Stories of dumper regret? Get him back? (Not interested in manipulation)
October 30, 2012 5:45 PM   Subscribe

indecisive ex -- how do I handle this and do they ever come back (for the right reasons)?

My boyfriend broke up with me rather abruptly after a year and a half last weekend. We are both in our 20s, attending a very stressful university and probably both have some issues we need to work out but were otherwise really caring and great together.
At the beginning of the relationship, I think I was extremely scared and reserved. It wasn't the first time I'd felt strong feelings for someone, but it was absolutely the first time I'd felt strong feelings for someone WORTH my feelings. We are both really intelligent, good looking, good-hearted people. This is not meant to sound immodest. I just think we had struggled a lot growing up finding people who fit the bill and for the first time felt challenged by our partner. It was fun. It was great. He fell fast and I was scared. I'm not sure where the intense need to protect my heart came from-- I think I was afraid because I knew just how much I fit with this person and losing that seemed really scary. I don't try to beat myself up over it because I realize we are young and relationships are about intense growth. Anyways, skip ahead and I honestly did a lot to sabotage things. Dependence upon another person scared me.
We took some time over the summer to re-collect ourselves. I got into therapy and got on treatment for depression. We had a very honest talk about what we wanted our future to be. We both agreed hands-down we were in love and wanted to continue. We shacked up for a month or so until school started up and I moved into my own place nearby.
Things were AWESOME. There was no arguing, no power playing, and we maintained a really healthy balance between school, hobbies, friends and each other. We were extremely affectionate, the sex life was great and I think for maybe the first time in my life I understood what it means to have true reverence for the well-being of another person (outside of family). I almost felt like he was my family. On top of this, I felt I had been making strides personally- loving school and finally feeling like I had found a tight-knit group. It seemed we could do anything together and like hang-ups between two people who loved each other could truly be worked through effectively. I felt LUCKY.
As for him, he expressed the same through his words and actions. He referred to himself as "the luckiest man in the world," called me his best friend, told me he loved me every day. When I had a bad day, he was there. Always invited me over, during busy weekdays expressed missing me, asked me on lots of dates, bought me a BEAUTIFUL, thoughtful necklace for my birthday two weeks ago and had a trip planned for the two of us for next weekend (he rented a cabin). But, most importantly, we just felt really good around each other and had a mutual love for life and adventure as well as chilling out watching bad TV. However, unlike me, he was having a hard time feeling content in school, had surgery on his hand and is maybe having somewhat of an "existential crisis."
One night a week or so ago he started tearing up and talking about how he felt "destined to be a workaholic," didn't know if he could feel truly happy and was worried he was doomed to fail me. I asked him what he needed from me- to stay or go, and he told me to wait it out with him.
A few days later, he went from asking me to go see a movie to breaking up with me in the span of 20 minutes. He told me he wasn't sure what he wanted and didn't want a relationship. It was absolutely not pre-meditated. I saw him the next night at a party and he was on drugs/drunk dancing with girls. He did not say hello to me. I spent a few days being devastated. We've spoken on the phone twice- both times he has been very tearful, confused, obviously hurting but says it's the right choice.
I'm very confused. I am not so much interested in people telling me to move on, because I absolutely realize that's the next step. I have backed off. I'm letting him do what he needs to do and focusing on myself. But after a lot of reflection of my own I want this to be temporary. I feel like this is a common thing that people go through in young relationships. I'm interested in whether it ever pans out happily. This seems very much like an impulsive, grass-is-greener sort of scenario on his part, but I could be wrong. In what sorts of situations do men break things off, take time to themselves and come back more invested? I know this is somewhat common. This is basically a "could he be back" question, but with the absolute assurance that I hope to focus on myself for the time being. It is also a question asking for any similar stories and about the hot-and-cold confusion young men tend to go through in their 20s. If it is meant to be, if he really is meant to come around, what sorts of things could I do to inspire it in him?
I miss him. I know he's confused but something about this seems off. I want him back.
posted by minerving to Human Relations (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
None of us know him and this is just a guess but....some of this is timing. This is a young man, in college, about to go forth and have a career. Even if he loves you, there is part of being "locked down" so to speak that will very much make one feel trapped, as if in a sense one's life is over. (I broke an engagement in college myself, and this was definitely part of my thought process.)

