How do I remain friends with my ex when he's with someone else?
September 9, 2010 8:30 PM   Subscribe

How do you keep your self-esteem level high and your unhappiness level low while remaining friends with your ex who has a new girlfriend?

The ex and I officially broke up awhile before we -actually- "broke up." So basically we spent a month or two still acting like a couple; he wanted to try things again but changed his mind somewhere in there.

We stopped doing that about two weeks ago when we hung out and realized the feelings had gone do to a few arguments we had since the last time we saw each other. It's pretty obvious he no longer feels anything romantically for me... at all. Not even a trickle. I still have feelings for him.

I can provide more backstory if needed but I'm hoping that's enough.

He started dating this girl last weekend, and now he posts on facebook talking about their awesome connection (as he put it, "a connection with someone that's beyond words of explanation") they have, how he's been smiling/blushing/etc, they're spending a lot of time together, how he hopes his search is finally over, etc. I'm not looking forward to the inevitable pictures of them together and the "in a relationship" status, etc.

I've also been comparing myself to her and feeling like I come up way, way short in the looks department. My self esteem is already shaky and knowing me the next thing I'll do is tell myself how much better a person she is than me.

Plus I'm jealous because he used to say those things about ME, and since we were intimate together I also have the issue of imaging them "together" only instead of me being there it's her.

I'd like to remain friends so I won't take any advice to stop being friends with him (sorry.) But other than that I would really like this not to ruin my days, because my life is actually pretty amazing. It's like I'll have this great day, get home and read a facebook status about her, and I'll go from incredibly happy to nearly crying. In fact, I DID cry when he said they'd been kissing/cuddling. And yeah, I asked.

How do I stop torturing myself over this?
posted by biochemist to Human Relations (44 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Hide his Facebook on your feed for a while?
posted by Zophi at 8:31 PM on September 9, 2010 [12 favorites]

HIDE HIM on your Facebook feed. Consider defriending him, even. In a perfect word, everyone could be friends with their exes, but in the real world, it's not that easy. Don't be needlessly cruel to yourself.
posted by MadamM at 8:38 PM on September 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Here's what you tell yourself: so he used to say this stuff about you. And then he stopped feeling that way. Now, he's saying this stuff about her. He'll probably stop soon with the outward honeymoon-phase "omg she's awesome" stuff soon.

Also, this is part of being friends with an ex. You just have to deal with it, ignore it, or not be friends anymore if it comes to that for you. I know you said you're still gonna be friends but it's really ok if you don't want to. Yes, it sucks.
posted by AlisonM at 8:38 PM on September 9, 2010

Posting things like that so early in a relationship on a public Facebook feed is not only tacky, but also sounds pretty insecure and desperate. Hide him from your Facebook feed, roll your eyes dramatically, and try not to think about it.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:40 PM on September 9, 2010 [26 favorites]

I'm not saying to stop being friends with him, but give yourself some space. It's healthy for him in his new relationship and healthy for you in finding a new one.

Stay away from the facebook stuff. When you go there you're inviting the pain. It's like saying, "Hey, I have a papercut! Let me pour some lemon juice on it." Don't do that. If you have a papercut you get some neosporin and a bandaid to make yourself feel better. Do things that make you feel better.
posted by NoraCharles at 8:41 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd argue that some short-term space is essential if you're going to try to be long-term friends. Asking about what they've been doing together (the kissing/cuddling thing) and monitoring or prying for details, more generally, is going to make both of you feel shitty and/or awkward and be a wedge between you. I also second the recommendations to hide the fb feed for a while.

Best revenge is living well - go out, meet new people, see what you find. The world is a lot bigger than it probably feels right now.

posted by jimmysmits at 8:45 PM on September 9, 2010

Try and be the friends who trade anecdotes over coffee every few weeks rather than the friends who swap sexual stories about new partners.

Be kind and patient to yourself. I believe that being friends with exes can be helpful, but unless you give yourself time, every conversation is going to be a weird parallel to the issues in your romantic relationship.

e.g. "I'm going to take this shirt back to the store."
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:48 PM on September 9, 2010 [8 favorites]

I still have feelings for him. . . . I'd like to remain friends so I won't take any advice to stop being friends with him (sorry.)

