I’m an 18 year old girl and I just went through my first heartbreak, with my first love and my first relationship. Needless to say, my heart is shattered (three months after the breakup). Pathetically enough, I have hope and want him back more than I can explain. How do I win my ex back?
My boyfriend of two years broke up with me my first week of college. Our relationship was very strong and passionate, and I lost my virginity to him this past July. The breakup blindsided me, and at first I believed it was because I was at college and he was still in high school. He broke up with me over a text. I went home for the weekend to talk to him about it and we got back together and had sex that weekend. When I got back to school, things felt very normal. Three days after we got back together he broke up with me again over text.
After he broke up with me, he constantly called me crying saying he missed me. He began texting me, started liking all my Instagram pictures, and asking my friends about me. When he reached out to me I didn’t ignore him, until I found out he was already with another girl while he was still trying to talk to me. That’s when I cut contact.
We haven’t talked in about two months, he deleted all his pictures on Instagram, and I unfollowed him and all his friends on social media. On Facebook it still says we are in a relationship. He didn’t change that.
His mom constantly reached out to me until my mom called her out and said she was making the process of moving on a lot harder. We haven’t spoken in about a month.
Now this is the strange part… yesterday his sister Snapchatted me, his mom commented “miss you” on my Facebook album, his best friend (whom I never speak to) tried to FaceTime me, and then he texted me. All in the same day.
He sent me a photo of myself and his little brother and said he happened to come across it on his phone and thought I might want it. Now, we have an iCloud photo album that is shared on both of our phones that have every picture we have ever taken, whether we are in it or not. He knew that photo was on our album, which is why I was so confused. I asked him if I should delete our iCloud album and he said “no please don’t, it’s okay.” I didn’t reply. He also told me to never throw away anything from our relationship and to keep everything.
I don’t understand why all those people connected to him, including him personally, reached out to me that day. Now might I add, he is a pathological liar so it’s difficult to make sense of the things he says. While we were dating, there was an incident where he told my family and myself an intricate tale about how his real name is Xavier (a name not even close to his real one). He said he was given the name of a child his mother miscarried. Come to find out, that was a total lie. I talked to his mother about it and she showed me his birth certificate. The strangest thing though is she didn’t even seem phased about the way her son lied. Now that’s just one example of the way he lied. I could go on for days.
On the other hand, there is this girl that he was seeing behind my back the summer before college. I think this is the reason we broke up, so he could explore his feelings for her. This girl also has sex with anything that walks and that was what she was known for in high school. He is more of a passionate person, so it made no sense that he would run to a person like that after being with me. I focused on his happiness more so than I did mine, which is why I’m feeling so low about myself lately. He seems to either be enjoying the attention or striving to be in a relationship with her, I really cannot tell.
I just want to know, while he seems to be with another girl, is there any chance for us? Maybe you can make sense of the situation better than I can, because my mind is in a million different places and I don’t know if I should give up hope. Does he miss me? Is that why he texted me? What was the purpose of him reaching out? I love him with all of my heart and we were so perfect for one another. While now I think he broke up with me to explore relationships with other people, I still love him and want to be with him. Is there any hope left?
First Time Lover
Dear First Time Lover,
It took me until I was 28, that’s ten years from where you are today, to really see what was so good about me at 18. So respectable. I can picture where I was exactly when I had this sobering confrontation with myself. It was 4am. I was in bed—on top of the sheets, not under them—doing what comes easiest to me: being an absolute insomniac.
Some days the consequences of this are torturous but that night is an example of why I stay up just waiting, just willing myself into nights like those. Confrontations like those.
That night it struck me that the difference between my relationships at 28 and 18 was that at 18 I was stronger. I didn’t fool myself and I didn’t let a single man fool me. If he raised his voice, I was gone. It wasn’t a matter of when, it was a matter of now. If I had some sixth sense that he was lying, I sat him down until he looked me in the eyes with truth. If he looked away, I left.
I didn’t stay because a year of my life had already been invested in him, even if it had. I treated men like I treated the city I was living in, like the college I was attending and the education I was receiving there. If it didn’t light me up, I moved on. If I wasn’t growing, I dreamed bigger and chose what would be hard.
