just setting myself up for rejection?
April 13, 2012 11:33 AM   Subscribe

I can't stop thinking about asking my ex for another try. This is probably a bad idea, but should I just ask anyway, just so I know I tried my best?

I'm usually not one to back track, but I can't stop thinking about what went wrong and how our relationship worked in so many ways. We dated for less than a year, and he basically brought up that though our relationship was good in all those ways, it wasn't as developed as it should be at this point, and he didn't know why or how to fix that. This was meant to be a conversation where we would come to a decision together (so he says, but maybe he just meant for us to break up in the end and wanted me to realize it was a good idea as well so he could feel less guilty...who knows). I was shocked and my ego was bruised, so I basically just said if that if that's the way he feels and he can't even pinpoint why, then there's nothing to fix, and I left and we haven't spoken in weeks.

Now I'm left with a (perhaps delusioned) sense of control, because I keep wondering if I should have fought for it, and if I did, we would still be together, and maybe that option is still open. I read "Too good to leave and too bad to stay", and it made me realize a few things: (1) I still love and miss him, and (2) some of the events that led up to our relationship coming to stagnation. I think during a critical period, I didn't appear as invested in the relationship as he was, which led to more and more mutual distancing between us. I was also not in a good place personally, and was afraid to communicate my feelings (both good and bad), and just spend a lot of time sulking about various other aspects of my life (I am doing much better now). I wasn't a very good partner at times, though neither was he towards the end, but I just make excuses like, "Oh, but it's just a natural reaction to my apparent ambivalence at the time, and this time, it'll be different!"

If he was telling the truth, and he truly didn't understand why our relationship wasn't progressing, then I believe that's the answer, hence me debating whether we should try again (believing I have some say in this). He has had trouble making connections between emotions and conscious thought in the past. But maybe he was just sparing my feelings, and just didn't like me that much, and the breakup was just a unilateral decision he made that I cannot change. If that's the case, it's such a waste of energy for me to attempt to sort out my feelings for him and deciding whether another try would be worth it, because whatever I say, the decision has already been made due to reasons I cannot comprehend.

Should I just let it go, stop wondering, and move on? How? It's not like I haven't already tried (but maybe I need to try harder) Or should I risk rejection, humiliation, and reopening the wound by contacting him and asking if getting back together is even an option? If yes, I will know my energy thinking about it isn't automatically a waste, and if no, at least I'll realize it's definitely over, no matter how much I want to be with him. Maybe I need that wake up call. Maybe I'm hanging onto something that's not there. I feel like I've taken good care of myself since being single, and except for really missing him and constantly wondering if we should give it another chance, I feel pretty good. I don't want to open myself up to rejection (again?) unnecessarily.

This isn't really a question about WHETHER we should get back together. That would be a conversation we will need to have. I'm just asking if it's wise to even open up this conversation. Does that make sense? Advice please?

throwaway: dwellinghope@yahoo.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
he basically brought up that though our relationship was good in all those ways, it wasn't as developed as it should be at this point, and he didn't know why or how to fix that. This was meant to be a conversation where we would come to a decision together

It sounds like he wanted to talk about it and think about ways to possibly change things, and you kind of made some assumptions and jumped straight to the breakup. I don't see anything wrong with calling him up and asking if he still wants to have that conversation and think about giving things another go.
posted by cairdeas at 11:51 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe it would be helpful to reach out. It sounds like the "what if" is keeping you from moving on. Settling the question will help you move forward, one way or another.
posted by bunderful at 11:59 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't want to open myself up to rejection (again?) unnecessarily.

Literally no one in the world except him could tell you how the conversation's going to go.

In relationships and in their wake, we always have this weird tendency to chase certainty, even though no one in the entirety of human history has ever found it. On some level, you want certainty, before you act. I'm here to tell you that you can't have it.

Just call him, and say you've been missing him and whatnot, and ask him if this is something he could see giving another chance.

