My first heartbreak and confusion is keeping me from moving on
August 14, 2012 10:55 PM   Subscribe

My ex-boyfriend and I (27 and 28, respectively) were together for 9 months. The last 3 months were a little rough because he has serious insecurity issues and they manifested in our relationship in multiple ways. As soon as I thought we were hitting our stride around the 9 month mark, he went away for the weekend for a "boys' trip" to the beach and sent me a Facebook message to break up, to not speak or see each other ever again, and refused to give me a reason. Since then he calls me, crying, begging for guidance...what is happening?

My ex has some intense insecurity issues--he is overly dependent on attention from woman, has a history of inappropriate relationships with them, ("boundaries" that do not prohibit sexual conversations and jokes) and actually cheated on me once. Of course, I am the endlessly forgiving person to a fault, and he made such an effort to apologize for his betrayal that I was able to move on from it. He actually visited my house daily when I wouldn't see him, dropping off flowers and gifts and sending me emails and videos of himself vowing to prove to me for the rest of my life that I was worth being treated well, etc. He also has been unemployed for 9 mos, is in severe debt, has had legal issues, is still in college but has terrible grades, is not close with anyone in his family, and drinks way too much. Meanwhile, I have worked all my life, have 2 college degrees and 0 debt, have never been in trouble with the law, am very close with my family, and advocate moderation.

After he cheated, he did a total Facebook purge (without my asking) and removed essentially every woman he'd ever been interested in, dated, slept with, exchanged pictures with, had sexual conversations, etc. and also removed anyone he was friends with through them. I had a higher sex drive than him, and he would turn me down quite often, but would watch porn as soon as I left the apartment. I suggested he try masturbating less, for instance when he knew I'd be coming over that night to save himself and wait for me so we could share it together since he would usually otherwise be unable to orgasm. He'd been a big drinker, and drinking was part of the reason that he cheated, so he also vowed (without my asking) to cut back on drinking almost completely. He also took me out more, made more of an effort to listen, and I was very happy and showed him my appreciation.

I treated him very well. I always wanted to make love, took very good care of myself so I looked as beautiful as possible for him, cleaned up his apartment and made him drinks and food, always accompanied him on errands and to spend time with his family and loved keeping him company... I regularly did things like wait until he went out of town for a week, and (with his permission to enter, since I lived there half the time myself) go over and clean the place top to bottom, spread around nice fragrances, stocked his fridge with his favorite foods, baked him homemade cookies, and left flowers with a note just letting him know that I value him as a person and a partner. When he got him and saw it...he cried and told me he didn't deserve me. When he first asked me out he told me I was unlike any woman he'd been with, and (curiously) hoped he wouldn't hurt me because I didn't seem to be "asking for it like all the others."

On the other side of it, he could be quite selfish, not very romantic, and tended to just hole up with some whiskey and movie on his laptop even when I was around. I was last in an incredibly abusive relationship and as a result was unable to sleep during the night for a year and a half and developed delayed sleep-phase syndrome before I met my ex. He helped with my treatment and would hold me while I fell asleep, woke up to comfort me in my nightmares, was gentle and caring... He would drive me to my therapy sessions and was very supportive, he accompanied me to my cancer screening appointments when I had an irregular result and sat with me through my procedures. He would regularly tell me things like, "We're a lot, but if the world were to end today there's no one else I'd want to spend it with," "If I didn't have you, I can't imagine anyone else making me as happy" and "it'll always be just you and me."

We fought frequently until he cheated, when we seemed to hit our stride and our limit and then things just calmed down--however, he would joke about or mention us not being apart in the future. My confusion comes in because, on the one hand, he'd talk about what we'd do during a deployment, where we'd go when his lease was up, what life would be like for us after he graduated, etc....and he continued to make an effort to involve me with his family...but he'd make those little comments.

So the day before breaking up we woke up together in his apartment, made love, and were as playful and happy as always. In fact, he told me that every time I looked at him he felt like we were falling in love all over again. I told him I had to leave to run errands, he begged me to stay around longer and just hang out and watch a movie. Later, he took me to his father's, then his mother's, then said he wanted to leave for the beach later so we could have a "picnic," but I encouraged him to go. He dropped me off, came back 3 times for extra kisses and more goodbyes, and told me we'd talk every day and he couldn't wait to see me when he got back.

...the next morning I wake up to a Facebook message that it's over, he can't explain why, and we shouldn't talk anymore. All he'd say is, "I'm not the guy you think I am." He ended up dropping my stuff off in a trash bag...a garbage bag...after opening his home to me for months.

I respected his request and went NC for 2 months. I've largely avoided any social networking stuff, avoided his favorite places, haven't talked much to mutual friends, but I did notice that he went back on Facebook and added back several of those girls--including one he met one night out at a bar with his friends when he and I were together. Suddenly he called me one Saturday night in tears a couple of weeks ago saying that he misses me every day, that I was his best friend, that he misses my touch and my smell and my hair and being close to me, that no woman will ever love him the way I did and that he's still in love with me and hasn't moved on, that he doesn't want sex with any other woman...he sobbed and asked me, "What am I supposed to do, baby? What am I supposed to do?" He said we both deserve to be happy, that I want to be "saved" and he doesn't know if he's the man to do it, that he's so proud of me and that we were happy and I'm the most beautiful woman he's ever known inside and out, but that he just "can't do it."

Then he curiously said, "You have no idea, no're the only woman I've been with, where if I'd called you tonight and you told me you found 'him' or were angry with me, you have no idea...I'd hang up and cry, but I swear to God I'd be happy."

We talked for a few hours, I was positive and upbeat during it though I told him he hurt me, he cried every time I laughed or made him laugh and he told me how much he missed my wit and my sweetness, etc. SO WHY IS HE SO STEADFAST AGAINST A RELATIONSHIP? And why does he believe SO ARDENTLY we cannot have contact? Keeping in mind he kept contact with every single one of his other exes for months or years afterward...why tell me you're so in love but you don't want us? Why tell me you love everything about me but we're too different? Why call me crying about how you miss and cherish me but we can never speak again?

I recalled once, about 4 mos into the relationship, that one night when I was looking after him when he was sick he told me I was "absolutely beautiful" and "maybe you're just meant to be the one that got away." If you think someone might be the "one that got away", why let them get away??

I've had relationships before, but never had my heartbroken, and it's going on 3 mos and I still cry often. Can anyone shed any light? I'm just stuck. The dissonance makes it hard to even accept the reality of it, although I get better day by day. I'm sorry if this turns out too long...I kind of went wild with the words. Thank you.
posted by orumi to Human Relations (88 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I don't mean to sound rude, but it sounds like he thought he could do a lot better than you which is why he dropped you like that during a "boys weekend" away from you.

I assume there was a lot of partying and whatnot that went down at that party with a lot of other women that he met. He realized that he wants a relationship despite all of the things that he's said and done.

He also realized that he fucked up which is why he even said "You have no idea, no're the only woman I've been with, where if I'd called you tonight and you told me you found 'him' or were angry with me, you have no idea...I'd hang up and cry, but I swear to God I'd be happy."

Honestly though, it sounds like you two are on different maturity levels. You deserve a lot more than to put up with this type of behaviour.
posted by livinglearning at 11:05 PM on August 14, 2012 [11 favorites]

He's nuts. That's it. Don't try to find a rational interpretation for his actions. Don't contact him. Don't answer phone, email or texts. It's normal, and appropriate to be heartbroken. Logically, you should be happy to be rid of him. Unfortunately, you're not an emotionless robot, so you'll have to deal with feeling like crap, even wanting to take him back. Or wondering why he would do the crazy things he did. It doesn't matter. There is no satisfactory answer to those questions.
posted by skewed at 11:06 PM on August 14, 2012 [71 favorites]

sorry, this sucks. but it doesn't matter what is going on with him or what his reasons are. the fact is, he does not want to be in a relationship (with you). also, you'd only been together nine months and he'd already cheated. just let it go and walk away. he sounds like a lot of drama, jebus.
posted by violetk at 11:07 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

It sounds to me that you know he's not good for you, but your love (loyalty?) for him has blinded you.

He seems like he doesn't know how to commit, and you might be hoping that he'll magically wake up one day and do just that.

You should be able to be in a relationship that feels stable, one where the shoe isn't about to drop at any moment. It makes for a fear-filled everyday existence, and that's just not good for the soul.
posted by frizz at 11:08 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

(curiously) hoped he wouldn't hurt me because I didn't seem to be "asking for it like all the others."...... CURIOUSLY, INDEED. VERY VERY CURIOUS.

