How Do I Help My Ex Move Past The Pain and Hurt I Caused?

Question: I am an anxious-preoccupied who is becoming securely attached. Three weeks ago I contacted my ex about some important documents that I needed her help with and she agreed to help. We haven’t had much contact after the breakup but we keep each other updated on family and mutual friends. My family adores her, and her family loves me. I then asked her if I can buy her dinner as a thank you and to my surprise she was open to it. A month ago she wouldn’t even return any of my calls. Since the dinner, we have had many phone conversation mostly about business, family, and friends. When we talk I’m cheerful, confident and relaxed because I want her to see that I am not the emotional wreck she knew a few weeks ago. Some days she’s really warm, friendly and even flirtatious and other days she’s cold and answers with one word. Yesterday, I asked her if being in contact made her uncomfortable and she said yes. She says I hurt her deeply and she is having a hard time putting it behind her. I admit I wasn’t the best boyfriend to her. I now realize I was way too clingy and controlling and when I was angry I was sarcastic, criticizing, ridiculing etc. We both are very hot tempered. I’ve come a long way thanks to therapy. Do you think she still loves me? What should I say to help her put the pain behind her?

Yangki’s Answer: There is obviously still a connection there, I can’t say with 100% certainty that it’s love, only she can. And whether that connection is sufficient to get the two of you back together or not depends on how fast she can move past that hurt and if she can trust you not to hurt her again. It also depends on other things going on in her life, and if getting back with you is top on her priority list.

I assume that you’ve already apologized to her for the hurt you caused her. Not “I am sorry. I was going through some stuff” or “I am sorry, I have changed” sort of apology. That is the same as justifying you action. It is not the same as taking responsibility for the hurt you caused her.

She needs to know you really, really understand how you hurt her and that you’re genuinely sorry. Do not expect her to forgive you right away, give her time to process her hurt in her own time and way.

Next time she says she’s having a hard time putting the hurt behind her (which she will) acknowledge it with something like, “I can understand why you feel that way. I’m really sorry I hurt you. What can I do to make it up to you?” She will likely say there is nothing you can do, and she’s right.

You can’t talk someone out of feeling hurt. You can temporarily calm the feeling of hurt with an apology but when she is on her own, it’ll come back up again because feelings MUST be and have to be processed by the person feeling them, not by someone else.

The point asking what you can do is:

  1. If there is something you can do, give her the opportunity to tell you. Sometimes when people are hurting they hold on to the pain but when given a “safe space” to express their emotions, the healing process begins.
  2. Move you beyond taking responsibility for your actions to accountability and making amends. Whatever she says will help her heal faster, do it for her but also for yourself. It will help with the ‘guilt’ you feel about who you were then and what you did then.

The next step is for you to show her that it won’t happen again. This means making sure you don’t do things that remind her of why she’s hurting and why you’re not together. This all comes down to how much changing you have done.

Don’t be surprised if after a few “great moments” she says she thinks she needs to pull back. I’ve seen it so many times before with so many of my clients. Do not panic and get all clingy (again) or completely pull back and stop all communication. Simply tell her it’s not what you want but you understand and hope that she knows that she can reach out to you any time she wants to. Then ask her if you can text/email/call her once in a while just to see how she’s doing. Tell her you expect nothing, you just want to know she’s okay.

The goal is to make sure the door is still open for when she’s processed her emotions and ready to put the past behind her, and also show to her that you indeed have changed.

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    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      It simply means he is not happy that you didn’t return his calls/emails. Calling that “caring” is stretching it; angry and caring are two different things. People get angry with people they don’t care about all the time. Anger is not about the other person, it’s about the person who is angry.

  1. says: Jay

    We broke up two months ago. I tried several times to contact her but she never responded. Yesterday she sent me hugs from facebook. What does all of this mean with her contacting me and sharing?

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      It may mean she’s missing that emotional sharing and wants to re-establish it or it could also mean she’s feeling much more comfortable talking to you again compared to when you first broke up. I think you should not jump ahead of yourself and start pushing anything, just take a moment at a time, a day at a time and see what happens.

  2. says: Karenp

    Should I ask him if he still has feelings for me? He said as recently as last week (to a friend) that he’s sad that we never were right for each other. I’m guilty of putting pressure on him when he was going through child custody issue with ex-wife and he said he just could not handle both at the same. After thinking about it, I know I acted needy and desperate. I still love him very much and miss him.

    1. I give you credit for admitting where you’ve gone wrong. It takes a certain kind of person to be able to do that.

      If you’ve not been in contact or haven’t been warm to each other, it’d seem desperate and needy for you to at this point ask him if he still has feelings for you. There is a danger of him thinking you’re making this about you again. You saw where that got you with putting pressure on him when he was dealing with something that had nothing to do with you. He saw that as the two of you not being right for each other when the real issue could have just being bad timing on your part.

      Start with baby steps and go with one contact at a time. No rush, no pressure. If after a while you don’t see signs of him warming up to you, then you know he’s moved on. The important thing is to make sure you are giving yourselves the best possible chance. In other words, try to do everything within your power, and do it right.

  3. says: Shaun

    Hi, I live in the UK. My girlfriend dumped me 3 weeks ago. This is the best site I have found. And I like how it makes sense.

    I am desperate for advice. The situation is very complicated and involves unresolved bereavement and health issues. I can’t find anything on the net remotely close to our situation and I need help so badly. Regards Shaun

  4. says: Ace

    We never had any major fights either but one day she just told me she doesn’t see a future for us. I asked her to explain it but she said she didn’t feel about me the way she wants to. I begged her and told her how much I love her but she was firm about her decision. I went no contact for 2 weeks but after reading your blog, I realized I was making a mistake and immediately contacted her. She responds to my texts and is friendly. But when I tell her I love her, she does not respond. You say in your article that if you love someone you should let them know. I still love her and miss her very much. How should I go about telling her I love her?

    1. I believe that if you love someone you should tell them, but now is not the right time to be telling her how much you love her or want her back. You already did a lot of that when you were “begging” and that didn’t change her mind. That’s because at this point in time, how much you love her is probably not what she wants to hear.

      The only person who right now cares if they are still loved is you. You are the only one feeling bad because you think that she might not love you anymore. So you keep saying “I love you” over and over and in so many different ways because you think somehow you’ll get some kind of reassurance that she still has feelings for you. Trying to get assurance of love makes you comes across as need, clingy and emotionally unattractive

      If she’s responding, keep the contact and build on it to get her to warm up to you again. But hold off the “love overload” because it will turn her off.