I miss my ex-girlfriend when we break up, but I want to be single when we're together?
December 3, 2011 12:43 AM   Subscribe

I miss my ex-girlfriend when we break up, but I want to be single when we're together?

We dated for 2 years, but at present we've been broken up for the past two or three weeks now. But really we have been on and off for the past 6 months.

I feel whenever we are together, that the relationship isn't going to work because we are too different. Or because I've never dated anyone else before, or even kissed anyone else really, so I can't help but think about other people.

I mean there are other reasons that bother me about our relationship, but nothing we couldn't really work through if we tried. Our relationship is pretty strong overall, it's just my nagging doubts about being in a relationship I'm not overly optimistic about. And also the fact that I'm still young, I don't want to be missing out on any experiences in my life because of a relationship.

But for the past 6 months, I've basically let these doubts nag at the back of my mind until I finally hastily break up with her, with no real warning. Until a week later when we inevitably get back together and talk it over. And then process repeats. It's cruel I know. But I only realized this was the problem until recently

The reason I'm asking, to be honest, is because whenever this happens she quickly finds an outlet in someone else if I'm not there for her. The last time she made out with a guy, which she apologized for after, and she defended herself saying she needed to find a way to get over me. She called me right after this had happened crying. Now I'm just afraid she's talking to her ex again, and going to clubs. I want her back now. But I don't want to hurt her over and over again like before.

I hope this made sense, and I'm sorry for wording this weirdish. I'm really tired but I can't sleep tonight. Does anyone have experience with on and off relationships? Does anyone have advice for myself in my situation?

Here's a question I posted a while back with a bit more background information if you're interested

posted by Snorlax to Human Relations (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
she defended herself saying she needed to find a way to get over me.

It sounds like she's right. You only want her when you think someone else might have her, and it doesn't sound like this is something that's likely to change.

It's natural that you miss her when you break up, but that doesn't mean you should be back together with her. I generally think that if you've broken up and gotten back together more than once, it's a sign that you're not at this point ready to do the hard part of working through problems and issues that you have in pretty much any relationship. Which is also I think normal, you're young and it's a skill, but I don't think this is going to be the relationship in which you learn that skill. Sorry.

Does anyone have advice for myself in my situation?

Move on and let her do the same.
posted by lwb at 1:28 AM on December 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

Are you more upset that she's not with you, or that she's with someone else instead? This is a very important question that only you will be able to answer.
Either you want in, or you want out: if you think the relationship is hampering your style, then get out and stay out. If you want to try other avenues instead, then do that, and see how it works out. Most likely, you'll end up right back where you were.
She has every right move on to whatever comes next if you bail, btw. That's how breaking up works, and you can't get hurt feelings over it, at least not fairly.
As I read this, you need to either shit or get off the pot.
posted by Gilbert at 1:30 AM on December 3, 2011

The thing that trips people up is that they expect not to miss the other person, or not to care at all, suddenly. Why would you expect that? It's not like you become someone else just by deciding to do X instead of Y as a response to your complicated and contradictory feelings, which were always there no matter what you did.

In my experience, it's like this-- it hurts and feels 'wrong' and unsatisfactory, as if there's no right solution, which there probably never is when feelings are involved. The 'solution' is to stop thinking of it as a 'solution' rather than just a choice you make, either way. It's not that either choice will feel 'right' or 'satisfying' (I mean, people are generally dissatisfied with small bursts of satisfaction in their lives, like when they're fed or asleep), but you can make it. The only thing you can do is stick to whatever choice you do make, regardless of whether it always feels 'good' or 'right', because no choice about feelings will always feel good or right. Especially not right after the fact, when you haven't had a chance to get over it yet, and neither has she.

We do a lot of stupid things to 'feel better'. She's extraverted, people-oriented, so her 'solutions' involve other people, feeling wanted by other people and maybe making you jealous (subconsciously) to feel better. You're introverted, so your 'solution' involves avoiding entanglement, keeping options open interaction-wise, and avoiding her/distancing yourself to feel better. This is a classic push-pull relationship dynamic.

