hurt her heart
December 5, 2010 2:27 PM   Subscribe

What is my post-breakup jerk quotient?

The history:
Lesbian couple, ages 26 (me) and 35 (Jane). Dated for a month or two, after which I sprung a break up on her, due to feelings of ambivalence and also drama going on with a best friend who wanted to date me.
After a few months of trying to date my friend, I found myself consistently missing Jane. I called Jane up, we hung out, got back together. It lasted 10 months this time, and I decided to let slide the things I didn't like about her, because there was so much I did like. We lived together, it was a disaster. We fought a lot. I questioned our compatibility consistently from month 3 or 4 onward. We tried therapy. It helped a little, but I didn't feel committed enough to work through the issues we had. She convinced me I needed to try harder, that I was too idealistic and giving up too easily. I tried breaking up with her a few times, she always had an easy time talking me out of it.
Brought up breaking up with our therapist, who said Jane had to really take it seriously when I expressed a desire to break up. A couple of weeks later it happened, I broke up with her, and was terrified of losing her but knew I didn't want to continue anymore. Cried for two days and then surprised myself by feeling really over it. Miss her here and there, but overall know it was completely the right decision.

The present:
Enter Lindsay. Knew her casually while I was dating Jane, but never actually took her up on the offer to email her because I knew I had a crush on her, and it felt like cheating on Jane. Ran into Lindsay about 10 days after breaking it off with Jane, sent her an email, hung out. After the first hang out I realized I really liked her, and after I kissed her on the next date I told her I wasn't ready to jump into anything. That I wanted to take it slow. Not happening. We've been seeing each other 3 or 4 times a week, it's hot and sexy and really fun. We haven't had sex yet, but make outs are intense.

The problem:
I feel terrible for Jane. I know I broke her heart when I broke up with her. I think she wanted to be with me forever, and while I made it clear through our relationship that I wasn't ready to think on those terms, I think she still hoped. If she knew I was dating someone again already, someone who I really like and can see getting serious with, she'd be devastated. A friend was frank with me today and told me she thought I was moving too fast, that if I ever wanted a friendship with Jane I was throwing it away, and that she worried I was using Lindsay as a rebound. Therapist also voiced the rebound concern.
I don't think I'm using Lindsay to distract myself. I had wanted time alone, had wanted to date many people casually, had wanted to focus on some friendships. I still want time alone and friendships, but even though I tried to keep Lindsay at a distance and take it slow, it feels like too much work when all we want to do is hang out with each other.
Mostly I feel bad for Jane, feel guilty about moving on too quickly, and maybe feel slightly worried that things are moving too fast with Lindsay, but don't feel like slowing down. I know that would be the best thing to do for Jane, and I feel like a jerk for not empathizing with her more, or being more concerned with how all this would hurt her. I feel callous.

Tl;dr (even though I don't know what that stands for):
Broke my ex's heart, and jumped into something 2 weeks later. Feeling like a major jerk for moving too fast too soon.
posted by whalebreath to Human Relations (28 answers total)
Sounds like you have feelings close to pity for Jane, which isn't helping her any. I think it's fine to feel that way, but don't let those feelings get in the way of your new thing. The only thing that'd stop me from moving too fast with someone new after a breakup would be feeling like *I* couldn't handle the velocity of the new relationship, not feeling like my ex couldn't. She'll hear about it and it'll hurt, probably, but from what you wrote it sounds like you have her the respect she deserved during the breakup, and that's all you really can do.
posted by prior at 2:36 PM on December 5, 2010

I think the question is, "Am I jerk for having so much fun with Lindsay?"

If so, the answer is a resounding no. Give yourself permission to have a great life.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:36 PM on December 5, 2010 [8 favorites]

The question is right there above the fold. You are not a jerk, but maybe you should talk to your therapist some more.
posted by fixedgear at 2:39 PM on December 5, 2010

I also don't see a question; but:

1) It's normal and human to feel bad and guilty when you have hurt someone, even if in the long run it was the right thing to do. It means you are a compassionate person. It does not necessarily mean you have done something wrong.

