I really like my ex. Help!
August 23, 2012 8:05 PM   Subscribe

First time round, he got his heart broken. Five years later, we meet again. I really like him but he’s not long out of a relationship.

I’ve seen the recent ask.me on a similar topic but this is quite a different scenario.

The background:
- The ex (let’s call him Sam) and I went out around 5 years ago (I was 23, he was 26). The relationship only lasted 5 months, but there was a long build-up before that.
- The relationship was fun and adventurous, and he really made me laugh. Our conversations covered the sublime and the ridiculous. He was kind, generous and caring (in general as well as towards me).
- Things ended for two reasons: first, Sam was moving abroad for work; second, he said he didn’t want to continue as he was in love with me and could tell I didn’t feel the same way. I thought Sam was fantastic and really enjoyed his company, but he was right that I hadn’t completely fallen for him. A part of me was holding back, although I thought my feelings might deepen with time (I’ve since realised I wasn’t completely over my previous relationship).
- The breakup, which happened as he left the country, was very civilised. I missed him but got over it fairly quickly. I heard from mutual friends that he took it pretty hard (one told me he cried for days).
- Sam and I kept in irregular friendly email and phone contact for about six months. I heard he’d started seeing someone new and got the sense he wanted a bit of distance. I didn’t push the contact and it tapered off.

The reunion:
Cut to a few weeks ago when out of the blue he invites me to a barbecue at his house. We hadn’t seen each other since the breakup, although occasionally I’d hear about him through mutual friends and knew we were living the same city again. I’d also heard he was recently single, having broken up with the woman he started seeing after me.

I went to the barbecue, could only stay for a couple of hours as I had another commitment, but wow. Strong chemistry, easy conversation, major attraction. All his good qualities I remembered were there, but he’d matured and was interesting to me in a whole new way. I’ve also grown up a lot and could better appreciate how awesome he is.

The follow up
We met up a week later (it was my general suggestion to meet again, but he followed up to suggest the specific time). Once again, we really connected. We stayed up talking late into the night and after some hours, he said he wanted to kiss me but wasn’t sure whether that was appropriate. We kissed; it was incredible. This was all completely sober, by the way. We didn’t discuss the specifics of our respective situations and what this meant, although we talked a little about general attitudes to relationships and how a lot of people settle, and he told me that he’d left his last girlfriend because he felt that he would have been settling.

That was the weekend before last. As he was away last weekend, he suggested meeting again up this week, and said he’d call me over the weekend to arrange. I didn’t hear from him (argh!), so on Tuesday I messaged him to ask what was happening. He apologised for not being in touch, said he’d been thinking about it and “to be completely honest it has been super awesome seeing you again but I’ve realised he’s really not ready to be dating. Would really love to see you as friends though?”

I decided it was worth letting him know how I feel in case his decision was partly due to fear of getting hurt like last time. I responded: “Understandable and I’m all for periods of solitude. Was planning to have a conversation about just that when we met up. For the record, I was going to suggest that we got to know each other again slowly. Didn’t want to get ahead of myself, having only seen you once, but frankly, I haven’t fancied anyone as much in ages and thought that if you were ready to date, it could have real potential. If that’s not an option, I’m totally happy to do the friends thing. You just have to promise not to kiss me again. [Joke about thing we’d been discussing.]”

To which, he responded: “[Reference to joke.] I appreciate the frankness and to be frank back, it will be pretty hard not to kiss you. Despite also fancying you, with my current frame of mind I think friends is the wise option – something I should have realised a little sooner. Perhaps we can discuss fully over dinner tomorrow night?” I had other plans last night so we’re meeting this weekend.

My question:
How do I play this, both at the dinner and afterwards? I feel like I have to strike a balance between letting Sam know how strongly I feel, to overcome any wariness he may have about history repeating, and not scaring him off if he’s not ready to date, which would be understandable (it’s only four months since they broke up, and they went out for four years).

Should we hang out as friends and take things slowly? I absolutely want to avoid a friends with benefits situation, so to the extent we do see each other, it's probably wise to stay away from the physical stuff. Not sure how easy that will be to maintain given the level of attraction. Or would it be better to take a break and see each other again in a few months? Being rather impatient I'm not so keen on that option, but would consider it if seeing each other now would jeopardise the long-game.

In case it’s not clear from the wall of text, I really like this guy. I think it could turn into something special and I don’t want to screw it up.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total)
Sounds like both of you are kind of ambivalent about the next step. Sounds like he's a little more cautious bc he was more hurt than you were last time, which is probably why you're less cautious than before, bc you know that you can get through it not working out a second time, and he's not as sure.

