A few years ago, my ex started avoiding me due to his new girlfriend not being okay with us hanging out. We have a lot of mutual friends, and this created a very awkward social dynamic for the last three years. He recently reached out to me via email and I'm not sure how to respond...
posted by ohmy to Human Relations (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I had a good friendship with an ex-boyfriend of mine until about three years ago. I broke up with him because he was very codependant on myself and his parents (he was around 30), and had difficulty coping with common life situations like an adult. (Mom took care of his finances, he frequently reached out to his parents so they could reassure him that “everything is going to be okay”, could not even bear to go on short business trips because he missed his loved ones too much, went into insecurity spirals every time I -- a major introvert -- needed alone time to recharge my batteries). These qualities were very emotionally draining for me, and even though he's a good guy, I had to separate myself from the relationship because it was exhausting. After we broke up, and after a period of cooling off without contact, we managed to go back to being friends, like we had been for years before we ended up together. This lasted for a good year.
Then he met someone, and cut ties with me in an incredibly cold-hearted way, citing his girlfriend’s insecurities as the reason. He had never told me that he was seeing someone, so that came as a bit of a shock, but okay. He’s the friendliest guy ever who is known for staying good friends with all his exes, so him wanting to sever all ties was a bit surprising to me. Before I could even say “okay, I understand”, he blocked me in all ways that I could get in contact with him (not that I would have hounded him anyway, but he blocked me on gtalk, Facebook, imessage, everything). I was a bit hurt (platonically), but I got the hint and stopped trying to contact him immediately.
We have tons of mutual friends, and the fact that he was no longer talking to me created a really unpleasant dynamic between all of us. He made it clear to everyone that he would not be attending any event that I was also invited to and forced our friends to act as middle-men who had to manage who got invited to what. They couldn't believe that he would cut contact because he's friends with all his other exes. A lot of people asked me “what did you do to him?!” like I had done something unspeakable to incite this level of avoidance.
This has been going on for the last three years, and even though I have had no contact with him whatsoever during this time, I still end up having to smooth over the weirdness that arises when we’re both invited to the same event. I struggle to understand why I still have to deal with awkwardness created by someone I haven’t spoken to for years. I resent that this still comes up and that I’m somehow held responsible for something that I had nothing to do with and I’d love nothing more than to just be rid of this problem.
Until he started to avoid me, I had a very high opinion of this guy. Unfortunately after all this silliness, I just feel like he’s a burden. I recognize that he has issues that he really needs to sort through, and I do hope he works through them. I just don’t really want him to be in my consciousness anymore.
Last week, he emailed me out of the blue. It was a really fluffy self-serving email that basically went along the lines of “Hey! Thought about you the other day and thought I’d say hi. Things are going really well for me. I’m still with my girlfriend, and I just got a promotion and I’ve been in therapy for a year learning how to take control of my life as an adult. Hope you’re great!”
I almost didn’t respond, but since we have mutual friends, I figured I’d send back a cordial response so as not to seem petty - something that wouldn't encourage further communication. "Thanks for the life update, seems like things are looking up for you. Can’t complain on my end, life is treating me well. Good luck with everything."
I was pretty sure he wouldn’t respond, but he did.
"I’m sorry for the way we stopped talking. I acted like a child, not like a friend, I avoided the confrontation and it wasn’t a straight forward way of dealing with things. I wasn’t really straight forward with anyone back then, or myself. You don’t really have to accept my apology, I think I just wanted you to know that I look at myself a different way now and I think that that way I acted years ago was pretty gutless and selfish and certainly wasn’t acceptable. I didn’t deal with difficult situations like a man, I’m working to stop those patterns. I’m happy you’re doing well"
Do I have to respond to this? I mean, my first impressions are that the apology doesn’t really mean anything to me, and that seems like it might be a therapy exercise. I’m not sure I know what he wants to accomplish with this message... whether he’s trying to re-establish communication, or if he just wants to absolve himself of some kind of guilt that he feels. If it is a therapy exercise, then I think it’s a very positive thing that he’s seeing someone because he definitely has some things to work through, but if he’s trying to get me to be a part of his healing, I’m not sure I want a part of it.
I initially felt like firing off an angry response, because he never gave me the chance to communicate to him how uncomfortable he was making my social life, among other things.
I won’t do that, but I did have that impulse.
Holy moly, this is long! I guess my questions are... would it be mean to not enter this conversation with him? What do you think he’s trying to accomplish? Do I owe it to my friend group to try to “make things right” (even though I don’t think it’s my responsibility)? If I do respond to this, how can I do it without getting dragged down and without being defensive or angry? Should I just run the other direction? Etc etc.