By Jody Valley
Testing the water
Q: I am writing you for advice on my former relationship. I broke up with “Sarah” over a year ago; we had been together for 3 years. I must say, she was the woman whom I was most attracted to, both physically and mentally of anyone I’ve ever dated. I really loved her but because of her immature behavior I felt I needed to leave her to take care of myself. She was a person that could be incredibly funny and charming and, at other times, totally self-centered. I felt like I was dealing with two different people and, I must say, it made me feel terribly crazy. She could be irresponsible and cruel at times, but not always, at times she made me feel like the most special person in the world.
The reason I’m telling you all of this is that Sarah has started calling me and wants us to try getting back together. She says she has changed, she now knows how much she loves me, and she wants to spend the rest of her life with me. She has apologized for what a shit she was when we were together, and she says she will never be like that again.
Maybe she has changed; I don’t know. She has been in therapy for the last year and says she has been working on issues that she feels interfered with our relationship. She also has held a job for the last year, lived on her own, and paid all her own bills. That was one of our problems; she was irresponsible with money and didn’t work enough or long enough to help make ends meet. Now she says she has changed and wants me to give her a chance. She seems to know what went wrong before and what needed to change.
One side of me wants to try again because I still love her, but I am afraid of getting hurt again. I don’t know if I want to trust her or I don’t even know if I can trust her again. Sarah wants to move back together so I can see that she has really changed. We have been going out for coffee, and have had a couple of dates–with friends. My friends think I should give her a chance because if I don’t I may regret it forever, not knowing what could have been.
I am thinking about just starting to date and see where it goes. What do you think? Do you think a person can change, and how can I tell if she has really changed? Do relationships like this ever work, one where two people get back together after a year?
– To Jump Back In, or NOT
A: I do believe some people can change, but I certainly don’t think change is easy. I also believe there are some folks that have some severe character flaws that seem to prevent them from being capable of change. I don’t know enough about Sarah to know what the chances are that this will be permanent changes in her behaviors. It is very encouraging that Sarah has been in therapy for a year, if she has had a good therapist and worked hard, she may have made a substantial change.
If you want to give her a chance, I think you should start dating–step on any desire to summons a U-Haul. Take it slow. During this dating period, you can ascertain if you can start trusting her again. Sometimes, when a person has been hurt, s/he can no longer trust a person–no matter how much that person has changed. There will be no way you will know unless you try, and only you can decide if it is worth the risk of trying.
If you do decide to give it a go, I would also suggest that you look into your behavior in your former relationship and see what part you played in the dysfunction. That would be key to not replicating former relationship patterns.
Try to keep in mind that even if Sarah has really changed, it doesn’t mean she will be perfect. She will make some of the same mistakes, at times, as she is integrating her new behavior into your relationship. Good luck and take care of yourself.