Dear Take Two:
I thought I broke up with my girlfriend because my friends disapproved of her and because I didn't love her anymore, but now that we're broken up, I feel like I do love her and I'm worried the only reason I broke up with her is because of my friends' disapproval. What should I do?
Says Jacki: Bewildered, the risk here is that you miss your ex only because of the difficulty of adapting to a routine without her (rather than because you're genuinely in love with her). After you break up with someone, I think it's sometimes easier to care about them because you don't have to worry about how your relationship functions or the routine of how you two interact. Instead, you can just indulge your feelings. Maybe you only feel in love with her because you don't have to deal with a relationship with her.
That said, it sounds like you two had to cope with a crush of other people's opinions and talk. Maybe that tainted your relationship. Maybe you're now getting a sense of how you feel about her when the anxiety of social judgment is subtracted. If so, this could be an ideal moment to try having a private, secret relationship for a while, so you can figure out if you really do like her (but are just bad at dealing with the judgment of your friends), or if you don't like her (because of the way she acts and what she's interested in, not because of your friends' opinions of her).
If you do decide to get involved with her again, I'd recommend doing so in private at first. In order for that to work, you'd have to admit to her that you feel conflicted about her but you'd like to try spending time in private, not out of shame but so that you two can see what it's like to be together when there aren't so many other people's opinions floating around. She won't like hearing that, and so then it would be up to her to figure out what she's comfortable with.
Says Jill: I would like to come down hard on you for letting your friends get to you, but in reality, it's a really easy trap to fall into and happens all too often to both genders. I have seen a young man very recently avoid even starting a relationship with a woman he adores who's a little offbeat because, "What would my friends say?" You know what? Your friends aren't going to be the ones hanging out watching Duck Dynasty reruns while the one they care for is making tacos for two with a guy who had more guts. So I'd say go ahead and make a gesture and see if she's receptive. Flowers were made for this purpose, and radio dedications, but whatever you're comfortable with. And if she wasn't too damaged by the breakup, give it a second whirl. But before the second "first date," tell your buddies you don't want to hear about it, especially if they're delivering the judgmental remarks from their rump-sprung armchairs in their singles-only apartment. If this girlfriend is the kind of person who's worth a repeat role in your life, she's going to be the kind of person with the gumption to tell you this is your last chance.
Bewildered responds: I'm going to try to go out with her again without telling anybody, and I'm going to do it soon because there is no point fretting. But just so you know, I really like Duck Dynasty, so that was not a threat!
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