How to deal with confusion related to important things?
December 22, 2010 1:35 PM   Subscribe

An ex, mixed signals, and dangerous times. How do I proceed?

Here goes:

So, we dated for a little more than a year, and broke up eight or nine months ago. It was, what we both confirmed during it and during the breakup, the best relationship we'd had and incredibly important - the main issue that ended things was distance. We wouldn't be in the same place (due to work/school) for at least a year.

Welcome to a while later. We didn't talk until four weeks ago. One email exchanged, which became ten, which became forty in a hurry. Both acknowledged that we missed each other greatly, and proceeded to update each other on life. I had two brief, bland flings in between that and this, and mentioned them. My hopes, which I have tried to keep minor this whole time, were somewhat inflated by her nice thoughts, eagerness to communicate, and certain words (ending emails with 'thinking of you'... remarking on how happy she is about seeing me around and doing some familiar things... ). Then, bam, an email in which she mentions that this semester has been better than the last, that she's gotten close with one of her female friends and even closer with a guy (an unfamiliar name), who she, 'actually,' is going on a long trip with during a break.

Hmm. Hopes - dashed. Mind - confused. Self - exhausted. I feel like I've created my own failure by having any hope here.

So, tl;dr - reconnection, warm feelings, slight insinuations, and then a weirdly-stated possible blocker. During this all, I aim to either

1. reestablish a friendship, and get over this relationship.

2. this should be obvious: she is the best, and I think that there's an opportunity if there's an opportunity.

So, as far as what to do:

Am I overinterpreting signals? Is her wording of 'a close friend' a don't-hurt-you way of saying that she's involved (it sure seems so). Is it weird that she's so talkative and writing some of these things while in a relationship, in that sense? Is it completely inadvisable to have any hope here?

And, as far as the more-obvious conclusion (that she's taken, and over me), how does one get over a relationship which seemed to still have potential, and which makes all of your pointless flings seem extra-pointless and not worth even thinking about?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's completely inadvisable to have any hope of having a relationship with her right now, seeing as she is planning a trip with someone she seems interested in romantically. Telling your ex about the awesome new person you want to go on a trip with is almost always a sign of "I still like you, but Not That Way." She is probably referring to him as "a close friend" because she's not sure that he's as into her as she is into him, and she doesn't want to say "my boyfriend" until she's sure he's on board with that.

I am not a big fan of "keeping up friendships with exes in the hope that they will turn into renewed romances" because I don't know anyone for whom that has worked, but others will probably share their experiences of how it worked for them, so there you are.

As for how to get over someone, let me recommend How to Break Your Addiction to a Person by Howard Halpern. There are other people out there who are equally awesome for you, and more available to you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:42 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm also not seeing any mixed signals here on her part--it sounds like she wants to have a friendship with you, not rekindle your romance.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:43 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Am I overinterpreting signals? Is her wording of 'a close friend' a don't-hurt-you way of saying that she's involved (it sure seems so)

I really don't understand why people post questions like this. Internet strangers can't answer that question with any certainty, but your ex can.

Given that you're on good terms with her and your relationship only ended due to distance, why not just ask her politely if she's seeing this guy? Be prepared for a rejection, but your chances aren't zero. Platonic male-female friendships do happen.
posted by ripley_ at 1:45 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Then, bam ...

No, not "bam."

It's "bam" to you, because you didn't know the whole story.

For her, "bam" has been "an indefinite period of time, possibly lasting weeks or months, and oh by the way, I'm only telling you this now."

Is it completely inadvisable to have any hope here?


Look around. Do you see a ripcord? If yes, grasp it tightly and pull it in a vigorous manner.

IMO, you have drifted toward the "friend" zone, from which no good can come. She felt despondent (possibly about this new guy) and looked to you to make herself feel good.

Wish her a good time on her trip, and offer to catch up the next time she's in town.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:51 PM on December 22, 2010 [6 favorites]

Other flings seem so insignificant 'cause they're rebound flings. The heart takes a long time to heal, y'know. Give it time. Sooner or later you'll be ready to give as much to someone else. Don't rush.

