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“Extreme confusion over breakup”

My girlfriend and I split up last week and I’m finding it all extremely confusing, with lots of different emotions and thoughts in my head. Hoping someone can shed some light.

We got together just over year ago and I think I knew she had issues with relationships and intimacy when she’d explained things about her past relationships: she had seen those relationships as temporary and never considered they might last, she craved a lot of alone time etc. With me, she was totally different. At first and seemingly for a while, she couldn’t get enough of me – it may have just been the honeymoon phase but she assured me she’d never felt this way about anyone before, and it was totally different.

I suffer depression and low self-esteem sometimes so I did have a hard time believing this; I had a voice at the back of my head with niggling doubts as I was afraid of getting hurt, but we carried on and had an amazing time together with lots of laughs, intimacy and fun. She met my family, I met hers, it was great.

Then the old ways started to creep back in at the six-month mark, as she said we were spending too much time together (a few nights a week) and she was losing sight of herself, she thought it was unhealthy to talk as much as we did. Just FYI I wasn’t talking to her 24/7 and still maintained good friendships throughout all of this. She said she wished we’d slowed it down from the start even though she was the one who first said ‘I love you’ (two months in!) and kept saying she didn’t want anyone else, but also didn’t like the ‘girlfriend’ label until I put my foot down and said if we are exclusive then she must be my girlfriend.

Anyway, after she said all this about losing herself I felt very hurt and backed off, only to have her resume the relationship as before; I’d tell her she was free to go home if she didn’t want to stay the night and she’d tell me she missed me. I felt like I was getting mixed messages which annoyed, hurt and confused me. She explained a lot of it was guilt – maybe she sensed her desire for excessive space hurt me. She then discovered her parents were going to get a divorce which I think triggered her own depression (which she has had for a long time and is on medication for). I noticed a change in her from then on, our sex life suffered and I grew increasingly insecure. She’d lost her spark and I didn’t know if it was me, her parents, her desire for space or a combination of things. Either way I felt unwanted.

We tried and tried and put a lot of effort in but the last few months all I can say is she shut me out. She couldn’t handle us having arguments and would completely shut down, unable to talk and kept referencing how when her parents spoke to her the same thing happened. The more I pushed the more she pulled away, til I finally gave her space (all the while I was riddled with anxiety) but said I’d be there for her and loved her loads, but I realised she’d just mentally checked out. We actually ended it over the phone in the end as I said enough is enough, this isn’t a relationship and she said she agreed and can’t give me what I want.

Now she says she’s convinced we are just in different stages of our life: I know I want a committed relationship with future plans, she just doesn’t know what she wants but kept saying she did want me. Every time I talk to her she feels attacked and like I criticise her; if I say what behaviour of hers I struggle with, she says that she can’t handle hearing how much of a rubbish person she is. I obviously haven’t said that but that is how she hears it. Anyway, she now says she wants to go and work on herself but to stay in touch as she cares about me and doesn’t want to close off the chance of us making it work once she’s in a better mental place.

But for me, being the cynic or realist I am, I just think it’s unrealistic to expect everything to perfectly align and I can’t hold on to the hope we will get back together because the breakup has already hurt me so much - if we reconciled only for it to fail again I’d have to heal again and I don’t feel able to put myself through unnecessary pain. Now I flit obsessively between I want us to work, she’s the one, I deserve better, it wasn’t healthy. I’m going mad over it. We met to exchange stuff the other day and spent four hours together. It was like girl I fell in love with was back for a bit – she kissed and cuddled and wouldn’t let go and I let her because I love her, but I came away more confused than I was going in.

She said she’d go get some professional help and I said to look me up if she works out what she wants. She said we couldn’t speak for one week then we’d take it from there. I spoke to my friends who said it sounded more like a break than a breakup, but when I clarified this with her she said it was a breakup – I then couldn’t clock why she was kissing me and everything and she said it was to say goodbye. But she’s also said she’ll be there for me if I really need her which I don’t think is going to work because how can we heal? I guess I won’t know anything until some time has passed but I spoke to her yesterday and said I don’t want to not talk for a week and potentially go back to square one of all the breakup pain if we talk again at that point.

I said it’s easier in my mind if I treat this as permanent and told her not to talk to me. She asked if we would remain friends on Facebook, I said I don’t know. I just don’t know what her motives are. She sounds extremely confused so maybe there’s no point trying to suss out what she wants when she doesn’t know herself. Sorry it’s such a long post – only as I read it now can I see how crazy the whole thing has been. Any tips for navigating this? Should I expect to never hear from her again? Is it beyond hope? Would people ever reconcile after years apart? She thinks this is how long she’ll need to get past her issues.

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