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How do I ask him to try again?
February 15, 2012 6:17 AM   Subscribe

My ex broke up with me at the beginning of January. I want to give our relationship a second chance. Should I? How? Wall of text within.

The background: my ex boyfriend (24) and I (23) started seeing each other in November 2010. We met online and it was casual at first, with me visiting him in his city every other weekend or so to hang out/go to cool gigs/play video games/cook delicious food. By April it was every weekend and we had upgraded from "two people hanging out and having sex sometimes" to "officially exclusive/in a relationship" and things were awesome.

We were compatible on almost every level. I've never connected to anyone that well before. We could talk about anything, we made each other laugh, shared secrets, were very physically affectionate -- all that good shit. The only problem I had was that he could be somewhat emotionally reticent, but the indications were so (to me) minor (stuff like, he wouldn't tell me that he had missed me after a long week away, or put kisses on the ends of his texts) that I was willing to let them go. It may be worth mentioning that the boyfriend I had before him had been the complete opposite of this -- telling me he loved me all the time -- but ended up cheating on me twice, so it's safe to say that I no longer put much store by what people say. My ex was also less experienced than me in relationships -- the only one he'd had was a year before we met and lasted 3 months, with him being dumped for being emotionally unavailable. He was very concerned with being a "good boyfriend" and not knowing how to do/deal with "relationship things".

In September I accepted a job in my ex's city (unrelated to him -- I had been planning to move for a long time before we met), but my housing situation imploded literally days before I was due to move and I ended up having to live with him for two months while I looked for another place. I had raised the possibility of us living together before, but he had always backed off, saying that he didn't feel like he was in the right place. I accepted that and didn't bring it up again. However, when my move fell through, it was his idea that I come and stay with him. I felt guilty that we had been thrust into a situation he wasn't happy with, but every time I expressed this guilt, he reassured me that he was okay with it and not to worry, but emphasised the fact that it wouldn't be forever and I'd find a place soon.

However, my emotions ended up getting the better of me. In late September I told him one morning before I left for work that I loved him. I didn't expect him to respond, but I (being a hopeless romantic) don't believe in withholding love and felt like I had to say it or else spend months regretting it. He didn't reply and I left, a little conflicted.

I made the (in hindsight) mistake of telling him I loved him a few more times after that, usually in the mornings, when I could pass off his lack of response for sleepiness. He never brought it up himself and his attitude and actions towards me never changed -- he remained physically and, to some extent, emotionally affectionate, and we were both happy. Or so I thought.

At the beginning of January, he came over to my place and told me that he didn't think we should be together any more because he didn't feel the same way about me that I felt about him. He said that my telling him I loved him made him feel uncomfortable and guilty that he couldn't return those feelings, that he had been thinking about it over Christmas and had decided I "deserved" to be with someone who wasn't so emotionally unavailable. I told him that I really hate when people take it upon themselves to decide what I want, that I only wanted him, and that I understood if he couldn't express his feelings like I could. I explained that I come from a family who often express love verbally, and that I had seen that his family were not so expressive (I had never heard any of them say "I love you" or even really hug or kiss) and I understood that everybody is different in how they process and deal with their feelings.

I asked him if he had ever felt that way about me, even inside, and he responded that he didn't know. I asked him if he cared about me at all and he said "of course". I cried, he looked stricken and left.

Since then, we've both been attempting to stick to No Contact (after I explained it to him), with little success. The longest we can manage is a week before one of us (usually, but not always, me) caves and sends a lighthearted "here's a thing I saw and thought of you" email/text, which then leads to a depressing cycle of me apologising for breaking No Contact and him telling me I have nothing to apologise for, that he enjoys speaking to me, then both of us avowing to stick to it this time.

Three weeks after the breakup, I called him and said I needed him to be absolutely certain this is what he wants because it didn't seem that way to me, to which he responded that he didn't know. I asked him if this meant we would never be together again and he said he didn't know. I told him I wanted to respect his decision and his feelings and that I wouldn't be speaking to him again for a long while.

Guess how well that lasted. Yeah, I know, I'm an idiot.

A week or so ago I ran into him on a TF2 server (his ex and I are friends and we play together sometimes, so he'll follow her in and we'll end up playing alongside each other). We spoke a little, then I invited him to another game and we continued talking, which ended up with us exchanging the long backlog of Links to Cool Stuff we had both (it turns out) been saving up for when we could speak again.

Since then we've been talking nearly every day, just like we used to when we were dating, just shooting the shit about video games and things we've seen on the internet. We haven't spoken about the breakup or even how we're feeling. It's nice to be talking again, but I'm not sure how long it can go on for before it collapses. I want to do something, to make or break.

