What to do when He/She Leaves?

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Assuming you want her (him) back.

People frequently come to me with this problem. Actually this is my most read article. To me that suggests that a whole pile of people only "really wake up" when their partner starts to pull away. And you are probably one of them, right now. I feel for you. You've probably done a whole bunch of things "wrong" and don't know what for sure. I am sorry it took you so long to wake up. A lot of my work, shared here on this website, is for you. Take your time, breathe and read on.  Take heart!  Waking up is always a good idea – at least in the long run. 

First job is to turn your partner around, or at least halt their moving away.  Some years ago, in 1998 I believe, I came up with a short set of answers to this situation and have not felt the need to change them since.  It works.  Follow the four steps.  Print this Article in PDF


This is very important.  Your partner is already moving away.  Anything you do to push them will tend to make them move away faster and further.  Stop anything that might be construed as pursuing or pressing them.  If your instinct is to call them twice a day, start calling them once a week.  If your instinct is to send them a gift, do it once a month.  If you are trying to find out what they are doing by asking other people, don’t.  Leave them alone – a lot, but not completely. (I do not recommend "no contact." (See my article When to Fold 'Em.)  Let your partner contact you when they are ready. (See Reliable Membership Article.)


Do not be surprised that you may feel awful, or sick, or depressed.  This is normal when you feel left behind, abandoned.  The feeling will go away – with a lot of time.  We all can live alone.  It's not good for us, but we can.  So, in the meantime, continue to live your life.  Go to work.  Eat well.  Sleep well.  Do more exercise.  (It will help you sleep.  It will help with any depression you may feel.)  Be among friends.  While you do this, you might consider staying away from friends of your partner's gender.  If you cannot sleep or seem very depressed, see your doctor.  Some medication may be helpful for a while.  If your partner speaks to you, don’t tell them how hard a time you are having.  That will probably not get you the sympathy you want. Just say something like, “Well, it is tough.”  And say no more.


See a counselor.  Read books.  Talk your problems over with friends, your pastor, your priest, your rabbi, etc.  Learn what you can.  Read my papers on Using Turtle Logic and The Two Walls.  Chances are there is a lot for you to learn.  Most often when a partner leaves, they have been planning it for a long time.  Most often they have felt terribly lonely with you. You, on the other hand may have been taken by surprise.  Ask yourself, what led you to be so unaware of your partner?  What led you to be so unaware that they were in distress enough to consider leaving you?  Try to not blame yourself too much.  All relationship trouble takes two.  And so, Get to Work. Work on yourself.

And do this work so that your partner knows.  The chances are one of the reasons they are leaving you is because they believe you will never change.  They have become hopeless about you ever changing for the better.  By visibly working on yourself, they have to wonder what you are doing and who you are becoming.  That is much better than their continuing to believe that you will never change.

When I say “visibly,” I mean that you take opportunities to let them know that you are doing something.  If they call, say you only have a little time as you have to get to your counseling appointment.  Say, “By the way, I’ve been reading a book on marriage.  It’s interesting.”  Remember to follow Rule #1, and not say much. Don't try to "teach them." 


It is reasonable that your partner will try to contact you.  They may ask for a chat.  Ask, “How long?”  Agree to give them half that time.  They may ask for dinner together.  Agree to give them a short one.  They may ask for you to spend the night.  Stay only through the evening.   Get used to this.  Think that you are trying to get a deer to come out of the forest and eat from your hand.  You have to earn (or in this case, re-earn) their trust and never lose it again.

Good luck.  

P.S. And when he/she stops the leaving and starts tentative connecting or checking you out, be ready.  For more on this subject, particularly once you have managed to get your partner to slow down their leaving, you might want to read “Out of the Blue” means “Read the Tea Leaves”.

You will probably also want to check out my Map of Relationships to put a clear framework around what is going on and what your choices are.  Being foolishly stubborn, i.e. doing what you have been doing, will probably lead back to the same "them-leaving" problem.  Being stubborn about "learning-to-do-new-things" seems to be the only path.


There are so many excellent comments submitted that I archived them in two PDF files.  Aug2007–July2008 and July2008–April2010.  These are good.

Click here for “all” my articles on ClingersAvoiders.

Remember, this is just one (Reliable Membership) of the several major problems in relationships.  When you solve this one, when  your partner turns around and decides to consider staying with you, there are the other problems in front of you.  Take a look at How to Use this Website, or Using my logic on relationships, or Where to Start. The most comprehensive place to start is always my Map of Relationships.

Good luck.

Download an audio file of me sharing 26 minutes of further discussion for $5.00. 



By © Al Turtle 2002



What to do when He/She Leaves? — 497 Comments

  1. Hi Al, what is your advice about the ex who comes back around wanting to be just “close friends”, but won’t give the full romantic relationship a chance? My ex is trying *really* *really* hard to turn us into friends, and I still want more. I’m trying to accept this, but there are still obvious feelings of deep love on both sides, and a sense of “will they/won’t they”, although she very clearly says “won’t” and isn’t comfortable with my hopes for reconciliation. I guess it’s the “love you, but not IN love with you” thing on her end. We were 100% definitely Imago matches, not a doubt in my mind.

    • Hello Robert, I think the phrase “I wanna be friends only” is code for some much bigger message.

