Round Two, this time with consideration
February 5, 2010 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Dated my ex for a year, split up for 1.5 years. Recent developments re-awakened my feelings. How to explore this while being considerate to him and our friendship?

A couple years ago, I had a one-year relationship with a guy. I was in my late 20s, and he was in his mid-20s. He really loved me and treated me well, but I kept feeling like he wasn't affectionate enough. I broke up and got back together with him a couple times, and eventually he got sick of my continual complaints and ended things.

For the next year and a half, I was single for the first time in my adult life. I processed a lot of emotions that I had put off, and came to see that much of my love-life behavior was self-destructive. My complaint with my ex (i.e. not being affectionate enough) had been present in most of my other relationships as well. Meanwhile, I did all the things you're supposed to do when "working on yourself" -- I switched out of an unhappy job, traveled, resumed neglected hobbies, and built a close network of friends.

During this period, my ex and I occasionally saw each other. Halfway through, he told me that he still had feelings for me, and it frustrated him because it was preventing him from moving on. We cut down on interactions and just exchanged emails every month or so.

Recently I ran into my ex while I was going through a crisis, and he provided emotional support to me. This meant a lot to me. Afterwards, I felt that he has my back when it matters, and my previous complaints are unimportant by comparison. I began to have romantic feelings for him again. My interpretation is that he felt things for me too, but I could be wrong (or he may have felt them only temporarily).

I would like to explore my feelings by spending more time with him. If I just invite him to hang out as friends, he may say no because he doesn't know that I've changed my mind about my previous complaints, and he wants to keep his distance. If I tell him about my feelings, I'm concerned that:
1. I don't want to raise his hopes if it turns out this was a fluke,
2. people often say that relationships end for a good reason, and it seems smarter to test the waters slowly,
3. my romantic feelings may be unreliable because I was in a vulnerable spot during the crisis,
4. I don't want to endanger the friendship in case we try to date and end up unhappy again.

He might also just no longer be interested. If so, I would be fine just being friends.

Any suggestions on how to approach him in a sensible way? Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Just ask him out on a date.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:03 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

1. I don't want to raise his hopes if it turns out this was a fluke,

I'm not sure this is possible.

4. I don't want to endanger the friendship in case we try to date and end up unhappy again.

This may be possible, but from experience, seems unlikely.

So, is this something you'd still want to go through with if you could not satisfy these two conditions? If not, just move on.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:06 AM on February 5, 2010

If you need help with the wording, try this: "I'd like to try again. Let's go out and see where things lead. How about dinner on Friday?"

If he's not interested, he'll say no. If he is, but the date doesn't go well, it's not as if you pinned him and you guys are going steady or anything.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:07 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're just pussyfooting because you don't want a bad answer. Think of it as Schroedinger's Boyfriend: it's either yes or no, there's not some magical way of asking that will change what he feels if it's not the thing that you want.

Open the box and find out. Open your mouth and talk about it. Have a conversation - don't have a soap opera, just say here is how I feel, how do you feel? Keep in mind that having feelings doesn't dictate any particular course of action, they're just feelings, but at least once they've been expressed you'll know what the next options are.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:09 AM on February 5, 2010 [9 favorites]

Love is a chance. Act accordingly.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:23 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

My current boyfriend and I went through a similar situation: we met in college four years ago and began dating, but when we broke up [mostly due to the fact that I had graduated and my life was in shambles due to the process of trying to find a job / start my life] we tried to remain on friendly terms. Eventually we got to the point where I felt we needed to just stop contacting each other because we were making each other crazy, and for a while, we did. He dated people, and I dated people, and after all that fizzled out, we found ourselves talking again, and then talking more, and then there was a Chihuly exhibit in town that I wanted to see that he expressed interest in, and so I suggested that we go together. We spent the entire day together, and before parting ways, he cracked a joke, asking if he could at least be my "it's complicated". In thirteen days [not that I'm counting, or anything] it'll have been two years since we got back together.

The short version is this: just spend time with him if you can, and feel things out. You don't have to declare to him whether it's time spent as 'just friends' or as a couple. New movie coming out that you want to see? Ask him if he'd like to go with you. Either you'll figure out you're interested, or you'll figure out that you're not interested, and he'll do the same. All you can do it give it a shot.

Good luck! Feel free to MeMail me [or plain old email, address is in my profile] if you want.
posted by alynnk at 12:01 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yep sounds like both of you are pretty emotionally mature, managing to keep a friendship in the face of dating, breakups etc. You might not even need to say anything, seems like this guy knows you reasonably well (and vica versa. Just ask if he wants to meet for coffee/drinks/movie/art gallery/DVD, and judge the vibe from there.

As a guy, in that situation, I would prefer that to "I'd like to try again" because that would put pressure on the date, suddenly all this "omg we are getting back together, are we? is that such a good idea, I'm not sure, is she really into it, are we going to end up heartbroken again" etc.

But if its just friends, hanging out, you can both judge the vibe and act accordingly.
posted by Admira at 1:52 PM on February 5, 2010

yea, I'd agree with Admira - just hang out and see how you both feel about it. Also - one thing my mom has said about my dad is that he wasn't affectionate enough sometimes. They've been married for over 45 years now, and still love each other very much.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:05 PM on February 5, 2010

I hate to say this, but I sense doom. He may 'have your back when it matters', and that's wonderful, but that doesn't mean that on a day to day basis he could ever be affectionate enough for you. Some people just aren't wired that way. It's easy to settle for trustworthy and reliable, but if the affection and dare I say passion isn't there.... then what? On the other hand, I have a dear friend who is dating a douchebag simply because he *IS* affectionate.

There's nothing wrong with looking for both a good man and affection in the same person. Settling for one or the other can leave you frustrated once the newness of the relationship wears off.

And then, doom.
posted by 2oh1 at 5:48 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

exes are exes for a reason. unless you feel that your motives and emotions are concrete, i would suggest you let this go and continue the friendship.
posted by penguingrl at 6:20 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

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