His actions and the way he organizes his life speak to extreme self-centredness, immaturity, and lack of respect for other people, especially you. To me it looks like he inhabits the role of someone worthless and "not good enough for you" so that it gives him license to do whatever he wants, which is self-gratification at the expense of whoever's around him, rather than the harder life of a 'good' person who has to actually care about other people. I think he is in it for the ego boost with you, being loved and adored, but he got tired of not being able to cheat.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:10 PM on August 14, 2012 [36 favorites]

He sounds like he's got some kind of mental health problem. If you really want to get to the bottom of this, ask him to come to sexaholics anonymous with you.
posted by parmanparman at 11:10 PM on August 14, 2012

This is just really too much drama. I can't see that you're really getting anything out of this?

You may feel as if you've poured all of yourself into this and to leave would be failure, but, honestly, if you two were meant to be together, he would not be behaving like this.

I would be mostly going with high levels of immaturity and I would end it on that basis - he needs to grow up, he's not going to do it with you. You would get more out of moving on to bigger and better things.
posted by heyjude at 11:14 PM on August 14, 2012

"we fought constantly" + "he cheated on me" does not = "we were as playful and happy as always"

No, no, no, no. Put on your big girl panties and walk away. It will hurt, but not as much as it will if you stick with him.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:15 PM on August 14, 2012 [14 favorites]

Whoops - you've already broken up. How do you move on? You move on because you know he's a child and you're not his mother.
posted by heyjude at 11:15 PM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

...what is happening?

He is crazy and you are trying to reason out his actions like he's not?

Seriously- he's a jerk, he cheated on you, treated you badly, has no job and no education and drinks far too much. You can do better. Leave it at that and move on. Right now you've put yourself in a head space where the only thing you will allow to make yourself feel better is him. He's not going to. Allow yourself to shrug, say "wtf was UP with that guy. Oh well, not my problem" and move on.
posted by fshgrl at 11:18 PM on August 14, 2012 [20 favorites]

Your ex was unstable and was likely self-medicating some mental or emotional problems. Agreed?

Beyond that. It sounds like he's a HUGE drama queen. Sadly, he had some fucked up narrative going in his head, and this was the shit he had to pull to make the bizarro narrative in his head match the reality outside

You can move on because I PROMISE YOU that your ex is way way more caught up in the fantasy in his head than he is with you.

Also, and don't drive yourself nutz on this point, but I get the feeling he was lying to you, probably still cheating, and definitely has a double or triple life going on - and one of those is entirely in his head - so this guy wasn't all there. He was play acting, at best. At worst, he was taking advantage of you on purpose. But I'm leaning towards "play acting" since it goes well with his penchant for High Dramaz.

In short, you never knew this person for who and what he truly is, and you are well well rid of him now that he dumped you. He has money and legal problems! He's a bad student and he's unemployed! Hon, what were you doing with someone like that? He was never going to be an equal or stable partner for you. He isn't able to be reliable or stable for himself. That was your "red flag" FWIW.

Next time, find someone who has characteristics closer to the type that you bring to the relationship - financial and emotional stability, that sort of thing.

You dodged a bullet here. Truly. Rejoice.
posted by jbenben at 11:22 PM on August 14, 2012 [34 favorites]

"he cried and told me he didn't deserve me...."

it is absolutely uncanny how frequently people who don't deserve you will come out and say it. people disclose the craziest things about themselves if you keep your ears open!
posted by facetious at 11:30 PM on August 14, 2012 [66 favorites]

Wait, what -- no one at all has pointed out the elephant in the room?

He cheated on you.
posted by sibboleth at 11:32 PM on August 14, 2012 [10 favorites]

My ex-boyfriend and I (27 and 28, respectively) were together for 9 months. The last 3 months were a little rough because he has serious insecurity issues and they manifested in our relationship in multiple ways. As soon as I thought we were hitting our stride around the 9 month mark, he went away for the weekend for a "boys' trip" to the beach and sent me a Facebook message to break up, to not speak or see each other ever again, and refused to give me a reason. Since then he calls me, crying, begging for guidance...what is happening?

My ex has some intense insecurity issues--he is overly dependent on attention from woman, has a history of inappropriate relationships with them, ("boundaries" that do not prohibit sexual conversations and jokes) and actually cheated on me once.

This was all of your question that I read. There is nothing that could be in the ensuing paragraphs that would make the proper course of action something other than: 'Do your best never to speak to or think about this person ever again'

Good luck, you deserve better.
posted by Kwine at 11:32 PM on August 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

You move on because you know he's a child and you're not his mother.

Boom. I was unceremoniously dumped in April, and I actually told my friend that I felt like I had lost a child more than I lost a boyfriend, because that was the dynamics of our short-lived relationship. Sounds like you were in a similar position, plus you were cheated on!

I was the cooking-cleaning-listen to your problems-spend time with your family girlfriend, too; I was not getting what I wanted or needed out of the relationship, but due to all his insecurities and issues, I felt loyalty to stay. Don't let loyalty let you get sucked back in.

It doesn't make it easier to get over the relationship just because it was a bad one, though. It's going to take time. I kept talking to my ex until the end of June (when he stopped responding to me, actually) and it took several weeks to get over it when all was said and done. You may have to stop talking to him all together. It was the best thing my ex did for me. My sympathies.
posted by peacrow at 11:34 PM on August 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear that you've been hurt so much, but in consolation, the good things you had in this relationship won't be a patch on what you'll have when you finally find a real grown up to be in love with.

There was a period in my life where I was a shitty boyfriend. Not because I wanted to be a shitty boyfriend but because I was just too emotionally immature and insecure for the rough and tumble of a real relationship.

I don't think that that is so uncommon, though I would definitely put younger self further down the spectrum of shitty boyfriend-ness than is average.

BUT, by 27, I had definitely made some serious progress towards being a better person to be in a relationship with. It doesn't sound like your ex is making much progress. Having been where he is I have a lot of empathy for him, and I can understand why you would too, but it really doesn't sound like there is much possibility of you finding happiness with this guy.

Grand gestures like everyday flowers and actually quite easy to sustain, small everyday efforts like listening, cleaning up, maintaining good relationships with family, not running up debt you can't afford not cheating - even a little bit draw on deeper character and are a much truer reflection of someone's integrity.

I think you have many more happier options that this guy.
posted by compound eye at 11:38 PM on August 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

Oh, honey, he's a mess. I'm so sorry, he has shit going on that is going to keep him addicted to self-created drama, idealizing you, setting your relationship up for failure for as long as you two are involved in any way. I know you're invested in him as a person, but he's not playing from the same rulebook as emotionally healthy people, and he doesn't seem to be interested in doing that any time soon. It sounds like he needs a lot of attention and reassurance to fill his insecurity, but since that can never actually fix insecurity he crashes out, feels terrible, retreats/misbehaves to punish himself and prove that he's unworthy, then needs the attention and praise again. It's an addictive cycle, and it is again, a total mess. He does not love himself, so he can't really love you, and he's setting you up as idealized heartbreaker in a narrative he's using to torture and exalt himself in turn.

Back away. The reason it doesn't make sense is that he's not following the emotional logic that most people follow. He wants a narrative to put himself in, not a relationship with another real human being. I know he's had a lot of value for you, that you care for him a lot, and that's a wonderful thing, but he's not in any way equipped to be with you; he's equipped to be in his own head and follow the story he's making up about you as an idealized "one that got away" and him as the romantic fuckup who almost had it all. Step back: you deserve to be loved much better, and for who you really are.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 11:46 PM on August 14, 2012 [12 favorites]

Elaborate, puzzling drama of this intensity often tells you a lie. And the lie it tells you is that there is going to be some reward in figuring out what the hell is going on in the other person's head. This is how drama keeps you engaged; it makes you believe that if you just think about it enough, you'll unravel the mystery and be able to find the magic words/gestures/actions to enable the other person resolve their issues and love you (out of gratitude and admiration) in return. It makes you think there is some amazing paradise where the two of you can be Great Together -- not just for glimmers of moments, but permanently -- if only YOU somehow hang on to do the emotional heavy lifting. And when you feel that awesome potential slipping away, you grieve because it seems like there's something you should be able to do to make it better, and there's not, and it seems unbearable.

This is all bullshit. It is shit that comes out of a bull. Every time. There's never any reward in this game. It was never going to be awesome. You were never going to be able to fix him. This is not due to some flaw on your part, but due to some damage on his part that you did not cause and that you cannot cure. This doesn't necessarily make him a bad person, but it certainly makes him a bad candidate for a healthy relationship.

I spent whole chunks of my 20s playing this game. The longer it goes on, the smaller your world gets, and the further you drift from any sort of answer or resolution. It never, ever, ever gets better, no matter what kind of emotional labor your pour into it. Be grateful that you got the opportunity after nine months to see this for what it is; imagine spending years -- decades, even! -- doing this drama-filled dance. People can literally waste their lives on this sort of dysfunction. Believe me: walking away from it will be the greatest gift you can give yourself.
posted by scody at 11:52 PM on August 14, 2012 [161 favorites]

No one is worth that much drama.
posted by lalala1234 at 11:53 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

"I'm not the guy you think I am." Does not bode well...
It sounds to me like you could do a WHOLE lot better!

