Shall I visit my kind-of-ex or not?
July 17, 2012 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Travelling to a country where someone that I was involved with fairly recently and parted on amicable terms lives. Shall I visit him - and risk either rekindling a relationship that doesn't really have a future, or becoming even more heartbroken? Snowflakes within.

Background: All countries in Europe, both in early 20s, me being very romantically inexperienced. He and I met in Country A where we were both at university. We had an intense short-and-sweet romance for a few weeks, before he graduated and moved back home to Country B. He also has a 1-year job lined up in Country C from the autumn which is pretty far from Country A, so I knew from the outset that there wasn't much future in the relationship. But I went for him anyway, because I liked him too much. When he left I was heartbroken, but I suggested that we keep in touch as friends, and to let me know what he plans to do after the year. He agreed, but told me not to wait around for him, because I'd easily be able to find someone soon and I should take the chance to be happy. He said I'd be very welcome to visit him in Country C though, and I said maybe. We parted very amicably.

It's been about a month since, and I thought sadly that we would probably just drift apart - but he has since been sending me some emails (just generic chat), chats over IM, and a few days ago he called me on skype, again with just generic chat (we always had a lot to talk about). I mentioned that I had been making plans (completely separately to him) to visit a friend next month in Country B, albeit 5-6 hours away from his home town by train. We lightly suggested to each other that one of us could come to the other city, but we left it ambiguous.

Talking to him face-to-face brought back a rush of the emotions I had felt back then and I just really, overwhelmingly want to see him again. It won't cost me that much more to take a detour to his city on my way back. But my rational side tells me this is a bad idea. I still have very strong feelings for him, but I don't know about him - he's not very verbally communicative about his wants or emotions. I do think he did like me back then - his gestures and actions were always affectionate and considerate, and he was always keen to set up dates - but if he'd rather be leaving me behind in his past and just be friends, I don't want to be clingy or be intruding into his life, especially as there isn't much other reason to visit his home city apart from him (though it's a nice tourist city in its own right). Or even if we are on the same page, what would it achieve to meet again if we can't be together in the long run? (Though we didn't explicitly talk about it, I don't think either of us would want an LDR. I really thought we had a good chance of building something if we were in the same place, but we were still in the getting-to-know-you-and-infatuated-by-you stage and I don't want that to sour by the realities and strain of an LDR.) And part of me is wondering whether I'm just holding on to him because it was the first romantic experience I've had, and I don't have anything to benchmark my emotions or instinct against; perhaps I'd be better off trying to start dating in my home town and move cleanly on....?

But... I still want to see him again. How do I know whether this is something worth the chance or not? Advice would be very much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You see, this is what happens when you don't make a clean break.

You can't be friends because when he sends you little friendly emails, you start longing for a relationship.

You know intellectually that this is bad timing, you're in different countries and you have no intention of being in the same place together.

You can put it on the line, "Sweetie, I still have feelings for you, and if you have feelings for me, let's move together in the same place to see if we can make it work."

If he takes you up on it, then you've got a ball-game. If he gives you a weird look and starts stuttering, then he doesn't want to do that, in which case stop all contact and get over him.

You can waste years of your life waiting for the stars to align to see if he's THE ONE. Wouldn't it be better to find out for sure, one way or the other now. Either it's awesome, or after about a week you see the flaws and want out.

If you're not willing to say the sentence above, then for sure, never speak to him again.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:03 AM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

My initial though upon reading the first part of your question (before the break) was "No." After reading the rest, I haven't changed my mind. Let this one go. Plenty of fish, yada yada yada.

(Or go with what Ruthless Bunny says, if you're willing to take that leap. But if that doesn't work out, definitely cut all contact—if not permanently, then for a good, long while until you can really move past this.)
posted by divisjm at 9:09 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

And part of me is wondering whether I'm just holding on to him because it was the first romantic experience I've had, and I don't have anything to benchmark my emotions or instinct against; perhaps I'd be better off trying to start dating in my home town and move cleanly on....?