He may simply not be ready for a committed relationship, period. Either that, or there is something going on that he isn't telling you. Either way, it's probably best you don't plan for him to come back. Even if he did, what's to say this wouldn't be a hellacious nausea inducing roller coaster ride with a not so good ending?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:17 PM on October 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

You saw him at a club on drugs and dancing with girls? You said he was smart? Doesn't seem like it. :( I think once someone breaks up with you, you shouldn't take them back. That just tells them they can leave you again and again and you will take them back. I'm sorry, but from what I have experienced in the past this has been the case. Wait at least 3 months, don't talk to each other, and move on with life and if you want start to date other people. Be happy, be confident, be yourself and you will be fine! I was in a year and a half relationship too, and when things ended it was pretty rough, but we both made it and are both in relationships now that are more suited for us.
posted by Autumn89 at 6:21 PM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Actually, you will be encouraged to hear that every single break up has a 0.000000026% chance of being a big mistake that the initiator will identify and take action to correct before it's not too late!

You can round this up to 0.00000003%!!

For realzies though, the odds are bad. A boy who broke my heart told me one time that he hated that relationships could only be defined as successful if the arrangement worked out forever ever, and that just because ours was ending didn't mean it was not important/good/worthwhile.

At the time I told him to go fuck himself, but now I think he's right. Take stock of where you are, what you want, where you've been, and ask yourself if you really want this particular 20 something year old boy back after he sows his oats or whatever cliché is going on. As someone a tiny bit older - I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of having so many other options to investigate while the pickings are good and plentiful.

Good luck!
posted by skrozidile at 6:22 PM on October 30, 2012 [11 favorites]

I feel like this is a common thing that people go through in young relationships. [...] In what sorts of situations do men break things off, take time to themselves and come back more invested? I know this is somewhat common.

This doesn't ring true with me (most of the way through my 20s; female with plenty of male friends and ex-boyfriends). It sounds like the plot of a romantic comedy, not real life.

He sounds like he could use some therapy.

Everyone in college knows that they're going to graduate and move away at some point. That affects romantic relationships, as St. Alia says. If a relationship is working well, you realize that your life plans are becoming entangled in a way they wouldn't if you just both happened to be living in the same city with no end date. I think this makes it more likely for things to fall apart just as they become serious.
posted by ecsh at 6:25 PM on October 30, 2012

Do not try to control this situation. Try to let it all go.

Being dumped abruptly is traumatic. You know in the movies when someone is shot and there's blood everywhere but they think they're fine because they haven't started to feel it yet? That's where you are right now. Eventually you're going to feel really angry about this, and rightfully so.

For a stupid reason or for no reason, he shattered all the trust and intimacy that you'd spent eighteen months building together. You can't really get that back. The good news is that when people get older, they become clearer on who they are and what they want, and they become better at signaling when they're unhappy, so this kind of shit doesn't happen after a year and a half.

Anyway, that was the kind of answer you said you didn't want, so I'll speak now to your actual question. I have personally never seen someone come back after this kind of breakup and have it work out in the long run. I think during all that time when you never argued, there were probably things about the relationship that were bothering him that he never communicated, maybe in part because he didn't understand them himself. Maybe just being in a heavy-duty relationship at this age was bothering him. Who knows. Water under the bridge.

What may well happen is he might try to get back together with you right at the very moment you're totally over him and probably with someone else who suits you better. I have seen that happen a million times and, yes, it can be kind of gratifying. And you will know then that, despite the assholishness of his methodology, he was onto something accurate when he broke up with you. It really was over, even if you didn't see it yet.
posted by gentian at 6:56 PM on October 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

Could he be back: Yes, but not likely. In response to your request for similar stories, I can think of three sort of similar-ish stories from my life. But I don't think any of them really support the argument that you can get happily ever after out of this.

My most encouraging/happy-ending-ish: At age 18, I dumped my serious boyfriend after finding out he wasn't really sure he wanted to marry me. Why? Because he let me tell all our friends for months that we were getting married and let me give up a scholarship in part to stay with him based on believing he did want to marry me. He was back a week later, ready to swear that, yea, verily, he wished to marry me.

We were married 22 years. I don't regret it but it was a pretty unhappy, rocky marriage. We are now divorced. But I also really don't think this is all that similar to your situation. I dumped him, not the other way around, and it was done for a clear, specific, serious cause, not some spur of the moment flake-out. There was a clear solution to the issue and he took it: He committed to marrying me.

Second: During my divorce, I had one of those "you know this is bad news from the start and will not end well" relationships. It took me eighteen months to get rid of him. He wanted to marry me. I would dump him and he would sing me love songs and I would take him back (like ten minutes later), feeling like an idiot. Oy. Glad I finally escaped his clutches.

Again: Yes, he came back but, again, I was doing the dumping, not him. And I was clear this wasn't A Good Thing. I just didn't know how to make it stick at first when I would dump him.