I was typing a whole long comment but c'mon sea legs hit the nail on the head there.

:( good luck
posted by MsOz at 11:54 PM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Go back and read your post carefully. There's a lot there about everything you did for him over the time you spent together. A lot. There's almost nothing at all about what he did for you. This isn't your person. Go find your person.
posted by judith at 11:59 PM on August 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

We talked for a few hours, I was positive and upbeat during it though I told him he hurt me, he cried every time I laughed or made him laugh and he told me how much he missed my wit and my sweetness, etc. SO WHY IS HE SO STEADFAST AGAINST A RELATIONSHIP?

A lot of people post variations of this question on Ask Metafilter: "My SO/Ex clearly thinks *I'm* great, but there's this other Entity, The Relationship, that they can't handle. I don't understand this / how can I convince them to give The Relationship a chance." Your "absolutely beautiful…one that got away" bit is the same thing. As is the "I'm not the man you think I am" bit, and the "You want to be saved…I'm not sure if I'm the man to do it" bit.

Each of these things is like a story, a story your ex is telling both of you about your relationship, and each story, though different from the others, creates a narrative universe in which the following things are always true:
- You are great!
- He is great! [this is the real stretch in this case]
- The relationship, unfortunately, is fated to fail, but not because either of you isn't the most universally lovable and attractive person in the world.

This avoids anyone having to say there is anything wrong with anyone, or that anyone did anything wrong, or that anyone has feelings anyone else doesn't want them to have, all of which are natural things that happen all the time in relationships. Seriously, it might be easier to see this if you look at old "Human Relations" questions where you are not personally involved. It comes up all the time. It appears to be especially common with younger people, although this guy sounds like an extremely boyish 27 to me. Another common variation is the "he says he thinks I'm great, he just doesn't want a relationship right now" story.

Essentially, it's a more elaborate version of the trusty old "it's not you, it's me speech," which we all tell ourselves we're doing to be nice, except that it doesn't contain any of the qualities that make Miko's famous ex's so kind. I think it is at least equally likely to come from selfishness, or weakness, a simple desire to avoid the discomfort of honestly discussing something painful, and choosing instead to keep the other person in a state of anxiety and despair for a long time.

The "ardent about no contact" thing is because that makes it way easier for him to maintain this narrative in his mind. He contacts you when he feels like it, with a new variation on the same narrative. For the record, I suspect the 'hoped he wouldn't hurt me because I didn't seem to be "asking for it like all the others"' is a bit of a story leaking out that he tells himself about why his previous relationships failed.

This isn't necessarily evil. We all have to tell ourselves stories about the world to make sense of it, and sometimes we are going to tell ourselves different stories about the same set of facts than another person would, because we need to make ourselves feel better, and we need to be able to get out of bed in the morning. Also, we can learn a lot by paying attention when people start telling us their stories: the "asking for it like all the others" bit is a red flag: what kind of person tells themselves their previous relationships all failed because all of their exes were asking to be hurt?

But you shouldn't let his stories become your stories, and you shouldn't let the fact that he is telling you his stories confuse you, and keep you from being able to get this guy out of your life. That's what it sounds like in your post. You need to tell yourself your own story about this guy and this relationship. I would suggest starting with something like "So-and-so had some great qualities (make this part more detailed in your version), and I got some good things out of the time we spent together, but he also appeared to have serious untreated mental health issues, and is not someone I could be romantically involved with at this time." You get to pick and choose what details from your relationship you want taking the spotlight in your story: you can draw from it confidence that you are desirable, that you didn't sabotage yourself, that you were genuinely kind, that you were smart enough to get out more-or-less unscathed once it was clear that the dude was kind of a mess.

Initially I ended this comment with something to the effect of "but this guy blows, so fuck him anyway" because he is…very angering, to say the least, but on rereading your post I feel like the guy is probably deserving of some sympathy. It sounds like he may have some serious problems in his life, that he needs help with. I just don't think that you, someone who has intense romantic history with him, should be the person who provides that help. Good luck.
posted by jeb at 12:09 AM on August 15, 2012 [14 favorites]

All that energy you are focusing upon this boy is preventing you from dealing with your own crap. And to put up with this immature little sniveller the way you have, screams that you have your own developmental issues to address. Even parents don't engage with their children's tantrums for hours like you have on the phone with this clown.

You are worth more than this. You don't have to run around any boy functioning for him - cleaning, pandering, proffering sex and 'understanding'. A real boyfriend interested in intimacy with you wouldn't be treating you like this, and you wouldn't feel like you had to do all the heavy lifting.

Please go and talk to a therapist about why all this work and bullshit would be part of any adult relationship you would seek. Good luck.
posted by honey-barbara at 12:15 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I appreciate everyone's feedback on the issue. I do acknowledge the dysfunction on both of our parts, and I guess just from my understanding of breakups and what I've heard of them, the dissonance between his strict NC preference and his sobbing to me, him saying he "stalks" my Facebook and drives by my house, wanting my mom's # just to "check on" me, his devolving further into destructive behaviors out of grief, his passionate exclamations of still being in love and having romantic feelings and being unable to move on, his avoidance of anything to do with me...he just sounds more like the dumpee and not the dumper, right? That's what's really got me stuck, even though I'm focused on myself now, even though logically I know it was right, even though I know none of it matters...

I guess this reversal has just confused me to a point of obsession. Even if I was foolish for wanting to be with him, I was the one who didn't want it to end and he did, yet he's crying to me on the phone asking me what he's supposed to do about missing me so badly, and I'm the one saying, "You just keep missing me until you don't miss me anymore." The dumpee (who is heartbroken) is comforting the dumper (who broke her heart) and helping him get over her? What?

I know, the fact that I even answered the phone, and talked to him and tried to show compassion and be friendly is all just more indication that I have serious co-dependency problems. I feel horrible for even reaching out to total strangers on the internet but I just feel so lost. I guess I'll feel less lost the more in touch with myself I become.

Thank you guys so much. I especially liked the posts about him creating narratives and not being grounded in reality, I think they're very accurate to him as a person.
posted by orumi at 12:39 AM on August 15, 2012

The dumpee (who is heartbroken) is comforting the dumper (who broke her heart) and helping him get over her?

Yeah, my ex and I were chatting and he was telling me how sad he was, how he was crying, how he was going to miss me, and couldn't understand why. I flat out told him, "Hurting someone who loves you makes you feel like shit." That's that. He has to sit with his decisions. You don't need to comfort him.
posted by peacrow at 12:45 AM on August 15, 2012 [30 favorites]

Oh yeah. The narrative part - that's because I so dated this guy once!

He drives by your house you say? He wants your mom's number? I hope you did not give him that number.

Does/did he "cluster" call you during or after fights? And the dropping by your house and all that other stuff after cheating on you, remember all that behavior?? Yeah...

I hate to tell you, but unless you block, delete, ignore, block him via your carrier on your cell phone, and also eventually move, this guy will probably keep tracking you down. I won't say he'll end up semi- stalking you for years, but I am thinking it very very loudly.

Additionally - what are you blaming yourself for?! This type of schtick is incredibly attractive until you learn it's all just one giant red flag and total turn-off. You don't have to feel badly or label yourself as dysfunctional! You had a legitimate relationship going, you behaved admirably, he's the one with deep emotional problems. I don't think you have to paint yourself with the same brush just because you got taken in by these shenanigans. It's kinda par for the course, I'm prettysure many folks go through this once or twice - it just depends how long it takes you to wise up and avoid the same or very similar in the future.

Treat this as a learning experience, not a mistake.
posted by jbenben at 12:55 AM on August 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

Does/did he "cluster" call you during or after fights? And the dropping by your house and all that other stuff after cheating on you, remember all that behavior?? Yeah...

He did, actually. If he was upset or angry he'd call me 5-15 times, drive out to find me, look for me in public, etc. Maybe part of the reason this is all so hard for me to process is because he did such a complete switch literally overnight and my mind is still just kind of "wtf?" Even though I shouldn't have repeatedly exposed myself to those stimuli at the time, maybe it's living without those stimuli that just makes me feel a bit bewildered.
posted by orumi at 1:04 AM on August 15, 2012

I'm surprised no one has pointed out the *other* elephant in the room: this tearful Saturday night phone call? Has all the hallmarks of a drunk dial from an emotionally immature self-absorbed drama queen having himself a big ol' pity party...and that's *before* even taking into account the fact that you've already mentioned that his drinking has been a big problem in the past.

