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You're in my blood like holy wine, you taste so bitter and so sweet
January 5, 2014 9:34 PM   Subscribe

I can't seem to get over my ex and I'm worried that I never will. Is that possible? It feels like I'm grieving something heavier than the loss of a relationship.

I moved to NYC almost two months ago. It's been a rough transition for me. When I got here I didn't have a job, a place to live or a single friend aside from my ex. Those problems provided a convenient distraction for a few weeks, but now that they're solved, the full depth of my loneliness is hitting me.

The nature of loss was different when my other relationships ended. It was always a sense of missing the closeness or security but not the person. But he and I had a connection that I know I couldn't find elsewhere. It's hard for me to articulate to others what made it so special to me, and that's a main source of the frustration because being able to describe it might at least free me from its strangulation. When I've tried in the past people have been dismissive, and that made me feel more defeated and alone. The closest I can come is to say we shared a lot of childhood memories and similar emotional reactions to art and nature. We're both introverts and it felt like we built a private world together constructed of shared ideas. There's one weekend in particular I often remember because I was so happy. We went to a museum together and I settled in front of this painting while he was on another side of the room. He came over and hugged me from behind and said that the painting was so me and then described in perfect, succinct detail why. He had a way of telling me thoughts I didn't know I had. Nobody else has ever done that for me.

But he was also a textbook narcissist. I shared some of our history on here awhile ago under a different handle. We met online two years ago but lived on opposite coasts. Our online relationship intensified very fast because we had so much in common. We started exchanging photos, skyping and talking for hours on the phone. After a few months he told me he loved me and wanted to spend his life with me. This was all before we had ever met and should have been a giant red flag but I was so enthralled with him that I just hoped for the best.

The first night we met in person right after we had sex he rejected me and told me he didn't feel the chemistry. I was crushed. The next day he begged me back and we continued in a committed relationship for another year from a distance. The same pattern persisted: he treated me with love when we were at a distance but would often act like a different person when we occupied the same physical space. Although we have moments of intense closeness, it was just so sporadic. I thought the distance might be the problem, so I encouraged him to apply to a program in NY, but ironically things worsened when he moved to my coast (I was living in Boston at the time). Right before he moved here he started talking about wanting to keep his options open. Still I pushed for our relationship. I changed my work schedule so I could visit him every other weekend but he kept manufacturing fights and using them as an excuse to cancel my visits the day or sometimes even hours before I left to see him. In general he had me on a roller coaster where he'd be very needy and demanding one moment and then detached and cold the next. I started feeling almost physically ill from the ups and downs so I ended things. We didn't speak for several months and I thought we might never again.

Then one day he texted me, after the Boston Marathon bombing to make sure I was okay. At first we were both cautious but things intensified quickly and he started calling me every day, wanting to talk for hours on the phone, telling me he loved me and missed me. I was confused because he claimed he still couldn't be in a relationship with me in the present but he was semi open to the idea down the line based on how things went when I moved to NY. I made plans to move. Not for him but because I need to be in NY to get my career started and I finally had some money saved up. Mere days before I moved he manufactured a fight and told me couldn't be my friend or even in contact anymore. Up until this point we had been talking every day for months (mostly initiated by him), saying I love you, being supportive to each other. He also said I was incredibly important to him.

Soon after I moved here I caved and got in touch with him. We met up a few times and had dinner and sex. Mostly he was pretty cold with me, despite the fact that he initiated most of it. The last time we saw each other three weeks ago he asked if I wanted to get dinner. This time I was determined not to invite him back to my place and I didn't. Since then neither of us has contacted the other. It was another abrupt end since we had been speaking every day. I've been really struggling since then.

I've made a few semi-friends, my new roommate and a couple of people from work, but otherwise I'm alone. When I first got here I was upbeat and excited about the future but quite abruptly about two weeks ago the feelings of loneliness and homesickness set in.

I've managed not to contact him since that night three weeks ago and I'm trying to focus on new potentials without much success. I set up a ghost OKCupid account to check out the NY selection and that got me even more depressed. I scrolled through hundreds of profiles and maybe found one or two that appealed to me. It doesn't seem like what I'm looking for should be that hard to find. I just want somebody who is smart, driven and has a clear sense of self in that he has fully formed opinions and boundaries. But he also needs to be giving. It's that last trait that seems to be rare in combination with the others Plenty of smart, driven, discriminating dudes on there but they mostly seem to be blatantly arrogant or superficial (at least according to the algorithms and my sense of their profiles). I can't date another guy like that.

Please help me out of this rut.
posted by caseofyou to Human Relations (30 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
It doesn't seem like what I'm looking for should be that hard to find.

Well, it is. If you're looking too hard for it, anyway.

Online dating can make you feel incredibly jaded about the dating world. Hell, being in the dating world in any capacity will most likely make you incredibly jaded about the dating world. The best way to have a beautiful, perfect connection with somebody is to have the stars align and meet them in the course of your normal life.

Of course, beautiful perfect connections honestly just don't happen very often. The standard advice you'll get from people is to stop worrying about men for a while, and it's probably right. Your immediate problem is your sense of loneliness and loss. Potentially some self-image stuff mixed in there.

