"To get back on friendly terms after being so badly treated doesn’t reflect well on how you think about yourself"

Dear Virginia,

My girlfriend broke up with me after six months because she can’t forget her ex, whom she was with for five years. She said it wasn’t fair to me to continue. Even so, she’s not back with him, so I don’t think that’s really the problem. I’ve been going out and trying to meet someone else, but the truth is that I’m desperate to get her back. Should we stay in contact? Even though I’m away from home for three months now, we’ve been texting and calling – and she’s instigated it half the time. But how can I make her want me if I don’t see her for so long?

Yours sincerely, Peter

Virginia says

It’s the usual old question, isn’t it? Is it a case of “Out of sight out of mind?”, as you seem to think it is? Or is it a case of “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”?

It seems to me that your ex-girlfriend (though is she really yet your ex if she keeps texting and being in touch with you?) is one who is in the latter camp. She breaks up with her ex and, presumably, feels great about it. She starts seeing you, but, because she hasn’t seen her old boyfriend for a few months, he suddenly becomes, in her memory, a lot more of an attractive proposition. Now she’s split up with you and it looks to me as if she’s settling into the old pattern all over again. The moment you go away, she gets more interested. She starts texting and calling. Now, believe me, you don’t do that to someone you’re not fond of. You do it to someone who you want to be in touch with. Someone, dare I say it, that you only appreciate by his absence.

My piece of advice to you is one that is really difficult to take. And it consists of such a corny three words that you’ll probably dismiss it out of hand. But here goes. Play it cool. However fond you are of her, it’s not an unnatural way to behave. Look, she’s dropped you like a hot brick – why should you, when she gets in touch, be so quick to respond? You’ve been hurt. Do you want to get hurt again? Keep your distance. If you feel you can’t bear not to reply to her, wait a week before doing so. If she rings you, either don’t answer or pick up and quickly say you’ll ring back – and then wait a couple of days. At least. Maybe don’t ring back at all.

To get back on friendly terms after being so badly treated doesn’t reflect well on how you think about yourself. It shows you have no self-respect, and that’s not attractive. No one wants to go out with someone who they’ve treated badly and who comes grovelling back for more punishment. At least acknowledge what has been done to you. You’ve been dropped. So keep away, for a while at least, and don’t hurry into amiable correspondence in your rush to try to get back together again. Be aloof. Lie low for a couple of weeks. Let her imagination run riot as she thinks of you with a new girlfriend. Keep her awake at night as she torments herself with the idea of you making new friends. And let her memory play havoc as, with distance to distort it (or, who knows, clarify it), you appear much more alluring in her eyes than you did when you were close to hand.

The problem is, if you do get back together, how to maintain that closeness without getting dumped again. But  that’s another story.

Readers say...

Cut your losses

You seem to take the fact that she isn’t back with her ex as evidence that this wasn’t the problem between you two. What’s to say that he isn’t doing to her what she is doing to you? It seems to me as though, strangely enough, you and she are actually in a rather similar position. Take some strength from this and try to put yourself in her shoes; do you think you could make a go of it with someone new if you were always thinking your old love? It may be hard to hear this, but I think you need to cut your losses. The sad reality is that you can’t make someone love you, even if you think it’s right.

I think you should also be worried about rekindling a relationship with someone who has said she couldn’t love you fully. Why prolong your misery? It is always hard to get back on the dating scene after a break-up, but wounds do heal. It doesn’t mean that you have to start dating straight away, but you definitely won’t be able to if she is always at the back of your mind. While the two of you are still in contact, the idea of her will always be there.

Shireen P

by email

Make use of your time apart

Why put all your eggs in one basket? There’s nothing to say that you can’t keep in touch with your ex while still exploring new dating opportunities with other people. The fact that you’re apart from each other should make it easier to separate things in your head – you can work on your relationship with her, and if things start to get better, then great. If nothing has changed at the end of three months, then maybe it’s time to rethink, but by then you may have met someone exciting and new; you won’t be any further back. You may not be able to change her, but you have an opportunity to change things for yourself.


by email

You can’t make her love you

I’ve got news for you: nobody can “make” anybody want him/her. All you can do is leave them alone to find out for themselves who they want. In the meantime, do something to make your mind off it. You might even meet a lovely woman who really does want you.

Sara Neill

by email

You need this break

When she broke up with her ex, no doubt your girlfriend was advised by her friends to go out and meet someone else. For her, you were that someone. So, in a sense, your relationship was never really equal, and in these circumstances, perhaps it never can be. Have the courage to keep contact to a minimum. You need this break to see if there is something there that is worth saving.

Philippa Dowling

by email

Next week's dilemma

I have a friend from way back who is the mother of two adult children, one of them my godson. This friend can’t stop praising her daughter, and constantly goes on about how wonderful she is – but she seems to be unable to stop putting the boy down. He runs a small but extremely successful and prestigious advertising company, but she just keeps moaning that he’s got too many staff or not enough space or that “he may be having a good run now, but what then?”. She’s been like this ever since he was small. Should I say something and back him up, or do nothing?

Yours sincerely,


What would you advise Yvette to do?  To answer this dilemma, or to share your own problem, write to dilemmas@independent.co.uk