Question: Yangki, I’ve read all of your site and love your advice. I was with my ex for 2.5 years. We are the typical anxious-avoidant pairing. I am anxiously preoccupied and he is a fearful avoidant with dismissive avoidant traits. As you very well know, we didn’t see eye to eye on many things. We argued and fought on the amount of time we spent together. At times he pulled away and we didn’t talk for weeks. Then I reach out and we work things out. About 3 weeks ago, he broke up with me. He said he was depressed and didn’t want to be in a relationship anymore.
His main complaint was that he unhappy in general. He was unhappy with our relationship, he hated his job and felt like all his peers were doing better than him. I can honestly say I did everything a girlfriend should do and gave him everything, but it wasn’t enough. A week after we broke up, I met with him to talk about what happened, but he says nothing I do will make him want to come back.
I’m very hurt but I believe in my heart that we are meant to be together. I just don’t know what else to do to make him happy. Any advice?
Yangki’s Answer: It hurts to hear someone you love say nothing you do will make him want to come back. But if if helps, so many exes say they are not coming back or changing their mind, and they end up coming back.
The important thing here is to figure out why your ex is unhappy. What is within your control to change/do anything about and what is out of your control.
1. What is within your control to change/do anything about
I don’t know what you believe “everything a girlfriend should do” or what everything you gave him was, but because you mention you are anxiously preoccupied and he is a fearful avoidant leaning dismissive, I can only imagine that what you thought/felt he needed from a girlfriend and what he actually needed was one of the reasons for his unhappiness.
Studies have linked lack of support and response from a partner (actual or perceived) to depressive symptoms in anxiously attached individuals, and a partners’ aggressive behaviours to depression in avoidants.
Anxiously preoccupied partners tend to give “too much” to a relationship and to a relationship partners hoping that they will receive as much from their partner as they are giving. They think they are doing “everything a girlfriend should do” and don’t realize that this comes off as ‘aggressive” or trying too hard and/or being needy. And they may think they are “giving their partner everything” not realizing that they are overwhelming and suffocating them. But I am sure you already know that and working on your attachment anxiety.
2. What is out of your control
It’s possible that that what is happening in the relationship is causing your ex be unhappy with life in general, hate his job and feel like all his peers are doing better than him. But it could also be that because he hates his job and feels like all his peers are doing better than him, he is projecting his unhappiness on to the relationship.
If he is unhappy with himself, I’m afraid there is nothing you can do to make him happy. It’s just one of those things… you can’t make someone who is unhappy with himself or his life happy. They have to find their happiness on their own.
You can be supportive by being a secure stable base, and not let your attachment anxiety get in the way. But that’s all you can do. Interestingly, sometimes this is all they need for the relationship to work.