I am going through a breakup right now and I don't know what to do, what to think or how to feel

It's been a month and a half since my boyfriend broke up with me because I am leaving my country to study outside and he said that he was not ready for a long distance relationship, which I understood completely (we had been 3 years together) and I think I always put him first and I understood that if it was not something that he could do, I didn't want him to feel bad or overwhelmed by the situation. We had talked about the long distance before, and I guess we always knew that we made different points. He would bring up the conversation saying how hard it was going to be and I would always say that yes that it was going to be hard but that we could do it and I would tell him that we could travel and just talk about all the other plans that we could do together, you know trying to see the positives in it. He would tell me that I'm right and we felt a lot more calm after talking about it, and the way I saw it was like we were going to keep having those conversations but it was part of the process of being in a long distance relationship and that it was normal to feel scared. But then one day he came to my house and told me that he wasn't ready for this type of relationship and I thought that I had said enough already from all those other times that I would bring up the positives and that there was nothing that I could do to change his mind and that the decision was already made, and also I didn't want to make it harder in the moment telling him things like "no but we can do this" and bla bla all the same things that I said in the past. 2 weeks later someone tells me that he had said that the break up was mutual, and I felt so confused and started asking myself what if he took it that way? what if he thought that because I just "accepted it" it was mutual when for me it was clear that he was the one that made the decision and I just said ok in order to respect his decision. That's that with the breakup, just a lot of questions like "what if I said this, I could have done this" and things like that, like if I would have said anything different maybe we wouldn't have broken up. And then you know just now trying to get over him and get better myself, since the first 2 weeks I had a lot of anxiety, I felt like I trembled and my heart was going so fast, and had gastrointestinal issues at the same time, I would have nauseas and puke and couldn't sleep it was just horrible. Now that a little more time has passed I have trying to think differently and focus on myself but then I also have a lot questions like, why would he backed up so easily and didn't even wanted to try, like at first I accepted it because I thought " if this is going to make him bad, its okay because I want the best for him" but now I also keep seeing online things like " don't romanticize the chemistry or potential if the person decided to not stay in your life" and I would feel sad thinking things like "I thought he loved me so much and I never doubt it but he didn't even want to try" and not only that but not even one call, or not even try to talk to me, or tell me that he needed to say something more, like at first I was waiting for an "I'm sorry I made a mistake I love you so much" kind of message but there has been nothing and that also makes me wonder like "was it so easy for him?" When we broke up he said that we would still be together if I stayed, like the only reason that we were breaking up was because I was leaving the country, so I never doubted that he didn't love me because also he was the sweetest guy ever, but now I saw him this past weekend, TWICE, because we are in the same group of friends, and it was the first time that I've seen him since we broke up, and the first day we just said hi there was barely any contact, BUT the second night, we were at a party and he arrived with his friends (who are also my friends) and again we just said hi, but then we had 2 interactions where he would make jokes to me like "those glasses look amazing on you" and then later when I was leaving he said something like "no don't leave don't leave", but not in a "I'm a toxic ex bf" kind of way, but in a "I know you, we are friends, I'll treat you like I treat all of my other friends" kind of way. And we did talk about being friends later bc we just care for each other so much, but it was confusing bc I felt weird talking to him I didn't know what to say and the easiness that he talked to me and how we wasn't even nervous or anything just made me feel so weird, and again I started asking myself like "why is he so ok? why is he being so normal talking to me like if nothing happened? did he already get over me??" and I know he has been fine bc he has been distracting himself and he works at the university and now he started working on himself being at CrossFit which is amazing I am very happy that he has good things and good friends to support him, but at the same time it's like I've been dying for 2 months I would at least expect some kind of awkwardness when talking to me not being so chill you know?
Also I've felt so responsible for how he feels, and I've abstained myself from posting anything on ig so just that he wouldn't see it and wouldn't feel bad but then on the other hand he has been posting so much more and going out and this and that and I know that we are different people and we have different processes but did it cross his mind that I would feel bad seeing his face so often?? (I silenced his ig story's so I don't have to see him so often but I still see reposts from his friends but that's ok since it not so often either) but yeah I guess that's mostly it. Im 20 and he is 20 too just for some more context.
Asked by lola

Dear Lola,

Thank you so much for your question. Breaking up is so painful (and likely the reason why most songs on the radio are about break-ups). It’s a kind of loss that we can often gloss over, especially when the relationship has been relatively short. However, no matter how long you were together, breaking up hurts.