      Casually, it usually means “no sex.” But that usually means big giant trust issues are developing. I think for many people they can’t be sexual unless they are feeling really safe. Now they can give in to sex, i.e. submit, and say they want it, when they don’t. But I think that is “rape” and you don’t want to be involved with that. So when someone says “no sex” I get very serious about it and solve the trust issues.

      Saying “I want to be your friend” can also mean, I want to build our relationship again but starting with “safety”. After a visit to the Power Struggle this isn’t a bad idea. Lots of people believe in the “romance” part of Romantic Love, and that always ends. The Romance is a wonderful dreamy state, but is not based on much reality. I believe people are supposed to move past that and this phrase is often part of the “moving past the fantasy.”

      Sometimes the phrase I want to be your friend is just polite bullshit. It’s kind of “I want you to go away, but I want you to like me – hell I’ve always wanted everyone to like me.” I call this polite b@@@S@@@.

      You’ll have figure out what this gal is saying. If you have love for her, you really want to know what she’s saying and get that clear.

      On the other hand if you just “want what you want when you want it”, I’m not sure that’s love. She might be letting you know that something about you is “off”, and that come across as unloving. I think you’ll really want to get clear about that.

      • Thanks for responding!

        It might be helpful to tell you that this was a semi-long-distance relationship, so we only saw each other every few weeks. So the boundary isn’t so much “no sex” as it is “no visits”, with some talk of meeting up as friends down the road if all goes well *as friends*.

        The issue in our relationship was her feeling unappreciated and insecure about my interest level (exacerbated by the long distance), which she only informed me of in passive, sideways fashion during our relationship, until she stopped seeing the value in continuing to have THAT level of relationship with me. I try not to be blaming towards her about that, and am somtimes successful. 😉

        So I think that the issue IS security, and I feel that her desire for friendship IS genuine. I just see the work that would go into friendship with her as very similar to the work of reconciliation, so if the love is there, why not? Well, lack of security!

        She just no longer feels like I’m the guy for her, but she misses knowing me and talking to me, so we argue and then get nice and then argue and then get nice, and we’re committed to being a part of each other’s lives. But she IS leaving the romantic part behind, which is confusing to me, given her level of affection, commitment, and the not-quite-platonic vibes I’m getting! Being friends seems like leaving by staying. And I see how we could have so much more, like we both used to dream of.

        • Dear Robert, thanks for the “more” data. My first response to you was, of necessity, kind of a shot in the dark. I still like it, but it may have not been much use in your situation.

          So a couple of thoughts, beyond “long distance relationships are very difficult and prone to excessive fantasies.” And it might be useful to me to know how old (experienced) you two are in relationships. There’s a big difference in my approaches to young starter couples and more traveled people. That word you used for her, “ex”, may have misled me. Ah, that’s normal when so little is shared, a normal necessity of email or sharing postings. To me it is often like solving puzzles when given only a few pieces.

          So let’s get back to Security (your word) or Safety (my word). In continuing to build a relationship there seem to be many paths. One of them sounds like the one you are on. And the clue of Security sounds like it’s leading to the next steps. A great relationship often seems for form around the problems of Safety. Couple comes together – dreaming of safety 24/7 and with the past experience of living an often guarded life. Then they begin to experience the unsafety that they had before they got together. They back off. I think that then the focus should be on both, or at least one, really learning how to guide the way into a relationship that values safety for both. My guess is you have to become an expert at Safety. This might be new territory for both.

          You said you were convinced you were Imago Matches. That could be. This rise of the importance of Safety and backing away could easily be part of your unique ways of seeking Vintage Love. I’m not sure, but I think I would not get discouraged, if I were you. Learn more about her needs for Security and become a co-provider.

          Good luck.

        • Oh yes, I know all too well the difficulties of messaging!

          We’re both in our early 30’s, so we both have significant experience in love and life.

          We’re working on having A relationship, just not the one that I’d prefer to be working on. I could happily practice patience and work *towards* being an actual couple again, if that was an intention that we both had – she is certainly worth waiting and working for, in my estimation, and I have been doing my work. But she has stated very clearly that reconciliation is not “on the table” for her. Which, to me, seems preposterous, and her behavior/energy doesn’t even entirely match those words.

          My fear is that if I let go of a romantic future together then there will be no one “holding” the romantic relationship any more, and then we’ll simply be friends. Which would be nice, but also sad. In other words, if I *don’t* push AT ALL and I’m nice all the time and “settle” for friendship, we’ll settle in to friends. I want her to “come around” and do the full batch of work with me! It feels like we’re stuck in the Choice Point. Or at least I am, but I suspect that she is too.

        • Thanks for the more sharing, Robert. Keeps on getting clearer. And I certainly want to assist you two at become BFFs.

          I love the “But she has stated very clearly that reconciliation is not “on the table” for her. Which, to me, seems preposterous…” bit. Might point directly at a, perhaps new, step in your growth. Rather than find out what the heck leads her to say that statement, hearing and validating or at least PreValidating her, you seem to slip into judging that she doesn’t make sense. (Odd Dialogue)

          Remember, “All people Make Sense all the time.” What is her sense in saying that phrase? What do each word mean to her? She’s sharing something really important. How good are you at understanding or Validating her? You may critically need that skill to deal with what is going on and to move on. If what I am saying seems confusing, it might be better to chat, you and me.

        • I’d be open to an email chat, but I *do* understand what you’re saying about validating. Or I’m coming to understand, through experimenting in my interactions with her.

