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What does back off mean?
March 3, 2009 2:41 PM   Subscribe

In relationship terms, what, exactly, does "back off" mean?

I know this is going to sound so stupid, but in an email my (now ex. I guess) boyfriend told me to back off. There was a communication breakdown about plans for the weekend. We were supposed to do something on saturday, I sent him an email friday night about it, (he thought I didn't want to do anything with him that day, I was just saying I didn't want to go to one specific place, and why) and then he wouldn't take my calls all day saturday (something he's never done in the year and a half we've been together). Finally around midnight he told me this wasn't working and to back off. I sent a reply on sunday and he replied saying that I did not respect his request to back off. I haven't heard from him since.

What exactly does back off mean? It should be so obvious, but it is vague to me. It doesn't have a sense of "lets take a break" yet it also has no sense of complete finality. Does it mean that he never wants to speak to me again, but he feels too guilty putting it into those words? Does it mean give him time? Does it mean to wait till he contacts me (which could be never)?

I'm not usually this relationship illiterate but I just don't understand the whole "back off" thing. There are many things I'd like to say and get out of my system, but what are the rules under "back off" conditions?

I don't want it to be over, I love him and am heartbroken at the thought of having him out of my life. Maybe I just need to realize that this was one of those stupid situations where I saw '"forever" potential, and he just wasn't that into me.

I know this sounds like jr. high, but we are both in our late 30's.

I tried to include all necessary info, but in case you need more info, send questions to backoffquestion@gmail.com. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (57 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Does it mean to wait till he contacts me (which could be never)

I think "back off" is vague but in this case the above is very likely, especially given his second reply. If it really is "never" over something a communication breakdown then I don't see why he's worth all the angst.
posted by muddgirl at 2:45 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


but we are both in our late 30's.

"Back off" in this context means he's being immature. Reasonable people call each other up and talk or communicate "I'm mad at you right now, we'll talk on X day"

If you're confused about what "back off" means, call him up and ask him what does it mean. You can't respect his wishes if you don't understand what they are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:45 PM on March 3, 2009 [12 favorites]


From your story, it sounds like it means "don't call me, I'll call you." If you've been dating a year and a half, this is unusual behavior.
posted by rhizome at 2:47 PM on March 3, 2009


I think by "back off," he meant "drop it," with a possible "for now" attached.

This is reason #38 why having relationshippy conversations over email is a really, really bad idea.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:49 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am a SO but I am not your SO. Consult your SO immediately for details on this message. If you can't reach your SO then find a new one.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:50 PM on March 3, 2009 [15 favorites]


It means he's feeling smothered, like you're controlling him, and that he needs his space, alone. At least, that's how I'd interpret it. YMMV.

Personally, i'd give him a few days to a week, then call him if he hasn't made contact himself. Email can be misinterpreted so many ways. Worst case, if you've been together for a year and a half, he at least owes you a break-up phone call, not some cryptic email. Best case, he can then express why he's being so aloof and you guys can work on the problem.
posted by cgg at 2:54 PM on March 3, 2009


Sometimes "Back Off" is just an immature way of saying "I need some space". I typically use it when I'm angry, petulant about something and I'm feeling backed into a corner. Fortunately my partner typically doesn't let me pull jr. high crap like that and will call me on it.

However it sounds like he's engaging in very passive aggressive, avoidance behavior. I'd suggest getting together, hashing out the issues and see where the chips stand. If he's not happy in the relationship, get him to say so, so that you can plan accordingly. If he's not willing to answer you in a mature manner, given a handful of days to cool off, then I think this relationship is doomed and you should get out.
posted by vuron at 2:57 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought the same thing as rhizome. As presented this sounds strange and like there might be something more going on with him. He may indeed be asking you to back off of that particular topic, but the reason you aren't getting it is because he is using language that is not commensurate to the situation.

In any case, whether or not something else is going on, this seems like an immature way of dealing with an issue. I agree with asking him what he means, but since I foresee another "I thought I told you to back off" reply, I would be very explicit in telling him that you are taking this as a breakup - that way he can tell youi if that is indeed what he meant.

