How do I move on when I broke all the break up 'rules'?
September 12, 2010 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Another break up: maybe it is a special snow flake. You know how almost everyone tells you the no contact rule after a break up? Well, I didn't follow that. I need your help

So four months ago, my then boyfriend and I broke up after four months. I was in the middle of insecurity/anxiety attack and I decided to break up and he agreed since we've been fighting. This is the breakup story, it's long.

We still talked/hung out after that, and I finally told him we shouldn't. We had no contact for maybe 2 weeks. He found out I was about to leave out of state and we started hanging out again. We slept together a couple times.

The last time we hung out, a day before I was supposed to leave, I asked him if he still loved me and he said yes (It was 4 am and I was inebriated. He wasn't.) We only made out/other stuff, but no sex. I don't know why, but it didn't feel like goodbye. It just felt intense.

He has admitted that he's not over me, but he still wants to be friends. He feels like once he loses people, he never gets them back (for real, that's what he said). He also continues to say how he only accepts this friendship, and it's just for now. He said he doesn't feel that way anymore before he said that stuff. I just get really frustrated because our conversations get dragged on about friendship. I'm flattered, but I don't think I feel that way. And I also don't want to believe him.

The thing is, I want to move on. I want to get over him. But I also want to be friends. I don't want to get in a big ball of anxiety every time he doesn't reply or when some girl posts on his Facebook or when I think about all the girls he could be talking to. I don't feel as miserable when I don't talk to him. Sometimes, I feel angry. Sometimes, I just don't care. I can't tell the difference if I'm over him, or our friendship just kinda sucks. And call me a bitch/whore now, I'm bored, that's why I like talking to him (and hanging out with him, when we were in the same state).

I need help. I want to remain friends (because of his wishes and I will admit I'm lonely) but I also want to get over him, whatever that means. I feel that maybe I'm being too nice. I talk to him because I don't like feeling lonely, but it has also brought up some problems. Has anyone gone through this? What should I do? How do I move on when I broke all the break up 'rules'?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Some people can remain friends with exes and others can't.

If you want to remain friends with your ex, that's great, as long as you and your ex agree on the terms of your new relationship.

But if you can't manage it be honest with yourself and move on.
posted by dfriedman at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2010

You have to pick one. You can either get over him and try to be friends later or you can try to be friends and get over him later.

In my experience the only way it works out is to get over him then try to be friends. You have to go into the friendship with a clear head or things just get all muddled, confusing, and complicated.

It sounds like being around the guy is hurting you. Friendship is supposed to be a nice thing. I think you really need to take a few months (not weeks) and get your head in the right place before you see him again. Then when you do see him again: quit with the sexy time, it'll just confuse things all over again.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:41 AM on September 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

Friends is something that can only truly happen once both of you have gotten rid of the relationship bond. The only thing that really gets rid of that is moving on and/or time.

The fact that he'll hang out with you 'til 4am, make out with you, the occasional sex - that's not friends, that's friends with benefits.

You need to cut him off. This with-benefits stuff is a bunch of tentacles wrapped around you, and you both need time and space to loose them.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:44 AM on September 12, 2010

i'm not sure why ppl seem to think they can remain or "just be" friends with someone for whom they harbor deeper feelings. you obviously do bc you aren't over him, as you have admitted. contact with him gives you anxiety, you get jealous of girls posting on his facebook, jealousy in general of other (potential) girls in his life.

cease contact with him. hide his facebook posts. get on with your own life. when you have, get back in touch with him and then see if a friendship between the both of you is still viable.
posted by violetk at 9:46 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Re-read all the answers to your last question, and follow the advice this time. You don't need any more advice, you just need to follow the advice you've already been given. It sucks, I know, but the reason people suggest cutting off contact now is because that's what will help ensure you can be friends in the future. Good luck.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:49 AM on September 12, 2010 [14 favorites]

As Captain Jack once said, "The code is more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules." In this case, the guideline to avoid your ex for a few weeks/months/years after breakup is exactly because millions of us have done the same thing you did: too much contact right after break up leads you to this in-between space that's no good for either of you.

So, I think this is the point where you look at that guideline, realize why it's there, and implement it in your own life. Let him know you're open to friendship later, but cut it off now.

It's hard being lonely (been there!) and wanting to talk to your ex, who knows you so well, but really, really don't. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter, an abuse hotline, an Alzheimer's ward, whatever and get out of your own head for a bit while doing some good for others. It'll help you fill up your time while you reconnect with friends and make new ones. Time does heal.
posted by librarylis at 9:52 AM on September 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

You need some time apart. You need it, for your own mental clarity, and he needs it because he's stringing you along.

