Do I tell my ex how I feel?
June 4, 2009 6:33 PM   Subscribe

My ex-boyfriend is moving out of the state and things feel unresolved. I don't want to regret not expressing my thoughts, but am worried my unloading on him pre-move is unfair.

He broke up with me a year ago (after being together for over three) and while we both dated other people afterwards (me much more seriously than him), there's still a lot of things that were never worked out in terms of what happened. At the time, we were on a short break, in which I moved out. After a couple of weeks, he couldn't do it anymore but wasn't ready to get back together either, so he broke up with me. We've talked and seen one another about half a dozen times and email occasionally. He admits he still loves me.

We are one another's first loves. I'm 30, he's 29. I'm not sure if I just don't know how to deal with being broken up with when I'm still in love with that person, or if I should be making a last ditch effort to see if it could work.

The biggest problem is that he's moving very soon and could potentially start dating a girl he's been talking to that lives where he's going. (He told me about her, though seemed to come up with excuses that made it sound pretty casual). He's also said many times that he'd most likely not be out there more than a year.

I'm at a loss. I don't know if I should keep my mouth shut or spill my guts. I accept that he's leaving, I guess I just want to know if we have a chance sometime in the future.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My internet-stranger gut-feeling is that he's been happy to keep you on the side in case nothing better comes along; downplaying his interest in this other girl, "admitting" he still loves you, etc. Honestly, I'd take his moving as an opportunity for a clean break and just move on.

If it's true that the time it takes to get over a failed relationship is equal to half the time spent in the relationship I'd give yourself at least another six months before you expect to feel fully okay again--especially since you consider him your "first love." (Don't put your life on hold or anything, but don't mistake the normal unpleasant post-breakup feelings for signs that you guys should get back together.)

Just my internet-stranger two cents.
posted by Neofelis at 6:46 PM on June 4, 2009

I'm not sure if I just don't know how to deal with being broken up with when I'm still in love with that person

Certainly this seems to be the case for you.

or if I should be making a last ditch effort to see if it could work.

If you want to get back together with him, tell him and see if he's also interested in that. If he isn't, then get to work on the "moving on" part.

"I still love you" is not an unusual feeling for someone to have toward an ex. I still love most of my exes, but that doesn't mean I'd go out with any of them ever again, even if I wasn't happily married to someone else.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:52 PM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Tell him. Whether you ever end up together again or not is debatable (honest opinion, based on the tone you've set here: no. And I'm writing this as a diehard hopeless romantic disguised as a cynic); but you'll always wonder what would have happened if you hadn't expressed yourself.

That's not going to stop him from dating The Girl Over There. He's telling you about her as a means of making the subsequent news that they're seeing one another (if that occurs) a little less of a blow to you. (I'm reading into this, of course; it's entirely possible that your conversations about what he's expecting Over There included his stating that he's looking forward to being able to hang out with a group of buddies from college, for example. But it doesn't sound like that. Or does it? I don't know. You love him. I hope that also means you know him, his quirks, how he breaches a subject when it's difficult for him to tell you directly, so you know the answer.) And I think it's only natural to some degree that New Place often means new people, new interactions, and potentially new relationships.

Bottom line: tell him how you feel. Be prepared to let him (and yourself) go. Wish him well.

Good luck.
posted by t2urner at 7:12 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

(This is written with the assumption that he wanted to break things off with you.)

My two cents, as a guy who's broken his fair share of hearts: It's over.

I've broken things off with more than one person by leading in with "calling it a break." This is a nicer way to let someone down than by making a no-questions-asked break-up. Also, it's a hell of a thing to dump someone, as there are plenty of nagging doubts on both sides. Some of it is genuine doubt that you're losing the only person who will make you happy, as well as the comfort of affection.

However, in all my "breaks," I've just wanted time to myself to be single. Judging by his still being in love with you, he doesn't want to let you go (either because he misses you, or because he doesn't want to lose your liking him [never underestimate the male ego!]) but his dating other people says to me that he wants to move on.

My advice: Do not talk to him. Let him move away, date someone else, and live your life without him. Eventually, this will get better, and in a year or so, evaluate your relationship while you aren't going through serious emotional withdrawal.

This will get better once you can think about this from a more netural standpoint.
posted by Turkey Glue at 7:21 PM on June 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

Don't do it!!!!!
posted by milarepa at 7:44 PM on June 4, 2009

Let it go. You seem to want closure. It's yours if you just forget about him and move on.
posted by torquemaniac at 7:45 PM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Life isn't like a movie. Without the power of the script, you will never have a narrative closure that's exactly what you want when all signs point that things are well and truly over.

