The best relationships allow for growth

Published 3:22 pm Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dear Leah,

My boyfriend broke up with me about a month ago. He said he wanted some distance to find himself. Now he’s struggling and wants me back. I still love him, but it really hurt when he pushed me away and I don’t know if he’ll do it again. Should I go back to him?

— Indecisive

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Dear Indecisive,

Frankly, I’m still “finding myself,” even after over a decade of being happily married. I intend to keep traversing down the various pathways that are contained within the rest of my life! I didn’t need to leave my husband to do it. But personal freedom to define oneself and one’s direction in life was something my husband and I agreed to early on. Of course, we still make life-changing plans together and we do have to negotiate about what we each want at times, but that’s another topic.

In many ways, one person can overwhelm the other while in relationships, and this can impede personal growth. And, at times, it is healthy to take some space, both emotionally and physically.

It’s important to be clear about whether the relationship will continue or if it’s a definitive divergence in having a mutual journey.

From what you described in your question, it sounds like your ex-boyfriend made a definitive break. It is concerning to me that he wants you back only after he is struggling.

I think it’s a good idea to review how your relationship started and how you felt in it. Were you his caretaker and did he expect you to be there for him constantly? Did you feel like you could fully be yourself with him, or did he expect you to follow him around and continually adapt yourself to his requirements?

It sounds like your boyfriend has some growing up to do or is struggling with finding other sources of positive support and influence in his life. It may be helpful to read about dysfunctional behaviors. There is a helpful questionnaire at:

Co-dependent relationships can be quite common, though it’s not necessarily the case with you. It sounds like you have enough presence of mind to question the value of the relationship. This is a good sign that you are emotionally healthy enough to recognize a potentially destructive relationship.

Don’t let him determine whether you should enter a relationship again — take your time and assess the situation. Let him know how you feel and that you have expectations of him. It’s healthy and necessary for us to communicate what our expectations are in a relationship. You may not have had them initially with him, but I am sure you have grown since your break-up and you can express that you at least expect the relationship to be mutually reinforcing so one of you does not need to take a break to find yourself. The best relationships allow space for growth.

Even though you still have love for him, it does not mean you are meant to be together.

If you love someone, set them free, if they come back to you, it was meant to be — but only if they are emotionally healthy.


Leah Albert is a fictitious character. She likes wine and writing. Don’t ask her to be a matchmaker. Do send your questions to Leah at