Please Advise: Should I relive my painful breakup or never see my ex again?

Nerve readers weigh in on one woman's dilemma.


Each week, the inbox of our venerable advice columnist, Miss Information, is flooded with queries. And although she makes a valiant effort, she cannot answer them all. To deal with the surplus, we've decided to turn to you. So, don your spectacles and help this woman out. You can give her advice in the comments below, or, if you'd like to share what you wrote with your friends, on our Facebook page.

Dear Nerve,

After eight amazing months, I had to end my first relationship. I’m currently studying abroad, and by the time I get back to Chicago, the guy I was seeing will have left to teach English in Malaysia for a year. We have no idea where we’ll be in a year, so it’s unclear if we’ll be able to get back together when he returns.

But, we're both going to be in Chicago for a couple of days around New Year’s. If we had stayed together, it would have marked our one-year anniversary, which makes it especially poignant. The problem? I don't know if I want to see him or not. I'm worried that if I do, I'm going to have to relive the painful goodbye process all over again — except this time, I won't be able to escape to Europe like I did the first time. But part of me feels like I'm going to regret not being with him when I have the chance — because who knows if we'll see each other ever again after that?

Should I cave in, see him, and weather the inevitable emotional storm, or just try to stick it out and hope to see him again in a year, if that’s even a possibility?

— Ocean-Crossed Lover

Readers, help our globe-trotting protagonist decide whether to re-open old wounds or face an uncertain future.


Tags Breakups

Commentarium (28 Comments)

Sep 29 11 - 12:20am

You should see him. I can tell that's what you really want. You're going to be miserable afterwards either way, but at least you shouldn't have to regret anything.

Just try your best not to cry until you part ways.

Sep 29 11 - 12:43am

I'm going to give you my best generic advice: remember that whichever choice you make, you will have to live with it for the rest of your life.

Sep 30 11 - 3:36am

Terrible advice - don't think about "the rest of your life," it's completely irrelevant. See him and you'll regret it way less than if you don't see him. Make a romantic weekend of it!

Sep 29 11 - 12:57am

I too was in a similar position last December. That was the last time I saw her, I'm still broken. If you really want to get over him then don't see him.

Sep 29 11 - 1:13am

If you (and he) can put the emotional baggage being you and there are no hard feelings, rekindling that chemistry can be AMAZING, and some relationships are worth the wait.

However, sometimes the timing is just... off. You said you're the one that ended this relationship, and you've called a reunion on your anniversary "poignant". If you did the dumping, your partner may resent being on the receiving end. Even if you think the emotional storm would be manageable for you, it would be very difficult for your ex if expectations are given that will likely not work out. Getting together could be awkward for you, but may be a pretty bad situation for him.

Also, holding a candle for you is definitely not a great way for your ex to start a year-long trip abroad. You just got back to the country, and you're out of your first relationship. Odds are that you'll probably find someone interesting while your ex is away, and you may even start dating someone else. Therefore, while you had some finality to your relationship during your trip, your ex could find himself in limbo during his. That situation may not be too fun.

So, if you have even the slightest concern that he will have unrealistic expectations about your relationship if you meet up, make a clean break of it. Don't drag this out if you think that he may suffer. If something is meant to happen when he comes back to the country, let it happen later.

Sep 29 11 - 1:51am

See him one last time. It can give you final closure re your future & his as he leaves the country. You and he still respect each other, right?

Sep 29 11 - 3:37am

See him. Have some fun. It will be a terrible emotional experience, but one that you will never regret. You love him and you might as well have what could be a great night in the greatest city in the world.

Sep 29 11 - 4:06am

I agree. See him. It will feel like shit. You'll be glad you did it.

Sep 30 11 - 3:37am


Sep 29 11 - 4:09am

Don' t lock yourself in just yet - it's a long time till NYE. If you're single then, sure.

Sep 29 11 - 4:42am

I completely disagree with everyone else. Maybe it's because the LW phrased the question in a way that leads you to the conclusion she wants: "Should I see him New Years or maybe NEVER AGAIN?" Life doesn't really work like that. I think it's very short-sighted to see each other on New Years, especially because there is no indication that you guys could get back together. You're dragging out your break-up, and this will only worsen that. There is no level of 'closure' that makes a break-up anything other than brutally painful, but you have to accept it -- setting future dates when you'll /really/ be breaking up for serious this time is really just picking at scabs. Not seeing each other is the first step to not thinking about each other is the first step to getting over each other. You have to accept that. And if his plans change, and a year or so down the road it turns out you're in the right place, at the right time, that's the time to see him. Either way, if time passes, and you still want to see him in the future -- whether that's a year from now, or five, or ten -- you can. "Now or never" is a silly way to give yourself an ultimatum.

Sep 29 11 - 5:29am

I think an important factor in whether you should see him or not is whether he gets in touch with you when you get back to Chicago. If he is over you by now, then seeing him will hurt you immensely. He could also be trying hard to get over you, in which case your pursuing a meeting with him would hurt the both of you, since he would have a defensive wall up between you and him when you meet. I think it is important that you at least talk to him before meeting and gauge whether a) there is any hostility on either of your parts, b) whether it hurts too much to even talk together, c) whether one party is far more 'over it' than the other. If none of these factors are present, then meeting him could be a good idea, since it will let you know where you both stand. But bring a good friend to the New Year's party, just in case things get upsetting.

