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Should I tell my ex how much she hurt me?

Ask Roe: I was ill and unable to be the person she needed – maybe that’s why she fell out of love

‘You sacrificed important parts of yourself – your needs, your boundaries, your health – in order to focus solely on her.’ Photograph: iStock

Dear Roe,

Should I tell an ex how much they hurt me? It’s been months since we broke up and I can see she is moving on with her life while I am stuck. When I was dumped, I took it respectfully but now I’m wishing I had laid out exactly how much I was hurt. I became ill with stress during the relationship as I was constantly worried about her. I don’t think she is even aware of how badly she impacted me. Because I was so worried about her I felt I couldn’t talk it through as I did not want to add any more stress on to her. Now that I think about it, because I was so ill I was unable to be the person she needed and maybe that’s why she fell out of love? Even without that fact, I’m wondering should she know.

Many people reading this will deeply understand the impulse to want to tell someone in clear, articulate detail just how much they hurt you – and even still, I don’t think this is something you should prioritise right now. What you are looking for is validation, acknowledgement and closure, and I don’t believe that you are going to get that from someone who, from your description, didn’t seem to be able to centre you or your emotions even when you were in a committed relationship.

Expecting your ex to be able to give you all the validation you need now that you are broken up, and basing your healing on this hope, feels both unrealistic and like an exercise in repeating your relationship dynamic – surrendering all your power to her, and letting her define your life and emotions.


You don’t give a lot of details about your relationship, but it’s clear that in some way, you betrayed your own needs in order to centre hers. Neither of you were taking care of you and making sure that you felt safe and supported in your relationship. You do mention being “worried” about her, and I’m unclear if this is because she was going through something difficult or if you were worried about her reaction to you expressing your needs. Either way, you sacrificed important parts of yourself – your needs, your boundaries, your health – in order to focus solely on her. And only now, with space, are your recognising how much of yourself you lost during that relationship.

Important and powerful

Though I understand these realisations are painful, they are important and powerful. You have gained the distance necessary to remember who you are as an individual, what you need, and what a healthy, equal relationship looks like. Really embracing these truths and holding on to them will be vital to your healing and your future relationships.

So for now, focus on empowering yourself, without her. Therapy could be a space where you get to express your pain to someone committed to listening to you and helping you process, while also exploring the reasons you felt like you had to betray your needs in your relationship, and come up with ways to avoid doing that again.

This relationship may have hurt you, but you hold the key to your own healing. Don’t give it away and fruitlessly chase your ex’s validation instead.