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the hardest thing i've ever done/to be so in love with you and so alone
August 23, 2007 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I have an extremely complicated relationship with a person I consider the love of my life. We failed miserably at our most recent (and 4th) try at making it work, so we're trying to do post-break up things differently this time -- in hopes we can get closure FOR REAL. There are more details inside, but my questions are: Is talking/keeping in touch post-breakup the stupidest idea ever? How do you accept the fact that you're in-love and always will be, but that you can't be together? How do you accept the failures/incompatiblities and move on without thinking things like, "oh the circumstances sucked and we just didn't get a fair shot"? And perhaps most importantly, how do you work to remain close without secretly praying it will eventually work out? I'm posting this because I need advice from people who have experienced similar situations, but I would also love any suggestions on relatable books or films.

While we are appallingly incompatible in a few very big ways, both of us know without-a-doubt that we're still in-love with each other, have been since day-one (even during devastating circumstances), and have accepted that we always will be. We've dated four separate times over 4.5 years. In the time we've known each other, we've experienced the most intense love interactions I could ever imagine two people sharing (hours in bed staring at each other without speaking; pages and pages of love letters while apart; catching shivers of his smell and presence from yards away). But just like the love, we hurt each other on an equally intense level - hurt and pain that is (seemingly) insurmountable.

Reconnecting/Rehurting each other over and over is as painful as you can possibly imagine and just isn't an option anymore. So this time, we're trying the novel, post-breakup approach of staying in touch by talking once or twice a week (he just moved to another city, so it's mostly phone-talking) in hopes that we can keep perspective on things without pining and reminiscing separately, which in the past has only made us come back to each other. It's definitely not always sweet, calm conversations and there's a lot of past talk. We both get emotional and upset during some conversations (me more than him), but none of our interactions have ended on a terrible note by screaming or hanging up. Mostly, I feel really positive about these talks, even when I spend a lot of time crying.

Is it totally crazy to try this tactic of keeping in touch/talking it through post-breakup? It certainly seems weird, but we've tried all the other 'typical' post-breakup things in the past - not speaking or seeing each other at all for 4+ months (didn't work); being purposefully cruel to the other person so that they can just hate for a while in order to move on (didn't work); one of us moving to Europe for a year (didn't work); trying to date/connect with new people (didn't work). I could go on and on.

The plus side is that he is a very strong person, even when I'm most sad and weak (one of my favorite things about him), and he seems to have finally 100% convinced himself and accepted that we just can't make it work, despite the most intense love for each other. A big part of me wants to convince myself of the same - and sometimes I'm able to for a few days, but I still have a lot of what-ifs (we're both from realllllly effed up, unstable families and have zero clue how to manage a proper relationship - i'm convinced therapy would've helped), and I find myself regularly fantasizing about a future with him still. The strong, logical, 'move-on-with-your-life' side of me longs for REAL closure, however. And this same part of me wants to work to a point where I can see potential in new mates (something I haven't seen in ANYONE since I met him).

Any and all personal advice/anecdotes are appreciated! Book and film suggestions are definitely good, too.
posted by bienbiensuper to Human Relations (41 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
As cruel and harsh as this may seem, sever. If you really, really think that you are meant for each other but will never be together, sever. Stop torturing yourself. You are only as sad and weak as you think you are - and even if you are, you can find someone who loves you unconditionally to help you through anything. If this isn't working with him, it will never start working with him. You're blinding yourself to other possibilities because you have completely convinced yourself that he is the only person you will ever love. Open your heart and your eyes and you will find someone new.
posted by banannafish at 9:48 AM on August 23, 2007


Is it totally crazy to try this tactic of keeping in touch/talking it through post-breakup? It certainly seems weird, but we've tried all the other 'typical' post-breakup things in the past - not speaking or seeing each other at all for 4+ months (didn't work);

I imagine it didn't work because one of you caved in and contacted the other?

