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Advice – How do I recover from the breakup of the only healthy relationship I’ve ever had?

Long story short, I met this guy 2 months ago on a dating app and hit it off pretty quick. He was in town for an internship for the summer and I was home after a year abroad before my next move to a new city this fall (I still haven’t decided where). Because we were both in this weird in-between with not many friends in the area, we spent a lot of time together. This morning I said goodbye to him as I’m leaving for a trip and he moves away tomorrow.

He was very open about the fact he wasn’t looking for a relationship because of him just being here for the summer and moving back 6 hours away, just getting out of a long term relationship 6ish months ago, and him being in law school for 2 more years, and him being so young with all his 20’s left (he’s 22, I’m 25). I understood and also wasn’t really looking for something, but I caught feelings – fast. We called it a “summer fling” but basically did everything relationship-y other than the label, like going for drinks, dinners, went hiking, stayed over at each other’s place 3-4 times a week, etc.

I have a bad relationship history, both of my exes were quite toxic and so this is the first time I’ve been respected and cared for. He always cared about my feelings, was great with communication, was respectful and polite, opened the car door for me… literally the sweetest guy I’ve met.

The only problems we had were that he would still talk to his ex quite frequently and brought her up in conversation a lot. He didn’t tell her about us because he “didn’t want to hurt her feelings”. He said he had no feelings for her anymore and they were just friends because they were quite sexually incompatible and better off friends like they were for 2 years before they dated. His Facebook profile picture was still them together which was weird to me. It really bugged me when he brought her up but I talked to him about it and he apologized and never mentioned her again. Sexually, we were fine but I have had better sex before and he had a quite low libido, and I hate initiating sex so I was somewhat unsure about that. Lastly we were quite different humor wise and professionally – he is funny but also serious and very involved in law school and has his next few years and I have a very social-media influenced humor (thanks Twitter lol) and have been living abroad teaching and looking for a new start in a city here in the US.

Other than these few things, it was perfect. This morning he didn’t want me to leave and told me he was going to miss me. He said maybe some day we can meet again, and see how life goes. He said to text or call him whenever and update him on my trip.

I am worried I’ll never meet someone so respectful again, especially based off my horrible dating history. I would’ve loved for him to be my boyfriend if the circumstances were different. It feels like he was the right person, wrong time. Any tips or ideas on how to move on or if I should keep out hope we can reconnect some day? What if he was the one? I feel heartbroken over this pseudo-relationship and not sure how to move forward.

/u/MissTeriousGal, /r/relationship_advice.
Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Dear Miss Terious Gal,

Some of the feelings you are currently experiencing is anchored in a sense of loss.

Even though the person you connected with is still alive and well, the end of your intense summer connection might bring forth an acute sense of absence where he had been for the past two months. As you said, you two spent a lot of time together over a short amount of time, and grew to depend on each other at a turbulent time of need, in mutual periods of transitions. Even if temporary, the support you’ve each gained from each other was meaningful and substantial.

A big part of your current sense of loss is also represented through the past relationships you’ve had where things turned sour within those past relationships. And because the end of this particular connection was due to happenstance and not necessarily due to any flaws within the relationship, you could be looking back at the end of this particular connection with a sense of longing; that there was unrealized potential within this connection which now feels wasted.

We often get caught up in the idea that longevity is the only worthwhile indicator for intensity of a relationship, and I think this is wrong. The strength of the relationships could mean much more by the context of said connection as well as our individual circumstances that brought our ability to connect so well with another person. All of this is to say that just because your connection only lasted two months and that it ended doesn’t necessarily mean that your relationship wasn’t important to you and to him.

Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com

Perspective and Context

One thing that longevity of relationship does do well is in how well you two can resolve conflicts in a relationship. In your message, you’ve outlined a lot of potential conflict points: his ex, libido imbalance, different sense of humor. Each of those topics could have brought forth a struggle that many couples face, and could have invariably soured your connection in a way this current happenstance could have. It isn’t fair to say that “We were perfect except for all of those issues” when those issues indeed provide perspective and context to your connection. You never just get to date a person with complete disregard for the context. His happenstance is who he is. And who he was was incompatible with a long-term relationship with you.

I also want to touch on the concept of “the one.”

In this five minute clip, Dan Savage talks a bit about the price of admission we pay in order to be with the ones we love. None of us is a model of perfection for another because we are all humans with flaws. And because we each come with our flaws, we implicitly (or sometimes, explicitly) as our partners to accept our flaws as a price of admission to be romantically entangled with us.

To unreservedly and without a doubt claim one singular human being as the person you are meant to be with for the rest of your life is a big commitment which too comes with a lot of shortcomings and flaws. How can you really? There are billions of people out there. What are the chances that this is the person who will be marginally greater than all others AND is also interested in you for the same reason? No. The better way to reframe the myth of “the one” is if the person you are currently dating is the one you are currently happy paying for the price of admission in order to enjoy the privilege of being their partner. The one person you’d tolerate the morning breath of. The one person you’d put away their milk cartons for. The one person you’d be happy surrendering all other romantic connections for (in the context of presumed monogamy).

And in this new definition, yes. He was the one you were happy for in paying for prices of admission. Because you cared about him enough to overlook his issues with his ex, the potential sexual incompatibility, and the mismatch in sense of humor. And just because you were content paying the prices of admission to be with this particular person doesn’t mean that you won’t be happy with paying the prices of admission to be with your next romantic interest.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Moving on

It is more important for you to consider what you did right in this particular connection and determine how you can apply that going forward for your next relationships. What do you think you did right in forging this connection? What kind of first date discussions did you have with him to be able to establish such a good connection together?

Another consideration is that this experience taught you that you are able to have happy and healthy romantic connections. One that is unmired by your painful past and, more importantly, is an important part of your relationship history, still in the process of being written. If you can have such a good connection with someone whose happenstance was a mismatch for you, think about what a great connection you can have with someone else whose happenstance aligns with your own. Someone who doesn’t have the same issues with his ex. Someone who matches your libido. Someone who has the same sense of humor as you. Someone who is open to forging a long-term bond with you.

As for this particular connection, it looks like you two left it off at a good and positive note. A definitive end with a great experience that you can both share with others.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

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