Dear Ms Peirano,

I’m 47, a software engineer, and I was with my partner Julika for nine years. She has three children from a previous relationship and I felt that she didn’t spend enough time with me. She then had many other girlfriends, went to sports and I often felt neglected. I’ve said that more than once and it was a smoldering conflict.

The second big problem: Sexual attraction waned at some point (also because Julika gained a lot of weight and got a short haircut). We hardly slept together for two or three years before the breakup. She was often short-tempered and moody, and that was also an issue between us.

We broke up in March 2022. Most of the people around us thought it was a good move and told us they didn’t think we were a good match.

Of course, Julika and I have shared a lot in the nine years of our relationship. We are in the same sports club, always go to Sylt on vacation, I tutored her children in the natural sciences. We have mutual friends and many topics of conversation.

The idea then was that we just stay friends. I also have to say that I find it difficult to be friends with men and actually have more acquaintances than friends. My parents are no longer alive and I see my brother twice a year. I like to cycle alone, go to sports and often work on weekends or am at the computer. Work and leisure sometimes overlap.

And so it was actually quite right for me that Julika and I have gone on vacation together twice since we broke up (with separate rooms, of course) and often go out for dinner or for walks. We talk on the phone every day, sometimes several times a day. I visit her and her children more often for said tutoring or repairs. And since we broke up, the arguments have almost completely stopped.

When we are on holiday we are still mistaken for a couple. And it often feels that way, except we don’t have ownership of each other and there’s no physicality.

I’ve downloaded dating apps and occasionally checked out other women, but honestly I’m not that motivated to meet women right now.

Julika keeps saying that one day she wants to meet someone else, and actually I’m relaxed about that too. But if she really did, I might not be so happy with it.

I know it: we slow each other down. But at the same time it is also familiar and friendly with her. Without her, I would have to admit that I would be a bit lonely. I’ve never been good at approaching people and making friends.

Still, I have the feeling that things can’t go on like this forever.

what do you suggest me

Ralf G.

Dear Ralph G,

I can well understand that it is not easy to separate from a partner after nine years and to break off contact completely. Especially if no really devastating injuries have happened, but both still feel intimacy and friendship for each other.

In addition, you seem to have been very focused on Julika and her family and don’t have your own sustainable social network. I agree that you would probably be very lonely if you no longer had Julika in your life. And Julika would probably be in a better position than you are.

If you were no longer in contact with Julika, there would be a great emptiness in your life, at least if you didn’t change anything. Who would you go on vacation with? Who would you spend your free time with? Who knows you well enough to be able to speak openly? Who helps you in everyday life (e.g. when you are ill)? And who creates a link to other people?

I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. In my PhD, I researched the connection between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.

Information about my therapeutic work can be found at www.julia-peirano.info.

Do you have questions, problems or lovesickness? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on stern.de.

They seem to have put all their eggs in one basket and the answer to these questions so far is: Julika, Julika and Julika again. Focusing on just one person is dangerous because it is addictive. And it’s a bit monotonous too!

And here is the problem that you will one day face: Julika has expressed an interest in having a new partner one day. If you meet someone, the new partner will almost certainly not be enthusiastic about the fact that Julika is still so closely connected to her ex-boyfriend. He will not tolerate the fact that she takes him on vacation several times a year, visits her family and gets a lion’s share of Julika’s free time.

The new partner might also ask whether you and Julika separated “properly” or whether you still have a close family relationship. There are also many couples who hardly have sex anymore, but who don’t separate. But even in such constellations, both partners hold on to each other and find many reasons not to separate completely. There is no room for a new partnership.

And this is exactly where the risk lies: If Julika wants to try a new start and the new partner is attractive to her, she will break up with you or at least reduce contact to a level that is suitable for a relationship. This could catch you off guard, at least if you don’t prepare for it.

From your description and above all from your self-description, I got the impression that you find it difficult to let go and stick to old habits, even if they are not necessarily good for you. Do you feel the same way? I would advise you to take a more proactive role and balance your life before outside events force you to do so.

I would recommend here several books to help you break free from bad habits (e.g. isolating yourself like this):

These books help with many blockages or in states with a lot of sluggishness, little motivation and listlessness. They explain the causes of the blockages and show how to set new goals and develop positive habits.

I would advise you to use these books or corresponding podcasts or coaching to set specific goals for improving your social network and your leisure time activities. Just imagine that you had managed to bring your friendship with Julika to a distanced, healthy, friendly level and that you were fulfilled and happy in your life at the same time.

How would you then spend your free time (weekends, holidays, evenings)? How many good friends would you have in your life and what kind of people would they be? How would you approach these people and maintain contact? What role would your computer play if you had a balanced life? How often would you be alone and how would it make you feel? If you had a new partner and how would the relationship with her be?

I hope that I was able to give you some food for thought to detach yourself from Julika and thereby create space for new, positive experiences. A friendship with her can still be possible, but would then stand on different feet.

I wish you a lot of creativity, perseverance and courage.

Herzlich Gr├╝├čeJulia Peirano

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