It sounds like you'd like to remain more than friends, which isn't a good basis for just being friends. You need to cut off contact -- hide his facebook feed, and especially stop asking prying questions about his physical relationship with his girlfriend -- until either you really do just want to be friends, or you don't even want that.
posted by Marty Marx at 8:49 PM on September 9, 2010 [8 favorites]

Maybe you need to distance yourself for a good while, don't rush into this whole "friends with your ex" thing. I'm sure you have plenty of other lovely friends, so just shut him out of your life until you have your own sorted out.
posted by foxy at 8:52 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You need to cut off contact -- hide his facebook feed, and especially stop asking prying questions about his physical relationship with his girlfriend -- until either you really do just want to be friends, or you don't even want that.

posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:54 PM on September 9, 2010

Yeah, Facebook seems to be the problem here. Block his status updates and try to stay busy with anything BUT his Facebook profile. I know it's tempting to comb over every new piece of information and go "but what does that MEAN??" but seriously- not healthy for recovering from a breakup.

If you can, avoid communicating with him through instant messaging or texting. IM/texting makes it a lot easier to ask tough emotional questions like "so did you guys kiss yet? ;-)" and act all nonchalant and cool about it while you're actually crying onto your keyboard. Don't do it!
posted by castlebravo at 8:57 PM on September 9, 2010

You need emergency nookie from a new guy. Date other guys immediately. You will stop caring about your ex in short order.
posted by teedee2000 at 9:05 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can want to be friends, but that isn't the same as being able to be friends--and there's nothing wrong with that.

Give yourself time to grieve loss--you deserve it.

Plus--a "connection beyond words" in two days? The over/under on something like that is 10 days.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:09 PM on September 9, 2010

I hardly ever recommend books of this ilk--the humorous self-help handbook--but this one is also really helpful:

It's a Break-up, not a Breakdown!

There's much more going on with your wounded and troubled heart than reading his Facebook status messages. You can only stop torturing yourself by figuring out how to move on. You've framed your question in a way that precludes the simple answer. So, well, maybe breakups aren't that simple. But if you don't start asking yourself "What can I do to move on?" it's going to be hard to stop hurting.

And, of course, you don't stop hurting for awhile. You've only had two weeks to start accepting that he's gone. You can't get over it and move on overnight. But you do have to start.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 9:12 PM on September 9, 2010

So keeping up with your ex is more important than your own well-being? How much longer do you intend to keep hurting yourself over and over?
This is his probably his rebound girl, and he'll probably shortly get sick of her shit. This is not about you, it's about him, and thinking about how you compare to her is pointless, at best, and somewhat narcissistic at worst, but I bet you already know that.
Hide his feed, and stop torturing yourself, already. Can you get away for a vacation? If yes, please don't take your laptop.
posted by Gilbert at 9:22 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're doing yourself any favours by staying in contact or keeping up to date on what this guy is doing. Be good to yourself by severing all communication channels with him for a while. There are plenty of other people to hang out with!
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:27 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do you know what is better for your mental health and general well-being than hearing relationship details from a recent ex, for whom you still have some feelings, without any sort of no-contact-whatsoever-yes-including-Facebook break involved?

Reading YouTube comments. All day. Every day. For a month.

I'm not advising you try this. It's only an example of a less sanity-testing activity. Take the break. It might hurt more now--but it heals faster. Really. You have a lot on your plate right now, IIRC. And dudes who kiss and tell on Facebook* are not worth the time and drama it costs you to do the friends-without-a-break thing. Really.

*this goes for women, too. Kissing and telling on Facebook is like standing around at recess hollering about how you TOTALLY MADE OUT WITH AN EIGHTH GRADER at Derek Johnson's party last Saturday. it is exactly that classy, mature, and reflective of objective reality. Everyone knows Derek's party was on FRIDAY.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 10:10 PM on September 9, 2010 [16 favorites]

I'm just out of a long relationship. The break was as mutual and amicable as these things can be. I very much want to be friends with the ex, and he wants to be friends with me. But for my own sanity, I needed to take a break from him, and that includes defriending him on Facebook for now. Sent a few emails but they're nightmares to process, really holding me back. Right now, even when we try to help each other we hurt each other. He's picking up the last of his stuff next weekend, and after that I'm going to go radio silent at least until the new year.

Sorry, but if you want to maintain your sanity or stay friends or both, you need to shut him out for a while.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:22 PM on September 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Listen to all the people telling you you need to take a break.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:27 PM on September 9, 2010

Yellowbinder, I've been there. Sometimes, it helps to pull that band-aid off fast rather than deal with the pain for an extended time. Man, I've been there.
posted by Gilbert at 10:37 PM on September 9, 2010

Uniformitarianism Now! really has it.

I popped in to say that it's pretty classless and silly for this person to be writing that kind of stuff on FB after just a few days of dating and so close to his break up with you. Then I realized just about everyone else beat me to it!

