I miss you?
September 5, 2012 11:03 PM   Subscribe

How do you know when you're missing someone, versus missing what you had with someone? Or, even stranger, what you could have had with them? Snowflakes.

I still miss a person whom I only dated for a few months, and with whom I ended things many months ago. He decided to move across the globe within the year, waffled about whether he wanted to maintain a relationship beyond that point, and wanted to date me until then and "see what happened." I couldn’t handle this; I really liked him, was insecure about where I stood with him, and interpreted the waffling as his not returning my feelings, or respecting me enough to come down on one side or the other. He’d also pursued me before he made the decision to move, so the sudden change, within a few months of our becoming exclusive, really took me by surprise. But he's since done a 180 and decided not to move, which has me confused. In many ways, he's still one of my favorite people. He's smart and sweet and attractive and fun. We think the same things. Have the same sense of humor. I often wish he were still part of my life and, now that he's not going away, he perhaps could be, if I got back in touch (we haven't spoken all summer). But, on the other hand, he didn’t seem very emotionally invested at the time, and he even admitted he had problems with feeling emotions in general, that he felt that this was what led to the breakup, and apologized for letting me down in that regard.

So I'm wondering how you know whether you miss a person or miss your idea of what you should have had with that person. In this case, it sure feels like I miss the heck out of him. I still care about him, he's said he still cares about me, and time doesn’t seem to be healing things. Also, neither of us has much relationship experience, despite both being adults. What to do? How to deal? Going out on a limb: could this ever work out if I contacted him and told him how I felt, considering I was the one who ended it, or would it be too one-sided and weird after all this time? (Note: I've been meeting and dating other people in the meantime, starting a new job, moving, going through therapy for many things, but still feel this baseline pang of missing him.)
posted by Bluestocking_Puppet to Human Relations (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You're missing the person you hoped that guy was or would be, which he proved he wasn't.
posted by discopolo at 11:25 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

Often times, I think we miss who we were with "that" person, which is basically missing a version of ourselves. When there's a good fit in the relationship, there's a number of great experiences, yeah? Everything from connection, touch, conversation, lovemaking, etc. It's a whole portfolio of experiences.

What's happening in that process is our brains give us massive endorphin rushes to literally get us addicted to that person. As factors line up that indicate that a partner would be good for us – that both our chances of survival/procreation and quality of living are improved with that person – our brains "reward" us for building a relationship.

In that process, we start to behave in ways conducive to being a good match for that person. It's a reciprocal cycle, in that we become more like the people we are attracted to through successful relationships with those people. Thus, in essence, over time one becomes a "better version" of themselves.

And I think that's often what we miss – who we were becoming/became.

In your case, there are a few other comments.

1) There's a whole lot of waffling going on here. I'll pass the syrup. You waffled. He waffled. Sounds like you had a great time together but both a little gun-shy. You didn't commit either way. He didn't commit either way. You both had feelings of doubt. Remember, you broke up for a reason, and that reason was not because he was going to move across the world. It's because he would not commit to you.

2) You can contact him and give it go, but remember "it's called a break-up because it's broken". It may well be the same story over again, because it may well be the interaction between the two of you. Some people go on for years like this – trying to make a poor fit into something functional.

3) You said you don't have much dating experience, thus it does not sound like you have the model for "when it works really well" yet. When it works really well, it just works. Before you know it, you're at six months. Then a year. Then two years and so on. Point being that it's easy and just happens. Jaunts around the block have informed me that the love and commitment part is supposed to be easy and happen naturally.

