Mara cried when she broke up with Zac. They’d been together for almost three years. She said she wanted to see other people. Zac thought that meant she wanted to keep seeing him and other people, too. Naive young man.

She had to practically draw him a diagram to make him understand that that wasn’t what she meant. She meant bye-bye. She said Zac had been too busy in his new, time-consuming career and that he hadn’t paid enough attention to her for a long time.

Zac said, “Why should we sell the whole house when all we have is a broken window?” She wasn’t buying it.

Heartbreak hit Zac very, very hard.

He sat up nights and plotted how to “accidentally” bump into her. He asked a techie friend if he knew how Zac could hack into her cell phone.

He couldn’t concentrate at work. He knew no other woman was as good as Mara and that he would never be happy again.

He thought about her constantly and talked about her endlessly. He cried on his friends’ shoulders. He couldn’t believe she had done it to him. He called her phone just to hear her message. His stomach heaved at the thought of her with another man. He wrote her letters saying, “I’ve changed. I’m different.”

“I was just 24 and I’d never felt anything like this pain in my life,” says Zac. “I felt like I was in one of those apocalypse movies and all that was left in the world was me and four walls and a bathroom that needed cleaning. I would go out just to see human beings. I would look at people on the bus.”

Zac says he didn’t really understand what had gone wrong in the relationship until one day he had an a-ha! moment. “Mara was right, I really hadn’t been spending time with her. I was worrying too much about my career, which wasn’t going well, and my self-esteem had plummeted.

“I feel that what a woman finds most appealing about a man is his self- esteem — not to the point that he’s arrogant, but enough so that he feels good about himself. Mara noticed a change in my self-esteem just as she was becoming more successful and independent. I had been so worried about my career that I hadn’t really been happy in a long time.”

Zac told Mara about his epiphany, but she wasn’t any more impressed with it than she’d been in his window/house metaphor. Zac remained confused and lonely.

“Give me a financial statement, and you can’t put anything past me. But when it comes to relationships, I was ignorant.”

Faced with the unmistakable fact that Mara wasn’t coming back — she yelled at him for sending her flowers — Zac’s finally gotten over her.

But he was a different Zac. He started dating again, but he decided to keep it casual for a while. He realized he was too young to become serious with anyone. And he found a new job that was less stressful. He decided what he needed in his life was balance. He was growing up.

Now he says,”I feel like a totally different person. If Mara wanted to get back together, I’m not sure I’d want her. And I know I’d never allow myself to be that dependent on anyone for my happiness again.”

Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to cheryllavinrapp@gmail.com. And check out my new website askcheryl.net.

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