Healing from a break-up takes time (even if you initiated the break-up) because you are losing more than just a romantic partner. You lose a friend, a confidant, and the life you had planned together. The longer we are in partnerships, the more of these plans we start thinking of and cutting them off can feel physically painful. Different people take different amounts of time to heal. However, every time you meet up with your ex (especially if you hook up and have sex or even just emotionally intimate conversation), the clock starts over. You are re-opening that wound before it’s fully healed.

I’ll also throw this out there: if you are hoping to get together in the future, then it sounds like you haven’t really processed the fact that this aspect of the relationship (the romantic portion) is over. Although it may be counter-intuitive, I believe that engaging in the mourning process and growing will help you later on if you *do* get back together. If you get back together after many months apart, you will have matured and increased your insight into what you are looking for. Further, if you get back together now you may just hop back into the negative patterns that led you to break up in the first place.

Once you are matched with your therapist, she or he will be able to help you identify the triggers for these feelings and specific ways you can find more happiness in your life. However, to get you started while you wait to be matched, here are some potential ways you can improve this situation.

IMPROVE YOUR CURRENT QUALITY OF LIFE. It is possible that some of the positive feelings you have about your ex are partially about your old life. Further, if you are lonely in your new situation, then it is especially important to find ways to get social support. Please consider whether you can join a church, social groups, or if there are opportunities to meet people related to your hobbies or work. Please also consider what connections with your past may be healthier for you. Do you have old friends that you could meet up with more regularly? Please also consider what else you can do in your current situation to improve you quality of life (perhaps a different job, better sleep, better food). In summary, if you are happier where you are, you will reminisce less about where you were.

REMEMBER WHY YOU BROKE UP. Ask a close friend or family member to help you remember the reasons you broke up with your ex. It may have been your decision or could have been his, but something in that relationship was not working. What were those reasons? What were the annoyances? Write them down or send it to yourself in an email so you can look at them often.

MAINTAIN BOUNDARIES. If you are still speaking with your ex, I strongly recommend stopping any text or phone calls. It just re-opens the wound. Further, please stop following them on social media and hold back from Googling them. Keep in mind – everything looks better online than in person. We only post our most attractive pictures, we only post our most exciting vacations, and we only post our wittiest conversations. What you see there is not reality and it will only make you feel worse.

TRY TO IDENTIFY THE TRIGGERS. We are creatures of habit, and we tend to be stressed or saddened by predicable things. It is important to start learning about the common themes of what makes you feel this sense of longing. Is it when you are lonely? When you are annoyed? When you are bored? When you are sexually aroused? Everyone is different. The best way to do this is to start keeping a log of the times you experienced these feelings. Jot down in a journal or in an app like Google Keep these times, including:

-- Where was I when this happened?

-- What was I doing?

-- How was I feeling?

Over time, you will see themes that can help you attack the triggers.

CONSIDER WHAT YOU TRULY WANT. Consider listing what you would like to have in a partnership (whether it is with your spouse or someone else). Making a realistic wish list can help you identify your priorities. And please keep in mind that you are valuable and WORTH meeting these priorities. Ask yourself questions like:

- How should my partner and I solve problems when we disagree about little things (for example, the best way to wash dishes)? How should we solve problems when we disagree about big things (for example, how we want to spend money)?

- What kind of activities do I want to be able to do with my partner?

- How should my partner and I talk about what we want in sex?

- What kind of sense of humor is important to me? What kinds of things make me laugh, and is it important that my partner shares this?

- How much are looks important to me?

- What kind of dates do I expect? What do I like to do when getting to know someone or spending time with someone I care about?

- How fast should my partner get back to me when I text or call? Do we always need to pick up the phone, or is it okay to have the call go voicemail if I’m busy?

- Should my partner and I to do fun things apart or only together? Is it okay if we do fun things with out friends without the other partner?

- How important is it that my partner get along with my friends?

- How important is it that my partner get along with my family?

- What are my limits? Are there any things that I absolutely will not allow from a partner (like physical violence, certain kinds of substance use)?

After making your list, consider how it felt. Do you feel you deserve to have these needs met? (I think you do deserve to have a good partnership that meets your needs). Are the needs realistic? Which ones are the highest priority?

When you meet with your Better Help counselor, I recommend discussing your grief about this loss. Even though your ex is alive, breaking up requires the same kind of mourning process and can help you identify ways you can grow from this experience and then be an even better partner later on (regardless of who you are with).

I see good things in your future. Again, I am so impressed that you have reached out for help and I am confident that working with your therapist will help you in several areas of your life!



Note: If you are in crisis and feeling like hurting yourself, please call 911, go to your closest emergency department, or call the suicide hotline (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) immediately at 800-273-8255. You could also go to their website to chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.