Should I be more supportive to an ex?
September 26, 2008 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Am I wrong for not being supportive to an ex?

I've posted questions before, some anonymous, regarding a breakup I've been through recently (last few months).

We were together for 3 years, completely devoted to each other, almost got married. She's a few years younger however.

She started to become interested in someone else, which ruined my trust in her. I wasn't perfect either, but I never cheated or was interested in anyone else. It was also a long distance relationship for half of the 3 years.

After a while I realized that in the future I could probably be happy with someone else, and even if not, I'd rather be alone and unhappy, than together with someone I don't trust and stay in an unhealthy relationship.

I've since stopped talking to her, deleted all her phone numbers, deleted her from every IM app, Facebook, everything. I also asked her to not call me, or contact me.

I've not stopped loving her, but I realized I needed to end the relationship, it was both physically and mentally unhealthy for me. I told her this is how I need to deal with it, please don't make it harder.

Since that happened, a couple times she's called and I completely broke down, added her back and started talking. However she has a new boyfriend (not the same guy she was interested in that made us break up), and it's not something I can deal with. After a couple days I told her I couldn't deal with that, and deleted her again.

A couple days ago she called me on the verge of crying. She and her new boyfriend had gotten into a fight. She asked me to add her back when I got home so we can talk. She told me I was her "comfort zone", and talking to me made her feel better. She isn't broken up with the other guy, they're still together. I also listened to her tell me how he made her a photo collage, just like I had made for her years ago, and she thought it was "weird". How he bought her a nice box to put their stuff in, because he saw she still kept a box in which she put the stuff I bought her.

I admit that at any time I could have told her to stop telling me these things, but I've come to realize I'm the kind of person that likes punishment, so I've tried to get myself out of situations that are unhealthy for me. I'm also doing my Masters, and trying to maintain my grades (all As so far despite the trials I've been through).

When she doesn't call, I try not to think much of her with varying success, but I'm usually OKAY. Whenever she does call, I just get emotional and end up breaking down, and crying on the phone with her, in like less than a minute.

She also asked if I think we could work things out. I told her I don't think shes in a position to know exactly what it is she wants.

The same night she called a few days ago, I told her it's unfair of her to call me when she needs help. It's difficult for me, and I'm trying to deal with this how I can. I wish her happiness. She said she'd try not to call, and if she calls next time if I don't want to start this again, let me not answer. I also think that is unfair.

So (FINALLY!) the question. Am I being unfair? Should I be more mature and just accept that we are no longer together, and just accept her as a friend and be someone who can be there for her? Am I being immature and burning my bridges?
posted by althanis to Human Relations (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You're not being unfair at all. She's being selfish beyond belief in wanting you to help her with her current relationship drama.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:09 PM on September 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


She told me I was her "comfort zone", and talking to me made her feel better.

You're not being unfair at all. She's using you, and she's said as much. Is it burning bridges? Maybe, but some bridges don't go anywhere good.
posted by katillathehun at 12:10 PM on September 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


Run. Run far away. Stop taking her calls. You are being horribly manipulative and that's crap.
posted by Ponderance at 12:11 PM on September 26, 2008


Sorry horribly maniupulatED, damn typo.

Run.

Run now.
posted by Ponderance at 12:12 PM on September 26, 2008


She told me I was her "comfort zone", and talking to me made her feel better.

YOU ARE NOT A PILLOW, YOU ARE AN ACTIVE AGENT
posted by Greg Nog at 12:14 PM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, I know I recommend this on almost every relationship thread, but for Christ's sake read Facing Codependence. If you were not completely enmeshed in codependence, it would never in a MILLION years occur to you that YOU were the one who was being unfair here.

You do not have a responsibility to be someone's teddy bear and hugbox forever just because the two of you dated once.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:15 PM on September 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


You are not being unfair. Please don't let her manipulate you into feeling guilty for something that you have no cause to feel guilty over.