- New cities were hard.
- Beginnings were hard.
- Singleness can be hard.
But my gut feeling always was that what’s hard, would be good for me. It would always be better.
Even if I couldn’t feel it right away, hard would always be better than easy.
- Better than convenient.
- Better than lackluster.
- Better than bored.
- Better than betrayal.
Always better than me taking refuge in my own trepidation.
Because the moment you start taking refuge there is the very moment you begin training yourself to stay, to make not enough alright, to see the trap as desirable, normal or, worst of all, inevitable—when it doesn’t need to be.
How does this begin?
How does a mindset of smallness hijack the impact we have over our lives?
Well, it starts with staying in something that’s half-assed just because. Just because in surface conversation it sounds magical that your first boyfriend was the man who could give you forever. It sounds magical that you never had to date around.
A life of smallness, a love of smallness, a smaller you starts this way.
It starts with the cycle of recommitting yourself to someone who has let you down. Repeatedly. It starts with allowing the letdown to be alright. It starts with you normalizing it.
Smallness becomes us because we make allowances for people. We create excuses for them. We reason away their lies and wrap our arms tight around their squirmy little chest until we can’t make out a liar’s heartbeat from our own.
Because when you lie to yourself once, you create an opening to lie to yourself forever.
I’m warning you, that opening can become, very quickly, a hard wound to pack.
Do you know how many of us lie about the quality of our love?
Do you know how many of us think our way into love more than we feel our way in?
At 28, I knew for sure that I had spent the last decade putting my hours into becoming a pro at that, so many hours lying to myself about my own feelings and drawing relationships out and forcing happiness into my love. Heck, at 28, I looked back and saw that for so much of my twenties I was just forcing love in general. I was always forcing myself to be in love but I wasn’t in love, I was just sticking around, waiting for it to finally come take over my heart. And I was ashamed of that. I was ashamed of the insincerity that had become natural to my heart.
Let me tell you, without absolute sincerity in love, relationships turn into something pathetic. That is what had become of so many of mine, and that night when I was finally seeing clearly, when I was finally braving the reality of my behavior in love from 18 to 28, I felt so pathetic. So mad at myself. So betrayed by myself.
You see, at 18 I wasn’t gun shy. And that wasn’t because I hadn’t had my heart broken before, it was because I hadn’t broken my own heart yet.
I was naive to all the damage we alone can cause ourselves. That was the beauty of being 18.
I trusted that I would let go before the clock ran over. And I trusted that because I had never gambled with self-betrayal.
When you start breaking up and making up though, when you start handing your heart over and then asking for it back or letting a boyfriend run off with it altogether, you are gambling with betrayal, with smallness, with the trueness of your life. And truth is what makes life real and livable and juicy and glorious. Truth is what people lean in for. It’s what makes a love story so magical.
Ask anyone what would make them happier, living alongside their first love or their true love?
My advice is let your first love be special. It is special. But don’t glorify it. Don’t insist that it’s everything, or that it be everything. Do that and you may miss all the signs that there’s more for you, that somewhere hanging out in your future is a man who doesn’t break up via text or lie about his name or lie about anything at all.
There’s magic in that idea, in the idea that after your first love, there is another. There’s magic in the idea that there may be a man for you that never once betrays your trust. If I were going to hope for anything, I would put some hope behind that.
Listen, you have a lot of questions about your ex and while I realize focusing on him can provide a sense of relief, I don’t want to indulge in it because all that relief will be is temporary. If you want help, his actions are not the ones we need to unpack.
What needs unpacking is your own betrayal. You see, you have to understand that even his betrayal starts with yours. Every betrayal begins inside you. You okay it first.
For example, your ex seeing another girl. That’s only a problem because you want to make it okay to still see him, to go back into town and make up and have sex and mistake sex for loyalty and then go back to school and stretch out your love and believe that the small lies that you saw in the beginning of your relationship will never get so big and out of hand because being with you has made him better than his lies.
Why are you taking that gamble?
Is it really for love, because you love this guy and he’s shown you that he respects himself and you and relationships enough to be dependable, or are you taking this gamble because you know how to take love back but you don’t know how to let love go?