Here's the deal, though; people will likely disagree with me and it's not really the "wise decision", but you've had a very abrupt ending with your ex and obviously still have feelings for him. I'd get back in contact, express what you're feeling here, and get some closure. Wish I knew more about this "manufactured fight" and the insane rush to love from an internet LTR, but the important thing is you need to straighten out your feelings for the guy.
posted by johnpoe50 at 9:53 PM on January 5


The blog After Narcissistic Abuse might help you feel less alone, as well as give you ideas for healing and moving forward.
posted by jaguar at 10:00 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


Oh? He's a text book Narcissist?

Let me help you!

This person mirrors your emotions when it serves his purpose of manipulating you, but in no way does he share your feelings.

It feels important to you because he employed a technique called "mirroring." Google it!

This entire episode was bullshit, BUT THE GENUINE RELATIONSHIP YOU WANT DOES EXIST.

The sooner you pay attention to the actions verses the words, the sooner you will find The Real Deal.

This is a learning experience. Train yourself to see flakey users as SUPREMELY UNATTRACTIVE, and you'll be on your way to a great new relationship.

It really is this simple.
posted by jbenben at 10:05 PM on January 5 [20 favorites]


Your ex needs to deal with his shit. He keeps circling what is now the drain of your connection because he keeps trying to convince himself that he can avoid the reality of self-work AND still have what he feels with you. But there's no getting around it now -- not now that he's known of a person capable of helping him realize the true beauty of his inner self. It's that very divine attractiveness that has awoken his demons, and now he's in a battle of outrunning them while somehow supra-heroically not losing sight of you.

Mostly he was pretty cold with me, despite the fact that he initiated most of it.

I think this really reflects how much self-loathing he is dealing with, in spite of how strong his affections are for you. If you guys ever talk again, I think you should make it clear that he needs to work on it if he ever wants a hope in hell of being in your life again. He needs to uncover for himself what is the source of all this self-loathing and self-punishment, before he'll ever have any hope of being happy in a relationship. No matter what he does to avoid/deny/outsmart this, this will always be there to haunt him the moment a chance of happiness shines light into his life. Tell him he absolutely needs to put thoughts of you out of his mind, focus exclusively on his demons, and how to want to live whether it's with you or not.

we shared a lot of childhood memories and similar emotional reactions to art and nature... He had a way of telling me thoughts I didn't know I had. Nobody else has ever done that for me.

I think you guys did have a real powerful intimate connection -- the kind that heightens previously unaccessed awareness of all your real potential and what might actually unfold for you in terms of realized identity. But until he admits he needs help with those demons and seeks help accordingly, he's going to keep running on empty and -- by association -- drain you in the process with every exchange. Both of you came into each other's lives to reconcile unfinished business, IMO, but unfortunately, it sounds like his unfinished business is a level more toxic than yours.

I totally recommend barricading yourself with focus on what your relationship with him made you realize about yourself. Do the grief work around what you've lost in terms of previously unrealized potential, as well as the potential for healing around your childhood memories. Focus on the wound he made you aware of in yourself (this grief that's heavier than the loss of just the relationship). You won't lose -- you'll either live a more enriched life, attract an equally compatible and comparable mate into your life, or call your ex back in. Use it to grow, either way, and allow the process to take its time accordingly.
posted by human ecologist at 10:28 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


I can't seem to get over my ex and I'm worried that I never will. Is that possible?
It's very unlikely. If you've experienced before the end of a relationship which wasn't exactly based on mutual understanding, caring, and attraction you already know this. If not, I'll just tell you: it stings for a while, but it fades away relatively quickly. Three weeks is too soon. You seem to have invested a lot in this, and it's only natural to have to endure some mourning now that it's apparently over.
I wouldn't beat myself up for feeling down for some time, provided that you're still functional in your daily life. If you have/find a counsellor you´re comfortable with, that's obviously a good place to discuss your emotions around this situation, but do not pathologize this unnecessarily. Grief is normal. It almost always disappears when it's no longer useful. In the meantime, I would suggest keeping busy with something productive such as work or study. Let this run its natural course.
posted by kayrosianian at 10:35 PM on January 5


You sound like you're handling a whole bunch of emotionally painful and/or complicated things just fine. Deciding to end a romantic relationship, moving to a new city, getting a job, making new friends as an adult...nothing to sneeze at, any of it. Pain hurts. Emotionally confusing situations are confusing. You're not doing it wrong.

I totally feel your pain about the hole in your life, but it's not a precisely boyfriend-shaped hole. Deepen your friendships, maybe look for a volunteer work gig or join some clubs, settle in, reconnect with things you love. You're grieving. You're viewing other people through the filter of that grief and hurt, probably too much to see clearly into a new romantic relationship right now. Move on, yes, but you're probably not really ready to push the dating angle too hard.
posted by desuetude at 10:44 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


If the last time you had sex, from the sounds of this, was less than two months ago, you have not given yourself nearly enough time to be anything close to actually getting over it. Two months is also not nearly enough time to have really settled into the new place you're living and made new friends. Give yourself time! It's not a race! Getting over a relationship takes some grieving time. Making new friends takes some time to get to know people. Take a deep breath and keep going, you're doing pretty okay.
posted by Sequence at 11:58 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


I've managed not to contact him since that night three weeks ago and I'm trying to focus on new potentials without much success. I set up a ghost OKCupid account to check out the NY selection and that got me even more depressed.

