Can I (or how can I) not act all heartbroken when I AM?
August 4, 2011 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Should I see my ex-boyfriend (who has a girlfriend, and who I'm still in love with) when I'm in his city in September? And if I do... how?

We broke up about a month after I had left his country and come back to mine. Physically and emotionally, but especially logistically, it was just too hard being together but apart, and in any case, whether I would be going back to his country was a little bit up in the air. The only thing we knew for sure is that I wouldn't be back for at least sixteen months. So we ended it. We stayed friends, though, and we did a lot of emailing and IMing and keeping in touch on facebook, though less over time. By April or so this year, it seemed like he was over me, and I thought, as I've been thinking for fourteen and a half months now, that I was very nearly over him and would be clearing the last hurdle any day. But clearly, I haven't. We were only together a few months, but he was the first person I had ever been in love with. I don't want to go on about him, but everything about him just makes so much sense. And what makes it hard, I suppose, is that we didn't break up because we didn't love each other or like each other or because we were somehow incompatible. It was just because I wasn't there anymore. And I can't convince myself that it's better this way, only try to accept that it is this way.

Anyway, a few days ago I emailed him to tell him that I would indeed be coming back to his country (but far away from where he lives), and that I would be stopping in his city for a few days before moving on to mine. He emailed me back yesterday. He was very effusive, actually. He said, among other things, that he can't wait, etc, but he that wants to be honest with me: he has a girlfriend (and by the way, she's from where I'm headed!). He hopes it doesn't cause me any pain and that I'm not angry. Well... No, of course I'm not angry. I'm not surprised either. It's exactly what I expected to happen, and even what I figured was actually happening in the last few months. I just didn't expect it to feel so incredibly awful to know for sure. I feel sick. I've been telling myself all this time that I probably didn't even want us to get back together (you know, probably). Now I really just have to face up to the fact that I totally want us to get back together, and have all along.

And right now I don't know if I should even see him. How do I stop myself from secretly thinking that if I'm just awesome and beautiful enough, he'll realise that he wants me and not her - and being devastated all over again when it doesn't remotely happen? How do I stop myself from weeping into my coffee? What if he expects me to meet her? (I looked at her facebook, by the way. She's fucking adorable.) I already know I'll be overwhelmed by other things. I'll be in a country where I still don't completely speak the language, living out of two suitcases, days into a journey to a place where I won't even have an apartment yet. I'll be weak. So I just don't know. I feel so stupid, too. Like, didn't I already do this? Didn't I already cry over this man? How come the rest of my life doesn't ever rise up and eclipse this nonsense? What is wrong with me? I haven't told even my closest friend how I really feel ("Oh, yeah, I'm a little sad about it."). I don't want her to know.

I don't even mind pining away in my bedroom for another fourteen and a half months, as long as I get over it eventually. But I'll be there in September and we'll be in front of one another. And I don't want to make it awkward, especially for him. I don't want him to feel like he's done something to hurt me, or like I object to his being happy in his new relationship. So what can I do between now and then to harden my idiot heart? What are the least emotional circumstances in which we could meet? How can I think about this, and how can I be, so I seem like a normal, happy, non-lovesick person? I also kind of wonder if I should just put it off for a while, until my situation is a little more stable, but then that would be weird; we have been talking about this reunion for more than a year. We have been talking about it up to yesterday. And of course, I would really love to see him. So dear Metafilter, please advise me.

Apologies if I've put too many details in this, by the way. I know AskMe isn't my diary. It's just I'm not even sure myself what's relevant, and I know I won't be able to do much clarifying later. Even more details, if you're wondering: I'm a girl; I'm 21 and he's 28 (I know); I haven't replied to his email yet, but we always take our time responding to each other; and I swear I've been cool with him all along - yes, he must realise that I was in love with him once and that it wouldn't just go away, and he must have noticed that I've been cheerfully breaking my back to talk to him in a language I don't even really speak for over a year, but I don't think he has any idea of the true extent of my pining. Thank god. And thank you so much for reading, and in advance for any help you can offer.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (50 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Should I see my ex-boyfriend (who has a girlfriend, and who I'm still in love with) when I'm in his city?