And then you get to figure out whether or not the way he is acting is something you want to put up with.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 2:58 PM on March 3, 2009


Since this is one of those situations where anecdotal data may help, here's my thoughts

- he wants you to stop contacting him for a little bit and maybe thinks you've been trying to call him too much
- I'd be surprised if this is his way of breaking up with you, but it's not outside the range of possibility
- I'd also put this sort of thing outside the range of what you should expect from someone you've been with for 18 months.
- obligatory reference to "the wave and the cave" He's in his cave.

I agree with cgg, give it a week and then call him and try not to catastrophize terribly. If you wind up saving the relationship, I'd make it clear that this sort of unclear communication is against the rules if you find it distressing.
posted by jessamyn at 2:59 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Finally around midnight he told me this wasn't working and to back off

I think the "this isn't working" is more important than the "back off." I would give him a few more days and then email him and ask what he meant by those words. Apologize for "not respecting his wishes to leave him alone" but express your concern for the relationship and the desire to know how you hurt him and how it can be remedied.

Bottom line is he needs to talk to you and if he doesn't that is immaturity on his part. But you can't force him.
posted by dm_nyc at 3:00 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


then he wouldn't take my calls all day Saturday...finally around midnight

You made multiple calls on Saturday, up until midnight, after he told you "this isn't working"? Seems like classic stalker behavior.

In this case, "Back off" could mean, "stop before I call the cops/lawyers". You've probably pushed yourself well into the category of psycho-people-to-avoid.
posted by nomisxid at 3:02 PM on March 3, 2009


It sounds like he is upset and is sulking angrily. This is not how people in their late 30s ought to be behaving in a realtionship, and if someone said that to me, I would indeed back right off and DTMFA.
posted by goshling at 3:03 PM on March 3, 2009


You made multiple calls on Saturday, up until midnight, after he told you "this isn't working"? Seems like classic stalker behavior.

I believe you misread the post. She called him on Saturday because she thought they had a standing date. She called him multiple times because being out of contact is unusal for their relationship and perhaps she was worried that something was wrong. He responded to those calls with "This isn't working, back off."

Now, this is only one side of the story and perhaps the OP's boyfriend is put off by the number of times she contacted him, but I don't think it's productive to equate worried behavior with "stalker behavior", especially 18 months into a relationship.
posted by muddgirl at 3:07 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Original Poster Here - got a sock puppet to provide more info

We have been having a lot of mixed up communication lately, and he says it is too much drama for him and he can't take it anymore. While reading between the lines, I could assume that was the break up right there but I'm the kind of socially inept idiot who needs things spelled out for me.

The email went on for a few paragraphs, about how if we had a functional relationship, we wouldn't have communication breakdowns (and this was a really small breakdown in my opinion)

He concluded it by telling me to "back off" and that he wouldn't talk to me on the phone that night and I needed to stop calling. So I did. It was just an odd situation because never in the past 18 months has he spent the day screening my calls.

When I sent the email the next day, that's when he told me I was disrespecting his request to back off, which confused me more about what back off meant.

So to those who have suggested calling and having a discussion, I'm afraid, because I feel like I'd be violating his "back off" request. I feel like this is a no win situation and just wonder if this is his immature way to break up for good with no conversation responsibility. I do agree that would be weird behavior, but it's been several days and he has not contacted me. This isn't the sort of thing that goes on in adult relationships.

As much as it kills me to say this, do I just chalk it up as a shitty breakup and expect nothing more from him? Is there a possibility that he'll contact me? Since he told me my reply to his email was disrespectful to his request, there is no way I'm going to risk contacting him.
posted by AnonAnswerer at 3:08 PM on March 3, 2009


nomisxid, the OP made the phone calls before she was told "this isn't working". I don't see her behavior as stalkerish at all.
posted by wyzewoman at 3:10 PM on March 3, 2009


You made multiple calls on Saturday, up until midnight, after he told you "this isn't working"? Seems like classic stalker behavior.

I should clarify, if he isn't doing anything on weekends, he usually sleeps till about three and doesn't really get started with his day till 10ish. If he goes to sleep at 3am, that's early for him. I called him about 5 times throughout the day, mainly because as far as I knew we had plans that night, I had just said in my email that I didn't want to do something in the morning. I'm not stalkerish and it didn't feel stalkerish till he said "back off"
posted by AnonAnswerer at 3:12 PM on March 3, 2009


Maybe he has been wanting to end the relationship for a while and was too chicken. The weekend's "communication breakdown" provided him a convenient excuse to end things vaguely and without him having to explain himself or deal with an upset human being.
posted by ian1977 at 3:18 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I feel like this is a no win situation and just wonder if this is his immature way to break up for good with no conversation responsibility.