          I’d be happy to work towards a romantic relationship with her through a friendship process, but I don’t feel like I can *just* be her friend. That’s the stuck point for us. I literally don’t believe that her intentions to just be friends is the whole story for her either. But it might be in the present – I can’t say for sure. I suspect it’s an “I don’t want to be perceived as leading you on when I’m not sure about being more than friends right now, and I also don’t want you to go away” thing.

        • Your last posting gave me a pretty big red-flag clue. Thanks. “The stuck point”! seems all about Master/Slave, argument, etc. I think you have an argument going about the abstract classification each of you use for your relationship. I’ve found that if couples haven’t yet solved this issue of “Power”, it will surface in many ways, but often in a “sticking point” that is often verbal and about labeling. (Sometimes its about who picks up the clothes. :) ) The underlying issue, though, is about “who’s boss”. And that’s a relationship wrecking issue – a life and death issue. Got to be solved.

          Good news is it only has to be solved by one of the partners – at first. Pretty familiar, to me, territory. If you want to continue this by email (al@alturtle.com) or phone (preferably), I am available. Or go ahead and read the Master/Slave 3 articles.

          Good luck.

  2. Hi
    My girlfriend moved away from me and is in relationship with other guy….I really trusted her and she also trusted me…we were in 4 yrs of relationship, but since I made mistakes, unknowingly and lost contact with her. The mistake I made was spending less time with her. Eventually she lost connection with me, but she joined a b-school where a guy flirted her. She reacted positively till that point of time we were in relationhip and suddenly she told me that “I guess I like someone.”

    I was broken….yes I made mistakes and asked her to give a chance and another surprising thing is that within 3 days of their meeting in the b-school she developed a relation with him….I don’t know whether she made a right decision or not….

    But I really want her and also told her that I support her decision because she thought that she will not be able to find happiness with me and moved on with another guy and what if she doesn’t find happiness with him??? Is she right making such a harsh decision and relations which happen within three days lasts long??? finally I want her back and plz give me suggestions on how to get her back…..

    I don’t know whether he is right for her….and another doubt I have is the guy already knows that she is in a relation with me and he flirted her and influenced her that she is not happy with me and enjoys his company…is he a good guy will their relation last long.

    And I am ready to accept her at any cost…how should I make her realize that I made mistakes and I won’t repeat them again and right now she doesn’t want to give me a chance. should I give her sometime….will she regret for the decision she made???

    Plz clarify my doubts. I will be really thankful to you….

    • Well, friend, I see a bit of what is going on. Sounds pretty painful. A couple of questions answered would help me in responding. How old are you two? Roughly where do you live? And what is this “b-school”? A short term online business training program? Have you two had relationships before this? You might read my Map of Relationships paper and speculate yourself on what’s going on. Let’s keep talking.

      • We are 22 years old we live in India,Hyderabad …the b-school is NARSEE MONJEE INSTITUE-HYDERABD…He is a 2 year MBA student in that school….and my girl frnd is 1st year(joined on June 18th 2015) she was my first girl friend and I was her first boy friend…

        I begged her to give me another chance to prove myself…she says that I went really far and I can’t offer any chance right now….she is a stubborn girl….I believe that she should have given me a chance before commitimg with another guy…and she developed feelings toward him within 3 days of their meeting and in their meeting she also showed my pic to that guy and told him I am going to marry him after two years of our MBA despite of that he influenced her that “you aren’t happy in our relation so you need my company”….

        After all this yesterday I went to meet her and she told that you have to move on there is no other way…but I told her that ” i won’t spoil my career and also I won’t forget you….I will be waiting for you till you get married”.she is not a girl who changes bf frequently and also my family knows about our relation and they are ready to accept..how can she forget her relation with me in a matter of 5 day??

        The relation with presently in her b-school will continue forever or is he using her for some purpose??

        One disadvantage I had is i am studying in another b-school (ICFAI BUSSINESS SCHOOL) and I stay in hostel….right now is she having infatuation???

        She says that she is not finding happiness with me…yes I ignored but not purposefully. I thought after 2 yrs she is gonna be with me and we will spend our life together but I don’t know it hurted her and

        This is the rash decision she made. How can I approach her and ask for another chance? How can I make her believe that I am willing to change right now for and How can I tell her that he is not the right person for you

        I am confused and also she is I don’t want her to regret for leaving me.

        Yes I am selfish, sir, I want her at any cost..

        • Ah, thank you, Vinay (I hope that is your name), much more clear. I was imagining by your “accent” that you might be in India, but wasn’t sure. I need to remember that the culture around you is changing in very dramatic ways and some principle may be different from the ones in the USA or Australia or England or other countries of people who write me. But I do have some experience with people from your country (big country, very different from one place to another) and mostly the principles of relationships that I’ve seen fit with what I’ve learned here. In other words, I believe the Map of Relationships works in India.

          I thought I would start with the last thing first. You shared that you are “selfish” and “want her at any cost.” I like that awareness. Chances are that you are just learning more about that “cost” part. Perhaps in a couple of generations back, your parents or grandparents would see this “cost” differently. Now- a- days that “cost” thing is often very specific. Partners that you want now are demanding “respect”, even if they don’t know what that looks like. And it could be that you weren’t taught how to appear respectful. So what! Gotta learn it now.

