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The Curious Incident of the Disappearing Man
December 31, 2012 1:00 PM   Subscribe

A man with whom I was once-upon-a-time very much in love pops back into my life about once a year, then vanishes again. Do I stop him? Do I just roll with it? Blizzard inside.

About six years ago, I fell madly in love with a fella and it did not go well. He had feelings for me also, but I was freshly divorced and needed some time and space to get my shit together. And frankly I thought he was something special, and we had something valuable, and did not want to screw it up by turning it into some ridiculous rebound deal.

By the time I came around (uh, like only 5 or 6 months, btw) he was no longer looking for anything serious and suggested more or less a FWB arrangement, which I turned down. I was utterly heartbroken. After that I didn't hear from him for well over a year, and then he popped back up through a work-related thing. By then I had moved on and was seeing someone else.

REPEAT PROCESS x4 with variations on who was un-single at any given time.

So this time I'm single, and what do you know, the very night I go on my first OKCupid date, he texts me. And lo, he is single as well. We hang out a few times, non-romantically but with our old flirty banter fully intact. And now once again he has gone completely incommunicado.

So next year, when he inevitably pops back up, what do I do? Delete the text? Tell him to shove his iPhone somewhere uncomfortable? Keep it up because who knows, some year the stars may align?

I won't ask y'all what he's thinking, as there's no way for anyone to know. I can say: while this cycle used to destroy me, I'm now so beaten-down and wrecked by the rest of my life that honestly, this dude and his flakiness are barely making a ripple. So I'm being semi-serious when I ask whether I may as well keep playing the game; at this point I seem to be invulnerable to further pain.
posted by like_a_friend to Human Relations (37 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
...at this point I seem to be invulnerable to further pain.

This is sort of like saying "I'm impervious to getting hit by cars," in that there is exactly one way to test your theory, and it can have some severely unpleasant consequences. Delete the text and stick to dudes who haven't been jerking your around for six years.
posted by griphus at 1:05 PM on December 31, 2012 [27 favorites]


Tell him to fuck off. It certainly sounds like this is not benefiting you in any way.
posted by mollymayhem at 1:09 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Send him one last text. "Look, I don't want to play games. You text me and then you go radio silent. WTF? Please don't text me again."
posted by inturnaround at 1:10 PM on December 31, 2012 [15 favorites]


So I'm being semi-serious when I ask whether I may as well keep playing the game; at this point I seem to be invulnerable to further pain.

And if it didn't hurt, then why ask the question. I wager it still sucks on some level for you and that's why you are even considering telling him to fuck off.
posted by inturnaround at 1:11 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whenever someone like that seems to just "pop back into" your life, merely look up from whatever you're reading, read the text, take a sip of tea or coffee (your choice, I usually choose Earl Grey), and resume whatever activity you were engaged in before the popping sound occurred.
posted by Ashen at 1:18 PM on December 31, 2012 [36 favorites]


I'm now so beaten-down and wrecked by the rest of my life that honestly, this dude and his flakiness are barely making a ripple. So I'm being semi-serious when I ask whether I may as well keep playing the game; at this point I seem to be invulnerable to further pain.

I don't know about you, but any time I've been in this kind of mental place, all my personal-life decisions have pretty much sucked.

Suggest you spend this next year doing whatever you need to do to get yourself in a happier and better place. Judging from my experience, this guy will start to seem a whole lot less interesting then.
posted by Catseye at 1:20 PM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


And by that I mean it will be significantly less stressful to stop yourself from confronting him about his shitty behavior, because telling him to fuck off is probably not going to make you feel better. It will, however, keep your emotions active. But like tea, letting that steep for too long inspires bitterness. Which sucks, and this person is sooooo not worth it.
posted by Ashen at 1:20 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


So next year, when he inevitably pops back up, what do I do? Delete the text? Tell him to shove his iPhone somewhere uncomfortable? Keep it up because who knows, some year the stars may align?

All you should do is repay him the favor and disappear. By this I mean delete his text and ignore it. Shut him out and put it behind you. That at least gives you the chance to heal and open up to hopefully better things in the future instead of perpetuating a cycle of what you know is bad stuff that makes you feel bad.
posted by wondermouse at 1:26 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just do what inturnaround suggested. Then you've said it.

So far, silence has meant whatever you wanted it to mean. Slap a label on it. He can either step up or step out.
posted by tel3path at 1:29 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Delete the text. What's the point of this? The stars already aligned just now - you are single, he is single, ya'll hung out - and then... nothing. Nothing is all that will come of this. You did the right thing, the first time, by getting your shit together instead of rebounding. It's too bad that the timing didn't work out but guess what, when the timing did work out, it didn't work out. In fact, I have a feeling you might not hear from this guy again.