Don't do that. It's clear that you two need to be apart; an obsessive relationship is not the same as love. Drama is not the same as love.

Since you have the intuition that therapy would have helped managing relationships, I'd agree with bananafish, sever contact, and get yourself some therapy to work through just why you continue to come back to someone who clearly is not good relationship-wise for you. You can't possibly ever truly move on until you've gained some distance from this situation.
posted by canine epigram at 9:52 AM on August 23, 2007


I would cut all ties. This reads like love as a harmful addiction, not love as a fulfilling and enabling partnership. Yes, in all likelihood you will never get another person who makes you feel like this, both the good and the bad. But you seem to recognise yourself that, ultimately, the relationship is harmful.
posted by londongeezer at 9:55 AM on August 23, 2007


I was in a somewhat similar situation -- intense chemistry and love, but we couldn't be together. We tried being friends several times, but always ended up back in bed together... and as long as we were somewhat connected, neither of us could successfully move on. We were only able to get past it when she moved away and we stopped talking.
posted by callmejay at 10:04 AM on August 23, 2007


Is it totally crazy to try this tactic of keeping in touch/talking it through post-breakup?

Yes.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:09 AM on August 23, 2007


Either cut all ties and don't talk again.

OR...

Get professional relationship counseling.

There really is no middle ground here. Just "being friends" while you are still "in love always" is impossible and unfair to any future partner you or he may have.

IMHO, try the counseling. My wife and I had trouble when dating. She's an artist, I'm an engineer. We are opposites in Meyers-Briggs. But with a little counseling we were able to turn our incompatibilites into our strengths by being OK with simply trusting the other without second guessing everything.
posted by Argyle at 10:12 AM on August 23, 2007


I would move across the country. If it is as you describe it, then either you stop talking to him and wait for your life to collect itself and move on, or else you plan to be with him again, in which case, you should do that. But unless your plan is to be with him again, do not phone him and do not answer the phone when he calls.

I was in love once such that I thought I would never be able to love the same way again. Well, that might be true, but I think it's more likely just the case that I'm older now, have more perspective, and suffer less drama in my emotional life. In any case, I no longer regret.

Ideally you should move to a different country.
posted by creasy boy at 10:13 AM on August 23, 2007


And remember it will take time . . . and not just a few weeks or months, but perhaps years and years. Cut ties and don't go back, even though it hurts. Change your life, get involved with other things instead of pining over each other. And 20 years from now, when you're life is all together you may occasionally remember him and feel a tug at your heart and a disappointment that things didn't work out. But it will be a fleeting passing moment and you will then look around you at all the greatness that you have become because you moved on and that sadness in your heart will stop.

I once heard that "soul mates" rarely end up together. Take comfort in that, I guess . . . that soul mates are often too volatile together to stay together.

Take comfort in the time you did have together and the love that you shared - the deep, intense love and that you were blessed to share such a connection with someone. Most people don't get a grain of that in their lives and here you were blessed with this relationship. Learn from it, move on. Be one of those brave people that despite tragedy walked away from it all because that's what you needed to do.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:16 AM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Love is not enough to sustain a relationship, but it's often enough to wreck your life.
posted by desjardins at 10:19 AM on August 23, 2007 [19 favorites]


you really sound like me, except I'm the boy in the situation. I dated a girl 7 times over 5 years....

the only thing that works is severing all ties. I'm sorry. You don't want to hear it, he doesn't want to hear it, but unless you're ready to admit it, you're going to go through the same cycle.

It's just something you have to do. It's going to hurt like hell- I spent 2 months as a zombie, but it gets better. At four months, I too, almost caved. We had a long talk, and she told me that she thought about me a lot and wanted to talk more, but after thinking about it, it just can't happen.

Remember that time heals all things. Everytime you want to talk to him, just write it down (that's what i did). After a few days it'll go away.

It'll be a year, labor day, and I'm not sure I'm there yet, but I'm getting there. I just had my first day where I didn't think about her at all, but I'm not ready to throw out all her stuff.

