Six weeks before my future husband and I got engaged, we weren’t speaking. We weren’t speaking because we were broken up. This may not have been the best way to start off our engagement.
Our two-and-a-half-year relationship had ended. I had broken up with my boyfriend, and my reasons had been pretty clear.
In those last months together I realized that I had been suffering from that age-old delusion that if he loved me, he’d change. Clearly, my love could change him.
I believed that one day he would wake up, and along with that spoonful of Equal in his coffee he would add a teaspoon of Equally-Committed, and he’d suddenly and unequivocally be where I was.
I adored him and was ready to spend my life with him. For me, it was that simple. For him, it was not.
Toward the end of our relationship, the more he talked about getting a house on his own or dreamily discussed future travel plans where the furthest I’d be traveling was a trip to the airport to drop him off, it broke my heart.
Finally, I could take the hurt no longer and I knew it was time for a clean break instead of this slow chipping away.
After weeks of talking it over, we broke up. I cried. I ate ice cream. I watched “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and ate more ice cream. I moved on.
Two months later, Mr. Ex-Boyfriend must have misplaced his Equal and used the Equally-Committed I left at his house, because now he suddenly wanted me back.
I listened to him pour his heart out over the phone. He told me how much he loved me and how I was the only one he would ever love. He was ready to marry me.
“Please, I want to be with you. You’re the only one for me,” he said pleading through tears.
I have to admit, I was moved. Moved to tell him he needed therapy. I figured he was just afraid of being alone or that his ego was angry about losing me. I didn’t believe that he truly wanted to be with me after all the chances he’d been given.
I hung up believing that was it. What ex-girlfriend suggests therapy to an ex-boyfriend and ever hears from him again? There was no way I’d ever be hearing from him again. No way. I was never wrong.
Of course, sometimes I’m not always right.
Three months later, I found myself listening to my ex over lunch telling me how he’d taken my advice.
I almost spit-up my drink when he confided in me that he’d been seeing a therapist — and it was changing him.
I could see it sitting there with him. For one thing, he hadn’t once flirted with the waitress. His attention was all mine as he whispered the one thing therapy had not altered was his love for me, and he wanted me to go with him to his sessions.
I’ve never been into threesomes. Even when my college boyfriend suggested that it might be “fun,” I knew it wasn’t my thing, but this threesome I could get behind.
Six weeks before my ex proposed, we went to therapy together and it changed us forever.
The changes it had made in his attitude toward commitment and marriage were unbelievable. When I went with him I could see why they’d occurred — he wanted to learn.
He wanted to change. He truly wanted to know why he had stumbled at long-term commitment, and change what wasn’t working for his happiness. And he wanted me there so we could learn to grow as a couple.
Once I was brought into the mix, I was free to discuss the hurt I had experienced in those last months of our relationship and we worked on healing that together.
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Therapy helped us in a way that we couldn’t have helped ourselves.
When either of us clumsily tried to communicate our feelings and missed the mark, we had a third party to translate so the other person could understand — someone that always spoke our language. I don’t always speak Man, but our therapist did.
Occasionally, even now, 14 year later, I wish I had her universal translator as an app on my phone. Seeing a therapist forever helped put us on the right road… together.
It was the best choice we ever made for our relationship. That, and breaking up.
Tonilyn Hornung is a writer, relationship expert, and the author of the humorous self-help book “How to Raise a Husband: A Bunch of Ways to Build a Strong and Happy Marriage.” Her essays have been published in Cosmopolitan, Elle, Redbook, Harper’s Bazaar, Woman’s Day, Today’s Woman Magazine, Underwired Magazine and others. Visit her website for more.