About a year ago, after nearly seven years together, and six months engaged, my fiancé broke up with me. It completely blindsided me. For the most part, we had a really great relationship. We truly loved each other and enjoyed spending time together. In hindsight, I can see that we had some communication issues, and we definitely could have been more open with each other. We also became fairly complacent; he let his work take over the majority of his free time, and I chose not to make a big deal out of it (again, communication issues). He gave very vague reasons for ending our relationship, said a lot of “I don’t know”s and basically put up a wall.
To complicate matters, he had begun struggling with anxiety for the first time about a year earlier. As someone who had always been healthy and happy, to have both of those things compromised was very difficult for him. I did my best to help him through it (I’ve struggled with my own anxiety for a long time, though admittedly not as severe), but he recently admitted that he wasn’t letting on how bad it really was.
We’d been living together for about four years, and I moved out of our home a few weeks after the break up. I cut off all communication, including social media, so I could focus on my own healing; I was heartbroken, angry, and confused. It was the most difficult time in my life. I didn’t see him until the end of May, for a mutual friend’s birthday, and then again the following weekend at that friend’s wedding—where he was a groomsman. Two weeks later our would-be wedding date passed, which I spent with my family, and I saw him again at that same friend’s house a week later. I was in a really good place at this point—not completely healed/moved on, but I had definitely turned a corner. At all these events, we did not interact; he basically avoided me. I was really surprised when, two days after that last social event, he texted me. He said that he had things he’d like to say to me, but respected if I did not want to see/talk to him.
My curiosity obviously got the best of me, so I agreed to meet up for a beer and hear him out. I was nervous, but as soon as we sat down, we began catching up and our conversation felt comfortable. Then he got to the point: he apologized (like, really apologized), said he regretted how he’d behaved, and asked if there was a possibility of ever reconciling our relationship. I was stunned. This was not what I expected to hear. Obviously, I couldn’t answer him right then, but I was open about how the last several months had been for me, and I told him I had a lot to think about. Later that week, with more questions, I texted him to meet up again. He showed a level of insight I’d never seen from him before (a sign of personal growth, I think) about what had gone wrong between us, but with hope and optimism that those things could be worked on. He told me he still loves me, but again, respects whatever choice I make.
Since then, we’ve gotten together two other times, just hanging out (no serious talks). He invited me on a weekend trip with our good friends next month. I haven’t given an answer yet. I plan to get together with him this week to ask the big questions that have been eating away at me over the past month or so: Is his intent to work toward marriage again? (Because what’s the point of dating your ex-fiancé if you’re not planning to get married?!) Is he willing to put in the hard work (including counseling, which he refused when he broke up with me) to rebuild our relationship? Is he returning because I’m truly the person he can’t imagine living life without, or is it just something familiar that he misses?
I’m doing my best to protect my heart. I cannot go through what I went through last year all over again. I still love him, we have similar values and visions for our futures, and we genuinely like each other. My friends just keep telling me that they want me to be happy, and to make whatever choice feels right to me, but I don’t know what that is. Am I making a huge mistake letting him back into my life in this way, or is it worth working toward a reconciliation?
A: Sure, why not.
Listen, loads of long-term relationships have a break-up in there somewhere, often just when marriage is looming (see: my own).
You’re asking all the right questions and looking for all the right evidence. Is he just missing the comfort of a familiar relationship? Maybe! Or, maybe he knew something was off and wanted to fix it before diving into a marriage, which is usually my advice anyway.
But he didn’t handle it well, and I can see why that would make you a little hesitant to dive back in. Vague comments about not being sure, and then just cutting and running? That’s hard to process. And more importantly, there’s no room for that in a marriage. There’ll be times again when he has his own personal mess to sort out, and he won’t be able to be like, “See ya!” to go handle it. Luckily, hopefully, it sounds like these exact communication issues are what he’s worked on. Are you willing to find out?
You’re feeling reserved and that’s only fair. If you do choose to see where this goes, your partner has to face the reality that things have changed. By ditching out without any clear explanation, he’s introduced a level a mistrust that wasn’t there before. It’s only reasonable for you to feel guarded.
Couples work through mistrust often. But it takes time. Is he willing to invest that time? Are you?