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Tell me how to get him back. I'll do anything.

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Michelle15 asks:

Hi, I'm 15 and I started acting hysterical after my break up. I really do love him and after talking to him, he still loves me. He also likes one of my closest friends. I believe this is gods test to see if we're meant to be and I practically begged him to go out with me but he still had said the same answer, "No." I don't know what to do. He wants me to like other guys and go out with them and he wants to like other girls and go out with them. I don't know what to do. I really want to be together again and I'm willing to do anything. We've tried our version of friends with benefits and I just got grounded. I want to be with him so bad and he's everything to me. He taught me how to love, he guided me through my dark times, he helped me through my depression and he broke up with me because of school and stress. Can you please help me get back together with him before summer break ends? Thank you so so so much!

Heather Corinna replies:

(Michelle's second post:)

I previously sent you a question on what to do with my ex-boyfriend. Now it's even worse. I don't know if he's being truthful or not, and I don't know how to move on. He's hurting me in every possible way. He had a pool party yesterday and my my best friend was there. My best friend and my ex went on 2 long walks together. I asked my ex directly and now they're going out, and apparently they were. I'm so mad at her because every time she broke up with someone, I was always there for her and tried my very best make her feel better and smile and it felt like a huge slap in the face. I can't believe she didn't tell me any of this before I asked, because I would have wanted to talk it out with her but now its practically impossible. She's acting like a slut, and I know how all girls are more only for themselves and don't really care about any others, but it hurts really bad when it happens to you instead of someone on TV or at school. It's hard to let go someone who was your first in everything, like boyfriend, kissing, and you know what else. I don't know how to act and I'm feeling depressed. My parents are divorcing and I'm going to have to move back to Japan. I also found out I have a cerebral aneurysm and I'm scared I might die. I don't know who to tell this to but I really need him right now. I've begged and pleaded, bribed and made promises but none of that mattered to him. I want him to be with me until I move which is maybe next year or sooner. I lost my best friend and the love of my life, what should I do?

Michelle, I'm so sorry that you're going through all of this. I can certainly understand why you're feeling so upset and brokenhearted.

Let's get some of the basics here sorted first.

1. Your boyfriend broke up with you and has made very clear that he doesn't want to be together anymore or get back together. Since he started dating someone else right away, an intention he shared with you before he did that, it sounds like that, and maybe his desire not to be in a relationship with you, were the likely reasons for the breakup, not school or general stress. Even if he's saying he still loves you (though I think we can agree it doesn't sound like his actions demonstrate that well), he isn't interested in dating you again. It's clear that hurts like hell, of course it does, but it's also clear that is what it is and isn't likely to change, no matter what you do. I understand you really want to still be with him, but it's obvious that isn't what he wants and isn't what is probably going to happen.

2. Your boyfriend and your best friend have behaved hurtfully and insensitively: not just your best friend, who seems to be the only one you're holding responsible for the two of them seeing each other. No one can "steal" a person in this way: it's not like you can get mugged and someone takes your boyfriend. They both made active choices here, the active choice to date each other. If there are bad guys here, they're both bad guys, not just her or just him.

3. If you got hysterical after a breakup....well, welcome to the club. I think it's safe to say that the first time -- if not more times than that -- a person is very invested in a relationship and someone breaks up with them, freaking out is a pretty common reaction. Some people bottle it up or only freak out with friends, other folks explode with it all over the place. It happens. And it probably has little to do with your boyfriend not wanting to get back together.

4. It is really, really hard to let go of someone who was your first in everything, but not only do I think you have to, I think if you don't, you're only going to keep getting hurt, by your boyfriend and by yourself. A pro-tip: any time we hear ourselves saying we will literally do anything to date someone, and we really feel that way, that's a clear sign that we are not in a healthy emotional space, including for that kind of relationship. Same goes double with begging and bribing to try and get someone to be with us: acting in ways that devalue us isn't something that fits with relationships where we want to be valued. And if it truly feels like we have to be willing to do anything to be with someone, that's also often a signal that relationship itself probably wasn't, isn't or won't be healthy, either.

5. I think spending your summer trying to hold on to this and get this guy to be your boyfriend by any means necessary would assure you have the most miserable, painful summer of all time, and that you'd find yourself in the exact same spot you are now, only feeling far, far, far worse than you already do.

6. We all have different religious and spiritual beliefs, and while one omnipotent god isn't part of my own, I think we can agree that if there is such a being, they're probably way too busy with things like world hunger, genocide, or natural disasters to concern themselves with individual romantic relationships. Your boyfriend's choice to break up with you and to continue to say no to getting back together is about your boyfriend, not about anyone else, including a god, and I think thinking of this as a test from a god isn't a healthy or useful approach to any of this.

