-- Question for John --
I had a some-what mutual breakup with my girlfriend. For five years we were together; a rocky relationship to say the least. We were in one of those relationships where you breakup and get back together over and over again. Most of the time I would be the one to leave because the arguments were just too heated, and she was just so stubborn.
Well now she’s dating someone new, for about 2 months now, and its driving me crazy. I’m incredibly jealous. I’ve managed to stop calling for about 2 weeks now, but every time we see each other out, she tells me she still loves me and that she misses me. But she won’t take me back. I know its over, but why does she continue to look at me like she still loves me? Why does she torture me by calling me once every few weeks? Is she trying to control me. I find it impossible to move on! I guess my question is, what do I do? Avoid her completely, don’t talk to her, block her phone calls, what? I miss her terribly and would do anything to get her back.
-- Answer from John --
It’s pretty simple, actually. I’ll bet she still does love you. And you still love her. That never changed. The only thing that changed is that because the two of you fought so much, it became too painful to stay together anymore — and it because very difficult to see that love in a positive light, as something that would bring anything other than more pain.
This is why we say “love is not enough” to succeed in a longterm relationship. It takes one other thing: skill.
Breakups are incredibly painful — especially between two people who really do love each other. Many couples who break up to get away from the pain do find some temporary relief. They may even latch onto another person to try to take their minds off the heartsickness of breaking up. But then regret will often set in — regret that they never were able to solve whatever had been getting in the way with the person they truly loved.
Research now shows that most couples have about the same amount of conflictual issues to resolve. So people don’t break up merely because they have too many issues to handle. And, as we’ve found, people don’t break up because they do not love each other. So what is the difference between those who stay the course and couples who split up?
The diffence between couples who make it longterm and those that break up or divorce is this. Simply put, couples with staying power have developed better strategies for working through their issues. They don’t let things get to the point of endless fighting, emotional reactions, and destructive communication.
Most people have to learn such better strategies — because, unfortunately, in our society and in our times, we have little exposure to skillful communication around heated issues. We simply have not seen much of it. And as humans, we learn by modeling others.
Fortunately in the last decade there is more and more information available to people who do want to upgrade their skill set in communicating and dealing with difficult emotions.
So many couples suffer from the heartbreaking splits that you have. Love was there. And may well still be there. It just got hidden by the pain of not resolving issues and the fights and destructive communication. Relationships simply cannot stand a high degree of ongoing negativity. It literally hides the love and positive regard. Ultimately people get so caught up in the negativity and pain, that the only way out they see is to split up.
This does not have to be the case. Obviously as relationship coaches we do not believe you are stuck with such limitations. You can learn new skills and strategies if you are willing to engage in the learning process. Our work is about teaching those skills and strategies, and sharing this information with others. We had to learn them in our 30’s and 40’s in order to finally create a lasting relationship with someone we loved — each other. If we could learn them, then so can you. In fact, you can learn them now.
What you need now more than anything is to extend your real-life education into expanding your communication skills and methods for dealing with difficult feelings. This more than anything will improve your chances to beat the odds in your next relationship. You will have another relationship. You do want it to turn out differently. Right?
And, by the way, if your ex sees that you are dedicaed to self-improvement — and she directly experiences the changes in your communication patterns and how you deal with your own difficult feelings — there is a rather high probability that she may become radically reattracted to you — and you could be in for an amazingly pleasant surprise. But you cannot let that be your motivation for this learning project. It is about changing your life. It has to come from your own resolve to change — and for that reason alone.