“I can’t stop feeling guilty for breaking up with him”

I was with my ex-boyfriend for 5 years (from 18 to 23). I met him while studying abroad, far from home. It was a good, happy relationship for the first 3 years. We lived together, we planned our life together, I was convinced we were going to marry and all that good stuff.

Things became difficult because he was a heavy weed smoker. Because of that, so was I eventually, but I didn’t blame him for that. Life was really not rosy … we had no money, he had no stable job, he kept changing them and quitting and stuff (I had 3 and that kept us going). We were both pursuing careers in creative fields, but neither of us had much luck with that. I really disliked the country we were living at (his home country) and was always from the very beginning very vocal about it. His answer always was — yes, I agree, we should move, I want to leave, too.

This went on for two years, but nothing changed. Eventually, in desperation I stopped waiting for him, found a university I wanted to apply to in Germany, started learning the language, and informed him of what I was doing. He didn’t try to stop me, but wasn’t too encouraging either, just a “yeah do what you want” kinda attitude.

But I still loved him with all my heart even then, and also felt loved by him — never was neglected or abused. There was just this crushing apathy about him that hurt me the most. In a year’s time, I found out I was accepted and realised I was going to have to move. I was delighted. I burst into tears, realising I could actually escape the life that was leading nowhere, working shitty miserable jobs just to survive.

His reaction, however, was unexpected: He was terrified and panicked. How can he move to a different country, he doesn’t know the language! What will he do there? I will study, but what will he do? And to top it all off, he told me I couldn’t just drop this on him so suddenly! I’d been telling him I wanted to move for 3 years, and that I applied to universities a year in advance. THAT hurt. And stuff did go sour then. We both became very hurt and scared for what was gonna happen to our relationship. However, we both loved each other, had a connection, and wanted to make it work.

So we tried. I moved on my own, with no help from him. I found an apartment, bought furniture, sorted out all the bills and legal matters. It wasn’t easy to be on my own after 5 years of having back up. And to top it all off, he called me to say he was diagnosed with severe clinical depression, and me leaving made it even worse.

Over the next few months, we talked on Skype almost every day. I’d started uni, and it was amazing. But we fought A LOT. He really was angry and bitter that I “left him all alone” (at this point, he had moved back to his parents home). I felt terrible, because he really really was depressed BIG time. He was a hollow shell of a man I fell in love with those 5 years ago.

He came to visit, and it was nice. We missed each other and had an amazing week together. We did this few times. And then half a year into a long-distance thing, he proposed. I’d been waiting for this moment for 5 years. And here it was, the ring I wanted so much.

I said yes. His plan was to come and live with me. But he still hadn’t even started to learn the language. What was he going to do when he came? He didn’t want to study and had no plan for work. He just wanted to be with me.

So he came. Three very miserable weeks later, I realised if I wasn’t “happier,” I was certainly more sane, productive, stable, and more focused without him. I told him so, followed by the suggestion that we should break up. That wasn’t easy for either of us, but I felt indescribable relief when everything was said and done. So that was that.

Let’s fast forward a year. I finished my first year of uni and was  happier than I had been in years. I was doing really well and felt unbeatable. The beginning of my second year, I met a man — let’s call him Dave. We clicked so perfectly, that in a matter of days, we became a “thing”. And damn is he perfect. Gorgeous, tall, fit, funny, smart (PhD!), and he loves me in a way I thought was only possible in romance novels.

I love him in a very real sense, we talk about marriage and our future together. But … I would not be writing this if not for one “but” …

As soon as I started seeing Dave, I started dreaming of my ex. Again and again. Almost every night. The dreams are never good. But he is always there. Sometimes I talk to him, sometimes i “run” from him … but the dreams are always always filled with guilt and pain and fear.

And because of the dreams, I started to think of him again during the day, too. I know I feel guilty about dumping him. It was a selfish decision. I dumped him because he was dragging me down, big time, he was making me depressed, he was making me feel guilty, he was making me feel like I was the villain.

I was fine. Why why does it all have to come back now? And how do I stop it? I really want to move on. I want to forget and convince myself that I am not responsible for my ex’s decision anymore. It’s been over a year-and-a-half since we broke up. Why can’t I get rid of these feelings of guilt? I feel like I am being unfair and dishonest to Dave, because I can’t stop thinking of my ex, even though Dave truly deserves all of my love and heart. Only after meeting Dave have I realised what it feels like to be in a “healthy” relationship.

3 thoughts on ““I can’t stop feeling guilty for breaking up with him”

  1. Anonymous says:

    You worked so hard and he didn’t.

    He only worked to keep you (giving you the ring, visiting, etc) when he realized that you had grown up. He hasn’t grown up yet. You need to allow yourself to get angry and that might take some counseling.

    You are NOT responsible for his mental health. He is a grown man acting like a child.

  2. Dennis Hong says:

    You’re reminiscing about the past, and when you do so, it’s common to fixate only on the fond memories and forget the painful ones. Remember that you were NOT happy with you, and you broke up for a reason:


    Either way, it’s natural to want to compare current relationships to past ones. But that’s why it’s important to remember that your memories of your past relationship are going to be optimistically biased.

    I’d say to give yourself time to process these feelings of reminiscence, and stay focused on who you have right now, and how he makes you feel.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You shouldn’t feel guilty for leaving behind a man that was dragging you down. If you are happy with this new guy, then that’s all you need to focus on. Time will heal your feelings about your ex, just be patient because I’m sure this new guy will make you forget all about him.

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