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My Daughter's Boyfriend Broke Up With Her For No Reason

I am heartbroken about my daughter's breakup

Dear Dr. G.,

After reading your article about the mom with the daughter in college with the boyfriend questioning the relationship I felt I must write you. My daughter who is a high school senior, just like her, had her freshman college boyfriend break up with her. Their relationship was short, but had deeper commitment. My daughter didn't want to just date. She only accepts a relationship if she could see herself with the guy as a future husband. Courting you might say. She said no to 6 other guys and hasn't accepted dates in over a year. They obviously were interested in each other for months, but didn't start connecting until the summer. They both discussed this deeper commitment in detail and he was all in. They were both all in. I could see it in their eyes and how they got so excited when they saw each other. Then he went away to college. It was only 45 minutes away but it seemed to really affect him. They talked every other day on the phone and saw each other almost every weekend. Then he hit that 6th week in college where every class seems to have a test. He told her he felt like he was trying to live in 2 different bodies of water. Like he was half in each of them. He said he couldn't do it anymore. What happened here? I have been racking my brain to put the pieces together. He was all in. He was falling for her faster than she was, pulling her in too. He even said he had never felt like this before…even though he dated one girl for 5 years through high school(she broke it off). She really loved him and was willing to work through the distance. Please help! They have been texting, trying to stay friends but he has stopped texting and I told her to not text him. I said let him wonder about you. I even texted him a few weeks back because it just seemed too sudden and odd. He basically said he knows they had something great and he would always cherish her and wanted to be friends but that they're in 2 different worlds now and best to go their own ways. I think they need to see each other, at least one time for her to feel done or for him to realize what he gave up. I don't know what to advise her. I'm too close to the circle so I can't see clear. He's home for the holiday so it would be easy for her to go see him or should she just give up? He seems to be avoiding her, even when she is in the area of his college. Is he scared to see her? Thanks for your help!

A Concerned Mother

Dear Mother,

I am so sorry about the pain that both you and your daughter are feeling. Of course, you are distressed. Empathic, sensitive and loving parents feel their children's pain. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is both a good thing and a bad thing. I'll come back to this later.

Breakups are always difficult but they are even harder when they are abrupt, seem to come out of nowhere and when the person being broken up with doesn't see it coming. No one likes to be blindsided particularly not when it comes to relationships. And, breakups are even harder when we don't really understand the reasons for them or don't believe that we are getting honest reasons. It is very hard to deal with this sort of ambiguity.

I have several ideas for you about how to help your daughter. First, I would suggest taking yourself out of the middle of the relationship because the connection is and was between your daughter and the boyfriend. Do not text or initiate communication with the ex-boyfriend. Nothing good will come of this. Second, bear in mind that it is very difficult to maintain a relationship when one member is in high school and the other is in college. I am so sad to say that these relationships are often a recipe for disaster. The young man and woman are 2 individuals negotiating 2 separate worlds. The statement from the ex-boyfriend that he feels that he is living in 2 different bodies of water makes sense. It is also possible that he feels that the relationship with your daughter was too intense and he got scared. It does seem like a very intense relationship and commitment for 2 teenagers. Third, your daughter should, of course, stop texting the ex-boyfriend since he does not seem interested in reciprocating. She does not seem ready to give up the relationship at all levels but pursuing him may be useless and may be seen as harassment at some point. Next, encourage your daughter to think about what she learned from this relationship that she can bring to other relationships. This may seem premature at this time but we learn something from good and bad experiences in our lives. Fifth, make sure that you are not more distressed about this situation than your daughter is. It is not helpful for your daughter to feel that she has disappointed or upset you. Hence, my comment about empathy having good and bad aspects. It is only a problem if we overdo it and our kids' absorb our sad feelings. I hope you understand that from what you have wrote I see you as loving and concerned. Sixth, you do not need to encourage your daughter to see the ex. This may not result in the outcome that she wants.

Time is the best healer. Your daughter needs to stay involved in her usual activities and confide in her friends. If she starts to become derailed by this situation and starts to seem increasingly out of sorts over time then maybe it would be helpful for her to speak to a therapist.

I am so sorry about this breakup. Isn't it so sad that what gives us the greatest joy can also bring us the greatest amount of heartache? You know of, course, that I am talking about intimate relationships. Please continue to be loving and nurturing with your daughter without trying to solve the current problem for her. My hope is that your daughter will come out of this situation stronger if she manages it on her own and with the guidance of her support group and with a mother like you who is there to listen to her but not necessarily to make string suggestions. Again, it is your daughter's relationship to contend with. See her through gently. Please get back to me as things unfold. I would love to hear from you.

Dr. G.

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