It's probably worth noting that since the breakup, I've been doing my level best to create a life of my own in the city. I go to yoga and an art class twice a week; I'm doing well at my job, reaching out to old and new friends and exploring my new surroundings. I'm honestly happy about who I am and where I'm at in my life. I'm even kind of excited at the idea of dating someone new, should that person come along. I'm pretty sure, if it were to come to it, I would be just fine without this guy. But part of me is still hung up on him and how good it was, and I can't leave well enough alone.

This weekend I am planning on getting an old games console fixed at a place close to his home (honest-to-God, I didn't realise it was nearby until I had made the appointment). It's a while-you-wait service so I'll be in the area for about an hour, with ample time to indulge the temptations of my traitorous heart. My plan, if I go through with it, is likely to be as follows:

- I will tell him tonight/tomorrow that I will be in the area on Saturday.
- I will ask him if he wants to meet up and talk - if not, no big, I will go on my way and leave him alone.
- If he's okay with it, I will go to his place and set it all out on the table, that I still care about him and want to us to try again. If he doesn't want to, then I will accept his decision and move on for good.

So, my questions to the sensible hivemind are:

1. Should I go through with this? Why/why not?
2. If I do, how do I go about asking him to give us a second chance without emotionally blackmailing him into doing something he doesn't want to?

One final thing -- I know there's some kneejerk DTMFA stuff in here, but please try and hold off on it if you're answering. I've heard it all before, not least from my own brain. Constructive criticism is, however, welcome.
posted by fight or flight to Human Relations (49 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
You've already tried to tell the dude that you want X kind of relationship and been rebuffed. The fact that you are good friends is not a reason to keep pushing your desire for a person. Why keep trying to make this guy into an emotionally demonstrative boyfriend when he seems to be an okay gaming buddy?
posted by Phalene at 6:25 AM on February 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


I hate to say this, but you're chasing this guy. You are more into him than he is into you, and him acting friendly or being kind to you does not change that fact.

Almost a year of dating is long enough for "I love you"s. He doesn't love you like that. It's not something you can fix.

He thinks he's doing you a favor by responding to your contacts but he's not--he's dragging this shit out and making it worse.

Stop worrying about emotionally blackmailing him, HOWEVER, you probably should let him know you want to get back with him before you meet up with him. Surprising him, at his place, is not so honest. You might want to ask a friend to be in the area with you in order to drive you home in case he really makes it clear that he doesn't want to be with you.

Okay, harsh truth aside, I would totally do what you're thinking about doing because it would always gnaw at me otherwise. Which is what no contact is for, avoiding getting these mixed signals and acting on them.

I don't think it'll turn out how you want it to, but lots of things in life don't turn out how we want them to and it's not the end of the world.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:26 AM on February 15, 2012 [22 favorites]


He ended it, in no uncertain terms from the way it sounds. To a disengaged third party, the "I don't know"s sound like an easy let-down (though it was, unintentionally cruel). Since he ended it, I feel like it's on him to change his mind and let you know. YOU trying to change his mind is cruel to both of you. If talking to him as a friend reopens the wound, stop it. Again, you're just making it harder for yourself.

Move on now, as if he had told you that yes, he's sure. If he comes crawling back, yahtzee, but that should be the furthest thing from your mind.
posted by supercres at 6:27 AM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


1. He hasn't given any indication that he wants to be back together with you. Men are not vague about such things, for the most part. If they want to be in your lives, they are, and if they want to keep you with them, they will. Don't keep beating your head against a wall because he likes you as a chat buddy.

2. You don't. Let him be. Let him go. Find someone else to date. You're 23, find a bunch of other people to date.
posted by xingcat at 6:27 AM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


You should not go through with trying to get back together with him. He sounds like a good friend, not a great boyfriend. You should not forget that he broke up with you. That was it, he said it was over, and you need to try to really accept that. You gave him one last shot three weeks after the breakup, and he did not rise to the bait. Nothing he's done since he broke up with you gives the impression that he's interested in anything more than being your friend.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:27 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Three weeks after the breakup, I called him and said I needed him to be absolutely certain this is what he wants because it didn't seem that way to me, to which he responded that he didn't know. I asked him if this meant we would never be together again and he said he didn't know. I told him I wanted to respect his decision and his feelings and that I wouldn't be speaking to him again for a long while.

It seems to me like you asked him a question, and he answered in a very non-answer sort of way, which, given what you suggest you want out of the relationship, is an answer. In this case, it seems that respecting his feelings (and your own), means moving on. I would not try to contact him.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:29 AM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is definitely "flight" time, sorry. Unless you are interested in being Friends with Benefits for a little while, and then having your heart broken again.
posted by Grither at 6:32 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


If he wanted to be with you, you would be together by now.

Let him go and find someone else who wants you as much as you want him.
posted by ohmy at 6:32 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're not an idiot. Stop talking to/about yourself like that. But it seems clear that he already knows perfectly well that you still care about him and want to try again. If getting back together was something he wanted, really wanted, he would be initiating it. You deserve someone who is as into you as you are into them. This is not that guy.