In other words, the point is to stick to your guns even when it's not what you think you want-- that's how it gets better.
posted by reenka at 1:31 AM on December 3, 2011 [16 favorites]

"The reason I'm asking, to be honest, is because whenever this happens she quickly finds an outlet in someone else if I'm not there for her. "

Um. I'll try to be gentle here, but blunt.

You need to really meditate on that sentence. When you break up with her, that's it for you! She should be getting back out there, catching up with old friends, making new ones, and having new experiences. Y'know, working on moving forward. Additionally, and most importantly, her life post-break up is 310% NONE of your business.

Sorry if that was harsh. Please try and get some perspective back. That might really help you curb any hurtful actions.

I'm pretty concerned about what you might be doing to this poor girl and her self esteem. It really sounds like the on/off thing is making you miserable, too.

You got great advice in your last question that you didn't seem to follow. I'm gonna pass the baton on to other commenters. In the meantime, I do you hope you give that sentiment of yours which I highlighted some serious re-thinking.
posted by jbenben at 1:33 AM on December 3, 2011 [15 favorites]

What I have to say is basically what reenka just said. Ending a relationship that doesn't suit you doesn't make you instantly happy with your life. It breaks patterns, habits and expectations that you've come to take for granted. It's unsettling and sometimes sad. Breaking up is just the start of a longer process; it clears the way for you to build new patterns, habits and relationships that suit you better. You have to power through. If you're not willing to cut off contact for a few months, cope with your discomfort and do something else with yourself, stop doing this to the poor girl.
posted by jon1270 at 1:37 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Would it be fair to say,
1. You really enjoy being intimately connected and involved with someone ("missing her")
2. You and your current someone are not very compatible ("wanting to be single")

If I may editorialise for a moment, for some reason, men often seem to have a hard time admitting they want to be in a relationship -- that they want the joys and benefits that come from that level of interaction.

When friends come into the moment which you have described, my thought is, "right kind of relationship, wrong specific relationship." Yet, they often insist how much they love the partner. Even though the relationship is driving them absolutely mad. And the opposing option is "being single." Yet these guys like being in relationships, so the option may not be "being single" as much as it may be "find another relationship."

Back to you for a moment.
I've never dated anyone else before, or even kissed anyone else really, so I can't help but think about other people.
I'm just afraid she's talking to her ex again, and going to clubs. I want her back now. But I don't want to hurt her over and over again like before.
Since you asked for it, I'll give it. It may be a bit harsh.

It sounds that you are more interested in 'possession' than 'love', and that's not a problem because apparently you are kind of new to this -- the breaking up, not the relationship.

I see a big red flag here because as mentioned above 1) you want to be with someone, 2) and are trying to mould her into that person. Some would say "you are afraid of being alone" yet I would not say that. I would say that you are in love with love itself, and not the partner you are currently involved with.
she quickly finds an outlet in someone else if I'm not there for her.
This seems to bring you back to her. So she's learned that when you break up with her, if she sources other male attention, you'll get angry and come back.

Whilst it's not healthy, I would assume that you are both quite young and figuring it out for the first or second time.

Take my advice, you are in a dysfunctional relationship. You are part of the dysfunction itself. If you need to explore other women, then go have at it. When you're done with that, find a new partner and settle down for a while. Maybe forever, maybe not.

But your trying to possess love right now, and man, that wasteland is littered with the bodies of good men who have tried before you. It's okay for her to be with other men. It's okay for you to be with other women. This is not the right relationship for you. You have found you like being in relationships, and now need to go on the road and find one that fits better.

