Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Ex and "best friend" won't talk to me anymore, why?
November 15, 2010 7:30 PM   Subscribe

Why won't my ex talk to me? And how can I be okay with this? Give me insight based on your experience.

My ex (and supposedly "best friend") and I were together for three years and just broke up earlier this year based on the advice of the therapist we were seeing. It was an amicable breakup for the most part (no drama, no fighting, just taking different directions in life). We are both in our early 30s.

After breaking up, we didn't talk for 3 months. Then we met up a few times (we do not live in the same state anymore) and tried to do long distance. This didn't work though, so we called it off for good. I took this to mean our relationship, and not our friendship, but she still wanted "a break for a while." Ok, fair enough.

We ran into each other a couple months later at an event (we have similar interests) and we had a good hour-long talk about the future of our friendship. She even made plans for us to hang out a couple days later, then when the day came, she canceled and said she didn't want to see me. Needless to say I was a bit confused.

I haven't heard from her since. That was 2.5 months ago. I tried calling her twice, leaving friendly voicemails, but have not gotten any response.

I know "people need time" and all that, but I heard she has a new boyfriend (I'm not jealous, I swear, I'm over the relationship with her) --- to me this must mean she has moved past our relationship. So I can't understand why she is ignoring me, especially if she is supposed to be my best friend. It has been 10 months since we originally broke up, and 5 months since we tried to make it work again and broke up for good. To me that's a long time.

Oh, and her birthday is in a few weeks. I'm guessing it's a bad idea to send her a birthday card?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Send her the birthday card. If she doesn't contact you after that to at least say thanks, then give up on her; she doesn't really want to be friends.
posted by amro at 7:32 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know some people can do it, but I have never had an intimate relationship that transitioned back into a friendship that lasted. My guess is she has some conflicted feelings about you that are easier to push away than deal with.
posted by Menthol at 7:36 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


You're either a "friends" person, or you're a "throw it all in the bonfire and walk away" person. You're a friend, she's a bonfire.

Don't send the card. You'll only continue to hurt yourself. Don't be the guy that suddenly finds himself chasing small animals with a weed-whacker, screaming, "She said she wanted to be friends!"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:36 PM on November 15, 2010 [20 favorites]


I'm over the relationship with her

No, you're not.

to me this must mean she has moved past our relationship

That is correct.

So I can't understand why she is ignoring me, especially if she is supposed to be my best friend.

She's not supposed to be your best friend. She's supposed to be your ex. Stop supposing that she's you're best friend. She's not.

It has been 10 months since we originally broke up, and 5 months since we tried to make it work again and broke up for good. To me that's a long time.

20 years is a long time. 5 months is nothing.

I'm guessing it's a bad idea to send her a birthday card?

Yep. Bad idea.
posted by The World Famous at 7:37 PM on November 15, 2010 [60 favorites]


She's not your best friend. She's your ex. She told you she doesn't want to see you. Work on getting over it, because she doesn't owe you anything and deserves her solitude if that's what she wants.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:38 PM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


I tried calling her twice, leaving friendly voicemails, but have not gotten any response.
No one here can answer the question of why. She doesn't want to talk to you. She's not your best friend. Let it go.
posted by sanko at 7:39 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


So I can't understand why she is ignoring me, especially if she is supposed to be my best friend.

It sounds as if you think that either she was not sincerely your best friend in the past (rather, she was disingenuous or dishonest with you), or if she was sincerely your best friend she owes you continued friendship now.

It's entirely possible to be someone's best friend, have a romantic relationship, and, following an amicable breakup, to be unable to continue that friendship. It's also possible to be someone's best friend, have a romantic relationship, and, following an amicable breakup, to be able to continue that friendship. Apparently your ex is in the former camp while you're in the latter. Neither of you is wrong, but the person who wants less contact gets to make the call.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:43 PM on November 15, 2010 [11 favorites]


The World Famous is famous. I mean right.

I had a situation similar to yours. However, I'm a teenager. Slightly different game, but all the same, I really liked her, and she said she wanted a "break", I made an off-the-cuff remark that made her upset. We didn't talk for months. Then when we resumed contact it seemed like it was horribly awkward for her. I got way too interested in clever ways to see her again.

