How do I maintain a platonic relationship with my ex when I'm not sure whether he's on that same page?
posted by dekathelon to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So there's this ex, right? We dated for a few months in 2012 and he broke up with me. I was pretty upset at the time but got over it, and we went no-contact, although he kept reading my blog for whatever reason. About a year after that I lost all my friends and arguably my career and had a breakdown as a result that I'm still dealing with. He noticed and offered to get coffee; I was in such a bad place that I agreed, but we never did meet up, which all things considered was probably for the best.
A few months after that, around the holidays, he reached out again to see if I wanted to go to this opening with a few of his friends, and even though nothing was ever said I'm pretty sure the only reason he reached out when he did was that both of us were dating other people, which is fair enough. (I mentioned he read my blog -- he'd reached out literally a day or so after I made an offhand reference to my boyfriend at the time, after months of nothing.) That did in fact end up happening, and it went well enough. Obviously it was awkward, although I'm not sure how much of the awkwardness was in my head and how much was real -- the general vibe, plus little plausibly deniable things like calling me by his girlfriend's name by mistake or offering to pay for stuff that might be nothing separately but might add up in tandem, or might not.
Now he's offered to hang out again. Actually, it's been three separate occasions, one to see some friend's show with only a few hours' notice (I lied and said I had other plans because fuck that), one later this month with the same group of friends that I tentatively agreed to, and now this weekend, which I agreed to reluctantly because I still don't have much of a life. But there are a few crucial differences. Difference one is that we'd be alone. Difference two is that it seems significantly more "date-y" than I'm comfortable with at this stage, if that makes sense. Difference three, the big one, is that now neither of us are dating anyone. I broke up with my boyfriend (for completely unrelated reasons) in January, and I'm not sure whether he knows; he broke up with his girlfriend, which I know because he flat-out told me in the process of trying to make plans. Which seems suspect, like he was trying to casually drop hints or something, because it would have been so easy not to mention it and it seemed... well, timed, like a tactic.
So what if it is? I don't necessarily want to go out with him again. I don't know that I'm in the best place to be dating (though I wasn't any better when I was with my last boyfriend, and the few people who knew about the relationship said it seemed to help me a lot). Actually, both of us are in much worse places in our lives. And I don't think any of the issues that were there when we were dating are the kind that are likely to go away or change. (And this is shallow, but he's made some changes to his appearance since the last time I saw him that aren't to my taste.) Most importantly of all, if he broke up with his girlfriend as recently as he said he did I don't want to be a shitty rebound, nor do I want anyone to pretend to want to hang out with me with that ulterior motive, which might be even worse. Basically, the prospect of us dating doesn't utterly horrify me, but nor does it make me particularly happy -- the best way I can think to describe it is it's like this looming potential trap of an eventuality that may or may not happen to me.
But nothing I've done to deflect that -- not seeming overly eager to meet up, answering the relationship stuff with the bare minimum of "oh that sucks, sorry to hear, (implied) let's change the subject," steering things away from high-stakesy times like Friday or Saturday or nighttime -- has worked. If I were still dating my old boyfriend mentioning him could be an easy way out, but unfortunately I'm not and I can't see lying working out. I guess I could be direct, but I would prefer not to have that conversation outright ever, and if it does have to happen I would definitely not want to be the one to bring it up -- and for all I know I'm reading a lot into this and there are no hidden motives at all, which would make that conversation even worse.
So barring that, what do you even do here? A lot of the last paragraph seemed like an Ask vs. Guess thing, which might be true insofar as this would be a lot easier if he could just respect the fucking rules of engagement here. I mean, we're not special. There are rules that exes generally follow, you know? They exist because they make life less awkward and keep people from being hurt. I'm honestly considering just bailing at the last minute, but that would be shitty and rude.