You don’t know what happens after relationships end. You don’t know what happens to those feelings and those memories and that person. You don’t know what happens to you.
At 18, not worrying about the things I didn’t know and how finding out would affect me is what made me so strong. It’s what made my relationships honest and respectable. I wasn’t staying with a man because I knew how I felt with him and was too afraid of what I didn’t know about myself without him. I stayed because staying never felt like the wrong choice. I stayed because staying didn’t interfere with my strength.
If this relationship was right for you, if “winning” your ex back was the only possible choice, then you’d do it. You would know how to do it. You wouldn’t be writing in looking for directions. At least, I don’t think so.
I think you’re writing in because the braver and more honest side of you, as well as the side of you that’s just tired of his unpredictability, wants to know how not to do it. How not to call this relationship right. How not to call your ex the best and obvious choice for you.
I think you’re writing in because the question is, is not winning your ex back the way you win?
My answer is yes.
The way I lost out on true love for so many years of my life is I attached myself to relationships that were already over. That’s why looking back at 28, I found myself admiring who I was at 18. Because at 18, I never would have done this. Ever. And yet a decade later, that’s all I wanted for myself again. I wanted to become the girl I used to be—with that strength, that fearlessness, that self-reliance. I wanted back my boldness in love.
It was clear that leaving at the right time and letting my self-respect direct my heart was the answer to true love. It was the only way into it. And it is, it’s the only way you can honor yourself enough to savor the love you let into your life.
What happened in my twenties was I wound up afraid of what my life would turn into without a relationship. I was afraid of how I would feel once my boyfriend was gone. I was afraid of what would become of me if I was left to sit with myself, if I was all I had.
I was so afraid of that, of experiencing the extent of my own weakness.
But here’s the thing, staying in a relationship that was letting me down didn’t make me stronger. It only made my feelings of weakness stronger.
That’s why I‘m telling you, staying can be a form of self-betrayal. Because staying to avoid feeling weak is how feelings of weakness intensify, which then becomes the reason we latch on tighter to a boyfriend and why that tightness, that latching, ultimately winds up being the very thing which weakens and burns us down to our quick. And without enough courage or desperation, this miserable feedback loop can go on indefinitely.
This is what I’m warning you of.
I’m warning you that staying can turn into weakness and that weakness can become a trap and you might not even see it for what it is until one sleepless night a decade later.
Do yourself a favor, don’t miss out on a decade of true love just because you prioritized your fear by hanging on to your first relationship. Don’t wrap your hands around something you’re no longer meant to hold. Take the cues. Understand that when a man walks away, when he lies or strays or goes missing altogether, that’s the world trying to pull the plug out, that’s the world jumping up and down, shouting for your attention, saying, “On to the next act, sister. We’ve got something else in store and we need to move you along.”
Sometimes you need to just go with it. You’ve got to let up and let life happen for you.
You’ve got to lose the man to gain the love.
If you don’t want to wait until you’re 28 to get love right, that’s my advice.
My advice is you win by losing him.
PS: Is there any chance for the two of you? Of course. There’s a chance that you’ll go back home and you’ll talk things over, or not, and you’ll have sex and you’ll feel something like passion or connection or maybe you’ll feel desired and that’ll be enough to have you deciding to be together again. It’s happened before so, of course, it is possible for it to happen again. It’s also possible that you’ll receive another breakup text four days later. As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
PPS: Does he miss you? Is that why he texted you? What was the purpose of him reaching out? Yes and yes. He reached out because he missed you. His family reached out because they can tell he misses you and they’re worried about him more than they are about you. My advice is don’t overcomplicate this. In these instances, it’s smart to take things at face value. It will also relax you. One of the best things you can do for yourself is begin cultivating a mind that is free of suspicion, that doesn’t hold every word in doubt. He said he misses you. What’s the harm in believing him? Can’t a man miss you without you falling back into his arms? Let his admissions flatter you. But don’t ever let them build you up. You should be missed. But that doesn’t mean you have to also be his again. It’s not your fault that he’s made a habit out of pulling love in and pushing love out. You won’t fix that for him. You just can’t. My advice is, let him explore what he needs to explore, be it the bodies of other women or the torment that comes with missing out on you. If he misses you, let him.