Do not stay in communication. You don't have to do it with bitterness or anger, or anything like that. But very often you simply can not be friends with an ex. There is too much potential for further hurt to you, and to her as well. It's not fair to either of you. Just wish her the best and tell her to find a girlfriend to confide in. Do not get drawn into explaining, justifying, or making excuses. If you get sucked in to a conversation, you will cave, because she knows exactly how to make you do what she wants. History has shown this.

You sound like a kind-hearted person who wants to help, so it's difficult to say no. But you have to. If you want to help someone, take that energy and volunteer at a soup kitchen.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 12:16 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


You're not being unfair, but don't put all the blame on her; you could have stuck to your guns if you'd really wanted to. She sounds a little mixed up right now, and so are you. You need to close that door and lock it - don't let her reopen it this time.
posted by bettafish at 12:17 PM on September 26, 2008


Seems to me she could talk the same things over with one of her non-ex friends, and that would take less of a toll on the friend than talking to you takes on you. Surely she has girl friends?

I mean, it's completely reasonable to expect her to talk to them instead of you. The only thing you do that they can't is make her current boyfriend jealous.
posted by Mike1024 at 12:22 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


You're not being unfair at all.
posted by Nattie at 12:22 PM on September 26, 2008


Don't answer the phone when she calls. Or change your phone number. Or lose your phone for a few days.

Whatever it takes, but now is not the time for you to be the one supporting her. She has other friends, yes? (if no, then she needs to be making them instead of relying on you, anyhow).

Your responsibility now is your own mental sanity, which is "okay" when you don't talk to her. So, don't talk to her, especially not when she's in crisis mode.

Maybe some point in the future it'll be ok, but that'll be when she isn't trying to "work things out" with you, and when her talking about another guy she's seeing doesn't make you unhappy. Whenever that point is, it's not yet, so don't answer the phone.
posted by nat at 12:23 PM on September 26, 2008


I told her it's unfair of her to call me when she needs help... She said she'd try not to call, and if she calls next time if I don't want to start this again, let me not answer. I also think that is unfair.

Life's unfair.

By which I mean, going back and forth in your mind about what's "fair" for her to do (or not do) is just so much sound and fury signifying nothing, ya know? Repeat after me: I CANNOT CONTROL HER ACTIONS. I CAN ONLY CONTROL MY REACTIONS.

You should re-program her number in your cell phone under the name, "DO NOT ANSWER." This will be a helpful reminder to you to not answer when she calls you, since you don't want to talk to her. You're an adult. You don't have to talk to her just because she calls. Stop answering the phone.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:23 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


She told me I was her "comfort zone", and talking to me made her feel better. She isn't broken up with the other guy, they're still together.

Hey, doormat ... tell her to grow up. You've done too much for her already.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:32 PM on September 26, 2008


She's being unfair, using your feelings for her refuge. Delete her, and don't answer when she calls.
posted by notsnot at 12:33 PM on September 26, 2008


This is a matter of willpower. You NEED to sever contact with this woman. If she calls you, don't answer, or JUST HANG UP. It may make you feel like crap the first time, and maybe the second. But, in a matter of a few days, you'll feel better about having done so.

Consider also this: You're going to have a lot of trouble finding a new g/f until you fully excise the old one.
posted by Citrus at 12:34 PM on September 26, 2008


Let's take an example of an ordinary couple. For whatever reason, the wife is mad. She has a lot of emotional poison from an injustice that comes from her husband. The husband is not home, but she remembers that injustice and the poison is growing inside. When the husband comes home, the first thing she wants to do is hook his attention because then the poison can go to him and she can feel relief. As soon as she tells him how bad he is, how stupid or unfair he is, that poison she has inside her is transferred to the husband.

She keeps talking and talking until she gets his attention. The husband finally reacts and gets mad, and she feels better. But now the poison is going through him, and he has to get even. He has to hook her attention and release the poison, but it's not just her poison, it's hers plus his. If you look at this interaction, you will see that they are touching each other's wounds and playing ping-pong with emotional poison. The poison keeps growing and growing, until someday one of them is going to explode. This is often how humans relate to one another.

