Ask Professor Foxy: How Do I Get Over A Really Hard Break Up?

This weekly Saturday column “Ask Professor Foxy” will regularly contain sexually explicit material. This material is likely not safe for work viewing. The title of the column will include the major topic of the post, so please read the topic when deciding whether or not to read the entire column.
Dear Professor Foxy,
I’m a lesbian in my 20’s going through a break-up with my girlfriend of nearly 4 years… and I am feeling so overwhelmed and lost right now. I really just need some guidance, and not the 5-steps-to-getting-over-your-ex kind of self-help. In the past few months, what was once a (more or less) healthy and egalitarian relationship has turned into a wreck.
Communication issues and baggage that we have built up over the past few years turned really sour when she slept with someone else in February. Things were very up and down the last few months, and my pain is still very raw. It hasn’t helped that I keep financially bailing her out when she is late on rent or bills, and she is slow and unpredictable about paying me back. But things took a turn for the worse when I found out in May that she had gotten in a situation with her student loans and stolen money from my bank account using my debit card. I was, understandably, pissed. She is still living with me until at least June, just because neither of us can afford to financially break up till then. But my growing resentment of her actions coupled with my deep love for her and really raw pain (that leads to everything from sexual tension to crying), is making this break up so difficult. I want her, but I don’t trust her. I love her, but I resent her for taking advantage of me. When we talk, one of us turns into a crying mess or gets angry, accomplishing little. If we have to break up, I want this to be peaceful and simple, but it has been nothing but painful and frustrating for me.
Our lives are so inter-mingled — we live together and financially have become tied through things like leases and cell phone bills. We moved about 9 months ago, and though I love the new city I live in, I don’t have much of a support system here. To complicate things even more, I have been in a very high stress contract job that is about to end — thankfully — but is leaving me with even more stress looking for a new job. The only sturdy tie I have to anything or anywhere right now is my master’s program, which my state is looking at cutting due to budget cuts. My ex-g/f is going through the same problem — a high stress job that she wants to leave, and much more severe financial stress than mine — which I feel compelled to emotionally and financially support her through because that’s what I’ve always done.
She has been a huge part of my support system. I feel like I am just floating aimlessly in this city, not willing to move back but not knowing how to move forward and set down personal roots without her. When my car broke down this week, I couldn’t even function. Every part of my life — finances, my relationship, my job, school — is crashing down around me. There’s so much on my plate that I can’t fathom any of it, and the person I turn to for help is a huge part of the problem. What do I do?
Feeling overwhelmed,

Dear Broken,
I get it. Trust me, I get it. This is a really hard time for you, but you will get through it and you will be stronger for it. This is not pat advice; it is the mantra that can you get through. If this one does not work for you, figure out one that does.
Break ups are rarely peaceful and easy. There are feelings involved and they don’t get wiped away. You still love each other. She broke trust in two major ways, you can’t ignore that.
You have a lot to do and some hard times to get through, but you will. Here are things to ask, do, and work on. There are others, work on it for yourself and talk to your support system, what do they suggest?
You’ve made a lot of commitments to her. It is time to make some to yourself. You need to stop focusing on her and start focusing on you. Here is my checklist (these are a floor, not a ceiling):

1. What makes you happy and distracts you? Good books, coffee shops, bad reality TV, crap magazines, feminist theory, running, yoga, walking, wandering?
2. What inspires you? Quotes, art, movies?
3. Don’t beat yourself up. Falling apart over the car makes sense. When our worlds are hard and messy, feel so much bigger.
4. Are there things you sacrificed to live with her? Focus on that now. What do you wish you had more time to do?
5. Talk to your friends who have been through this before. Both the hard break-ups and the upcoming unemployment. Talk to them: how did they get through it? Let them know that you are going to need them.
6. There are many things you cannot control in this situation, focus on the ones you can. How do you untangle? Make a list, rank from easiest to hardest.
7. Stop bailing her out. As cruel as this sounds, her problems are no longer yours. However, your pattern of bailing her out is a way of repeating old mistakes, causing issues, and remaining unhealthily connected.
8. Where is your support system? Can you go there even if it is just for a visit? If not, how are you checking in? Set up regular times to talk.
9. Move as soon as you can. Stay in the city or don’t. What feels best for you? Until then, what can you do outside of your house? Parks, walks, coffee, museums?
10. Take care of you. Eat well, sleep, exercise. Make a schedule for you and keep to it.

Break ups are unavoidable and in the end, can be positives. What goes wrong in one relationship teaches us about us and about what we need next. You don’t need to do what you’ve always done – this is your time for change. Roots and a new life will happen.
You are going through a hard time. One step at a time: it really is the only way through. And you really will get through.
Professor Foxy
If you have a question, send it to ProfessorFoxyATfeministingDOTcom

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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