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‘I sit in my car at the top of his road to see where he is going and if he is still with her’

Tell Me About It: My first real love announced last year he had resumed contact with an ex and they were giving it a second chance. I want him back - and I hope his relationship will fail

Question

I have written this email many times and then deleted it. I am a 35-year-old single woman. Up until last summer I was in a relationship, for three years, with a man that I had known when I was in secondary school. We dated for a few months in our teens, and when we met up again almost 20 years later, I was delighted as he was my first love, and it did not take long before I felt the exact same again and I thought that he did too.

I have had a number of relationships over the years, and I lived with someone in my mid-20s for almost two years, but I never felt it was a forever relationship. When I met up with my old flame, I knew it was meant to be. He had had a long-term partnership for over a decade. He never really spoke about why it ended and, while curious, I never questioned him. I was just so relieved to have him in my life. I was head over heels but cautious that I might appear too clingy.

At the beginning of last year as life began to return to normal after the pandemic, we started to explore mortgages and even viewed a few houses together. We discussed children, and it was a forgone conclusion that we would get married – or at least that is what I believed. When we returned from holiday together last year, a holiday that was filled with romance, and a lot of sex I might add, he announced that he had resumed contact via social media with his former partner and that they had decided to give their relationship a second chance. I could not believe what I was hearing and when we argued he spoke of our relationship like it was a summer fling. It is the most significant relationship of my life.

I cannot stop thinking about him, I sit in my car at the top of his road several times a week to see where he is going and to check to see if he is still with her. I know that he has seen me, as he has messaged me asking me to stop, his messages are polite, and he always asks how I am doing. My friends tell me that they think I am stalking him, but he obviously doesn’t – he has not blocked me from any of his social media sites and he often likes and comments on what I share.

I feel that I have lost the only hope I ever had of a meaningful relationship.

Answer

You are grieving a huge loss in your life, not only for what was so wonderful, but also for what might have been. The grieving process is about acceptance, tolerance for the excruciating sadness, and with time a re-engagement with life and in this case your future without this person.

However, it seems you are stuck in the denial phase of grief where you cannot accept what has happened and so are living in a kind of limbo where it might just be possible to have your relationship back. Your friends are cautioning you about this as they can see this turning into an obsession that will block you from truly living, and leave you unable to see anything other than him. Your hope that his renewed relationship will fail shows how desperate your situation is – do you really want to base the most important relationship in your life on being a runner-up for this person’s affection?

Open yourself up again to life’s possibilities and know that anyone who has loved well, can love again

You need and deserve to have someone in your life who chooses you as their number one and whom you can depend on for loyalty and commitment. At the moment you have written off any chance of this future and this is having a huge effect on your everyday choices. In effect it is limiting your life to the small space where only he is the goal, and your sense of self is being eroded. You owe it to your future self to start valuing your life and demanding better for yourself than waiting for someone who has discarded you. This starts with a behavioural commitment: stop driving to his road, stop following him on social media and commit instead to some small things that will expand your life.

Ask your friends to support you by taking you for walks or coffee at those times when you are most likely to try observing him. Take up something new that might occupy your mind – maybe do a course that demands a lot of attention so that your thoughts have something else to focus on. Consider taking the task of acceptance seriously or even go on a retreat that assists with this. Look up Dzogchen Beara, the Buddhist retreat centre in West Cork, for summer sessions on Facing Loss, Healing Grief, or indeed many other centres that run similar courses. If you choose to see the best years of your life as being in front of you, it will allow you to put your energy into creating a life that is worthy of you. Grief and loss are a part of life and we only experience them because we have opened ourselves to caring deeply.

Open yourself up again to life’s possibilities and know that anyone who has loved well, can love again, but it has to be inclusive of good care for yourself. This self-care is not happening at the moment and the need now is to accept the ending of your relationship and begin the path to recovery.

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