T O P I C R E V I E W
Member # 93271
posted 10-29-2012 07:58 PM
I could use a little guidance. Last week my boyfriend and I broke up on fairly amicable terms after eight months living in the same city and two months of trying to make it work long-distance. There are some hard feelings on both sides, but we acknowledged we still care about each other very much and want to be there for each other (we both deal with some tough personal issues the other is really good at being supportive and understanding of where others might not be).
However, I'm beginning to realize my hard feelings are much harder than I originally thought. Almost a week later, I now realize I'm very angry about some of the things that happened when we were long distance in connection to things that were said during our break-up. Even though I've already established with him that I don't wish to be friends on a daily, buddy-buddy basis, I'm worried my anger is conflicting with my ability to be there for him. When I examine my feelings honestly, I know I want to be there for him and move on without animosity between us. I know if that is going to happen, I'm going to have to discuss my feelings with him because they are only getting worse as time goes on. I'm afraid of bringing up my feelings to him because, at best, the only thing he could do about my grievances is apologize. There's no going back to fix the problem and there is no future partnership to fix things for. Practically, the issue doesn't bear much relevance, but emotionally it does and I'm not sure how to deal with that. I'm afraid if I bring the issues up, it will only cause more problems and damage what good we do have left. I'm afraid he will feel like I'm attacking him or just trying to make him feel bad. In reality, I think I just want to feel heard and work through my anger towards him (and any negative feelings he may feel in return) so we can move on amicably. I know there probably isn't a straightforward answer anyone else can give me. I think I just need someone to point out things I may not be seeing and maybe raise questions I may not be raising to myself. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Member # 79774
posted 10-29-2012 11:00 PM
I think it's very, very common to have some hard feelings around a break-up, even the most amicable breakup imaginable. Breakups hurt, are a significant change, are often confusing, and also, there was a reason for the breakup. Honestly, I'm not surprised you're not sure how to go about being friends and manage your feelings. A week is still a very short time, and after 10 months, you've probably only just begun processing this. I realise that what you're experiencing isn't very pleasant, but I don't think it makes you peculiar or problematic in any way. I think a week is probably too soon to be able to move on in quite the way you mean. Usually, after a breakup, both people benefit a lot from having space from each other and processing their own thoughts and feelings individually. People who go on to have successful friendships or acquaintances usually have this period of space, too. It's very common to feel anger after the end of a relationship. Often, that can be very legitimate about things that happened in the relationship; it's also a natural part of the grieving process, and after the end of a relationship, we're grieving the loss of that relationship. Usually, if both people know fairly well why they're breaking up, it's best to leave further discussion of the relationship and breakup until a bit further in the future - a few weeks or months. Often, the feelings we have at this early stage will still evolve, ebb, flow, change. It's fairly likely that some things you feel now might become less important to you in the next few weeks, while other things will strike you as important, and any or all of these things might come, go and come back again. You're likely to find a discussion about the relationship and your feelings a lot more successful if you've already had some space and time to find your own personal clarity and for your feelings to settle so you have a sense of what things remain as the most important key points to you. Your feeling that discussing things now might make things worse is quite likely wise. Both of you are likely to be somewhat raw still, and it's not really the best circumstances to be able to have a thoughtful, compassionate discussion. If you're hoping for some kind of self-reflection from him, while there's no guarantee that we'll get that from a specific person in any given situation, it's a lot more likely if they've had some space and time to take care of their own emotional needs and do their own processing. For most people, at just one week post-breakup, the most helpful and healthiest way of acknowledging and processing angry and hard feelings is likely talking about them with people who care about us, who can hear and support us. Do you have friends and/or family who you feel you could do that with? I do hear you very, very much about just needing to be heard, and I know how important that can be. I'd just be a little concerned that at this point it's possible neither of you would be able to hear the other very well, in quite the way you need, and to get the resolution you want. How do you feel about having more space from him for a while, and delaying the discussion you'd like to have? Do those feel do-able or like good options to you?
Member # 93271
posted 10-30-2012 09:05 AM
I feel okay about delaying the discussion, but I have some concerns. I think I'm most worried he'll come to me for support before I'm sufficiently through my anger. I don't know if I would be capable of handling that situation to the best of my abilities, but at the same time I would feel awful if I left him hanging. He's said he will respect my space, but I know if something happened there is a chance he would turn to me. I'm also worried my negative feelings will fester over time, killing off the positive feelings that I have. It's happened to me before. I think that's one of the problems: I don't feel like I have any friends or family to talk to right now. I have some trouble with anxiety and depression and I've always been okay dealing with it on my own and keeping it to myself. Some major life changes have made keeping it private near impossible recently. Now, I feel like everyone and their grandmother is telling me what I should do or need to do without actually listening to me (even when I'm direct about just wanting to be listened to). I know they have good intentions, but after my experience opening up about anxiety and depression, I'm no longer comfortable bringing such a sensitive issue to them.