Honey, nothing about your relationship sounds good or nourishing, and the fact that he sometimes feels bad about being a total self-absorbed woman-hating cheating douchecanoe with a drinking problem does not change the fact that he is a self-absorbed woman-hating cheating douchcanoe with a drinking problem. You cannot fix this or help him learn how to be "a good man" by being more perfectly understanding. Move on, and find someone who truly loves you, and not just the idea of himself as a romantic antihero.
posted by tigerbelly at 1:42 AM on August 15, 2012 [16 favorites]

I just split up with a guy very similar and here are some things that I noticed AFTER the fact that I hadn't before.

He was rude.
I had acted like some kind of maid.
He was ALL talk, our plans for the future sounded amazing- but really all that was on offer was the simpsons and vino.
He had no intention of getting over his issues. (but they were great excuses!)

I also read Mr. Unavailable and the Fallback girl- and let me tell you, I really really cringed when I recognized myself in the book and how self serving I'd been in picking a man who "didn't deserve me, after all, I was beautiful and educated and benevolent- surly he knows he can't do better". Up to then I'd really gone to town with the "I did so much" talk. Its worth a read.
posted by misspony at 1:57 AM on August 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

Orumi, I think I'm going to take this to Memail so we both avoid threadsitting. But for future Mefites interested in this type of situaton...

The cluster calling, driving by your house, the hunting you down in public, etc..

This is NOT romantic behavior.

I say this because I fell for it once upon a time. I'm sure if you search the term "stalker" on MetaFilter, a good number of the recent posts over the last 3 years are me talking about the guy I dated who resembles your ex and stalked me. And I'm happily married for the last 4 years with a wonderful 16 month old son.

I met this guy when I was 22. We fell out of touch when I was 25 (although I know now, 20 years later, he was always keeping tabs on me) and he swooped back into my life the minute I was breaking up with my first husband back in 2000. We re-connected. The second time around was much worse than the first time, relationsip-wise. The last time I he contacted me inappropriately was 3 months ago via an old email account I keep for business reasons.

I haven't legally changed my name so he can't associate "married me" with my old info via and similar info tracking websites. I can never be on Facebook. I had to change my phone numbers 2 years ago. And I very seriously considered calling my very good attorney about 100 thousand times to get a restraining order to end the electronic harassment - but the thought of explaing to my friend and attorney how I ended up in this situation stopped me. Instead, I locked down on my online and irl identity and personal details twice as stridently, and that ended 99% of the contact.

Orumi, nip this in the bud. NOW.

If I had known what I was getting into exactly 20 years ago, I would have run when this guy said, "Hello."
posted by jbenben at 2:06 AM on August 15, 2012 [21 favorites]


Cut off contact. Do not approach.

Narcissist + creepy stalker behavior = nobody you need in your life. Sorry to be so blunt, but jbenben's story is exactly where you're headed.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 2:27 AM on August 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

Oops. Threadsitting.

Emperor SnooKloze sparked an Amazing realization for me!

I always found it "prophetic" or "kismet" that stalker guy managed to call me at just the right moment to rekindle our connection. At the time I was still in NYC where we had first met 8 years earlier, and he was in LA, and had been there for about 6 years. I was not only getting divorced, but I was moving overseas at the time.

You know what? The odds are heavily that in light of the fact I now know and have accepted that stalker guy has always, and still tries to, keep tabs on me... His calling me as I was getting divorced and leaving the country wasn't so much "meant to be" or "kismet" - but more like he found out through a third-party connection between us I was unaware of at the time about my plans, he saw that I was likely emotionally vulnerable (I was) and he acted. Simple! Can't believe I did not notice that obvious "tell" in the history of my situation earlier! So obvious!!

I always thought he got in contact with me at just the right time because we were "soulmates" and it was Fate.

Both are not true - we were not soulmates, his reaching out was not fate or kismet, it was more likely predatory.

One of the things I discovered by 2005 was that EVERYTHING my stalker guy did with everybody was calculated. He confessed a lot in those later years.

Can't believe I missed this obvious fact, even after alll of his confessions concerning his interactions with others back in 2005!

See how blinded you can be? Even after being informed?!

I'll say it again.... RUN.
posted by jbenben at 2:51 AM on August 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

He is not someone who can navigate his own emotions. Most people can process their emotions to a degree where they don't just act extremely and dramatically on whatever they're feeling in the moment, but the people who can't? They are miserable, and they cause misery in others. They get buffeted around in a storm of their own making, doing whatever feels right in that particular moment, unable to find out what thoughts and emotions and fears really lie behind their own behaviour and unwilling to learn how.


He probably doesn't even know - any more than he knows why he broke up with you that way, or why he felt like you could be together forever the day before, or why he sought out inappropriate attention from people outside the relationship, or why he phoned you in tears a couple of weeks ago, or why he cheated on you, or why he drinks. There are no doubt reasons for all these things deep down inside his mind, but who cares? He doesn't have his act together, he doesn't have any plans to get his act together, and so a good relationship with him is not something you could actually have even if he decided tomorrow that he wanted it. (And then decided the next day that he didn't! And then decided the day after that he kind of did but he was going to quietly resent it and act out with other women! And then decided the day after the day after that you were the only person who could ever make him happy and he was going to shower you in bouquets of guilt and roses!)

I agree with all the other people who've picked up on the 'hoped he wouldn't hurt me because I didn't seem to be "asking for it like all the others"' line as pretty disturbing, and evidence that he's more emotionally invested in the narrative he's got going on inside his own head than he is in what's going on in the rest of the world. But you should also pay attention to the 'hoped he wouldn't hurt me' part of that line. You might say 'I hope I won't forget my friend's birthday', or 'I hope I won't sleep through my alarm', because it's a fairly minor thing and you lack a degree of control over it - but would you ever say 'I hope I won't rob a bank'? Well no, obviously you wouldn't, robbing a bank is something you don't want to do and are totally in control of. For your ex, hurting you falls into the first category rather than the second.

The way to get over all this is to give yourself space. Space from him, and space from the whole bizarre upsetting mindfuck of trying to puzzle out his behaviour. Let yourself hurt. Don't contact him. Block his number, block him on social media, and tell yourself that if he tries to contact you again with these floods of tears and apologies (which I bet he will), you aren't going to deal with it.

Finally: you do still seem to have a lot of sympathy for him, and that's totally understandable and probably not unwarranted. But it doesn't mean you should be the one to make him feel better. If you ever feel like you're being cruel to cut him off from your life and your thoughts, remind yourself that sometimes, the kindest thing you can do for someone in the long run is make them face the consequences of their actions - and the consequences of his actions include not having you to console him when he feels bad about how he treated you.
posted by Catseye at 3:02 AM on August 15, 2012 [10 favorites]

Looking for reasons why he is acting this way is not going to help you. All it does is give you more chances to fall back down the rabit hole.

Let it go. Focus completely on his actions. He cheated, displayed stalker-like behavior, has sever mental, legal, emotional and physical problems. You can't. Have a healthy relationship with someone who's this messed up.

Regardless- even if you could find a way to suss it out and empathize with him through all of those frankly scary and bizare behaviors- he needs you to stay away from him. He may never get right, but he will never get right if the only girl who ever "didnt diserve" his terrble treatment let's him do it anyway.

For both of your sakes, firm up your boundries and cut him completely off- quietly and with as little drama as possible. Be carefull and extra aware. Tell all your friends and parents to be extra aware. Tell your mutual friends not to share any of your information with him.
posted by Blisterlips at 3:15 AM on August 15, 2012

If this was unclear: do not be his friend. Do not talk with him for hours. Do not try to process your emotions about him with him. Don't let him OR YOU entertain fantasies of him getting better and you two going out again. Do not call him. Do not meet him.

And for the love of god- do not let him in your home if he decides to show up uninvited.
posted by Blisterlips at 3:22 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can do much, much better than someone like him.
posted by aielen at 3:28 AM on August 15, 2012

Suddenly he called me one Saturday night in tears a couple of weeks ago saying that he misses me every day, that I was his best friend, that he misses my touch and my smell and my hair and being close to me, that no woman will ever love him the way I did and that he's still in love with me and hasn't moved on, that he doesn't want sex with any other woman...he sobbed and asked me, "What am I supposed to do, baby? What am I supposed to do?"

The answer to what he is supposed to do is 'sober up.' The answer to what you should do is 'block him on all social media, add a filter to email to send his to the trash, and either don't take his calls or get a new phone number' after telling him you will not be repeating the relationship.