You've already worked out everything anyone could tell you: that he may just not have been into you, that it may not have been like that at all, that a yes would be great and a no might help you process and move on. It seems like all you need is the push to go through with it. So here it is: Go through with it. I hope that whatever answer you get is the answer you truly need. Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:29 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

What's the worst thing that can happen if you ask? I'm thinking the worst possible outcome is that he says no, and that you can probably handle that, and that even then you'll have accomplished something in that you need not continue wondering what would have happened if you had asked. So... I'd ask.
posted by orange swan at 12:31 PM on April 13, 2012

I always do this because I like to hold onto things forever and ever and ever but it's usually a shit idea that leaves me feeling rejected or in a one-sided relationship where they give off the impression that they're merely tolerating me, when I ought to be being adored--as should you.

Then again, it is nice to have a final OMG NO STOP ASKING FOR FUCK'S SAKE

So, if it's what you need to do to move on, rejection isn't the end of the world, but I don't think it's a great idea either.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:46 PM on April 13, 2012

The events that precipitate a breakup usually have tentacles that reach back into areas of your lives as individuals and the structure of your relationship, and I would hope that you've put some thought into what they were, as well as the fact that it's sometimes easy to split them off from the good things about a relationship when you're looking at it in retrospect, and missing the good stuff.

To me, the worst thing that could come of this would be to get into a conversation that gets you back into a relationship (a) on condition that you accept the full weight of the responsibility for the things that led to the breakup, (b) under the assumption that you've changed significantly since the breakup, and/or (c) under the assumption that the thing that led to the breakup was the conversation itself, or even the issues raised in the conversation, when in fact the conversation and the issues were symptomatic of something broader that will come up again unless they're properly addressed.

I can tell you that I've gotten back into a bad relationship based on (a), when the thing I should have done was either walk or stand up more for my own needs. As for (b), a few weeks is not a long time to say that things are better, though it's awesome that you've read Too Good to Leave/Too Bad to Stay, and (c) is actually the thing that's given me the most comfort when second-guessing breakups, because it often turns out that the problem would have inevitably come up again in one way or another.

I'm just bringing up things here that I hope you'll consider. You might want to talk to someone close to you about the things you were feeling in the aftermath of the breakup, or leading up to it, or think about what would happen if someone else popped up in your life offering a promising first date.

One final thing...

I wasn't a very good partner at times, though neither was he towards the end, but I just make excuses like, "Oh, but it's just a natural reaction to my apparent ambivalence at the time, and this time, it'll be different!"

This reads a lot to me like "Mutual Shutdown" in Too Good to Leave... It's on page 118 in the paperback version and also in the index. I'd recommend having a good look at that and guideline #12.
posted by alphanerd at 1:07 PM on April 13, 2012

What's the worst thing that could happen if you asked? What's the worst thing that could happen if you didn't ask? Write 'em down -- the worst of the worst, and the best of the best, and then do a simple risk/reward evaluation.

Incidentally, if you write down really horrible things and find yourself thinking "of course, he'd NEVER do that", then take that into account as well (but still write down the horrible things.) Similarly, if you write really positive stuff but think "of course, he doesn't want those things, he's already said", then take that into account (but write down the positive things anyway.)

Ultimately you'll end up with four points: the best/worst that could happen with anyone, and the best/worst that you think might happen with him. Then you'll know what to do.
posted by davejay at 1:22 PM on April 13, 2012

You seem really…self-focused. That would make sense if you’ve been in a bad place in your life and only have the energy to concentrate on your own needs. I don’t even get a sense of who your ex is at all, or why he’s special, from your question. I just get a sense of your need, your doubting your own previous decision to break up, your…sort of taking him for granted.

It also sounds like you weren’t that into him, but didn’t expect him to break up with you, and it’s thrown you for a loop. It’s not supposed to work that way- the person who’s more into someone is supposed to be there as a given! You were the one who was supposed to decide! I completely understand that feeling, but I’ve learned that it has nothing to do with love or missing someone- it’s purely a battle with your own self-image and self-esteem. He could be anyone. And sometimes the less-attached person has to call it off. It sucks, it really does…but it’s a sign from the universe that you’re maybe unable to give him what he needs, and that you can’t take people’s admiration for granted unless it goes both ways.

Do you really care about him as a friend? I read your feelings of pride, your logical arguments, your “good on paper” and your need for control in this question. I don’t get a sense that you worry about him deeply, that you want him to be happy even if it’s with someone else, that you really grok him on a deep level and want to laugh and completely be yourself and be vulnerable.