You need to move on, and you won't be able to do it if you keep having "lighthearted" contact and "coincidental" run-ins online or in his neighborhood. You owe it to yourself to cut contact completely and leave this relationship fondly in your past. You can do it, and you'll be so much happier when you do.
posted by argonauta at 6:34 AM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


He already told you very clearly that he doesn't want the same things you do, and you care about him much much more than he cares about you

There's a good chance that he will continue to use you for sex and companionship, which doesn't make him a bad guy because you'd be letting it happen.

But please don't give him more opportunities to break your heart. Hanging on to the friendship so early on with you so obviously wanting and hoping for more is just going to make it worse for you. Clean breaks.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 6:36 AM on February 15, 2012


So once upon a time, I was involved with this guy. I was in love with him, and he loved me, but he had a whole bunch of issues with commitment and he dumped me. I was really bad at the whole No Contact thing, and we got back together a bunch of times, but the things that caused us to split in the first place were still there and we kept breaking up again. It took four tries but finally I realized enough was enough and we had no contact for years. The outcome of this is years later, after he went for years of therapy and did a lot of work on himself, we are friends. I'm married to someone else and he's finally in a serious relationship that he is not trying to escape. But there is no scenario that would have ended up with us living happily ever after, because ultimately we were not right for each other. I know No Contact is so, so hard, but you really have to stick to it. You can't be his friend yet. You can be his friend down the line, but not now. I'm sorry.
posted by crankylex at 6:43 AM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


We can't say DTMFA. Because he already dumped you.

It's not up to you to undump yourself. He has to change his mind. While he likes you, same as always, he doesn't *love* you. Otherwise you wouldn't have been dumped.

You say that if he rebuffs your offer, it's no big, but clearly it will be.

He already knows how you feel. Telling him again is just restating. That'll force him to restate his earlier thought that he can't return your feelings and that is just bad all around.
posted by inturnaround at 6:46 AM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


I have to disagree with past posters partially, based on experience. Mileage varies, of course.

What it sounds like to me is that he is not ready for a full-time, deeply emotional, deeply committed relationship, and you are heavily, heavily pushing for one, even though you know it's not what he wants. This kind of relationship is definitely not what he wants, for whatever reason. It may be that he's emotionally unavailable, it may be that he doesn't have the time, or isn't looking for something serious, or maybe even that he has serious self esteem issues.

You don't necessarily need to cut all contact with someone you deeply enjoy and who is the only person you currently know in your city. But you do need to ask yourself some questions.

1) What do you want out of a relationship with him that you will not get out of a friendship with him? What are you looking for?

2) What is your "Best case scenario" for this situation? What is your "worst case scenario" for this situation?
posted by corb at 6:46 AM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Listen, I get it. You want this guy to love you. You want him to make you feel loved. Nothing you say or do is going to make him become that person. If it were going to turn into a magical fairytale love story, it would've happened long ago.

I dated a guy before my SO who was emotionally unavailable, with me thinking "If I just SHOW him how great love can be or what a great girlfriend I am capable of being, it will get better." It didn't. Believe me, I'm much happier not having to beg for affection. It just happens, it is mutual, and it is wonderful. I wish the same for you, but I'm sorry to say it will not be with this guy.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:48 AM on February 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


If hearing "no" again is what you need to move on and really cut off contact, go for it.
He's probably not going to give you the answer you want, and you shouldn't use this as a way of extending the painful breakup drama.
This is your last stand, and anything but a clear "YES!" from him is a no. If he is wishy washy, as he might be since he seems like he doesn't want to hurt your feelings and does still like you as a person, you tell him that he should call you when he is sure he wants you again. Otherwise, clean break.
For real.
If you see him online, you leave.
You don't email or call or text or chat or anything.

I respect what corb is saying and sometimes people can still be friends and keep in touch, but this is clearly not working for you since you are still hung up on the relationship. Save yourself the pain and waste of time by cutting off contact if/when he rejects you again.
posted by rmless at 6:56 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


fight or flight, I was your ex-boyfriend once, about ten years ago. I mean, not your ex-boyfriend specifically, but I was a boy in almost this exact situation with a girl that I had dated for about a year and then broke up with. Then we spent a few very good months together as friends with a lot of common interests who really enjoyed one another's company. Neither of us dated anybody else during that time.

I was not ready to be in a relationship. She was. We fell back into a push-me-pull-you relationship in which I was emotionally distant but felt guilty about it and she was frustrated that I couldn't be who she wanted me to be. After about another year, she left for good.

It would have been better, it would have been easier for everybody, we might even still be friends, if I had been better able to draw the line at friendship, and if she had been able to accept that I wasn't going to become what I wasn't. I wasted her time, and she did not respect herself enough to stop me from doing it.