For whatever reason, I feel like this has potential. I suggest you explore it slowly and let things work at his pace, without having any expectations. He knows how you feel, you've put that stuff on the table. I think he might need more time to be confident into entering a dating situation with you again. Be friends. Keep the physical out of it as long as you can. It seems like you guys are on the same path, but just in different places. Slow down so he can catch up.
posted by greta simone at 8:17 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like he just wants to be friends. Go to dinner and discuss it, sure, but if you can't be just friends with this person, be honest. It's better that way.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:26 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

You need to back off and believe him when he says he's not ready to date. He didn't say "let's take it slowly", he said "let's hang out as friends".

I know you're anxious to tell him how you feel, but now is not the time. If you can't handle being *only* friends, then yeah, you guys need to take a break and see each other again in a few months.
posted by Specklet at 8:52 PM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Change dinner to lunch. Don't do stuff that's like a Date. Do things during daylight hours, in public. Whether he wants to just be friends (but then what is there to discuss further over dinner?) or has more in mind, he has said he isn't ready and you are clear you want to take whatever it is slow. So go slow, not to dinner.
posted by rtha at 9:00 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

It does sound like he feels the attraction between you, but honestly doesn't want to be more than friends right now. It also sounds like the reason for this has more to do with his current situation or breakup than the pain he experienced with you 5 years ago. In case this is just my reading of your description, just ask him which it is. If he just wants to be friends because of how hard it was for him to lose you before, then take it slow and feel it out. But if it is because of the other, then he just wants to be friends and you gotta figure out if you are really on board with that. gah! I know this is tough! Good luck.
posted by sb3 at 9:25 PM on August 23, 2012

Ditch this guy and move on.

I KNOW he seems to have potential - but in reality, he does not.

I am older than you, amicably divorced, and now very happily married. I dated A LOT in there.

This is one of those, "Coulda Been/Woulda Been" situations. No one involved understands why the chemistry is so HOT and the timing is so WRONG - but there you have it.

The only correct response is no hesitation. He hesitates.

You did SO RIGHT by being honest.

Do not accept the "friend zone" unless you can get over your personal feelings of attractions. Is it worth it to process those feelings while forcing yourself to sublimate your attraction? Only you know.

I would say it is not worth the effort, since you don't have a previously strong friendship established.


I agree that with others that your reading of the break-up is likely a bit faulty.
posted by jbenben at 1:00 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

From the OP:
Thanks everyone for the solid advice.

We spoke last night to arrange this weekend and ended up having the discussion then. He was very clear about his situation – he wants to take some time out from dating to make some major life decisions and doesn’t want to be influenced by a budding relationship. He also said that as he couldn’t give another person his full energy and attention, it wouldn’t be fair to date. He reiterated that he was attracted to me and would be interested if the timing were right, but for now any contact between us would have to be as friends only and not with a potential relationship in mind, and it’s up to me whether I’m comfortable with that. He apologised if kissing me led me on, but was acting in the moment and didn’t work all this out until afterwards.

He didn’t mention the fear of being hurt bit. Seems you guys read it right that it’s not a factor.

I’m very glad we were both honest, and that he was able to work this out and communicate it to me – a lot of guys wouldn’t. I’m going to let things lie for now, mentally move on, and meet up in a month or so as friends. He’s a great guy and we did actually have a friendship before we got together, so I would be interested to know what he’s been up to. Since there’s no ambiguity, I feel like that could work for me. If, however, it turns out I’m still hung up on him, I’ll cut the contact and tell him to get in touch later on if he’s ready to date.
posted by taz at 5:11 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

OP, good on you!

Don't continue to hold a torch for this guy.

There is a reason you never read AskMe's that go, "I've met the perfect guy/girl, but I had wanted to take some time off of dating -- OH, METAFILTER! WHAT SHOULD I DO??"

You never read that here. You and I both know why;)

Look, I don't understand chemistry either!

I will say that when someone's energy or presence (friend or romantic) really bowls you over, those interactions tend not to be in your best interests, long term. You should feel great and comfortable around people you choose to have relations with, not great and over-excited, or so stimulated by someone that it pre-occupies you. Know what I mean?

Best to you.
posted by jbenben at 10:18 AM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think you're handling this well, but I wanted to echo jbenben's comment that I've never actually heard anyone say "OMG I met someone who is perfect and I'm smitten and want them so bad, but I don't know if now is a good time for me to be dating! What do I do?"
posted by J. Wilson at 10:56 AM on August 24, 2012

Here's me, being a contrarian...

I've never actually heard anyone say "OMG I met someone who is perfect and I'm smitten and want them so bad, but I don't know if now is a good time for me to be dating! What do I do?"

I have heard this, typically individuals who are coming off of a divorce or off of a really committed relationship, and either have children or have a lack of confidence as to whether their strong feelings are genuine or something having to do with a fear of being alone again.
posted by davejay at 11:52 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

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