Absolutely not. Stay far, far away. No good will come of this meetup.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:16 PM on August 4, 2011 [69 favorites]

I didn't even have to read everything. Just from your question without all the details, I can say: NO. Why put yourself through all that?
posted by at 5:19 PM on August 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

tl;dr Didn't have to. Seeing him again is a spectacularly bad idea.
posted by paulsc at 5:19 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bad, bad idea. What good will come of this? Stay far away. And while you're at it, stop contacting him full stop and you know, actually break up. Then you won't hang onto the hope that you might get back together. It's the only way.
posted by Jubey at 5:22 PM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seeing him is a really bad idea. It sounds like e-mailing or communicating in any other way (including being his friend on Facebook etc.) with him might be, too. Give yourself a break and let him go.
posted by charmedimsure at 5:22 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is like tearing a Band-Aid off slowly, and then super-gluing it back on, and then pulling it off even more slowly.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:24 PM on August 4, 2011 [25 favorites]

Do you like putting your finger in a live light socket?

Really, he's moved on, you need to move on and seeing him will not help with your moving on. Listen to the This American Life podcast of 2 weeks ago, and then write your own breakup song.
But please don't see him.
posted by Danf at 5:24 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just the fact that he has a girlfriend now means that you should in no way contact him. The only thing that will happen is that you will destroy his relationship with her, and possibly make him resent you forever.

As the other people say - I didn't even need to get past the first sentence.
posted by cavs33 at 5:27 PM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

General rule of thumb: unless you likes the drama, it's best to not hang out with exes if you have unresolved feelings.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:34 PM on August 4, 2011

Why would you let the snake that bit you continue injecting you with venom?

Stay away. Distract yourself, and stop talking to him. This is not a healthy relatiOnship.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:34 PM on August 4, 2011

God no.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 5:34 PM on August 4, 2011

Argh. I want to give you a hug.

Don't go see him. Stop talking to him for now. Wait until you're settled in your new city and kissed a new boy or two before you even think of trying to start up your friendship again. Please do tell your best friend how you're doing; it seems like you think that if you don't acknowledge that it's over and that it hurts, you won't feel the hurt. You have to feel it before you can get over it.

Why shouldn't you go see him? Because you'll find out how thoroughly he's moved on. He won't look at you in the same way or want to hold you. You know that intellectually; do you really want to have your nose rubbed into it? It will hurt like hell and create more painful memories for you to have to forget. Go and enjoy your new city free of fresh pain.
posted by millions of peaches at 5:36 PM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh sweetie, be kind to yourself and do not see this man. Nobody hands out points for creating your own anguish. It is time to move on.
posted by ambrosia at 5:36 PM on August 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oh, I was so YOU 25 years ago, an American living in London in love with an Irishman. Overstayed my visa, stayed on, but eventually had to move back to the USA. Like you, I left because of circumstances.

I was convinced that we could make the LDR work and for awhile, it did. Then he got a girlfriend. And I still went back to London. And the girlfriend, whom I never met, was like a ghost hovering over us, unspoken. Our relationship was never the same, though to this day, though I am proud to say that today we are still friends.

So I am you, 25 years fast forwarded. I am the older, wiser you. Don't do it. Don't see him. Save yourself the heartbreak. Keep the higher road - a friendship is worth much more later down the road than a broken heart.
posted by HeyAllie at 5:36 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, honey, no. You ONLY consider seeing exes again AFTER you're no longer in love with them. (Yes, that really does happen, even when you can't believe that it will.) This is the very definition of picking at a scab. Don't do it. No good will come of it, but lots of bad/sad will.
posted by scody at 5:39 PM on August 4, 2011

Alright, now I took the time to read it all. Here is why you should not see him:

She's fucking adorable.
You sound bitter. You are not ready to see this guy again without being jealous about the new girlfriend. So don't see him.

