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DrJackiePhD
DrJackiePhD, Doctor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 364
Experience:  I have been doing research in relational/interpersonal communication since 1998. My Ph.D. is in interpersonal communication.
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My ex, 20, and I were together months. She told me that

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My ex, 20, and I were together for 6 months. She told me that she loved me after around 3 months and I felt very strong emotions for her, but could not define them.
During this time, particularly towards the end, she started to say very intense things such as "I feel as though I've met my soulmate, I want to spend the rest of my life with you", "if I was to become pregnant I might not have an abortion", "If you move to Australia after university, I will come with you, in all seriousness", "We'll leave our kids with my sister and go on holiday frequently in the future".
She would write to her penpal (not knowing that I was aware) things such as "I can see our lives together (before describing our lives), I just wish that we could have it all now" so I know that it wasn't just for my benefit.
Anywho, we went away to different universities promising to male it work, only for her to get together with someone else and seemingly forget about me after about 3 weeks.
How can one go from SUCH emotional intensity to nothing SO quickly? She had told me in the past that she was afraid she would "mess things up", that she "always self-sabotages" and wished we could have met at a different time in our lives.
I believe that I was developing truly loving feelings for her, whereas suspect that she was simply infatuated. We were highly attracted to one another to begin with and were intimate quickly and often (to an extent neither of us had really known).
I keep telling myself that in order for things to have fallen apart so quickly, she must have hugely preferred this other guy... It seemed when we broke up that she had completely forgotten what it was like to be with me - after some time and emotional discussion, she became extremely emotional and said "I don't want to say goodbye, this isn't goodbye, just goodbye for now", so it seemed as though on some level she still cared... Is it possible for some people to just suppress or forget? Or was it an infatuation? Can such a relationship fall apart so quickly? I'm a broken man in all honesty and desperate for answers...
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  DrJackiePhD replied 2 years ago.
DrJackiePhD :

Hi, I'm Dr. Jackie, a communication specialist and relationship expert. I would like to help. Can you chat now?

DrJackiePhD :

I am so sorry you are going through this.

Customer:

Hi Dr Jackie

Customer:

Yes, I can chat

DrJackiePhD :

I know it doesn't seem possible, but some people CAN and DO get "over" things quickly. She may have had true "below-the-surface" feelings, but maybe she can't sustain them.

DrJackiePhD :

Do you know much about her background? There is a reason I'm asking this.

Customer:

In terms of family?

Customer:

Or previous relationships?

DrJackiePhD :

Both

DrJackiePhD :

Are you familiar with Attachment Theory?

Customer:

Family: father left when she was about 5/6 I think? Then went on to cheat on his next partner, whom the family loved, before marryig the mistress. Stepfather came into the picture two years after the desertion and has been present since

Customer:

Relationships: Series of short relationships, period of numerous sexual partners (12 by age 20), then long term long distance relationship which lasted for 2 years. Ended when he went away for 3 months and she cheated on him.

Customer:

Vaguely familiar

DrJackiePhD :

OK. This is helpful. While there is not a string of "fathers," she WAS abandoned. Attachment Theory says that infants and young children form their earliest relationships with those who hold them, read to them, rock them, etc. If a child does not have a lot of love and nurturing and/or is "bounced around" from one home to another (ex: foster care), then we say that the child grew up not really knowing how to bond and get attached to others. Of course this is not the child's fault. However, when the child grows into adulthood, this lack of attachment or lack of ability to form attachments/close relationships then usually manifests in the inability to have real intimacy in romantic relationships. So usually that leads to promiscuity and/or short-term relationships, and of course, like she pointed out, her own sabotaging of good relationshps.

DrJackiePhD :

I hope that makes some sense--it may very well help explain your situation.

Customer:

The thing is, her mother is a childcare expert, and, although she frequently made critical comments to my ex about her eating habits (leading to an eating disorder), I wondered whether she might have made up for the loss of the father

DrJackiePhD :

Oh, that is an excellent observation. That sounds definitely like your ex-gf suffered from lack of attachment. She may well have substituted food for her father--exactly. People often do that. That is why both boys and girls who grow up without a dad tend to have lots of issues. Girls can go "wild" and be promiscuous and boys generally rebel by making trouble, sometimes with the law, etc. It's so sad, but it's a general pattern that kids tend to fall prey to. And without counseling / therapy, the children grow into adults, ill-equipped to handle "life."

DrJackiePhD :

And statistically speaking (there are exceptions, of course, but in general), she will continue in the same patterned cycle until some outside force (like therapy) and help her break the cycle.

DrJackiePhD :

oops typo--sorry. "CAN" help her break the cycle.