Respect yourself: you deserve someone who is not going to waste your time. Accept who your ex-boyfriend is: he has already showed you how much he is willing or able to give you, and how much he is not.
posted by gauche at 6:57 AM on February 15, 2012 [17 favorites]


You deserve so much more than this.

You don't have to be in this cycle of being in love with someone who can't or won't love you back, who makes you feel like if you could just be better somehow maybe he could love you, who makes you feel desperate. There are other guys out there who will love you for who you are, who return your enthusiasm for them whole-heartedly, who will see you at your worst and tell you that they love you in that moment, who help you feel secure and loved. Do yourself a big favor and don't settle for anything less.
posted by Kimberly at 7:03 AM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


relationships take a lot of work - my sweetie and i joke about "working for our paycheck" (even though we often feel like we won the lottery by finding each other) (yes, bright eyes reference here) - and to work for something, you need to believe in it, want it, and fight for it. from what you are saying, your ex does not have the desire or drive to do that for you two in a romantic capacity. you deserve someone who wants to be on your team as your partner. and so i ask, do you think your ex fits this bill?
posted by anya32 at 7:07 AM on February 15, 2012


You can keep putting your finger into the pencil sharpener as many times as you like, but it's going to hurt just as much every time.

Please, and I say this to you with caring and sympathy, consider moving past toxic cliches like "I'm a hopeless romantic" and "I don't believe in withholding love." That kind of self-talk is unlikely to help you get what you want.

Folks here recommend the book How to Be an Adult in Relationships a lot, not because we're lemmings, but because it has stuff in it that's immensely helpful for lots of people. I think it might help you in your next relationship(s).

I am sorry things didn't work out with this guy. It sucks to love someone who doesn't love you back. Only you know if you're ready to be friends with him without expecting or trying to restart the romance, but it would be most respectful to you and to him to wait until you're sure.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:07 AM on February 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


Agree; he's simply not ready. He really isn't. He told you he can't return your feelings and he really can't. He might look back in 10 years and count this the greatest mistake of his life, but it's his to make. You can't force him to have feelings for you. So I vote, don't give it another try. But if you just can't believe it's not going to happen until he says no, then go get your no.

The thing is, when he says "I don't know" about how he feels, that's not a wonderful open window of opportunity through which the fateful winds of love are about to blow. He's being honest - he really doesn't know what to say, and the sad part is, if he loved you and didn't want to lose you, he would know that. So whatever he's unable to say, that's not it. "I don't know" is a pretty common way of saying "I don't want to articulate the feelings I do have and it probably wouldn't be pretty it I did. I don't want to hurt you but I don't have anything clear and happy to say to you." He doesn't have enough relationship experience, I don't think, to identify the kind of relationship he wants and articulate it. It's good he had the strength to do you a favor and end it when he knew the feelings weren't there.

we've both been attempting to stick to No Contact (after I explained it to him), with little success. The longest we can manage is a week before one of us (usually, but not always, me) caves

You're not actually trying. This isn't as though the two of you just can't resist one another. You're pushing it along. He's being passive. You are probably motivated by your wish down inside that one of these random contacts/conversations will blossom into a reunion. As long as you pursue the idea of that happening you'll keep grasping at excuses to initiate contact. Notice, though, that it's making you crazy. This is the reason no contact exists - to allow you to move on and avoid feeling crazy. Save up your cool links for someone else. When you run across him online, vamoose.

There's nothing wrong with you, nothing wrong with him. You're just definitely not in the same place. You've been given a great gift of insight into the kind of relationship you want and need. Sit down and make a list of everything you liked about this relationship, and then a list of everything you didn't like (not showing affection, saying I love you, gradually increasing intimacy, wanting to step up commitment when you do) and realize that there are other people out there who can offer you a lot of what you do like about this guy and also everything he can't offer, but that you are entirely reasonable to want: affection, commitment, maturity, prioritizing you in his life.
posted by Miko at 7:08 AM on February 15, 2012 [28 favorites]


This sucks, I'm sorry. It sounds like you guys really get along - but he's not interested in the kind of relationship that you are, and he doesn't want to date you. Which is frustrating, because it doesn't make sense - logically, you guys get along, you had such great times, etc etc.

Don't do it - move on.
posted by mrs. taters at 7:09 AM on February 15, 2012


Sounds like told you how he feels, and this book is closed. Time to move on with no negotiating or pleading. Negotiating with someone who has let you know that he doesn't want to be with you is not respectful to yourself. Also, I would consider not talking to him at all for awhile, and by "awhile", I mean however long it takes you to not be tempted by him in any kind of romantic way. This could mean a month, six months, a year--whatever. He started moving on when he dumped you--you should, too.
posted by anonnymoose at 7:27 AM on February 15, 2012


I explained that I come from a family who often express love verbally, and that I had seen that his family were not so expressive (I had never heard any of them say "I love you" or even really hug or kiss)

This is a LOT more common than you think it is, and it isn't a reason for someone not to fall in love with you. I think you're sifting for reasons why he might actually really love you all along but if only he could just say it! and I'm afraid to say you are unlikely to find them. You may think his previous relationship ended for the same reason, and maybe it did and he is just someone who isn't wanting or needing a commited/involved relationship right now. That's fine, and the fact you do is also fine - but you won't give the other what you need. I'm glad he broke it off with you early when he realised this and I honestly think he did you a great kindness. But don't mistake caring about your feelings with being able to reciprocate them.

