Ask Dr. NerdLove: Is it Time to Leave?

Hey Doc,

I’m a big fan of your website. I found it after doing some googling to help make a decision and help my mental state of being with my relationship of over two and a half years. I’m a young, 24 year old guy who is struggling with the decision to break up with my girlfriend or not. I’ve made a pro con list, I’ve talked to friends and family, and I still can’t come up with a conclusion. A little back story on me, my relationship, and her:

We’ve been dating for two and a half years and met through some friends in college during the fall of our senior year. When I first met her, she was just getting over a devastating relationship with a boyfriend who had cheated on her, abused her (mentally physically and emotionally) and was an all around bad dude. The first few months are rocky and she pushed me away due to her natural fears of getting in a relationship, and used the space to hookup with other guys, have fun, and find herself. I did the same, but only after being extremely hurt by this decision from her. Fast forward to early spring, she comes around and realizes that I am a good guy. Apologizes for it all and blames her fears and past. I accept this and we decide to try out the relationship, regardless of our post-grad plans (she moved to Boston to go to law school, I stayed in CT).

After a few months, she expected me to move to Boston because she wanted to be there for school. I did not want to move there, but I looked for jobs regardless and she was not happy when I couldn’t find any. She asked me to commute to Boston while working my job in CT (a 1.5-2 hour commute each way) and finally asked me to just move there without a job, which I refused. This was the start of where things got rocky.

Ever since then, about a year ago, she has been picking fights with me about things she is insecure about, most likely stemming from her previous relationships. She has a lot of trouble moving on from past problems. She brings old things up a lot. I have comforted her and limited what I tolerate, as I don’t believe it’s healthy to allow insecurities to get worse. This is my first relationship, and I am a fairly confident man with a lot going for him and come from an old-school family of values and traditions. I’ve never brought a girl home before her, because I am pretty picky and do not commit to relationships unless I am serious.

That being said, I’m tired of everything going on. She has asked me to choose her over my morals and beliefs, saying she should be worth the sacrifice. My friends and brothers have gotten upset at hearing the things she says to me and for being with her because she picks fights all the time. Not to mention, she takes up a lot of my time. I have visited her every weekend I can and put tons of miles on my car, missed family events and things I want to go to so I can be with her. She tells me every day she loves me and appreciates me and the things I do for her. She constantly reassures me we’re a team. She writes me notes, calls me several times a day, texts all day and night. She would never cheat on me or abuse me. She treats my family so well, constantly bakes for them and checks up on them. But I’m exhausted from the constant fights over and over about BS. I don’t hang with other women at all, I don’t go out to bars, I don’t look at other women online, etc. I find myself skipping out on things I would normally do with friends or family so I can be with her on the weekend.

My conscience is clear. We have said about a dozen times that we’re going to change and communicate better, not yell, etc. And we end up continuing to argue about the same old things she is upset about. I’ve made some changes but they aren’t helping. Sometimes, she can even talk to me like shes my mom and try to tell me what to do. I don’t know if its her natural instinct as the men in her life are a little empty-headed (to put it politely). I care about her, but I am so hurt and exhausted to the point that I am falling out of love with someone I have devoted so much to. Do I go on? Or throw in the towel? The decision is ultimately my own, but I do not want to let this drag out any longer and would like to act urgently.

Eyeing The Door

I get a lot of letters from folks who don’t actually have questions. What they’re actually doing is asking me for permission for what they already want to do. They just can’t, for many reasons, bring themselves to pull the trigger themselves, so they need someone else to tell them that it’s ok to do the thing.

And I’m getting the impression that this is what you’re looking for, ETD. You can list the pros all you want, but there’s no amount of texting, love notes and baking that one can do that’s going to make up for constant fights and unreasonable demands. Demanding that you move, getting upset when you can’t find a job and then demanding you make a long and expensive commute instead are all examples of someone being unreasonable. These are times when you compromise – two hours isn’t far for a long-distance relationship, for example – instead of sticking to your guns and insisting that someone uproot their life and throwing things into chaos. Similarly, demanding that you give up family events for her – you WILL visit every weekend, no exceptions – and not allowing for you to have your own life is equally unreasonable.

While it’s a shame that she’s been hurt before and has her insecurities… that’s a her problem, not a you problem. It’d be one thing if it was just one thing that you do that occasionally triggers something… well, then you can learn to avoid doing that one thing. But when it’s a neverending series of insecurities that she needs you to manage for her? That’s when you’re well past the point of “I have some scars from previous relationships and I could occasionally use some reassurance” and well into “You will conform your entire life around not upsetting me.”