Please don't explode.

Inspired by The Mastery of Love.
posted by netbros at 12:35 PM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's unfair for her to use you as a "comfort zone" and offer you nothing but grief in return.

You should change your number.
posted by studentbaker at 12:39 PM on September 26, 2008


She's a basket case. She doesn't know what she wants. If you took her back, she'd end up calling her other exes to complain about you.

You're a fallback for her when she has issues with her BF. Don't fall for it. I know it's hard because you're addicted to her and the drama.

But, as others have said, run away. Run far away. Stop all contact with her. Think of this as an addiction that you have to break (Cigarettes, Booze, Coke, etc.). It'll take about six weeks. Those six weeks will suck but you will feel so much better when she's finally out of your system.

And when you do finally find an adult relationship, you will laugh at the drama this one caused.

Good luck.
posted by cjets at 12:47 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


As long as you're in the "Psychology and Self-Help" section getting Facing Codependence, you might want to pick up How to Break Your Addiction to a Person to follow up on cjets's very wise comment.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:52 PM on September 26, 2008


Am I being unfair? Should I be more mature and just accept that we are no longer together, and just accept her as a friend and be someone who can be there for her? Am I being immature and burning my bridges?

What bridge would you be burning, exactly? The bridge that leads to an emotionally immature, manipulative woman who uses you for her own needs without any consideration for your feelings? That bridge? NUKE IT FROM ORBIT!

I highly recommend that you consider that you have codependent tendencies. I think someone mentioned a good book in one of the comments above - there are also a lot of good resources on the internet. It's not ok to hurt yourself catering to the emotional needs of someone else. It's not selfish to refuse to do so. If you can figure out why you are doing this now, then you will have the opportunity of building an awesome relationship with someone healthy. If you don't - then you will date incarnations of this woman for the rest of your life.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:54 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


If she cared about you as a friend, she would be supportive of you by respecting the clear boundaries that you set around your interactions. You've told her that her behavior is hurtful, and she has decided that her comfort is more important than yours.

You don't deserve to be the fallback guy. Let her go and focus on healing from the breakup. It's really grueling trying to be responsible for someone else's happiness, and it's a recipe for failure. Stop, and work on your own happiness instead.

Best of luck and be strong.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:57 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


althanis: Am I being immature and burning my bridges?

No. And that's your whole mistake, guy.

She's a person who's desperately in need of help and support. You, my friend, as nice as you seem, are not the person who can give it to her. What's more, given your soul and outlook, the world needs people like you to keep from being dragged down by people like her

Get a new cell phone number and email address, guy.
posted by koeselitz at 1:15 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


If it hurts you, don't do it. Simple as that. If it ever stops hurting you talking to her, you can try again. If you feel yourself falling into the bad hurty feeling again, then stop.

It might hurt now to think of not talking to her, but in a month it'll be better for good. Just trust me on this one.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 1:32 PM on September 26, 2008


You're telling a story that breaking contact with her is "immature," and continuing to be in contact is "mature."

But based on what you've said, I think it's more accurate to see breaking contact as mature, wise, and self-loving -- and continuing to let her dump on you as immature and masochistic.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:35 PM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's not unfair of you to not want to be with someone who isn't sure whether they want to be with you. If she doesn't know she wants you, absolutely and categorically, then you certainly don't want her.

You need to protect yourself. Get out of this situation.
posted by peggynature at 2:31 PM on September 26, 2008


I told her it's unfair of her to call me when she needs help. It's difficult for me, and I'm trying to deal with this how I can. I wish her happiness. She said she'd try not to call, and if she calls next time if I don't want to start this again, let me not answer. I also think that is unfair.

You've pretty much nailed this.

And you clearly know what to do: Don't answer.