It'll get better, I promise, but you only gave it 4 months? My friends always say that the post relationship period is always half the length of the actual relationship. I laugh at that (am I really going to be like this for another 2 years?), but there might be a grain of truth in it. Give it more time.
posted by unexpected at 10:21 AM on August 23, 2007


Most people, even people in normal, not-emotionally-bipolar relationships, need time away from their exes after breaking up. Because you have such an intense, crazy relationship it is even more important for you two. Stop all contact. You are only weak because you think yourself that way.
posted by schroedinger at 10:21 AM on August 23, 2007


You two were not the love of each others lives. Really.

You were mirrors or some sort of mystery to each of your (by your own admission) fucked up selves. And that's ok. Shit happens, you find people, you fall in love and then you grow and settle down and look back and laugh at the stupid shit you two did and then smile about how it didn't really matter 'cause you ended up together anyway and continue playing a quiet game of scrabble while sipping gin and tonic. But not too much, 'cause you're older now and alcohol unsettles your stomach and you really shouldn't be drinking anyway what with your heart pills.

Fireworks are great, but they go out quickly. Either you can build a fire from ashes, or you move on. Not everyone you love is supposed to be with your forever.

Sever all ties and get some therapy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:24 AM on August 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


1) You will not actually always be in love with each other. Stop telling yourselves that.

2) Don't feed the part of yourselves that is secretly really enjoying the drama of this. Stop affirming that you're a uniquely doomed couple written in the stars, fated to love always, but never be together. Start affirming that a lot of people have painful love affairs, and that many such people eventually realize that love does not hurt, and get out and get over it. You can join their ranks.

3) Don't talk to each other. Give yourselves at least a specific buffer of time and space before resuming contact. Say three or six months before you even talk on the phone again. And bear in mind that sometimes people who were in very sturm-und-drang style relationships may never be able to be pals with each other. Maybe you guys will, maybe you won't, but you MUST make a clean break in the beginning so you don't accidentally sleep with each other and/or keep telling each other all about how you're Romeo and Juliet and no one will ever understand. And/or keep fighting, which, in its cycle of frustration and release, can sometimes be a stand-in for Doing It.

You can do all of this unilaterally. It doesn't matter what he wants. What matters is that you decide that having inner peace is more important than hanging on to things you know make you feel pretty bad.

Good luck.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:24 AM on August 23, 2007 [6 favorites]


I doubt very much you are going to see much variation on the advice here: viewed objectively from the outside, the most probably interpretation of your actions is that you are simply setting yourself up for round five at some point in the indeterminate future.

I had a relationship that was intense (after an emotionally imbalanced adolescent fashion) and stormy. For years after all romantic ties were severed we maintained a friendship. What happened was that I detached emotionally from our past and moved on with my life. It became apparent that she did not, even after I married. When it became clear to me that ongoing interaction with her was only a cause of distress for her I ceased all attempts to stay in touch with her, although I had valued our friendship. I would never try to be a part of her life again. It is my sincere hope that in the absence of any contact she has closed this chapter of her life and moved on as well.

The notion of an unending love that can never be fulfilled is an emotional dead end that can only cause you harm. From your description of the current phase of your relationship I find it extremely likely that, like my case, he will find closure to the situation that eludes you as long as you insist on continued contact. You might want to consider the impact this, and attendant realities like his starting new relationships, and sharing the details with you, will have on you. For myself I regret that I did not sever ties with this person sooner, for her sake.
posted by nanojath at 10:26 AM on August 23, 2007


I imagine it didn't work because one of you caved in and contacted the other?

Yes, of course. The longest we went was almost a solid year of barely talking (just shortish, sporadic email updates) while I lived in Europe. I'd moved there for several reasons--getting him out of my system being the major one. After months of introspection and no contact, I felt more strongly than ever that we belonged together, so I emailed him and told him so. Thus began Try #3.

