Was breaking up with my long-term boyfriend a mistake?

Tell Me About It: My decision to break up our relationship has caused me and him immeasurable losses

PROBLEM: I broke up with my long-term boyfriend 1½ years ago. I gave it a lot of time and thought before I came to my decision, as I felt uncertain about us having a future together, raising kids together, and so on.

Shortly after, within a couple of months, Covid happened and my plans for everything changed. I returned to live with my parents as my ex had already moved back in with his parents when our break-up happened and I could not manage living by myself in lockdown and working from home, it all became unbearable.

Over this past couple of months, I have started to feel that I’ve made a mistake; it seems that my decision to break up our relationship has caused me and him immeasurable losses. I was unable to form any relationship during lockdown, and living with my parents back in my own bedroom has made me feel my life has gone backwards and not forwards. It couldn’t be more different from what I had planned.

Furthermore, I am now nearly two years older and that makes things look different for me as well. I know my ex is still single and now I feel really drawn to contacting him with a view to checking things out between us, and coming clean with him about all my regrets, but I’m confused and torn at this point.

To make things worse just now I’ve been put on a three-day week and I’m really not sure if my job is going to come back to full-time, post-Covid, whenever that is, so I’m still living with my parents.

I really find it hard to see anything clearly.

ADVICE: You have a responsibility to your ex. It was a long-term relationship and you broke it up for what were valid reasons at the time. If you are to go back to him now, fairness would dictate that you would be fully committed to him and not put him through the same process again. The difficulty with this is that you are in a very tough place at the moment and making life decisions from here might not be the best option for you (or for him). It is true that some relationships rekindle after a time apart and become the life-long, strong bonding that many seek, but for this to be a possibility you must approach your ex with respect and kindness and in the full acceptance that such a rekindling may not come to pass.

Your confidence has been challenged through the new restriction on your job, and the impact of regressing to living at home with your parents for a much longer time than was expected, so any decisions you make now may be based on fear and panic as the clarity required to map out your future is not there right now. You could start with this: how can you grow faith in yourself and in your decision-making?

You are on a three-day week so it might be a good time to enrol on a part-time education course so you can feel you are progressing your career options. This will also open up new avenues of connection for you and perhaps meet some of your need for feeling valued.

If you have no idea of what course to choose, you might invest in a couple of sessions with a career guidance adviser and this too would increase your confidence as you practise faith in your future. When your world has opened up a little, you might have the opportunity to move out of home. Could you ask your parents for a short-term loan to help set this up?

Such a move will help you to again become an independent adult and thus support your emotional and psychological development. When you feel grounded and settled, then you can ask your ex for a serious conversation as you will not be contacting him as a way out of your current malaise.

It sounds as though you know something of your ex’s current life, as you know he is single, and I wonder if you could reflect on this interest in him? Are you keeping tabs on him out of boredom or is it because of genuine longing and interest? You say that you questioned his possible parenting and long-term relationship ability and, if this is true, you and he need to have some in-depth conversations about the topic, should you get back together.

Love is supposed to stretch us and make us better versions of ourselves, but we cannot demand that someone fits our version of a partner; they have to choose that for themselves. If you cannot accept your ex as the person you will love and support for your life, then you may be offering him a life of measurement and correction which will have a huge negative impact on the relationship.

You also need to respect and honour your own (careful) decision-making in the past and, before you second-guess yourself, give yourself time to recover your confidence before taking action.

This means tolerating the uncertainty and vulnerability you feel at the moment, but know that this is a feeling shared by many in society and one you will overcome with the whole community as we rise out of the impact of Covid.