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What does it mean when the heartbreaker wants to visit?
November 8, 2010 9:39 AM   Subscribe

The man who broke my heart five months ago is coming to visit me in my new town. I'd like to see him, but don't want to be disappointed again. How, if at all, can I make the most of his visit? Details inside.

I moved away from NYC five months ago for a year-long job. When I took the position, I planned to move back to the city at the end of the year, to resume my life with my then-boyfriend of three years. Instead, he broke up with me a few weeks before I moved. The break-up was precipitated by an incident where I got upset with him for being insensitive and he basically said it was the final straw, that my cons outweighed my pros.

Since I moved to this new town, he has called every few weeks, though I've asked him not to. He wrote me a very intelligent letter about how he keeps everyone in his life at a distance, including me. I understood the letter to mean that he could see his role in the demise of our relationship, but he was sure that he made the right decision when he ended it. I received the letter in September. He called a few days ago to say he wants to visit me. He bought a ticket. Of course I want to see him, but I'm really confused about what it means, what it could mean, and what power I have to demand that it mean the only thing that will really be acceptable to me -- that he wants to have a relationship with me again.

I asked him to think about what the visit would signify. He said he would, but kind of jokingly, like I was being too serious. As I'm writing this I'm seeing the danger in the situation more clearly. I expect many of you will say that I should not let him come. But those of you who have experienced happy endings, who have molded a troubled relationship into a healthy one, what would you advise? He and I love each other very much. Our connection is strong. The problem is that we both have problems, and we have not figured out a way to deal with our own problems and support each other and keep loving each other. I'm in therapy and have been for a few years. He is not, though I think he'd benefit from it. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
posted by Ventre Mou to Human Relations (41 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
IMHO he wants to have his cake and eat it. He rejected you, but wants you on call too. You should not let him visit. Who calls to say they want to visit and they have already bought the ticket?

This does not mean you cannot turn a troubled relationship into a happy one, but it is not time yet. Your heart has not healed, you are not ready. It sounds like he is not ready. Maybe later, but not now. You need time and space to get into the right frame of mind. Tell him he cannot visit.
posted by Joh at 9:46 AM on November 8, 2010 [12 favorites]


My advice is that you cut off all contact. Things are not going to change. But that's just my 2 cents. There is someone out there who will think you have more pros than cons, and it is not this man.
posted by bolognius maximus at 9:47 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems he has a pattern where he operates completely without regard to your feelings, even your expressly dated feelings. IMO, this should change before you emotionally invest in the idea of trying again. A good place for him to start in fixing this would be to follow through and do what he said he would do, explain to you what he means or intends by this visit. The fact that he is resisting/ignoring this request from you, to me, says he's fine with messing with your emotions and prioritizes whatever is is that he wants from you.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:48 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


*expressly stated feelings
posted by Ashley801 at 9:48 AM on November 8, 2010


Don't sleep with him.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:49 AM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


This guy is dicking you around and is displaying a complete lack of respect for your wishes. If you caved into what he wanted, do you think he would start respecting you?

This isn't a question of whether or not you should see this guy. It's a question of: You asked him not to call you but he did. He waited until three weeks before you moved to dump you. And when he called to say he wants to visit, he had already bought the ticket, to make sure you had very little wiggle room for saying no. This is shitty behavior from someone who doesn't seem inclined to treat you like a human who matters.

I understand wanting to make it work, and that's fine. If getting back together is the only acceptable outcome, then check this out.

Call him. Tell him in no uncertain terms that you still love him and you would love to work things out but that, if his intentions are anything else (or if he won't tell you what his intentions are), you will not see him and don't want to hear from him until he makes up his mind one way or the other. If he asks for more details, here are more details: "You broke my heart, and I still want to be with you. If that's the goal here, then great, and I'll give it a chance. If it's not, then I need to take care of me, and I need to get over us, and your constant presence in my life isn't making that possible. I'm sorry, but at least until I am much farther along in the healing process, or until we are trying to work things out, you're doing more harm than good by being around and I don't want to try to be friends."

It's really just a rephrasing of what you're feeling now, but it is in certain terms. Say it and - this part will be hard, but you really, really need to do it -- stick to it. Either he gives you clear answers or he finds his own things to do during his visit, because he won't be seeing you.