You guys can possibly be friends again. But not right now and not just yet. Time apart will enable you to get a grip on your feelings. You'll know you're ready to be friends again when you can think of him having sex with another girl and be happy for him. Until you get to that point, you aren't ready to see him. Right now, you can't afford to be friends.

He is not the only person in the world. Now would be a great time to start a new hobby or work on an existing one, because it will enable you to meet new people. Make yourself some new friends and stop relying on this guy to be the only person you can turn to. You can no longer turn to this guy, because it's too emotionally hurtful to you.

He's probably not being malicious when he has these conversations with you about friendship and stuff, but he needs to realise what this is doing to you. He needs to accept that for right now, you two can't hang out (and certainly can't have sex!). If he wants to be friends, then he'll be willing to accept that you need some time away from him to get yourself back to rights. If he can't accept that, then he's not a friend.

Whatever happened, happened. Start again, fresh, from right now. Tell him that you need some time away from him and that you'll contact him when you're ready to. Get yourself back out there, meeting people, and when you're ready, rekindle the friendship. Hopefully, by this time, he will have accepted the fact too. No contact means no texting, blocking him on Facebook so you can't see anything about him, no long rambling conversations about your friendship, nothing. Find something else to fill the gap. Do it now, and do it fully. At the moment, you're picking at the scab instead of letting the wound heal. If he wants to be friends, then part of that is sometimes doing what is right for the other person. If he can't handle that, he's not that good of a person and you're better off without.
posted by Solomon at 9:59 AM on September 12, 2010

You can combat loneliness by spending time with other people. Hopefully you have other friends in your life. If you don't, I would encourage you to find some. If you're in school, see if there's some activity you can get involved in. Check Craigslist, ask around at church or whatever. Just be around other people, and don't spend all your time talking about Him when you do.

I want to move on. I want to get over him. But I also want to be friends.

As TooFewShoes said, you're going to have to pick one -- right now, you're too admittedly lonely to think straight when it comes to this guy. You're in a weak situation, and it seems like he's only too happy to take advantage of it, with all the sexy benefits and none of the responsibilities of actually being in a relationship. Since you're no longer in the same state (permanently? Temporarily?), that's less of a concern, but he obviously still has a strong pull on you.

You won't want to do this, and I get the vibe that you're not going to, no matter what anyone says, but I think you should defriend him on Facebook and stop communicating with him. It's causing you nothing but stress. And you were only together for four months -- that's nothing. "But..." No, really. "But, special snowflake!" No, really, it's nothing. "But, friendship!" Don't kid yourself. It's not worth sleepless nights and anxiety and frustration and being miserable.
posted by Gator at 10:06 AM on September 12, 2010

How do I move on when I broke all the break up 'rules'?

You start following those rules now.

Yes, it sucks, yes it's hard, but you cannot have any more contact. Not now, not with an eye on a certain "safer" point in the future.

You need to be done. No more Facebook; no more texts, calls, whatever. You need some lonely time now; time to reset yourself, find new things that excite you and yes, time to be sad.

Every time you contact each other, you're avoiding the reality: you two are done. Be done. End it.

Sorry if it sounds harsh, but you're never going to move on as long as you're...well...not moving on.
posted by dzaz at 10:11 AM on September 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

I want to move on. I want to get over him. But I also want to be friends.

We don't get to have everything we want. Get some new friends.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:21 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Aren't you leading him on to some extent?
He says he still has feelings, and you say you don't. So you make out. All because you're lonely?
Get some distance, get a hobby, and maybe, perhaps, after you've gotten otherwise occupied, you can contact him again.
And hide is Facebook feed. It's a bad idea to follow his day-to-day that way.
posted by Gilbert at 10:25 AM on September 12, 2010

Response by poster: For Chrissake, you've now been broken up as long as you were actually dating. The fact that this is still fucking with you indicates you've been approaching this break-up in a fundementally terrible way.

Let's analyze what you have been doing during your post-breakup "friendship": Talking with him. Sleeping with him. Creating intensely emotional situations. Obsessing over him, then talking with him more and providing more fuel for those obsessions.

In most break-ups there is a direct correlation between "Negative emotions" and "Talking to the ex." Oh, you'll have those little great conversations where you think "What a great friend" and relieve your boredom but you also invite all that little dramatic bullshit above.