Basically, we've had the same experience. Getting down to brass tacks?

Don't send the card, toss reminders of her, everything. She's now your ex. It sucks and is sad, but I'm afraid it happens.
posted by Askiba at 7:43 PM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Speaking from personal experience--I've had a lot of exes that I've remained friendly with to some degree. But none of that friendliness has really withstood distance, other than being Facebook friends (and even then, I eventually quietly "hid" those exes, because there's a reason they're exes). It's easy enough to stay cordial and even hang out when you're in the same town and sometimes it's a great social survival tactic to do so, but when you don't need that because you're miles away, it's often easier just to let it wither.

Sorry you're going through it, it's probably not what you expected to happen. But it's time for you to move on.
posted by padraigin at 7:46 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Needless to say I was a bit confused.

So I can't understand why she is ignoring me, especially if she is supposed to be my best friend.


This isn't rocket science. She doesn't want to talk to you, otherwise, she would. Leave her alone and let her make the next contact. If you don't hear from her, then that's that. You really need to move on. Also let go of the notice that you two are "best friends." You aren't best friends.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:59 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just because she was your best friend before doesn't obligate her to be your best friend now. She may have a new man but that doesn't mean hearing from you doesn't conjure up old, painful feelings. Knock it off. If you ever cared for her, then respect her obvious wishes and leave her in peace to move on with her life.
posted by CwgrlUp at 8:01 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


5 months is not really a very long time. Neither is 10 months. I've managed to be good friends with my ex, but it took at least a year for us to be fairly normal (& stop processing our non-relationship with each other) and another 6 or 8 months at least to be really over it.

If you really want to be friends with her, back off, and let *her* contact you when she feels it's the right time. Maybe it will happen and maybe it won't, but don't push too hard--it will just make things more drawn out and painful.
posted by sea change at 8:02 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Neither of you is wrong, but the person who wants less contact gets to make the call.

Were you "best friends" before you were lovers? I had a situation like that once. And then the "love" part ended and, seemingly, the "friend" part with it. And yeah, I wanted to keep it happening way more than she did, and tried various strategies to make it so, all failures that only drove her further away. To make an extremely long story short, I finally bit the bullet and accepted her powerful disinterest in keeping me as part of her life. It hurt like hell but it allowed me to get on with my life.

Then, maybe a year later, she started getting in touch again, beginning with a letter of apology. Then a few phone calls, always made by her. Then a coffee date, a daytime movie. And so on. That was fifteen years ago. She's now on her second marriage and living half-way across the world with her husband and two beautiful kids, but she remains one of my very best and most valued friends.

So yeah, stop pushing. You never know what might happen.
posted by philip-random at 8:07 PM on November 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


Five months is not a long amount of time compared to how long you were together. Forget about her for now, and maybe in a year or so you can be friends again. Although I was over my ex when I started dating my current girlfriend, and even though my ex and I used to be best friends, it took a long time for a friendship to actually be a feasible option. We're able to be friends now, 3.5 years after we broke up, but it isn't even remotely close to a best friends situation. After a relationship is over, you usually give up other parts of the relationship. Find a different best friend. That's an intimate connection, and most likely you won't get it back.

I have completely ruled out the possibilities of a friendship with my ex that is closer that a phone call or two a month & hanging out more than once every month or two. I have complete confidence that she has or will have a best friend relationship with someone else. My best friend is my current partner. Also, my ex pushed for friendship much earlier than I was ready. I'm pretty sure that pushiness delayed how long it took for me to be ready for friendship.
posted by studioaudience at 8:11 PM on November 15, 2010


I dated a woman for 8 years. We broke up. We tried the friends thing and it did not work. Too much what ifs. She was taking steps backwards emotionally every time she saw me. I get that. Fast forward 6 years. I got a birth announcement from her for her first son. I wrote back a short note congratulating her. Fast forward another 6 years and several Christmas cards and the like and she is now friends with my wife (they email) and has met my kids. She lives 1200 miles away. Sometime these things take time. Sometimes they are never meant to be. Let the next move be hers.
posted by AugustWest at 8:27 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Her new boyfriend may have asked her to cease contact with you. Maybe she's busy and you just don't make it to the top of her priority list. Maybe space aliens are influencing her.

