The ultimate question to the whole email is, "How do I forgive myself? How do I improve myself for the future? Finding answers on my own is feeling overwhelming." I suppose my story is nothing new, but I'll just rehash it anyway.
My (now ex) boyfriend of 6 months dumped me. To me, it was all of a sudden.
He and I went out to lunch together 5 days a week. He regularly talked to me on the phone/Skype/text. He introduced me to his family and friends. He took interest in my life and future. He took me on adventures he knew I would enjoy. He tried making me happy when I was down.
But I think this is where I went wrong. I was down, anxious, or beating myself up too much. He once told me that he felt hurt when I didn't take his compliments. So I tried to improve on that. Yet he also mentioned he didn't want me to give up on finding internships/jobs so easily. He told me to stop being so hard on myself. Stop sweating the small stuff—people don't always know what they are saying. The list goes on.
I realize now I wasn't really making a conscious effort on improving myself in such areas. I'd even (probably in his eyes) spontaneously cry in situations that were just too overwhelming for me.
When he did break up with me, he said he felt like he would be taking care of me all the time. I never really understood the importance of having good self esteem in order to sustain a healthy relationship until now... I must have been stressing him out so much, not bringing him joy or making him feel good like I thought I was.
He knew how much I adored him, but he said he thinks I was only infatuated with him. He didn't think we were compatible. No amount of cuddles, hand made gifts, words of affirmation, me trying to counsel him through his (fewer) worries were going to make him love me. My issues were just to present, and must have been haunting him.
My friends and family tell me I just have to focus on myself now, take a break from dating, and move forward. They also tell me to stop blaming myself so much. But it's so hard to see how it isn't my fault.
So, as much as I don't want to hear it... I shouldn't try crawling back to him asking for a second chance. Although that's what I want to do more than anything in the world right now.
In the meantime, how do I actually improve myself for my future (with or without relationship)?
I've been reading things online... I don't know if this has been helping me or making me more confused. I feel like I'm guilty of exhibiting clingy behaviors... such as "Thinking about your mate, difficulty concentrating on other things. Remembering only their good qualities. Putting them on a pedestal: underestimating your talents and abilities and over estimating theirs. An anxious feeling that goes away only when you are in contact with them. Believing this is your only chance for love".
I've had one other relationship in the past (other than the primary one in question). I became very unhappy in that relationship, and felt these sorts of things, "Believing that even though you’re unhappy, you’d better not let go, as in: 'If he leaves me, he’ll turn into a great person—for someone else.' 'He can change.' 'All couples have problems—we’re not special in that regard.’”
And I remember being resentful because in that relationship, I felt like I was giving him all the love, and he was trying to love me back.
I feel like solutions online are just so vague and broad. I don't know where to start. Am I even supposed to be thinking about these things while I'm still hurting?
Thanks for all your time!
Renei (age 22)
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I'm sorry, hon, but could you be specific as to what your question is? Can you, in one sentence, ask me a concise question? Your letter just gives me a general feeling of your problem, and, as you said, I don't want to give you a vague answer.
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Thank you for taking the time to read. It's greatly appreciated!
I was hoping I could open with a general set of questions to be answered, but I'll try to make it more concise now. Maybe a good way to phrase my question would be, "I'm having trouble discerning what mistakes are mine to own, and what things that happened were outside my control."
I hope that offers a little bit of clarity.
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It’s pretty much impossible for me—without listening to both sides of the relationship and hearing hours of testimony—to determine whose mistakes were whose. I’m sure your former boyfriend would have a different take on things. The only reason to enumerate what went wrong on your part would be so that you could learn from your mistakes, if any. But it sounds to this ol’ bear’s ears like you already know what areas might need some improvement, especially in the self-esteem area (one symptom of low self-esteem is always looking for ways to blame yourself, which you have in spades).
The other problem you have is looking to others—specifically, boyfriends—to make you happy. One thing I’ve learned in my nearly 50 years here is that the only person who can make you happy is you. You do this by:
You are asking Papabear the wrong question, Renei. “I'm having trouble discerning what mistakes are mine to own, and what things that happened were outside my control” is a fruitless effort to assign blame, and that is an unhealthy pursuit. So is the question, “How do I forgive myself?” That also assumes blame. What you need to do, simply, is work on that low self-esteem, which, in turn, will alleviate any clingy behavior you might have (when we are confident of our own worth, we don’t feel like we have to define ourselves by the relationships we are in).
I hope that makes sense. Write again if it doesn’t and you need more input.
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