Seconding Turkey's advice. Cut the cord. Stop talking to him (you can tell him, "I wish you well, but I need to heal. Please leave me be.") and give yourself the time to finish grieving the end of your first love.
posted by canine epigram at 7:48 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

An ex called me once, many months after we had broken up, asking for a chance to talk and have "closure." She apologized for how she had treated me, which was admittedly gratifying (but too late). The conversation on closure then became her expressing how she missed me and was hoping we could try again (after a truly painful breakup where I moved out and felt like I'd amputated a limb).

I had to gently break it to her that I was seeing someone and was not going to be revisiting that relationship. It is one of the most agonizing conversations I've ever had with anyone.

Don't do that to yourself, and don't do that to your ex.

Let it be.
posted by canine epigram at 7:53 PM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Confusingly, closure is something you end up giving yourself; it isn't provided to you by someone else. Collaboration to resolve things isn't always helpful, and I don't believe it is ever necessary to end heartbreak. It's easy for strangers like us to say "move on," but you are the one who is going through the agony. I'm just hopeful you don't underestimate your own strength.

First love is powerful. Differently so but also powerful is loneliness. The latter is quite scary, but it's also paradoxical: being alone isn't so bad, but the fear that you might be alone in the future is awful. These powerful states, love and loneliness, have a nasty tendency to mesh in one's consciousness.

I think you free yourself from loneliness by better appreciating time you spend with yourself. If you enjoy your own company, and you love yourself first, the fear of being alone in the future evaporates. You will also start to see that the man you've loved is not the man your ex turned out to really be, and that should help you forgive him for moving on with his life. Forgiveness is healing.
posted by irv4oh at 8:06 PM on June 4, 2009 [23 favorites]

If this was your first love, you have nothing to compare it to. Get working on that.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:32 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

closure is something you end up giving yourself; it isn't provided to you by someone else.

If I could favorite this a hundred times, I would. It's the god's honest truth.
posted by scody at 8:51 PM on June 4, 2009 [8 favorites]

Oh my no. Sounds to me like you are jealous of him being in another town with a girl he likes and this is your chance to mess with his head for a year. Wait. if he returns in a year, and you still feel the same way, then spill on him.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:30 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

If life's about anything, its about second chances.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:35 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

A die-hard romantic here, but I see love as minimum feeling, maximum work. Three year long relationships do not end without underlying issues. And sadly, counter all culturally-fashionable explanations, it IS one of the two who could care more, could not give what the other needed, or had some serious growth to do in order to be in a healthy relationship.

As for second chances, it all comes down to that one person who was less committed to the relationship. Had person done the job of growing up, and still feeling that love, it would be that person's step to approach the other. LW, if it is you, go for it. If it was him, leave this responsibility fully with him, and him only. If he hasn't done his job of growing up as a person, processed the meaning of relationship with you to him, and he even willingly, but half-heartedly, gets back into relationship with you and keeps barely one foot only there, you stand time, energy, and lots of hope to lose. That is the worst that can happen, and it is not how I wish you to experience the first (the only, so far?) true love.

Because love is not enough (I so wish it was).
posted by Jurate at 2:18 AM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

If I understand right, you both had some desire to take a break, (and maybe you were more interested in that than he was?), but then he was the one to really say "let's stop trying?"

If so, rather than taking on some uphill, "last ditch effort to see if it could work," I'd suggest you just accept that he was the one to make the decision, and it sucks but there were these pervasive problems that caused you to move out in the first place. And for those reasons, it would probably never work, so you probably don't have a chance sometime in the future, and you don't want to waste your time since those problems would probably eventually resurface.

It sounds from what you said like you'll both always have a special place in each others' hearts. And you can honor that love and hold those memories as valuable and special, and still let him go and move into the future yourself.

Also, put this song on some mix for yourself.
posted by salvia at 2:59 AM on June 5, 2009

If you already had sex with someone else, it's over. It sounds like you did, so move on. I would never take back an ex who wasn't faithful to me during a breakup and doubt most other men would either.

I don't really understand this. Is this some kind of Friends Ross vs. Rachel situation where the couple endlessly debates whether they were currently dating? Do breakups now mean "I don't want to date you but no one else can, either"?

Anyway, OP, I think it's over. It sounds like you've already talked about this many times. So it's not clear whether spilling your guts would tell him anything new. Your last line is actually a little worrisome:

I guess I just want to know if we have a chance sometime in the future.