          Mostly the early relationships I see, between 18 yr olds through 35 yr olds seem to become learning experiences where people do it “really wrong” for quite a while. Lots of them break up and try again and again before they realize they’ve got to really learn something new. Of course, one doesn’t know one is doing it wrong until things fall apart. The most common sign of this is someone goes away and a lot of the try a new partner. Sure the new partner looks good, at first, but it’s just a matter of time till the same old trouble will surface.

          Sounds as if that’s where you are. How to win her back? Well you can’t win her back reliably to where you were, cuz the way you were treating her was, in probably many ways, disrespectful. You didn’t know that or would not have done it. My guess is you want to learn how to come across very respectful to her on any occasion when you get to talk to her.

          Biggest rule of respect is the awareness that “all people make sense all the time” and you are aware of this before she shares anything with you. Demonstrate this.

          For example, you believe she “should” have given you another chance before committing to another guy. My guess is she believes she gave you many many chances over the years and you would not listen (respect) to messages. Why do I say this? Cuz it made sense to her to not give you another warning.

          Another example is you suggest “he influenced her”, but probably he share things and she made her decision and was not controlled by him. She’s stubborn, you think, so I doubt he could have “influenced” her if she had not wanted to be” influenced.”

          My guess is that you don’t know much and didn’t know much about this gal and that was/is a big problem.

          Still this is a good place to start. My website is full of stuff to help. I start with my Map of Relationships, and then look around for other article that may guide you. The ones about Master/Slave may be especially helpful cuz of the respect/stubborn thing.

          I wish you a lot of luck,

        • Thanks a lot for your suggestion sir…but for sure I think she will realize that I am willing to change and will give me a chance in future and all I can do is wait for her….I will wait for her till she gets married and all I want is her to be happy and I want her not to have any guilty feeling in future….I don’t sir I still have a hope that she is gonna come back or she is gonna give a chance to me plz correct me if I am wrong sir

        • Thanks a lot sir…but for sure I will be troubling you….and plz suggest me some ways to get her back sir…will their relation lasts long or will she realize when this guy finishes his MBA in a span of 9 months and how did she decide that he is the right one???

          Lot of people in India date girls jus for passing their time at workplace or college and how do I know whether this guy is serious about her or jus passing time with her…..from now onwards I will not disturb but I will jus share my happiness and sadness…I will not ask her to accept me coz if she feels so she will come to me…..and when she was in relation ship with this guy she told that she is confused and she also told me that nothing is wrong with u but I am confused and then I forced her to come back, probably I made mistake over there(forcing her)….I should have given her sometime….but I don’t know y sir I have hope n faith in my love so I thought its worth waiting for her and I dnt know where its gonna land me???

          Plz answer my questions sir…..

        • Well, Vinay, here goes. Take a deep breath.

          “plz suggest me some ways to get her back, sir”?
          Don’t push her, Survive, Learn and improve yourself, let her know, be gentle if she reaches out to you. Best way I know is to send her a note/email once a week or every-other week with 4 sentences or less: A greeting, a comment about your life and your learning, a wish to hear from her, and a thankyou. Be prepared to wait, respectfully, while sending these short messages.

          “will their relation lasts long” ?
          Probably not. Lots of early, young relationships are fairly short. And it takes a while to see what’s wrong with the person you are with and to exhaust the tools you know for fixing the problems. See my Map of Relationship.

          “will she realize when this guy finishes his MBA in a span of 9 months”?
          That’s a logical time for things to shift, when a program ends. But then she shifted from you in the middle of things.

          “how did she decide that he is the right one???”
          By comparing her experiences with you to a) her hopes of what would be better and b) her imaginations of what life would be like with this new guy. Somehow she decided there was no hope of getting you to change in some ways that were critical to her. And then she found him.

          “how do I know whether this guy is serious about her or jus passing time with her”?
          Get to know him. I don’t know what that information will do for you. She’s the one you need/needed to get to know.

          “when she was in relation ship with this guy she told that she is confused and she also told me that nothing is wrong with u but I am confused”?
          I think she is learning about herself and has lots of different values that are not sorted out. She’s not clear what she wants. When she says there is nothing wrong with you, I think she’s being polite and not blaming you. I also think she isn’t sharing what she dislikes about you. It’s a kind of polite telling lies, I think.

          “then I forced her to come back, probably I made mistake over there(forcing her)….I should have given her some time”?
          Resorting to “force” seems to always backfire in relationships. Where did you learn to force a woman? Sounds like a bad teaching. Get rid of it.

          “I have hope n faith in my love so I thought its worth waiting for her and I dnt know where its gonna land me???”
          No, but you can hope and work in the direction you want to go.

          Good luck.

        • Thank you for your reply sir….I don’t know why but I have a hope that she is gonna come back to me….yes I made mistakes like I didn’t give enough time to her and I always wanted to treat everyone equally(friends and girl friend) but I always asked her that are you happy with me(when we were in relation)?? Every time she replied me “yes I am happy” and I even told her that just wait for 3 years we will get settled and we can live happily thereafter even she agreed to that but still its a mystery for me that some guy came into our four year relation ship and jus told some things which made our relation weak…

          We were really happy until this guy came in our relation we shared everything we laughed we fought we had romance everything I even told her jus after 3 years we gonna live happily…and one fine day she fell in love with him….what I believe is first love is always true love whatever comes thereafter is jus adjustments in relation ship….I will move on sir…I will not spoil my career I made mistakes of not spending time with her all I will do is I will pray to god to give me another chance all I request you is to plzzz suggest me clearly what can I do so that she re-establishes her connections with me and how can I make her believe that I am willing to change for her….all I know is that the person with whom she is in relation does not guarantee her good life…its not like I am biased but I dnt know I have a feeling in that way coz I know what she wants and how she reacts to situations….

