DEAR CAROLYN: Two years ago I left my fiance, who I'd been with for four years. I was 27, had developed strong feelings for someone else and was scared I was doing the wrong thing. He was and remains to this day the best person I've ever met, and I'm not sure why I couldn't love him all the way. We didn't have the strongest sexual chemistry, but couldn't I have managed that? He was loving and supportive and my best friend. I recently asked him if he'd consider dating again, and he said he's moved on and is happier now. Is this a sign that breaking up was actually the right thing to do? Or did I make a huge, life-altering mistake? I'm scared, single, uncertain of the future and sad.
SCARED: When you're "scared, single, uncertain of the future and sad," that's usually when any nice, comfortable things you had in the past acquire an almost unbearably rosy glow, and you kick yourself for giving them up.
But fear is an idiot. It makes rash and expedient choices for us that we come to regret when we start feeling secure again and the sense of danger passes.
This guy no doubt is a really good person, and was your best friend. But, you didn't all-the-way love him. The reasons for that aren't important — it only matters that you didn't.
So, use that to justify closing the door on all related what-ifs, and focus instead on your fears, sadness and uncertainties. What isn't working for you? How long have you felt this way (and would therapy help)? What changes are you in a position to make, starting with the smallest?
If you have to ask yourself whether you could have managed the meh sexual chemistry, by the way, then assume the answer is no.
RE: SCARED: I once broke up with a Best Friend for reasons that sound similar to what you describe. Even though I knew it was right at the time, years later I would still ask, "Did I make a huge mistake?" I compared everyone I dated to the Best Friend and none of them ever seemed as good. I wondered if I was limiting myself? I eventually did meet the love of my life and I realized Best Friend's role had been to set the bar very high. I never wasted my time with anyone who didn't reach those standards. My now-husband passed well above those standards! And Best Friend and his wife are now our Very Good Friends.
Took a While, but Moved On
TOOK A WHILE, BUT MOVED ON: Love the idea of the ex as a bar others needed to clear.
RE: SCARED: "[Fear] makes rash and expedient choices for us that we come to regret": Tell that to my ex who called off our wedding because of anxiety. I was never so attractive as I was walking out the door.
Regardless, you weren't the right people for each other — whether the anxiety caused the mismatch or the mismatch caused the anxiety.