How do I stop myself from secretly thinking that if I'm just awesome and beautiful enough, he'll realise that he wants me and not her
Things don't magically work out like that. If you see him you'll spend 14 more months wondering why you aren't awesome and beautiful enough. Obviously if he wanted to be with you and not her he would try his best. Why get rejected all over again? Don't put yourself through that, and don't try to mess up their relationship.

I haven't told even my closest friend how I really feel
You're embarrassed about how you really feel, because you know that trying to see him is not going to be good for your self esteem and your mental well being. You didn't tell your friend because you don't want to hear the words "don't see him."

You are so young. Stop wasting your time talking to him. It will suck for the first few weeks but you will get over him so much faster if you cut off all contact, and don't let yourself check his facebook. Don't sit around waiting for September, either. Just do your own thing, make yourself too busy to see him.
posted by at 5:40 PM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

One voice of dissent:

IF (big IF) you are ready to pursue a relationship with him...

In other words, if all of your logistical issues are resolved and you would be willing to move to his country/change your lifestyle/etc. and want to make a go of this...

Then meet him. Talk with him about his life, his plans, etc. Don't make a play for him, exactly, but find out where things stand. Is this a serious relationship he is in? Where is it going?

Don't meet the girlfriend. Just have a conversation with him. Maybe he wants to be with you too. There's no way to know until you meet up.

Keep your expectations low. But meet him, if you want to, and if you are ready to get into a relationship should that become an option.
posted by 3491again at 5:41 PM on August 4, 2011

Why are you going back to his country?

If it is primarily because you had secret hopebe about him (be honest with yourself) you need to take some quick steps to get yourself straight in your head and your heart before you get on that plane.

Not going altogether is a valid option, too.

I know sorting the details to work abroad isn't easy, but 14 months is a long ass amount of time to pine away over someone.

Be really sure you won't continue to pine once you are in country, is all I'm saying.

If I were you knowing what I know now, I would choose an entirely different destination in an attempt to create a whole new adventure for myself. Do that instead of this, y'know, if deep down you know you really need to.

Stop with the Facebook, the emails, the phone calls. Don't see him. 14 months is too long, give yourself a fighting chance to get over this so you can be open to someone new.

(I hope they aren't compatible and he breaks up with her. And then he contacts you one day out of the blue. I do! But this just sounds like overseas dramas, like you will be triangulating with him and the gf. Don't fall into that. OK? Just don't.)
posted by jbenben at 5:43 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this helps, but you said you'd feel bad about canceling this reunion since you've been talking about it all this time. However, you're allowed to draw boundaries for yourself even if they occasionally hurt someone else's feelings. He's already drawn his boundaries by telling you he has a girlfriend. You telling him that you can't see him is no worse, or any meaner, than that. But don't tell him the real reason why you can't see him. Like Miss Manners always says, pick an appropriately vague excuse and repeat it ad nauseam: in this case something like, "I'm sorry, something's come up and I'm not going to be able to come to [your city] this time around. Maybe once I'm more settled I'll be able to visit some other time."
posted by colfax at 5:44 PM on August 4, 2011 [10 favorites]

I see the voting is way stacked toward "No Don't Meet Him!", but I say yes, meet him, and don't fret in the meantime.

Clearly he as moved on, so the point in meeting one last time is not to try to rekindle; it is to say "fare the well." Get closure.

Without closure, this moment in your life linger painfully forever. Why assure that?

Meet him for dinner, talk about the old times, times you shared, affirm you had affection for one another, tell him you wish him well, and say good-bye.

There is too little love in the world. Affirm you two had yours, even if briefly.

End on a warm note if possible.
posted by gnossos at 5:49 PM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I loved her very much, but we had to end it because she lived on the other side of the planet. Two years pass, and we're ostensibly over each other, and she has a boyfriend of about 6 months. One day we were speaking to each other and basically admitted that we both still expect that we'll end up together, that we both still care for each other very much.

