Dear Dr. George,
My ex-boyfriend and I broke up four months ago. I'm still very much in love with him. I have reason to believe he still cares about me, but I'm not sure what I should do. Our one year anniversary is March 5, 2010 and I'm hoping if I can do the right things then we may be able to fix our relationhip by then.
I was wondering what steps I should take to try to get him back. Currently, we aren't talking because he felt that it would be better for us. I'm not sure why? His family still thinks he cares for me because he talks about me every once in a blue moon. So what can I do to try to win his heart back before March 5th? Please answer back asap because this man means so much to me and I want this all to work out for the best. If I truly didn't care about him I wouldn't be asking you for help.
--- Kitten, New York
Your heartache is so palpable we're feeling the aftershocks out here in California. You're in the throws of the worst part of a breakup, which in many ways mirrors the loss of a cherished friend or family member. The psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D., in her book On Death and Dying, wrote on the stages of grief we experience when loved ones die. These stages are applicable to breakups as well, which in its own way is a devastating loss.
The first stage of a breakup is Denial. I'm guessing you're past this stage, as you are aware a separation has occurred. You still may be denying his desire for distance, but who knows what mixed signals he or his family is sending.
The next stage is anger, characterized by the statement: "Why me? It's not fair!" Sounds like you just recently passed through this stage, with much praise due to your girlfriends who probably listened to hours of you ranting about him and his stupid [insert any undesirable trait here].
After anger comes a stage called Bargaining. This is where I think you are now. You're still hoping that you can do something to change this awful situation. Unfortunately, when a guy asks for distance and to not be called, he's really asking for space to grieve the loss of the relationship. I'm sorry to share this news with you, as you clearly felt deeply for this man. You might try to contact him, send him a letter, wait outside his door on March 5th in your sexiest red dress, but in my opinion, this is simply prolonging the pain. Which leads us to the next stage of loss: Depression.
During this period the breakup becomes formalized and you realize there is no going back. This is the worst. You might spend more time alone, don't want to hang out with friends, and go through boxes and boxes of tissues, crying tears over this man and what might have been.
Then one day you wake up and realize "It's going to be okay." This is the final stage called Acceptance. You acknowledge that you and him will never be together, but for some reason you're ok with that. You reach out to friends more and perhaps start seeing other men in a new light.
This road you're on is not easy. My hope is that in time, and with the help of friends and family, you travel further through these well-worn passages of grief to emerge a new woman.
P.S. I encourage readers to offer their own thoughts on breakups. Scroll to bottom of the page to give Kitten your comments.
It's tough out there in the real world. So many questions without good answers. My goal is to provide insight into life's more difficult dilemmas, offering sound clinical judgment mixed with a straight-from-the-hip attitude. Email me for free advice on any subject.
For those of you in the New York City area, I'm available for individual or couples counseling at my private practice. Call 646.807.8900, or click on link below for a free consultation. The Sachs Center (NYC): Specializing in ADD, ADHD, Anxiety and Depression in Children, Teens & Adults.
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