Alexis on the Sexes: Second chance

ALEXIS MCKINNIS | Updated 8/17/2012

Can a relationship work out after a breakup?

Q: I've dated the same guy for six years. I am a year older than him. We survived me going to college first and transferring, and maintained a long-distance relationship. I've graduated and have a "real job." He will graduate in May.

He asked me to move in with him. I politely declined because it would be too far for me to commute, but began the search for jobs in his city. We had a very healthy relationship and are both independent people. He recently broke up with me, citing the facts that he never intended to date me for six years, has never experienced being with anyone else, wishes he would have met me when he was older and isn't sure if he's in love with me anymore. This is all very confusing for me because he asked me to move in, and I said no.

He said that he could see this working out and being with me someday if he didn't mess this up too bad. I recently hung out with him and it seemed like nothing happened. I'm very confused. Is it possible for relationships to work themselves out after a break (it's been almost a month), or is it impossible to fix a relationship that's been broken?

Tamara, 23

A: Girl, you have my condolences on the surprise breakup. There are few things that make you feel like crying and vomiting at the same time, and being blindsided by the one you love, especially when things have been going great, is definitely one of them.

Let me first clear up some of your confusion before I give your now-ex more credit than he probably deserves: He asked you to move in with him for purposes of relationship security, and you threw him off by saying no. That was a hard pill for him to swallow and more than likely the catalyst for his little freakout. Your relationship is not totally doomed, but reparation might be harder than you think.

Your now-ex is just 22. That's a tough age when it comes to decisionmaking, probably more so for him than it was for you. You've already graduated from college and have laid the foundation for your career with your grown-up job. With another year of school to go, your boy is at a confusing crossroads, with the economy not helping matters. He's probably uncertain about what kind of work he'll end up doing once he graduates, provided there's even a job waiting for him.

Twenty-two is also right around the time a guy starts to feel the pressures of being a man and not just acting the part. He's stuck somewhere between sophomoric enterprises and adult responsibilities. A girl's transition into womanhood starts a lot earlier -- the onset of menstruation is a terrifying bulletin that we are physically capable of being mothers -- and I think we've all heard that females tend to emotionally mature faster than males.

Right now, you have to cut him off. If your goal is to get back together with him, then you must realize that he can't miss something that's not gone. Second chances come around all the time in relationships, but they don't come quickly or easily. First you have to starve (no contact with him), then you have to suffer (the crying, the suddenly poignant song lyrics), then you might be able to slowly regain what was lost (even in the absence of cheating, trust vanishes in a breakup like this).

We enter into relationships because they make life better. Isn't your now-ex saying it wasn't good enough? If he does decide he still loves you and wants to be with you, then you have to decide whether the pain he's caused is something you can forgive. Reconciliation is always possible, but not without time spent examining whether another try is the best thing for you. It's been only a month -- I suggest you spend several more solo before making that decision.