          I don’t want her to live in a guilt feeling I dnt know but right know she is confused and thinks that she made right decision that’s not true sir coz she loved me a lot and she can’t suddenly move away like that if she did so then I believe a strong reason and breaking up with me is not a good solution she never tried to discuss these things….if she made right decision then why isn’t she speaking with her frnds I think she has a guilt feeling of doing so……last thing is plz suggest me clearly how to prove her that I am willing to change n how can I use situations to make her give me a chance

        • Dear Vinay, I’m glad you are still looking for how you can change so that she will believe you. I was looking through your writing and trying to see where you can show how much you’ve changed. I think it is difficult if you don’t show much when you are with someone and then are separated and can only share a few words or letters. Difficult but not impossible.

          My biggest clue so far is that you appear to be very confident in your theories about her and the evidence is your theories are really wrong. Her experience of that would be to feel disrespected. That sounds very important. An example: you thought that she was happy with you until she met this guy. And you felt happy with her. The evidence suggests that she may have said she was happy with you but that she wasn’t and had not been happy with you for a long time and that you didn’t know. When she said “yes, I am happy” I think she was lying. Now that’s a problem by itself, but the bigger problem is why would she lie. People lie because they don’t feel safe to tell the truth. My guess is that she didn’t feel safe with you and didn’t tell you AND you didn’t know this was going on. So I’m looking for clues now. What things did you use to do that would make her feel unsafe and need to lie to you? If you still do those things, you want to stop them as soon as possible.

          You said “we shared everything”. Well, you thought that you shared everything, but she didn’t. She didn’t share her unhappiness with you.

          I’m thinking the distance between you two was great and that leads me to suspect your communication system. How did you not hear from her? and not know you were not hearing from her? I’m willing to bet that when you think that the problem was you didn’t spend enough time with her, that there were many other problems that were more powerful.

          Well, keep looking.

          The only way to get her to believe you are willing and able to change is to change. Talking about changing doesn’t seem to work at all. Promising to change usually works in the opposite way – tends to make her more sure you won’t change.

          Good luck.

  3. Hi, I recently broke up with my boyfriend who I was with for 30 months. In them 30 months we were happy yes, we argued but we always found our way back to each other. I spoke to my ex and told him I still had feelings for him but I merely meant that I care but my bf took it the wrong way and left. Since then we got back together and we tried but he just couldn’t forget what I did. We tried and failed but I still want him as much as I did when I first met him. He said he still loves me but there is no more us. He’s trying to keep himself busy to not think of me and he told me to move on and that I would find someone. I feel like the reason he is saying move on is so that it is easier for him to move on but I know it would kill him if he saw me with another guy. It’s been 6 weeks and he is still willing to be friends but nothing more but he still loves me very much. We did everything together and we were so happy and deep inside I know he wants me and I believe that he is the one for me and we are meant to be. Help what do I do????

    • Dear Sarah, You seem to be wandering through the “normal”, early part of a great relationship. (See my Map of Relationships for more.) Building a good couples communication system takes quite a bit of time, and that “misunderstanding” about talking with your ex sounds normal.

      One thing to remember is that humans can’t forget anything. We’re not built to do that But we can clear up misunderstandings very easily. My guess is that there is much more to the story of his pulling way than just ‘you spoke to your ex’.

      From the sound of it, he’s certainly not being straight with you and maybe you with him. In non-deep-couple relationships that is ok. But if you want Vintage Love, and I think you do based on that idea “we are meant to be” with each other, then you communication and understanding of each other has to go much much deeper. Check out To Be Save You Must Share EVERYTHING. Got to eventually get rid of anything that blocks that level of sharing.

      Since you have an “ex”, I’m assuming you have some experience with things falling apart. The more experience with the rough side of things, the better for building your own wisdom. (Some Greek philosopher said something like that. :) )

      But I think you’ll figure this out over time. I wish you good luck.

  4. Hello Al,

    My boyfriend (now ex boyfriend) broke up with me 2.5 months ago, and even after I have been feeling really hurt all this time (I think this is the lowest I have felt in my life) I would consider getting back together with him if he changed his mind. In the last weeks I have slowly lost any hope I had and starting to accept he most likely will never come back. It breaks my heart.

    We were together for 9 years, 3 of them in long distance. During our time together I can say we had a very deep connection, a great communication, we always had many dreams and plans of the things we wanted to do and achieve. I always felt alive with him, always with new things to do and to learn. He knows about everything and I really admire that. I think the only small thing I was not sure of was that he didn’t completely physically attract me. But this was never a big deal to me. From his point of view, he always told me how attracted to me he always felt and that I was the one for him.

    The reason we were apart the last years is because after I graduated from university I got tempting job offer that meant working abroad (in Malaysia and UK). So now he is in Mexico and I am in UK (I have Mexican/English nationalities). The plan was that he would come over to UK when I would arrive here, but it didn’t happen. While I was away, he started studying a masters but failed twice in 2 different universities. He had trouble keeping up with the courses and he would tell me he struggled with procrastination. All this affected his confidence. He paused his studies and started working at a company as an intern, in a job he really enjoys. He is now working full time there.

