Writer and broadcaster

Do I need therapy to get over an ex? The Guardian.

Dear Annalisa

Seven years ago I met someone. We got together but a few weeks later he decided to break up with me. A month later, he told me he wanted us to get back together. It lasted two weeks, then he broke up again, saying maybe he hadn’t thought it through, and that being together was a mistake.

Three months later, he said he wanted to try again. He then spent months where I would barely get a text from him, to “normal” days, with walks, a nice time together, flowers, smiles – with I love yous thrown in, too.

That summer he went abroad for two months for his research; he left with a speech that left me in doubt again about our relationship. When he came back, things were really nice for the first couple of weeks and then, a week after he’d bought me roses and said he loved me and we should start thinking about the future, he broke up with me. I never saw him again.

A few months later, he got back in touch on social media and we started texting and emailing.

Three years ago, three years after the end of our relationship, and with me completely over it, we fell out because I got tired of begging for proper replies to my messages, which he justified by saying that he didn’t want me to have any false hope.

We were briefly in touch 18 months later because I’d been having nightmares about him and stupidly decided to check how he was. He replied to my email in a perfectly nice way, saying he was OK and he was thinking of me, but wasn’t planning for us to reunite.

In my anger at that, I emailed him saying it had been five years and it was shocking that he could think I still had feelings for him after all that time. Things ended there.

I have since found out he got married last year. I have seen the girl in photos and thought how like me she looked. So when I saw her as the bride, it shocked me because perhaps for us it was the wrong timing.

My life has progressed since then, and I am happily working and living in a place I like, and doing things I might not have done had we been together. In fact, I think my identity had been squashed under the need to be more like what he would have wanted. I haven’t been in a relationship for years now. I feel lonely at times, but I have some good friends, lots of interests, and am happy to be by myself.

I think what I resent is that everyone is pairing up but me, and now even he has got married.

I was wondering if therapy would help. I do tend to brood and obsess over things.

Your original letter was long and full of detail, almost as if you were scared of leaving anything out in case it would provide the key to why this man has got under your skin.

It’s interesting that you think, “that could have been me” looking at his bride, because I think you need to rejoice that you got away.

You know how sometimes you read an interview with someone and think “they sound really nice”? Well, I didn’t get that here. Your ex sounds like someone who could cause a lot of damage. Thank God for wrong timing.

Stop following him on social media.

But you need to realise you played your part in all this because it’s only by accepting responsibility for our own actions that we can change things. You were upset when he presumed you still had feelings for him because you did. You do. You need to acknowledge this, because before you can undo “the knot” you need to see it. I think it’s less him you miss than the idea of what you hoped he represented. That is understandable. I think therapy would help enormously: I would try talking therapy first.

I found it interesting that you didn’t once mention your family. Where are they? What is your place in the family? What patterns were set up when you were growing up that don’t allow you to ask for what you want? Asking for reciprocal love and attention is perfectly normal but I sensed some denial in your letter, in your feelings, like you felt ashamed to own up to them, to what you want. Although destructive, this conditional attention he gave you felt comfortable in some way, familiar? You might want to explore why that is. We tend to obsess over things when we can’t vent them outwardly, get resolution; so all we can do is churn them away inside our own heads.

Build yourself up slowly, by doing things that make you feel good about yourself. I know you live in a country where everyone is married by your age but you are still very young – mid 30s – but that doesn’t mean they are happy!

You really have got it all ahead of you, including a great blueprint of how not to behave in a relationship. That’s worth something.


This article first appeared in the Guardian Family section on 6 March 2015.