Q. Meredith, I met my ex-boyfriend more than three years ago. I was his first girlfriend, and he was my second relationship (I’m in my early 20s). Everything was perfect at first. A few months down the road, though, I realized that he had low self-esteem and was controlling and jealous. To top it off, his family criticized me a lot. I always felt as if I were walking on eggshells. He got upset about my male friends, and I became antisocial and did what he asked. Eventually, last November, I gave up. I met a new man who was significantly older but was good to me and made me feel great about myself — until he ended it because he still had feelings for his ex.
During that romance, I would still reach out to my ex, asking how he was. He would beg me to come back. I never told him I was dating someone else. After the breakup with the new guy, I finally started to experience the heartbreak from the split with my ex. I contacted him and said that I wanted to give our relationship another chance. He wanted to as well. He told me he had changed and that he was seeking help to control his issues. He asked me if I “cheated” on him during the breakup. I did not have the courage to say yes. Am I making a mistake? I do not feel as if I cheated on him. I do not feel as if I should tell him what I did. Is this correct?
— Confused Soul
A. I wish you had written this letter before you called your ex to get back together. I would have told you that you needed to work through the heartbreak and loneliness on your own. I would have explained that it’s a great time to be single and spend time with friends.
It’s not too late, though. You can always undo your decision. Your ex claims that he’s changed, yet he’s referring to relationships you may have had during the breakup as “cheating.” He’s already trying to make you feel bad about being with anyone but him.
You didn’t tell us that you’re happy to be with this guy again. If anything, your letter makes it clear that you’re uneasy and that your reconciliation has presented more questions than answers. Your gut is telling you plenty here. Please listen.
You did not cheat. A breakup signifies that your agreement to remain exclusive is over.
You’re too young to be trying to turn back the clock and recycle an old relationship. It didn’t work the first time, and it seems the guy hasn’t actually changed. Bow out, and meet some new guys.
I think you should tell him just that you were split up so yeah, you dated. And I think his reaction should tell you something.
Run. Fast. His controlling issues are still there — in flashing neon. If you can’t answer that question with “It’s none of your business” in comfort, get out of there. Now.
Dump this guy and be on your own for awhile. Sounds like your self-esteem needs a tuneup.
boston.com/loveletters. Send letters, comments, and questions to email@example.com.