I think you nailed it. It's what I call a Reichstag fire breakup -- create a nasty conflagration that you can then blame on the other party as justification for moving on. It's a small, nasty, coward's way out. It's also not that uncommon, though one would hope that someone in his late 30s would have grown out of it.

As much as it kills me to say this, do I just chalk it up as a shitty breakup and expect nothing more from him?

Yes. It's painful, but it's also the healthy, sane way to proceed.

Is there a possibility that he'll contact me?

Sure, he might. I don't know that it particularly matters, though. It doesn't sound to me (from your follow-up) that the relationship is currently very mutually satisfying. I know you want some sort of comfort and hope here, but really: the comfort and hope I think you need to be looking for is that of envisioning yourself over this guy and moving forward with your own life.
posted by scody at 3:20 PM on March 3, 2009 [15 favorites]


If you feel like you can't "risk" contacting him, you don't have a romantic relationship.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:23 PM on March 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


It looks like a really immature way to break up with you and, from an outside perspective, I would recommend letting it go and moving on. If he really is that important to you though, I think you should follow the advice of giving him a call in a week or a few more days and just asking if it is over. I don't think it can hurt, because at this point, having not contacted you in a few days, it seems like it is either "over" in his eyes or that he is throwing a huge fit like a little kid and, in that case, maybe it should "be over" from your end. I mean, one can get upset and lose their temper, but not calling and leaving you in obvious distress about your relationship for days? i wouldn't want to deal with that.
posted by slopepheasant at 3:25 PM on March 3, 2009


Scody - You're probably right on all counts.

Fiasco da Gama - can you elaborate on that? I'm not sure I understand what not wanting to risk contacting him (given his request for me to back off) has to do with a romantic relationship. I feel like there's a valid point you were trying to make, I just don't get it.
posted by AnonAnswerer at 3:27 PM on March 3, 2009


This is not the best behavior on his part, but forcing him to talk about the issue is probably not going to get you the communication you are looking for, therefore not giving you the satisfaction you need in terms of a conversation. I would suggest giving it some time (and learn to sit in that uncomfortable place of 'the unknown').

He may just be in a breakdown place of his own and needs to lock away. Again, not the best behavior, but if the rest of the relationship is pretty good, I might give him a free pass. Lord knows in this economy people are way more stressed than usual, and everything piles on top of each other.

I do think that if he meant it as a breakup, he would have said so. I have learned that guys are pretty darn direct in meaning what they say.
posted by Vaike at 3:31 PM on March 3, 2009


I interpret "back off" as a request for air. Whatever he's feeling right now he needs time alone. To me, this is not necessarily a break up, nor does it necessarily mean there's a fatal problem with your relationship -- these feelings happen to people from time to time, sometimes for completely unrelated reasons (e.g. too much stress at work, say). After a week of cooling down and sorting things out in his mind he might come around or he might not. If he doesn't call you after a week I think you are justified in sending him a short message saying you still want to be in a relationship with him and you would like to know where you stand. If he doesn't reply to that message you can assume it's over.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:32 PM on March 3, 2009


If the guy I'd been seeing for a year and a half didn't return several phone calls when we were supposed to be going out that night...I'd probably have called all the local hospitals expecting him to be in the ICU from a horrible accident. (I exaggerate, but calling someone you've been with that long a few times is far from stalkerish). If he says "this isn't working" after that, well, it seems like something else is up...
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 3:34 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Back off" is a term used with younger men to tell other younger men to stop getting "in their face."

Its usually followed by violence.

Shake this loser.
posted by Max Power at 3:34 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Basically I read Fiasco's comment as the following: if you don't feel like you can risk confronting him on this issue, then you really didn't have anything there to begin with. If the relationship is worth fighting for/salvaging, then you should confront him about his behavior. Taking a passive stance and waiting for him to come to you shows a lack of commitment to the relationship on your part.

I can't say as if I disagree.
posted by vuron at 3:36 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


corrections noted. That being said, I think calling someone 5 times in one day sounds stalker-ish to me, unless he doesn't have voicemail.

