I’m going through a breakup. My relationship with R was a little over 3.5 years. It started casually and became more serious. We have broken up two times before for brief periods. We have great sex (though it went downhill slightly more recently) and we both feel better when we are together. He is 11 years younger than me. We’ve been apart for three weeks. I like that he is fun, is always learning new things, and challenges me to become better. I have cried and felt upset many times during this relationship.

My complaints are that he is selfish, controlling, and inappropriate (he said something really inappropriate more than one time about one of my family members and he said he slept with eight other people since we started seeing each other. I think when we were broken up but that still feels like a lot.) I want to be monogamous and he has told me that he doesn’t.

He likes that I am patient and help him with stuff, that I am pretty and funny, and that I challenge him to become better. His complaints of me are that I am underemployed, I didn’t spend enough time with him, and I was inconsiderate (I was often late and forget to lock the door and do other specific things he asked me to do around the house.)

He wants to have kids and I don’t. We had a fight on January 30th and he blocked me on his phone and social media. I reached out to him a couple of times via email and he got back to me this weekend. We texted today and he invited me over on Wednesday.

I made a boundary prior to the breakup that if he sleeps with anyone else we are done dating. It sounds like he has slept with someone and I would like to maintain this boundary. I have decided not to see him in person because I don’t want to sleep with him anymore and that might be hard if I go there. I also feel angry with him for sleeping around and want space from him.

I have an opportunity to speak with him on the phone soon and I would like some coaching. Based on my past experience I won’t hear from him much in the future unless I contact him but if I do contact him he will try to reconnect. I feel like it is super weird with breakups to be so close with someone and then just have them disappear out of your life. I would like to figure out some strategies to feel better and get over him. I’m open to having him out of my life but I feel pretty sad. I want to learn to choose better experiences.

T: Oh, god. We are breaking up.
F: Super sad
A: Cry, think about what is going to happen next, wonder how long I will feel bad, think about him, try not to think about him, lay in my bed and mope, get depressed and unmotivated, buffer with food and Netflix, don’t go outside or reach out to others
R: I dwell on the breakup

Here are answers to the last coaching questions:

How is what is happening perfect for you?

I was unhappy in the relationship and this is an opportunity for me to move on. I want to be in a monogamous relationship and this is much more likely to happen if I stop dating R. I don’t have to commute 1.5 hours to see him. I can see other people, or not, based on what I want. I can spend more time alone. I can spend more time with friends and family. I will have more time and I can do what I want with my time. I could decide to be thrilled that this relationship is ending because we have significant differences in what we want. He has some behaviors that I prefer not to be around and this is one sure way not to experience those behaviors in the future from him. I don’t have to feel pressure to move to Minneapolis. I can stop worrying about if he is sleeping with other people. I can stop worrying about when we are breaking up.

What are you learning about yourself in relationships?

I think being in a relationship will make me happier but that is not always the case. I have learned that I try to make relationships work even when things get hard. I feel anxiety about breakups and being abandoned or cheated on. My thoughts are what is hurting me, not this circumstance. I can decide to leave this relationship just because I want to. I don’t need a good reason. I am learning that I cannot control others and I don’t really want to. (But my brain wants to, lol.)

Imagine dropping all the rules that you currently have for yourself. How would it be possible to be in a relationship AND pursue your goals?

I think the main rule I have to drop is people-pleasing. I got far away from what I want and what I prefer. I want to practice saying no. I think I can become more emotionally balanced and have more fulfilling relationships. I have been operating from this place of a breakup or cheating being immanent for so long it’s like I’m not even afraid of it anymore but I still worry about it out of habit. I have noticed that I have a negative relationship mindset like I am always looking for problems and can’t relax.

Rules to drop:
1) If someone asks something of me I need a good reason to say no
2) I should ask other people’s opinions and need their approval
3) It is easier or more relaxing not to make decisions
4) I have to be vague and indecisive so others will like me
5) I have to make myself smaller to fit with someone else
6) It is bad to have many sexual relationships
7) A longer relationship is better than a short one
8) The other person makes the rules not me
9) I have to be vigilant so nothing goes wrong
10) If I make independent choices it probably means the end of the relationship
11) If things are hard in a relationship I have to work to make them better
12) It is possible to change and control my partner

Thank you!