Dear Thelma: We broke up but one day he will come back to me

Do you need a listening ear? Thelma is here to help. Email

The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

Those contemplating suicide can reach out to the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 / 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 / 019-261 5999 on WhatsApp); Jakim’s family, social and community care centre (011-1959 8214 on WhatsApp); or Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929 / email / befrienders centres in malaysia).

Dear Thelma,

It's been two years since I broke up with my ex-boyfriend and I am still not over him. I realised I loved him and somehow it is still affecting my mental health. I have decided to wait for him no matter how many years it will take.

My ex-boyfriend and I started our relationship when we were young and we were not that mature because I was just 16 and he was 17. People might say at that age it was just puppy love and nothing much, but in those three years with him, I knew I was deeply in love with him and the same goes for him.

But one day he decided to end things with me and he left me saying that I deserve better and I am too good for him.

How can he decide what I want, Thelma? In the end, no one is perfect and I am sure there are no perfect things in the world. It's all about adjusting and growing together.

These past two years, I have been doing many things to distract myself.

Now I'm hurting even more because he is not feeling well. It hurts that I cannot be with him during this time. When I was not okay, he was there for me always and now all I can do is pray for him to get better.

I still love him, and I know he loves me too even though he has been ignoring my messages and calls. I always believe in the universe and I know one day he will come back for me.

I still feel like hugging him and grabbing his shirt and asking why he did this to me. But at the same time I feel like crying on his shoulder. Deep down I know how much love I have in my heart for him.

Is it OK to have these feelings? I am feeling lost and still madly in love with my ex.


You ask if it's OK to have the feelings you write about. Let me summarise it in three sentences.

You're not happy. You're obsessed with a man who doesn't want a relationship with you. You're determined to let a teenage romance spoil the rest of your life.

My dear, I think you know that these feelings are not useful to you. Let's take it apart and plan to get you into a happier space.

First, it's OK to be unhappy from time to time, but your life appears to be dominated by it.

To motivate yourself for change, ask yourself whether you would wish lifelong misery on your friends. I think not, right? So prepare to be as kind to yourself as you would to others.

Second, it takes two people to consent to a relationship. When a person has made it clear they are not interested, we must respect this. This is a matter of ethics. Ignoring his wishes and boundaries is not proper.

To motivate yourself for change, ask yourself who you want to be: A person who respects others or someone who only thinks of herself. I think you know what's right. So, take a breath and use your sense of justice to help you make effective change in your mindset.

Once you have your motivations in place, the way forward is to understand how romantic love works.

Normally, romantic love comes in phases. At the start there is limerence, the heady feeling that we call "falling in love". It's based on attraction or the wish for love and companionship. It's not very rational.

It is followed by a period where the people get to know each other. If it goes well, that's when true, long-lasting loving bonds are created.

Very often, people who date enjoy the limerence but once they get to know the other person, they realise they're not a match.

That's OK. Dating is a process designed to discover if you can make a go of it. Knowing what won't work is as important as knowing what will.

Even so, breaking up is painful. Most people get over it fairly quickly, however, some people don't.

Curiously, rejection can trigger reactions that involve the parts of the brain devoted to motivation, reward, and cravings – in a way that is very similar to addiction and obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

From your letter, this is where you have become stuck. I therefore suggest that you move forward through these steps.

First, you need to talk to yourself kindly but firmly. Remind yourself of the two values: Happiness and respect. Your goal is to put yourself on a new path.

Second, make a list of triggers, times when you typically think of him. Trying to go cold turkey, to just give up the behaviour, usually doesn't work well. What does work is gradually reduce and delay.

If you stalk him online frequently throughout the day, set aside three times where you are allowed to wallow for four minutes. Really throw yourself into it and relieve all your feelings of hurt and woe.

But after those minutes are over, you go back to your life.

When you get this new habit going, slowly reduce wallow times. Like after a fortnight, reduce it to three times a day for three-and-a-half minutes.

When you're down to 30 seconds, reduce the three wallows a day to twice a day. Keep reducing.

Third, learn to distract yourself from ruminating, thinking about him obsessively. So, supposing you know you'll think about him whenever you see romance on TV – when this happens, take a breath. Remember the new you. Commit to your motivations. Then distract yourself by making a cup of tea, tidying a drawer, crocheting – whatever it takes.

By this approach, you will slowly give these feelings less headspace. They will reduce week by week until they're gone.

These methods work but you must give it time. So stick to it, and if you can, find a mental health professional who will help you talk through your emotions and provide support.

You can do this. Please reach out for the happiness you deserve. Know I'll be thinking of you.

Article type: free
User access status:
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Next In Living

'Jurassic Park' was wrong: T-Rex had lips that covered its teeth, study says
Cockfighting still popular in Iraq
5 ways Malaysians can control their spending habit at Ramadan bazaars
Graduating inmates at this California prison are no longer prisoners but professionals
Need new kitchen tiles? Here’s how to choose your new style
Kitesurfing Californians found the perfect beach in Baja – then it was gentrified
Workplace: How to head down the career ladder without any pitfalls
Experiences better than possessions? Yes, but shared experiences are best
Dear Thelma: My boyfriend is an online game addict who has no time for me
Dog Talk: More healing hands for furry friends

Others Also Read