I know this is a bummer right now but you sound like you have your shit together and you'll meet someone who isn't a walking 1000-word essay called 'My Crazy Ex-Boyfriend Who Cheated on Me and Threw My Things in the Trash'.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:31 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I apologise if any of this sounds harsh, and this comes from a place only of kindness that believes you are worthy of better:

The dumping and then calling you up crying thing? The first thing I thought is that someone he's been seeing, (who presumably was such a Better Deal that he had to drop you instantly for) has decided they aren't interested and broke it off. Now he's all hurt and feeling sorry for himself. Now is the time to reach out to that ex who really loved him, and talk about old times and regret and feeeelings. I suspect this scenario strongly enough that I'd put money on it, though it makes me sad and tired to think of it playing out... again. It is a very old chestnut.

The 'I'm not good enough' spiel is him giving himself permission (and placing blame on you through 'warnings') to do whatever he likes at your expense and tack it to a narrative where he is always the wounded. It's solid-gold manipulation of the type you'll read in PUA handbooks- if you call him out it's you who is cruelly adding to his pain, you are one of the many who have hounded him to this position where he's doing these awful things that make him hate himself so much. All he needs is understanding and help! Maybe you will be the one who can forgive and redeem him!

Am I on track here?

As for the 'I have a low sex drive' and then porn the minute you leave and the incessant inappropriate messages to other women? Yeah, I've been there and it is just bullshit. He wants to fuck about, and it seems like this is an ego as well as a sexual issue. You can't win on this. He likes having someone give him unconditional support though which is where you fit in.

I know, as someone who shows affection through doing things, that you cannot make someone appreciate you if they don't. Three months is not long at all to be broken up with someone and he was all about the high drama and intensity la la la. No wonder you're shell shocked.

Be kind to yourself, I advise no contact though I know it's hard. It'll be better for your emotional healing and he also sounds worryingly stalker-ish. Please be careful and stay safe. I know it's hard and my heart goes out to you.
posted by everydayanewday at 3:34 AM on August 15, 2012 [25 favorites]

Oh and I forgot to say: He's 27?


Maybe this isn't a phase. Maybe he's just one of those people who are 17 in their head forever.
posted by everydayanewday at 3:44 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've been out with someone very like this guy and everything everydayanewday said about 'solid gold manipulation' made me wince in recognition. Please, run.
posted by mippy at 3:47 AM on August 15, 2012

scody tells the truth. You will never figure this puzzle out, and you will never win this game. I've fallen into this trap a lot, too, as I suspect many people have. It's hard to see it now, but really -- just stop and you'll be so much happier. No more wondering about the timing of his contact, or what a particular action really meant, or what his underlying motivations are, or what you can do to fix this. Stop all of it. It saps your time and energy, and you'll never get what you want.
posted by Houstonian at 4:00 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

The dumpee (who is heartbroken) is comforting the dumper (who broke her heart) and helping him get over her? What?

I was once in that situation. Comforting an ex-girlfriend who felt bad about breaking up with me. I don't think it is that uncommon. It is, however, selfish behavior. The dumper really should seek emotional support elsewhere.

He is addicted to drama, but playing a supporting part in his story isn't good for you. Avoid all contact with him. If you do somehow end up in a conversation with him, keep it light and factual. None of this grand, doomed romance stuff.
posted by Area Man at 4:13 AM on August 15, 2012

I'll add my voice to all those advising you to treat this breakup as the gift it is instead of pining and yearning for the romantic troubled figure who will eventually respond to your patient awesomeness by Becoming A Better Man*.

You know what's not romantic at all, or even the tiniest bit awesome? Living with that romantic troubled figure day in and day out, for years, through the substance abuse, through the serial cheating, through the empty bank account on rent day, through the constant sacrifices – of pretty much everything, including your youth and joy of life – that you mutely make so that he can pursue his drink/drugs/sex addictions unhindered... through thousands of little humiliations and embarrassments, through fleeing jobs and towns and apartments in the middle of the night, the terrors of all the Bad Things That Could Happen At Any Moment, strange phone calls never adequately explained, never knowing the truth of anything, the misery of living every day in thrall of his moods and/or addictions, the permanent feeling of insecurity, the clockwork episodes of bizarre behavior, the little everyday insults and low-level abuse countered by occasional passionate outpourings of how you are truly The Only One He Could Ever Love (despite his occasional forays with any random female, including friends and neighbors, possibly family), all contrived (even if subconsciously) to keep you off balance enough that you don't ever wake up one morning and realize that you are just about the biggest chump who ever chumped – because most scam artists just take all your money, and perhaps your possessions, possibly the odd kidney... not your whole life and all its potential.

The promise that you are mourning is not the bright and colorful edginess of the brilliant but troubled soul; it is gray, gray gray as the days and years grind down to hopelessness and the horrific tedium of living a life constructed on eggshells – occasionally punctuated by the thrill of the truly awful and/or terrifying.

And it all begins with an utterance that sounds something like, "I'm no good for you, baby – you deserve better," that somehow gets you to pursue and to assure him that it's all okay: he's troubled and romantic, and you're just the girl who can fix it all.

I eventually (after far too long) left a relationship with some resemblance to the above described, and the best thing I took away from it, aside from a double PhD in how to be a deluded chump, was that I miraculously did not contract any serious STD, or have a baby or two (though in the bad days toward the end, he promoted the baby idea... that would have sure locked things down).

Next time around? I went with the guy who was already A Better Man, who inspires me to be a better person, who doesn't require any sacrifices or self-imposed blindness or the tiniest bit of chumpiness from me, who makes me feel safe and strong in his love no matter what, who is brilliant but not "troubled" (AKA you're gonna suffer, girl), who is romantic because romance, not because he needs me to fix him, who makes me glad and happy to be alive every damn day.

I truly cannot describe the difference in my life; I felt old, hopeless and extinguished at 20-something and now I'm over 50 and feel honestly joyful and sort of ridiculously young all the time (and Mr. Right and I have been together over 20 years, so it's not an infatuation/limerance thing... though, yeah, it's still infatuation. Always will be).

* or Woman, as the case may be; in my case, it happened to be a man
posted by taz at 4:37 AM on August 15, 2012 [32 favorites]

What's happening is that you need to forget about him forever. It's for the best for both of you.

He needs to lose something valuable (you) to realize that his drama has consequences beyond the need for a few desperate pone calls. He needs to grow up and be a man.

Stop trying to understand it, and find a way to let it go. Block his calls and emails. Live well.
posted by grudgebgon at 4:38 AM on August 15, 2012

When he got him and saw it...he cried and told me he didn't deserve me. When he first asked me out he told me I was unlike any woman he'd been with, and (curiously) hoped he wouldn't hurt me because I didn't seem to be "asking for it like all the others."

When somebody tells you who and what they are, you should believe them.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:54 AM on August 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

When somebody tells you who and what they are, you should believe them.

Repeated for truth. I have found that, whenever anyone says anything like this, they always have the strategy in the back of their head that they have given you warning of their faults, so, when they indulge those faults, you are to blame for not expecting it.

"I am a bad friend."
"I am a flake."
"I am always late."
"I don't deserve you."
"I'm bad with money."
"I don't communicate well."

And so on. These are not self-aware people telling you useful information; these are people who have no intention of addressing their faults setting you up. The correct response in all these cases is to to say something polite and remove yourself as much as possible from their presence. Maybe, just maybe, if you have known the person since grade school and have decades of history and affection between you, you make allowances, but 9 drama-filled months of bad behavior? That earns nothing but the quickest exit you can manage.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:11 AM on August 15, 2012 [22 favorites]

You are being abused and manipulated.

"Oh, but he says he loves me! And we have such good times together!"

Well, duh - no shit. That's what abusive manipulative people DO. How else did you think they controlled their victims - by saying that they HATE them? By having BAD times together? It's pretty straightforward, if you just look at the evidence instead of assumimg that your relationship is a special snowflake.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 5:24 AM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

He is manipulative and you are codependent. I had a relationship like this; he cheated on me, broke up with me, then did a three-month crazy seesaw of wanting me back, breaking into my apartment on Valentine's Day, breaking up, begging me to marry him, back and forth back and forth.

Get out of the spin cycle. He's not dragging this out because his love for you is trying to battle against his psychological issues and dysfunction; he's dragging this out because of the dysfunction. Block his number, block him on social media, don't respond.

You can't fix his issues, but you can work on yours. Facing Codependence by Mellody, Miller, and Miller is a book you might find useful.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:36 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I dated a crazymaker for over 5 years, and somehow survived. I cannot stand "Dr. Laura", but she once wrote something wise about women who say, "But I love him!" as an excuse for sticking with someone like this... if you had a daughter, would you want your daughter to date this person?
posted by candyland at 5:39 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Roller coasters feel exciting, but you just go up and down and up and down and end up in the same place you started.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:45 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Emotional infants love doormats. They don't respect them, and they are constantly looking for someone better (better = more to offer), but when someone better doesn't work out there's always the doormat - at least she'll put up with my shit.