Ideally you should move to a different country.
Already tried it and it actually made it worse. There were a few months were I actually felt like I moved on and even dated people, but additional contact with new people just made me think of him even more.

Thanks for replies so far. It's really insightful and helping me sort through this madness.
posted by bienbiensuper at 10:29 AM on August 23, 2007


My advice to you having been in a similar position of getting back together over and over again only to end up hurting the other person is that you do your best to break contact. Its good that you have realized that you are just not compatible and it wont work. I remember asking myself, isnt love enough? Isnt love supposed to be some kind of unconquerable force that will allow for people to bridge any gap? No not even close. You know that now and you know it is time for you to move forward.

What you are feeling right now is co-dependence. Getting rid of them is like chopping off your right arm, or some piece of you. It sounds like this is also the end of your first real relationship. Ive heard this story a few times from people in that situation. If so it will most likely be the hardest and toughest breakup you ever go through because you havent gone through the whole cycle of breaking it off, severing contact, doing some personal growth time, healing and finally being ready to meet someone new.

But by staying in touch you are just promoting that co-dependency. That desire to call them every night, whenever something great/horrible happens in your day, or something reminds you of them/your relationship needs to be culled. It WILL fade away eventually but it probably will take awhile and take some discipline.

Also dont spend so much time wallowing in your memories of the person. Get out and take a class or something at night, is there a language you have always wanted to learn or an art class you always wanted to try? Pack up all those love letters and little things he/she gave you and put them in a box. No need to toss them out or burn them, thats pretty extreme. But the last thing you need is a picture of the two of you sitting next to your bed every night to make you cry right before you fall asleep. Also avoid sappy soft rock radio stations and romantic comedies :P

Take the time and heal up and break your codependency with the person. Its time for you to focus on you and who you are for a bit and define yourself as an individual before you incorporate someone else into your life. Also dont date anyone anytime soon. You will just be trying to replace that person in your life instead of really healing up.
posted by Tinen at 10:33 AM on August 23, 2007


I spent 8 years with someone I loved deeply and romantically (and still love as a person). Through 6 years of tumult (high drama, low drama, bureaucratic tumult, cultural tumult) we (er, I) held on to the idea that it was the circumstances around us that made things so difficult. Finally, after 2 years of marriage and "normal" circumstances, it became clear to me that it wasn't going to work.

Lifelong relationships of respect, friendship and love are not built on looking into each others eyes for hours and shivering when you smell him (but, god, how powerful is that stuff, hunh?).

It sounds like in addition to the "love" you've also been hurt terribly, over and over, and have perhaps terribly hurt this person you care about. When are you going to start paying attention to that? At some point maturity, and responsibility for your own self-worth and the well-being of others, becomes a lot more satisfying than hurting yourself and others over and over again.

Find something that's important or interesting to you to accomplish, purely for yourself, and set out to do it. It sounds like you need a positive future to look forward to rather than the fantasizing that pulls you back.

As for your questions:
Is talking/keeping in touch post-breakup the stupidest idea ever?
Given your history, I'd say 'yes." I'd make sure I was in a happy and secure place emotionally before I ever talked to this person again. And I'd count every day I didn't talk to him as a successful day.

How do you accept the fact that you're in-love and always will be, but that you can't be together?
I think you start by reflecting that your current definition of love isn't healthy. Also, it's short-sighted to say you always will be. You just don't know the future. You might be attracted to him forever, but, see, that's different.

How do you accept the failures/incompatiblities and move on without thinking things like, "oh the circumstances sucked and we just didn't get a fair shot"?
For me, it was realizing that failure to learn from failures is worse than failure alone. You've given it four shots, in various circumstances. It's not the circumstances, it's the two of you.

And perhaps most importantly, how do you work to remain close without secretly praying it will eventually work out?