    I am feeling regretful of the things I did wrong and that led him to leave. He originally suggested that we either got married or apply for fiancee visa to come over more easily. But at that time I was not feeling ready to get married and I said he should try applying for jobs first :( (I feel really stupid now that I think what I did). He had one job interview in September 2014 and came to UK, but unfortunately they didn’t call him back. So this is when I agreed on applying for the fiancee visa. However, I started to see that slowly he lost interest. So I said I would go to Mexico and get married there, but it was already too late.

    Since January of this year he started having doubts about our relationship and told me to give him space. We called each other less as he was also very busy with work. So in April he told me he had decided to stay in Mexico and broke up with me. I could not believe it :'(
    The next day I took a flight to Mexico to try to fix things. I was there only 3 days, but I couldn’t change his mind.

    He said it was a very difficult decision for him to make. That he had spoken with many people and even friends in common. They obviously advised him to leave me. And I feel he got influenced by whatever it is they said. Later he told me I had been a bad girlfriend, that he was always looking for me, that I was egocentric and manipulative :(

    He told me he wanted to experience a different type of relationship, an easier one. That he was always feeling the pressure to come over to UK. That we were both complex and sensitive people, and we needed someone “lighter” to be with. He thought we were too much alike as well. That our dynamic in the relationship didn’t work for him because he thought we always did what I wanted. That he wanted to be in a relationship where he was more in control. I don’t feel this way about us, it took me by surprise because he never really mentioned it in the past. He also said he wanted to experience full passion and needed to meet more women. The truth is in the past I was the one saying this, I was the one who had doubts. But when he started showing doubts I became completely sure I wanted to be with him.

    Another issue we had is that even though we were together for long we didn’t have sex right away, because I didn’t feel prepared in the past. He waited for me to be ready, and when we did it, it wasn’t great. I can tell this was a demotivation for him.

    I notice he has changed. For some reason I have the impression that once he saw he had a job he liked over there, he decided to stay there. I also feel he was a bit frightened to come to UK and have to look for jobs.

    One week ago we spoke on the phone and I told him to forgive me for being difficult with him and telling him to try coming over with a work visa…putting the weight in his shoulders. To forgive me for not giving in to sex right away because I was not prepared. We both started crying. I also told him I will return to Mexico right away if he still wants me.

    I feel he is forcing himself to forget me. He has told me to move on. That he is 100% sure I will find a person that will make me very happy and the same for him. He actually started seeing a girl like 1 month after we broke up, because he posted a picture with her. I asked him about her, and he said he was seeing her but that he was taking things very slowly, but that it was non of my business and I should respect his privacy.

    He is also very stubborn and once he has made up his mind, he doesn’t change. i didn’t know he could have so much pride, but I am seeing it.

    We didn’t speak at all for the month after the break up (I read about NC). Then when he posted the picture of the girl it was really funny because it was on the exact same day I was planning to contact him again. But he said he just wants me as a friend. That he doesn’t want to lose our friendship, but that I need to move on. So now we are not speaking. I have texted him very little but the last 2 times he didn’t reply.

    All my body has felt in pain these last months, almost physically hurt. I have lost motivation in my life, and I feel alone in UK. Nobody from my family lives here. I do have some friends who advise me to move on.

    Wow.. long story.. I would really appreciate your feedback. As I said, I would still go back with him even though I have gone through hell. But I feel it might be too late for any chance.



    • Dear Brenda, these long distance or large-break early relationships (that’s what I call em), seem very very tough. A couple who wanders into the Power Struggle can spend much longer in that period. While “distance” can be a useful tool to reduce high impatient passion and to simulate patience, “distance” can also serve to put off facing the differences and developing empathy, understanding and good communication skills.

      At the same time your experience reminds me of how intense is the desire for Vintage Love. If your Lizard gets to think “this guy” is the way to Vintage Love and then he starts to slip away, that ole Lizard will produce thoughts of death and lots of feelings of pain. Of course the good news is “he” is “not” the only possibility of achieving Vintage Love, even though the Lizard thinks he is. And that ole Lizard creates all those painful feelings. (I’m assuming you’ve read my Map of Relationships and my paper on Safety.)

      There’s no way to “magically” recover this situation. But it is a great one for learning from. My best advice is in the paper you’ve posted your comment on. One the one hand I think it’s possible he may reach out to you, and so 1) no pushing, 2) survive, 3) work on yourself visibly, 4) be available to respond “litely.”

      As part of the working on yourself bit, take a look at his “complaints” and see what parts of them are instructive. Get a friend or a counselor to help. Remember you’ve done things that you have been taught are “ok”, which drive him away. Also you may want to look at what you do that contributes to his not sharing until you broke up a couple of months back. Why did he withhold that information for so long? How come you didn’t notice his secrecy? Lots of good stuff to work on. Go for it.

      • Hi Al,

        Thanks so much for your fast reply and your advice. As you say I have had feelings and dreams related to death. I was not aware this is actually a way the brain responds.

        I think I am a bit better now compared to how I originally felt. But it still doesn’t mean I am feeling good at all. One part of me feels betrayed. I guess this is because of how close we were to getting married and finally being together. I have a hard time everytime I see couples together, as well as families and babies. And all my friends getting married makes it worse. I feel like I have to start all over again.

        I do have a question about the idea of giving up all signs of pushing. I have texted him like once every week after the month of no contact because I wanted to make it clear to him I would return to Mexico to be together if this will help. He said it wouldn’t change. I don’t think I will contact him again, but the idea of leaving it like that and with all the distance in between doesn’t seem to me like he would consider being together again. I think it actually helps him forget everything faster as he sounds so decided.