The way he's hemming and hawing suggests you're on the hook. Get off the hook. He has no right to keep you on it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:50 AM on November 8, 2010 [48 favorites]


He's being manipulative and a jerk. Don't see him. Frankly, I would send him some sort of letter/email saying this (i.e., not talking to him directly), and say that you won't accept any further communication from him. And then don't. This will only be bad for you, really. There is no happy ending that could come from this. There is no plus side. This is only bad.
posted by brainmouse at 9:50 AM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


He keeps calling although you've asked him not to? This usually means two things: first, he has no particular interest in respecting your boundaries. This is a Bad Thing. Second, you are not enforcing your boundaries (unless you mean you see him on the caller ID but never pick up.) This isn't helping either, because it teaches him that you don't really mean it when you set boundaries.

Look, you know this guy is bad news. He may "love you very much" but he is not going to take care of you emotionally in any way. He's proving that every time he calls you when you've asked him not to, or when he tries to bully his way into seeing you when you aren't sure you want to. Seeing him is not going to make him a better person, and it's not going to help you move on, and one of those two things is what needs to happen here.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:51 AM on November 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Tell him you'll meet him then don't. His turn to be messed around.
posted by Biru at 9:57 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


What if you'd asked him not to visit? I bet he'd be camped in your doorway anyway.

He does everything on his own terms, to the extent of completely ignoring what you say. It's quite possible that the things he's doing are calculated to cause you maximum distress and inconvenience. But even if they're unintentional, he just doesn't care what you want.

He's not going to therapy because he likes being the way he is. The visit signifies that he gets to jerk you around and do whatever he wants while you agonize and go to therapy to cope with the angst and confusion this causes you.

The best way to make the most of his visit would be to move out, change your locks, and start going under an assumed name so he won't find you. Bonus points if you give him directions to your house, instructions on getting a key from a neighbour, and promises of a finely-cooked three-course meal when he arrives, and then move out.
posted by tel3path at 10:01 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


But those of you who have experienced happy endings, who have molded a troubled relationship into a healthy one, what would you advise?

Tell him to fuck off, then change your number or block his.

You asked him not to call. He called. You took the calls because you want him back. You want to see him, because you want him back. He's telling you, let me repeat, TELLING YOU, you're being too serious for him. That's fine, but he's being very uncaring with your feelings and disrespectful of boundaries you've tried to put in place. This person is not healthy to you in your current state. Let him go and cut off contact, otherwise you're what you thought was heartbreak is going to seem like a picnic compared to what you will go through.

Be good to yourself, take care of yourself and cut off contact.
posted by nomadicink at 10:02 AM on November 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Now that you're sort of fixed perfectly at arms length, you're the ideal sort of person for him to be involved with. Kind of sick, right? Don't indulge him. You know you'll want more, you know he'll panic at the idea of offering more, and you'll end up right where you are now, except kicking yourself harder for not getting it the first time.
posted by hermitosis at 10:17 AM on November 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think it could either mean that either he misses you and wants to be with you again, or he is lonely and can’t find anyone else and knows you are a vulnerable target. I do agree with others that he is being manipulative and insensitive to your needs and requests.

If you want to see where this goes, let him come, but don’t let him stay with you. Don’t sleep with him. Treat him like a first date the entire weekend. Watch his behavior. Is he happy to be there with you, does he seem like he genuinely wants to reconnect? Is he interested in your new life and your new friends? Or, does he spend his time trying to get physical or try to pick up your relationship like nothing ever happened?

He let you go so he should at least be willing to do what it takes to win you back. If he’s not, he’s not worth it and is manipulating you for sure.
posted by studentbaker at 10:23 AM on November 8, 2010


"If you want to see where this goes, let him come, but don’t let him stay with you. Don’t sleep with him. Treat him like a first date the entire weekend."

Normally I'd say this is good advice, but I suspect this is exactly how he's planning to treat you.
posted by tel3path at 10:25 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


1. The break-up was precipitated by an incident where I got upset with him for being insensitive

2. he has called every few weeks, though I've asked him not to

3. I asked him to think about what the visit would signify. He said he would, but kind of jokingly, like I was being too serious

You may love him, but he doesn't respect you and doesn't act in ways that reflect caring about your feelings. You cannot mold an unhealthy relationship into a healthy one if your partner doesn't respect you or care about your feelings. His plan to visit is probably a continuation of his previous pattern: seeking what he wants even if it hurts you. (So, yes, he may still want some kind of relationship with you--but you deserve better than the scraps he has shown he is willing to give.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:25 AM on November 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


As I'm writing this I'm seeing the danger in the situation more clearly.