Member # 79774
posted 10-30-2012 03:04 PM
I think there's some very realistic concerns you bring up here. Perhaps some strategies for dealing with them might help?
It's totally understandable that any of us needs support sometimes, but really, someone we recently broke up with is just not the right person to go to for that. If he did try to do that, that's pretty inappropriate, particularly as you've made it clear that it's not something you can really do. So, I don't think you owe him anything if he does ever try to come to you for help. At the same time, I understand that you likely still feel care for this person, and don't want to just abandon them. To talk about this in the way you are, I assume there are some specific issues that he may need help with? If so, what you might do is figure out what resources or people Would be appropriate for him to talk to or get help from, and then if he ever contacts you for help and support, you can ask him to contact them while gently and firmly keeping your own boundaries that you aren't the right person to help. That way, you're taking care of yourself and holding your boundaries, while definitely not leaving him in the lurch. Handing him over to people who are in a better position to help would also be better for him, even if he couldn't see it at the time. For example: medical professionals, helplines, charities, or friends/family members of his, whatever is appropriate to his situation. It sounds like you'd benefit from finding a way of Not letting your feelings fester, then. Usually, we can achieve that by expressing them in some way. Some people do well with writing them down or expressing them in other creative ways, like music, dance, gardening, woodwork, cookery, sport, exercise... Does any of that sound promising to you? Of course, one major way of working through feelings is to talk about them with a counsellor. I'm sorry to hear the people around you haven't been very helpful with the other stuff you've been experiencing. That does tend to feel very lonely and isolating. Do you or have you had professional help for the anxiety and depression, like a counsellor or therapist? Someone like that can be a good option for talking about the relationship things with, too. Does that seem like something that might be an option for you?
Member # 93271
posted 10-30-2012 08:14 PM
The thing is, when we first broke up I felt hurt, but not angry in the same way I do now, and I said I would be there for him if need be. Do you think it would be a good idea to redefine those boundaries? I feel like I'd be going back on my word even though I know he has other resources (he's even sought out professional help in the past).
Today was actually a bit of a whirlwind in terms of finding other ways to focus my energy. I have three potential jobs lined up and the first steps of my volunteer application for a local youth organisation went through (yay!). I'm also going to take your suggestion and start journaling again. I haven't had professional help, but I've been considering it and looked into some local clinics. I'm also taking some other steps to control my anxiety and depression that I haven't before.
Member # 20094
posted 10-30-2012 08:28 PM
If redefining boundaries is what you think would be best for you, then yes, I'd say it's a good idea. We can only be there for others if we take care of ourselves, and sacrificing your well-being in order to make sure he has the support he needs isn't going to be terribly good for either of you.
Why do you think it would be going back on your word to rework those boundaries? People's feelings change over time, and sometimes that changes what they're capable of in terms of supporting others - there's nothing wrong with that.
Member # 93271
posted 10-30-2012 08:57 PM
I think I feel like I'm going back on my word because it was only last week I said I would be there for him. I know it's okay for my feelings to change, but keeping my word has always been very important to me. I think, however, I do need to reset those boundaries for the short-term so I can keep my word in the long-term. The more I think about it, the more I realize I need the space.
Member # 79774
posted 10-31-2012 11:39 AM
Smarties, I'm sorry I misunderstood the agreement you had with him.
I agree with Karybu. I'd also add that personally, I think it often works out kinder to the other person to renegotiate with them, as they may sense that something's changed anyway and be a bit confused or unsettled if we don't mention anything. I also think that owning the fact that something's changed, and making sure the other person knows they should make other arrangements, is a way of holding ourself to the responsibility that we committed to, even if it isn't keeping exactly what we'd agreed to.
Member # 93271
posted 11-01-2012 05:23 PM
No worries, Redskies.
So I wrote him a letter explaining my feelings. I said I appreciated that he's been giving me space so far and that I need it to stay that way for a while so I can work through my negative feeling. I also made sure to clearly say that I want to be there for him in the long term and that space now means I can be a better friend in the future. Oh god, I hope this goes well.
Member # 79774
posted 11-01-2012 08:35 PM
I can understand you feeling concerned about this.
Please know that you aren't responsible for his feelings or well-being. What you are responsible for is your own behaviour, and it sounds like you're being very compassionate and courteous, so I'd say you've got that admirably covered.