A Desperado asks:
My boyfriend and I broke up when he went away to college because we both agreed that the long-distance thing wasn’t a good idea. We had been blissfully happy up until then and no bad behaviour led to our break up, but now he is starting to act like a jerk toward me (doesn’t follow through with plans when he is home, frequently leaves me on read, has deleted some pictures of us together from Instagram). Why???
First, let me say that I am so sorry this is happening to you, it must be super confusing. Especially since it sounds like you are both pretty mature – making a decision to break up when everything is going great but distance is a new factor sounds really practical. And maybe that’s part of the problem – your break-up was practical, not passionate.
It is hard enough breaking up and moving on when things end badly. Somebody lies or cheats, somebody has an addiction that they can’t beat or is abusive, you are a bad fit in other ways, whatever it is, that “bad” thing sort of helps us get over the person we are leaving behind. There’s a good reason that makes us feel justified in breaking up and cutting contact with them. We feel self-righteous and that gives us some strength to move on. Maybe, and this is a big if where I am making all kinds of assumptions, but maybe he is cutting off contact in an abrupt way in order to give himself some distance to move on from your good relationship. In the absence of a strong, emotional reason to leave you, he has to find strength for the break in other ways.
Or maybe he’s just got a new girl and isn’t man enough to own up to it – that is totally possible too!
So, what do you do? Well, you have some options here. You can take the path of least resistance and just assume that he has turned into a jerk overnight or you’ve done something wrong that you are unaware of to cause this behaviour or he has a new love interest and then just move on yourself. Then you will likely proceed to overanalyze the situation with your friends and send curses his way, maybe even be a little jerky back. That’s one option. Another would be to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is going through something that may or may not be about you (the first year of college can be a really tough transition) and trust that he will share with you when he is ready. Maybe even send a little encouragement his way to this effect. It doesn’t cost you anything or make you look bad to be kind. Third, you could just ask him what’s up. “Hey I’ve noticed you seem a little distant lately, just wondering what is going on”. He may or may not answer just as directly, but at least you tried to be mature and honest about it. If it were me, I’d pick option number 3 because that feels the most direct, expedient and honors my own need to know. Whatever he says may hurt, but at least you will KNOW and can act accordingly.
For the record, no matter the reason for a break-up, being a jerk back will not make you feel better in the long run. It may be satisfying in the short term, an eye for an eye and all that, but it won’t feel good to you inside to harbor that anger and hold that grudge. Grieve for the loss, be kind to yourself, seek support from loved ones and figure out what you can learn from the situation because, believe it or not, this is an opportunity to grow.