I hate to be cliched, but maybe his role in your life is as your friend and not as a romantic partner.
posted by mippy at 7:28 AM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


He wants to be nice to you, and he doesn't want you to be heartbroken, and he doesn't want you to be sad or in pain.

Here's something else he doesn't want: He doesn't want to date you.

When you have hope for something, when you want to see it, you will see it. You want to believe that his kind treatment of you indicates some lingering feelings. This is normal and it is okay, but for the time being you really need to stay out of contact with him for the sake of your health and sanity.

Here's the crux of it:

At the beginning of January, he came over to my place and told me that he didn't think we should be together any more because he didn't feel the same way about me that I felt about him. He said that my telling him I loved him made him feel uncomfortable and guilty that he couldn't return those feelings, that he had been thinking about it over Christmas and had decided I "deserved" to be with someone who wasn't so emotionally unavailable. I told him that I really hate when people take it upon themselves to decide what I want, that I only wanted him, and that I understood if he couldn't express his feelings like I could. I explained that I come from a family who often express love verbally, and that I had seen that his family were not so expressive (I had never heard any of them say "I love you" or even really hug or kiss) and I understood that everybody is different in how they process and deal with their feelings.

He's not deciding what you want. He's deciding what you deserve, and in this case, he's right. This isn't a question of someone with low self-esteem being certain they don't make you happy. This is a guy who doesn't feel the way you do about this and not wanting to put you through it any more, because he doesn't see it getting better. Because he likes you as a person, he left out the part he thought might hurt you, which was that, just as he wants you to be with someone who feels as strongly about you, somewhere down the line he wants to be with someone he feels strongly about. In this relationship, it's just not there for him. And I'm sorry, because I know that hurts to hear, and you really don't deserve to be this upset.

When he said, "I don't feel the same way about you," what you heard was, "I have a hard time expressing my feelings." Well, actually, he doesn't. He expressed his feelings quite nicely here.

The very best you can do here is say to him that you're not really over things, that you still want to be with him, and that if you're not going to be together or give things a try then you need to take some time and some space until you're no longer in a mental place where you still want to be with him. By including the second half of that, you make it less all-or-nothing, and it's less likely that he'll feel pressured by guilt to tell you what he thinks you want to hear.

And then do that, and stick to it. Stay out of contact. Explain to him that you need time to process this and that by indulging you on any level, he's actually doing damage, and hopefully he'll understand that.

I don't think that this is the relationship for you, and I think that his attempts to be gentle are doing more harm than good. Please understand that the heart tends to take a while to catch up to the brain - you may understand intellectually that it just didn't work with this guy, but accepting that on an emotional level may take longer. It happens.

In the meantime, be kind to yourself. Cry when it's time to cry and be mad when it's time to be mad and don't rush into something new.

You'll be okay, I'm sure of it. Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:29 AM on February 15, 2012 [29 favorites]


I understood if he couldn't express his feelings like I could.

You think the feelings he couldn't express was his love for you. It wasn't. The feelings he can't express are "I don't love you."
posted by vitabellosi at 7:33 AM on February 15, 2012 [17 favorites]


The problem isn't that he can't express that he loves you, the problem is that he doesn't love you and doesn't want to admit it. I'd advise ceasing or at least limiting the pseudo-friendship-slash-"like when we were dating," because it sounds like he's downgraded your relationship back to "casual" while you're still in the emotional space of the committed relationship he broke off. And, I'm not even sure what you'd be trying for if you guys DID try again-- are you going to try to not love him this time? Is he supposed to try to love you this time?
posted by sm1tten at 7:42 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, but you really need to stop this. All you're doing is torturing both of you. I've been this guy, I know exactly what's going on from his perspective. Here's what's happening: he doesn't love you, but he does like you. He wants you to be happy, of course, but he doesn't want to be with you. So you keep contacting him and asking him point-blank questions where he has a choice: he can be a little vague and noncommittal and slightly dishonest, or he can make you cry. He doesn't want to make you cry unless he has to, so he keeps saying things like "I don't know." He does know, he just doesn't want to say, because it's so clear that you can't hear it. This cycle is just going to continue until you stop contacting him, or until his friends finally sit him down and tell him that he needs to stop answering the phone when you call.

