I Love Him Still, But Is It Time to Move On?

Photo by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino - http://flic.kr/p/3MxTxV - For illustration only

Reader’s Question

I was with a man for 12 years. Our relationship started off rocky. We both had baggage we carried with us. We argued a lot, and we were both stubborn. We are currently on our third breakup. Each breakup, he has another woman, who he begins to see before we even separate, and he stays with them. This is the first breakup that we have not stayed in contact. I know nothing about what is going on in his life. The previous breakup was ten months. When he found out I was dating, he came home and wanted to marry me. He cried. He said he loved me and was sorry.

This breakup has been over a year. I haven’t heard from him at all. I don’t even see him around.

I have learned a lot of lessons this past year, seeing where I went wrong. I have learned to be peaceful and love life.

I also still miss him, and a part of me still waits for him to come home.

My logic says move on, too much has happened, and it’s time to let go. Yet my heart says this was a great time to learn — for both of us — that we are soulmates, that he will come home and our relationship will be stronger for it. In my heart I’m still married to him. When we got along, we got along great! We had so much in common and made a great couple. But we argued as passionately as we loved. I have grown and matured this past year; I am thankful for the lessons in life.

What is your advice? Should I follow the phrase “if you love something set it free”? I guess that’s all I can do. I have no desire to date again; I have no desire to socialize much; I stay close to home. I’d rather be alone than start again with anyone.

I am thankful for the life I have. I appreciate every day. I pray he and his family are happy and healthy, where ever they may be.

Psychologist’s Reply

Well, you certainly have a very long history with this person, longer than some marriages. From what you wrote, this relationship is still very much alive for you; you feel married still, you feel love for him (instead of anger or even indifference), you are still waiting for him to come home, and you lack interest in dating or socializing with others. It sounds to me like you are not ready to move on.

From your post, I was unclear whether you were legally married or not. For those who are married but separated, divorce is not just a legal step, but a step that brings finality and closure. To remain married but not together is much like limbo; neither here nor there. Following through on the legal aspects of divorce will likely bring up lots of feelings and reactions. Just the process of taking the next legal step could help clarify whether you desire finality, continued separation or reconciliation.

Try Online Counseling: Get Personally Matched

On the other hand, this may have been a relationship that was never legally or officially acknowledged in a ceremony. This does not mean it was not a real, meaningful, life-changing, or profound experience for both of you. Twelve years together is certainly significant. The tricky thing about a relationship that is not a marriage is, there is no official ritual to signify that it is over. For some, this can lead to a lot of up and down, back and forth, and in and out! It sounds as if you and this man have been back and forth quite a bit about whether this will work. That can make it difficult to feel like any one ending is the actual, final ending. Some people find it helpful to create their own ritual to mark the end of something. For example, doing something to mark an ending or a new beginning can be useful. Some people clear and clean their home of evidence of the relationship. Others find ways to recreate themselves, either with a new hobby, new look, or a new commitment to socializing with friends. Whatever the ritual is, it should be something that feels good to you.

Another aspect of this problem is that you are not in contact with each other. It can be difficult to make this kind of decision by yourself. If you were to decide by yourself that this was over, it would take a fair amount of work on your part to create closure for yourself in the absence of any new information from him. What this could look like is the decision to begin socializing, dating, or otherwise creating a life for yourself that does not feel as if a part is missing because of him. Easier said than done. This can be difficult without a definitive answer from your partner that he is on the same page.

This brings me to my final point. I do not know if you feel able to contact your ex-partner at this point, or if that would be a good idea. If you did, you might be able to obtain some information from him that would help you move from this stuck place. For example, he might indicate that he would like to try again. This could lead to another phase of being together, or, this could lead you to more deeply understand that you in fact do not want to try again. On the other hand, you could hear from him that he has moved on in some final way. This is often the information that people need in order to feel as if a particular door is closed.

In any case, it might be worth checking in with yourself about what you really want, regardless of what you think is going on with your ex-partner. Clarifying what you want could lead you to the next step, whether that is filing for divorce, embarking on a ritual to mark an ending or new beginning, or taking steps to contact him and reconcile. My final thought is that action is the way out of indecision. Only you can determine what the right action will be.

Please read our Important Disclaimer.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. Originally published by on and last reviewed or updated by Pat Orner Oliver on .

Ask the Psychologist provides direct access to qualified clinical psychologists ready to answer your questions. It is overseen by the same international advisory board of distinguished academic faculty and mental health professionals — with decades of clinical and research experience in the US, UK and Europe — that delivers CounsellingResource.com, providing peer-reviewed mental health information you can trust. Our material is not intended as a substitute for direct consultation with a qualified mental health professional. CounsellingResource.com is accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation.

Copyright © 2020.