Her reasons - good, bad or ridiculous - are not yours to question. Let it go. Let her go.
posted by 26.2 at 8:28 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've been on the other end of your situation. We were best friends, like hung out all. the. time, even when not dating. When we ran into each other some period after the breakup, we talked about hanging out just like you two did. However, when it came time, I wasn't up for it. It's not that we didn't have good times together back in the day or I disliked her, it's just that things changed. I was no longer in the same place, and the circumstances of our relationship changed as a consequence.
Really, we had great times together previously, but the reality was things wouldn't be as great as they were before. It's not that things might not be good again, but once you reach those heights, it can be hard to set that bar lower (it's important to note that's only in regards to comparing a specific relationship with itself, not actually comparing one personal relationship with another personal relationship).

And as harsh as it sounds, put yourself in her position: what possible benefit is there to still being friends with you? Bringing back old memories and being torn up inside? Making her boyfriend jealous by hanging out with an ex? Having internal conflicts if she should give you one more chance? It may be selfish, but sometimes letting go of old relationships, particularly when there were intense feelings, can be easier than hanging on by a thread- particularly when you're the one who's moved on.
posted by jmd82 at 8:40 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


You could long for her and obsess about why she's acting the way she's acting.

You could entertain yourself for hours/days/weeks/months about how you guys *should* be with each other.

You could moan and feel bad and angry about the injustice of it all.

This could go on for a very long time.

How to be grateful for the time you had and still move on with your life. *That's* the challenge.
posted by jasper411 at 8:43 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


In a relationship several years ago, I was seeing someone long distance. We hadn't seen each other in a bit and he told me that he didn't want me to come to his graduation but he still wanted to go out. A friend finally pointed out that he was stringing me along. It hurt but my friend was absolutely right. I didn't see that "boyfriend" again.

Let the people in this thread do for you what my friend did for me that summer. Let them rip the bandaid off. It hurts but it's for the best.
posted by kat518 at 8:55 PM on November 15, 2010


Five months is not a very long time. If you care about this woman, stop trying to contact her. She has her reasons, but you will drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what they are; you just have to trust that whatever they are, they're valid.

Also: please take the hint that she doesn't want to talk to you and do not show up at her door "to make sure she's okay" because you haven't heard from her in awhile. Being That Guy will not improve your future chances at friendship.

Give it time. Probably more time than you think it needs.
posted by corey flood at 9:06 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Send her the card. i don't think there's any way she won't appreciate it. chances are even if she is over you, it took her time and was hard -- it's always nice to get a note of regard from a loved (if formerly loved) one. you'll regret it in the future if you don't.

besides -- by sending her the card, you're at least making a future friendship possible. if you don't, it's gone. i wish i had kept in touch with some of my exes...so much time has passed now it'd be totally weird for me to send a random birthday wish and i regret that. don't be like me!
posted by custard heart at 9:09 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am friends with lots of my exes. None of them are my best friend. I know lots of people who are friends with their exes, and none of them are best friends with their exes. It seems overwhelmingly likely that she is not your best friend (I hope your best friend is someone who enjoys talking with you regularly!) at the moment, and that she will never again be your best friend. Let that idea go.

But you may well be able to create a new relationship as friends; the thing is, though, that relationships need to move at the pace of the slowest party. If five months isn't enough time for her, then it isn't enough time for the relationship.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:55 PM on November 15, 2010


I should also say that my husband isn't my best friend, either. I know that that model works for some people, but you might want to examine whether that is the right model for you--it may not be.

One of the upsides of not having your partner or spouse be your best friend is that if/when you split up, you still have a best friend to talk with about how tough the breakup is.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:57 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm friends with lots of my exes, too. Close friends. As is my SO.

But, y'know, it's mutual.