You can do better than wearily resolving yourself to this. I promise. I've BTDT and as stated above, it led to some really poor overall decision-making.
posted by sm1tten at 1:29 PM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


You're this guy's back-up plan. Nobody deserves to be someone's back-up plan. Cut him out completely.
posted by xingcat at 1:30 PM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


No you're not "invulnerable to further pain", this is just a way of keeping your mind off it. Every time you think about him you're drinking from a poisoned chalice. It's as bad as taking to drink. Don't add another serious and lasting problem to your collection.
posted by tel3path at 1:31 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


the very night I go on my first OKCupid date, he texts me. This is like the dude version of how your hair will always look great on the day you have a hair appointment. To belabor the simile, though, it doesn't mean you, uh, don't still need a haircut. Yeah, that didn't really make sense -- point being, though, this guy will never change. You will never get what you want from him. The stars are not going to align. If they were, they would have already. DELETE. And move on.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:32 PM on December 31, 2012


Something no longer hurting you doesn't mean it's actively good for you. Ask yourself what it is that you're getting out of this, then ask if it's worth it.
posted by Solomon at 1:33 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


The real question here is why do you allow him to treat you this way? He is not going to stick around, he is just using you. You deserve someone who cares about you, not this jerk. DTMF
posted by JujuB at 1:35 PM on December 31, 2012


You're pretty much saying "well, I've been treated so badly, I see no reason to ever treat myself well." This is wrong! You've got to be kind to yourself. You've got to be on your own side, even if it seems like no one else is.

When I was younger and doubted my worth, I put up with seasonal-event guys like this. I thought they were ultimately harmless, and I thought I was protected because I already knew they were flakes and jerks and liars. But even the act of acknowledging them reinforced the idea that flakes, jerks, and liars were all I could get.

You're worth more than this. Even if you don't believe it now, tell yourself this, and act like it. Eventually, you will believe it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:36 PM on December 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


Do I stop him?

Yes! Delete the text and move on. He keeps texting you, you keep deleting them. That's it. There's nothing here between the two of you. Why hold onto nothing?
posted by heyjude at 2:02 PM on December 31, 2012


Thanks guys. I'd DTMF but there's no need to dump someone I'm not dating, have never dated, and have never even slept with--and who also isn't speaking to me anyway.

I don't know about you, but any time I've been in this kind of mental place, all my personal-life decisions have pretty much sucked.

Actually that's part of why I posted this here--I don't trust my judgment particularly well. I was about to block his number and then thought, "well shit, what if I'm slamming the door when I shouldn't?" As in, at best I will hear from him in 8-10 months, who knows what will be by then, why close off possibilities.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:04 PM on December 31, 2012


Because you are in a state of mind where it's particularly important that you let things die that need to die.

I find it interesting that you haven't addressed the suggestion that you text him to tell him to stop texting you and disappearing. That's only a DTMFA if you know that's all he is ever going to do. And it would close off the possibility of his repeating this in eight months, which would leave you with nothing but the reality of OKCupid, which is a very harsh place to be.
posted by tel3path at 2:13 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks guys. I'd DTMF but there's no need to dump someone I'm not dating, have never dated, and have never even slept with--and who also isn't speaking to me anyway.

I've done this very thing, and I disagree--this kind of connection-severing is definitely a form of dumping. I recommend cutting the cord by not indulging his half-hearted attempts to bait you back into giving him attention on his terms when he's bored or lonely. And by this I mean "ignore the text-message and delete it". Instead, go move on with your own life. Maybe send a message to someone new on OKCupid or go for a walk by yourself. Just don't waste anymore time on this schmohawk.
posted by anonnymoose at 2:18 PM on December 31, 2012


Read the text, think "Huh, guess I'm the one who got away," delete the text.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:21 PM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


Hahaha, I hate to threadsit but this made me laugh:

which would leave you with nothing but the reality of OKCupid, which is a very harsh place to be.

...because I deep-sixed my short-lived OKCupid profile this morning, no regrets. What a horrible couple of months that was. And I didn't even have any stereotypically "bad" dates--can't imagine what it would have felt like if I had.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:27 PM on December 31, 2012


Everyone in this thread has a harsh-on for this dude and I know that, indeed, we can't guess what he's thinking, but does he have any idea what's going on?

Why not tell him:
"Hey, so I'm still pretty into you. This flirt-once-a-year thing isn't really fun for me at all. Let's either date seriously or part ways permanently - I'm not interested in just being friends with or without benefits

Regards,
not_like_a_friend"

If he doesn't want that, then any eventual embarassment won't matter because you won't be communicating with him in the future. If you don't want to do this, then just ignore his texts in the future and forget about him.
posted by atrazine at 2:37 PM on December 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


You are correct that we don't know what he is thinking but I'm going to take a wild guess based on experience: dude is using you as a reliable source of narcissistic supply. He knows that you're into him and he's feeding on your attraction and admiration, which he has no intention of reciprocating. Once he's gotten what he's looking for, he moves on, until he needs another hit. Please ignore this uncharitable interpretation if it does not resonate, but if it does, block his number and do not offer explanations.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:12 PM on December 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


So, you thought it was the back-and-forth between who was single and who wasn't that was keeping you apart, and now that you're both single you are surprised to learn there may be other obstacles. Okay, that's easy enough.

