The Collegian
Monday, November 28, 2022

Ask Maddy: The ex back home

Editor's Note: Ask Maddy is an advice column published every Wednesday. Anonymous questions are taken from this Google form. Questions are also taken both from The Collegian's Instagram, @thecollegianur, and via email at copy@thecollegianur.com. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.   

Dear Maddy,

Me and my girlfriend from back home recently broke up, and I haven't told essentially anyone here yet, so I'm feeling very alone. It was a mutual split, and the right decision for both of us moving apart in our lives but it hurts — we’ve been together a long time. How do I process this? We are still very much on good terms and I am still in communication with her and it’s hard to balance my own priorities and how I'm feeling. 

Dear reader,

I’m back from my two week hiatus, and I thank you for bearing with me! Unfortunately, I left for fall break and simply did not feel like returning, but I’m getting back on track now (kind of).

First, I hope you’re doing okay after breaking up with your girlfriend back home. Having to go through something like that while juggling classes, extracurricular activities and friendships is hard enough. Recognizing that you both need to do what’s best for each other, however, is the first step to moving forward, and I’m glad you all were able to do that.

Although it was a mutual decision, moving apart is going to hurt – especially after being together for a long time.

Now, forgive me if I sound insensitive, but your method for processing all of this sounds a bit silly.

It can be awkward managing relationships at home and here on campus. Sometimes it feels like the relationships you have at home are just too different from the ones you’ve curated here. I believe it’s supposed to feel a little strange; the relationships you are a part of here are from the vantage point of a developing college student.

The constant, nonetheless, between your relationships here and at home is that those people care about you. No matter where you are in life, you should be able to have honest conversations about hardships and obstacles you’ve encountered with the people who care about you.

If you haven’t told your college friends about your breakup, I believe you’re setting yourself up for the loneliness you’re feeling. As uncomfortable and different as it may feel to be vulnerable with newer friends – and trust me, I learned the hard way my first two years here – it is okay to be open with your peers on campus, even if the relationships feel different than the ones back home.

This predicament resembles a cyclic process – you’re feeling lonely, but ignoring the one outlet that may help you work through it, so you continue to feel lonely. If this sounds familiar, I wrote about it in my previous column on loneliness during Family Weekend.

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My next point is a bit of a hot take. I’m happy you ended things on good terms, but it’s essential to give each other meaningful space.

When I say “meaningful space,” I want to emphasize that I do not recommend entirely cutting them off. It is impossible to completely flush your system of any and all feelings you had for the significant other you had been with for years. To act that way, generally, would be to lie to yourself.

It’s not cute.

To give someone meaningful space is to recognize that you should be interacting with them intentionally. If you all truly are broken up, it doesn’t make sense to talk to them as if they’re your partner — you’re only feeding your relationship false conceptions and empty promises.

If you find you cannot respect the boundary that has been drawn by the breakup — and rightfully so — then maybe you should reconsider how often you interact with them. I don’t mean that in a spiteful way. But I believe if you all broke up, it’s because it is best for you both to use your time in another way — whether that be finding new passions, discovering your purpose or pursuing other people.

Many people genuinely struggle with the question, “Can I be friends with my ex?” I’m not saying the answer is a definite no. But I do believe you should consider if that would be a meaningful, platonic friendship if you want it to be a yes.

Warmly,

Maddy

Contact copy chief Madyson Fitzgerald at madyson.fitzgerald@richmond.edu.

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