I ended up spending a week with her a few months after that (as part of a separate trip), and I anticipated everything from heartbreak to violence when I met this new fellow. What I didn't expect was that seeing them together would be the best thing for me.

When I was away, I could build a happy little dream land for the two of us, with her boyfriend as some hypothetical figure, and live quite happily in that fantasy. When I was there, in person, it was clear (to the both of us, as she'd been dreaming a little too) that our little private world was not something that existed in real life at all. Seeing them together, I realised that it would be far healthier to cherish the memories we had together, but move on with my life. Seeing them together was the catalyst for that (very healthy) decision.

Now, it could have gone the other way - perhaps if the wound was still fresh, perhaps if her new boyfriend was the jealous type, perhaps if I'd been unable to accept that it was over - but for me seeing them together was extremely helpful.

This doesn't mean you should necessarily see them - if you think it's still too tender to see him with someone else, then perhaps some time to yourself would be better - but do consider that it may help to see the reality of his life now, rather than just having your correspondence to go on.
posted by twirlypen at 5:54 PM on August 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you do see him, DO NOT drink. Not one drink, not five drinks...DO NOT DRINK.

Trust me on this one.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:58 PM on August 4, 2011 [15 favorites]

How much do you love him? Enough to allow him to continue the happiness he's found with another person?
posted by Houstonian at 5:58 PM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Don't see him; this is a terrible idea.
posted by spaltavian at 6:02 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

What on earth are you hoping to accomplish by seeing him?
posted by mollymayhem at 6:20 PM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Word on the street is no.
posted by Max Power at 6:30 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go see him. Look him in the eye. Let it sink in. Don't be surprised if it feels different, if he looks/sounds/smells different in reality than in the amber of memory. Don't try to force a resolution. Let him be himself, the guy who loved you, the guy you left, the guy you won't let alone, the guy who now has a new girlfriend. Be yourself. If your heart is broken, well... be heartbroken. Cry. Cry for the loss, for the desire, for the beauty of it all. Don't be ashamed; it is a serious and worthy thing to love truly.
You imply that you've been pining for him for over a year - you must have had a reason for holding on so hard for so long; when that reason reveals itself to you it may surprise you.
Give yourself a little time to catch up on sleep. Don't drink on an empty stomach. Wear something that makes you feel sexy. Pay attention; this is the only first love you will ever have.
Good luck.
posted by jcrcarter at 6:50 PM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

No. He's got a new girlfriend. If you show up and end up trying to rekindle things with him, you'll be the evil ex in an Ask mefi question ("she stole my boyfriend - now what?"). Don't be that person.
posted by media_itoku at 6:56 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh hell no, if you keep picking it'll never heal. And you've already been picking for a very long time. Please take the very good advice on offer here - sever contact until you're damn sure you're no longer in love with him.

God, I don't miss my 20's.
posted by Space Kitty at 6:56 PM on August 4, 2011

So by now, surely, you have heard enough people giving you a resounding "NOOOOOO". It sounds like a total train wreck...but then again that can also be a whole lot of fun in a self destructing, heart wrenching kind of way.

I've done it before - I don't even regret it.
posted by YukonQuirm at 7:03 PM on August 4, 2011

Just the fact that he has a girlfriend now means that you should in no way contact him.

This isn't true. However, seeing him now does sound like a generally bad idea because it's like rubbing salt into a wound. But it could also be helpful. I had something like this happen where I actually told the guy I still had some feelings for him two years later 9even though I had generally moved on, and even had a new boyfriend of my own), and at the time he had a girlfriend. Fast forward to today and the two of us are close friends. Neither of us is interested in the other and both of us are in stable relationships. If you have actually remained friends, and there is a solid backdrop there, this could work. It could help you heal.

But remember, talk to your friends about it. You could use the perspective of others that care about you.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:08 PM on August 4, 2011


posted by motsque at 7:20 PM on August 4, 2011

Time to move on.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:23 PM on August 4, 2011

1) What do you want from this encounter?
2) Are you likely to get that?
3) What are the possible negative outcomes from this encounter?
4) Are the positive and negative possible outcomes consistent with your values?