Slowwwww down. Stop trying so hard. Seriously. You could stop dating for a hot minute.

You're not going to want to hear this, but your problems in New York - homesick, not a lot of friends, loneliness - and your wanting overly intense, high-risk, long-distance online relationships to work out are linked. You're trying to cover up some really big personal issues with dating. Speaking from experience, this not only won't work, it will keep putting you in worse positions over time. It will break you.

So give up. And try to see if you can focus on your inner happiness. Today I've been thinking about the phrase "you win some, you lose some." I mean, come on, this is life we're talking about here. We don't always get what we want, it would be ridiculous to think we could pull that off. This guy sounds like a run of the mill douche, and you rather uncontroversially seemed to have dodged a bullet. The teetering on the verge of existential collapse? The hopelessly pessimistic generalizations about men in New York? That's your part. The upside is you are in no way condemned to repeat this pattern if you choose to do some things a little bit differently and start taking care of yourself.

I think it's time to press the reset button, maybe take a break from "focusing on dating." That doesn't seem to be getting you anywhere, anyway. And I can relate a lot to that phenomenon. Some of the best things that have happened to me were not the result of "focusing on the problem." But rather, taking a step back, getting in touch with my feelings, developing hobbies, doing basic things to take care of my mind and body. Then the universe just gives you someone that you could not have possibly hunted down on your own.

You deserve to have a happy relationship with yourself, great friends, and a great life, whether you've found Mr. Right or not. Start out small, and in times that relationship will grow and pay you massive dividends. Look for support and/or therapy in your area. It's there.
posted by phaedon at 12:17 AM on January 6 [18 favorites]


You're craving the highs and the lows, because rollercoaster romances are addictive in the same way rollercoasters are. They're dramatic and intense and passionate, and your brain doesn't care that it feels bad more than it feels good, it just is addicted to the brain chemicals. When love goes away, it really is a lot like trying to get over an addiction-- so it's normal that you're kind of in withdrawal.

However, roller coaster romances like that are never really good for us. It's the drama you miss, not the deep everlasting love necessarily.

Add this to long distance-- where your primary mode of intimacy is verbal, and you have someone who apparently really truly 'gets' you like nobody else can, and a special snowflake romance that rivals all others.

Sometimes, this can be a good thing-- sometimes you connect with someone much more deeply when you're forced to establish intimacy at a distance, so when actual love does follow, your foundation is really solid.

But sometimes, it's detrimental. It's detrimental because because the internet turns the natural order of attraction on its head. Usually you see someone. You think they're attractive. You approach based on that. Intimacy comes later. If you can't establish a connection, things fail. If you can, you have a relationship. Generally, if the person isn't your physical type, you (usually) don't tend to approach them at all. They don't register on your radar. But it's tougher to establish a connection based on mutual attraction-- this is why your past relationships weren't as 'deep'.

Because with online dating, everything is backwards. You instead make a meaningful connection to someone before you can gauge whether or not you would be attracted to them physically. Often this is because you find each other thanks to common interests. This connection, precisely because it is meaningful... really screws things up. Because an emotional connection is much stronger than a superficial aesthetic one, and once formed it's much harder to let go of. On the internet, you tend to bond with someone on an emotional and subconscious level by being privy to their most intimate thoughts, ideas, jokes and concerns. You know straight off if they believe the same things as you, have the same sense of humor as you, and often this sensation can be euphoric. You seem perfect for each other. And no matter how grounded you are and how much you skype and talk on the phone, the brain always always fills in the blanks with roses and sunshine. And there are always blanks.

So when you meet, and there isn't a physical connection on one side, (or either side) the crash from this can be devastating. You get hit super hard, much harder than if you had just seen them across the room, first. In fact, you probably wouldn't have approached this person in the first place. Instead, you skipped straight to the intimacy without sussing out the attraction. And this connection, precisely because it is meaningful, can be extremely hard to let go of.

And this is where I feel he's at. And this is why he's like a yo-yo. I feel like he just wanted something else, physically-- I think he tries to make it work, but for whatever reason he isn't feeling the attraction on some level. Maybe he prefers a different hair color, or likes someone taller or shorter -- it doesn't matter what his reasons are for not feeling it, but he (imo) doesn't. But he wants you on an intellectual level, he loves you-- but he keeps trying to convince himself that he has chemistry with you, when he doesn't. This is why he's cold when he's with you, and yet when you're apart, you slot into that all familiar role as emotional lifelines. This is why you're grieving much more than the loss of your relationship. You're grieving what everyone craves-- being truly understood by another person.

When he tries to let go, he can't let go, because of all the history and connection you share. And it sucks he's not mature enough to recognize that pattern, and to let you go, because you deserve way way better. You don't deserve someone who is hot and cold. And you deserve someone that thinks the world of you, whether you're together or not. So since he's not mature enough to let you go, you need to keep up the no-contact. I know it's tough, but, it will become easier.

Will you find love again. Of course you will. You will find someone as good if not better, healthier. When you find something good for you, you'll recognize the unhealthy patterns you fell in with him. It will be as if a veil has been lifted. Trust me. You will not think of the relationship the same way once you have some distance.