I think you're being coy with yourself. "Remaining close" is barely concealed code for flirting and dancing around each others lives in a tempting way. You're abdicating your choice and agency here - do you notice that? If you want it to work, then one (and probably both) of you needs to step up to the plate in a very overt and active way. Neither of you is. You're passively hoping the universe will conspire to make it "work out".

And this same part of me wants to work to a point where I can see potential in new mates
This sounds really premature to me. I've seen this behavior in myself and others. The only thing that worked for me was getting to a point where I was happy being alone. Only then did I feel stable enough to entertain the idea of being with someone else.
posted by cocoagirl at 10:40 AM on August 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


"I was in a somewhat similar situation -- intense chemistry and love, but we couldn't be together. We tried being friends several times, but always ended up back in bed together... and as long as we were somewhat connected, neither of us could successfully move on. We were only able to get past it when she moved away and we stopped talking."

This is very similar to a relationship I had. It took five years before we finally stopped interacting and were able to move on. During our post-relationship friendship, both of us had a mysterious inability to connect deeply with anyone else. Literally 2 - 4 months after severing our friendship, he started dating his now wife and I started dating my current beloved.

You've got to let this go.
posted by hollisimo at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2007


"And this same part of me wants to work to a point where I can see potential in new mates
This sounds really premature to me. I've seen this behavior in myself and others. The only thing that worked for me was getting to a point where I was happy being alone. Only then did I feel stable enough to entertain the idea of being with someone else." - cocoagirl

Well said. Agree 100%
posted by Tinen at 10:47 AM on August 23, 2007


just shortish, sporadic email updates

If you go for an all-or-nothing cut-off (and in this case that seems very much the right idea) it's surely got to be NOTHING. The difference between nothing and sporadic email updates is 100%. It's binary. Zero and one.

All good luck to you.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:48 AM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yes, of course. The longest we went was almost a solid year of barely talking (just shortish, sporadic email updates) while I lived in Europe.

I don't mean to be unkind, but "barely talking" still counts as contact. So you've never actually fully broken contact.

There's a phrase "Dead To Me" - as in, no contact, no phone, no email, no IM, no nothing. That's no contact.

DTM

Do that.
posted by canine epigram at 10:49 AM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


The only thing that worked for me was getting to a point where I was happy being alone. Only then did I feel stable enough to entertain the idea of being with someone else.

There was a point where I was there - just before I decided to move to Europe. I had a solid run of 6 months without pining for him at all - dating people and feeling like I was almost entirely over him (but still totally loving him, of course). I honestly felt that moving to another country would put the final nail in the coffin, so-to-speak.

But over all, I'm pretty okay with the prospect of being alone (I have tons of personal projects, an awesome job and great friends). What I think I have the most trouble with is letting go of all the futures we'd planned out together (babies, etc). That stuff is the hardest thing for me to let go.
posted by bienbiensuper at 10:51 AM on August 23, 2007


Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

No calls. No emails. No postcards. No messages in bottles, or tied to pigeons. Nothing - no contact, for at least six months (given your stormy history). If you live in the same part of the city, one of you should move to a different neighborhood, so there's no accidental run-ins at the grocery store.

The only friendships-with-exes that I've successfully kept have been those where we had no contact for some months after the break-up.

While you're in no-contact mode, learn something new - language, knitting, woodworking, whatever - you'll meet new people and you focus will start to shift. And try therapy.
posted by rtha at 10:58 AM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you've tried 4 times and you both could not make it work I think it's beyond time to consider that you might not be right for one another.

Keeping in touch with the person is never a good way to go. I did this with a gf I almost proposed to once, and honestly it caused me more pain than you could believe.

It's best to sever ties now. You don't have to suffer ALONE. Get out with your friends, family. Join a new club, take a trip. It doesn't matter, just get out! Don't sit and mope over it. Men, scientifically and historically get over relationships quicker (the average I've heard is about 6 months to a year) than women do. So it's even more important for YOU to get out and keep busy.