Trust this instinct.

He and I love each other very much. Our connection is strong.

I don't think so. I think you're lonely and still hurting from the breakup and would like to believe in a happy ending, but this guy is telling you loud and clear that what you want and your feelings don't matter to him. He doesn't respect your wishes (you told him to stop calling, but he kept it up; he went ahead and bought a ticket to visit you without even asking first; he laughed when you asked him to think seriously about his intentions). He sounds like one of those people who is always thinking, "I want I want I want." True love seeks the good of the beloved.

What has your therapist said about all this?
posted by Gator at 10:35 AM on November 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


I've recently been in a relationship where i was not really into the guy, continuously weighing his pros and cons, and I decided it wasn't worth continuing. He kept coming around and trying to convince me we could still be friends, possibly work things out. I gave in to that for a long time, because though i wasn't ready to date him again, it was nice to keep that option open (keeping him on the hook). Dating other people hadn't been terribly fruitful as of yet, and it was nice to get that attention from someone familiar, someone under my control. Entirely selfish, I know, but it felt like a fun game and I wasn't cluing in to the reality of his emotional state. Ultimately it led to him showing me just how nuts this had been driving him by sending a link to his personal online diary where he'd been dwelling on "us" for months. Creepy, yeah, but it was an eye-opener. I cut him off 100% and haven't given in to breaking that silence since.

I really think you should write him something yourself, something in-depth and well thought-out that lets him see what's all going on inside your head. If he's still being entirely selfish after that, wanting to keep leading you on in a wishy-washy situation, then there is nothing more to do but cut him off. You can't make a person change, but you can give him enough info to see if he's willing to change himself. Do this before he is supposed to come visit you. Even if he seems to ignore what you write and comes anyway, it will help you sort things out, and will be able to control the situation all the better if you do end up meeting him.
posted by lizbunny at 10:44 AM on November 8, 2010


Having just read this comment of yours from a previous thread, I would like to add: GAAAAH. Girl, don't give in to this immature creep's charms. Being lonely is better than being used. And those aren't your only options. Make a few new friends, find a hobby, try a new activity, anything to get you out of the house and out of your own head. You can get through this!
posted by Gator at 10:46 AM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think like people who become friendly with their exes or even get back together are able to do so because they stay the HELL away from each other for a long time after their breakup. There's too many intense emotions going on right now for either of you to think rationally.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 10:50 AM on November 8, 2010


He's trying to play you. He knows you still have feelings for him and he's trying to work that.

If he really broke your heart, do not see him. That way lies a lengthy extension of your heartbreak. Tell him you do not want to see him and you do not want to hear from him (even - no, especially - if this is not true) because he broke your heart and he had better not try to maintain contact with you in future unless he comes bearing sincere apologies, sincere expressions of regret and an open desire to be in a proper relationship with you again.

And even then you might want to seriously consider whether it's worth it. I'd say it isn't.
posted by Decani at 11:07 AM on November 8, 2010


He's getting off on the fact that you still want him without having to deal with the complexities of having a real relationship that he needs to contribute to. Fuck that guy. Stand him up.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:14 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


The best chance you have of rebuilding this relationship in a decent, healthy way is to PREVENT it from rebuilding in a fucked-up, unsustainable way.

Imagine your relationship is an ankle. Now imagine you broke it.

If you keep walking on it, and you don't go to physical therapy, and you don't wear your cast, it's going to heal all fucked up and it's going to keep hurting.

No matter how much you want to walk on it, or, hell, even go dancing, you're going to jack this relationship up permanently if you ignore it when it hurts. He's trying to run a marathon on a broken ankle. It's fucked up and it's going to do lasting damage.

(Note that the relationship might be messed up anyway, but you can at least give it a chance to heal properly)

You're not telling him what you really want, and by sending him the message that his behavior is okay when it's not (I know you don't mean to do this) is likewise going to fuck up the relationship going forward.

He is disregarding your wishes, refusing to take this seriously, and starting back into a really harmful pattern. It's going to fuck up the relationship going forward (even if it just turns into a friendship). Just like walking on a broken ankle will fuck up the ankle.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:16 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love FAMOUS MONSTER's advice and here's why: The only way to sustain a healthy relationship is by being honest about your needs, expectations, and feelings with someone who is willing to do the same.

