Home » Ask the Therapist » If Only I Could Understand My Ex, It Would Help Me Cope

If Only I Could Understand My Ex, It Would Help Me Cope

Asked by on with 1 answer:

I met my now ex boyfriend ten months ago. He had just gotten over depression when he met me (ugly relationship in the past). He was in love. He was always texting, always wanting to see me. I was putting all of my efforts in trying to be the perfect girlfriend – never angry, always supportive.

He has anxiety. He started having periods in which everything would be gloomy for him followed by “doubts” about our relationship. His therapist suggested it could be relationship anxiety and I assured him that I could understand, and would help him get him through it. He seemed scared to love. he would cry swearing that he felt something for me – that he wasn’t sure what it was. He knew that he wanted to be with me, but didn’t understand.

After the crisis he would tell me that he had made a big deal out of his doubts. Even during those attacks, he was always affectionate, swearing that he truly cared for me, and that he was truly sorry that he was making me so sad and hurt.

Over time, he started refusing to go to the therapist. He said he believed he had no problems whatsoever. After nine months together, one day – out of the blue – another crisis.He told me that he “probably would decide to break up with me”. he was crying again.

I knew that I had to end things at this point. So I told him that i was in love with him, but I could not see the point dragging things on if he really thought this way. He was crying again. Hugged me repeatedly, told me that I was the most important person in his life. I thought he needed space more than a relationship.

Since then, he texts me every other day to tell me about his day, ask me about mine, ask me out. We see each other at least twice a week. He always waits for me to hug me tight. Long hugs, holding me tight. When he does I can hear he has trouble breathing. he holds me for a long time, then stays for a while with his cheek against mine, and often kisses me on the forehead or the cheek. And much more. I really wish you could help me to understand him better… would help me cope. (From Italy)

If Only I Could Understand My Ex, It Would Help Me Cope

Answered by on -


I am very glad you have written us. There are several things in your email that are important to highlight. On the positive side you knew when to set a limit and realized that regardless of your actions your boyfriend was struggling with his own issues. When you’re in a relationship and feel limited in how you can be around the person this is an important indication. On more than one occasion it seem like you were too accepting — and too willing — to coddle his emotional state.

This is often referred to as enabling. It means that by altering yourself to accommodate him you may have lost a bit of who you are. I’m a firm believer that relationships are not random. We choose our partners consciously and unconsciously. In other words, whatever attracted you to your ex-boyfriend ended up being something that couldn’t be sustained. This is a normal reaction. We often get drawing to people because we believe they can provide something we need, but are often frustrated by the fact that that need becomes less and less experienced.

This is probably a good time for you to enter individual therapy to try and understand three things: first, learn what attracted you to him, because this will tell you a lot about what you need in a relationship. Secondly, learn a bit about when things went south and what kept you hoping he would change.

Finally, ask yourself what you were getting out of the relationship now and why it is being maintained in the way it is. This is a difficult reflection. Ask yourself what keeps you connected to someone who’s emotional needs are so great that it keeps you from having an equal partner.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

If Only I Could Understand My Ex, It Would Help Me Cope

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). If Only I Could Understand My Ex, It Would Help Me Cope. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 11 Sep 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.