In these the days of caller ID, it is tough to see that someone is calling you, but it's your choice to answer or not answer. If you answer, you know full well what you're getting into. That's cool if you WANT to be supportive of her, but if you're not ready for that (and honestly, it sounds like she's really, really abusing your good nature by dragging you into this), you're just making yourself miserable. If you don't answer, you might feel guilty about it, but just remember these are HER problems and your main responsibility now that you two are no longer in a relationship is take care of YOURSELF.

Be strong!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:46 PM on September 26, 2008


Yeah, I was that girl and my ex gave me another chance to contact him even though it was horrible emotionally for both of us.

It was pointless, selfish, and then we did get back together, and there started a year plus of hell as we resented each other, constantly punished each other (You broke up with me and dated another guy! You're being passive-aggressive! You're withholding sex! and so on and so on) and basically suffered because the relationship, which should have been over anyway, had gotten eons worse. The breakup and time apart eroded any trust we still had and supplied us with multiple open emotional wounds.

In short, get the hell out, for her AND for you.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:49 PM on September 26, 2008


You are not being unfair at all. She is. Forget about her. Doesn't she have friends that she didn't date for several years to unload her problems on?
posted by fructose at 3:14 PM on September 26, 2008


She said she'd try not to call, and if she calls next time if I don't want to start this again, let me not answer. I also think that is unfair.

Look, the mere act of pressing a button on a phone is not unfair. That's ridiculous. She's absolutely right in that you shouldn't answer the phone if you don't want to talk to her.

It's unfair to expect you to answer. It's unfair that your relationship is so unbalanced. It's unfair that she wants to make herself feel better by (knowingly or unknowingly) making you feel worse. But the thing is, you KNOW all this about her. She's not pulling a con to try and make you think that she's one way, but in reality she's a completely different way. She's very transparent about all the ways in which she's bad for you.

There's lots that she's doing that's unfair, but you gotta realize that she's not being mean to you by simply making those phone calls. You're being mean to yourself by answering them.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:19 PM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


I disagree, 23skiddoo. I think she's being selfish as hell by making those phone calls, because he's said that he doesn't want to receive them but she just ignores the wishes he expresses.

Now, granted, he caves in. But it's still disrespectful as fuck not to take someone at their word about whether or not they want contact with you.

The OP needs to be consistent about asserting his own boundaries. But she's being a jerk in not respecting them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:38 PM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


I could probably be happy with someone else, and even if not, I'd rather be alone and unhappy, than together with someone I don't trust and stay in an unhealthy relationship.

You've got the right idea there. But don't forget another possibility: you could be alone and happy.

From what you wrote, it sounds like you already know you need to break of all contact with her so that you can heal and get on with your life, but your belief that it's immature to burn bridges is holding you back.

When my ex and I were breaking up after 14 years together, he told me various intimate details of his relationship with his new girlfriend. It hurt me terribly. He knew I was still deeply in love with him, and didn't want him to leave. "Maintaining a friendship" was his way of rationalizing this selfish and disrespectful behavior (and perhaps a way of assuaging his guilt as well).

I endured this sheer torture against my better judgment. I endured it because I couldn't bear the thought of cutting him out of my life entirely, because I didn't want to believe that he was capable of such behavior toward someone he ostensibly loved, and because of my unexamined belief that the most "mature" way to handle a breakup would be to try to maintain a friendship with my ex.

Eventually, though, the pain became so intolerable that I didn't care one bit whether it was mature. Nothing mattered except putting an end to the pain. It broke my heart to do it, but I severed all contact with him. Only then did real healing begin for me. Looking back, I wish I'd done it much sooner.

Sometimes bridges need to be burned.
posted by velvet winter at 3:53 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Don't pick up the phone" is easy advice to give, and it's the most common sense thing to do in this situation - but if it were that easy for you, you'd have followed that advice LONG ago.

Go find something to keep yourself busy. Get a new hobby, bury your nose in your studies... the more you have going on, the less time you have to be talking to her.