I'm so sorry, I know this is really painful. But you have a choice now. This can be a relationship that you were happy in for a while, but that ended, as so many relationships do. Or this can be a miserable, protracted breakup that drags on for months, or even for a year, that totally shreds your self-confidence and makes it very difficult for you to move on.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:49 AM on February 15, 2012 [15 favorites]


1. Should I go through with this? Why/why not?

I would probably not go through with it. He couldn't meet your emotional needs in a relationship the first go around. Not sure what has changed for him. Just because you have a lot in common and can maybe go on being friends/gaming buddies doesn't mean that you can have a romantic relationship.

2. If I do, how do I go about asking him to give us a second chance without emotionally blackmailing him into doing something he doesn't want to?

That's just it. I don't think you can do this without asking him to become something he is either incapable or unwilling to become.
posted by PsuDab93 at 7:56 AM on February 15, 2012


1. Should I go through with this? Why/why not?

Should you? No. Why? Because you are better than this.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:24 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


How do I ask him to try again?

You don't. You show maturity and respect for him by honoring his clearly stated choice to break up with you.

And then you show maturity and respect for yourself by moving on, and no longer settling in relationships for less than what you want and deserve.
posted by headnsouth at 8:30 AM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


You guys are the absolute textbook example of why it's the dumper's responsibility to break off all contact with the dumpee. He didn't do that, and now you're stuck with all this false hope.

It's false. Sorry.
posted by flabdablet at 8:48 AM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thank you for all of your responses. This is all pretty painful to face, as I suppose the truth always is.

A couple of points. Sidhedevil, could you explain what you mean here?
[...] consider moving past toxic cliches like "I'm a hopeless romantic" and "I don't believe in withholding love." That kind of self-talk is unlikely to help you get what you want.

I understand that it's stupid to put any faith in all that fate/True Love/"The One" bollocks, but I honestly believe that love of all kinds is something which should be shared, whenever possible. I don't want to live my life regretting not telling somebody how much I care about them. Is that naive of me? How do I learn not to think like that?
posted by fight or flight at 8:52 AM on February 15, 2012


Nothing at all wrong with thinking like that about the appropriate partner. Who will be somebody who thinks like that about you too.
posted by flabdablet at 9:00 AM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's a power differential thing that happens in relationships like these that might help you conceptualize what's really going on. For the purposes of depersonalization, let's say that it's not about you, but your friends, Annie and Fred.

Annie really, really loves Fred. There is anything Annie wouldn't do to earn his love--lie, cheat, beg steal. He's the moon in her sky, the cream in her coffee.

Fred is really just an okay guy in every way. He's not sure that he loves Annie, but he likes her--they have good sex, have fun together. He enjoys being the center of her universe, because, well, who wouldn't?

But Fred feels bad because he knows he doesn't love her the way Annie loves him. So he decides he has to end it. He tries to let her down gently. She's visibly devastated. It hurts him to see her like that, because he's a good guy and doesn't like to see people hurt.

Even after Annie is dumped, she still keeps hanging around him. And so he tries to convince himself that it's okay. Because it makes her happy, because he still likes her, as a person. He's probably not going to stop contacting her, because he's trying to convince himself that everything is okay. After all, if Annie were really hurt, she would have stopped talking to him, right?

And when it comes down to it--although, again, Fred isn't a bad guy--he enjoys getting attention from her. He always has. If they can be friends this way, and not in a relationship--if he doesn't have to be obligated to protect her feelings but still gets the benefits of her love--why wouldn't he take that?

Fred has all the power here, and reaps all the benefits. Annie is the one who really should be protecting herself, because she has nothing to gain except a world of hurt. But she's needy: she needs the affirmation of Fred's attention to tell her she's worthy. What is she without that?! So she'll think up excuse after excuse to get in touch with him.

You said it yourself: you've failed at No Contact. Rather than making one last show of it, you need to be your own best friend here. Start protecting yourself from the pain you've gone through. Do that by actually cutting off contact. It's the only way to tell yourself that you're worth more than Fred your ex's attention. You are in control of your actions, and if you think your own feelings are worth a damn (and they are!) you need to actually cut things off. He's never going to, not because he loves you, but because he's a nice guy who doesn't want to tear off the bandaid and potentially hurt you when he gets the benefit of your affection out of it, anyway.

In short: there is no dumping the motherfucker here. You have already been dumped. What you need to do is realign your vision of the universe to a place where you are the most important thing in it, not him. If you're really struggling with no contact, then come back in a week when you have another question to burn and use it here. Many people have been in your position before, and we'd be happy to help.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:07 AM on February 15, 2012 [43 favorites]


"You guys are the absolute textbook example of why it's the dumper's responsibility to break off all contact with the dumpee. He didn't do that, and now you're stuck with all this false hope."

Quoted for truth.

There was that AskMe from a few days back where the happily married man was thrown through a terrible loop when he heard, after ten years, from the one who got away. So, "one year" is not the upper limit for everyone who experiences this kind of limerence. Not by far.