It's really not been that long-- two months isn't that long. Three weeks since last contact isn't that long. I broke up with my LD love (I knew him 7 years, we were together for 5 years) almost two years ago, and it took me a solid year to get over it. The thing that got me over it, was actually being interested in someone else-- a concept unfathomable to me in the initial breakup stages, even two months down. But eventually, I did. And there was no push-pull in person. In person we got along, the attraction continued and deepened. When we were physically together, it just felt 'right'. We really thought we were soul-mates; I thought he was one of the only people who understood me. Who would ever understand me. He was a massive chunk of my life. When we broke up, it was devastating. The thought of someone else was unfathomable to me. I never thought it would feel 'right' again.

How did I get over it? I'd say the main reason I'm over it now, is because that I established a meaningful friendship with someone else-- and that showed me that meaningful connections with others were possible-- that people I get along with on a really deep level exist and that he wasn't the end all and be all. That he wasn't a special snowflake, and that there were potentially other people who 'got' me. Other men, even. Perhaps even better than he ever did. It was a revelation. That he didn't 'get' me just as much as I thought he did, either. And this knocked him from the pedestal, hard, so that when he did return, asking me to connect-- it was really easy to not engage with him again.

I, like you, never thought I wouldn't love him, that I'd ever get over it, but there's another guy I kind of like now, and there is nothing about my ex I want back at all, even though they're like chalk and cheese. I mean, I like him and I'm happy we had what we had, but the connection I have now with this other person is much deeper and stronger than the one in my past. It also has the potential to deepen, because we have time on our side.

Believe me when I say, this will happen for you too. Trust me. I can't tell you much more that will help right now because you can't see it right now, and you have to grieve and get it out of your system day by day. But while what you had was special, and in a way, irreplaceable-- it doesn't mean that there isn't better for you.

But I wouldn't contact him again. The minute you engage once more in this demented dance, the more addicted you get and the harder it is to break away again. Right now you can't see the forest through the trees, because you keep looking at this one tree. Any time you look back at it, you make it harder to gain perspective.

The bad news is, there's no quick way out of this tunnel. But it will end eventually. Just keep on keeping on. Take it day by day. You're stronger than you know. Make lots of friends. Meets lots of people. It's okay to not be ready to date. I wasn't. I shunned contact for a while, and that was good for me. I just wanted to be happy again. I didn't look to date at all, and the idea was repellent. That disdain you have when you look at OKC? I had it too for a long time, because I was mentally comparing, without meaning to. After a while, I started to notice guys, and not lump them all into labels and categories and dismiss them immediately. (He looks arrogant. He seems like he's not very driven). etc.

Start small. Be good to you, kind to you, and occupy yourself. You're homesick and that doesn't help. But the future isn't bleak for you.

Soon you'll see that too. Soon, you'll look back and not yearn so much. One day you'll look back on your pining over this guy and you won't believe you're the same person.

I'm sorry for the length, as usual I just talk too much. I hope this helped a little. I feel for you, and good luck with it.
posted by Dimes at 12:49 AM on January 6 [8 favorites]


Dimes--I don't think it's a lack of physical attraction on his end, at least I hope not. He is/was always telling me how beautiful he found me and he never had trouble getting aroused. Or maybe I just don't want to believe that's the reason because I have self image issues. :/
posted by caseofyou at 1:50 AM on January 6


I'm so sorry you are hurting, but you haven't given yourself nearly enough time to heal. Take a look through Baggage Reclaim, I bet you'll find something helpful.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:41 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Another vote to just give it more time. Breakups are tough.

Take care of yourself. Look for things to do in NY that will be enjoyable and lead you toward making new friends. Don't worry about dating for a while.
posted by bunderful at 3:56 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Hey, this is a learning experience. With time you will see it as such. What you are supposed to learn is that coming on strong then ice cold then strong then cold again is not the making of a serious relationship, a genuine interest, or a genuine connection. It's manipulation. It's immature. You need time to get over this thing but be grateful it did not last a minute longer than it did.

Go no contact. Be nice to yourself, keep busy....and maybe don't date again until you suddenly realize one day, "wow, I haven't thought about him this week." Or at least until you stop comparing every new person you meet to aspects of his personality!!
posted by zdravo at 4:34 AM on January 6


Oh, darlin', if it's only been two months it is perfectly normal for you not to have gotten over him. You're still in the grieving stage.

Everyone else has good advice about dealing with narcissistic exes, but giving yourself more time in general will help as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:36 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


It feels like I'm grieving something heavier than the loss of a relationship.

You've been picked up and dumped by a master manipulator, somebody skilled enough in the art of cold reading to suggest things to you in a manner that left you fully believing he was "revealing" thoughts you "didn't know you had", verbally seductive enough to keep you dancing to his tune until he got the sex from you that was what he was after all along, and unscrupulous enough to neg you afterwards in order to make you feel you still owed him for next time.

You might well be grieving the loss of innocence that such an experience must necessarily cause.
posted by flabdablet at 5:27 AM on January 6 [7 favorites]


I recommend less Wuthering Heights and more red wine and chocolates.
posted by flabdablet at 5:28 AM on January 6 [7 favorites]


Whether or not you've been officially together, this guy has been in and out of your life for two years. Two whole years of this emotional rollercoaster! No wonder it feels like you'll never get past him - you've been dealing with the cycle of intense high > crushingly miserable low > intense high again for so long that your brain's treating this as just another low point, and since the only way out of the previous lows was for him to come on strong again, that feels like the only thing that'll help right now even if you rationally know better.