I know it hurts to be confronted so quickly with a romantic replacement. That must've really really hurt. I'm sorry. I've been there.

Since it hurts so much, allow me to gently point out it is unreasonable for you to contort your heart and compromise your feelings to remain friends with this person at this time.

In my experience, if someone in his role had more respect and common decency concerning himself, her, and you - they wouldn't write that shit on FB where they suspect a recent ex will see it. He's shown himself to be (thoughtlessly? willfully?) cruel. Not worth the the considerable effort it takes you to be friendly and "understanding" so close in space and time to the break-up.

But you are in the midst of discovering all this for yourself, right?

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:47 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

As long as you want to be more than friends, it's impossible to be just friends. Only when you no longer want to be more than friends can a healthy friendship blossom. That this is terrible, frightening, and gut-wrenching to consider doesn't -- unfortunately -- make it any less true, in my experience. (And I've gone on to be friends with most of my exes.)
posted by scody at 10:48 PM on September 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Look at it this way: you and he tried to make a go of it, and it didn't work. This girl isn't a replacement for you, a challenge to you, or somehow beating you in a contest of love; she's just his first shot post-breakup at finding the love he was hoping to find with you. His pool of potential partners is one smaller than it was before, after you two broke up, and now he's making do as best he can. And isn't it nice he's being so optimistic about it?
posted by davejay at 11:32 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is this the guy you wrote about before? If so, just tell yourself he's doing the same thing.
posted by Houstonian at 5:28 AM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd like to remain friends so I won't take any advice to stop being friends with him (sorry.)

You mean, you'd still like to have a tenuous hold on his life somehow, on the off chance he changes his mind and decides he wants to be with you?

That won't happen. He doesn't even want to be friends with you, though he may say he does to spare your feelings. If he really did, he wouldn't post comments like those to Facebook, right where you were bound to see and be devastated by them. Considering your previous post, it's obvious that he develops compulsive romantic obsessions and is unlikely to settle down with anyone long term, though he will surely leave a lot of girls feeling just like you do in his wake.

tl;dr: Run, girl.
posted by hermitosis at 7:28 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

If this is the guy you posted about before, I dated a similar guy once. He was in love with the rush of new love and once the high began to fade and an actual relationship with issues and compromises began to develop he'd abandon ship.

For your own sanity, you should gift yourself with some space by doing what others have suggested and hiding him from your Facebook feed and taking some time for your feelings to settle. If he cared about you at all he would not be doing this, but it sounds like he's not even thinking about you at all. (Is that the kind of friend you want to have?)

But honestly if you don't want to do that it will probably work itself out in a couple of (admittedly drama-filled for you) months when he gets bored and dumps this girl and moves on to the next one and you can see for yourself how lucky you were to escape in a relatively small amount of time.
posted by Kimberly at 7:49 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's the same guy I posted about before. I've hidden him from my feed for now, and I'm going to take a few days off from talking to him.

The main reason I said I wouldn't follow advice to stop being friends is because I did try that last Saturday when he first posted about her ("Stomach turning? Are these butterflies? I'm blushing too? This feeling... its familiar... But its been so long"). Same scenario... I had a great day, got home and logged onto facebook, and bam! night ruined. I asked him if he was dating again, he said yes and I said I was sorry, but it hurt too much and I couldn't be friends. He asked me to talk it out the next morning (this was at around 3AM), but I said no.

I blocked/deleted him from everything, and it lasted two miserable days until I caved and told him I missed him. He told me he still cares about me and would like our friendship to work out.

It seems like when I have him in my life I still have happy days until I'm reminded, but when I was "officially" not talking to him I was miserable all the time. So maybe I just need to gradually detach from him?
posted by biochemist at 8:06 AM on September 10, 2010

I've found that the only way to stay friends with an ex is not to be in contact for a while. Sometimes a long while. It's the only way one can really detach from an old relationship, especially if you weren't the one who did the breaking-up.

Hang in there. It'll get better.
posted by sdn at 8:39 AM on September 10, 2010

when I have him in my life I still have happy days until I'm reminded, but when I was "officially" not talking to him I was miserable all the time

That's because "officially" not talking to him is a huge concrete reminder that you are not in a relationship anymore. As long as you still get to see and talk to him, the part of you that is still in love with him gets to be somewhat fed and happy. ...until he posts another update about his new girl, and then that's another huge concrete reminder that it's over, and you become sad. Repeat, repeat, etc.

Basically the only cure for this sort of grief is time and distance. You can gradually detach yourself from him, but it's the difference between ripping off a Band-Aid and peeling it off slowly. Peeling it off slowly = less total pain, but it will drag out for a long time. Ripping it off = more pain at first, but it won't last as long.
posted by castlebravo at 8:49 AM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd like to remain friends so I won't take any advice to stop being friends with him (sorry.)

