How do I keep from hurting a person I've hurt before?
October 6, 2008 8:37 PM   Subscribe

How do I keep from hurting a person I've hurt before?

I have a friend whom I've known for a very long time. We were close in the past, but have been in separate cities for several years and not in regular contact with one another. A few months ago, he moved to a town a couple hours away from me, and we've been hanging out together on the weekends. (He's trying to find work where I live.) Our relationship became physical about a month and a half ago. Although we've never talked about a relationship, I think we both understand that this isn't just sex. He's been wonderful and generous and very clear that he has strong feelings for me.

I thought all this was a good idea at first. Even though I haven't been very enthusiastic about relationships lately, I thought I was interested in exploring something with him. I'm now realizing I was wrong. I care about this person a lot and am attracted to him, but my feelings are inconsistent. I enjoy being around him, but everything already feels too intense, even though we only see each other every couple weeks. I've had a really bad year in terms of relationships. I'm still recovering a bit, and that might be part of this.

Everything is further complicated by the fact that I've flaked on him before for similar reasons. I sort of initiated the beginnings of a relationship a few years ago, and then backed out. It took a long time (about two years) for him to start speaking with me again.

I'm not sure what I should do or tell him. I don't think I want this to go any further, but I do want him around. Also, I feel like we should have this discussion in person, but that's difficult to do when he's somewhat far away.

How do I handle this in a way that will minimize hurting him?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think I want this to go any further,
Tell him. Tell him quickly and cleanly and without blame. To reduce the pain you cause him, tell him as soon as you can. Don't allow him to invest more into your relationship than he already has.

but I do want him around.
Not your call. He may decide that a relationship with you simply isn't worth the pain. If that's his choice, then accept it and wish him a happy life.
posted by 26.2 at 9:13 PM on October 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Stop being so selfish. You clearly state that you do not want to hurt him, and you equate that with your want to "keep him around".

This dude has a RIGHT to not be hurt (emotionally or physically), and all you have is a want to have him around.

Maybe he only wants to spend time in a situation where there is a possibility for a relationship. Why should YOU get to have your cake and eat it too, while he just waits on the possibility of seeing some cake?

If you don't want to hurt him, be 100% honest with him. I'm guessing you won't really do that though...i think you're want is more important to you than his need to not be hurt.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:13 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow. Well, talk to him. You can't risk anything without risking someone's heart -- yours or his.
posted by dhartung at 9:16 PM on October 6, 2008


How do I handle this in a way that will minimize hurting him?

What you're really asking is how you can minimize your guilt.

1. You've flaked on him before. Thus, if he doesn't see this coming again from a mile away, it's his own fault. That'll teach him.

2. You're not being honest with this guy and you haven't been from the start. Stop doing that. Stop it right now. Call him up and say, "I'm being selfish and I'm sorry if this hurts you, and I truly feel awful, but my feelings for you are inconsistent, and I take that as a sign that we need to back off this relationship. I hope we can still be friends, but for now, let's just put some space between us. Please don't freak out. We'll talk more some other time. Goodbye."

3. Discourage this guy from moving closer to you. It's a bad idea for both of you.

4. Don't encourage him by saying meaningless shit like, "I still want to see you, I still want you around..." He deserves better.

Sorry if this is coming off harsh, but I, like a lot of guys who have been around the block a few times, don't have patience for women who either willfully or accidentally lead men on.
posted by wfrgms at 9:30 PM on October 6, 2008 [9 favorites]


You've got it all figured out -- "I thought I was interested in exploring something with him. I'm now realizing I was wrong."

It seems clear that you guys have a pattern going here. He wants to be close (or extremely close), and you partly enjoy it, but then you find it overwhelming and ask to scale back the intensity. Then, things get more intense again and you both again get tempted to try a romance. And again, you draw the line. This pattern is going to happen over and over until one of you figures out the pattern and decides break out of it completely (probably by stopping the friendship). It sounds from your post ("I do want him around") that you're ready for another turn of the merry-go-round, but judging from what he did before, I wouldn't be surprised if he decides to take a lot of distance from you again.

The whole thing is likely to suck, I'm sorry, but there's no point in feeling guilty. You like the people you like, and you felt the way you did. But you do need to be really clear with him that you're certain that you don't want to be in a relationship with him. No waffling ("I'm still recovering"), no giving him hope, no "I do want you around." You know what he's offering, and it's not a noncommittal friendship, so you have to be really clear with him that you do not want a romantic relationship.

Then, don't let him start making things get closer; draw the line whenever things start to feel at all romantic. You might be tolerating closeness when you don't really want it, or you want it without admitting it, and if you think either of those are going on, you might think about why. Ideally, you wouldn't be in a situation where the intimacy is driven by someone else's feelings; you want a relationship where you desire closeness and intimacy as much as your partner does. Visualization sounds cheesy, but it works, so you might try imagining yourself finding someone you really like, who really likes you back, where you both slowly let down your guard and end up feeling closer and closer and happy together.
posted by salvia at 10:08 PM on October 6, 2008


I agree with wfrgms' advice up till this: Please don't freak out. We'll talk more some other time. Goodbye.

Oof, ouch. If you're cutting off what you've started, he has every right to freak out, and he also has the right to ask questions and have his say. If you do take the honest route, he deserves a chance to respond however he chooses.
posted by timoni at 12:00 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Most definitely do this in person. If you've never been dropped via email, for example, you don't realize how much it sucks. It's cowardly and cruel. Trust your instincts on that one and arrange an in-person meeting.
posted by Askr at 6:25 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I care about this person a lot and am attracted to him, but my feelings are inconsistent.

Why must your feelings be consistent to pursue the relationship?

As for not hurting the person, just talk with them and explain everything instead of flaking. This means not avoiding a difficult talk with him. I'm assuming that's what you did before based on your use of the word "flake" which in my mind means not being up front about things.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:21 AM on October 7, 2008


Although we've never talked about a relationship, I think we both understand that this isn't just sex.

No you don't know that! You're just assuming!

You have a huge communication gap going on. Just say "Hey you know what, I don't think I can do this any more. I am not ready for a relationship and I can't do anything casual with you."

For all you know, he thought this was just a casual thing.
posted by sondrialiac at 9:22 AM on October 7, 2008


Another key point is this: If you want to minimize his hurt due to what happened before, it involves you actually increasing the amount of hurt and difficult feelings you are going to face. We call this "being an adult."

You seem to have real difficulty putting other's feelings first, even if it will be to your benefit in the long-term. Keep this in mind.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:24 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think I want this to go any further, but I do want him around.

You've lost your L.A. Privileges as Marcellus Wallace would say. If you drop him, you will not have a relationship with him.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:39 AM on January 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


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