7. I often say desperation is the world's worst cologne. When someone smells it on us, as it were, it tends to turn away most people -- soundly, because someone feeling that way needs serious freaking help, not a date, sex or a sweet Hallmark card -- and the only folks who think it smells delicious and enticing are usually not healthy people or people seeking healthy relationships. Your level of desperation right now is intense: you know that. Not only is it not likely to appeal to this boyfriend, it's not a space you can be in and create anything good when it comes to a romantic relationship. When we're feeling like this, what we usually need is a lot of self-care, time off from seeking out or being in romantic or sexual relationships, and a big-time breather to reground ourselves so those relationships can be things we may want and value, but don't feel we'll die without. If and when we do get involved in intimate relationships in that kind of bad space, they usually tend to be the worst ones we have, for one or both people.

Again, I completely understand you feeling how you are right now. Your boyfriend broke up with you when that isn't what you want, and was someone you chose to do some big things with you hadn't experienced before. You probably feel embarrassed about some of your behavior, and might be beating yourself up about it. Your best friend and boyfriend did a very craptastic thing to you, especially at a time when you probably need her the most, and when you've been her support through her breakups. On top of all of that, an impending breakup in your family, a possible move and a serious illness? You have a giant pile of horribly hard stuff going on right now. Of course you're feeling awful: things have been really awful for you lately.

I know how easy it can be, too, when we've got a whole pile of big hurts to think that everything would be all better if the person we wanted to be in a relationship with would be in the relationship we want with them with us. That kind of magical thinking is something plenty of us have experienced in life.

But not only is it clear you and your ex aren't going to be getting back together, a) it wouldn't make most of those things better even if it did, b) this doesn't sound like a relationship that would be likely to do anything at this point but give you even more hurt to deal with, and c) you have to live with you, no matter what, and trashing your self-esteem to try and get this relationship is likely to leave you feeling so devoid of self-respect, no relationship in the world is going to make you feel better.

You know, often enough, people who teach us big things about love not only teach us about the good stuff and the bad stuff, they often teach us things about loss, too, or rather, our experiences teach us about all of those things. Honestly, I'm betting this guy really didn't teach you that much about love, that he didn't contribute positively when it came to your depression (if he had, you'd not be operating from the place of desperation you are right now), and that if he guided you through dark times, he didn't do a very good job. Seriously. If all those positives had really happened, the two of you would be in a very different place right now, even if you weren't together as boyfriend and girlfriend.

You make clear in your second question this person is hurting you. I think keeping an awareness that all of this is causing you big pain is important, because that's the reality here, versus the fantasy that this could be wonderful. He's doing hurtful things, but you're also choosing to stay open to being hurt deeply by him and you're hurting yourself. You can't control what he does, but you can control what you do, including how much you make yourself available as a doormat.

One thing people often don't tell younger people is that our first times with learning these things are actually rarely our biggest times. In other words, they can feel ginormous, because, of course, they are to us at the time. But over time, as we and others grow more emotionally and our world and perspective gets bigger, as we become better able to identify what the good stuff really is and isn't, we tend to learn and experience deeper and deeper things, often of increasing -- not decreasing -- value. It's not like after a first time, everything is shallow or small. In fact, it's usually the first times that, looking back, look less important and big later than they seemed at the time. (And it's okay if you don't believe me or can't accept that: again, you're in a bad way at the moment.)

But now, this is very painful and very important to you, and to get through it and come out the other side feeling better, you're going to need some healthy, good support from people you know you can count on, people who you don't feel desperate about. It sucks that you might not have your best friend for that, but I'd see who you do have in terms of family, other friends, teachers, mentors, religious leaders or other people in your life. And if there's absolutely no one at all you can identify to help support you, I'd be happy to help you find a counselor or other qualified person to talk to.

I can't advise you enough not to spend your summer trying to get this dude to get back with you. No one's summer should be that crappy because of their own doing. I mean, really, what's more crappy than spending a summer begging someone to be with you who doesn't want to be? That would easily be the Worst. Summer. Ever. Don't do that to you.

I hear you telling me you really need him right now, but based on these posts, I think this guy is the last thing you need. And I think you have to know that whatever you think he might be able to offer you or fix for you, it seems clear that he and continued interactions with him are unlikely to give you anything but grief, which you obviously have more than your fair share of already.

Instead, I suggest you choose to take care of yourself in ways that really DO take care of you, instead of make you in need of more care, get the kind of support that would actually support you, and try and do some things that are fun or inspiring, not heartbreaking or a vacuum of your self-esteem. Heck, even a summer spent writing poetry about all of this you'll find years later and groan about because it's so very, very bad would be better than one spent trying to get back with your ex.

I suggest you put real effort into letting go, instead of into trying to chase this more. To move forward from something that's over, we can't keep trying to hold on to it for dear life. We have to gradually let go, something you're not going to be able to do if you stay fixated on trying to get him back and so attached to what's in the past.

I have some ideas about that, if you're interested. For instance, treating depression isn't something a boyfriend can do, even if that boyfriend happens to be a therapist or doctor, which I'm guessing yours wasn't.