To quote Badger: "I just think you shouldn't do it man, that's all."
posted by nickrussell at 3:21 AM on December 3, 2011 [10 favorites]

Other people gave great reasons, but I'm just going to be blunt: You are hurting her with the on-again off-again thing. You guys are emotionally close, but incompatible. Let her go - break off all contact so she can move on and find someone who is compatible.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:13 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Break up with her and cut off all contact. In the mean time, you will mature and find someone who you want to be with when you're with them. Trust me, that feels waaaay better than what you're doing now.
posted by motsque at 5:10 AM on December 3, 2011

It sounds like you quickly forget bad things. Which is nice from a mental health standpoint--you don't want to dwell on everything that ever went wrong--but bad for decision making. One way to resolve this is to make a pro/con list. Write down all the good and bad things about being with her, vs. the good and bad things about not being with her. Take your time and really think about it until you're sure you've remembered everything. Then make a decision based on the list...and keep the list. Whenever you feel the urge to change your decision, go back to the list!
posted by anaelith at 5:31 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are treating this girl poorly. You say yourself that you want to have experiences that you cannot have while in a relationship. You've split with her a number of times. This time it should be for good. Do not speak to her again and let her find someone who does want to be in a relationship with her.
posted by dmt at 5:47 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm going to simplify this - it sounds like you want to have your cake, and eat it, too. You want to have the advantages of a close relationship, but also the advantages of being single. You want her to be there for you, and you want her to not see other people, but you want to be free to see other people and to move 5 hours away.

When you break up with someone, it leaves a hole in your life. You probably were spending a majority of you time with her, either literally, or by thinking about her ("I bet Girlfriend would like this terrible song. Oh, there's an ad for vanilla ice cream-Girlfriend loves vanilla ice cream.") It takes a while to get used to having that hole in your life, and for it to be filled with other things. The way a lot of people fill that hole is by seeing someone else. That's what your ex-girlfriend is doing. You don't like it when she does it, but to be blunt, you just need to get over it. You're being cruel to her by going back and forth. Let her move on, and you move on too.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:31 AM on December 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is extremely normal for relationships, especially first relationships. Everyone misses their partner at first after the break-up, everyone thinks about getting back together, and seeing the ex with other people is almost always painful and further encourages the second thoughts.

But having those feelings does not make it a good idea. It does not change the issues that cause the break-up in the first place. It does not lead to either person changing themselves to fix the issues in the relationship. It just leads to temporary reuniting with the ex and hook-ups followed by more fights and pain. It's a temporary solution for the wound that ultimately makes it worse.

Leave her be. Deal with the pain and jealousy. You'll get over it, just like the rest of the world. And for God's sake, think of her feelings--you've no right to be trying to win her back from anyone else when you guys aren't a good fit simply because you get upset about other people "having" her.
posted by schroedinger at 6:34 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was in an on and off relationship that lasted nearly three years. We broke up several times and it was always me who broke it off, cruel I know, and I also understand how hard it is to be in your situation and be utterly confused by your own behavior.

Personally, it took me a very long time to see the pattern, to realize that my feelings were simply not strong enough to keep us together and that it was not love but fear, doubt, guilt, etc. (all cleverly disguised as love, of course) that would always bring us back together. The fact that we had a lot in common and cared for each other as friends also made it easy to slip back into a relationship. I think the reality of the situation would have been obvious to me had I been brave enough to be completely honest with myself. If I had been going to a therapist at the time maybe I would have been more aware of what I was doing, but I did have friends who tried pointing out what was going on and sadly it didn't really help. I had to hurt this person again and again before it became clear that something wasn't right and that I was deceiving myself.

It is hard to be in pain yourself and still be a big enough person to realize that you are being unfair or hurtful to someone and that it is your responsibility to stop the pattern. I am not saying that this is the case with you, but for me, it was that, and if you recognize yourself in my little story then at least you can know that you're not alone and it's not the end of the world if you have to face a not-so-pretty side of yourself. I was in the wrong, I was using someone, I was ignoring that because I was afraid of being alone. When I truly realized it I was able to leave for good, and yes, I still feel sad to this day about how I treated this person. But we're both okay now and we've both moved on.