That said, you already know he's not the right person for you. You know he doesn't meet your needs. You know he's playing around with you and being insensitive. You can trust yourself, you don't have to let him lead you to question your decisions. You're still hurt and lonely after the break up, but it will get better. You will find someone else, someone who actually considers your well-being.
posted by Kimberly at 11:23 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Funny. I got no strong negative vibes about that guy out of your original description. I believe that he could be totally okay, but perhaps in the middle of some complex process, where he reacted strongly and now regrets it. It happens to guys too.

However, I would believe that "to demand that it mean the only thing that will really be acceptable to me" perhaps needs a bit of sorting out on your side. You sound as if you picked this terminology of strength to add some punch to your dearest wish: to get together again. Don't make it too easy for him with your demands, just because you would like to see a happy ending.
posted by Namlit at 11:52 AM on November 8, 2010


Some people find you more attractive when you become unavailable.

"he has called every few weeks, though I've asked him not to."
This is a bad sign. Tell him, before he visits, that you are only interested in a committed relationship, and that he should only visit if that is his goal, also. Don't accept any joking around or other crap. Honestly, I think you should think about how long it has taken you to get as far beyond this as you have, and cancel the visit, as I think it can only end badly.
posted by theora55 at 11:58 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


After reading your comment on the other thread, I think you should find someone else and forget him.

If he was gonna man up and be with you he'd have done it already. Cut your losses.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:59 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


The breakup of long term relationships takes some time. I see this visit as part of the process of saying goodbye with finality. Obviously, other alternatives are possible, but that would require a lot of work on one or both parts, and that doesn't seem to have happened yet.

Your best bet for getting through this no matter what he brings is to focus on what makes your life good besides him. Exercise, eat well, sleep enough, schedule social events before and after his visit (even a jazzercise class could count as a semi-social event), and generally be your healthiest and happiest self.
posted by salvia at 12:20 PM on November 8, 2010


If you're still referring to him as "the man who broke my heart," you are not ready to see him. The precise details of how meeting with him will play out are unknown, but it is almost certain that whatever happens, it will come to no good -- specifically, it will be painful for you and will serve absolutely no healthy purpose.

I strongly urge you to choose to value yourself and your need to heal more than you value the desire to give in to the temptation to see him again. I know it may seem like an impossible choice to make. But it's not impossible; it's just difficult. And sometimes the difficult thing to do is precisely the right thing to do.
posted by scody at 12:27 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Sorry pal, you blew it."
posted by rhizome at 12:45 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


OP, I extracted the sentiment below from your comment about your ex from a previous thread linked to by Gator:

"...the fear that I will not be able to find someone and have a kid before I no longer have that option."

I can pretty much promise that if you continue to keep this guy in your life (and let him keep you on the hook) you will never meet the right person to make a child with while you still have the "option."

You must make room for these blessings to enter your life, and that includes actively choosing relationships featuring mutual affection and respect. This guy you are pining about gives you the exact opposite. Why are you bothering with this guy if his behavior towards you is not compatible with your Dreams?

On preview, rhizome!
posted by jbenben at 1:22 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hi everyone. Thanks for your advice and for caring about a stranger (me). The group sentiment is pretty much unanimous -- his past actions have shown that he tends to be selfish and the potential emotional expense of this visit for me is too high. My therapist asked if I felt like the visit was on his terms. The answer is yes. His terms are that we have a lovely 4-day weekend together and no relationship. Today he said this: "I would like to see you, I feel that strong and true. And therefore I will come to see you." Then went on to say that we should try to just enjoy the time together. My terms would be that we have a lovely 4-day weekend and he wants to be my man and this time next year we'll be naming our baby... It's hard for me to believe that he would have so little concern for my feelings. But that seems to be the case. He does not want me to find someone else. He does not care if I get what I want. He does not know, really know in his heart, that I want things (love and home and family) and he does not feel how it is painful for a me to not get that from him. All the more painful because it appears that one little alteration, one little action or motion on his part would make the difference between my having what I want, and my being denied it. And lord I'm like a lost child in a huge department store every time he denies me. So... thank you everybody. I hear you.
posted by Ventre Mou at 3:52 PM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I would like to see you, I feel that strong and true. And therefore I will come to see you."