Depression is something to first talk with a healthcare provider about, get assessed, find out your treatment or management options, and pick some approaches known to work to earnestly help people manage depression (hint: romantic relationships aren't it). I'd also ask your healthcare provider for more information about your aneurysm -- especially since it's important you know the real deal with it, including that it might well be something that isn't life-threatening, so you have one less thing to worry about -- as well as if they know any support groups for those with the same condition, or for young people with serious illness. I think that a counselor or support group in general would be excellent for you right now: I suspect you could really use someone neutral who wouldn't ask anything of you to lean on right now.

I don't know what your relationship with your parents is like, but if it's one that's loving, I'd let them in on how awful you are feeling and ask for some help. While grounding you for trying to do an FWB with your ex wouldn't be the approach I'd advise, I can understand why a parent who cares about you would want to help you avoid doing things to try and keep this boyfriend who clearly doesn't want to be with you, you know? So, it seems very possible you have parents who care about you, even though they're in the middle of their own relationships crisis right now, and would likely want to know how bad you are and do what they could to help you.

I'd also see about making new friends, even if you might be moving soon. (I also think a big move might be a good thing for you, not a bad one, so I'd try not to dread that overmuch. A change of scenery and social group might be just the thing, really.)

One bad apple, or one person's lapse of judgment once, doesn't mean all the apples are bad. The things you're saying about girls is clearly you being really upset about the way your best friend acted. But people's gender doesn't dictate their behavior. Guys aren't all NOT self-interested, and girls aren't all self-interested. That kind of thing depends on a whole person, not just what's in their pants or if they call themselves guys or girls. I don't know if your best friend is only out for herself or not -- and too, who the heck knows what's going on with her and your boyfriend, and how that all happened on both their parts, save that he'll probably treat her no better than he is treating you, if that's any consolation - but I know that you can find and have other friends, guys or girls, who will be a real friend to you and won't do things like this. Heck, you might even be able to still work things out with your best friend if that's something you want and she's willing to take responsibility for treating you poorly.

There are other kinds of self-care you can do around this. When we're in relationships, especially when we are making them SO much of our life, often we don't have as much time as we used to for things like our hobbies, talents, life aspirations, dreams and goals. Spend some time getting back to the you you are when you're much more than someone's girlfriend and put energy into the things that you used to love to do. Let some of these hard feelings out in healthy ways that don't cause you more social pain. Yell or dance with some angry music. Make yourself cry until you're dry with sappy movies. Join a neighborhood softball or kickball team, take a boxing class and let your anger out on the heavy bag, or wear yourself out with a marathon. Get a haircut you usually wouldn't or reinvent yourself a little in some other way. Write songs or make art. Whatever ways you can release some of all these intense feelings so they don't eat you up inside, go for it.

One last thing? While often enough, we wind up having more than one person who is a great love in our lives -- and those people also aren't usually just lovers, but friends, children, other family members; people in all kinds of relationships, not just sexual or romantic ones -- I can also absolutely promise you that the great loves of our lives? They don't go and feel like this. Love, rather than obsession, doesn't feel so desperate or painful; we don't have to beg or plead for people where there's really love to love us or be with us, and they don't break up with us then go bonk our best friend. The way people define love varies, but by most definitions, that so isn't what it's like at all. Even when relationships change or end, when love was really part of them, for real, there just usually isn't this kind of drama attached.

I think you probably haven't met the great love or loves of your life yet, and that when you do, whatever this relationship was is going to look pretty crap by comparison. It might help you in moving on to recognize that the really big loves are still yet to come for you. And to be open to that kind of love, we can't be stuck on what's past and we come to it from a place of love and respect for ourselves and each other (which also means not trying to make someone be with us who doesn't want to be); a place where we're never, ever required to give up our self-worth. Really, we can't experience great love without strongly valuing ourselves and each other, because great love celebrates that value. If we show up to people empty-handed, or willing to give up all of who we are, then there's nothing and no one to love, and we also can't love others very well, either.

So. I don't expect you to be able to do it overnight, because that's not how dealing with any kind of loss works, but I say to put your energy into letting this go, not into trying to hang on. He's done, clearly. So done. Now you need to get there, too. Do what you need to to grieve and work through the hard feelings you have about that, take care of yourself in that process, but then start taking steps on the trail to the rest of your life, including to relationships that are richer, deeper, more reciprocal, and certainly way less freaking painful. Not only are you going to have a much better summer if you do that, you're going to have a much better life, I assure you. Chasing agony never did anything good for anybody.

I'm going to leave you with some links that might be useful to you. And if you'd like to talk with me, our volunteers or other users more about this, you can also find some of that support you could use over at our message boards. I know this is a rough, rough time for you right now, but I feel confident that if you can change directions radically and really start to focus on taking care of, valuing and being the very best of yourself, you are going to start to feel much better much sooner.

written 20 Jun 2012 . updated 21 Jan 2014

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