2) I know that would be the best thing to do for Jane
No, the best thing for Jane is for you to not be in Jane's life anymore. To the extent you can control this, do so. You don't need to worry about Jane's reactions to your current relationships because you shouldn't be informing her of them.
posted by frobozz at 2:39 PM on December 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

If you really don't want to hurt Jane any more than you already have, don't make her try to be friends with you.
posted by amethysts at 2:40 PM on December 5, 2010 [12 favorites]'re asking how much of a jerk you were to Jane....?

I'd say moderate, I suppose? You probably shouldn't have gotten back together with Jane that first time. And you probably shouldn't have let her talk you out of breaking up with her. But then, she made the super-bad call of trying to talk someone out of breaking up with her in the first place, so it's hard for me to be super-sympathetic.

Yes, you're probably moving too fast with Lindsay. Yes, when Jane finds out her feelings are going to be hurt. No, that doesn't bode well for your ability to remain friends with her, but then, I'm personally not a fan of the "friends-with-exes" thing in general, as it so often goes poorly.

If you're serious about this new girl, you should probably exert a little self-control before you get too wrapped up in your relationship with her, too quickly. You should probably also not attend events that you know Jane will be at -- give her some space, etc.

But generally speaking, you just sound kind of young and impulsive, and pretty average on the jerk scale.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:42 PM on December 5, 2010

If the question is, are you a jerk to the person you dumped for dating someone else after breaking up with her, no.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:45 PM on December 5, 2010

Mod note: tl;dr stands for "too long didn't read" Question is above the fold, folks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:49 PM on December 5, 2010

Response by poster: If it matters, Jane wants to be friends. She didn't even want space after getting dumped before becoming friends. Although I at first tried this, I then told her that I needed space. She hopes we can be friends in a few weeks.
posted by whalebreath at 2:53 PM on December 5, 2010

No, you are not being a jerk to Jane -- although you must stay away from her for now. Friendship may not be in the cards.

With respect to Lindsay, the danger of a rebound is real, which would be jerky to Lindsay. Here are some questions which if answered in the affirmative might indicate rebound: Are you seeing Lindsay as a way to "save" or "heal" you from your breakup? Are you able to see your relationship with Lindsay on it's own terms, or only in comparison to Jane? Is the breakup with Jane still weighing heavily on your mind and are these emotions bleeding into your time with Lindsay? Are you either using Lindsay as emotional support to talk about the breakup, or conversely, are you hiding your feelings about the breakup from her? Do you have a pattern of getting involved too quickly then pulling back? Are you able to focus on Lindsay, or are you preoccupied with Jane?
posted by yarly at 2:55 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: And sorry, the question is a little lost in there. How bad is my dumper etiquette for dating someone so soon after breaking up with someone who I care about and hope to be friends with again someday? Is this unforgivable behaviour and am I a callous jerk? Cause I'm feeling that way a lot, and friends seem to think I'm in the wrong as well.
posted by whalebreath at 2:56 PM on December 5, 2010

Is this unforgivable behaviour and am I a callous jerk?

Honestly, you sound like you're being overly dramatic here.

No, your behavior isn't unforgivable and a callous jerk doesn't ask this type of question. You deserve to be in a happy relationship and being with Jane wasn't fitting the bill. So go, be happy and forgive yourself for moving on. It happens and it's life.
posted by nomadicink at 3:03 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

First of all, there is no such thing as a "post-breakup jerk quotient." (That might be why, despite jessamyn's comment, some of us had a hard time understanding what the question was supposed to be.) You've made up this concept as a way to criticize yourself for living your life the way you want.

None of your behavior that you've described was wrong. It sounds like you've done everything right except waiting too long to break up with Jane. Jane doesn't have any valid complaint.

If you had already been close friends with Lindsay and then got together with her 10 days after the breakup, then that would be suspicious. But you had never met Lindsay before you broke up with Jane, so you couldn't have been cheating.

I don't understand why your friends are feeding into your insecurity by scolding you over this. As you have said before, you're irrationally worrying about what other people think of you.

As for whether you're moving "too fast" with Lindsay, that has nothing -- nothing -- to do with Jane. That issue concerns only two people: you and Lindsay.