There are couples that successfully get back together some time down the line. But the ones that do so seem to be the ones where both parties moved on, probably dated other people and had a period with little or no contact, and generally didn't have an expectation that they were eventually going to get back together. When they did reconnect it was from a place of maturity, stability, re-evaluated priorities, and the perspective and growth to move past what broke them up the first time, or realize whatever the issue was isn't so important anymore.

You don't have that and you never will if you continue to pine after your first love and never move on and never get over him. A little wistful daydreaming is probably okay but accept that you aren't going to get back together because, whatever else happens in your lives, the odds just aren't there. It's also probably time to stop communicating with him.
posted by 6550 at 5:03 AM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

The sense of "closure" you're looking for will likely never happen, or at least not in the immediate and recognizable way you seem to be expecting. In my experience, one relies on passing time and various sometimes-gradual emotional healing processes -- which largely involve getting on with life, family, other loves, career -- to overcome major hurts and losses (whether break-ups/divorces, deaths, or other traumatic life events). They're all a form of grief, really. No magic words can be uttered by someone else, or you, that will cause you both to feel better about the fact things didn't work out. That happens in movies and books, but almost never in real life. Getting older and wiser is a happy result of having dealt with many difficult and ambiguous event and having learned how to live with past loss and pain to still be a content person open to new possibilities.
posted by aught at 6:13 AM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't do it. It's over. Move on.
posted by languagehat at 6:21 AM on June 5, 2009

My ex-boyfriend is moving out of the state and things feel unresolved.

Oh, man - I hate to say this, but he's your ex and he's moving out of state. It's over and this is as much resolution as you will ever get. You need to accept this and move on. And stop talking to him for at least six months.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:47 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Closure isn't something that someone else can give you.
It's something that you give yourself, if you can accept that gift.

It sounds like the clock is ticking and you're acting out of a combination of 'what if' and desperation.

Don't do it.
Accept that it's over, give yourself the closure you want, and move on.
posted by willmize at 6:50 AM on June 5, 2009

Leave it alone. The best way to get closure in a relationship is to close the relationship. Continuing to talk to the ex about what went wrong, or figuring out "what happened" is a way of preventing that closure from happening--in fact, you will likely never figure out what went wrong by talking about it. Sometimes things don't work out.

You don't actually say that you want to get back together with him in your post here. Which, to me, indicates that you just don't want him to love someone else (a common experience with first loves). Thus, spilling your guts is a very cruel thing to do to him and to yourself.

If you outright said "We made a mistake and I want to get back together", I'd say give it one shot and talk to him. Since you don't say that, I think you need to leave him alone.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:32 AM on June 5, 2009

It's over for now. Don't throw your burning passionate self at his feet only to be kicked away.

Date other people for at least a year. Then if after dating other people (that's plural, more than one) he still dominates your thoughts go spill your guts.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:30 AM on June 5, 2009

If you feel, honestly and deeply, that you want to try again, then you should definitely talk to him about it. I also think, contrary to some others' opinions, that if you have unresolved feelings about the relationship, you should talk to him about that. It may be "uncomfortable" but that's okay; that's life for all of us. I'm sure you and your ex have a lot of emotional investment in each other and its worth the conversation.

But don't expect any particular result, and don't beat yourself up if he has moved on or doesn't want to talk about anything. Honor yourself by being honest and direct with him and accept his response. Then work from there.
posted by RajahKing at 9:34 AM on June 5, 2009

In my experience, it helps no one to "air" your feelings after the break-up is over. You've moved on, he's moved on. Whatever you didn't say is best left unsaid in the interest of continuing to lead separate, independent lives. Perhaps, at some point, the time will be right to share what you didn't get a chance to say, but as you mention this - right before he moves - is inopportune at best.

My personal impulse is to cultivate peace and avoid drama wherever possible. It seems to me like telling your ex "how you feel" at this point would bring a lot of drama to both of your lives.

"I still love you" is not an unusual feeling for someone to have toward an ex. I still love most of my exes, but that doesn't mean I'd go out with any of them ever again, even if I wasn't happily married to someone else.

Yes. I told my ex that I could never NOT love him. And that's true. But that "him" is the person he was to me as a husband, not the "him" that exists as an individual post-divorce. Loving him doesn't mean that I could ever live with him again. Hell, I love a lot of people that I know I could never sustain a romantic relationship with. And I managed to be lucky to fall in love with someone I *can* carry on a healthy relationship with. Love is infinite; you always have more, don't feel that because you love someone that you can never love another, or that love is "all you need" to carry on healthy relationships.

I truly believed that loving my ex and his loving me was enough for us to be together. It wasn't. The best thing you can do for yourself is move on and not re-living a failed relationship again.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:27 PM on June 5, 2009

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