There is a third option that goes unsaid in polite company. You could force this confrontation, force him to restate his wishywashy blow offs and then escalate, escalate, escalate until the idea of remaining friends, let alone anything more-than-friends, is totally impossible due to the intractable fued that you just created.

In fact, isn't this how most break ups occur? We call it immaturity, or drama. But maybe this is the ancient, secret wisdom that amicable break ups are for suckers.

Note: This is bad advice by most measures. Probably safer to imagine, visualize or journal such a conflagration instead or describe it to a therapist.
posted by Skwirl at 9:13 AM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I honestly believe that love of all kinds is something which should be shared, whenever possible.

This is to clarify, not to belittle or make light of your belief. I honestly love cheese. I want to share cheese with all my friends - but some of my friends do not like cheese or are trying to drop a few pounds or have dinner plans and don't want to fill up on cheese. There is no way it would be good to force these people to share my glorious cheese. It would be self-absorbed to be hurt that they don't want to share my glorious cheese.

You desire to share love, as you explained in this thread, doesn't respect the loved's autonomy.

I don't want to live my life regretting not telling somebody how much I care about them. Nothing to regret - you told him.

He does not want to share love the way you do. Why don't you love him for being who he is, not who you hoped he would be?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:24 AM on February 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


We haven't spoken about the breakup or even how we're feeling.

That's because he's assuming that everything's cool now between you two. This transition to being friends was always going to be easier for him than it is for you, because the imbalance of your feelings, and the way you're interacting with him now (more freely, less apologetically) is a sign to him that you're basically over it.
posted by hermitosis at 9:34 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm the girl version of your ex, who is trying to maintain a close friendship with the guy I broke up with last year. We're compatible in everything but romance. He wanted to get back together, but the reasons we split are unchanged (he wants kids, I don't.. he's a mommy's boy and I despise the woman for the ways she manipulates and uses him at every opportunity).

I have to be careful about how much I talk to him or how often we hang out, because after a while he starts to get the wrong idea. We've both dated others since the split, and he knows that I'm in love with someone else, but the more we hang out the more he starts to think maybe we could try again.

Its frustrating, because in all truth he really is my best friend and I love him in a purely platonic way. His friendship is one of the things I treasure most, and I don't want to give that up.

I've thought about taking a period of No Contact, to give him some more time to come to accept that the relationship part of our friendship is in the past and not coming back. I don't want to lose my best friend. I almost caved and went back into a relationship but the truth is, I no longer find him physically attractive and don't want any sort of intimacy with him. I don't want him as anything but a friend.

It sounds like your ex is in a similar place, trying to maintain friendship with someone he shares a connection with. If he's also friends with his other ex's, this is probably completely natural to him, staying friends after a break up.

Realize that if you ask him for a second chance you may be damaging the friendship he wants to keep with you. Sit down and think, before you go professing the love he already know you feel for him, and decide whether you are willing to take the chance that begging him to take you back could kill your chances of keeping that friend who likes to share silly links and hang out in video games.
posted by myShanon at 9:44 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lesser Shrew and flabdablet are both right on the mark about what I am getting at.

Telling someone you love them is a lovely, self-disclosing thing to do. However, it puts a burden on the other person to either respond in kind or have an uncomfortable discussion about why they're not in the same place.

Doing it again just ups the uncomfortableness ante. There's a point at which this can become disrespectful, because you're prioritizing your need to say what you're feeling over their (fairly clearly, it sounds like, in your ex-boyfriend's case) discomfort with hearing it.

Love without respect and attention is like--to paraphrase Barbara Pym, one of my most favorite novels--going up to someone and thrusting a large white rabbit into their arms. Rabbits are lovely, but just thrusting them on someone who doesn't know what to do with them, and who didn't actually want a rabbit right now, is awkward at best.

I think most of the cultural apparatus of "romance" is toxic bullshit that is an obstacle to people finding love, not a tool to help them. Now, maybe that's just me. But I don't know anyone who is in a happy marriage or partnership who would describe themselves as "a hopeless romantic," and I know tons of people in happy marriages and partnerships. (Of 10, 15, 20, 25 years' standing and more, because I am an old.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:55 AM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sorry, the paraphrase is from Barbara Pym's Less Than Angels, one of my most favorite novels. Either my brain or my html froze there.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:07 AM on February 15, 2012


Oh, man, I lived this relationship, complete with the "I think you deserve someone who is able to love you as you deserve to be loved"* break-up at around the same age you are currently at and we cut off contact after a blow-out when I finally confronted him about how I was feeling, but then got back together six months later.

We then dated for a year more and everything was just as it had been before because we had always got along fantastically, but there was always something missing and I could never, ever ever get comfortable and trust him in the relationship. I learned to temper my expectations about pretty much everything and kind of just let myself be pushed around according to his whims because, as in the case of Fred and Alice by PhoBWanKenobi above, he had all of the power over me and I kept discounting myself and my needs just so I could be with him when he chose to be with me.

