My boyfriend and I broke up a while ago.
I can’t seem to get over him, and to give a bit more context, we’ve been hooking up recently. I know he only sees me as a friend with benefits, but my feelings won’t go away. I want to keep hooking up, but I don’t want to hurt him or myself.
What should I do?
I’m going to approach my response first with personal advice as a fellow high schooler and later with more general advice as an outsider.
Simply put, I would stop hooking up with your ex-boyfriend as the first step. I know that’s easier said than done, but I think that maintaining physical attachment with him while simultaneously trying to cut off emotional attachment will hurt more than help you and your ex.
From what I’ve experienced and learned from others, giving a part of yourself physically to another person whom you care about forms a bond that runs deeper than the surface touches. It creates a sense of comfort, familiarity and greater acceptance of both people — effects that can feel good but that you should also be wary of.
What’s familiar to you is always changing as you have new experiences, so familiarity is very fickle and hard to ground. Familiarity is also a fragile justification for why a person should stay how they are in life now, eternally, while he or she could become and feel better. Holding onto something that used to provide comfort and pleasure but no longer does and rather nurtures dissatisfaction and uneasiness — only hinders you from gaining experience, perspective and wisdom. Besides, the familiarity you treasure could be rekindled by another person in the future with whom you are more compatible. In your situation, the cons of continuing to hook up outweigh the pros.
In addition, I think it is unfair for the specific person whom you sincerely care about to use you primarily for his own pleasure and ignore your affections and disquieted, discontent feelings — unless he is clueless about your inner conflict. Using someone for a selfish reason is not right, but failing to heal a pain that one is unaware of causing is not wrong either.
Thus, to clarify where you both stand, I suggest talking to him about your emotions and thoughts whether you want to continue hooking up or not. If, even after understanding your unhappiness with the relationship, he still tries to keep hooking up with you and actively disregards your struggle, then he probably does not value you or your emotions as much as himself or his own.
In this case, I would think about what matters to you most in a friend and if you still want to keep your friendship with your ex. Remember, others should respect you and you should respect yourself. You are worthy of love and consideration for more than your body or sexual abilities. Just because someone doesn’t treasure you as you do them does not mean you deserve to be devalued. You can experience comfort and a sense of fulfillment without being in a sexual or romantic relationship, even if you feel like you temporarily lose some.
In the end, as an outsider, I can only offer suggestions. Talking with other mentors, adults and professionals can surely be helpful, but even they cannot see through you. You know your heart and mind best, and only you can introspectively decide what might bring you peace.
The frightening power that emotions seem to have over people only exists because people create and allow it themselves; the emotions alone are weak, often unreliable portrayals of one’s thoughts and of reality. Hurt will inevitably be experienced by everyone, so though you can’t avoid it, you can try to lessen it. To do so, you have to be honest with yourself and your ex. Consider what is reasonably best for both of you from as objective a point of view as you can. Advise yourself as you would a younger sibling or close friend. Recognize that though you say you don’t want to hurt your ex or yourself, you already are deceiving your ex by acting as if you are fine, and you are already hurting yourself by staying in this difficult position. Try to relieve yourself of the hardship and avoid more hurt over time.
All you can do is use your best judgement. As I said before, life is always changing. Thankfully, that means you are never stuck. In each moment, you can make new choices and reflect on and realize different things. Use this truth as a source of strength as you move forward with your decisions.
WITH LOVE: JAMIE
Dr. Moira Kessler, a child psychiatrist at the Stanford University Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, offers feedback to the column writer. She is not providing any clinical services.
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