke drama about
this, since she'd vowed never to speak to me again, and we'd both be on campus
together this year, running into each other, etc. Well, we have run into each
other frequently. And here's the odd part. (Well, there are several.) She says
that she was upset over the summer but that she "got over it" and wants to be
friends. Thankfully, she hasn't actually acted on that yet. Because even though
she seems to be perfectly cheerful and OK to hang out with me, when I
am around her, I'm full of the old familiar slab-of-rock-on-stomach feeling
that Village Idiot mentioned. You know, the fifteen-feelings-at-once
thing (fight-or-flight v. I'm sort of still attracted to her v. I want to sit
down with her and process or be friends).
I don't think I could handle being friends with her. When I'm around her,
I feel too guilty, depressed, and sad about how I broke up with her. (Thankfully,
the guilt and so forth rears its head only when I'm around her. I can get on
with my life otherwise.) My question is...well, I don't know what to do. I want
to be friends with her and I don't. I really, really miss having her in my life
as a close friend. Here's the caveat, though. You know how when people break
up sometimes they tell the other person, "You never knew the real me, anyway?"
Well, in her case, it's true. For the length of time I was going out with her,
she was on migraine medicine which (little did I know) made her cynical, bitter,
and angst-ful -- perfect for sarcastic, angsty me. It may seem weird, but we
bonded over it. When I broke up with her, she'd stopped taking the medicine.
Now the effects have worn off, and she is a completely different person: cheerful,
very energetic, very very social. I really feel like I don't know her anymore,
like, in a way, our relationship never happened. She is not the girl I knew.
I'm not sure how I would be friends with her if I wanted to.
Another caveat is that this is the first time I've broken up with someone
who has actually been in the same geographic area as me for an extended period
of time. Usually, they conveniently graduate or move away. I think that what
I'm going through here -- the fifteen-feelings-at-once when I run into her --
is my grieving process for our relationship, which is newly formed and scares
me. Because she doesn't appear to be feeling anything like that. And I can't
help comparing myself to her ... in which case I feel like I should have "gotten
over it" long ago. I mean. I broke up with her.
I don't want to get back together with her, because I was very unhappy in the
relationship. I'd like to be friends with her somehow, but I have too many residual
issues right now. My question: I don't know how to heal from this. I don't know
how to interact with her without gazing searchingly into her eyes simultaneously
hoping she will want to be friends with me again AND that she will leave me
alone. What I want from her is some kind of acknowledgement either that she
still hurts or that she's forgiven me. I feel like she's completely dismissed
the relationship and me. Should I actively pursue a friendship with her or let
myself heal from this relationship by means of being in touch with my emotions
when we just happen to run into each other? In other words, will pursuing a
friendship with her help me to heal from the breakup or hinder it? I think of
it as aversion therapy: maybe if I force myself to be around her, my emotions
will calm down?
Your crazy mixed-up stir fry of emotions -- Fifteen-Feelings-at-Once,
Slab-of-Rock-on-Stomach -- do sound like dishes on the special part of the Chinese
menu. But I cannot tell you how normal they are. (Especially when you're
the dumper: thanks for your oh-so-true treatise on the underacknowledged phenomenon
of dumper angst.)
How to polish them off? Well, not the way you say. Aversion
(or is it Immersion?) therapy might work well for, like, spiders (and, as I've
found in my travels, Los Angeles). But with exes, not so much. On the contrary,
in fact. You said it yourself: "The guilt and so forth rears its ugly head
only when I'm around her." When feelings are still raw, seeing her exacerbates
your fear of ... seeing her. I know you're "angsty," but there's no
need to work it. You'd be better off quitting the Chinese seeing-her
torture. If you'd like to be friends with her someday,
that's more than fine. But forcing yourself to see her now is one big great
wall that does not wind toward friendship.
Then again, of course, one of the reasons you sorta want
to see her is to see if she's miserable yet. Not an effective plan, Angsty.
First of all, just because she doesn't look miserable doesn't mean she's not.
(For one thing, this is her brain off drugs.) Maybe she doesn't want to TALKtalk
because her glacial self has shifted on ... or because it's too painful for
her? You just can't know for sure. Hey, you'd feel just as rattled -- and more
responsible -- if she were visibly in despair. And, frankly, guilty
if you'd "moved on" faster. So do your bestest to remember
this Important Breakup Girl Maxim: Your closure does not -- cannot --
depend on the other person. Resolution is a one-person, do-it-yourself job.
Otherwise, you'd still be in a relationship.
So for right now, "pursue" nothing. If you
avoid her for a while, you won't have to worry about sussing out whether she's
the one avoiding you. When the slab has slid off and you feel steadier on your
feet, then you two can meet for New-Flavor-Friendship-in-Lotus-Nest.
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