Now you need to make the choice: Are the little great conversations worth the dramatic bullshit? Maybe they are--I mean, you're clearly still carrying it on so you're getting something out of it. But if you're hurting, really hurting, and you want to change, that means you gotta try something different from what you've been doing: cold-turkey, no contact. Because your experience so far indicates you can't have it both ways.
posted by Anonymous at 10:28 AM on September 12, 2010

I feel that maybe I'm being too nice. I talk to him because I don't like feeling lonely, but it has also brought up some problems. Has anyone gone through this? What should I do? How do I move on when I broke all the break up 'rules'?

I broke up with someone who had a possession of mine they wanted to purchase. They wanted to see someone else, I wanted no contact. But the problem was, I couldn't say "don't contact me" because he had to pay me back. Well, he milked that situation every way 'til Sunday. Constant texts & emails about how this happened or that happened and the payment would be late or he needed extra time. His engine block fell. He had to go to the hospital. It was never a clean email that just dealt with business, there was always something.

I could psychoanalyze the situation from every way until Sunday and tell you that I didn't believe him and that he was just being a wimp and the other relationship was easier but that I knew he wanted to be with me. All of that was well and good but it meant nothing, because he said he wanted to be with someone else, and he in fact WAS with someone else. It made him unbelievably angry and passive-aggressive because I insisted on no contact aside from transactional discussions. And he dragged it out for months because he was so angry at me for ending the friendship. He later admitted that he deliberately made the whole thing as difficult as possible. I finally ended it by deputizing my most obnoxious friend who hated him the most to be in charge of the situation. He now had to deal with her every time he had some kind of lame excuse, and you know what? The excuses stopped, the payments were prompt and on time. I wish I had done this six months sooner. But I didn't.

The result was that instead of just getting over it in six months, it took me over a year. I don't know about you, but I just don't have that kind of time. I wasted so much time because I was still so paralyzed by emotion because every two weeks there was an exchange of whatever. It was like having an injury that you kept damaging every two weeks - of course it's not going to get better.

Your guy is being a jerk. He is manipulating you because he knows he can. There's nothing that says you can't put your foot down now and just say "This is done". I know you're lonely, but hanging out with him is eating empty calories.
posted by micawber at 10:29 AM on September 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

You need to get better, mentally and emotionally, first. You say you're diagnosed with depression and what extent is it being treated? I think you need to get apart from him, and by that I mean physically, out of your thoughts and worries, and once you've acclimated to that (and it could take a while - strong patience required), have a clear-headed think about your friendship without entanglements and insecurity, at least two of the unintended consequences of FWB.
Please talk with a professional if you can to sort this out. If you've determined that you want to get better (and that it'll take months), I'd suggest you initiate no contact at all, and if he contacts you, it would be wise to ignore it or at least tell him you still need time to concentrate on your own issues. He may be there on the other end of this as a friend, and maybe not.
It will hurt but you will grow, and you need to do that - now is the time to start.
posted by nj_subgenius at 10:32 AM on September 12, 2010

I didn't read your previous post, but will agree with others that it's time to cut off as much contact as possible and focus on getting yourself better. Another person who's been there with the loneliness and yes it really really really does suck. But from personal mistakes experience , holding on to and dragging out the situation sucks even more. And if the emotions aren't ever going to resolved and moved past, there's no kind of hell like pretending that your feelings for a "friend" are strictly platonic. Add another personal anecdote, but I've had this situation off and on for 25 years with somebody. It sucks not having them in my life anymore, but what sucks more is knowing the amount of time/energy/emotion I wasted hoping that things would finally be neatly resolved.
posted by gov_moonbeam at 11:27 AM on September 12, 2010

It takes a long time to be friends with an ex. And by a long time, I mean years, not months. Years of no contact whatsoever. And that's pretty much the only way it works. This is sad and terrible but there you have it: until you are totally over each other, you don't get to be friends. Neither of you is going to be totally over the other one until you've gone years - YEARS - without any contact, by which I mean no late night drunken Facebook stalking, no texts because he would love that movie sooooo, no just happening to be at the his roommate's band's gig. Cut him loose from your life and move on. Sure, it will hurt but you can't heal without some pain. It will get better faster than you think.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:34 AM on September 12, 2010

Just so you know, this erratic "let's have contact / let's have no contact / I miss you / I can't see you" back and forth? Is exactly what you do when you are 15 - 25 and figuring out through painful first experience that the only way to get over someone is no contact.