You say you want to get back together, but is that what you truly want, or just an emotional pull? If you really do want to get back together with him, are you okay making a move on a man in a relationship? Is he likely to dump her for you on sight? Can you handle feeling like a fool? Can you handle losing his respect? Could you handle having an affair with him while he never quite breaks up with her? Can you handle his outright rejection, which you have not yet experienced?

Do you NEED his outright rejection, which you have not yet experienced? Do you need to hear "no, I don't want you"? (I have been in the position of needing to hear that, while the other party was doing his damndest not to say it. It suuuuuucked.)

If "getting back together" is more a pull than what you actually want, again, what do you want out of this encounter? Closure? To see him and his girlfriend together, so you can know viscerally that it's time to move on? To see your friend again and have a good time? To see your friend again and have a really bad time? Are you likely to get what you want from this experience?

If what you want is to spend time with him as a friend, but you are not yet over him and think that will color the trip, don't visit him.

If you need to be rejected, go. Tell him, "I need to hear that you don't want to be with me." It's a bit Le Dramz, but all of this is Le Dramz. You'll weird up the friendship, but the friendship is already weirded up.

If you want to dramafy your life up a bit. . . don't dramafy your life up. There are at least two other people involved. And pretty much everything that ends up with you and him in bed is Drama City. Blecch.
posted by endless_forms at 7:47 PM on August 4, 2011

you're still in love with him. he has a girlfriend.

posted by violetk at 7:51 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are keeping yourself from moving on. Trust me, I was you. I went back, there was a lot of uncomfortable but pleasant talk, then going to sleep in her flat mate's room next door, then her sitting next to the bed in the middle of the night looking at me and leaving when I woke up, then parting the next day, her marrying the guy and having a family and us never speaking again -- and now 20+ years later I would probably be ready to be her friend and have a laugh about it all.

Honestly, let yourself move on, be awesome and time will pass remarkably quickly.
posted by cgk at 7:56 PM on August 4, 2011

You're 21. Go ahead and have this experience, realize it'll hurt, embrace it and move on.

And the not telling your friend what you're going through? Stop that, everyone needs a support network.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:58 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by lulu68 at 7:59 PM on August 4, 2011

So what can I do between now and then to harden my idiot heart?

I think everyone else has clearly answered your other questions but I'll address this one. You're not special, he's not special, you're situation is not unique. This song has been sung a million times over and yet they have found a way to move on. You're young and he's your first love so I know this is A Big Deal to you now, but in 10 years, 20 years, you'll look back on this and chuckle. You need to move on and it's okay if a small part of you never moves on. I had a similar situation when I was your age and I forever left a small part of my heart back in his country...but you can't keep holding on. If your head was in the right place, I'd tell you to meet him, but it's not. You know it's a bad idea to see him and you should trust your gut.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:04 PM on August 4, 2011

Don't see him if it's to get back together.

Do see him if you need to make it clear to yourself that it's already over.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:36 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nothing good can come of this. Don't even cinsider seeing him. He has a girlfriend, which should tell you everything you need to know. Life isn't like the movies. You won't win him over and steal him away from his girlfriend. Just avoid this situation, honestly.
posted by fso at 8:56 PM on August 4, 2011

Joining the chorus of "don't go, it will suck". Millions of peaches is right about him not looking at you the same way anymore. I've had that happen and it sucks an incredible amount. Please don't put yourself through that.

I also kind of wonder if I should just put it off for a while, until my situation is a little more stable, but then that would be weird; we have been talking about this reunion for more than a year. We have been talking about it up to yesterday.

This is a flimsy excuse you're using to convince yourself you can't back out of it. Tell him something came up and you're sorry but you're no longer able to get together.