If he's not your gf or s/o then she no longer has any claim or right to the benefits of such. Phonecalls or venting sessions aren't allowed anymore. If hewanted to be with you than he would be. Honestly you should cut him loose for his own sake as well as yours. Only then will you be able to really start fresh.
posted by PetiePal at 10:59 AM on August 23, 2007


we've experienced the most intense love interactions I could ever imagine two people sharing (hours in bed staring at each other without speaking; pages and pages of love letters while apart; catching shivers of his smell and presence from yards away)

While this may be enjoyable and exciting, it's not the end all be all of love or 'love interactions'

But just like the love, we hurt each other on an equally intense level - hurt and pain that is (seemingly) insurmountable.

I'm unclear as to why you see hurting each other as a necessary function and an inevitability of this relationship.

And this same part of me wants to work to a point where I can see potential in new mates

What we're also not getting out of your story here is what is so special about THIS ONE DUDE that NO OTHER DUDE IN TEH WORLD has. Can you name for us 10-15 concrete things that you like or appreciate about him? Difficulty: 'I love him' is not an acceptable answer.
posted by pieoverdone at 11:02 AM on August 23, 2007


I am going to tell you the opposite of what everyone else is saying, so you could perhaps classify my anecdotes as exceptions to the rule.

My parents have been apart for 23 years now (separated, not divorced, for practical reasons that aren't worth going into), and they both freely admit that they still love each other, perhaps even are "in love" with each other, but they can't be together. It just doesn't work on a functional level, despite how they feel about each other. They see each other regularly (Mom goes to visit Dad at the office, Dad swings by to say hi to Mom, that sort of thing.) Dad is always around for all the holidays and parties and family "events", which are often at Mom's house. Sometimes Mom brings her boyfriend or Dad brings his girlfriend. Its generally a very happy, friendly environment. I know that in a way they sort of "have" to keep in contact because of their three daughters, but they would have stayed in contact anyway. They are too essential to each other's lives.

I am still in contact and remain very good friends with my ex-boyfriend (of 5.5 years now), who I still love (albeit not romantically). We aren't in "pain", as you say - sometimes we each get little pangs of "what if", perhaps, but overall our relationship is more positive than it was when we were together. Our conversations are a lot like the ones you describe. It is worth noting that we're both in committed relationships - I'm married, and he is engaged. We don't talk about our significant others much to each other, because occasionally we hit a nerve.

I would say that for this to work, you have to keep your relationship problems in the past and focus on what's good about your relationship as friends. It will always seem like it could work, especially when you have shining moments of totally connecting, but you need to remind yourself why it didn't work in the first (second, third, fourth) place.
posted by nekton at 11:03 AM on August 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


"You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight and you'll shag and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends. Love isn't brains, children, it's blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it. " (Spike, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

You need to go cold turkey or DTM or whatever. Some people can make just friends work, you guys clearly can't. No phone, no e-mail, no lingering thoughts--if you find yourself thinking about him think of something else, quick. When you feel like it's about to rip you apart, grit your teeth and remember that only you can say what goes on in your own head and if you say you're going to survive and move on then you will.
posted by anaelith at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2007


While we are appallingly incompatible in a few very big ways,

what ways? concentrate on what separates you, rather than fantasizing about what connects you. I don't mean as a romantic tragedy, but just as a realistic assessment of things. If he were unorganized or unemployed, for instance, don't romanticize that as him being some sort of rugged artsy anarchist type, but look at that as him being an immature kid who doesn't have his shit together [this would be in a case where the person broke up for this reason - in other words, you can't break up with him because he doesn't have his shit together and still romanticize it]. If the problem was that he was never ready to move on to the next step, stop dreaming about the future you would have had together, since there was not going to be a future, since he was never going to take the next step. If the problem was that he never shared his emotions, don't think of that as his being stoic and manly; think of it as his being scared and closed off.

