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The question I don’t know how to get over my ex. I feel as if the breakup has been like a frog being slowly boiled to death – I didn’t see it coming and it got progressively worse.
In September, we had a holiday abroad together and he enquired about apartments and asked me to think about whether it was a place I could see myself moving to. We had also agreed that I would come off the pill in a couple of months. He came with me to two weddings and my family said how happy we seemed.
Then he visited a friend in the US and came back whingeing that I wasn’t physical enough and we didn’t have enough sex. Since then he has run away from me. How am I supposed to get closure if he won’t speak to me?
Also, money has been an issue. He is on a six-figure salary, and has judged me throughout our relationship because I have not sought a better-paid job. Sex has always been bad – and I was willing to fake orgasms for the rest of my life to be with him. It doesn’t make sense because he was never adventurous or willing to talk about experimenting or switching things up in the bedroom. I am drawing the conclusion that he has enjoyed wasting my time and suddenly had enough, but I can’t get over him. He is one of few long-term relationships I have had. He clearly doesn’t give a damn about me. I am mourning the loss of my lifelong need to have a family. I am 39, so my time for children is running out. How do I climb out of this abyss?
Philippa’s answer It must be disappointing that your dream of having a family with this man has come crashing down. I’m sorry you are feeling broken-hearted, and angry. You wanted a long-term relationship and a family. You felt time was running out, but then he came along and you found someone to have it with. At that time, you were deaf to the alarm bells.
You say he doesn’t give a damn about you. I’m sorry, this is going to sound harsh, but I’m not sure how much you care for him either. I think it may have been more about what this man represented for you – a lifeline to the possibility of realising your ambition of a family. It does sound as if you have been blind to the cracks already showing: sexual incompatibility; your lying to him about your sexual satisfaction; his attitude about your earnings; when he tried to talk to you about a problem you experienced it as “whingeing”. I can’t see much evidence that makes me think you were particularly well-suited.
Unpack everything told to you about how happiness should look
You seem satisfied that, to other people, you appeared to be a happy couple. It is as though, so long as things looked OK on the outside, he would do. Why was this enough for you? I don’t think it should have been. You are mourning the loss of a dream. You tried to fit this man into your dream, but I’m not sure you ever really knew him. It sounds as if it was the dream that you were in love with. You talk about this relationship as a waste of your time – that doesn’t sound like you ever really enjoyed it.
I don’t blame you for assimilating the dream girls are sold that, one day, their prince will come and carry them off to a magical castle. In general, women are told that fulfilment lies in a husband and children, and that true happiness is not found in other quarters. I think many of us, especially women, have this idea, held unconsciously deep inside us, that this is what happiness is. But such an idea is only an introject. An introject is when we unconsciously adopt an attitude of a culture or of others and think that it is our own.
Perhaps what feels so hard for you is letting go of the idea of him you had at the start of your relationship and that picture of your future. Moving forward, to climb out of your abyss you will have to unpack everything that’s ever been implied or told to you about what happiness should look like. Then only put back what is true for you. There will be some finding out for you to do about this. You can have the new experience of living in the moment and asking yourself how you feel about your experiences and let your feelings be more of a guide rather than what you think should make you happy. You can embark on the exciting journey of uncertainty and curiosity. You don’t need your old idea that unless your prince has arrived by your 39th birthday, it is too late for happiness – that is not a truth.
I love your frog metaphor. You haven’t been boiled to death, you escaped while the water was getting warm. Now look around you at the other frogs and enjoy their company and enjoy yourself. Don’t think about how they can fit into a preconceived dream, but be more guided by how you feel in yourself when you are with them. And by frogs I don’t just mean potential princes, I mean absolutely anything and everything.
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