Reframe. After every weepy phone call, after every successfully-invented drama, after every "came back three times for kisses to manufacture a creepy Grand Gesture," imagine him laughing at you. Imagine him putting another tally on his scorecard. Imagine him planning what he's going to get you to do for him next. Imagine his friends watching as he dumped you on Facebook.

This well is poisoned. Even if he wasn't using you, you've debased yourself so far that he's never going to treat you like a person. Move on, stop cleaning people's houses, stop forgiving people absolutely anything if only they'll still like you. Spend some time by yourself, doing some work on what a healthy satisfying relationship would look and feel like to you, and if you're struggling with doing that you should try a CODA meeting and/or therapy.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:46 AM on August 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

No contact. Period.

Do not answer his phone calls, his texts, emails or Facebook messages. At all. Ever. Not even once.

Talk to your mother and explain that you believe that he may be a threat and it is very important that she not speak to him.

If he shows up in person, ask him to leave. If he doesn't, take out your phone and call the police.

Very simply, conduct yourself in every way as if you want him our of your life.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:00 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

...him saying he "stalks" my Facebook and drives by my house, wanting my mom's # just to "check on" me, his devolving further into destructive behaviors out of grief, his passionate exclamations of still being in love and having romantic feelings and being unable to move on, his avoidance of anything to do with me...he just sounds more like the dumpee and not the dumper, right?
No, he sounds like a creepy stalker who is building himself up to do something really stupid. In fact, stalking your Facebook, driving by your house, and wanting your Mom's phone number to check in on you sure sounds like a stalker to me.

Cut off all communication ASAP. Holy crap, he's scary.
posted by xingcat at 6:10 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can leave it at: As soon as I thought we were hitting our stride around the 9 month mark, he went away for the weekend for a "boys' trip" to the beach and sent me a Facebook message to break up, to not speak or see each other ever again

Holy shit, don't ever speak to this person again in any fashion.
posted by wrok at 6:11 AM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I suspect he left you for someone "better," got dumped, was feeling lonely, and got drunk and called you. But whatever the reason -- and I don't think it's worth trying to figure out what's going on in his head, as that is crazy-making -- you are clearly better off without him. Tell him to leave you alone and then do not talk to him again.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:22 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh man. I don't even know what was up with him, but I can see the dissonance and confusion if you're caught up in it. The way he has acted, I don't think it's ever going to make sense to you (it makes no sense to me), and I don't think you could have prevented the way it all went down - I mean that 100%.

Even if what he says to you is 100% up front (and I don't think it is, but let's go with that for now) and we give him every benefit of the doubt, this isn't someone that you can trust with your love or time or attention. That's true just from the facts in your question. You cannot trust him to treat you properly in a relationship, and no matter how much you two might love each other, or how little sense this makes, at some point it is about more than your feelings and emotions, it comes down to how the two of you come together in an actual relationship. And it is not good. I don't see it getting better either.

Getting your heart broken sucks. What sucks more is not understanding it or being able to wrap your head around it and work through it. Unfortunately, that's where I think we are here.

You're going t have to let this go, because I don't see a way where this works out well for you. I think that even if he came back and wanted a relationship, he would treat you worse the second time around because you let him get away with this shit the first time and took him back. I think he says this shit to keep you around but still wants to be able to just do whatever he wants - and maybe he believes it, I wouldn't be surprised if he does think you're beautiful and love you, but he can't keep up his end of the bargain here other than some talk.

Ugh, so, so sorry. Just don't talk to him anymore, you don't need any more material to make your decision - just be done and move on.
posted by mrs. taters at 6:36 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


This guy does not love you, he loves Drama and he loves knowing that he can pull your strings whenever he wants to.

Girl, you sound like a neat person. If a friend of yours told you:

"I totally love this guy who cheats on me, has a drinking problem, is doing shit in school, plays mind games with me and hasn't worked in nine months."

What would you say?

A. What a catch, it sounds like true love. Just devote your life to him, he's just scared of commitment, your love can change him.


B. The fuck? DTMFA, this guy is way worse than bad news.

You can't fix him. You can't make him better. You can't fill the holes in his life. He's broken and no amount of love or attention will correct his flaws.

He's stalking you now. Stalkers rarely have a real relationship in mind when they stalk. They have an idealized version of the person that is rooted in fantasy. Look at all of the loons who think that they're married to movie stars. To them, it's as real as real can be, but to the rest of us? Cuckoo.

You need to take immediate action. Privatize your Facebook, change your passwords. Get new phone numbers. Cut off all contact. Notify the police that you've got a problem and start getting things together for the inevitable restraining order.

This is crazypants, and no one should WANT this drama in his or her life.

Please, check into some counseling. This asshole has played you like lotto and you need to be able to never have this happen to you again.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:41 AM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

First let me say that none of this is your fault. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. You must be very confused and feel like the world is upside down. It's great that you're seeking out advice from people who can be somewhat objective.

Second, I think your abusive relationship warped your idea of what is acceptable behavior. This guy didn't hit you, but his behavior is unacceptable. The way he bombarded you with calls/roses and is now "checking up on you" is controlling and abusive. I'm sorry. Keeping you confused and therefore dependent on him to make sense of it all is probably his motivation. He wants you waiting around for his call. The sad sack, can't handle life thing? Keeps you feeling obligated.

Move on. Change your number. Read The Gift of Fear. This guy and the way he's treating you are scary and very, very seriously not okay.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:41 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

He isn't. This is his idea of a relationship. And as long as you play along, he will continue to think that way.
posted by sm1tten at 6:48 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I had a higher sex drive than him, and he would turn me down quite often, but would watch porn as soon as I left the apartment.

Is not about sex drive. It's a form of control. He knows you want it and he doesn't give it to you. Now you're dependent on him initiating - you're on the hook, waiting. He can use this as punishment, as motivation to get you to do things for him... basically it's a douchecanoe thing to make you feel like crap and him feel like a king.

Once you can view his behavior as manipulation instead of emotion, you can get some distance. Oh, he dumped you and told you NC, but then HE calls every now and again to make you feel like crap again? Sound familiar? Read my previous paragraph again, and compare.
Yep, he's controlling you. Once again, he's denying you (no sex, no contact) so that you are dependent on his will. He's in charge and you're a toy he picks up sometimes to play with.

So: block his number, block his emails. If he tries to find you in public, ask him to observe the No Contact rule. If he persists, get a restraining order.

Be free, you DO deserve so, so much better.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:51 AM on August 15, 2012 [14 favorites]

the dissonance between his strict NC preference and his sobbing to me...he just sounds more like the dumpee and not the dumper, right?

What he sounds like is A Hot Mess. He's not bringing anything positive to the table. And even if he were to have moments of kindness, he is not good for your life. Someone you're dating should make you happy, not make you an unwilling participant in a drama-filled shitshow.

He also sounds potentially dangerous. I think he's going to keep trying to escalate; he's already shown that he disregards boundaries and your feelings. I suggest that you actually go no contact. Block him on Facebook and set your profile security tight, block his phone number and maybe change yours, send his emails straight to a folder that you don't look at. (If you're going to peek, set up a filter so that they are sent to a friend who can hang on to them for you. I wouldn't trash them, in case you need them to build your case for a restraining order.)

Read your post again. He isn't worth your time or thought. Rather than trying to figure out where it all went wrong, you should devote some energy into figuring out why you aren't standing up for yourself or letting yourself leave a situation that isn't bringing joy into your life.

I wish you believed that you deserve better. You do.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:01 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Is not about sex drive. It's a form of control. He knows you want it and he doesn't give it to you. Now you're dependent on him initiating - you're on the hook, waiting. He can use this as punishment, as motivation to get you to do things for him... basically it's a douchecanoe thing to make you feel like crap and him feel like a king.

Once you can view his behavior as manipulation instead of emotion, you can get some distance. Oh, he dumped you and told you NC, but then HE calls every now and again to make you feel like crap again? Sound familiar? Read my previous paragraph again, and compare.

This is so true I had to quote it to marvel at its wisdom. My horrible "wouldn't accept that he dumped me" relationship was just like this. It's like these people have a handbook or something.

My dumper/stalker guy once told me, during one of the "begging me to marry him" post-dumpage conversations, "I just kept tearing you down in order to feel better about myself." A rare moment of insight, maybe, or just another mind game, but either way he was accurate whether he meant to be or not.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:05 AM on August 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

Every so often I go into a little Italian dessert place and they have cannoli. I don't like cannoli, I know I don't like cannoli... But it's been a while since I've tried it, and I remember the good parts (the crunchy outside!), and maybe this cannoli is different! So I buy a cannoli. First bite, OK... Second bite, meh... Third bite, yuck. Then the rest of it goes in the trash and I remind myself to Never Again buy cannoli. A few months later, I walk into a little Italian dessert place...