Customer:

My only reservations about the theory are that the stepdad came into the picture about 2 years after the breakup so she has grown up with a father figure in a sense. She also continued to see her father even after the divorce and gets on with him, although there was some sense of resentment

Customer:

Also, I wondered whether the fact that her mother was a childcare expert would mean that it didn't matter too much that the father left

DrJackiePhD :

OK. :-) It's a theory that often (but not always) helps to explain failure to be involved in intimate relationships for very long. It may not apply to your ex-gf. As for her mother, her mother may have a lot of knowledge, but it doesn't always translate that she applies this to her own life. I mean, think of it this way. Some physicians preach a good diet, exercise, and non-smoking to their patients; yet they may eat poorly, avoid exercise, and smoke two packs a day! You said the mom criticized her and that led to an eating disorder (so very common when a parent, especially a mom, criticizes a daughter a lot).

DrJackiePhD :

And like I said, maybe this is not applicable to your ex, but it may help you understand a bit better that some people just do not seem to be able to form serious bonds/attachments, especially in romantic relationships.

Customer:

Right ok :)

Customer:

I suppose another aspect which I find confusing is that her last relationship lasted for 2 years, only seeing each other once a week for about half the year

Customer:

Admittedly they were significantly closer in terms of distance than we were, and she wasn't in the environment she is now (university, lots of drugs, lots of alcohol etc)

Customer:

She also told her penpal that despite adoring me, she was worried she was going to cheat going away to a music festival for the weekend. This may have been because that was where she cheated on her ex but still..

DrJackiePhD :

Wait--she only saw that person once a week for a chunk of the relationship? That makes sense--research shows that long-distance relationships CAN last longer because you don't see each other all the time--you're not arguing about which way to put the TP on the roll, who takes out the trash, etc. And yes, at university it's an entirely different environment.

DrJackiePhD :

If she told her penpal that she MIGHT cheat, that means she has contemplated it. Most people in a serious and committed relationship do not SAY things like that--they do not PLAN to cheat. It usually just happens. You know, people who work together may open up to each other about problems in their own relationships. The more they talk, the closer they get until an affair sneaks up on them. But again, it's very odd that she would just "announce" she might cheat.

Customer:

Yep, she was at high school and dating someone who was in college, so perhaps the most exciting thing going at the time

Customer:

I am also older than her

DrJackiePhD :

OK

Customer:

So that environment (university/college) with all of its temptations, alcohol, drugs (ket, coke, MD etc.), away from familiar support structures (home), familiar friends, new anxieties (she had an eating disoder so perhaps low self-esteem?) is much more likely to break the relationship than when she was still at home?

Customer:

Well she told her friend that she was "terrified" she might due to her propensity to "self-sabotage" and "ruin anything good"

Customer:

And showed genuine relief when it didn't happen

DrJackiePhD :

Yes--definitely contributing factors for sure. And it's good that she was relieved when she didn't. But it sounds like she does not trust herself. This also adds up--she is "accountable" at home to the people who support her, like you mentioned. But I don't see that she is "accountable" to anyone while at university.

Customer:

Yep, she definitely did not trust herself

Customer:

So this accountability, in addition to a challenging environment, might partially explain her cheating?

DrJackiePhD :

Yes, it does not excuse it but could be an explanation.

Customer:

I just can't help but wonder whether I was a stop-gap, until she met someone she really liked at university. After leaving she did stil lsay very intense things "I think I need you", "I'm terrified one of us is going to be meet someone else", "you're my world", "I miss your mind, body and soul" etc.

DrJackiePhD :

It must be very difficult. And I'm not saying she didn't mean those words. Maybe the best way she knows how she said them and may not herself really understand love. I just don't know and can't really guess because I've not met her, of course. But I think maybe her definition of love could be different than yours?

Customer:

So she felt as strongly as was within her capacity?

Customer:

She described our relaitonship as being of an intensity she had never known

Customer:

Burned bright but went out quickly and all that

DrJackiePhD :

She may very well have. I mean, if Attachment Theory even fits partly, then she just simply CANNOT form strong bonds and long-term relationships. And for her, intensity might have been mostly physical/chemistry.Sometimes that factor is soooo strong in the beginning that partners or one of the partners can actually "burn out" before the relationship has gotten far off the ground.

Customer:

We had very little to talk about, little in common beyond the initial getting to know one another conversations

Customer:

She was also considering ending things but we then became very intimate and maintained that

Customer:

We did discuss emotional issues and personal issues deeply (to an extent she hadn't with her ex) but we didn't have fun exactly

DrJackiePhD :

That is something that now I'm sure you realize is not a benefit to the relationship. I mean, both common sense and also studies show that once the physical burns out or at least plateaus out, you need more than just the physical to sustain the relationship. You need common core values, similar ideals and attitudes, mutual interests, etc.

Customer:

Exactly, and I wonder whether for someone so tactile and for a relationship clearly built upon intense attraction, strong emotion and frequent intimacy, the feelings just deserted once away from me?