Want, take, have. I want, I got. I want to see you, so there you will be to see. You don't have an elsewhere to be. I'll take you out of my toybox when I want to and put you back there or throw you on the floor or pull you to pieces when I want to.

He can't name a baby, he's only a toddler himself - I am not joking.
posted by tel3path at 4:05 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


You're not joking but thank god I'm laughing. Thanks.
posted by Ventre Mou at 4:44 PM on November 8, 2010


It's hard for me to believe that he would have so little concern for my feelings. But that seems to be the case. He does not want me to find someone else. He does not care if I get what I want.

This is a really important realization that you need to hold onto and keep at the forefront of your mind. He is operating on autopilot based upon whatever feeling of the moment he might be having. He doesn't care about or consider how his actions might affect you. So you need to look out for yourself because he isn't going to.

I'm sure the weekend would be lovely. He'll walk away with his ego restored, confident in the fact he won't die alone and is still attractive and desirable, and then you'll be left devastated all over again and have to start from scratch emotionally to get over him yet again.

This reminds me of that scene from 500 Days of Summer where Tom finds out Summer is engaged and asks her how could she invite him to her party, how could she dance with him at the wedding, getting his hopes up and then horribly crushing them in one fell swoop, if she was already with her fiance, and she just tilts her head and sweetly says, "Because I wanted to."
posted by whoaali at 4:46 PM on November 8, 2010


This guy sounds like he only loves himself. Boy howdy do you deserve better.

You don't have to see him.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:57 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would suggest that you not see him, and if he insists on coming even if you say no, go on some trip somewhere else for the long weekend. Find a way to make sure you don't spend that weekend together, because you are all but certain to not get what you want and feel worse at the end of it.
posted by that girl at 5:57 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I think your seeing him would have only reinforced the idea in his mind that his me-me-me! behavior is perfectly fine.

This person is a irresponsible boy, you deserve a man.

P.S. - I would change my phone number too.
posted by blueberry at 9:10 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Listen to that girl's advice to plan to be away for that weekend. He's already bought a ticket and he has a track record of not respecting your wishes. I wouldn't be surprised if he just showed up at your door, ugh.

Other than that, I think you should print out your own comment and look at it every time you feel a moment of weakness. It's very good advice! :)
posted by like_neon at 12:25 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


He does not know, really know in his heart, that I want things (love and home and family) and he does not feel how it is painful for a me to not get that from him. All the more painful because it appears that one little alteration, one little action or motion on his part would make the difference between my having what I want, and my being denied it.

I know it seems that way to you now, but right now it's completely impossible for you to have the kind of relationship you want with him, and a small but relatively important change on his part would only make the relationship barely possible. Eventually you'll find someone who not only meets your bare minimum requirements, but also acts in ways that show he respects you and cares about you above and beyond what you could ever get from this guy. I suspect that if you're in a truly fulfilling relationship you will be glad that it wasn't possible for you to settle with him.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:31 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seems a little presumptuous of me to update this thread, but for the sake of the "relationship archive" or the hypothetical self-help book that uses nothing but relationship threads from askme, here is what happened: I sent the heart breaker a message that said pretty much word for word what Famous Monster suggested. He came anyway, as like_neon and that girl forewarned. I was there, though, prepping for a camping trip with friends. He joined me on the camping trip. We were together for four days. We had a lovely time. We now talk once a week or so. I am more conscious of the crazy/clingy things I did that damaged the relationship. He admits the distancing/alienating things he did to damage it. I harbor hope that we will be in a committed relationship again some day. I know that's dangerous but it seems possible. So, I took your advice and then defied your advice. I'm sorry. We will not know whether I was right unless and until I'm 75, single and childless or 75, stooped and walking in the park holding the heart breaker's hand. Thank you again for advising me.
posted by Ventre Mou at 6:55 PM on December 10, 2010


It's ok. As a friend once said to me, "you are certainly free to decide to take another loop around this cycle*. I am afraid this go-round will turn out like the last one, with you getting hurt. :( But maybe I'm wrong and things will be different. I hope if they're not, that you will choose to get off, eventually, because I see how hard this has been for you. But regardless, you're my friend and I'll support you." Something like that. You do deserve to be in a relationship where it's called "a relationship." :)
posted by salvia at 10:24 AM on December 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


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