'I broke up with someone I love and regretted it'

'I broke up with someone I love and regretted it'

Dear Thelma

I broke up with my girlfriend, A, recently. She was very busy with assignments and exams, and we had little time together. Communication between us suffered. One day, we argued over this lack of communication, and I said something which I deeply regretted: I told her that I wanted to break up with her. Well, it was said in a moment of anger, and I didn't mean it.

The next morning, A texted me to say that she wanted to break up with me. I was shocked and wished it were just a bad dream. She told me not to text her until she had finished her final exam. She said she needed time and wanted to be alone, and I respected her decision. Then I saw her going on trips with her friends. I can see that she is very happy in their company and this hurts me a lot.

A and I have been together for four years. We were so close at one point that we even talked about building a future together. I feel depressed now because I hurt A when she needed my support and encouragement during her toughest times in university. I still love her very much and I really hope we can get back together. What should I do? - Depressed final year student

Thelma's response

The first thing you have to do is to understand and accept that these things happen. People who love and care for each other very much, do and can say things that hurt each other.

When this happens, it is important to recognise that these words were said out of anger, or hurt, and may not be what the person really wants to say. Sometimes people say hurtful things to those they love because they believe that they can. This happens particularly when that person is faced with a stressful situation.

This is probably what happened when A was having her final exams. It was a stressful period for both of you - she was studying, and you missed her because the two of you weren't communicating as much as you would have liked.

You said something that you should not have. You are sorry for it now. You must admit that she was hurt by what you said, and allow her to express that hurt. She did that by asking you for a break-up. Perhaps she thought you were being insensitive or selfish. Whatever the reason, you must accept that she acted that way because she was hurt.

Just because she is hurt, it does not mean that she cannot go out with her friends and have a good time with them. Just because she seems to be having a good time, it does not mean that she is happy. She may not be happy. However, this is the only way she knows to deal with her hurt. Besides, she has the right to enjoy herself.

You have to stop judging her current behaviour. Do not question her on why she is going out with her friends when she said she wanted time to be alone.

If you are sorry for what you said and how you acted, tell her just that. Remember that it was your action that led to the break-up. Do not expect her to apologise to you, or to explain herself to you. It is you who has to apologise.

Be sure about what you want to say. And then say it with conviction. So she does not want you to call or SMS her. Send her an e-mail or a private message on Facebook. Take your time to draft your message. Express all that you want to say to her - that you are sorry for what you said and that you should have been there for her. Tell her what you want for the two of you. Tell her that you have learnt from your mistake and will work hard at not repeating it.

Once you have told her all that, just wait and hope for a response. You have to be ready to accept her response - whatever it is. It is up to her to accept your apology or reject it. Just remember that people are not compelled to forgive you as soon as you say you are sorry. If there is a lot of hurt, forgiveness may take a while.

If she does respond to you positively, bear in mind that things may not be the same between the two of you. You have both changed from this experience and it will show in the relationship.

She may bring up the issue again. Do not ask her what else she wants since you have already apologised. Instead, remind her that you are indeed sorry for what happened. And then ask her what she would like to know in order to accept that you are sorry for what you did. It may take a while for her to get over the hurt. Give the relationship time to heal.

If she does not respond to you positively, you will just have to accept that the relationship is over and move on. Learn from your mistakes.

Whatever the outcome, the most important thing is that you have realised your error and are ready to apologise for it. Just know that apologies do not come with tangible rewards. The best reward from an apology is knowing that you have owned up to your mistake and are ready to make amends for it.

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