As far as signals...well.

She's happy to talk to you and think of you, because you broke up and that's never fun and it brings her a warm sort of peace to be on good terms and put to bed a painful part of her life.

Should you have hope? Well, not in the immediate sense. Distance broke you up and that wouldn't magically disappear if something happened. So maybe that's for the best.

So casually slip into communication that it makes you happy to hear from her and that you're glad she has this trip planned, it sounds like fun, et cetera...and that it got you thinking about the good times you used to have, and let her know that if you're ever in the same general corner of the globe again, and circumstances should allow, you'd love to maybe go out to dinner some night, see what happens.

Then leave it at that, and let go of this. If something actually does happen it'll be a pleasant surprise but this is no hill to die on, or even get a little scraped up on.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:00 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

IMO, you have drifted toward the "friend" zone, from which no good can come.

I don't think there is such a thing as a "friend zone" in general, but I do think there are people who don't double-dip--their attitude toward exes is that you either have a friendship or you cut off contact; you don't stay in touch in case you decide to get back together.

I also don't think it's as likely that your ex was "using you to feel better about herself" so much as she actually does want to reconnect with you in a friendly way.

As for "bam", you were the one who first mentioned that you'd been dating other people--why is it "bam" for her and not for you? You're both interested in other people, because your romance is over.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:03 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is the life situation that broke you up likely to change any time soon? If it's not, then the relationship is still gonna be doomed/she might as well move on to someone else.

I don't think I have it right reading this thing, but you were going to be apart for a year and now it's 3/4 of the way over with? If the situation is gonna end and one of you will be moving back home or something and you'll be in the same town again... hell, why not ask what's going on then? If the only thing that broke you up is life, and that life situation isn't going to be relevant for much longer, you do have a shot if she hasn't 100% moved on. Especially if you guys chose now to start up contact again.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:07 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

She may have mentioned the guy only because you mentioned the flings (really, why would you do that)? The best advice I have to give anyone in a relationship is this: Stop overthinking it. If the other person is the only one who can provide the answer to your question, ask that person.
posted by runningwithscissors at 2:17 PM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Why would you subject yourself to this again??

Just tell her in a friendly manner to drop you a line anytime she is back in town, but that you aren't really in the right frame of mind for her right now.
posted by BobbyDigital at 2:22 PM on December 22, 2010

Normally, "I've had a really great semester getting close with this guy whom I'm going on a long trip with over break" implies sex and that she has feelings for him.

But if you want to know, just ask her. "Hey, I want to be friends, but right now I'm having some trouble getting over you and I need to know if there's any chance you might also be interested in getting back together."
posted by J. Wilson at 3:46 PM on December 22, 2010

Broke up is broke up, and unless the circumstance that caused that no longer exists, then rekindling on either side is silly. Friendship can take root in the vaccuum of the breakup, but reading more into it is asking for heartache.

That said, I've an ex who periodically makes ovurtures of establishing "friendship" that follow the exact same trajectory over the course of a couple of days during which e-mail conversation is increasingly forward and intimate right up till I make a point to say "yup, still in a relationship. Very happy and we're planning a future together", at which point she will discribe a current beau, a wonderful relationship, and an exciting sex life, then disappear for 3-6 months. Lather, rinse, repeat.

You don't want a girl like that back any more than I do.
posted by kjs3 at 3:46 PM on December 22, 2010

Just walk away, dude.
posted by rhizome at 3:59 PM on December 22, 2010

Unlike others, I think you have a chance here. But instead of worrying about what she wants, ask yourself--is she worth potentially majorly embarassing yourself? Will things be different this time? Do you want her back immensely and now? If yes to all three, go and get her. Do NOT ask if shes in a relationship, proceed as if she is not. Ask her on a date without calling it a date, and seduce her. Make it happen. If she rejects you, oh well, at least you pursued what you want most out of this interaction.

But first, make sure you are wholeheartedly into her again, it sounds to me like you have some reservations even before this stranger came into the picture.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:44 AM on December 23, 2010

Ask. It could be a friend. No reason to overthink it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:02 PM on December 23, 2010

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