If you had wanted your actions to be subject to Jane's desires, you could have stayed in the relationship with Jane. You had very good reasons for not doing that. Once that relationship is over, she has no say over your love life.
posted by John Cohen at 3:24 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Most of the dykes I know - including me - are serial monogamists. Most of the people I know, actually, regardless of orientation.

The way you're behaving is far from terrible or abnormal. People do this all the time. It's painful when you happen to be the Jane, but it's get-overable.

Don't be surprised if, in a few weeks, you start hanging out with Jane again (as friends) and you find you're not really ready to be just-friends yet. If you have to manage your behavior around her in order to make sure she's not uncomfortable (e.g., you don't talk about Lindsay, you don't talk about how happy you are/how well you're doing, etc.), that may be a sign that neither of you is quite ready to be friends yet. Friendly, civil, yes, but not friends. It means that you might need a longer break, with no contact at all, to get to a place where you can start to be friends.
posted by rtha at 3:26 PM on December 5, 2010

You broke up with Jane. Nothing you do from now on has anything to do with her, unless it's something you do to her. So don't do anything to her - dating someone else doesn't count. But also don't try to be friends with her, since that's not going to do either one of you any favors. Also, if you two did decide to be friends, she'd be upset to hear that you're already dating someone else. This would be unreasonable of her, and if she came here to ask us a question about it we'd tell her as much, but it's still pretty much inevitable. So, to recap: don't be friends with Jane, keep dating Lindsay.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:41 PM on December 5, 2010

Well... Jane might think you're a jerk. But when you've been dumped, your jerkmeter goes haywire and needs time to recalibrate. (Like, "my ex tweeted that she's having a good day? So soon after she dumped me? How dare she? THAT JERK.")

If both of you do want to be friends (and you're under no obligation to do so), I think you're going about it the right way by insisting on space. Jane may want to jump in prematurely if she's not over you. When I was the Jane, I would have really liked to hear an explicit "I do want to be friends with you in the long run, so I want to be absolutely sure we've both had time to recover from the breakup and can hang out without worrying about accidentally hurting each other."
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:58 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Serial mongamy followed by "friends and family" continued post-breakup friendships is the norm among the lesbians I know. It's a thing, and I get that just because you break up with someone you don't stop caring about them or indeed loving them.

But in this case, Jane is not making the transition to friends well and you should ask for and create space between the two of you as a kindness to Jane. She may need this assistance to break the social pattern.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:17 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I suspect you will cop it from your friends for a while, especially if Lindsay and Jane have overlapping groups of friends. But in a few months everyone will have forgotten how many days/weeks/months it was between your breakup and the start of your new relationship. And hopefully when Jane reaches the stage of over-it-ness you are at, she will also not think you are a jerk, but it might take a while.

I know a (lesbian) couple who were together for three years. One of them started seeing someone new (a mutual friend, even) less than a month after they broke up. There was definitely some anger there at first, but time passed, and now they are all friends again. Nobody thinks anyone is a jerk over it, because it's all more or less forgotten.

It sounds like you are being honest and civil with everyone involved, and that makes you not a jerk.
posted by equivocator at 4:43 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, in five years from now, you'll all be laughing about this at a Pride brunch.

And by "you all" here, I mean, you and your wife and Lindsay and Lindsay's wife and Jane and Jane's wife.

(If you're anything like the women I know, that is.)

But until then, I really think Metroid Baby is spot on about the need for you to be clear, and to be kinder to Jane than she is necessarily being to herself:

When I was the Jane, I would have really liked to hear an explicit "I do want to be friends with you in the long run, so I want to be absolutely sure we've both had time to recover from the breakup and can hang out without worrying about accidentally hurting each other."

Communication makes every kind of relationship work better.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:50 PM on December 5, 2010

There was a band-aid brand that ran an ad in which someone was asking, "Do you want it all in one big OWCH!, or lots of little ouches?" as they took the bandaid off. Sounds like Jane's opting for lots of 'little' owches, when in fact, you're already done, have been done, and have even formally exited the relationship.