What you learn is that going no contact is soul-shatteringly painful, but faster and better for your soul and your recovery. Having contact is vastly easier, but nurses the breakup for so long it's ultimately both more painful and less effective.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:25 PM on September 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

You want your cake and eat it too. It never works.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:35 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

You were not together for very long at all, even if the relationship was intense. You don't have any ties with him - no mortgage, children, car, pet dog. All of this suggests to me that in two months or a year or three years you will not feel the intense pull and loss you do now, because in the scheme of things, break-ups happen and we all drift in and out of each other;s lives. If you ever feel like you can never feel this way, then think of someone you know who has been divorced or lost a partner yet have managed to find new people to talk to or think about or spend time with. It really does happen.
posted by mippy at 1:40 PM on September 12, 2010

I want to remain friends (because of his wishes and I will admit I'm lonely) but I also want to get over him, whatever that means.

Cutting off contact doesn't have to be angry or cruel, but it does need to a very clear severance for awhile. Like six to eight months, minimum. Go ahead and make it clear that your lack of contact is not out of anger or anything about which you two fight, at all.

You can't transition to friends while the breakup is still fresh, while trying to get over him, while he tries to get over you, while you both stew over the issues raised in your relationship. If you are going to eventually be friends, it's going to be a different relationship than the one you had previously, albeit with a shared previous history.

When you and he are ready to be friends, you should want to spend time together talking about shared interests, not just your past relationship. You should wait until you don't default to thinking about each other, you're both truly interested in other people, and you're both genuinely in support of each other's best interests (including new relationships). Think about your closest friends and the kind of support you're willing to give them. That's what you're aiming for.

If that's not really what you want, then you don't really want to be friends. That's totally okay. Maybe a better goal is to be acquaintances. Or maybe your ultimate goal is to get back together. But if you call it "friends" and that's not what you mean, I think you're going to resent the time and energy spent.
posted by desuetude at 1:43 PM on September 12, 2010

You don't actually have to follow "rules" just because other people say they are rules. They're not, we're adults and this is a free country for the most part. Um, give it time and some distance. It takes time and distance to get over things.
posted by citron at 2:06 PM on September 12, 2010

Here's the question you just asked, reframed around a different topic: "I have a drinking problem. When I get drunk I do destructive things - it's fun for a little while, but always leaves me miserable. About four months ago, I decided to stop drinking, but then after a few weeks I weakened and started drinking again. I want to be happy and sober, but I want to drink. What can I do now that I've broken my rule?"

What would you tell that person? Probably that nothing about having given in and resumed drinking in the past would prevent her from stopping again. That if she wants to be happy, the booze needs to go, and that the best thing is to just take it a day at a time and keep deciding not to drink, not to dwell on the mistake she made by drinking in the first place. Same deal for you.
posted by Ragged Richard at 4:04 PM on September 12, 2010

I've been through this a million times.
The last time - almost the same thing happened. And I moved out of state.
And we still talked on the phone for a bit. Then i met someone else and moved on.

I either do it one of two ways - force myself to stop communicating with someone once we break up (via IM, social networking, text messages, etc) and let them know that I need a break from communication. Then a couple of months later, usually we both have moved on -and it's easier to communicate.

I also have done it the way that usually sends me through a rollercoaster - which is hanging on but not being too much of a pest. So, I'll think about the person all the time - but am adult enough to give space. I'll also continue to hang out with the person and try to maintain friendship - but it's difficult because usually one person wants more and the other doesn't. "more" could mean a relationship or just casual things.
This why the first way is recommended by everyone.

Once one meet someone else, that important friendship you wanted with your recent ex kind of dissolves. Although, I am friends (well, more like acquaintances) with about 4 of my exes. We all have moved on and are in our own relationships.
posted by KogeLiz at 8:01 AM on September 13, 2010

I want to remain friends (because of his wishes and I will admit I'm lonely) but I also want to get over him, whatever that means. I feel that maybe I'm being too nice. I talk to him because I don't like feeling lonely, but it has also brought up some problems.

This is not what "being too nice" means. You've been indulging yourself with him because it seems that your feelings for him are not as strong as his are so you can back off when you want. Basically, you're stringing him along. That is not nice. For his sake, and your own, you should stop fucking him, stop talking about love with him and in all honesty probably stop talking to him at all. Staying in contact in order to not be bored is basically using him, straight up.

The right thing to do, and the answer to your question is "yes, other people have done this. no, it's not fair to him, and it's not going to help you move on. It is basically a bad idea all around and you should stop doing this. Tell him you think you guys should take a break from being in contact for a while, and once you've actually moved on you can think about reinstating contact if he even still wants to."
posted by shmegegge at 1:49 PM on September 13, 2010

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