I think you need to ask yourself some really tough questions and not be afraid of what the answers might be. Are your feelings for her based on your own loneliness, fear? Can you let go of the idea of being with other people? Is that even the issues? Are you being fair to her? Are you being fair to yourself? Ask yourself every hard question you can think of.

Whatever the answers are, they won't make you a better or worse person, just be as honest as you can be with yourself, and push yourself to speak and act from that place of honesty.

Good luck to you.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 6:35 AM on December 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

What reenka said. A coworker of mine said something when I broke up with my "soulmate" two months ago. She said, "Aww, that sucks. Well, you'll feel bad for six months or so, and then you'll begin to live your life again - without your current regrets." YMMV.

You do also sound jealous, though - and on again off again sucks for everyone. Stop thinking about her and find something new to focus on for a while. And listen to "Good Life" by Francis Dunnery. (Via another mefite - I'd give credit if I remembered his user name.) I hope you can get past this.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 6:44 AM on December 3, 2011

Does anyone have experience with on and off relationships?

They hurt all concerned. Once you've decided that the quality of a relationship is not worth the work you need to do to maintain it and that you need to break it up, do that. Jerking people around (especially people with a sudden pressing need to work out what to do about having been dumped) is not OK. It's not even a little bit OK.

Does anyone have advice for myself in my situation?

Right after you broke up with her, I advised you as follows:
As the breakup-er, it's also on you to avoid contact with the breakup-ee until both of you have found an emotional place where you can see each other as people first and exes second. Don't let the guilt you're feeling now let you become the guy she turns to for comfort, because that gives false hope and that's just cruel.
That advice stands. If you break up with somebody, it's your job to have the guts to follow through.

And of course you miss her. How on earth did you ever think you wouldn't? But it's what you feel when you're in a relationship that determines whether or not that relationship is working for you. What you feel when you're out of one (especially your first one) is something you need to take the time to work through lest you impose a bunch of unprocessed baggage on your next partner.
posted by flabdablet at 6:50 AM on December 3, 2011 [9 favorites]

And look. This was your first, so you still haven't had the experience of finding yourself in a better place with a different person. But you will.

But you'll probably need to have experienced a breakup you didn't see coming before you work out that the principal virtues a partner can possibly have are courage and kindness, and that every other attribute pales into insignificance next to those two.
posted by flabdablet at 6:58 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'll give you some general advice. It's important to realize that's it's normal and healthy to have mixed feelings. If you're with someone you like, you can also long for the freedom of being single. If you know that you shouldn't be with someone, even if part of you doesn't want to be with that someone, a part of you can also want to be with them. Don't focus only on the negative half of the mixed feelings, taking them as evidence that something is wrong. You need to take the whole of your feelings into account.
posted by callmejay at 7:23 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In your earlier post, you mentioned an introvert/extrovert dynamic with her and her family. I think it's important to realize that that's more than just talkativeness and processing thoughts aloud or internally. It's about energy sources. When I dated extroverts, I found it really draining, and occasionally resented them for taking my energy away from other things that I wanted to spend energy on. On the other side of the coin, I know one of my exes in particular was frustrated that I couldn't offer more expression, more for him to engage with. He also couldn't understand that my need for time alone wasn't an occasional thing, a symptom of burnout or whatever. But opposites do attract, and when you're not with them, you aren't drained and the grass looks greener. So it starts all over again, lather, rinse, repeat. My now-husband was the first introvert I ever dated, and I'm still amazed at how much different a dynamic it is.
posted by lily_bart at 8:38 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Quit glomming onto and inflicting yourself on this poor girl. Go find your second girlfriend.
posted by rhizome at 12:03 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

because I've never dated anyone else before, or even kissed anyone else really, so I can't help but think about other people.

Now would be an excellent time to date someone else. Go do that.

You're being a real jerk to this girl. Stop doing that.
posted by ook at 1:29 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

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