Does she need experience?
Q: I'm 19 and my boyfriend of two years, who's 22, broke up with me recently. Although I am young, I've been told I'm pretty mature for my age and am really down-to-earth. My ex-boyfriend, on the other hand, seems to think that I "need some life experience" and that I'm "immature." He also said that my constant wanting to be with him at parties was irritating, but we only saw each other once or twice a week because of our schedule. I still believe we love each other, but are really different people. I'm completely crushed and when I do talk to him on the phone he says he misses me so much and sometimes wishes that he hadn't broken up with me, but insists this is the right thing. I'm terribly confused and longing to be with him. Do you have any idea what is wrong with him? Meaning, if he loves me still and misses me so much and almost regrets our breakup, why doesn't he want to be with me? And do you think we could have a future, even if that means waiting a while till I am "mature"?? Thank you so much for your time. Your reply means a great deal.
Dr. Susan: I wish I could reassure you, Cindy, that there was an easier way through the coming months than just bearing down and getting through. Your 22-year-old ex-boyfriend's analysis of your maturity isn't worth much. This isn't about maturity. Sounds like he wants to play the field more before he settles into a life-long commitment.
He finds your attachment to him "irritating," and blames it on your immaturity. As though "mature" women don't want to spend time with their loved ones at parties! It's more likely a difference in your intimacy needs. When you find someone who wants to spend approximately the same time in your company as you do in his, you'll both be much less frustrated.
Plus, your ex-guy is probably projecting: he's attributing needs to YOU that are really his. HE is the one who wants more life experience (i.e., sex with other women). And he's torn between two opposing poles: the side of him that's attached to you and your familiar personality, and the side of him that's already decided to move on. Once when I broke up with a fellow I'd been dating in order to give my all to the man who later became my husband, I wept. I went to say good-bye to him and cried my eyes out at the terrible sadness of parting. He didn't get it. But it was because I had gotten quite attached -- I always do! -- even though I knew he wasn't the one for me. In the same way, your ex still finds you appealing in many ways, but rather than give in to that, he's going by something deeper and truer (for him) that's telling him it's over.
My advice would be to stop talking to him on the phone. Each time you do it, you both stir yourselves up. He can handle it (barely), but you can't. You're not being fair to yourself. He has let go (most of the way, anyway), and you HAVE to let go. The pain will get less and less with the weeks and months. And then you'll find someone new. You will not be quite the same person three years from now, I guarantee it.
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Advice for Her
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.