Dear Sara: I was involved with my ex-companion from 2007 to 2014. I loved her whole-heartedly the entire time. (She had acknowledged by telling me a few years back that she was lucky to have me). In June 2013 she wanted to end our relationship (not that she has someone else, nor had I cheated on her) due to us growing apart due to her insecurity. Her reason for splitting up was "irreconcilable differences." Years ago I had been reminding her that all relationships involve "give and take," not just one-sided. I practiced what I had been telling her: "She is No. 1 in my life and all others do not matter as much." She was the opposite. She cares what others think and as a result, she would bend over backwards to please and make people love her. To balance her life, I was taken for granted and my feelings meant little to her.
We now have been separated for almost a year. (I moved to a different state.) She has been acting a lot warmer and more caring. The truth is she is really a good person, kind-hearted in many ways and deep inside I still love her a great deal. Right after [she sent me a card], I emailed her a heartfelt (and a little hard-nosed) letter. I told her it wasn't the "irreconcilable differences" that drove us apart; it was her unwillingness to work on the difference (unwilling to give and take). Her insecurity has gotten the best of her. I also admitted to her that I was mostly to blame for loving and spoiling her too much, by letting her slide all the time. However, I said I would someday be in another relationship but whoever it would be, her included, has to have a commitment for give-and-take and it has to be two-sided love because I am worthy of love.
What is your take on my situation, and do you think an insecure person can change? And if she wants to give us a second try and is willing to try to change, how should I react and how can I help her change? - J
Dear J: Let's start with the good news. You recognize that your ex is good person who is capable of being kind-hearted, and that part of you still loves her very much. While you were together, she acknowledged that she was lucky to have you -- frankly, we should all say that to our partners, all the time.
The question is: Do you think you were lucky to have her -- and if so, did you ever tell her that? By your telling, you have patiently loved and cherished your ex, and she took you for granted and gave little in return. If that is true, then I'm not sure why you'd want to take her back.
But since you're considering the idea, I think you need to ask yourself if it's really true that all of your relationship's problems began and ended with her? Is it really true that you have been perfect and have never done anything that might compromise it (like, say, acting a bit superior at times)? Your contention that your only mistake was loving her and spoiling her too much does not count as taking blame. That is akin to those bogus apologies ("I'm sorry you feel that way") and baloney answers to job-interview questions ("I guess my worst quality is that I care too much about work"). It's not taking responsibility; it's finding another way to bolster your position.
You can't have a happy relationship if one of you is the "good one" and one of you is the "bad one." If she truly offered you nothing while you gave and gave and gave, then it seems doubtful that she'd change. But if you can work together and discuss the ways that you both need to adjust your behavior and attitudes, then I think you have a shot. But that means that you need to a) recognize what she has offered the relationship and b) admit that you have your own stuff to work on. As you say, it's a two-way street.
Different people have different needs. Some people can get all of their emotional sustenance from their romantic partnerships and don't need to spend time with other people. Others need a wider social circle. Neither of these things is right or wrong -- both temperaments should be respected. Your partner is entitled to have a life outside of your relationship -- provided she doesn't date or flirt excessively with other people, of course.
If you do get back together, she needs to find a way to make you feel loved and not neglected. And you need to find a way to give her not just love, but also respect, appreciation, and the space she needs.
Here's the main question: Does she love you the way that you need to be loved? If your gut instinct says no, that doesn't make her a bad person, but it does mean you should probably hold out for the woman who does.
This post first appeared on eHarmony.com.