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Ask Dr. Norman Brown Your Own Question

Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1168
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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I apologize in advance if this turns out ... I started

Customer Question

I apologize in advance if this turns out long...
I started dating my best friend since middle school my junior year of high school. It was blissful...for about 8 months. And then, for some unknown reason, I started feeling as though something was off..something was missing. I stayed with him, but we took two breaks in which I felt free and happy...and then would miss him like crazy and would go back to him. Then, this past March, I broke up with him for good, after two years together. We remained really close friends, as I really did care about him, and we've been through every difficult time in our lives together. After a month in, he filled a room with flowers for me and asked me to go back with him. I couldn't, I felt happier being single.
Two weeks ago, I was fine. I had dated someone for a month and broke up with him, I was casually seeing two other guys, and I felt fine. And then, I started to miss him again. But this was more, I started feeling the way I did when we first started dating. I started noticing all the things that made me fall for him, and I wanted him back. For good. Not just out of loneliness. I told him this, and he said while he still had feelings for me, now is not the time. He's not "prepared" to go through the possibility of me deciding I'm not happy again. And I completely understand. However, now he's dating someone else, and our "friendship" that we've always cared so much about is non-existent. I'm trying no contact, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I was also hoping it would bring him back...but should I not even bother, considering he's dating someone else?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 1 year ago.
It' not too long at all. You're still young, and you don't realize how NORMAL your experience is for people your age, who are still reeling in and out of their first great love. He's not going to rush back in with you when he's dating somebody else--because new love is more exciting and your "old love" is more dangerous, since you're both yo-yoing in and out. That's because your lives are still ahead of you, and 2 years together is on the threshold of going on into marriage. So the stakes for continuing or starting over with somebody else (who might be more similar to the young adult parts of each of you that are emerging in your separate lives) are very high. It SHOULD take you around 1 year or more to get over a first love of 2 years, even though it will always have an impact as one model of what you want to have with whoever you're with. You can still try to get back together, and you may have another phase or two of being partners. There's no way to tell what the ultimate outcome will be at this point. but IF you go away to different colleges, or one of you does, it's much less likely that your first love will become your first (or even your ONLY) marriage. You've never been thru what happens during the lengthy recovery from a "great love" like your first one; so you don't know that you WILL make it thru, and you WILL be able to eventually love somebody else just as much, and actually more maturely, since you will be learning more about the many parts of yourself that you had no clue about in high school.
Do you have any ideas about what you want to DO and BE when you grow up? Most people need between 5 and 15 more years to find that out; though people who have no intentions of learning for life and developing themselves into a professional career may not be troubled by concerns like those.
You are a sensitive woman with good understanding of your boyfriend's feelings, and you have a lot of living to do before you need to "settle down" to marriage. For a large part of Americans the 20s are a period of exploratory adulthood; tho some of them explore marriage by getting married young. But divorce is more likely for those who marry that young than for those who marry later, after they've grown to understand what they really like and want, and how to take care of themselves.
What would your tentative life-plan look like if you were to give up on making your boyfriend your central goal?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for the reply.Well, I've always actually known what I wanted to do in life - which is partly why I hated not knowing what I wanted in our relationship. I'm in school for Advertising with a minor and a certificate to accompany it as well. We both attend a university about 3 hours from our hometown. I actually am what got him into the university - I filled out his application. Not because I needed him to go to the same college as me, although I would be lying if I said I wasn't happy that was the case - but because I knew that university had a good program for his major and so he had a school to fall back on.
I've been away in South Korea for 7 weeks now, I go back to the U.S. soon. I plan on traveling more, so I'm not giving up on any of my goals for him, but he's always been my main source of support and this past week has been so lonely for me. I don't just miss him, I really miss our friendship. Ever since we've known each other, we've never gone a week without speaking, and it really hurts that it seems to be so easy for him. And because we've been so close for so long, everything reminds me of him. And whenever I find something funny, I want to text him and share it with him. But now I just feel like I'm annoying him. What's the best way to get over him? Or at least get rid of this heavy feeling on my chest everyday?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Oh, and I haven't contacted him in almost a week now, should I continue to give us space so I can get over him? I would still like to remain friends, and he's always made it clear our friendship was a priority..how should I go about rekindling our friendship once I'm able to?
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 1 year ago.
Your long history as best friends is a good sign that reviving your friendship may succeed. But if you try to do it now, or even in a few months, you're going to have many ghosts of your romantic relationship that come up to haunt you. It's also possible that his post-breakup dating relationship will tank at the first or second disappointment, just as yours did, because you've both been covering up the extent to which you've formed your expectations for relationship around the habits you've developed together. It's a common bit of advice to NOT push any steady form of contact for about 4-6 months, but allow for (usually written) oommunication when one person has something important to say. You have probably NOT reached any mutual agreement about whether you might still want to aim for a future marriage or not; so that has to be resolved over some months or even years.
But you need to remember that you felt "something was missing" in your relationship. It is possible that that "something" was actually produced by your process of growing up. That is, you're becoming a bit more of an adult, and there is SO MUCH expansion of your personality still to come that you would be much LESS able to be aware of and THRILLED about if you continue to make your love relationship the center of your life.
There's another aspect of "love" that you're probably not aware of, because it's never spoken of in the same conversation with "romantic love." Ancient Indian spiritual psychology may have explained it first: "Love" or Passion is normally felt at the Leading edge of wherever we are newly expanding our personality--whether it's new environment, new people to get to know closely, new tasks and challenges, new learning, new phases of life, a new job, or any new and exciting activities. So, for example, people who don't leave the town where they went to high school are more likely to marry young, because they're less likely to discover something new to pursue with unexpected passion. In contrast, one of the common formulas for beginning to recover from a relationship breakup is to TRAVEL , because there is SO much that is NEW and Interesting that one can (temporarily) "fall in love with."
"Old love" endures because of ATTACHMENT, the same emotional force that bonds children and parents; but personality development thrives on new encounters and new experiences.
So you're out of high school; and perhaps you're facing the possibility of expanding the size of your world or finding your new frontiers by starting a household and having babies.
The first few weeks are the hardest, because you don't have habits to cope with not having a boyfriend to center your life around. So think about NEW experiences you can have--look for beauty around you, engage in deep and interesting conversations with old and new friends. It's a major benefit for a young woman to learn how to enjoy her days without needing to have a boyfriend's interest in her to brighten her expectations. These are specific learning that young women used to help each other with in the early years of the "Women's Lib" movement--learning how to be independent of a boyfriend, so that you have a CHOICE about whether you want to be making sure you're pleasing a guy who wants romance and sex vs planning out your activities without needing to make sure that someone whose attention you depend on is satisfied with his experiences with you. And learning how to really enjoy what you can do when you have only yourself for company is an EXTREMELY valuable part of growing up into a free-standing human being.
So there are many challenging and ultimately rewarding things to do besides just wonder how soon you can get your boyfriend back as a "good friend.
There are books on "How to Recover from the Loss of a Love"; and probably anybody you know who's been thru that will have advice for you too."

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