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Dear Mary: We split up, but I was wrong and now I want him back

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Illustration: Tom Halliday

Illustration: Tom Halliday

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My ex-boyfriend and I were together almost seven years before I broke up with him around this time last year. The relationship was honestly pretty amazing. We were devoted to each other, best friends and in all our time together, we never once went to sleep on an argument. I was moving abroad for further study and the plan was always to continue the relationship.

Three weeks before I was due to leave, I think I freaked out, as there had been a lot of talk of engagement rings both from him and from others who knew us. With all the other upheaval in my life I just felt a bit trapped by the pressure to fully commit. So basically on a whim, I broke it off. He was devastated and both our families were very surprised. I honestly felt numb for four to five months but told friends I missed him (which I did) and that I was sure we would talk at Christmas break. By then I learned he was with someone else whom he had met three months after our break up and they had already moved in together.

I wrote him a letter asking to get back together and we met for lunch, but he said he had "moved on romantically". I sensed - understandably - he still felt a lot of anger towards me. I feel a lot of anger towards myself. I think about him every day, and while other great guys ask me out and pay me attention, I just can't move on. In the last almost eight years, I never seriously thought we wouldn't be together for the rest of our lives. I'm at a very low point.

We are now in the same country again due to Covid-19. How can I show him how sorry I am, and do you think there is a chance I can win him back or am I being delusional at this point?

Mary replies: It was a very strange action by you to end what had been an extremely good and satisfying relationship. I would have thought that, in the face of upcoming upheaval and unknowns in your life, you would have happily accepted his proposal and then gone to another country feeling secure and loved in your personal life. Instead you cut him out of your life and went abroad, whereupon you began to wonder if it had been a huge mistake.

You know yourself better than anyone else knows you, and you know what sort of template you saw in your own family as to how intimate emotional relationships work. Something caused you to shy away from the possibility of total commitment, like a racehorse pulling up short at the last fence even though he has been jumping really well until then. It may be that you need some professional help in understanding all of this, because if you don't understand why you did it, then you may do it again in the future.

Now there are not just the two of you any more, another girl has stepped into your place and she deserves her shot at happiness just as you do. No doubt she helped him get over his broken heart - seven years is a very long time to be in a relationship - and she must have done a pretty good job of it if they moved in together so quickly. I wouldn't advise anybody to move in together after three months because you cannot get to know somebody really well in that short space of time. However, it seems to have worked for them and he has moved on with his life. But even if he hadn't found somebody else, he would be very slow to give you another chance because his trust in you was broken. He may also feel very bitter towards you.

The fact that you are now both in the same country makes it even harder for you because you are probably reminded of places you went together and friends you shared. He knows that you feel that you made a mistake, and that you would like to get back together, but he told you that was not possible. If you want to give it one last shot, and you feel that you have to, then write to him telling him how sorry you are for what you did and how much you now regret it. Ask for another meeting. But you will have to be prepared for another refusal, and your pride and dignity will take a big hit.

You mention other guys who have expressed an interest in you. Why not look forward, instead of back, and date some of them? Just look on it as dating, not trying to find love, and take it slowly, one date at a time. And try to wean yourself off of thinking about your ex every day. That is achieving nothing and only serving to make you sad. Try limiting yourself to two days a week to begin with, at a certain time. If you find yourself reminiscing then tell yourself that you will hold that thought until your allotted time. Then slowly cut it down. I promise you it will get easier.

Most people have a 'what if' in their lives and yours is particularly poignant. But you chose a particular path and, unless he agrees to give it another shot, which is unlikely, you will have to continue on that path. And who knows - there may be something great ahead. I hope so.

You can contact Mary O'Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie Alternatively, write to Mary O'Conor, c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence.

Mary O'Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately

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