Sorry if that sounds harsh, but your ex has the right to change her mind about how close she'd like you and her to be post-breakup. You made overtures, she's not responding. Let it be.
posted by desuetude at 10:11 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


She is likely happy with the new boyfriend and she has no need for a friendship with you that would only serve to irk the new boyfriend.
Work on finding new female friends and begin building new memories. I'm sure there are many women who would love to be friends with you. Your ex is yesterday.
posted by naplesyellow at 10:54 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


"broke up earlier this year based on the advice of the therapist we were seeing"

Wait, what? That sounds unprofessional to say the least, if not downright nasty. Was this a couple's counselor who advised you to no longer be a couple? Please never refer any business to him or her in the future.

That said, when I was in college it seemed like a good idea to try and stay friendly with exes because it was a closed environment to a large extent. But after that I never saw the point unless it was a co-worker who I needed to maintain a professional relationship with. Even then, it was more about gritting our teeth and pretending we really cared what the other one thought about the weather. IMO (entirely my opinion obviously) you can never go back to being "just" friends once you've shared a romantic connection (which is more than just sex, but whew boy sex sure is a big part of it of if you prefer, intimacy). And friends are relatively easy to make compared to boyfriends/girlfriends/partners.

To put it even more directly, she's moved on. She's decided that any benefits to staying friends with you are dwarfed by the difficulties in freeing herself emotionally for the next go at a big-time relationship. As suggested, don't break off contact for her sake. Break it off completely for your own and move on.
posted by bardic at 12:55 AM on November 16, 2010


You know, it's just that for many people it simply can't be done, this "staying friends with an ex" business. For them it's too fraught with awkwardness, uncomfortable feelings, emotional and social difficulty. For them, it needs to be over. I think you need to recognise that your ex is probably in this category - certainly as far as her relationship with you is concerned - and move on.
posted by Decani at 1:54 AM on November 16, 2010


Read through just about any AskMe posted by someone who's freshly broken up. Regardless of the details, whether the breakup was amicable, angry, ambiguous, whatever, the advice strongly leans toward no contact every time. It's healthier to have that time away to heal, for just about everyone. It's possible to be friends with an ex, sure, but in nearly every situation people need months or years of space to get to that point. She might need a few more months. She might need five years. She might be done with you forever.

It's a little vague whether you were best friends before you started dating, or only during the relationship. If it was the latter, then it makes sense that if the relationship dissolves, the friendship goes with it. If the former, well, that's the unfortunate risk of dating your best friend - you pursue the relationship at the risk of losing your friendship. And even when there's no romance involved, friendships change and best friends aren't always forever.

Let her come back around if and when she's ready. If you push her to be friends, you will only push her away.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:27 AM on November 16, 2010


I'd offer a small wager that her new boyfriend is uncomfortable with her palling around with her recent ex. It is not an unreasonable emotion either, especially if you guys ran as hot as you indicate.

And seriously, what everyone else in this thread is saying.

Find a new flame, it'll be the best thing you can do.


Wait, what? That sounds unprofessional to say the least, if not downright nasty. Was this a couple's counselor who advised you to no longer be a couple? Please never refer any business to him or her in the future.


eh... it certainly need not be unprofessional, nor nasty, nor bad advice. It fact it may have been good advice. We have nothing really to judge the previous relationship on, so retroactively second guessing a therapist recommendation is counterproductive.
posted by edgeways at 6:14 AM on November 16, 2010


It has been 10 months since we originally broke up, and 5 months since we tried to make it work again and broke up for good. To me that's a long time.

Oh, and her birthday is in a few weeks. I'm guessing it's a bad idea to send her a birthday card?


If you broke up with her 10 months ago, and her birthday is in a few weeks, that means you were still dating her on her last birthday. I'd bet money that sending a birthday card on this birthday will make her (and her new boyfriend) think "Why in the hell is he still hanging on?" and further screw your chances of ever being able to be friends with her.

Don't send the birthday card.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:30 AM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


we had a good hour-long talk about the future of our friendship

This is what reminds me why I recently completely cut off an ex who wanted to be friends. "Friendship" is not an hour-long talk about being friends; it happens organically and without forcing time together that will inevitably remind at least one of you of why you broke up. "Friends" after a break-up means not stomping out of a restaurant when you happen to meet; smiling, shaking hands, talking when paths cross. It's not forcing more "quality time" together at so many hours per week or month, because that's more like dating and you don't date her anymore.