DrJackiePhD :

It goes contrary to what many people are taught but yes, very possible.

DrJackiePhD :

I really am sorry. I can tell you really care. What are you going to do?

Customer:

Contrary how?

Customer:

I really do, it has been very challenging

DrJackiePhD :

Contrary meaning that many films and of course children's stories teach us about long-lasting love. But that is not a reality for some or maybe even a lot of people. Some people's view of "love" just isn't healthy.

Customer:

I would kill to have her back in one sense, although the ease with which she left and the lack of concern she showed for my wellbeing make me think otherwise. At present I am trying to work out whether she just found someone she preferred i.e. better looking or more personable or some such

Customer:

The infatuation style of love? Love at first sight etc?

DrJackiePhD :

Can I ask you something?

Customer:

Fire away

DrJackiePhD :

Do you really NEED to know why she pulled away? I mean, for closure-purposes? Is it going to change things? Are you really hoping that you find out she has intimacy issues and that it wasn't another guy? I mean, in your thought process, do you think if she has intimacy issues that you can pursue her, "fix" her broken "bonding factor," and get her back? I am asking not to play Devil's Advocate. I ask because my concern is for your healing; getting sucked back into an unhealthy relationship is going to hurt more in the long run.

Customer:

I wouldn't say that I'm hoping to fix her, but I am hoping to rationalise it. I would like to know that she has some issue preventing secure attachment or somesuch and that it wasn't a case of me being insufficient in some sense, her expression of feeling not being real, or preferring another guy so quickly

DrJackiePhD :

OK. I just am here to help and provide some insight. I certainly can't say anything with 100% certainty without knowing her. But perhaps some things that I said will help in trying to make sense of all of this.

DrJackiePhD :

Do you want to keep chatting? I want to help.

Customer:

If possible yeah :)

DrJackiePhD :

OK :-)

Customer:

Is it possible for people even withou attachment issues to behave in this way? i.e. to become infatuated then to just lose the feeling after around 3 weeks of separation, in addition to not really believing it will work at distance

DrJackiePhD :

There's controversy surrounding that. On one hand, some research seems to suggest that our ability to love and give and receive love, affection, etc. is taught. It's learned through those who raised us, through our background, etc. An other school of thought that also has at least some support in research shows that biology (genetics) plays a stronger part. That is, we are BORN with the propensity to love and give...and therefore some people are just born without this factor/gene. I know that doesn't help, but right now we just don't know the cause. We just know that it is possible to fall out of love/infatuation but not exactly WHY this happens.

Customer:

And can it happen at such a rate?

DrJackiePhD :

I don't think that is the norm, at least not according to studies, but yes.

Customer:

I just can't believe that she didn't mean what she said, that it was simply overstatement of emotion that wasn't really there

Customer:

I keep going over what she said/wrote and I think anyone who had watched it as a third party would have believed it also

Customer:

I've become so obsessed over trying to work out whether he is "better" in some way... to the point of posting links online and asking for strangers to make comparisons... Guy 1: (3 pictures)
http://imgur.com/P8FaChC,PAs0cmY,kPsLtp2

Guy 2: (3 pictures)
http://imgur.com/wF6JLQb,v5KzECj,YqgqQMR#0

DrJackiePhD :

I do think that that won't help you. The only thing you can tell from a pic is the outwards/physical/looks part. People are so much deeper. So in my professional opinion, this is not helpful. If people comment on you being better-looking, then you will rack your brain day and night trying to figure what she sees in him. If people say he is better looking, that will hurt your self-esteem. I do not mean at all to "rain on your parade." I just want you to start healing and I know from experience that usually this path is only going to hurt worse and longer.

DrJackiePhD :

I do not want to take away from our conversation. I am not sure I am helping. Do you want me to exit out of this conversation and open it up to a colleague? My goal is to always help; if I am not helping, I want someone else to help.

DrJackiePhD :

Just let me know. I want you to be satisfied with your experience here on JUST ANSWER.

Customer:

It's not that you haven't been helpful but I'm just very confused - more a reflection on me I think

DrJackiePhD :

We can chat again if you would like. We have been on for an hour and a half and I do have a former client/customer waiting. We were supposed to chat at 3:30 and I'm a bit late. Do you want to try to meet online this evening or tomorrow?

DrJackiePhD :

I want to help, I just have to go for now.

Customer:

Ah apologies for that, I am in the UK so probably a similar time tomorrow would be preferable. Alternatively, I can reask the question for someone else to chip in on - I don't want to not credit you for it

DrJackiePhD :

OK. Please let me know. All you have to do is ACCEPT when you exit to give me credit. And I'm happy to meet tomorrow. When we started today it was around 2 Eastern Time. I do teach a university class at that time tomorrow for an hour. So after 3 I will be free. Or earlier in the morning. :-)

Customer:

Sounds good, thank you :)

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