Also, I bet you've spent a good chunk of those two years trying to puzzle out this relationship: why he said X then did Y, how you can predict his next move, how much of the connection you feel is real on his end and how much isn't, and so on. It sounds like you've got a fairly good handle on him if you're describing him as a textbook narcissist, but that doesn't mean you've got an emotionally satisfying conclusion.

And now it's been three weeks since you've spoken to him, and your brain has been so well trained by the intermittent rewards he's been throwing you for two years that of course something this abrupt and inconclusive won't feel like a real ending. Your brain is craving the next high, but Mr Mindfuck isn't around to provide that; it's craving a conclusive ending you can walk away from, but this doesn't feel like that, this feels like just another temporary phase in the come-here-go-away cycle you've been living with. Either way, your brain is telling you that he is the only thing that can make you feel better, and without him you'll just have to be sad forever.

Your brain is wrong, though. He isn't the only thing that'll make you feel better (and you already know, he won't really make you feel better anyway). But it's spent two years getting itself into this groove, and it's going to take longer than three weeks to get out again. In the meantime, accept that it's going to be giving you bad information for a while ("every man on OKC is unappealing, I'll never have a connection that strong again!"), and try to keep hold of what you know is the actual truth even if you're not feeling it ("okay, right now everyone seems unappealing compared to the ex, but loads of other people have felt the exact same way post-breakup and still ended up in much happier relationships in the future, and odds are very good that I will too"). You're not trying to get over him instantly today; you're trying to keep yourself moving forward while your brain works itself out of the rut it's been working in for two years. You'll get there, just be kind to yourself in the meantime.

Here's the deal, though; people will likely disagree with me and it's not really the "wise decision", but you've had a very abrupt ending with your ex and obviously still have feelings for him. I'd get back in contact, express what you're feeling here, and get some closure.

I would recommend that you not do this. Closure would be great, but you aren't going to get it from him - you'll have to make your own.
posted by Catseye at 6:04 AM on January 6 [10 favorites]


right after we had sex he rejected me

This, right here, is all you need to know about this guy. Worthwhile human beings do not do this shit -- it's as clear a sign as possible that you were just being used for sex.

Don't think of this as a breakup; think of it as a bullet dodged.
posted by ook at 6:45 AM on January 6 [8 favorites]


Part of the issue is you're having problems reconciling the difference between the relationship you built in your head, versus the actual relationship you had.

The relationship in your head was great precisely because you mentally filled in the gaps. He seemed to understand you because in his silence, you provided the voice you wanted to hear.

You can appreciate this intellectually, it will just take time for your emotions to catch up. It's easy to pine for the familiar when you are in new surroundings. Even painful familiarity is preferable to the unknown.

I suggest that you embark upon your new life. It's a new year, in a new city. What do you want to accomplish?

I have a pat list of things I recommend for the broken hearted, but in this case I'll hit the high points.

1. Do something to earn a degree or a certificate. When you look back on the past, you don't remember how you felt, you remember what you did. So DO things. If you want to complete a Masters, see what you need to do to accomplish that. Learn Ikibana. Or Feng Shui.

2. Get physical. It might be walking the streets of the city for free, or hot yoga or pilates or whatever you enjoy, but start working out. Excercise clears your mind and allows new ideas in. When you feel hurt or sad or lonesome, push yourself until you get the endorphin rush.

3. Cook for yourself. Nourishing your body is akin to nourishing your soul. You are worth lovely homemade meals. It's hard to pine when you're enjoying a bowl of homemade split pea soup. It's hard not to when you're tucking into a Lean Cuisine.

4. Journal. Don't dwell on what you've lost, write about what you've discovered. Write about what you are greatful for, about something beautiful you saw, about something weird or funny you heard on the street. Being mindful is a way of being here, in the present, instead of replaying conversations of the past.

5. Volunteer. When you feel like you need help the most, reach out to help others.

Know that with time, your feelings will ebb, and you'll start to see the possibilities. Your relationship was unhealthy, I think you know that. Treat this time as a journey to better physical and mental health. You will emerge from this experience stronger, healthier, and happier than you ever have been before.

For now, don't worry so much about boys, or love or any of that nonsense. As Ru-Paul says, "If you don't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love someone else?" Can I get an AMEN?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:19 AM on January 6 [7 favorites]


I've had encounters like these up-close-and-personal.

You must have wracked your brain trying to understand him, tweaking and altering your behavior, your words, trying to find just that way to perfectly express just how you feel, which he still seemed to constantly misunderstand and misconstrue. And sometimes it seemed like you've found a way, and things are good. Except the next time he went right back to being moody and strange, and nothing you did could make it better.

The problem is him. Abysmally low self-esteem leads to the NEED to acquire outside validation, so much, so much, just to feel normal, just to exist. So he develops lots of tricks to "hook" people into giving him what he craves -- through verbal appreciation, emotional intensity, constant contact (for reassurance through the waves of anxiety), coming on strong and staying stronger. Except it's much easier to do all this online, where he is protected behind layers of internet, where he can freely construct an artificial self that he can accept and reveal to the world. In person, his flaws are giant, disfiguring (in his mind; none of this has anything to do with reality). He becomes cold, rejecting preemptively, because he hates being himself, hates having to show his hideousness to you, hates you for forcing the issue, and hates you for not able to make him feel better. Drama ensues. Time passes, his craving rears its head, and back on the roller-coaster you go.

