Dear Carolyn: My ex-girlfriend and I dated for three years. I was shocked by the breakup four months ago, since we were such a great couple, had fun, were extremely compatible in every way.

At first I was heartbroken, confused, angry, but in talking with friends and family, I came to realize she wanted to get married and gave me a thousand opportunities to go in that direction and I didn’t take any of them. Even though I’m 33, this was my first serious relationship, so I was inexperienced, and I admit a little immature and self-centered.

Now I feel like a total moron and can't believe how badly I screwed up. She's absolutely someone I'd marry, and I just needed a big reality check to grow up and take it seriously.

Is there any way to salvage this? I’ve been pouring myself into maturing and learning about healthy adult relationships, though I have no idea how to demonstrate this to her. She won’t really talk to me and I’m sure she’s out there dating guys who know what they’re doing.

— Got the Wake-Up Call

Got the Wake-Up Call: Write her a letter. You say it all very clearly here.

Though the “I’m sure she’s out there dating guys who know what they’re doing” is … idunno. Hitting me wrong. What she’s doing with her time is irrelevant, and while it’s natural for a recent, distressed ex to imagine things, it suggests you have another step to take toward maturity if you believe this is why she’s now unavailable to you.

And if the idea of her with other men is in any way driving your interest in reconciliation, then drop the campaign right now.

Anyway. Send a letter, then accept that's all you can do. If she has moved on, then she has moved on.

Then focus on getting better, which means looking mostly forward, and making any looks backward about informing your judgment. If you're looking back constantly to remind yourself of all you lost by being so slow to awaken, then please realize that's actually a form of incompatibility you and she had. It's proof you didn't fit as well as you're now telling yourself you did.

Re: Wake-up: Did she discuss marriage? Did she ask, “How do you see the relationship developing?” Did she say, “I can see myself marrying you in the future — what do you think?” Perhaps she could have been clearer, too, about her wishes and needs. Maybe you both have maturing to do!

— Anonymous

Anonymous: I wondered this myself —and it may also apply to her “won’t really talk to me” now. If she’s truly no longer interested in the ex, no longer in love, then not communicating is a mature option. If instead she would still be interested in her ex under certain conditions but is going no-contact for punitive reasons, then that would be another sign he’s not the only immature one here.

It's an interesting blank the question never fills in.

Re: Wake-Up: It shouldn’t have taken her leaving for you to figure this out. I think it’s more grass-is-greener than anything else.

— Skeptic

Skeptic: Certainly does happen. But that doesn’t mean every post-breakup epiphany is a sham. Experiences vary — and “should” remains a front-runner for my least favorite word.