We dated the Zeros… so you don’t have to.


Help! Should I send a post break-up email?


Recently a reader, lets call her Signed, Sealed, Delivered? (SSD For short) reached out to us asking for some post break-up advice. She gave us lots of good info to work with, but because the letter was long and because it included some personal/specific details which might reveal her identity, I’m going to summarize her situation and hope I do her and her question justice.

SSD met a guy who was a few years younger than herself. After an uncharacteristic one-night stand, she and the guy started dating for real. Often he would go out with his friends and then come over to her place later. Though they hadn’t officially had the boyfriend/girlfriend talk, and though they knew she’d be moving a few hours away for work in the upcoming months, his friends referred to her as his girlfriend, which she took to be a good sign. After about a month, SSD started to get tired of his immature, coming-over-after-hanging-out-with-the-guys ways. They talked and he said that he was intimidated by how together she was (he was flailing), but he didn’t want to break-up. Things didn’t get much better. By the 2nd month mark they had a conversation about her upcoming move, and he said that if he wasn’t in love with her by then, he wouldn’t want to do the long-distance thing and that he always felt like he was in trouble with her. She was obviously upset by this, but decided to stick it out because he still maintained he didn’t want to break-up. Around this time he says that his ex-girlfriend is coming to town and that he wants to get coffee with her. SSD decides that she trusts him, and leaves town for a friend’s bachelorette party. He breaks up with her while she’s on her trip, and not only does he do it over the phone, he’s totally rude and insulting in the process. A few days after her return, despite the fact that he said he’d be out of town himself, she runs into him at a café and he’s with his ex-girlfriend.

I’ll let her explain the rest…

‘I’ve not heard a word since, but know he went away with his family for three days. I guess I expected an ‘I’m sorry that was so awkward’ text, or explanation.

I can’t describe what I feel like and I think that is what I am struggling with…  a) am I hurt? I wasn’t happy with what he said about me moving and know I couldn’t have kept this going with that on my mind, but now I feel lonely and I did like a lot of things about him. Was I rushing him? Was he not ready to be dating and not over his ex? Was he cheating on me? is this all a function of him freaking out with his ex called him? have I been the one pushing this relationship since the beginning? and there spiral the questions without talking to him directly….however I no longer am sure I could believe what he said… 

I’m currently holding my silence but HONESTLY want to write a mean email, that quotes- while you may be handsome charming polite but you are also emotionally exhausting, jevenile and selfish- a total zero.’


First off, I’m so sorry you got caught up in a Zeros vortex. I don’t think you can blame his Zeroishness on the fact that he is younger than you. He was definitely selfish and completely immature, but unfortunately there are plenty of 40 year-olds out there pulling the same crap. A guy can be giving and emotionally mature at any age and unfortunately some guys never quite get there. This guy might eventually grow up and stop being a zero, but then again, he might not. Either way, he’s not your problem any more. It may take some time to feel it but believe me, eventually you will be glad of that fact.

My overall take on this situation is although there were things you really liked about him, it seems like you wanted him to be better than he actually was. There were signs from early on that this guy wasn’t giving you what you need. Unfortunately, when we ignore those types of signs, we end up getting exponentially more hurt. I had to learn this the hard way too. When you had your talks about the ways in which you were dissatisfied with the relationship, his response was “I don’t want to break-up”. Understandably you interpreted that as a good thing. It is easy to hear “I don’t want to break-up” and think he’s saying “I’m willing to work on this relationship and make it better”. But this is one of those situations when we hear what we want to hear. “I don’t want to break-up” can just as easily mean ‘I don’t want to break-up because I like the way things are, i.e. being able to date you without having to give much or do anything I don’t want to do’. When you think about it, not wanting to break-up really is only the bare minimum relationship requirement. You deserve someone who wants to give more. A lot more.

And this is the difficult, take-a-look-in-the-mirror-to-see-your-own-culpability part. When he said “I don’t want to break-up”, the important follow up question should have been, “Are you willing and able to give me what I need?” We seldom ask that question, or questions like it, because we’re afraid of the answer. Sometimes we don’t ask it because we don’t even realize we have the right to expect more from the relationship. And here is the really tough question…Why were you willing to settle for so little for so long? You weren’t rushing him… he just wasn’t going the direction you thought he was. As far as was he cheating or not over his ex? Very possibly. Though that idea is totally hurtful and hard on the ego, the important take away is not what he was or was not thinking – you’ll drive yourself nuts focusing on that – but instead you need to focus on all the ways he wasn’t giving you what you needed.

Which brings us to the mean email you want to write. I completely understand the impulse. The desire to tell him all the ways he hurt you is a natural and normal impulse. It just isn’t a good one. The desire to send the break-up letter/email usually stems from one of three things (or a combination of all three).

  1. The hope that getting it all out will make you feel better and give you closure.
  2. To make him feel bad about how he treated you.
  3. That he will realize his mistake, clear up your issues and want you back.

Unfortunately the mean email will actually do none of these things. It is a sad fact that closure rarely comes from one letter, one conversation or one… anything. Closure is something that happens over time.

He already expressed an annoyance at feeling like he’s always ‘in trouble’. This is immature boy code for ‘I don’t want to take responsibility for my actions so I’m going to reframe this conversation, turn it back on you and make you the uptight harpy’. A mean email will just be another example of this. Instead of forcing him to look at his behavior the mean email just lets him off the hook. This guy is not emotionally mature or particularly empathetic so I doubt he’s going to learn anything from what you have to say.  And ultimately it isn’t your job to make him grow up. It isn’t your job to educate him on the subject of relationships or to teach him the error of his ways. It isn’t your job to make him a better man. That’s for him to figure out. It is your job to get over him and move on. It is your job, when he and his ex break-up yet again and he comes around trying to get back into your good graces, to tell him that you are not interested in ‘hanging out’ or ‘being friends’ or any of the other ways these guys try to worm their way back into getting to have you without doing the work. It is your job to give yourself the time and space to heal. Finally, it is your job to realize that you are someone who deserves a guy who really wants to be an active, equal participant in whatever relationship he’s lucky enough to have with you.


One Response to “Help! Should I send a post break-up email?”

  1. August 15, 2012 at 9:48 am

    NEVER SEND THE EMAIL!!!! Before sending anything like defer to “what am I trying to accomplish?” And whatever it is it comes down to that he doesn’t actually care. Fuck him, have a cry fest, bitch to your friends and no dwelling past the 2 week mark. Consider yourself lucky that he was such a cock-sucker in breaking it off as it makes it easier to loathe him as opposed to a “it just wouldn’t work with the distance.” It’s a clean break, although rude, KEEP IT THAT WAY!

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