What message were you trying to send by calling more than once? That you don't think he listened to his voicemail, or that you think he did listen, but refused to respond? If he were in the ICU, how would calling multiple times help?
posted by nomisxid at 3:37 PM on March 3, 2009


Sure—the whole idea of an adult romantic relationship is that you have a special licence to share and communicate your feelings, intimately, that you would not do with other people, even close friends or family. It means that you don't give the message that you do not want to hear the other person's feelings or point of view, which is how I read your boyfriend's request to "back off". Romantic relationships are based on mutual availability and mutual emotional openness.
If you don't have that, no matter what you think of his status as your boyfriend or ex-boyfriend, your romantic relationship is broken, badly.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:39 PM on March 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


anonymous: I'm not usually this relationship illiterate but I just don't understand the whole "back off" thing. There are many things I'd like to say and get out of my system, but what are the rules under "back off" conditions?

There are no rules. You don't fit the definition of "stalker" in any state or jurisdiction that I know of, regardless of what nomisxid says above; you pose no threat to him. He's being childish.

You're afraid that he's decided to break up with you. Whether this is true or not, you're likely to find out at some point. You're better off if you find out now; and it sounds as though part of the problem has to do with the ambiguity of electronic communication. So go to his house, knock on the door, and say: "You were pretty damned vague this weekend. Did you mean to break up with me?"

If he really did mean to, then you're probably best walking away as fast as possible, as painful as it'll be. If he's going to snap out of it, well, that'll snap him out of it; and if he's not, well, it'll be better for you.
posted by koeselitz at 3:43 PM on March 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


As much as it kills me to say this, do I just chalk it up as a shitty breakup and expect nothing more from him?

I'd say so. It does sound like the behavior of a much younger guy, but maybe he's just very bad at communicating. In any case, it does seem a little immature, and so I think it's just a crap way of breaking up with someone.


Is there a possibility that he'll contact me?

Hmmm... I guess it's not beyond the realms of possibility, but I'd say that he's trying to really put some considerable distance between you. In this case I think that "back off" means more than "I need some space"; coupled with the "stop stalking me" thing I think it means go away. Of course there could be any number of factors involved and there's no way of knowing without asking him, but if he won't communicate and won't allow you to ask then I don't think you really owe him the benefit of the doubt.

As I say I think it's a bit weird for a guy in his late 30's to be trying to break up with you like this, but it does sound to me like that's exactly what he's doing. Best of luck.
posted by ob at 3:46 PM on March 3, 2009


Romantic relationships are based on mutual availability and mutual emotional openness.
If you don't have that, no matter what you think of his status as your boyfriend or ex-boyfriend, your romantic relationship is broken, badly.


I guess you're right, Fiasco. There hasn't been much emotional availability on his part (which he always excused by claiming it was a standard of his MBTI type). Maybe it was a relationship in name only.

Maybe I am better off without him. But it is damn painful. Sometimes it is easy to overlook the red flags when all the other signals are special and perfect.

Speaking of flags, I guess I should forget about wondering what "back off" means and just wave the white one and surrender to the demise of the relationship.

It does suck though.
posted by AnonAnswerer at 3:46 PM on March 3, 2009


If he didn't break up with you, he'll get in contact with you when he's ready.
posted by David Fleming at 3:50 PM on March 3, 2009


To me, this sounds like how a really immature individual starts the breakup process. If I were you, I'd move along and find someone who will at least talk to you when he's got something on his mind. I don't think this is about a miscommunication about weekend plans at all; he just used that as a springboard.
posted by katillathehun at 3:56 PM on March 3, 2009


Having just gone through basically the same thing myself a couple of months ago... yeah, you just got dumped, in one of the more cowardly and passive-aggressive manners. Sure, it's entirely possible that he'll get in touch with you in a few days or a week or a couple of weeks, when he feels like behaving like a grownup. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

It totally sucks, and it's unfair, but the best thing you can do is move on. Someone who treats you like this generally doesn't care too much about whether or not they're being shitty to you, and you deserve to be treated better than that. Most humans do.
posted by palomar at 3:59 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


There hasn't been much emotional availability on his part (which he always excused by claiming it was a standard of his MBTI type).