Don't apologize to us - apologize to yourself, because you've dismissed out of hand the only thing that is going to work here. Which sucks, I know, and I'm sorry. But here's the thing: your use of "remain" is incorrect, because you two are not friends now. The way I know that is that he's in a new relationship that makes him happy, and that's upsetting to you. Friends are happy for each other. A good general rule is that if you are friends with someone, but would be upset if that person started dating someone, you are not actually friends with that person. You're something else, and you're something that will cause you nothing but pain.

It seems like when I have him in my life I still have happy days until I'm reminded, but when I was "officially" not talking to him I was miserable all the time. So maybe I just need to gradually detach from him?

I don't know about that - I think you just need to power through the misery. It's going to take more than a couple of days before you feel better, but you'll eventually feel much better. Look at it this way - which would you rather have happen, (a)your leg gets amputated, or (b)your knee hurts a little every day for the rest of your life? You'd probably choose option (b), as would most people. But surveys of happiness have actually found that (b) is much worse for quality of life, while people are surprisingly good at adjusting to (a). So lose the leg.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:58 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was wondering if this was the same guy you posted about before too, and now that you've confirmed it, I think you need to see this guy for what he is. You knew it in your gut when you posted about him before. His romantic declarations don't mean anything. It's been "so long" since he felt this way, when he was spouting this very same bullshit to you a mere 3 months ago? You have nothing to be jealous of because he can't offer anything to women except empty fantasies. In a way, his new girlfriend is in a worse position than you are, not having realized this yet.

If you want to stay friends with him, I'm nthing the advice to ignore his Facebook entirely, even if you don't actually defriend him. When you talk to him, don't ask questions about his relationship and don't engage in the topic if he brings it up first. It sounds a little bit like you're knowingly subjecting yourself to this stuff even though you know it'll make you feel bad -- and that's fairly normal, it can be tempting to wallow after a breakup, but you will heal more quickly if you resist that urge.
posted by spinto at 9:03 AM on September 10, 2010

I am currently doing the no-contact thing with my ex. It was as amicable a break up as I think you can possibly get, and for a month or so afterwards, at his insistence, we stayed in touch. We relied on each other to get through the break up, calling each other when we got really lonely, saying things like, "I'll always love you" and "It will be all right, you're too awesome to not get through this" and just telling each other about how our week had been because some habits are so hard to break.

That "worked" - by which I mean, it appeared to work - until he started dating someone new, and then all of a sudden the comforting reminders were interspersed with pangs of incredible jealousy. It made me miserable. I had to tell him to stop calling and emailing me, I defriended him on facebook. I refuse to give those negative emotions anything to feed on. Because I know if I do, it will take that much longer for me to "move on".

You can be friends with him again. You really can. But take a break, process the break up (the fact that you're miserable is a sign that you're on the right path), and when the idea of him with another lady just makes you shrug a little sadly instead of wanting to go cry into your pillow, then you contact him.

And if he can't deal with that, then he's not worth being friends with.
posted by danceswithanonymity at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

biochemist, people often debate what Metafilter does 'well' or 'not well.' There is an entire spectrum of opinions on the matter.

One thing I think many people would agree on is that AskMe is good at telling people to break off contact and really follow through on it, even though it really, genuinely, cry-into-your-pillows-or-best-friend's-shoulder-or-pets-fur physically hurts to do it and to stick the pan and loneliness out anyway. This is not because people don't empathize with where you are or understand how much you hurt right now. (See upthread for similar personal examples of other people currently in similar places.)

The reason people will tell you to break contact and hold out is because the people answering this and similar questions do know. Most of us have tried the alternative--including gradual detachment, and the ex who still wants friendship to 'work out,' and I wince just thinking about the times I thought I could compromise like that, and the drawn-out, miserable consequences--and in the long run it turned out to suck so much more than holding out through that awful first part of no-contact.

And part of why it sucks so much more is because of the reminding you mention. It's because of the few days of cheer, and then the yank back down into the reminder and the whole damn internal cycle restarts. Again and again and again.

I learn by doing. I go forth directly and boldly as if I am captain of the damn Enterprise into patterns that I have been told would hurt me more. When it comes to the end of romantic relationships, every time I have decided to have Mr. Sulu take us to warp speed, damn the advice and the torpedoes, it has ended in more pain than necessary. It has. And the people in this thread don't want that for you. We want you to have better.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 9:07 AM on September 10, 2010 [8 favorites]

Seconding oinappop or whatever there name was (they posted at 8:40 my time according to this, it was near the top like third or fourth response or something). Dude does that, that quickly... He may as well be posting "LIEK ZOMG! I'M TUTALLY OVER YU LOL HTTPBBQ!"