This. You clearly felt a lot for this guy and need to go no-contact for a while to move on.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:11 AM on July 17, 2012

Your instincts are right, this is a terrible idea. I completely understand the yearning, but he has clearly, cheerfully, adapted to Friend mode with you at this point, and you are only setting yourself up for hertbreak by going out of your way to meet him.

You are already travelling a long way. Why not suggest HE come visit you? I think you are not seriously proposing this option because you don't think he would go to the trouble for a friend, which is, sadly, how he sees you.

It's okay to want to see him! But you will only hurt yourself by going out of your way to try to make it happen. If you really can't resist getting together with him, suggest he come to you, or at the very least maybe a compromise, where you meet at a neutral place somewhere in the middle.

If he turns you down on that last one, even though it will hurt to do it, protect your heart and stay away. You will at keast be able to salvage a friendship that way.
posted by misha at 9:11 AM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

I would go ahead and do it, since you won't have the chance once he moves to Country C (correct?). But afterwards I would cut off all contact with him and try to move on. I would definitely not try to continue IMing and skypeing and all of that.

Also, be prepared for the fact that he might have a significant other or some kind of complication in his hometown that would make visiting impossible or disappointing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:12 AM on July 17, 2012

Start dating in your home town and move on.

This is complicated and a little messy, but: Your heart is currently outpacing your brain; intellectually, you do not want a relationship but your heart wants to be with him and isn't concerned about details.

When a breakup happens, it's a good idea to keep it as amicable as you can, and to try to be friends if that is what you both want - but it's not good to try to do that as long as either of you still has feelings for the other. Tell him you need a little time and space to get over things, and then take that time and space, and move on and date locally.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:12 AM on July 17, 2012

I feel like if you're visiting a (small?) country where he's living, and you're staying with another friend, and it would be a SHORT visit, and it's convenient, and it's not going to put your other friend out, and you'd be comfortable going and having one last booty call and then having it be over for real, go.

If any part of that sentence is not true (and please search deep in your heard on that last clause), the answer has to be no.
posted by Sara C. at 9:15 AM on July 17, 2012

Oh, and the reason I say to think that you should go for it is because actual physical time with someone with whom you have that kind of lovely connection is, in my experience, rare. It is something to be cherished and pursued. Certainly, you will feel pain, but many things in life cause pain and they aren't half as sweet.

Of course this also means pursuing something equivalent in your home country, and cutting off this constant nibbling and unsatisfying long-distance contact.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:17 AM on July 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

And finally, I wholeheartedly disagree that you should try to move or have him move in order to pursue this. Derailing your career or making major life decisions based on men and/or romance is one of the biggest mistakes women make when they're young. I do not suggest it!
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:20 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm also leaning more towards the "go" side, because, as much as this hurts now, it's not going to hurt in six months or a year. Whether you go or not is somewhat immaterial to your long-term quality of life.

And, being a hopeless romantic, I think I'd rather have the story of the time I went to Slovakia for one last visit with someone I used to like. That's a sweet story you get to have for the rest of your life.

(Then again it could all go terribly wrong and be a horrible story about some jerk who left you stranded in the middle of nowhere in Slovakia after flaking on you because of his new girlfriend. So definitely consider that side of it.)
posted by Sara C. at 9:25 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

No, no, and no. I expect it will be like scratching a scab - it will feel really good for a little bit and then hurt all over again a little worse than before. I'm sorry, it sucks (and I say this having pretty much been there) but it does get better!
posted by mrs. taters at 9:26 AM on July 17, 2012

It sounds like maybe you are a bit like I was in my early 20s, in that I had to take things as far as I possibly could, even though logically I knew what the result would be, just because I felt like I would always wonder and regret it if I didn't.

If that's how you feel, then go to his city, hook up with him (I would bet my next paycheck on this happening). Feel the "ambiguity" coming from him: he sends those emails, he seems to like you so much when you're together, he seemed so excited to know you were coming to the city... but you realize you just took a 12 hour round trip "detour" to see him, and you have the feeling he wouldn't do the same to see you. Realize the "ambiguity" isn't ambiguous at all: that he enjoys flings with you when it's convenient, and he sends you the occasional email, but his focus is elsewhere. He's really not interested in planning a life or a future with you at all, he doesn't even think about those things the way you (maybe) do. Feel embarrassed. Feel unworthy. Feel really low when you find out that he now has a girlfriend. Maybe someone in another country that he spends time and money traveling to see.