It is a sad way to live. It's sad to be him.

From experience, it's likely he may have several such people in his life, on rotation, concentrating on one to get all he can, then moving onto the next, coming back to the first one to see if there's more left. Think of him as a junkie for Validation, for Attention, who has treated you like an Affection ATM, frantically hitting you up for tiny bits of oxygen to he who is stuck in the dark pit of his own desperation, forever alone. Not even seeing you as a person, my dear. Not you in all your beauty, individuality, sensitivity, flaws and quirks, brightness reaching out. He needs you... but just in the way a junkie needs another hit.

You did nothing wrong, except in your innocence you let it continue for so long, dominating your life, ruining your happiness. However intense it seemed, this is actually all very impersonal. Only remember everything he did as red flags to avoid in the future, discard everything except the good bits, and discard him.

People such as these are damaged. They are not bad people (drowning people cannot be judged for their kindness or lack thereof), nor beyond hope (with much time and truth and healing, we are all capable of healing) -- but at this moment in time, with YOU, he is not ready for any intimacy (can't even see you face-to-face without weird melodrama and running away!). Go forth. Look to your own self-esteem. Be kind, and enjoy your new life in one of the most astonishing cities in the world. There are many souls out there who are ready and willing to connect, and you will surely find each other.

Good luck.
posted by enlivener at 7:27 AM on January 6 [12 favorites]


I didn't mean to make you feel bad, and I'm sorry if I did. I understand feeling inadequate physically. I am actually basing my comment/thoughts on the physical stuff, on this alone:

The first night we met in person right after we had sex he rejected me and told me he didn't feel the chemistry.

For me, not feeling the 'chemistry' (especially right after meeting) is code. It's code that he's just not feeling it on some level. That to me, explains why he's been so hot/cold with you. It may be physical, it may be emotional, it may be a combination of things.

And that's okay. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. It doesn't mean that you're not attractive, or beautiful. It doesn't even mean that parts of him don't find you attractive (he obviously did because he slept with you). It just means that for whatever reason he's not feeling it on some level. Like I said, it could be anything innocuous, like the color of your hair, or maybe he likes tattoos. Or maybe he doesn't like tattoos. Maybe he saw himself with x type of person and you're not that. Sure, it may not be physical at all-- perhaps it's a personality thing. It really doesn't matter, because the reason is meaningless and chemistry isn't easily defined.

But whatever it is, to me, if he's push/pulling so much, it's because he's disconnecting the two things in his mind-- he likes you inside, loves you even, and is even attracted on some level-- but you're not what he envisions or wants or sees himself with. Because if you were, there wouldn't be a push pull at all. As ook said, worthwhile people don't pull 180s right after sleeping with you.

Whatever his reasons, he's not into you enough to do right by you. And you shouldn't stand for it ever again. Because you deserve way more in a partner than him -- even from the beginning. And there is totally someone out there that will make you realize that one day.

Believe me when I say you're beautiful and attractive and you shouldn't define your self worth by this guy. He isn't worth it. Whether it was physical or not, it has absolutely nothing to do with you at all. Don't give him any more power over your self esteem. You are too good for him.
posted by Dimes at 7:31 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


So you created this little world, the two of you. And it felt so special, right and good. You never felt known like that before. I get it.

He was also a self-absorbed jerk, so the world was really about his needs and his image.

But this world felt good to you. It gave your life a sense of completeness, and of meaning. You feel empty and lost without it.

>> What this means is that you have some deep neediness that needs to be addressed. Because most people don't find this kind of empty world fulfilling. Him describing the painting/you hit on this nerve of a deep need for validation, attention etc. Look we all have those needs, but when we get wholly absorbed by someone else and lose ourselves, it is beyond the typical amount of need and becomes an internal deficit that will set you up for an abundance of relationship issues.

So the Rx here is to get to know yourself. Who are you, in absence of anyone else? What do you really like? What do you really need? Your needs are for YOU to fill, not for someone else to paint a magical world that makes you feel better. Take responsibility for filling your needs and then "use your words" as we say to little kids and learn to navigate the world to get them met. Address that emptiness in you, the emptiness you thought a relationship with this guy would fix. When you grow up this aspect of your personality, I promise you that you will find there are actually a lot of awesome guys out there but were somehow invisible to you before.

Giving guys ARE out there... but I sense you may still be too swayed by superficial stuff. You want a guy who feels "tough" or "independent" or "has it together" and so the truly warm & giving guys (i.e. non-narcissists) may seem like an unfamiliar turn off to you. You want a guy whose strong sense of self makes up for the lack of self you feel internally.... and this will lead you to narcissists and controlling types over & over again. The time to break this cycle is NOW before the stakes are higher (marriage, children etc.). Best of luck to you.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:32 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


"For me, not feeling the 'chemistry' (especially right after meeting) is code. It's code that he's just not feeling it on some level. That to me, explains why he's been so hot/cold with you. It may be physical, it may be emotional, it may be a combination of things."