Which, for those not fluent, I translate as "Damn, I want her to see that I came out best and that I'm not hurting or having any regrets, even though I am. I'm winning!"
posted by Biru at 11:25 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

By gushing over his new relationship on Facebook, he is not being your friend. The fact that he is being so cavalier about discussing it, knowing that you will be reading about it all so soon after breaking up, is not the act someone being caring towards you. I am generally all for staying friends with exes, but that is when there is a true friendship and real caring. This doesn't have a healthy ring to it.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 12:06 PM on September 10, 2010

You know what classy people do?

Their relationship ends, and maybe they jump right into another one. But they don't gloat about it, they pay attention to it and make sure it's healthy for them. And, if the other person pushes them to post about it on FB, they say "sorry, new love, but my old love is on my friends list, and it would be hurtful for me to do that so soon. Besides, we're just starting out; let's take our time."

But, ah, he's not classy.
posted by davejay at 9:17 PM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I haven't spoken to him since I posted this and I did well with that. And although I did hide his feed I snuck a peak just now to find a post with 24 comments that consisted of them saying sweet/mushy things to each other. Sigh. I know I need to delete him at this point but I'm afraid if I do that I'll cave in again in a few days.
posted by biochemist at 6:57 AM on September 11, 2010

I just can't believe it's been exactly two weeks tomorrow since he was that way with me. And since he went out with her six days after we "broke up," she must have asked him out before then. It hurts my brain just thinking about it.
posted by biochemist at 7:05 AM on September 11, 2010

And even the day it happened he didn't seem to care. It was like one of those movie jokes where something terrible happens and the characters look for a moment, shrug and go, "Oh well! Back to the party!"

I mean I know people fall out of love all the time, but I would think it would still be a disturbing event. I was pretty devastated in any case. He was all sunshine and kittens. I asked him if it bothered him that day and he said, "A little."

ANYWAY... I know this isn't what AskMe is for, so I'm gonna go up and re-read all the responses and work up the courage to delete him.
posted by biochemist at 7:15 AM on September 11, 2010

I just can't believe it's been exactly two weeks tomorrow since he was that way with me. And since he went out with her six days after we "broke up," she must have asked him out before then. It hurts my brain just thinking about it.

Mine too, for what it's worth. I'm usually not in favor of talking shit about exes, but this guy sounds like a real piece of work. I don't even know you, and I can promise you you're better off without him. Take care of yourself.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:12 AM on September 11, 2010

biochemist, your latest updates make my heart hurt for you. You're worth so much better than this.

I think you have to remember that his actions are not a reflection on you, but on him. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.

You know what to do, and yes it's going to suck. You will be miserable for days, or weeks. I gather from previous comments that you were only together a few months, but that still doesn't make it any easier. Hang out with your friends, talk to your parents if you have that kind of relationship with them, go for a run, learn new things. Don't feel like you have to sit with the pain, get out and do things!

Once you've had some time to grieve and wallow, which is perfectly natural, you need to get mad. Seriously. I love my ex, but the way he treated me the last few months was pretty shitty, so though I'm sure we can be great friends someday, it does me a lot of good to rage at him (to myself, or friends). Go from "How could you do this to me, I miss you so much *sob*" to "How the fuck could you do this to me, fucker? I'm awesome and you treat me like this? What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Listen to sad music, angry music, and "yay me!" music. Some great recommendations in this recent thread, or feel free to MeMail me for the songs that have been getting me through my heartbreak. One of the ones on constant play for me is Gives You Hell by All American Rejects. It's a petty petty song, and honestly, my ex doesn't deserve such bile, but for now it's just what I need.

In time, you may be ready to be friends with him, or you may realize that you don't want to be. And that's ok. It doesn't matter if you've told him you want to be stay friends, you might find that once you've got some distance, that's the last thing you want.

You're stronger than you know, and you will feel those wonderful feelings again. And the hive mind is here for you, it's certainly been here for me.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:27 AM on September 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

I read through their lovey-dovey exchange one more time, then I deleted him. I'll update in a few weeks to let you guys know if I've managed to stick to it.
posted by biochemist at 3:16 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 7:13 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

They broke up yesterday or the day before... soyeah I was TOTALLY wrong thinking he'd met his soul mate and they'd last forever and what-not.
posted by biochemist at 9:30 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

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