Yep, if he hasn't made himself emotionally available in 18 months (which, as a bonus, comes with a pat excuse!), then it sounds like breaking up was always just a sooner-or-later prospect.

It does suck, and you have my sympathies. It might help a little to consider that it would suck more if you invested another 18 months with someone who's not interested in meeting your emotional needs.
posted by scody at 4:00 PM on March 3, 2009


"There hasn't been much emotional availability on his part (which he always excused by claiming it was a standard of his MBTI type)."

That's pure HORSEFEATHERS, and I say that as an INTP (supposedly the group most detached from their emotions).

I'm really sorry about the way he's acting, but give him what he wants - in fact, give him more than what he wants. If he contacts you again in an effort to pick up where you left off, simply say "I'd like to talk about what happened, because this isn't what I want out of a relationship, and I'm sure it isn't what you want either."
posted by HopperFan at 4:03 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look at it this way, you now have time to take a good long look at your relationship. Then when he calls you back because he realizes that no one wants to be with an emotionally immature man, you can tell him where to stick it.

Or, you can take him back.

Either way, it will be your choice. No matter what he meant, whether it was needing space or to break up with you, he'll call. We always call. We get drunk and feel bad (about ourselves, not about what we did) and think our ex will be there to stroke our ego.

It sounds like he's the one creating the drama in the relationship. Especially by acting like a child. I wish you luck, no matter what. Hope things work out for you.
posted by robtf3 at 4:24 PM on March 3, 2009


It's shorthand for him saying "I'm a retarded jackass and will create problems in your life."
posted by anniecat at 4:49 PM on March 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


"You are annoying/putting too much pressure on/asking too much of me, and I want to you leave me alone for a bit."

After a year and a half of dating, anyone worth being in a relationship with should be able to articulate their feelings more directly instead of throwing a flippant "back off" at you. Possibly he's too immature to talk about his feelings, or possibly he's been feeling that way for a while and just finally cracked, or possibly he's decided the best way to break up with you is to be a prick and have you dump him.

Regardless of the reasoning, "back off" is the kind of thing you say in the heat of the moment (if at all) and while I think you could have given him a little more time, I also think that whatever was broken broke before he said "back off", not after.

If it were me, I guess I'd ignore him for a week, go about my life, and consider myself free to pursue other options. Then if I hadn't heard from him for a week, I'd go about my life for the rest of it. If he'd responded differently -- apologetically, or at least providing more details about his feelings -- when you called back, I'd say there was something to save, but that's because you'd have been communicating. Sounds like you're not communicating now.

By the way, that doesn't mean you actually did anything wrong, before he said it or when you called later; and until he's willing to share with you (and I doubt you'll be able to provoke it out of him) you'll never know what the problem was. Based on his behavior, then, I think you'd best assume the problem is him, not you, and move on.

But that's just me. The one thing I wouldn't do is call him now. If he calls you, be busy, and tell him you'll call him back when you can, then wait a few days to do even that. If he has your stuff and you want it, use a mutual friend to make the call after enough time has passed that there's no doubt you're broken up by default.

And if you want to save it...well...why?
posted by davejay at 4:50 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think calling someone 5 times in one day sounds stalker-ish to me, unless he doesn't have voicemail.

To provide a different point of view, I'd agree if it were all the time, but if it was specifically because of the plans that had been made, I think it's reasonable *if* you trust the other person, *if* you and he communicate well, and *if* each time you're providing something other than "call me, 'k?"

Still, there is something to be said for trusting your partner. If he's made himself unavailable, and you respond by making yourself more available, and he responds by saying leave me alone -- and that appears to be what your relationship is like, based on what you've said so far -- in my experience that's not a relationship, that's a guy who likes sleeping with a girl but otherwise doesn't want to be bothered with her. Sorry.
posted by davejay at 4:55 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Someone worth your time would not leave you hanging like this and would not force you to resort to asking people on the internet what he means. Normal, decent people do not break up with a year-and-a-half significant other in a cryptic way. Seriously, this guy sounds like a colossal asshole.
posted by jayder at 4:59 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


he says it is too much drama for him and he can't take it anymore.

...and then he responds by being even more dramatic. If you were 15, I'd say that this is typical. Because you're both adults, I say that you both need to walk away.

