Ask Dr Gilda-My Ex Is Holding Me Back

His former fiancé broke his heart, and now that she’s married he can’t understand why she’d stay in touch. Dr. Gilda explains how to take charge of his life and leave the ghost of his past far behind him.

By Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D.

ear Dr. Gilda,
My ex and I were each other’s first loves in high school, and we got engaged when she was 21. Soon after that, she got a new job, and that’s when the changes started. She decided to quit school because she wanted to become a model, and I told her modeling was not for women who wanted to get married
No one with a sense of self wants to be dominated.
and have babies early in life. We had an argument about it, and then we broke up so she could pursue her dreams. I tried to stop her, but nothing worked. She moved away and I was heartbroken.

We kept in touch and the false hope began to really get to me. I saw psychiatrists and lost a lot of weight; I even took a break from college. Anyhow, one day almost a year later she called and said she was engaged, and it killed me. I didn’t sleep for three days straight, and then I told her never to contact me again because it was too painful.

I somehow managed to survive all this and refocus on my own life, but I haven’t been able to date anyone else since my fiancé. Now, over a year later, she’s just called me to wish me a happy birthday and said she will call me every year on my birthday out of respect for the love and friendship we once had. I don’t know if she has second thoughts about her marriage or if she is just messing with my head or what is going on. How do I tell the person I loved the most that speaking to her is holding me back in life? Why would she do this to me? Help me get out of this mess without hurting myself any further, please!
– Can’t Let Go

Dear Can’t Let Go,
You and your fiancé were very young when you became engaged. Your ex chose to pursue a career in the modeling industry, but you said that didn’t fit with your view of marriage and motherhood. So you tried to “stop her” from realizing her dream. She actually did the healthiest thing anyone can when feeling pressured and controlled: she left.

Remove yourself from your pen of pain. Imagine if your ex said she couldn’t stand your chosen profession and wanted you to do something else. How would you feel? No one with a sense of self wants to be dominated. For a relationship to work, two people must enjoy their career choices, so when they merge, they can share their adventures. This kind of sharing enhances the love two people already have.

You and your ex-fiancé continued to keep in touch, giving you, as you say, “false hope.” You believed that if you continued interacting with her, she would return. How long did it take before you realized this was not going to happen? And when
Fortunately, we humans always manage to love again.
you “got it,” why did you continue the charade? Also, how did you communicate your request to your ex to be left alone? A client I counsel was so committed to his false dream, he “sort of” delivered his request for non-communication — and, predictably, it fell on deaf ears. So he continued singing the “victim” refrain, endlessly accusing his ex of destroying his mental health. Don’t fall into that trap!

Do you really believe your ex cares about your feelings? When someone hears, “Don’t call me again,” the healthy response would be, “Okay, see ya!” Your ex should have complied with your request “out of respect for the love and friendship [you] once had,” which she cited. If she won’t respect your wishes, wake up! She doesn’t respect you.

This is what I suggest you do now:
  1. Examine your drive to control your partner. Unless you clean the slate, your next relationship is likely to suffer from the same behaviors you’ve adopted.
  2. Investigate whether it was your ex’s desire to model or your ex’s desire to work that got you miffed. Address the issues of your own insecurities.
  3. The next time your ex calls, don’t answer. If need be, change your number to an unlisted one.
  4. Whatever you do, don’t tell your ex how much her calling is “holding you back in life.” The more you don the “poor me” role, the more she may don the perpetrator role in what appears to be a sick game.
  5. It doesn’t matter whether or not she’s happy with her new love choice, nor does it matter WHY she’s continuing to stay in contact with you. You’re not her shrink! The only one you should be worried about now is YOU.
As my Gilda-Gram directs, “When you need to repeatedly beg for love, there is no love.” Lose your “Can’t Let Go” screen name, and take the reins to life. Fortunately, we humans always manage to love again, even after the deepest of heartbreaks. But to attract someone loving, you must be lovable. Although you may have acquired some behaviors that sabotage love, lessons learned can also be unlearned. Your ideal mate will manifest once you can accept a partner as-is more than you expect her to change to fit your standards. Now, it’s up to you.

Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D., gives Instant Advice throughout the world via Skype, email and phone. She is the 30-Second Therapist for Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince!, 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity and How to Win When Your Mate Cheats. Please visit her website at (
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