You are no longer obligated to cater to her wants, needs or wishes. Not caring would make you a jerk. Not acting is totally a personal style call. I call no foul; you can't put your life on hold while she gets used to the idea that it really is over.
posted by Ys at 5:35 PM on December 5, 2010

If it matters, Jane wants to be friends. She didn't even want space after getting dumped before becoming friends. Although I at first tried this, I then told her that I needed space. She hopes we can be friends in a few weeks.

Jane doesn't actually get to control this. Neither, in a way, do you. Developing a post-relationship friendship is most certainly possible (I myself am friends with plenty of my exes), but -- and it's a big but -- there is no hope of a healthy, meaningful friendship if it is seen as either the absolution for the dumper and/or the consolation prize for the dumpee. It never works (and by "works," I mean "isn't a renewed dramafest of unspoken expectations that turn into simmering resentments") under those circumstances.

Friendships between exes generally can only happen when both people have moved on with their lives (which itself generally requires a period of no-contact), gotten over each other and past any hope/desire of reconciliation, and mutually decide that common interests, etc. warrant a friendship. This takes a lot of time -- certainly more than a couple of weeks -- and you're not in control right now of whether or not all these circumstances will come into existence down the road, nor are you obligated to promise something you don't know you can deliver.
posted by scody at 5:35 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

I could have written this, except for the fact that none of my friends seem to share my worry that I'm moving on too fast (except, perhaps, my "Lindsay," which is a weird complication), and even the people who are close friends with my "Jane" have assured me that they don't think I'm being a jerk.

The most helpful question I've been asked: Do you feel like you need to take this new relationship slowly because of something internal to you, or because of some externally-imposed social rule? Are you holding back because of what people might think, or because you might need some time to yourself before getting too involved with another person?

Honestly, it sounds kinda like the relationship had been over for you for a while, which may be why it's been relatively easy for you to move on. Do your friends know that?
posted by dizziest at 5:35 PM on December 5, 2010

- I don't necessarily believe in this whole rebound "taboo." When it's right, it's right - and you know it's right! Enjoy your new relationship.

- I don't exactly think your therapist is doing you any favors here suggesting your new relationship is in any way inauthentic. The fact is, you were probably emotionally processing your break-up with Jane before it officially happened. If you are now enjoying something that feels like a much better fit for you, then that is the most important part of this. The timetable is unimportant. Really.

- The "friends with Jane" issue and the guilt about Jane have me confused. Jane is an adult. Frankly, it seems like she tried to force you into sticking with an intimate relationship that didn't suit you. I'm sure it was unintentional on her part, but it was still unfair to you. It's nice that you care, but Jane is 100% responsible for her own feelings. Please stop shouldering her burdens, whether they are real or imagined. You tried. You went to therapy together. It didn't work out. You've already gone above and beyond.

Another way to think about this sanely is to ask yourself this question:

Exactly how long does your "contract" with Jane extend once the relationship is terminated?


Finally. Here is my big concern..."She hopes we can be friends in a few weeks."

That is so many kinds of unfair to you. You freakin' lived together for 10 months. That's HUGE. To turn around and try to become buddies within a few weeks (especially since she isn't over the relationship yet) seems dysfunctional and ill-advised. If the circumstances of your break-up with Jane were different, maybe you could consider being friends right away. However, under the circumstances you've described, you should decline friendship with Jane for the near future and stick to "friendly acquaintance" level chit-chat if you run into each other. Real friendship means trust and emotional closeness. If you know you must shield Jane from your new romance to protect her feelings (and that seems wisest from your Ask and follow-ups) then Jane is not ready to be friends with you in the near future no matter what she says.

Just my perspective, but I hope it helps. Good luck and enjoy your new relationship!
posted by jbenben at 5:50 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're not a jerk. You haven't done anything wrong. Its unfortunate that she is sad, but you weren't happy together. You really didn't have any other choice.

You broke up with her - you are free to do what you want. Forget about what other people consider to be 'proper' and enjoy your life (and new GF). Other peoples timetables don't apply to you if you don't want them to.

