Too late?

I moved away from my true love to be with another and now I regret it. Can I go back?

By Cary Tennis
January 6, 2004 1:56AM (UTC)
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Dear Cary,

During my senior year of college, soon after a bad breakup, I started dating a freshman girl. I never thought we had much in common, but we became friends and then fell in love. Over the next two years, as we got closer, we talked about moving in together and getting married after she finished her degree. I always loved her, but after a while I began doubting the relationship. I became scared. Was she the best I could do? Was our relationship giving me everything that I needed? I also felt very guilty because she had no such doubts. She knew I was the one she wanted, and I never questioned that for a second. I wondered what was wrong with me for having my own doubts.


After three years, we broke up and I met someone over the Internet. The new girl lived on the other side of the country, and she badly wanted me to move out there and live with her. At the time I hated my job and didn't like where my life was going, and I thought that I had a great chance for a fresh start. So I moved out last September and have lived with her since.

I've since felt more and more that I was a total idiot for leaving. I know I broke my former girlfriend's heart, and it's racking me every day. I'm also realizing how much I took for granted from her, and how much I loved (still love) her. I have no more doubts now about her, or what I want with her. I want to be with her for the rest of my life.

I know I've acted selfishly, and I don't think I deserve her now after pushing her away. In addition, I'm still in the relationship with the girl here. I don't see any way out of this situation without hurting more people, and I don't want to be the selfish bastard again. What should I do?


Blunderer Out West

Dear Blunderer,

What you should do is take some days off. Book a hotel room near the ocean by yourself and walk along the beach. Drop out of sight for a few days. You've got to clear your head. You've got to extricate yourself -- not just physically but mentally, emotionally.


You've been in a long series of relationships without much time between them to reflect. It's possible you've started to develop habits of relating to women that aren't really genuine, that are more about being a boyfriend than being a man. You have to stop the cycle so you can focus.

Try not to think, right away, about what you're doing to these women. Sure, that's a problem, but the main problem is that you have been lured this way and that without fully understanding what you intend to do, or why. That's not necessarily bad; it's OK to drift a little. But if you're talking about once more making a big, dramatic commitment, you need to change your methods. Otherwise, you may be doing the same thing over again: thinking this woman is the one, then feeling kind of doubtful, then seeing some woman who looks better and moving to Belgium with her.


You sound like one of these guys that women love so much that they don't really notice how much you love them. They take you on, no questions asked, because you're some kind of catch. Are you very good-looking? Could that have something to do with it? Perhaps you are extraordinarily talented in love, and are kind and funny and all the things that women say they like. If you're that kind of person, you may have been swept along by a tide of adoring women for your whole adolescence and young adulthood. If so, you have not always had to choose; your choosing has been done for you.

Now it sounds like you are finally starting to make some choices for yourself, and you're seeing how much trouble it is; having too many women is a consequence of letting them choose you instead of you choosing them. Keep in mind, I'm going out on a limb here, because, face it, I don't really know you, but professionally speaking, I have to take a stab at it, right? And the general trend that I pick up is that you have not established yourself independently as a man, unattached, self-reliant. You've always been with a woman. So I think you should be a bachelor for a while. Live, as it were, ascetically. Remove yourself from this world and shrink back into your natural shape. Stop being a lover. Be just a guy. I think it will help you. I think it will quiet your heart.

Get yourself a place you can afford by yourself. Get settled down. Buy towels and dishes. Get a dinner table. Get lamps and silverware. Live moderately, and follow a routine.


If, after doing this for a few months, you are still serious about trying to win back your old girlfriend, OK. But you don't want to be bouncing from one woman to the next anymore.

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Cary Tennis

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