For what it's worth that night he assured me I looked exactly the same as I did over skype/photos and it wasn't anything physical. He said he found me beautiful in person. He claimed the chemistry was more of an emotional thing. I always took the push pull from a distance to be a sign that he is incapable of physical intimacy. He's never had a relationship with any girl because he said nobody blew him away. I'm the closest he's been to anything serious.

I guess I just don't want to think it has anything to do with me or that if I was somehow more of his type or whatever he would have treated me differently.

I know you didn't mean to make me feel bad but I've been down all day about that comment. I'm just really hard on myself about the way I look and I used to suffer from body dysmorphia.
posted by caseofyou at 8:51 AM on January 6


"The problem is him. Abysmally low self-esteem leads to the NEED to acquire outside validation, so much, so much, just to feel normal, just to exist. So he develops lots of tricks to "hook" people into giving him what he craves -- through verbal appreciation, emotional intensity, constant contact (for reassurance through the waves of anxiety), coming on strong and staying stronger. Except it's much easier to do all this online, where he is protected behind layers of internet, where he can freely construct an artificial self that he can accept and reveal to the world. In person, his flaws are giant, disfiguring (in his mind; none of this has anything to do with reality). He becomes cold, rejecting preemptively, because he hates being himself, hates having to show his hideousness to you, hates you for forcing the issue, and hates you for not able to make him feel better. Drama ensues. Time passes, his craving rears its head, and back on the roller-coaster you go."

This really resonates with my understanding of him. The only doubt I have is that he consciously tried to manipulate me. A lot of the comments seem to be centered on him faking it but I don't believe he was. I truly think he believed it in the moment and that's why it was so convincing. I wish I could dismiss it all as manipulation...it would be easier for me to dismiss him.

But seriously your comment was wonderful and it's exactly what I needed to hear. I often felt that he didn't truly "see" me.
posted by caseofyou at 8:56 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


"And sometimes it seemed like you've found a way, and things are good. Except the next time he went right back to being moody and strange, and nothing you did could make it better."

YES. Initially I was just myself but after awhile I got so desperate to placate him that I started internally scrutinizing my every gesture and facial mannerism. I remember one weekend things seemed perfect. The whole time we were together I tried to imitate the posture and demeanor of a confident actress in a movie I had just seen. He was all over me. The irony is he told me I seemed more at ease and myself than normal. One of his biggest complaints was always that I seemed tense around him.

But I didn't have the energy to keep it up when I saw him again.

I still keep feeling like if I were somehow more confident and alluring he would have never pulled this shit on me.
posted by caseofyou at 9:03 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


I was with a narcissist for three years. My situation was different (it was highly abusive) but I think I learned some things about wanting to go back that might be helpful to you.

He turned me inside out and I'll never be the same. I left him about a year and a half ago and I think about him every day. I don't miss him, exactly, I just...

I have this idea that people like this change the structure of our brain somehow. I think they light up pathways that were never before lit and probably shouldn't be lit up ever, but those little neurons are just so used to firing after awhile that it becomes like an addiction. I miss having those little neurons fire in that pattern that they would fire in when I saw him and when he was being good. Or when he was being cold and distant. Or when he was screaming at me and I was crying. All those activities lit up parts of my brain and my brain wants to be lit up like that again.

Who knows why. I personally know in my logical mind that I have absolutely no desire to actually light those brain-paths but here we are. Thinking of him every single day. Hormones and chemicals and the way we are built - emotions - they are different from logic.

Thinking of him is not the same as missing him, I've learned. I no longer really want to be with him the way I once did. Mostly when I think of him I am not missing him. I'm feeling sorry for him. I feel so, so sorry for him. He has a very tortured and sad life. I would not want that life. It breaks my heart. Instead of wanting to be with him, I more... want him to be at peace. That is what I wish for. That, and to have my neurons lit up, but that's not going to happen, so I just push through that part and distract myself until my brain quiets down. It's a LOT better now than it was three weeks after I left him. Three weeks after I left him I was still speaking with him. Six months later we were still in contact. I haven't spoken to him in about a year now and it's a lot better.

I've moved on, or am working on moving on. You'll get there, too. Moving on just might look different to you than you might think, and that is OK. You might just have to prevent yourself from going back (that's what I do - he still contacts me and I just use a lot of willpower to not write back. I use a lot of willpower when things in life are rough and I miss him. I just force myself not to call or email him). This prevention might have to go on for quite a long time.

Some of the tactics I use when I am trying not to get in touch with him (which, honestly, happens maybe once every few months now, as opposed to every.single.day for about six months). I focus on the facts: Why am I better off without him? What do I love to do that I couldn't enjoy with him? Then, I go do one of those things. Or I call my therapist and say "I want to call him but I'm not going to and this is what is happening that is making me want to call him" and she talks me off the proverbial ledge and I feel better.

Basically, I treat myself as if I were an alcoholic or a drug addict. I'm addicted to him. I probably will always have this pull towards him that is basically like a pull towards an addictive drug that I have had a problem with. I cope with it like I would cope with any addiction. It's difficult, and it kind of sucks, but it beats the alternative (being with him) by such a wide margin that I can't even ever imagine actually going back.

Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 9:07 AM on January 6 [11 favorites]


I just want somebody who is smart, driven and has a clear sense of self in that he has fully formed opinions and boundaries. But he also needs to be giving.