I also agree with everyone who says you need to cut off contact. It's the only way you'll give yourself a chance to feel better and move on.
posted by whitelily at 9:13 PM on August 4, 2011

Nthing no. And also nooooooo!
posted by hansbrough at 9:22 PM on August 4, 2011

Wait. I missed this...

"we have been talking about this reunion for more than a year. We have been talking about it up to yesterday."

And he just told you about the GF?

posted by jbenben at 9:47 PM on August 4, 2011 [12 favorites]

1) This is a terrible idea on every level.
2) You're probably going to do it anyway.
3) Make certain you learn the lesson here and never do it again in the future.
posted by Justinian at 12:41 AM on August 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

I vote for go and meet him (daytime, sober, leaving time set beforehand etc). I think if you don't you'll continue to keep him as a fantasy for longer.
And to some degree you'll have to fake it til you make it - act like a woman meeting an ex that she's still friends with (during the meeting and afterwards).
This is from the standpoint of a 51 year old with exs who range from dear friends to pleasant acquaintances, but no one, so far, I wouldn't wish to have a cup of coffee with.
posted by sianifach at 12:46 AM on August 5, 2011

I can't tell you whether it's a good idea or not to see your ex. Really, whether it's good or not depends on what you expect from the meeting, and how you feel.

However, I do have some advice about this:

he was the first person I had ever been in love with. I don't want to go on about him, but everything about him just makes so much sense.

I want to say that it's not uncommon to feel that way about the first person you fall in love with.

While there is a chance that you and he are meant to be, it is more likely that, only knowing him for a few months, and as the first love of your life, you are feeling what many people feel with their first love.

The best way to see this is to find your second love.
posted by zippy at 6:51 AM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't think you should see him.

This weekend I'll be hanging out with an ex of mine, an ex I dated for over two years and who broke my heart when he broke up with me. I really, really loved this guy. We were super compatible, always had fun, very few fights, etc. But he is 5 years younger than me and at the time needed more freedom before he could settle down with anyone.

The reason I'm able to hang out with him now (I'm married, he's got a serious girlfriend) is because we had COMPLETE RADIO SILENCE for YEARS. He tried to contact me once before I was ready, about six months after our breakup, and I sent him an awful nasty letter about what an asshole he was that I never should have sent. I wouldn't recommend that part - you could just say that you need to be out of contact for a long while - but it worked in terms of getting the space I needed.

Several years later he contacted me when he was going to be in my city for work. He was still worried I hated him, but when I searched my heart I realized I didn't care much about him at all. That sounds cruel, but since then we've hung out several times when we're in each others' cities and starting from a base of not caring allowed us to build up a true friendship that isn't romantic at all. I can love him now, but as one loves a friend, with absolutely no pining or wishes that it were otherwise. I'm not even attracted to him anymore, even though I can see he's still a good looking guy.

You were only in a relationship with this guy for a few months. I know he was your First Love and that carries weight in your heart, but you are young and have many, many chances to find love again. Relationships don't work out for all sorts of reasons, and it can be frustrating when it's not about your compatibility as a couple or love for each other, but instead for what feels like artificial or outside reasons.

Wait until you are well and truly over him. It may take years, more time than you think it should. It may never happen. But unless you're meeting at a point and time when you're both able make a go of it again, it is not a good idea to see him as long as you're still hoping for a relationship with him.
posted by misskaz at 7:40 AM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

From my own somewhat-related experience, if you do not see him you will continue to experience the pain and sadness of being broken up and missing him. If you do see him, you will continue to experience the pain and sadness of being broken up and missing him plus you'll get a generous scoop of self-loathing and seemingly-endless lectures inside your head about "how pathetic you are to keep chasing after somebody who doesn't want you, you have no self-respect..."
posted by Lexica at 11:40 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

No. You should not. Not unless you like pain, and prolonging the agony.

I'm sorry, it really is that simple, and I do speak from experience.
posted by Decani at 12:23 PM on August 5, 2011

« Older Okay, I'll say it: does season three of True Blood...   |   What are the lyrics to the chorus of If I Don't... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.