Sep 29 11 - 10:30am

You should see him again. It's going to make one shitty NYE, but whatever. NYE is a stupid holiday anyway. Sounds like you guys broke up without a whole lot of anger or hostility, so why not give yourself a bittersweet breakup? Plus, don't let yourself get so upset about not being able to escape to Europe after meeting up for NYE. Chicago is a pretty good place to be single for awhile. I'm sure you'll find plenty of distractions.

Sep 29 11 - 10:47am

Flippant advice: if you see him now, and break his heart a little more, you'll be doing him a favor by helping him get laid overseas. It seems there's something magnetic about men who are emotionally unavailable because they're carrying a torch for a lost love. Almost every guy I know who's gone through a phase like that has had more female suitors than at any other time in his life.

More serious advice: go to Chicago, have fabulous ex-sex with him, and either realize that (a) this is the guy you love, and you're going to make it work; (b) you don't want to make it work, and the issue is essentially moot; or (c) you want to leave the door open, but also want the freedom to see other people while you're not together. Personally, I'd go with (c), since awkward sex with sketchy foreigners will probably make you desperate for each other's company and willing to do whatever it takes to be together. If you're passionately in love with each other, these difficulties are surmountable; if you're not, then move on.

Sep 29 11 - 12:52pm

Leave it be. Do you really want to see a guy who teaches English abroad because he's lost in life?

Sep 29 11 - 6:08pm
a l l y

I think it'd be nice to see him again too, if anything, it might even offer you closure. However! Like someone has already said above, NYE is still a long time a way and I worry that you'll hold out on life waiting for this singe weekend to arrive. Don't let that happen, just keep on trooping, meeting people and opening yourself up for opportunity. Then if you end up seeing him, another may arise, who knows? Just don't wait it out, please!

Sep 29 11 - 7:54pm

It really is this simple, you gotta hit it to quit it.

Sep 29 11 - 10:02pm

Are you more likely to spend more time wondering "what if, what if" or "what was I thinking?" Because the advice is different depending on how you go through life. I tend to be more of the former so I'd say go for it (assuming he's open and you're not otherwise entangled by then). It'll suck for a while when he leaves, but there's potential for some really sweet memories once perspective has kicked in.

Sep 29 11 - 11:57pm

Dont see him. The regret is easier to live with than the pain

Sep 30 11 - 12:07am

disagree disagree disagree. Life is short. you should do what you want and not ever live with regrets.

Sep 30 11 - 12:15am

DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sep 30 11 - 9:22am

Go for it. Never turn down hours of bliss for something that might or might not happen. And never let fear rule your decisions.

Besides: You will ALWAYS regret things that you didn't do and wish you had more than things you did do and wish you hadn't.

Sep 30 11 - 4:22pm

Before I offer my alternative suggestion, I'd like to point a few things out:
1) Chicago is a HUGE city, so unless you're keeping in touch with him via email/phone/text, the chances of you randomly seeing each other is almost beyond calculation.
2) Just because YOU remember taht you'll both be in Chicago around New Years, dosn't mean he will remember - or care - since you broke up with him he's probably put that "anniversary" out of his mind.
3) Question: Have you kept in touch with him?
4) Quesion: What makes you think HE will want to see you?
5) Question: Why did you break up in the first place? Because you were studying abroad?

Ok, so it sounds to me you're still struggling with your decision to break up and you want to end things in a better place. You state that this was your "first" relationship so i'm assuming you're in your early 20's? If so, and it was your first LTR, just remember this important FACT: You will fall in and out of love many more times before you enter into a fully committed relationship (marriage/committment ceremony, etc). So, this is definately a "learning moment" for you.

So here's my idea. If you DO reach out to him about meeting and he agrees - DO NOT MEET HIM ON NEW YEARS EVE! Really? How akward and inappropriate is that. New Years Eve is about saying goodbye to the past and the fresh start that comes with a New Year.

You said you'll both be in Chicago for a couple days, well, then meet with him on one of the days before New Years Eve.

Just my 2 Cents!

Oct 01 11 - 8:02am
Buck Nasty

You know what will happen and the stakes are low as shit. Who gives a fuck, who gives a shit?
The question is really whether you want to get dicked for New Years...

Oct 01 11 - 6:04pm

Does anyone else see a problem with making NYE plans 3 months out?!? It's October 1st. In 3 months, you might not even remember his name. Or, he might be with someone else. Or, you both might be ready to elope. I can tell right now that you are heartbroken, OCL, but part of that may be the struggle with the immersion process of a new culture. Changes are you are dwelling on this right now because you are in such an uncertain position having just moved away that you need something concrete to hold on to. Give yourself time to adjust to the wonderful experience you are having, and when you come back for the holidays, you can make that decision then. If December 27th rolls around and you want to see him, do it. If you don't, find some friends and dance the night away with whatever handsome stranger catches your eye.

Oct 02 11 - 12:36am
Buck Nasty

This "chick" is a tard.

Oct 03 11 - 11:36pm
Buckaroo Bonzai

Takes one to know one.

Oct 15 11 - 12:06am

The paargon of understanding these issues is right here!