I think you’re fixating because you were in a bad place and this made it worse. You need a safe person you can rely on, and a sense of control in your life- just don’t try to find that in romantic relationships right now. Trying to find it with your ex seems like it will probably just make your self-esteem problem progressively worse. Can you get into therapy or talk with a good friend?

Take care of yourself.
posted by quincunx at 3:56 PM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

@davejay's on to it. Pascal's Wager comes alive.

You don't say anything; he's not into it: You don't get back together.
You don't say anything; he's still into it: You don't get back together.
You say something; he's not into it: You don't get back together.
You say something; he's into it: You get back together.

Now, that may look like you have a 75% chance of failure and a 25% chance of success, but when you factor in that you 1) have absolutely nothing to lose by saying something, and 2) a lot to gain by saying something, you really have a 25% chance that tomorrow is something different*, and a 75% chance that tomorrow is the same as today.

The * is because a few weeks is not a long time. There's the whole school of thought that says 'it's called a break-up 'cause it's broken'. In those cases, you need time for both people to change. I'm not sure that's you. Maybe it is, and you should be ready for that. However, sometimes, we make mountains out of molehills and then our ego sticks to those bad decisions. Is that the case here? Only one way to find out.

That being said, you must prepare yourself for the fact that he may not be interested. If that's the case, nothing has changed. You exchanged some words. And then it's time to really break up. Because you're not broken up right now, you're in a weird limbo. Maybe he is too, maybe not. Only one way to find out.

I think for you, re-engaging with him will result in one of two things. 1) A rekindling, or 2) self-knowledge on your part. It feels good to live your truth and go after what you want. If it doesn't work out, you will know that you played it to the end and you completed this process. Thus, you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Just a quick note on how you do it. I, like you, don't go backward. Except for once. I broke up with her for many of the same reasons, or so it seems. And the way she got me back was by basically seducing me back into it. It was grandmaster moves. She called and flippantly said "let's have a cup of coffee and chat." Okay, fine. We didn't talk about us or 'it' – the break-up that is. We had fun, we had a nice chat. We had a lingering hug goodbye. And then she pranced off. She certainly got the gears turning again.

It went on like that for two months. We had lunch once a week. We never talked about the break-up. It was like we were dating again, but completely on her terms, since I had broken up with her. Sometimes she kissed me with all the passion in the world. Other times, a brief peck. As soon as she saw I was open to dating again -- those were dates -- she made me prove to her I wanted it. And in that process, I came to really want her again. In the break-up, she wasn't able to stop thinking about me. I was playing in the sandbox. And then so gently, so gradually, it happened. And there we were again, six months later. Back together. But two different people, who had learned how to treat each other. Well, she taught me how to treat her. She learned how to treat herself. And the second go-around was a new relationship. It was amazing, the difference.

And I'm not saying it's going to happen for you. I hope it does, because you want it. But it's possible. I never believe it until it happened to me, and it happened because whilst I was done, she wasn't done. And she taught me that I wasn't done either, in time.

Thus, once you decide to do it (which you know you are going to do it, come on), then it's a matter of how you do it. Play it cool. Remind each other of why it worked, don't chat about why it didn't. She never once brought up our break-up. There was no reason to. If you want to continue a relationship, you don't talk about the break-up. You talk about what you're going to do next week. And one day, it becomes tomorrow. And then one day, maybe, there is no difference between yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

It may not work man. Have a friend ready and waiting in case it implodes. Don't expect anything. But give it a shot, otherwise, you'll always wonder… what if? And that is the worst. Give me a thousand heartbreaks over a what if...
posted by nickrussell at 4:05 PM on April 13, 2012 [13 favorites]

Whether you should get back together should come first, not second.

It sounds like he dug you and you were ambivalent about him. So, yeah, you can ask him and either get back together or not, but you can also waste more of his and your time and cause at least him pain or not.

It's not wise to open up this conversation. It's also not kind.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:47 PM on April 13, 2012

What "FAMOUS MONSTER" and "nickrussell"said.

I hope that there is not another person involved in either one of your lives. That would make things a lot more complicated.

Good luck.
posted by WestChester22 at 5:06 AM on April 14, 2012

Better to ask, and find out for better or worse, than spend all your days wondering. I think you need to have that conversation with him.
posted by EatMyHat at 7:54 AM on April 14, 2012

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