Third: The only guy I can think of who dumped me and came back didn't really dump me. I concluded it was intended to be a manipulative ploy to get me to come crawling back and do things on his terms. When being dumped wasn't as soul-crushing as I (and, no doubt, he) expected it to be, I decided to think about things for a bit and decide if I really still wanted him or not. It had been an on again, off again thing (life got in the way, not repeated break-ups) for a long time. I did not feel it ended until I decided, nope, I don't want him back. When he did, in fact, try to get back with me, I basically said "thanks, but no thanks".

If you want to use someone else's anecdata to judge your situation by, I think this is the most damning one. Like your guy, he did the "dumping". Like you hope for, he then came back. But I am so glad I said "no thanks". I was clear his reason for dumping me and then coming back was very unhealthy and not the basis for happily ever after. It was potentially the basis for "nightmarish marriage number two, the extra fucked up version". I wanted no part of it. I think I did the right thing.

I know, not what you wanted to hear. But I really doubt you will get too many stories of happily-ever-after following a break-up.
posted by Michele in California at 8:51 PM on October 30, 2012

I agree with you about this being a grass-is-greener scenario on his part. And impulsive/non-premeditated as it may be, I seriously doubt you have the whole story, and if he's not forthcoming or penitent, his point of view is probably better informed. I'm sorry, but I'd try to let this go.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:14 PM on October 30, 2012

A few days later, he went from asking me to go see a movie to breaking up with me in the span of 20 minutes. He told me he wasn't sure what he wanted and didn't want a relationship. It was absolutely not pre-meditated. I saw him the next night at a party and he was on drugs/drunk dancing with girls. He did not say hello to me. I spent a few days being devastated. We've spoken on the phone twice- both times he has been very tearful, confused, obviously hurting but says it's the right choice.

Oh god I used to be this guy.

Here's the thing: he does not have his shit together. If he comes back, he still won't have his shit together. For all you know he'll call up tomorrow and be all "I was wrong! Take me back!" But you know what? He'll still be the sort of person who can't plan ahead, can't think things through, can't communicate clearly about his feelings and doesn't know what he wants.

He might get over that stuff eventually — but it takes years of work. It's not going to happen overnight.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:22 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

yeah, he's a young guy who flaked out. i don't mean to sound hard-hearted, but there's nothing to do here but walk away, heal, have some rebound lovin', and move on. he's history.
posted by facetious at 9:52 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Be happy that you had a nice, 18-month relationship and that while it ended abruptly, aside from that, it caused you very little pain.

Your ex-boyfriend isn't coming back, not the way you want. He felt trapped and he wanted to sow wild oats. RIGHT NOW! He didn't think about your feelings in this, he didn't weigh his options, he frantically ended everything with you so he could: "(be) at a party and he was on drugs/drunk dancing with girls."

Don't talk to him. Don't write to him, cut off contact if you can. Every time you talk, it takes you right back to the beginning of the trauma, and gives you false hope.

Unfriend him on Facebook, or better yet, ditch Facebook through New Years, because I guarantee, you'll see nothing put pictures of your ex-boyfriend living la vida loca.

Block his cell number, avoid him. Rally your friends to keep you busy through the holidays. Don't go looking for a new relationship, mourn this one.

The good news in this is that you know what you want, you know the kind of intimacy that you like. Don't settle for less.

Don't go over your behavior in this, nothing you could have done or said, at any point during your relationship, would have changed the outcome. You acted perfectly fine throughout.

Your now ex-boyfriend is just a young flake who isn't ready to be in a long-term committed relationship. It has nothing to do with you.

Take care of yourself, and for the love of all that's holy, DO NOT TALK TO HIM!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:04 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think that when people get back together successfully, it's on a scale of years -- that is, they go on, live their lives, maybe wander different ways, definitely grow a bunch, and then decide to seek each other out again. It's not just broke-up/got-back-together; it's grew up, sorted out my issues, got more perspective on what we had.

So basically the best plan is to plan that this won't happen, and maybe in 5 or 10 years there will be a surprise on that front, but probably not.
posted by acm at 10:54 AM on October 31, 2012

You can do a lot better than some jerk who can't figure out whether he wants to go to a movie or dump you.

I'm sad to hear about what you're going through. Being dumped is one of the worst emotional experiences I have gone through. Of course you want to hold onto hope that the person will come back to you.

I've seen people get back together after a break-up, but in those cases there was usually one specific thing that caused the break-up and once it was resolved, the couple was able to get back together. This doesn't seem to be the case in your break-up. It sounds like this guy the wishy/washy indecisive type.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:35 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

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