This guy is doing the same thing with you. He remembers the good times and all the nice things you did, without seriously thinking about the reasons why things won't work out. So he calls you, tells you about it. Week one, great! Week two, meh. Week three, he remembers all of the reasons why you two can't be together and throws you in the trash and goes looking for someone else. Rinse and repeat as long as you let him.

I think most people do this with something, maybe they buy the next George R. R. Martin book even though they hated the last one, maybe they have a love/hate cycle with a video game... The difference is, the cannoli doesn't care if I only eat a few bites and then throw it out, so there's no serious problem. When there is a problem, when this sort of thing is destructive, you need the willpower to break the cycle. This guy either doesn't care or is emotionally too immature to be able to do this, so unfortunately it is up to you to do it for him (for both of you). This means enforcing the no contact even when he has a moment of weakness. Easiest way to do this is to block him electronically and then get out and meet other people, take up a new hobby, and generally spend your time doing things that distract you.
posted by anaelith at 7:14 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

This guy sounds like a total trainwreck of a human being. There isn't a single redeeming fact about him in your entire description. Not a single reason why you should ever want contact with him ever again for any reason.

The question here shouldn't be "WHY IS HE SO STEADFAST AGAINST A RELATIONSHIP?" It ought to be "WHY THE HECK AREN'T YOU?"

You wasted nine months with this controlling, stalkery, creepy cheating loser. Don't waste any more.
posted by ook at 7:22 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

The reason is he totally cheated on you AGAIN when he went on the "boy's trip", which wasn't just boys, but boys and a few girls. He broke up with you because he felt guilty and was too chicken to come out and say "I cheated on you, and we should end this relationship".

Yup. And the reason he was so over-the-top romantic before leaving was that he KNEW he was going to cheat on you. He was planning to, and he did.

I share jbenben's and others' concerns that this guy is on the verge of going full stalker. Do you have close female friends you can tell all of this to?
posted by oinopaponton at 7:31 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is absolutely no reason you should let this person drag you down one more second. He needs to focus on getting his life together. You need to focus on finding a companion who is not a complete trainwreck, and perhaps counseling or at least a good long think about why you think all you deserve is a "fixerupper."
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:31 AM on August 15, 2012

He sounds like just an awful, terrible person and the question for me is not "what's up with him," but "Why the hell would you want to be with someone who is so little in control of himself and so unable to meet your needs?" He's messed up. You wouldn't understand it even if he was able to describe it - because he isn't able to think clearly and doesn't know what in the world he's doing with his life. Meanwhile, you have been freed from this and have dodged one serious bullet. Rejoice and move on. Take steps to cut off contact and avoid all communication. He's not a stable dude.

It's impossible to understand some actions, because they're not rational, thought-out, mature actions. Some people are just messed up - this guy is one. And some questions you don't need the answers to: you just need new things to think about. Stop asking "why, why" and get some new people in your life.
posted by Miko at 8:01 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

No need to ruminate on what a bad guy he is. The fact is that he's not your boyfriend anymore, is interfering with your life in inappropriate/scary ways, and is self-absorbed in his own drama. You can't fix a broken heart by having it broken some more.
posted by moammargaret at 8:19 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

He sent you the message so his conscience would be clear when he boned someone else that weekend. He came crying to you because he realized the relationship with you was worth more than he thought. Do not let this guy back in your life, he sounds incredibly immature and dangerous.
posted by the foreground at 8:24 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Run as fast and far away from this man as you can. He is deeply disturbed and will never treat you well. As long as you give him any indication you are going to forgive and forget, which is what you would have to constantly be doing to stay in any type of relationship with him, he will continue his abusive behavior toward you.

I wouldn't be trying to figure out Why he is the way he is, but rather Why you are with someone who treats you so badly.
posted by waving at 8:31 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would echo the other commenters on the point that you have a lot of issues within yourself that you need to look at.

Walking away from him is a no-brainer. But please do not jump back into another relationship until you can figure out what makes you take this much shit from someone and still question whether or not they should still be in your life in any form.

My hope for you is that you learn valuable lessons from this trainwreck.

Good luck.
posted by Danf at 8:32 AM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Also, check out these great songs, because this has DEFINITELY happened to other people, you are not alone.

Trick Me, by Kelis
Those days are old and overdone
And it's only because I'm not with you that you make me number one

Smile, by Lily Allen

Now you're calling me up on the phone
So you can have a little whine and a moan
But it's all because you're feeling alone

posted by the young rope-rider at 8:39 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

The fact that he's not in contact with family says something bad about either him, or them. I am not sure which.

I say this over and above the obvious fact that he's unable to take care of himself or live a stable life. He is either incapacitated by untreated mental illness, or choosing to live a parasitic lifestyle.

The latter of these two is the worst possible interpretation, but the former isn't good either. The best you could surmise about him is that he may not be a bad or evil guy, but he's unable to maintain a relationship and helping him is beyond your expertise. To actually answer your question: his confusing behaviour seems to come from a combination of mental illness and immaturity, and there really isn't much more to it than that.

I agree that his behaviour of late has been rather stalky. I don't know how worried you should be; I personally suspect that if he took a swing at you he'd miss, and fall on his face. But what do I know. I think you need to take a step back and recognize this for what it is taking shape to be, not what you feel about it. The procedure for handling someone who is getting stalky is to go no contact, none whatsoever, nada, zip, zilch, block, delete, ignore, do not engage, no deposit, no return. For his sake as well as yours.

I agree that coming out of an abusive relationship usually causes people to set the bar very low for the next relationship. He didn't hit you or otherwise abuse you, but his performance as a boyfriend was as bad as it could get without being abusive. I know it doesn't make you feel any better, but you really weren't getting anything out of the relationship other than his presence, and even then he was very often mentally checked out.

The fact that he broke up with you OVER FACEBOOK is a measure of the entire relationship. It shows a complete lack of concern for boundaries and empathy and is destructively inadequate. Someone who does something like that has not earned your respect, at all.
posted by tel3path at 8:48 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't necessarily want to help froth up a panic, but...I agree with jbenben that you should be careful. This behavior reminds me of when I left my narcissistic, abusive ex. Be careful to not let yourself get sucked into this further, and also be sure you change locks/passwords that he might have had access to when you were together. Don't give him your mom's number, don't let your activities be obvious to him online, and be wary of how info is shared in Facebook. You should cut off contact, cleanly.

I also have to minimize my online identity, and I know he tries to keep tabs on me...4 years later. It is not romantic. It can get scary, pretty quick.
posted by sock puppet of mystery! at 9:08 AM on August 15, 2012

Just to piggy back on Scody's excellent advice upthread: trust that even if you don't waste months trying to sort out the whys of his crazy behavior, your own truth about what happened will eventually emerge, on its own, simply with the passage of time.

A few years ago a boyfriend who promised me the moon me suddenly dumped me hours after saying he wanted to spend his life with me. I wasted a whole spring and summer trying to unlock the mystery of his craziness. Eventually I gave up trying to understand and moved on.

At a certain point, when I was over him (which fortunately didn't take long because he completely shattered my image of him) I looked back and realized that I finally had the answer: he was immature, emotionally shallow and unstable. It was as simple as that, and I was entirely satisfied with that explanation. I also felt relieved that he had released me from his crazy orb.

I really don't think my months of introspection got me any closer to that truth. Trust that you will get the closure you need but two things are necessary: space and time. You can't speed it up or figure it out now. Trying to do so will only delay your moment of truth. So live your life and have faith that it will come with time.
posted by timsneezed at 9:45 AM on August 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

If you need help getting the strength to cut off contact, maybe think of it like this: staying in contact with him is harmful to him. You're actually helping him by not taking his calls, etc.

He's seriously struggling with life right now, and it sounds like he's interpreting his interactions with you as some sort of salve, or medicine, that can take all the struggling away. Of course, it can't. He needs to seriously change his life, and his insane dwelling on you is only going to mess him up more as time goes on. So, if you let him talk to you, you're actually helping him destroy himself even more. The most compassionate thing you can do for him is also the most compassionate thing you can do for yourself: get away from him, block his calls, move on with your life, and never, ever accept contact from him again.

Acknowledge that he'll sob and cry. Acknowledge that he'll interpret your actions as a harm to him. He's wrong about it, though. Think of it like how you think about taking care of a wounded pet: my cat thinks it's a great harm when I force him to see the vet, but I know that, in actuality, the vet is what the cat needs to get better. Your ex, like my cat, is just confused about the identity of the wound and the cure.

