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Ask A Therapist: How Do I Disengage From My Ex?

Q: I was with my ex girlfriend for a year and half.  A few months before our breakup she moved a few states away and we tried to maintain a long distance relationship.  I did not go with her, because I was nearly finished with college.  At the time it seemed like a spur of the moment decision on her part to leave the area, but she really wanted to move out.  When she was away, we talked about moving in together and other promising things about our future with one another.  Ultimately, she met someone out there and left me for him.  I was angry and upset and we talked about the situation at length. She said didn’t want to be with one person for the rest of her life.  I told her we should stop talking and said maybe we could be friends down the line.  A couple of months passed and she contacted me telling me heart felt things and insulting her own actions in regards to how we split.  I was excited to hear from her, but I told her it wasn’t a good idea for us to be talking to one another being that I still had feelings and she was still with her new boyfriend.  But, to my fault, I ended up contacted her a few times; sending casual “hi, what’s up?” emails.  She came back home to visit for two weeks and we ended up hanging out a lot.  She told me she still loved me and we were intimate and sexual with one another.  Emotionally though she seemed very back and forth about me and her current boyfriend.  Also she seemed guilty one moment for hanging out with me and then was alright about it the next.  Obviously she is confused and giving off mixed signals, and I feel like I’m being led on.  We have talked openly about the situation before but didn’t really come to a conclusion.  She told me she is uncertain if she is going to continue living there or if she is going to live back in this area.  Either way, I know this situation isn’t healthy for me and I should definitely disengage from it.  But I don’t know what I should or shouldn’t say or if I should even say anything at all and just walk away from it.  Thanks for your help.

A: Thanks for your email. Letting go of a past love relationship can be very difficult, especially when you felt a strong emotional and sexual attachment. I’m glad that you can see that holding on to this relationship isn’t good for you and that it’s time to take responsibility to change.

The underlying question for you to answer is why you are reaching out to and trying to engage in a relationship with a woman who moved away from you, found another boyfriend, clearly states that she doesn’t want to be with one person, and is willing to cheat on her current boyfriend with you. Are you afraid you won’t find someone else to love you? Are you trying to get her to choose you over her current boyfriend?

She isn’t the only one who’s confused and sending mixed signals. You have both sent mixed signals to each other. From what you’ve described, you aren’t far enough down the the road to “be friends” without becoming intimate, so I suggest that you set strong “no-contact” boundaries with your ex and stick with them. No contact means no contact. It’s time to start spending your time developing yourself and seeking a relationship with a woman who wants to be in a committed relationship with you, instead of holding on to an unhealthy past.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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