Dear Dategirl, I have just gotten out of a fairly long relationship with the most amazing woman on the planet. I was a horrible boyfriend (I took her for granted and was not intimate or romantic for most of the relationship). The problem is I am still in love with her. Right now I am taking steps to improve myself. I am about to begin counseling for my intimacy issues, and I am reading books and trying to learn how to sweep her off her feet, but I am unsure of what to do for the time being. I know it was me that screwed up the best thing that ever happened to me, so anything I do right now is going to come out of desperation. I also know that if I get another chance, I am going to devote myself to making her happy. I know what my life is like without her, and I don't like it. So what should I do right now? Should I fade into the background while I am working on my issues, or should I be making romantic gestures even now? I don't want to turn her off by looking desperate, but I also don't want her to think I am forgetting about her.Help!
While I applaud your efforts at self-improvement, I still find it a total ass-chapper that you waited until after she dumped you to do anything about being a "horrible boyfriend." (And while you didn't come out and say she gave you the heave-ho, I'm going to assume that's the case.) Did you not realize you were being a jerk while you were actually in the process of being one? And just how horrible were you? Brief tangent: Why do so many men do this? Ladies, you know what I'm talking about—these guys will treat you like crap and then later (sometimes years later) realize their mistake and come crawling back spewing sweet talk and apologies. Only by then, you'd sooner sew yourself shut than entertain the idea of letting their junk anywhere near yours. I can't even count how many times this has happened to me and assorted girlfriends. Do women do this to men too? Back to our regularly scheduled advice: As I mentioned earlier, I do think it's great that you're going to therapy and trying to make yourself a better person. That's huge. Reading books is also a great idea—especially if you're reading mine (How Not to Date, available at bookstores everywhere). I don't think there's anything wrong with reaching out and telling her that you realize you were wrong and you're taking steps to become a better person—but don't be surprised if you're met with a less-than-welcoming reception. The main thing you have to realize is that you're doing all this work for you. Though it would be nice if she eventually took you back, the fact is she may or may not be around once you've gotten your shit together. But believe me, someone else will be. Just don't turn into one of those whiners who's always gassing on about the one who got away. For the sake of any future women who cross your path, I beg you to avoid this all-too-common trap. Brief Tangent #2: Most guys who have a goddess-like ex in their past—the woman all others must be measured against—weren't such great boyfriends when they were actually with the lady. It's only post-breakup that these dames become deified. In particular, I know one dude who regularly cheated on his ex and who now makes his current girlfriend all insecure because he talks all the time about how beautiful, perfect, and wonderful GF #1 was (current GF doesn't know about the philandering). If she was so awesome, maybe you shouldn't have cheated on her, chump. In case you lost track with all the tangents, I'll summarize: No, it was not good that you were a crappy boyfriend, but, if nothing else, think of it as one of those awful life lessons that after-school specials used to be made from. Screw-ups are excusable if you learn from them. firstname.lastname@example.org