Either the two of you are a toxic mixture (which happens), or you are both emotional children. You'll know if your next relationship follows a similar pattern.
posted by coolguymichael at 5:00 PM on March 3, 2009


Sounds like something else is up to me. I wouldn't be surprised if the way he's acting has absolutely nothing to do with you trying to email/call him re: plans.

Just how it struck me initially. In any case, this isn't grown up behaviour. Most grown ups are able to articulate their feelings, his failure to do so has left you in a situation where you don't know where you stand. That's not fair. I hope it works out for you, but please remember that you don't deserve this kind of treatment.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 5:02 PM on March 3, 2009


Sureā€”the whole idea of an adult romantic relationship is that you have a special licence to share and communicate your feelings, intimately, that you would not do with other people, even close friends or family. It means that you don't give the message that you do not want to hear the other person's feelings or point of view, which is how I read your boyfriend's request to "back off". Romantic relationships are based on mutual availability and mutual emotional openness.

You seem to have forgotten mutual respect. As in, respect for the other person and *their* needs. A relationship isn't a deed to the other person...

I don't think that's anywhere close to being a universal definition of romantic relationship.
posted by gjc at 5:50 PM on March 3, 2009


Hm, it sounds like you need to leave him alone for awhile. Let it be one of those 'wait till he calls you sort of thing'

Honestly though, his behavior and his words are just not something you say to someone you love. It's something you tend to say to someone when you don't really give a shit about them emotionally. Of course, I'm just speculating here.
posted by Holy foxy moxie batman! at 5:57 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm an INTP, and I'd never treat someone like this or put up with this kind of treatment.

It does sound like "back off" was his maddeningly immature way of saying "please give me some space", but the fact that he would phrase it like that proves he's not a very considerate person.

Don't contact him. If he contacts you, it had better be with a heartfelt apology and explanation of why he acted like such a childish dick.
posted by arianell at 6:40 PM on March 3, 2009


This could just be a really shitty way of breaking up with you, but we (and you?) don't know enough to conclude that yet. Perhaps something tragic and alienating has happened in his life (imagine if he was raped or something -- I don't mean that's at all likely, I mean bad things can happen that make a person want to close in on himself).

Go ahead and wait it out for a bit.
posted by grobstein at 7:11 PM on March 3, 2009


There's not enough information to go on. Dating somebody seriously for a long time, especially after the initial infatuation is gone, sometimes you can be completely disgusted by the sight of them (even more so if you're spending every day together) after a bad fight and still not ultimately want to break up. Sometimes you might want to just think about what you're doing with your life. After a year, relationships can start to feel suffocating and intimidating.

He could very well be deciding if he wants to break up or not. I'd just let him alone. Treat it like a breakup, but don't go and immediately hook up with anybody else or anything. He'll either call back in a week or so, or he won't.

You should probably use the time to think about what you're doing in this relationship, too. If you're typically spending a lot of time dealing with bullshit like this, it might be a good idea to take this opportunity for YOU to end it.

If this kind of thing is unusual behavior for him, it might just be that he's under a lot of stress or he's got some heavy feelings bottled up that he doesn't want to even start talking about. If/when he calls you back, I think he probably owes you an apology and an explanation at the very least, regardless.

You very well might have a great conversation with him once he gets his thoughts sorted out and is ready to talk. And if you don't, it might be a good idea for you to just say, 'that's not good enough' and cut it off right then.

Either way, the right thing to do is to leave him alone and spend some time out with 'the girls' or your family or something, and not spend to much time obsessing about it.
posted by empath at 7:17 PM on March 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Is there a possibility that he'll contact me?

Why in the world would you want him to?
posted by selfmedicating at 7:30 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know...the fact that you got disrespected like that and are STILL wondering if this is salvageable tells me that he holds this power over you.

He's going to call later on when he's bored and say some bullshit to you, and you're going to go back to him. Thats whats going to happen...and it probably has happened before.

But anyways...his behavior and "back off" means:

I can treat you any old way I want...and you'll come crawling back for more.

I hope you prove me wrong...but I don't think its going to happen.

Good luck. Really.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:06 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


This was regarding dating but I read somewhere that when a person takes a step back, you should take two steps back. This will spare you the humiliation and unnecessary anguish. If the guy wants you to "back off", keep your dignity and just back off for a while- whatever time is comfortable for you. After that time, if you want to contact him, do that. If you get a positive response then fine, if not, there's your answer.