I think perhaps you are trying to divine too much depth from the superficial medium of an OKC profile. You are psyching yourself out prematurely. The guy who is right for you may not represent himself altogether well in his profile; and the guys who appear to have it all together may be (and in my experience, too often are) "not as advertised" once you get to know them over time.

Perhaps open your filter a bit to allow yourself to meet guys who may be a bit different than your preferred type, and see what happens.

(And your ex approaching you with the Boston bombing ruse was using one of the oldest tricks in the book to re-hook you. Don't be surprised if he pings you on your birthday, or his birthday, or if your favorite sports team wins, or if his dog dies, or if he's eating a taco and feeling sentimental. Ignore, Delete, Move On.)
posted by nacho fries at 11:57 AM on January 6


I still keep feeling like if I were somehow more confident and alluring he would have never pulled this shit on me.

I hate to break it to you, but there is literally nothing you could have done or been to salvage this situation. People who're saying "he wasn't feeling it" aren't trying to say "you're not pretty." They're saying pretty isn't the only deciding factor. He definitely found you pretty. He definitely found you interesting. But he was not, ultimately, permanently in love with you, and likely he doesn't even know why not. He was at one point possibly on the cusp of being in love with you but it went away. Because sometimes love does that, it just sort of...goes away. This is horrible and sad, but it was not your fault, and it's no reflection on you.

Maybe you have not had the experience of being with someone who was so close, so perfect on paper, and you just...couldn't hack it. But I think actually you just did. Maybe think about it in those terms for awhile. This guy was great, he was so almost what you wanted, but in the end, just not quite the right one. Reject him this time. Because you want this:

I just want somebody who is smart, driven and has a clear sense of self in that he has fully formed opinions and boundaries.

And only 2 words in that sentence even remotely apply to your ex. The rest he fails miserably at. He has no clear sense of self, no fully-formed opinions, and noooooo fucking boundaries. So, he wasn't the right one. He just realized it before you did.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:44 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I can't tell you whether you will ever "get over" him. I can tell you that I was involved with a pathological liar for almost ten years. I finally ended it (really ended it rather than kind of ended it and then took him back again) in October 2006. I still miss him at times. I still am in some ways in his thrall. I still wish it could have worked.

But that's all emotion. Rationally, from this distance (and even up close I could see this rationally), there's simply no way for me to have had a reasonable trusting relationship with him. It was SO hard to really end it and know it was over and there was no turning back. But you know what? I did it.

I also quit smoking a few years ago, and there are some weird correspondences. Like it really strikes me that the only things you ever become addicted to are things that are bad for you. Have you ever heard of anyone being addicted to broccoli? Or apples? Smoking and bad men are addictive. And when you try to break that addiction, you feel like you've lost your only friend. Your sleep patterns change, your eating patterns change, you feel like you are lost in the world.

One difference between smoking and bad men is that with a bad man, you say to yourself, "Oh if only I were X or Y or Z, he would have loved me." Or you say, "If only he saw how perfect we were together, he wouldn't waste time looking elsewhere." but nah, it's not you, and there's no "why." It just is, and you will eventually be so much healthier that your thoughts of him, like my thoughts of cigarettes and my ex, creep in every now and then but not to such an extent that I would go back. It's been too difficult a struggle to free myself from their clutches and hell no I don't want to go through withdrawal again.

But when we do that back and forth, yes and no, on and off thing with a relationship for too long, we start to expect it to come back after a while. It takes a LOT of willpower not to contact him again, and our crazy minds will focus exclusively on him as being the only potential source of happiness -- why? because we've trained our mind to trick us into letting him back into our lives. Time to retrain your mind.

I'm pretty much over my bad ex. I still think that if he were who I thought he was, and if he were who he portrayed himself as, I would have walked through fire for him. But luckily I can see (even though he still calls regularly) that I am much happier without him.

Love leaves scars. And that's a good thing. We want to be permanently affected by the ones that we love. Otherwise, it's not really love. And like any other scar, it begins as a painful wound and eventually, heals to a painless but visible scar. It will always be there to remind you, it will be less painful or not at all painful, but it won't be gone. So in a way, no, you never get over someone to whom you are so deeply connected, but in that way it is okay.

I wish you well.
posted by janey47 at 4:23 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


Hi there,

I've been with someone similar and she could never make up their mind, and despite this we had a really strong connection. I know how frustrating and hurtful it can be to give your all in a relationship and have the other person flake out on you on such a regular basis. I bet that at times, it almost felt like he wanted things to go badly.

Here's something you need to realize, even though you already know this at the back of your mind. The problem is HIM , not you. You did everything right but because of whatever emotional baggage or issues he may have things aren't going to work because he's a flake and you're not.

I wouldn't worry too much about not having met someone special, meeting someone with whom you have an extremely strong and almost instantaneous connection with is rare. And it's certainly not something that can be engineered. People like that walk into your life by pure chance.

My advice would be to stay of OK Cupid because most men on there fall into the attached and just looking for hookups/ single and looking for hookups category. Go out, participate in events where you'll meet people who are into the same things you are and live your life! You'll eventually meet someone.

As for your ex, I think that he has caused you enough pain. Find somebody who is more solid.
posted by perspicaturous at 10:52 PM on January 15


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