There are probably plenty of ladies near you just itching for a guy like yourself to come into their lives - invest some of your time and energy into them instead of wasting it on being your ex's emotional tampon.
posted by juicedigital at 4:09 PM on September 26, 2008


I think she's being selfish as hell by making those phone calls, because he's said that he doesn't want to receive them but she just ignores the wishes he expresses.

Every time he answers the phone he proves that he didn't mean what he said. This is the tough part of breaking out of codependent relationships - you get to do all the things that are bad for you and blame the other person for it.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:40 PM on September 26, 2008


I suppose what I find most sad about this althanas, is that she's not being a good friend to you. At least not right now. Friends don't actively engage in activities that they know will hurt someone they care for if they can avoid it - particularly if it isn't in their friend's best interest. She sees that her calling you hurts you, but it doesn't seem to resonate with her.

So what you've got is you thinking about her, and her thinking about her - herself and her pain. That's a lot of her on the table. No room for you on that plate.

Someone once told me that friendships, like many beautiful things, have an arc. They begin, the blossom and one way or another, they end. Many sad things also have that same arc. Like 'getting over it'. Right now, at least for now, your body and mind are telling you that you need this relationship to end - as sad as it is, you want it to. You're off try to get your arc on, and she's tailgating, crowding your space. She's killing your arc. What friend does that?

So what if you can't be the type of person you think you 'should' be (a close friend, able to altruistically subdue your own pain for someone else's happiness)? Aw kiddo, is she doing that for you? Because if she was she'd be hitting therapy, or talking to friends, or reading books about how to have healthy, comforting relationships so she could engage in one with her new boyfriend. But she wouldn't be low-self-esteem dialing (a variation of drunk dialing :) ) your digits.

So forget whether it's 'immature' or not (by the way, it's not). You're in pain. It's how you feel. Why rush your arc of 'getting over it' if that's not in your best interest? It isn't as if she's contacting you because it's in your best interest. It's because it's in hers.

Can you try to just appreciate that this will all work out if each of you take care of yourselves first, and each other second? She'll call you because it's in her best interest to do so, and you'll do your darnest to avoid her because it is not in your best interest to talk to her right now.

Good luck.
posted by anitanita at 4:41 PM on September 26, 2008


You're not responsible for her any more. That's what breaking up means.
posted by orange swan at 4:56 PM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's very good that you realize that you have a streak of emotional masochism. I have experienced this myself. It's much, much better for you and everyone else you care about in the long run, though, if you don't give into the temptation to submerge yourself in the pain. Really, it's only "exquisite" for so long, then it becomes exhausting, and not just to you. You need to stop talking to her for as long as it takes you to get over needing the hurt. Devote yourself to your other friends or do something otherwise meaningful, but you need to stop talking to this girl right now.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:23 PM on September 26, 2008


Change your phone number so she can't call you anymore.
posted by All.star at 5:32 PM on September 26, 2008


Remember all the sweet, and intimate moments you had with her? Those hour long phone calls? The weekends away? Remember all the great things about relationships.....

The man she does these things with now is not you. You don't owe her anything.
posted by Deep Dish at 6:16 PM on September 26, 2008


Thank you for all of your advice everyone, and the encouragement.

I realize that ultimately I am the one responsible for my own actions (such as answering that call), and I'll keep trying. Taking her off my IM and deleting her numbers was a major step which took me many weeks to do, and I believe I am making progress.

Thank you again.
posted by althanis at 6:45 PM on September 26, 2008


You could always charge her a pyschologist fee for your services. Due to the fact that you need to seek theraputic means after talking to her due to the stress it cause you. When you express this in monetary terms I am sure she will stop calling you.
posted by Rolandkorn at 7:01 PM on September 27, 2008


It's nice to stay on good terms but as she's a nutter and he either already was a nutter or at least certainly is now (perhaps??) - that's a whole different ballgame! Nutters get you stalked and stabbed. (No seriously they do.) There will be plenty of other ex's to remain amicable with... :) Unless you have a thing for teh crazy bitches. Then just move towns and change your name. Rinse and repeat.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:08 AM on September 28, 2008


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