It’s been a few months since you totally wrecked the train your relationship was traveling on. The damage was awful, and even though you’re not still stumbling around in a daze, you are still in recovery mode.
Is it possible to pick up the pieces of a relationship after it’s been utterly destroyed?
Maybe so. Check out the note below from Eric, and see what you think…
Hi Claire, its been 4 months since my girlfriend told me to leave her alone after a huge fight and I still think about her everyday. I was drinking a lot behind her back due to stress of my dad dying of cancer during our relationship and it caused me to treat her terribly (no abuse) but just no love or compassion. So she finally had enough and left me.
I quit drinking and have really turned my life around in the last 4 months and am a totally different man with a huge heart and lots of love. So my ex never got to see the man who I really am and that is why its so hard for me to let go because in my mind I so desperately want to email her and tell her how much I’ve changed and how that was just a really bad time in my life and its now the person I really am.
What should I do? I’m really heartbroken. ~ Thanks, Eric
Hi, Eric. I’m very sorry to hear about your father. That’s a terrible thing to experience, and I imagine in a lot of ways you’re still going through it. Four months isn’t a very long time in comparison to a lifetime with a parent around. You don’t really expect to have to say your “forever” goodbye to your parents until they (and you) are old and gray.
I hope you have friends and family members you can count on for the kind of support you need as you figure out what the world looks like after your father’s death.
Hang in there, and be good to yourself. It sounds like you’ve already started that process by kicking the secret drinking habit out of your life. Good for you.
And about your ex-girlfriend…
I’m sort of wincing as I write this; what I have to say may sting, and I’m deeply aware that you have only recently been through six kinds of hell. But I will tell you the truth, and try to put it in a way you might be able to hear.
What you’re (not) saying
When I hear you talk about this, I hear you say over and over again (and I edited out several of the times where you repeated it) something that raises a small red flag: You want your ex back so that she can see “who you really are.”
I mean, I thought you were going to talk about her, and how she was the most amazing and wonderful woman you’ve ever met, how she inspires and arouses and engages you, and so on.
I thought you might talk about the two of you together, how you have so much in common and seem like the perfect match.
I kept waiting to hear another reason why you wanted her back, but it seems like you only have one reason: you need to prove to her that you’re a good guy.
Is that really a reason to have a deep, committed relationship? To prove to yourself – and maybe to her – that you’re a good guy?
Here’s what I think you should do…
It does NOT exclude the possibility of winning back your lady, but it does put the emphasis in a few other, more important places first.
1. Make sure you have continuing recovery help.
Not just with your grieving process, but also with the alcohol problem. Four months is not the “end” of either process; both the death of your father and your recovery from drinking will take a fair amount of time to process.
2. Wrench your attention away from “proving” something.
Instead, just be who you are. Stop trying to prove…
a) you’re a good person, or
b) you don’t have a drinking problem to anyone; let other people see who you are and draw their own conclusions.
3. Start dating again.
I know, you desperately want your ex back. But maybe you’re fixated on her for the wrong reasons. Try starting a few new relationships for the right reasons, and see how those go for you.
There are several advantages to dating other women right now:
- It will take your mind off your ex for a while.
- It will let you practice being the “new man” you want to be.
- It may turn up an incredible partner for your life.
4. Apologize like this.
Once your plan is well underway, you should tell your ex you’re sorry. And I mean the FULL plan, not just thinking about finding a recovery group but never actually going; not just jacking around on Match.com and calling that “dating.” Run the plan, THEN apologize like this:
Apology Part 1: You were right
Send her a brief (really short, and I mean it!) email in which you sincerely tell her that she was right, and you behaved horribly toward her. Elaborate on the “how she was right” part for a couple of lines.
Apology Part 2: I screwed up
Then acknowledge your grave mistakes in the situation. That would be how you handled things – by drinking behind her back, and otherwise not being loving or compassionate. She deserved much more than what you gave her.
Apology Part 3: I’m sorry and I lost out
Third, tell her you are deeply sorry, and that you realize what you’re missing out on by having pushed her away. Name some of those things you’re missing out on.
Apology Part 4: I want to listen
Finally, let her know that you have made some big changes in your life, and that someday you would love to simply go for a walk together and listen to how her life is going for her.
Notice that last part! It’s NOT “Let me waste hours of your time explaining, rationalizing, justifying, etc. my own actions or PROVING to you how I’m not that awful guy.”
If you do that, you are doomed. Stay the course, and you might just have a shot with her.
Follow your email with a text message a week or so later that says “Hey beautiful. Wanna take that walk?” Or something similar. Keep it a simple invitation, see what she says.