I'm not saying these kinds of reasons are your reasons, but you must have reasons. Whatever the reasons are that you "can't be together", concentrate on them when you think of him, rather than falling in love with your fantasy perfect-for-you version of him, who does not exist. You tried it with him. There were problems, which are part of who he is. You have to accept that he comes with those problems, and not imagine that really he's your soulmate, and these problems are just annoying tricks of fate or something. They're part of who he is. That's why you keep breaking up.
posted by mdn at 11:45 AM on August 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Can you name for us 10-15 concrete things that you like or appreciate about him?

I absolutely could. We are very compatible on all sorts of levels, only maybe three that we are not (but they are major ones). We were best friends for about 5 months before we dated - totally inseparable with very high opinions of each other.

Have you read Wuthering Heights?

Yes! But not since high school. Thanks for that...I even have it on my bookshelf - think I'll reread that asap.
posted by bienbiensuper at 11:46 AM on August 23, 2007


You have to accept that its over; until then you'll keep experiencing the 'rubber banding effect' where you oscillate back and forth (emotionally and otherwise). But accepting that its over is easier said than done. The rubber band has to break and it will always snap back and hurt a little. You have to just take the pain.
A lot of people cant just accept that its over and so wind up sabotaging the relationship subconciously just to ensure that its over; thats when they'll do nasty things that later they'll regret, but at the time seemed necessary to overcome the rubber band.
But one way or another the rubber band has to snap, otherwise both of you will continue to be held hostage by it.
posted by jak68 at 12:08 PM on August 23, 2007


You're not ready to be friends yet. Give yourself at least another 4.5 years apart first. After that period, if you were meant to be friends until then end, you'll have no problems picking up the friendship where you left off.

Closure will come from talking to him again for the first time as a new person years from now. Wait for it.
posted by DaShiv at 12:20 PM on August 23, 2007


Having been through this ... complete sever is the best option. The ex and I could not do that.

Luckily, we had a geography prevent real life meetings but stayed in contact via phone, email, IM. It was a crutch. The problem is that one of you is always longing for a reunion. It switches between the two of you, but someone always wants to get back together. And so the dynamic of want, lust, attraction continues.

Eventually, the ex got past it and we *surprise* ended up as friends. However if that friendship ever, ever threatened my relationship with my current SO, I'd drop my friendship my ex instantly.

If I had it to do over, then I'd pick the sever-all-contact choice. It would have been less pain for both of us.
posted by 26.2 at 12:29 PM on August 23, 2007


You guys have no idea how much this has helped me. Thanks so much for all of your responses!

I wanted to say one more thing about the situation that I think really holds me back from totally letting go. When we broke up the first time, he was completely devastated and still refers to that time of his life as "total despair" - the 2nd breakup was equally hurtful to him (and me, too). Even though it might sound foolish to anyone reading, I really believe that a lot of our issues those first two times WERE circumstances (I won't make this more wordy by listing the reasons why). After I moved back from Europe to be with him for the 3rd try (which seemed to have more ideal circumstances than any other time), there was a noted difference in him. I didn't understand it fully at the time, but in hindsight we've both admitted that all his intense hurt from the past caused him to be majorly calloused and unable to fully open up again, especially to me - the person who caused the hurt.

In addition to extreme fondness/love/whatever, I think my guilt is what brings me back to him over and over. As I hinted at earlier, I couldn't have a higher opinion of him. Outside of my mother, he's the most important person in my life and I respect and love him so much - and that's on a strictly platonic level (his opinions, humor, values - just about everything). And because I have this high opinion of him, it just KILLS ME that I hurt him so much. It's like I made him feel exactly the opposite of how I wanted to make him feel (unconditionally loved, appreciated, respected, etc).

Soooo. I think that forgiving myself for hurting him and accepting that I'll never be able to "make it up to him" is another major avenue to pursue. I just have to realize that the romantic incompatibilities are what caused us to hurt each other - not any kind of specific, malicious intention. That's gonna be a big one, but after all these replies it seems like another necessary step in moving on.