        He did tell me once he might be doing a big mistake leaving, but he didn’t mind the risk. I don’t know from where came all this decision he has, and it has made me feel like I did something really bad. I don’t see how he ever would come back.

        Wouldn’t more time make it worse? I already feel him so distant. As if I was never his girlfriend. And the distance doesn’t help. Do you think me going back to Mexico would be a bad idea?



        • I do think going back to Mexico would not be a good use of money or your time. Do that after you’ve improved your communication system a lot. I was noting your feeling betrayed. That’s cuz you were believing stuff about him that wasn’t true. And he let you. That’s called lying, a sign of a terrible communication system, in my book, and leads to the feeling of betrayal.

          From Al’s Glossary: Lie – To knowing leave someone in a state of misunderstanding about something you believe is important to them. Active lying: to say that which is not so. Passive lying: to leave unsaid that which is important to someone.

          I would use the “When to Fold ’em” logic to determine when to move on.

          By the way, once you meet an Imago Match, (and you’ve done that with him) pretty much the only thing to get you to forget that Imago Match/”him” is a new Imago Match, I believe.

          Good luck.

        • Hi Al,

          Thanks again for your reply. Last week I spoke with my ex boyfriend once on the phone. He had agreed to call me as I mentioned I was thinking of the possibility of moving back to Mexico. The fact that he actually called me was a surprise, I thought he wouldn’t. So we started talking about non-relationship topics until we finally got to this one. He told me if I wanted to move that would be okay, and he even suggested I could find work with his current employer. However, he also mentioned not to move for him and (most important) the girl he posted a picture once is his girlfriend (I can’t find a heartbreak emoticon).

          He also told me to move on, to meet new people, to date somebody. That he knows I will be fine. Is he really the same man who once said I was the only one for him?

          I told him I felt our relationship had been like the idea of having a really beautiful cloth that you want to use for creating a dress. But since it’s the first time creating a dress you make mistakes. Or like having all the right ingredients for a recipe but then adding too much salt becausr it’s your first time.

          Then I mentioned I cared too much for him that if this girl really made him happy I can’t do anything. He said “Well…as you know she is 4 years older than me, so lets see”. He told me this girl has had difficult break ups in her past but he liked that she is really positive. I am actually quite frightened he will stay with her, specially him knowing she has had a difficult time I would think he doesn’t want her to go through it again. In my head I already see them married. And by the way the pic he posted of her reminded me about his sister! He even told me somebody had thought they were siblings. It just makes me think he could have found sort of like the Imago match you mentioned.

          I told him if he ever changed his mind to contact me as I love him. He said life always had surprises and he doesn’t know what will happen. However he did mention “when I broke up with you I thought about all the possibilities, even the idea that I would never see you again. I seriously broke up with you”.

          I know I have to move on. It’s just incredible how the person you have spent 9 years with can become so distant. He did say he doesn’t forget us, it can’t be erased. Also it would be better not to contact each other for some time.

          Time has passed but the pain is still present. I feel dizzy sometimes about the situation and the distance in between not helping at all. Sometimes I become angry at what he did and I wonder if he would ever repent. The silence shows me how much he doesn’t care. I have lost faith in love and men. I don’t think I could ever do this to someone.


        • Dear Brenda, thanks for sharing your thinking (progress?) and your process. A lot of grief! (Grief: the process of dealing with loss.) You had a lot of nice dreams with this guy, I gather. Even if you recover the relationship at some point, you still have to grieve the loss of those dreams.

          Everything you report sounds very normal. A great deal of unfinished/un-dealt-with stuff can build up in 9 years – especially if something interferes with your communication, like distance. But I imagine there were other things. One of the goals of good communication is to prevent surprises and to give you both chances to head off the troubles. After you’ve done some more grieving, you may want to get a good handle on your part of communication troubles. Your part of them you will take with you to the next relationship.

          I like his thoughts about the new gal. Since he’s working with her, during their romantic phase you probably don’t have much opportunity. But that phase will, always does, end. If you can place yourself as a working-on-yourself person you may end up looking to him as a fairly good option.

          In the meantime, take care of yourself. Work on thriving.

          Good luck.

        • Dear Brenda, It sounds pretty tough and I think you are into a lot of grieving – and should be. I don’t think I’d let myself get into the “all men are bad” belief situation, though. I’m a bit more a “sharing-the-responsibility-around fairly” type of guy. So I look at the mess you two created and participated in, and after grieving the lost time and lost dreams, suggest you look at your part of it, and learn to do better next time. You’ll see my attitude in my article on “blame” – Whose Fault is it? Keep a going and good luck.

        • Hi Al,

          Thanks for your thoughts. Definitely a lot of grieving, I have been the saddest in my life so far. It is funny though how my emtions change and my brain tries to handle it. For example, yesterday and the day before I have felt a lot of anger towards my ex boyfriend. He betrayed me by being with someone else so soon. And the reason it has been so hard for me to process is because I feel I am dealing not only with the loss but those feelings of being “wronged”.
          Yesterday I threw away all small belongings and gifts he gave me. I cut them in pieces. I even tore the pages and threw away a thick text book he gave me. It was brand new :(

          I do have a question I want to ask
          you. How is he so strong in not talking or at least asking how I am doing? Like 0 contact. Is he trying so hard to hold himself? Because his behavior feels very unnatural to me. Like he is trying to prove himself he did the right decision. Or perhaps he really already moved on In such a short period of time. By the way… I have read some people “grieve” the relationship before breaking up with you. Could this be the case? He was “in doubt” about us for 4 months before his final decision. I am no superhuman and I don’t think he is either. Can the new girl make such an effect to him? I just want to understand how he can be so cold / proud / strong. Not sure which one.