So whilst you can reach out – indeed you may well do, as it's better to regret the things you have done than the things you haven't. Just don't get sucked back into the same journey. If nothing's changed, make sure you are true to yourself and cut it off to find what you really want and deserve.
posted by nickrussell at 11:45 PM on September 5, 2012 [10 favorites]

This sounds like regular 'ol missing him. Solved with time and dull hurt.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:09 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I went through a very, very similar situation with a guy I only dated for a couple weeks, who also flip-flopped about wanting to move and was just generally at a very transitional time in his life (he stayed and started dating someone else shortly after we broke up). For awhile I really really missed him-- he was one of the first guys I dated when I'd figured out my "type," who I just got along with right away, who I had a lot in common with at an exciting time in my life, &c. We ended up changing into pretty different people, and now when I see his Facebook updates he's really not "the guy" I had a brief fling with in my early college days. I completely agree with nickrussell that the love and commitment part is supposed to be easy and happen naturally in most cases-- whenever you have to fight for that, you're fighting against everybody's deeper instincts. It wouldn't be the worst thing to reach out, but if you find yourself thinking things like "why is this so ambiguous?" or "why did he say he had a good time hanging out but didn't try to set up another date?" it's probably time to start looking for a guy who's just as cool but also on the same page as you.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:16 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

You don't say how old you both are or what baggage you might be bringing, each, to the table.

While what nickrussell says sounds rational on the face of it, I'm going to explore his point #2 a little more.

How soon in the game did you want him to commit exclusively for you? Did you spend enough time together, alone, wherein which to figure out if this was what worked and what you wanted, before talking about commitment?
posted by infini at 2:42 AM on September 6, 2012

Absence can make the heart realize that perhaps it wasn't just a fleeting romance after all. And that can change minds on whether to pursue, regardless of what may be or not.
posted by infini at 2:43 AM on September 6, 2012

It sounds like he's a bit confused about what he wants to do with his life. If you are OK with keeping things casual or just being friends, and the two of you ended things amicably, I see no reason not to get in touch with him. But if you are looking to this guy for a ltr, I fear it will just end in more disappointment and sadness. You are thinking about your motives, but think through the various scenarios.

And, as to your question, it can be both. I miss the honeymoon stage I went through with various exes, but there was one guy I missed enough to actively work to get him back in my life (as a friend). Sometimes it's hard to determine when it was a short relationship and things didn't really go "bad".
posted by peacrow at 5:08 AM on September 6, 2012

You miss what you wanted to have with him. What you actually had was a relationship with a guy who (admittedly) wasn't emotionally invested (whether because he doesn't have the emotional maturity/intelligence to be a good partner or because he wasn't that into you), and you ended that relationship because it wasn't getting it done for you.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:46 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

It seems to me that your break up was based on his decision to move. Now he's not moving. If he were well and truly into you, he'd have called you to re-connect. He hasn't.

You can miss what you hoped you would have with this guy, but the reality is, and I hate to use a cliche, he's just not into you.

So, knowing that he's not interested, does that change your view of things?

Una clavo saca otro clavo. One nail drives out the other nail. Once you find someone to connect with again, someone who's really into you, who goes out of his way to be with you, well, you won't be thinking about this guy at all.

Get out there and mix it up in the world. Hang with friends, take a class, volunteer. Stay busy and soon enough new things will come your way. As your activities fill your free time, you'll find yourself dwelling less and less on this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:56 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Thanks for all these great answers & ways of looking at this. Just to clarify, he actually did contact me after changing his mind, but was ambiguous about what he wanted (friendship or rekindling), which sort of worried the scab. Our dynamic was always him making himself available and waiting for me to take the reins. I was the one who put distance between us to try to figure things out.

Nick Russell, you're right: there are a lot of waffles here, on both sides. And they're Eggos as opposed to, say, delicious Belgian waffles.
posted by Bluestocking_Puppet at 9:20 AM on September 6, 2012

You have nothing to lose by pouring a barrel of good Canadian maple syrup over it, at least once. You'll rest easier after that. After all, you've already grieved for him.
posted by infini at 9:31 AM on September 6, 2012

Oh dear. People who don't know what they want are the worst; they break your heart and it's not even their fault so you can't get a good self-righteous anger going about it.

A few months is not long enough to move on, especially since him not moving reset the clock on your grieving. Give it more time.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:46 AM on September 6, 2012

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