But a little over a year later, he broke up with me again, for exactly the same reason he had the first time, meaning that I got to relive the internal struggle that I had felt the first time. It was horrible, really, and took me quite awhile to get over - although strangely less time than it had taken the first time, since his original reason was emphasized over and over again the second time we dated.

This all went on for about four years and over that time my estimation of myself in the field of relationships was pretty shot. Now I am around five years out of that second relationship and have been dating a guy that I met around a year and a half later and I have gradually learned again how amazing it is when someone actually wants to be with you in the way you want to be with them and wants to build a future with you. There was nothing that I could have said or done that would have made that other guy want that and I am glad that I got out of the relationship mostly unscathed, although I do have a few emotional scars to show for things now that are going to be there for a long time.

So all that said, don't let yourself be scarred by this and don't let him get to you in a way that is going to colour your own sense of self worth. Get out while you still can.

*Actually the conversation was "I wish that I could love in the unfailing way your cat loves you." I am not sure why I didn't chose to run then. The cat and I are still together and still in love. :)
posted by urbanlenny at 10:34 AM on February 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


A couple of finer points to add to this excellent discussion:

He may not love you, but he may want to keep the door open -- for sex, or in case the grass isn't greener. That doesn't make him a monster or a jerk -- he may be fearful and struggling with how to move along, just as you are.

It is the only way forward, but be forewarned, there is no glory in No Contact. It is easy to recommend, difficult to do (especially when signals are mixed) and I promise you, does not culminate in a glowing magical moment where you can put on the sash that says Moved On. You will have avoided pain and kept your dignity, both of which count for a real lot, but there's no straight path to Over Him.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:02 AM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


One very important lesson that I have learned about relationships is that when you are dumped you can't expect to know the real reason why. It may be personal or it may not be, you have no way of knowing.

I have dumped amazing men because they appeared to be losing intrest. I cried and sufferend and felt that I would never find another as great as them, but I still dumped them. I did it because they could not give me what I needed on a time scale that was acceptable to me for whatever unknown reason. All he did was save you from having to dump him.

Here is a bit of positive in an otherwise heartbreakingly painful situation. He doesn't hate you. He isn't angry with you. He still thinks that you are pretty cool. Life is not "cut and dry"; he may decided some day that he was wrong about you and want you back.

However, that choice is all on him. He also knows what you want and expect and that he can only come back if he is willing to provide that. In other words, he has to come back on your terms. This is the power you have. This is what you did. You said "I want this and if you want me you need to provide it". Don't take that power away from yourself by settling for less. You said your peace and if he wants to man up, then he can come to you and do so.

It has happned. I have dumped guys and they have come back to me after getting their act togeather. Guys have dumped me and I have come back to them after getting my act togeather. Guys have dumped me and came back when they realized what a wonderful thing that they gave up. It happens, so if you want to leave that possibility open you have to back off and give it a chance to evolve on its own. Give him a chance to miss you and make his decision without you passivly nagging him about it.

You have drawn a line in the sand and he knows where it is if he ever wants to cross it.
posted by Shouraku at 1:48 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


No contact. No contact. No. Contact.
posted by mleigh at 2:18 PM on February 15, 2012


he may decide some day that he was wrong about you and want you back.

I would bet any amount of money that this will never happen. Or, if it did by some amazing fluke happen, my guess is that he would lose interest again within six months.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:58 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would bet any amount of money that this will never happen. Or, if it did by some amazing fluke happen, my guess is that he would lose interest again within six months.

I should mention to the OP (if you are still reading this) that Sidhedevil has a very good point. This can happen and is something that you need to realize in the case that he does come back.

In other words, if you ever decide to take him back, it needs to be on your terms, and if he starts to falter, he is gone forever.
posted by Shouraku at 4:46 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Update:

After a very tearful afternoon, I ended up calling him and telling him I was having a hard time and I needed to cut contact (again). He said a few things during the conversation which made me realise you guys were right -- there's nothing there for him, he really just wants to be friends. That was hard to hear, but I'm glad I can finally start to process it without feeling like there's a giant hole in my chest.

So, that's about it, I guess. Thank you all for your advice and your stories. I've marked some of them best answer but they were all helpful. If you're ever in London, I'll buy you a drink (god knows I need one).
posted by fight or flight at 12:37 AM on February 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


Heart goes out to you.

Being dumped sucks, even (perhaps especially) when nobody involved is a bad person.
posted by flabdablet at 2:17 AM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry.

Like FAMOUS MONSTER said upthread, be kind to yourself. You're going to be fine, but it's okay to grieve this as a loss, because it is for you.
posted by gauche at 6:23 AM on February 16, 2012


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