For me, it took getting to that point quite a few times before I just had enough and I didn't feel compelled to take it that far anymore, because I already knew what was down that road and didn't have to wonder.

Honestly I think the best thing for you would be to go no contact with him, but if any of what I said above resonates with you, I think it would be okay if you pursue this too. I don't think you'll get anything that makes you happy out of it, but I think it will be a learning experience in its own way. And I think no matter what happens, even if it hurts at the time, you will eventually move on and be okay in the end.
posted by cairdeas at 9:31 AM on July 17, 2012 [13 favorites]

No. There are no snowflakes to this question. This is a template situation for why you cut contact. No.
posted by schroedinger at 9:41 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I second what misha said. Let him come visit you.
posted by commitment at 9:48 AM on July 17, 2012

How do I know whether this is something worth the chance or not?
You don't... and neither do we. This is the kind of risk only you can decide.

Personally this is not something that I would do because it sounds like a recipe for lingering heartbreak and pain, and if you were my friend I'd tell you that he is not "kind of" your ex; he IS your ex, and you can't "lightly" suggest that you meet up when you still have "really strong feelings." Also, "generic chat" simply doesn't sound promising; it sounds distancing.

I'd need more than that from him to feel like there was a point to even having contact with the kind of lingering feelings you seem to have, much less going out of my way to visit him or wanting him to visit me. But that's me.
posted by sm1tten at 9:54 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You know, my first thought was also to say "which are you going to regret more, going or not going?"

But the thing is - you've already made that decision. You already had your semi-relationship, and this isn't a case of the clouds suddenly clearing or the cosmos suddenly locking into place to make things work. This is a case of trying to summon up one more abortive extension of something that's already over. I wouldn't do it.

And, you know, I've been in somewhat the same situation. First relationship, or rather a pre-relationship; the relationship never happened, for a couple excellent reasons I'd prefer not going into. It involved states, not countries, but the situation was the same: cut contact, tentatively regain contact, make intimations toward visiting my or his state that went nowhere, realize that every time the conversation was forced and the chat was generic - one email literally read like his CV - and that it wouldn't suddenly stop becoming forced if I injected an extra dose of awkwardness into the dynamic.

Mercenary practical consideration: "It won't cost that much" often turns into "that much."
posted by dekathelon at 10:58 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

He's 5-6 hours out of the way? That's a long detour for an old friend. Have him come meet you in the middle, preferably at an event you two would both enjoy.

"What is the point of seeing him again?" The point is that it's nice to see him and spend time with him. If you're pretty sure it won't be nice to see him--if you're pretty sure that it's just going to hurt the whole time, don't go. If it hurts, it isn't nice to see him anymore, and you have a responsibility as a friend to be good to both of you. That means not putting yourself in a position to be hurt and not putting him into a position where he can only hurt you.

Regardless of what you decide, you should move on and date other people in your home town. You don't have to force yourself to stop having feelings for him, but you should keep yourself open to loving other people. Local relationships are fantastic and will teach you a lot about what you want and like. Don't pass them up because of what you have with this guy. By moving away, he's put himself in the "maybe someday but realistically not now" category. Long distance relationships are hard because of the limited time you get together. You tend to let a lot of issues go for the sake of having a pleasant visit, and your lives are out of sync with each other so it's hard to stay close. You also lose out on opportunities to build better friendships and connections back home, because of the constant travel and uncertainty. It's a lot of stress and commitment for something that probably won't work out. Focus on growing into the person you want to be, not the relationship you want to be in.
posted by rhythm and booze at 11:59 AM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

I agree with everything the young rope rider said. Especially concerning: don't let it carry on. Enjoy what there is to enjoy, then put your foot down, swallow the pain, remember the good parts, and go get on with your life, alone. Learning how to do that properly will pay better dividends in life than self denial and second guessing.
posted by ead at 11:14 PM on July 17, 2012

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