There is also this: a lot of times people (perhaps women especially) don't mean it when they say they want to be friends. Confront the possibility that she does not want to be friends but doesn't want to "be mean." Discard any possibility of confronting her about what she really wants and forcing her to say it; just accept that based on her behavior she does not actually want to be your friend or have anything to do with you. Action speak louder than words.
posted by motsque at 6:39 AM on November 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


Then, maybe a year later, she started getting in touch again, beginning with a letter of apology. Then a few phone calls, always made by her. Then a coffee date, a daytime movie. And so on. That was fifteen years ago. She's now on her second marriage and living half-way across the world with her husband and two beautiful kids, but she remains one of my very best and most valued friends.

Yes. I think that if you want her as a friend again, it's very possible. There's no guarantee, because she's a free agent. But the key is TIME. And -- sorry -- we're probably talking years here. At least one year, but maybe three or four. Maybe more. So I agree with everyone who is saying "move on." You should probably think of the friendship as over and done -- because otherwise it will be hard to let it go. But in a few years, when the dust has completely settled, things might change.

If you were REALLY best friends -- and if that was mutual -- then it's probably she values the friendship, too. It's possible she values it enough that she'll welcome it starting up again. But if she's conflicted, it won't work. She needs to be COMPLETELY over her conflicted feelings. And that can sometimes take years. The fact that she has another boyfriend means nothing. Maybe on their third anniversary, when they're buying a house together (or whatever) it will mean something. Moving on doesn't mean "having another boyfriend." It means MOVING ON -- creating a new life that doesn't involve you.

I say this from personal experience. I am friends with many people from my past, some of whom were formerly connected to me in uncomfortable ways: breakups, etc. But rebuilding the friendships was only possible after we'd BOTH moved on. By "moved on," I don't mean "gotten over it" in some nebulous way. What I mean is we both had full lives that didn't involve each other, both married for several years or whatever.

When you and your ex can both email each other photos of your kids, you're probably ready. (I mean "kids" metaphorically, of course. You're not required to have children. But THAT'S the sort of moving on I'm talking about.) You and she both need to know that there's no going back, only going forward -- that there's no chance of you two becoming a couple again ... that there's no chance of anger or jealousy or whatever. Basically, you need to wait until -- for BOTH of you -- you can have the friendship or not have it -- and you'll be okay either way.

There was a woman from my past that I wondered about on-and-off for many years. I didn't wonder about whether we could be romantically involved again. I'm happily married and have no interest in her that way. But we were once good friends, and I knew it would be fun to hear from her. I also knew that if I DIDN'T ever hear from her again, I'd be fine. It would be a bit sad, but I have a full life. THAT'S when I was ready to get back in touch with her; that's when I DID get back in touch with her; and we're now been friends for several years. And it's a better friendship (not fraught with all sorts of complications) than it was before.
posted by grumblebee at 6:40 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Move on.
posted by stealabove at 7:30 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't see a problem with sending her a card if you keep your message light, friendly and non-demanding. If your tone is right, it'll help shift things away from fraught to easy. But after that, leave it up to her.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:33 AM on November 16, 2010


Here you go, dude.
posted by rhizome at 8:44 AM on November 16, 2010


From the OP:
Thanks for all of the helpful and insightful comments. I get it now -- she's my ex and no longer my best friend, so I have to stop holding on to that. I also realize that I need to give her space. I have decided to send her a birthday card based on the responses here and advice from some of my real life friends (who know more of the story than I presented here). I'm pretty good about sending birthday cards to all of my favorite friends, and she knows this, so I don't want her to feel slighted or to think that I forgot her birthday if I don't send her one. But I am going to keep it down to a one-sentence, friendly thing ("Hope you have a great birthday. Wishing you the best for 2011." or something). After that, it's up to her. I also decided to burn some of the stuff she gave to me (just little notes and such that mean nothing now)... more for the ceremonial aspect than anything. I'm finally starting to feel good about moving past all of this, not just my relationship with her. Thanks again, this thread has been a big
help.
posted by jessamyn at 7:33 AM on November 17, 2010


« Older I want to spend my summer expl...   |  I have a Sony VPL-PX40 and a S... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.