          It’s been 3.5 months of break up and I am still in a state of unhappiness. I have gone out with friends and they cheer me up, but my pain is there. I just see the time passing by and I still feel my life is dry / gray.

          I am thinking of studying a masters and quit my job (the pay is great but it doesn’t make me happy). I am still a bit lost on what to do.

          I still hope he will change his mind about us. But if I have hope I cannot move on. And when I say to myself “he will never come back, just accept it” my brain sort of diverges the thought. I can’t still fully process it. I wish I could, but the pain of this truth would be too much. I have read a lot on the Internet about how some people get back together and sort everything. One common thing about them is that they stopped contacting the person and moved on. But this doesn’t mean it will always go that way. One part of me thinks “is he really worth it after how much I have suffered?”…but for some reason I still see how we fit together.

          I don’t like the idea of having to go out there and meet people. Trying to find another person. When I met my ex boyfriend it was all so natural and came so sudden. I wasn’t looking for someone. My days felt so bright with him. I am turning 29 next week and I just feel pressured :s Pressured that many men are married by now.
          Pressured that it takes time to build a relationship and it’s not as easy and relaxing as when you are in school. People were less serious back then.



  5. Hi Al,

    I came across your site searching the web for help. Thought I would share my story.

    My same sex partner of nearly 10 years moved out in April. We met when we were 19 and have been together ever since. Aside from an occasional rut here or there we really had/have a great relationship. No intimacy issues, no trust issues, we have always been able to confide and rely on one another. He returned to graduate school 2 years ago and with my job we really began to be able to spend less time together. Additionally he was surrounded by people a lot younger than us. He began acting differently and I was slow to react.

    By the time he brought it to my attention it seemed beyond repairing in our current state and we came to mutual agreement that he move out. Someone else did enter the picture. I won’t say I didn’t cry, or ask questions but generally despite the circumstances I’ve just tried to be as supportive as possible while giving him the space he needed. So, he went about his business for the next several months dating and so on – each time he would confide in me about how this person made him realize this and that about our relationship and we seemed to be getting into a really good place.

    He shows up at my house 2 weeks ago saying he made a huge mistake, and that he was “getting there” – in terms of working through things. I was happy, didn’t over analyze and just went about enjoying his company. Then, yesterday I asked him how we should move forward and he snapped. Said he was dating another person still and didn’t have an answer for me. That it wasn’t serious but he needed to experience dating other people so he didn’t regret in his old age that he missed out on it.

    I know this sounds terrible but he is not a bad person. I tried giving him the benefit of the doubt. I even tried to just say to him that we move our separate ways. I feel like I am in a terrible state of limbo and I just don’t understand what he is searching for. We have an annual vacation that we take in August and it was and still is my hope that this would be the end of it because we always return from this trip very centered. He is excited to go and we talk about it all the time.

    What do I do between now and then, let him just do what he feels like he needs? I am just so lost.

    • Well, Thomas, another fine mess you have us in. Seriously, sounds painful. Also sounds normal for a longterm relationship that went through a Romantic period, plunged through a Power Struggle and found itself behind Door #2 (re: Map of Relationships). As you say, you don’t believe he is a bad person. I don’t either. But I think you are faced with a lot to learn.

      Ideally this would be a joint project, but so frequently it starts with just one of you who is the leader for a while. Where are you leading? Vintage Love through the University of Life, via first learning the tools of the Biological Dream. That’s a mouthful and it is an abstact summary the relates of hundreds of specific skills. Just one of those skills is you learning new, wiser ways of looking at what is going on. And example is in the learning phrase, “All people make sense all the time.” Every time he has approached you, he has been “making” sense. His behavior that “appears” contradictory is sensible to him. The only reason you’ve been surprised by his actions is that you did not have access to his logic at the time. If you had access, you could have predicted his behavior, and maybe taken action to avoid the trouble. Ah well.

      But, you make/made sense too, so your being “blind” to his sense, the factors driving his behavior, made sense. If you don’t change those “blind-making” habits of your, you’ll have the same trouble again.

      So what can you do? Start improving your skills of living in intimacy with him. Maybe find a friend or a counselor who is good at communication, who can review with you your current and past skill deficiencies, and give you practice developing new healthy communication tactics. A bottom line is he thinks you are willing and able to listen to “anything” he says and he believes you are interested to walk with him as he discovers himself. In the meantime he also feels comfortable to chat with you when he doesn’t yet know answers – because that’s the state he is in at that moment.

      You shared what sounded like beautiful Master statements about how wonderful your relationship was and has been. My “bullshit detector” was ringing as I read them and I became curious about what was like for him when this was going on for you. “No intimacy issues, no trust issues, always able to confide and rely on each other.” etc.

      Lots of places to look for areas to improve and to share improvements with him. Remember, a person pulls the plug because they sense their partner is “hopeless”. All you have to do is grasp the specifics of why they think this and prove by actions that you are learning and moving forward reliably and specifically in some of the areas that are important to them.

      Good luck.

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