It’s time for you to face the truth ETD: this relationship is already over. You’re having the same fights, making the same resolutions and nothing is changing. That’s one of the surest signs that things have ended, and all that’s left is the animated husk of a relationship. You know this. You’ve already come to this conclusion. The only question now is whether you’re going to end it now or wait until this relationship has ground away whatever joy and affection you have for her and left you with nothing but bitterness and resentment.

And honestly? You don’t need that pro/con list, you don’t need to list her sins or the disagreements you’ve had or why. All you need to end a relationship is the desire to end it. If you’ve decided that you need to leave, then you have all the reason you need to leave. And I think you already have.

Do what you need to do, ETD. End things, quickly and cleanly and firmly. You’ll be far happier once you have.

Good luck.

Hi Doc!

I was in a long distance relationship with a girl who I sort-of grew up with (I live abroad, but visit during school breaks). Eventually, after about half a year of being in a relationship, she broke it off. This hurt me a lot; she was my first ever crush, love, etc. Now, almost two years later, I am still not over her. Despite not talking to her for over a year, I think about her daily.

I finish (high) school soon, and will be moving back to my home country by the end of the year. Our families are VERY close, so here is my dilemma: I cannot avoid seeing her unless I avoid my family. I don’t mean that with any anger towards anyone, that’s just how the situation is. So, the way I see it, I need to find some way of getting over her that isn’t just to cut her out. However, I have tried a lot of things and nothing has changed. I’ve gone through trying to hate her, ignore her, be friends, etc, but my romantic love for her doesn’t dwindle.

I have no clue what I can do to remedy my situation. I am exhausted by the pain this causes me, and fear how much worse it will be when I live closer. I feel the best way to describe my thoughts is as if we are still in a relationship, and I never got the memo that it’s over (albeit with more obsessive behaviour than a relationship should have).

Stuck In Limbo

It sounds to me like you’ve done everything except actually move on, SIL. Almost everything you’ve done has been focused on her, specifically, rather than on yourself. You’ve made her the center of everything you do, whether it’s trying to force yourself to hate her or ignore her or try to form a friendship. But what you haven’t done is focus on you.

The difference here is significant. The more you put your energy on doing something about her, the more of your bandwidth devote to her. It doesn’t matter whether you’re thinking about how much you “hate” her or how much you’re consciously NOT thinking about her… you’re still letting her occupy your mind 24/7. Small wonder that you couldn’t get over her; she’s been dominating so much of your time that I’d be amazed that you had time to think about other things.

One of the reasons why I advocate what I call The Nuclear Option – blocking them on social media, deleting their texts, putting away all of the letters, emails and photos and otherwise cutting them out of your life – is because you need time to not think about them. You need time to get distance and perspective and let yourself heal… none of which can happen when you have all of these reminders surrounding you and the temptation to keep checking on her. You need to let yourself have time without her – time to rediscover who you are when you’re not The Guy Who Got His Heart Broken, time to remind yourself that there are millions of amazing women out there who aren’t her and that you have a life and a future that doesn’t revolve around her or the relationship you used to have.

It’s also one of the reasons why people say “the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else”. It’s a crude saying, but reminding yourself that there are other people out there that you find attractive and find you attractive is a great way of realizing that your ex isn’t the ONLY woman in the world. It lets you realize that she wasn’t your last chance for love, that you will find other people who you will care for just as much as you cared for her… and it distracts you from thinking about her 24/7.

Unfortunately, it’s a little harder to do this when you know you’re going to be up in each other’s space. So right now the best thing you can do? Talk to your folks. Let them know that you’re still stinging after the break-up and, if at all possible, you could use a little breather from her. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to avoid her completely… but getting some advance warning that she may be around can give you the chance to make alternate plans or otherwise get some time and relative dimensions in space away. Getting that time where she’s not omnipresent is going to be important… even if she’s literally the girl next door.

You need to focus on you for a bit, instead of her. The more you can reclaim your life and realize that you will be ok and move on, the easier it’ll be. And then maybe you’ll be able to come back around and have a new and different relationship with her. One that isn’t predicated on the one you used to have.

Good luck.

This post was previously published on and is republished here with permission from the author.


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