Also - don't be friends with Jane until you are ready. Being friend with an ex, especially where there may been been some bad blood in the past, can be tricky. You need to give yourself time to let go of the resentment and old hurts.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:02 PM on December 5, 2010

Another thing I thought of: this may or may not be the case, but because of your age difference you might be assuming that what Jane wants/demands/expects of you is somehow grounded in being wiser or more mature simply because she's older. If so, this might make you more inclined to second-guess yourself (whether consciously or not) in these situations than if this behavior was coming from someone your own age or even younger.

If this is the case, I would urge you to rethink this. It doesn't make her a bad person, but Jane's behavior comes across (admittedly, through the filter of your perspective) as being the exact opposite of wise or mature -- e.g., not "letting" you break up with her, wanting immediate friendship, etc. Don't let the fact that she's chronologically older make you think that she automatically knows better in terms of what's right for you.
posted by scody at 6:43 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm going to disagree with the crowd here and recommend that you take your friends' and therapist's concerns seriously and try to understand them. You could decide to disagree, but they deserve consideration. Your reasons for not thinking this is a rebound are things like "I don't feel like slowing down" and "it feels like too much work [to take it slow] when all we want to do is hang out with each other." That doesn't illustrate that this is not a rebound. In fact, it may provide evidence that the appeal of the new relationship IS the intoxicating rush of emotions and the escapist and pain-killing qualities thereof. You yourself admit you want more time alone and time with friends.

So it sounds like a rebound to me. So what's wrong with that? I think rebounds get a bad rap and are not inherently doomed. But it's worth asking your friends and therapist why they're concerned, and listening. They'll know better than anyone here.

Don't get me wrong -- I agree totally that you don't have to feel guilt vis-a-vis Jane herself. But you do have to respect the part of yourself, if any, that would like some time to grieve Jane. I also agree that you should have an amazing and fun life. But if you're escaping the bad feelings following the loss of Relationship #1 via a heady and intoxicating Relationship #2, you're getting temporary fun maybe at the expense of long-term solidity. Do you think whatever you're avoiding, if that's what's going on, is something that would really help you learn about yourself? Another reason rebounds are unsteady is that you're connecting with someone at a peculiar moment in your emotional life, when you are exceptionally needy, down, rebellious, and/or afraid of being alone. Once you recover and become your normal self, you can realize that you guys don't fit well together.

Anyway, you're going to do what you're going to do; it sounds like you're caught up in this new thing and that you're doing your best to think about what you might be missing, which is about all anyone can ask. I'd just ask that you really listen to your friends' and therapist's points here, and find ways to mitigate their concerns. (Time alone meditating?) Good luck!
posted by salvia at 6:50 PM on December 5, 2010

If you do sincerely want to be friends with Jane, then perhaps you ought to be the one to tell her you're dating Lindsay, so that she finds out from you and not the grapevine. An email would do it.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:05 AM on December 6, 2010

Something similar happened to a couple in my circle of friends recently, although this is a straight couple. The other difference is that the guy was friends with the woman he's now with before he and the ex broke up so it looked really suspicious.

Nothing ever happened between them, though the guy really fancied her beforehand. Even so, the ex's friends have continually bashed the new couple, especially the guy, to his face and around town.

I think these friends are being highly inappropriate, and it sounds like your friends are as well. They need to butt out. This is not their business.

You are allowing it to be their business and taking their opinions seriously. You're letting them violate your boundaries.

The friends who aren't taking sides are your better friends in this situation.

Is Lindsay just a rebound? Who knows? If she makes you happy, continue seeing her and let it sort itself out down the road. The couple I know are now happily married, and it happened fast. Sometimes you just know.

Do you owe Jane anything? Only respect. You should tell her you're seeing Lindsay before she hears it through the grapevine, if you want to stay friends. And I don't think you should try being friends right away. It's normal and natural for her to be hurt by this but it doesn't make you a bad person.

Your caring nature is evident and admirable, but getting in your way of moving on. Apply some of the caring to yourself and meet your need to move on from Jane. She will survive and I bet she'll find someone else within a couple of months and within six months you'll all be friends again (saying this based on the way things seem to work in the Lesbian community of people I'm friends with).
posted by xenophile at 12:11 PM on December 6, 2010

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