Contact him once, and just call it out: hey, you know I like you, and that I think we'd be good together. So here we are, after playing tag for years, finally both single at the same time for the first time. You've got 48 hours to decide: either step up and give us a shot as a serious couple, or miss your window of opportunity. Just remember, as much as I like you, if you miss this opportunity you can stop calling me every time you're single, because I'm going to move on, and I'm not going to take your calls.

50/50 that he'll either step up or move on, and then you'll be able to do the same.
posted by davejay at 3:22 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would probably pick up the phone and call him and be like WTF? Maybe more politely than that, but still. It has always clarified things for me to hear them prevaricate and hedge and generally be ridiculous...or to have them simply not pick up the phone, at which point you leave them a message suggesting not to call you or text you anymore ever.

It feels nice to not be afraid of your own shadow and to openly discuss someone's poor treatment of you instead of being complicit in denying that it's poor treatment by acting like everything is cool. It's not cool.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:55 PM on December 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


...because I deep-sixed my short-lived OKCupid profile this morning, no regrets. What a horrible couple of months that was. And I didn't even have any stereotypically "bad" dates--can't imagine what it would have felt like if I had

Don't be so quick, grasshopper. It's almost a rite of passage to go through some bad dates with any online sites. I had a SLEW of them, and in the end, they helped me to pay attention when kind, available, smart, and lovely Mr. Sal and Richard came along.

There are men out there who won't treat you as an afterthought. This guy is not him.
posted by Sal and Richard at 4:51 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


ARGH NO do not respond to this immense douchecanoe, let him go away forever while you live your own awesome life free of his wanton dickery.

No one is worth this shit. Delete that fucking message and have a shot.
posted by elizardbits at 4:53 PM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


So next year, when he inevitably pops back up, what do I do?

Put into motion a plan that, a year from now, will see you doing so much better in your life that this guy won't even be a blip on your radar.

You are feeling so beaten down. What little tiny steps can you take, right now, to work toward changing that? If you string together enough tiny improvements, over time, you will be in a much better place, should this dabbler attempt to dip into your life next year.

But if you are so down that you can't even begin to think of imagining a more optimistic future for yourself, much less how to get there from here, then it might be time to seek some outside help.

Short term: there's no need, or upside, to contacting him. Ignore, delete, move on.
posted by nacho fries at 6:44 PM on December 31, 2012


Lose the dope.
posted by ead at 9:10 PM on December 31, 2012


Don't let people fuck with you ever even if you think you can take it. Ignore the text.
posted by discopolo at 9:19 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meh, I get text messages and emails every few months from a guy I dated a year ago. It's like the equivalent of someone tapping you on the shoulder in the hallway as they keep walking.

Unless the dude explicitly says he cares about you and wants to give it a shot, move ON.
posted by jessca84 at 12:12 AM on January 1, 2013


I don't understand all of the swearing in these answers. The guy isn't doing anything wrong by contacting you. He's offering you something (that you probably don't want).

You say you have feelings for him, but do you also love yourself? Ask yourself if he's being fair with you: what is he getting out of contacting you, and what are you getting out of contacting him. If it's not a fair deal, then don't participate.

Some people have this idea that you should write him back to let him know that you're blocking him. Like you said, it's silly to block someone that's stopped writing you. You would just be hoping to make him care.

It's possible to defend your sense of justice without being angry.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:08 PM on January 1, 2013


while this cycle used to destroy me, I'm now so beaten-down and wrecked by the rest of my life

This doesn't sound like the best time in your life to pursue a relationship that you don't want to mess up.
posted by Autumn at 7:57 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks again.

It may be that this needs to die, but I have buried so many people and things and dreams and hopes this year and last, literally and figuratively...I'm not sure that I can bury anything more just yet. (Really, it's starting to look like some kind of plague year in my soul.) But I suppose the gravediggin' spade is still warm, at least, so I can try and dig yet another.
posted by like_a_friend at 3:41 PM on January 2, 2013


Maybe it's just how you write, but your most recent comment makes me wonder if you actually like the drama.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:16 PM on January 2, 2013


Maybe it's just how you write,

Er, well, not exactly. But that is a problem of mine--I hate asking for help, because it feels like imposing my bullshit problems on people who might have real ones, so I go into this mode of at least trying to entertain the people I'm asking. It's been an obstacle, especially in therapy, and I see I've slipped into it here as well. Sorry about that.
posted by like_a_friend at 5:51 PM on January 2, 2013


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