As someone mentioned already, take this time to introspect. What do you want in a relationship? Is this kind of behaviour acceptable to you? If not, how do you want to communicate this to a SO? Are you willing to put up with a person who behaves and treats you like that? How will you communicate it to this guy in the future?

Painful as it may be try not to forget that people get over worse things in life. You are stronger than you think you are. Hard as it may seem right now, you will be just fine without this guy in your life so try to make decisions taking that into account.

Goodluck!
posted by xm at 10:34 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


It sounds like you've been disconnected from him for a long time. Perhaps you should get through some books on relationships and figure out what didn't work in this one. Not everything has to be story book, but respect, communication, love and intimacy (the emotional kind) are basics. You're better off without him. Looks like he did you a favor.
posted by anniek at 10:59 PM on March 3, 2009


That's not a good situation to be in... Basically he's saying. "I need a break for a while." But the problem here is that he very well might leave you hanging and decide that it's over. I'm guessing that he's probably not sure if it's over or not, but it might be and he might not have the decency to tell you if it is. From not taking the calls and using the loaded term "back off" he sounds mad about something, so I wouldn't expect much.

If this is the kind of guy that shuts down under stress but apologizes later, he might come around. If he doesn't pull stunts like this in the rest of his life, or does pull stunts like this but doesn't make up for them later, well, maybe you should start moving.

Is he known to completely write off friends or co-workers? or does he get real mad but makes up later? you're answer is in the rest of his behavior.
posted by magikker at 1:28 AM on March 4, 2009


Thanks for all the information here. It made me take a look at the relationship, and also what things I may have left out of the original post.

Magikker, he is not known to write off friends or co-workers, quite the opposite. When people cut off relations with him he has very big, very real emotional breakdowns.

How he treats others, well, he's never had the same kindness or concern for me that he has for others in his life (mostly female friends he used to be in love with, they didn't feel that way about him). As for exes, well those who implied or said he was socially stunted or inept were right. This is only the second relationship he's had. Yeah, I know, I know.

I'm going through the Maybes now. Maybe I should have just done what he wanted to do all the time. Maybe I should have been ok with a lot of his self-centeredness. Maybe I was more invested in it than he was and he was just going through the motions so I never knew, or, more aptly, never wanted to see.

Considering his level of stunted maturity, I'm just going to have to assume that so much was broken for him before this, and he really didn't want to be with me anyway, yet didn't know how to get out of it without hurting me (in a way he's have to see/deal with). So I guess the whole "back off" thing was a way to make sure that I picked up my emotional pieces elsewhere and he was able to walk away guilt-free, without having any emotional implications.

In the end, this hurts like hell and I keep wishing things were different. But I can't change things, that takes both people. If the other person doesn't want to be involved, then there really isn't anything I can do. I keep trying to trick myself into if only I sent an email and wrote the "RIGHT THINGS" or called and said "the RIGHT THINGS' but my logical side knows that there are no "RIGHT THINGS" that changes someone's mind when they no longer want to be with you.

It really does suck though. It's entirely heartbreaking. I feel like I've wasted a year and a half of my life on this, on him. I also have that typical fear that everything he's learned from his time will me will just be used in his next relationship. I was the failed experiment, and he'll take those lessons to the experiment that does work.

In anycase, you've all shed some great light on the situation.
posted by AnonAnswerer at 3:57 AM on March 4, 2009


AnonAnswerer: Every time I have found myself in a relationship where I think that if only I did the "RIGHT THINGS" and said the "RIGHT THINGS" then everything would be ok, it's been a red flag that I am in a bad relationship (usually with a weak, manipulative asshole to boot). Maybe he'll come around but I think you are well out of this one.
posted by arha at 1:05 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


When people cut off relations with him he has very big, very real emotional breakdowns.

Okay, THAT is everything you need to know. If that's how he responds when other people cut off relations with him, then he was trying to make you feel that way by cutting off relations with you. Walk away and don't look back, and don't give him the satisfaction of having a big, real emotional breakdown as a result (or, if you do, do it alone so word doesn't get back to him.)
posted by davejay at 1:47 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]




Read the book "Codependent no more". That'll help you a lot.
posted by zulo at 3:39 PM on March 12, 2009


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