I also looks like I might just have to accept that we'll never be best buds again. That's another huge one...wow.
posted by bienbiensuper at 12:36 PM on August 23, 2007


You haven't answered what you specifically mean by 'hurt'. Were you a psycho calamari hosebeast? Serial cheater? Seal clubber? Wore white after Labor Day? If this guy is the sun and the moon, why did you keep behaving in a hurtful way?
posted by pieoverdone at 12:46 PM on August 23, 2007


If you keep picking at it, it will never heal. You're addicted to the drama. You've already gotten the best advice you ever will from cocoagirl: now you just have to do the painful work of actually, finally, truly letting it go.

It's not easy, but it's easier than what you're doing now. Do both of yourselves a favor and sever contact.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:10 PM on August 23, 2007


If this guy is the sun and the moon, why did you keep behaving in a hurtful way?

We were roommates/bffs before we dated the first time. He'd *just* officially ended a long-dead relationship and had been in back-to-back relationships for 10 years. He really needed to be single for a while, but we weren't able to stop what we started and jumped right into a relationship anyway. It got rough around month six - I felt like he was taking me for granted (we never went on dates or vacations or anything very coupley); I felt pretty unspecial as he started to act more selfish and put others before me constantly (taking trips, pursuing creative projects...all sorts of things with everyone but me); he's not the type to throw around compliments and praise, which I've since accepted....but at the time, it compounded with the first two issues and the result was me feeling pretty terrible and unappreciated. Of course, these aren't issues that come up as best friends, but they were BAD in a relationship.

Around month 8, nothing had changed and I realized he probably did need to be single for a while. It was one of the toughest choices I've ever made, but I broke up with him. Enter GUY2 who swooped in and said all the right things, "you're beautiful, amazing! creative! let's take vacations! let's work on projects together!" etc etc. I hurt him by a double wammy of breaking up and dating someone new within a month. I don't regret breaking up with him, because I was miserable and my self esteem was seriously waining because of how he was behaving. I told myself that we would get back together later, after he'd had a chance to be alone/single/regroup. I do regret dating someone else so new so soon (for many reasons other than just hurting him), but at the time I felt extremely starved for those particular things and well....GUY2 made me feel awesome in a lot of ways.
posted by bienbiensuper at 1:15 PM on August 23, 2007


And with that, I'm done actively talking about this. Our contact is inappropriate and I'm severing contact starting this moment. Wish me luck, cos this is gonna be FREAKING HARD OMFG.


thanks again for all your replies. You guys are the best people on the internets.
posted by bienbiensuper at 1:17 PM on August 23, 2007


Good luck, bienbiensuper. I wish you all the restraint in the world to deal with this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:22 PM on August 23, 2007


yea really, good luck. These things can get ugly. Its like multiple drug addictions all at once, and the withdrawl is just that bad. Sometimes you have to do violence to yourself (metaphorically speaking) in order to go cold turkey. But thats the shortest path to healing.
posted by jak68 at 7:02 PM on August 23, 2007


Just for the record, breaking up with him and going to Guy2 doesn't seem like all that horrible a thing to do. It may have hurt him, but it's not like you cheated on him or ran over his cat. You broke up and started dating someone new. You did nothing blameworthy, really.
posted by footnote at 11:45 AM on August 24, 2007


The way your worded your question made me think that you two feel like you are controlled by your emotions, instead of the other way around. The most important part of a committed relationship is that the emotion is not in control, the people are. Committed, successful relationships must be based on commitment, not on the highs and lows of the emotional roller coaster. In your next relationship, see how things are going for a while, and then decide whether to commit or cut him loose. This shouldn't take longer than six months, in my opinion. Life is too short to deal with maybes (maybe he'll change, maybe it's just this season...). Talk through the hard things, get professional help often if needed, and either get married and choose to stay together through thick and thin, or split permanently.
posted by orangemiles at 4:49 AM on August 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


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