You can't save him. You can't fix his life. But the kindest and most caring thing you can do to help him is to refuse contact with him.
posted by meese at 9:50 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

After I broke up with my own Mr. Nutty, during the first month of drama where he was writing me drunken messages and such and I was in a fog trying to understand how I could get him to calm down, I had a dream where he was small and inflated, like a soccer ball with little tiny arms and legs and head sticking out. I was holding him away from me and he was alternating between trying to kiss/hump my hand and throwing a screaming, crying temper tantrum like an infant. Then I drop kicked him, and he flew away in an arc with a satisfying "AAAaaaaaiiiiiieeeeeeeeee...!"

Roll up all your confusion about this guy and mentally punt it into the distance. See if you feel any lighter and clearer.

You'll never understand why this guy acts how he does. All you need to know is that he's not good for you. Be careful about him turning threatening and scary-stalkery in the future. I would start keeping a record of his contact, just in case you need a restraining order. I am not kidding.
posted by griselda at 10:50 AM on August 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

It sounds corny but one of the reasons I married my husband is that there has been NO drama. Sadly, in the beginning I wondered if he loved me because things were SO QUIET and simple with no games. I wasn't used to it. No relationship is perfect and it takes work, but I don't feel like I have to try to guess what he is thinking or figure him out. It doesnt feel complicated. It really doesn't sound like this person is a good match for you at all.
posted by heatherly at 11:05 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

The dumpee (who is heartbroken) is comforting the dumper (who broke her heart) and helping him get over her? What?

No, this isn't a mystery. This behavior is typical of someone who is too focused on their needs to notice that you might be hurting.

It sounds, from the way you describe your relationship and everything you did for him, that you got roped into a relationship where the focus became you proving how worthy of love you are. That you are worthy of love, however, is never up for discussion. It's been years since I've read it, but I would suggest you read Women who Love too Much. This could help you on your way to figuring out how your behavior contributed to the dysfunction of the relationship. The author has a chapter on why we pick the partners that we do that I think you could find useful.
posted by Milau at 11:47 AM on August 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

OMG what is the sh*t. Tie up your trainers adn run very far away. He is immature and manipulative. 9 months of this crap is a fun dramatic action movie ride for a time but life in reality will respect you more.

Just stop answering him ever at all for any reason. He'll eventually spread his crazy somewhere else.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:02 PM on August 15, 2012

I think lots of mefites have covered what likely is going on with him. Odds are very good that because you came to your relationship with him from an abusive relationship prior, he looked a lot better for you than he actually was. He likely was looking for a "better" deal while simultaneously recognizing you were more than he deserved. Like those above mentioned, this is incredibly common manipulation, from the push-pull to the sexual withholding. No snowflakes there, plenty of wonderful people have been where you are. As for what to do about it? Recognize that he keeps coming to you because you've shown him you'll be there no matter what he pulls. There are almost certainly other women, if he needs validation/attention as much as you say. Odds are you are the one who most consistently indulges his bs. How would you feel if you found out he had tried this on every woman he's ever dated, that in fact every time he gets in one of these moods, you are not the only one he calls? Don't be the one he can rely on, not this way. He'll waste as much of your life as you let him until he gets another woman like you to take care of him. (mine was lamenting our breakup with dramatic words, unaware I knew he had immediately reactivated multiple dating profiles when i finally ditched him; one hed'd activated weeks before i dumped him. Had I not seen those I might have believed he cared about me in particular instead of anyone who'd have him.)

He's told you one truth: you deserve much better. Go find that guy once you've had some time to heal yourself.
posted by OompaLoompa at 12:28 PM on August 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

How would you feel if you found out he had tried this on every woman he's ever dated, that in fact every time he gets in one of these moods, you are not the only one he calls?

This this THIS.

I would be very surprised indeed, given his obsessive need for sexual reassurance from as many sources as possible, if you are the only one he calls. He may call you more because you are the most consistently 'available' to him, but I'd bet all the money in my purse right now you are not the only one.

Imagine him sat alone in his room, crying, thumbing desperately through all the contacts on his mobile phone, sending out maybe ten, fifteen (twenty?) texts to see who bites. How exciting it is when after half an hour of radio silence, you call.

This is the reality of his life.

No one wants this guy. You don't either.
posted by everydayanewday at 12:59 PM on August 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

The dumpee (who is heartbroken) is comforting the dumper (who broke her heart) and helping him get over her? What?

Because it sounds like he's one of those people whose reality and behavior are dictated entirely by whatever emotion they are currently experiencing. Most people, even in the midst of overwhelming emotion, retain a small voice that pipes up at some point and says, "Um, excuse me sir, I apologize if this is a bad time but I have here some data that you may want to review before taking any decisive action." He does not have that small voice. Rationality, context, and other people's emotions cease to exist; all that matters is THE FEELING.

So on Saturday, he had some overwhelmingly unpleasant feeling, for whatever reason, and he called you in a frantic effort to not be feeling it anymore. The call's effect on you may not have occurred to him at all. If he did feel guilty about calling you, that guilt just became part of the package of negative emotions he was hoping you'd release him from. Ultimately you were just a tool. It's not that he completely lacks a sense of empathy, it's just stunted and turned inward. Like, he probably felt extremely guilty for cheating on you, but his subsequent behavior was motivated by his guilt, rather than by the hurt he'd caused you and a desire not to hurt you again. There's a difference.

What makes this kind of person so baffling is that that throughout their torrent of contradictions, deceptions, and manipulations, they always manage to seem so sincere. That's because they are sincere. When he's loving and attentive and says things like "It'll always be just you and me," he probably means it 100%. But the next day, he could be feeling the exact opposite, and be 100% sincere about that too. It's a paradox: he never lies, but he's completely untrustworthy.

It sounds like on some level he's aware that he's like this, and does care about you, and the strongest evidence for this is that he severed contact. That is out-and-out the best thing he could have done for you. He has some serious professional-grade issues and you cannot change him; trying will make you crazy. Of course you can't trust him to be consistent in enforcing the no-contact rule because he is not consistent in anything, ever (except in being inconsistent). So you'll have to be the consistent one instead.
posted by granted at 3:03 PM on August 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Those last two sentences were not completely bolded in the preview.
posted by granted at 3:08 PM on August 15, 2012

I just wanted to comment and say that I genuinely appreciate all of the responses to my post. I've read this site for a while, which is why I wanted to post here, but I wasn't really sure about the kind of response I'd receive and I'm honestly a little taken aback by other people's empathy and genuine thought about my situation. I don't have a large social network, in part because most of my friends ended up becoming alienated during my relationship with my ex. I do go to therapy as a result of my previous relationship, but when I think about it, I suppose I do kind of gloss over a lot of these recent relationship issues with this guy so I don't look as "foolish" or "weak" to my therapist. (I realize that makes no sense, I mean, I've never minded looking vulnerable or compromised to him as a result of anything else) Really, I guess I gloss over most of these issues in general in my life, and it's not until I posted on the internet to total strangers that I was totally honest.

I guess what I've taken from this post, which maybe I should've known anyway but didn't really want to admit it to myself, is that the larger and more important issue is actually my relationship with myself. I do feel sorry for him, and I do feel compassion, but I think I've spent the past year lacking the same compassion for myself. There are so many comments that I can't address them all, but I read and appreciated every single one and I'm sure I'll revisit this post periodically over the next few weeks while I continue to work through all this stuff.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to care!
posted by orumi at 3:20 PM on August 15, 2012 [18 favorites]

Honey, I'm sorry, but you need therapy. Never mind him, just DTMFA. He's a selfish user and a drama queen. You, on the other hand, are trying to get your act together, but for some reason have a low self-esteem and very poor taste in men. You're one HECK of a gal, a great catch for any guy. You're loving and loyal, and you treat your man like a king.

Girl, don't talk to, or allow, Mr. Loser to contact you again, get thee to a therapist and get yourself figured out, and then get out there and find the guy you deserve.

Do me a favor, please. Take a post-it note and go stick it on your bathroom mirror. Write on it in bold red pen: I deserve a man who will treat me like the goddess I am. Yes, it sounds way corny, but do it anyway!
posted by BlueHorse at 6:16 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that if you want to work on yourself, the most important sentence in this whole thread is:

Stop cleaning other people's houses.

When you value yourself enough that you're no longer spending YOUR TIME cleaning other people's houses and doing favors for them, your life will be better. Really, stop doing that. If you don't feel self esteem and self respect, at least "fake it till you make it" and act as if you have some, and probably the feelings will follow. Only do big favors for people who have already done you equivalently big favors in terms of time and effort, or more. It's a rather simple rule. If he hasn't cleaned your house and baked you cookies, don't be doing it for him.

Oddly enough, maintaining this kind of balance has the benefit of making people respect you more and treat you better. It also weeds out douchebags a lot of the time. But really, you should be maintaining that kind of balance for yourself and not because of any relational benefits it gives you...
posted by kellybird at 10:39 PM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Time to let go of the rope.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:18 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Photoshop stroked objects and drop shadows   |   I need your used laptop expertise Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.