In love with an ex (in a LDR) I dumped when I was confused about dating
February 3, 2013 12:56 AM   Subscribe

While experimenting with polyamory, I met someone great (who's not into poly) who I then pushed away and now love. Do I stand a chance?

I met "Sam" several years ago in a social setting for a mutually shared interest. We ended up seeking each other out when we happened to be at the same events and having enjoyable conversations and sparks.

At that time I was seeing another person, "Poly", a very charming, quick-witted, flirtatious-when-convenient, but often emotionally aloof (I learned later on) person, who was (and is, perhaps) a big proponent of polyamorous relationships. I wasn't familiar with polyamory, being relatively new to the dating scene in general as well as coming out of a pretty conservatively religious upbringing, but I liked this person and the arguments in favor of seeing multiple people to fulfill one's needs resonated with my scientific background. So I decided not to judge the lifestyle without experimenting first.

I told Sam that I was seeing someone, but that we were open. I liked Sam. Sam is more introverted and calm, intelligent, and just the right amount of goofy. Sam wasn't thrilled about joining an open relationship, but liked me enough to give it a try. We have many shared interests, conversation is easy and enjoyable, and there's a great deal of attraction.

My relationships with these two people continued on for a couple months before I couldn't take the emotional abuse from Poly. While I realized that this relationship probably wouldn't have worked out, it was still an emotional break-up for me. It hurt. Sam was a little relieved that it was now just the two of us and asked to move things forward with us and become monogamous. I couldn't make that decision while feeling the pain of a breakup, but Sam kept pushing it. At the time I felt like I had no other choice than to break up with Sam too, because Sam didn't understand what I was going through and wouldn't give me the space I needed. I regret that choice now.

Soon after our breakup, Sam started dating again, and has been seeing this person for the last year and a half, though long distance. Sam says their relationship is technically open now because of the distance, but that they don't ask for details. Sam and I still keep in touch. We email maybe monthly and have gone out a number of times--there's always been some kissing but we've never done anything about it. But now I feel like I have to.

Last weekend we went out. I had an appointment in Sam's neighborhood and we met after that. We got coffee and sat and talked, walked along the frozen shore until our feet froze and then kept walking and talking and not noticing the cold, got dinner (which we split, being conscientious of our wallets and figures) and beer, and then went back to Sam's place to relax with some tv and then smooching (Sam's verbalized suggestion after my physical hinting) and talking and more smooching and talking and then sex, with great communication. The rhythm we fell into that day just felt so natural and comfortable and right. Sam mentioned that it was nice that two people could do this so casually. I drove home and cried.

I emailed to say what I great time I had and that I'd like to continue seeing Sam, I used the word "casually" because Sam had and I couldn't risk saying that I think I'm falling completely in love--I couldn't do that because there's still someone else in the picture I didn't want to scare Sam off. The reply said Sam had a great time too and would like to continue seeing me, but as "friends" and less intimately. Sam's proposed next get-together is dinner followed by the symphony.

I think Sam may have suggested the "friends" thing as a personal protection mechanism against more hurt I could cause, or as way to maintain the current LDR legitimately (and not polyamorous). I'm fairly confident Sam has feelings for me. My only problem is that I have no good understanding of Sam's commitment to the LDR. I've looked over all of our email conversations over from when we were dating and realized that while I liked Sam a lot, I was too preoccupied with Poly and ended up not treating Sam as well as I would have liked to.

Does anyone have suggestions for winning someone back from their current partner? Do you think this is a reasonable thing for me to do in this situation? I've felt sick all week just thinking about losing someone I really care about and want the best for. I don't know what the best is though, which is part of the problem. Do I go for Sam? Help!
posted by chrysanthemum to Human Relations (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Nevermind the whole winning back thing. Meet Sam and lay your cards on the table.
posted by LarryC at 1:17 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Tell him how you feel. Just be prepared for him to not reciprocate. He's in a not-officially-polyamourous relationship, and he's already suggested you specifically be "friends" and "casual". It doesn't look to me like he's all that interested in a relationship with you.

Tell him, so at the very least you have a clear cut answer of where you stand. Be ready for this not to go the way you want, though.
posted by Solomon at 1:19 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Let Sam decide. Don't try to manipulate him into dumping his LDR and being with you. Be up front with him about the fact that you want to see him more than casually. Apologize to him for the way you treated him.

If he still wants to see you, keep asking him out and see where it goes. If he wants to try again, be patient with him if he's slow to trust you again. Show him that you're trustworthy, dependable, and considerate of his feelings. That's how my boyfriend won me over in a similar situation.

If he doesn't have those feelings for you anymore, let him go. Sometimes you don't realize what you have until it's too late. Sucks, but it happens.
posted by rhythm and booze at 1:34 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do yourself a favour and say what you want. You said 'casual' when you wanted serious. Maybe he wanted serious too, but said 'friends' because you'd already said 'casual' and he didn't want to look like a fool? (maybe not, but this is not impossible, and you'd better find out.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:30 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Well, this is unpopular, probably, but I would never verbalize feelings of romantic longing to a man who said he wanted to be my "friend." It's tempting to make up narratives about why people do the things they do, and I've done so many times. "Maybe he said that nasty thing because he had a puppy that died when he was six." "Maybe he doesn't want a relationship because he was emotionally scarred when his mother didn't buy him that donut he wanted at ten years of age." Who cares? You can't know. I suggest you respect yourself and him and take what he is saying at face value. He wants to be your friend.

If you can be friends with him without a lot of agony, then do it. But I would suggest that means no sex, as you have feelings for him, and he wants to be "friends." So be "friends" and hang out and don't have sex. If you can't not have sex with him, will feel bad for not having sex with him, or will just generally be in a bad way about it all, then please, don't hang out with him again. I personally wouldn't make a declaration, I would just say, "Hey, I'm sorry. Kind of wrapped up at the moment, I can't do it." If he persisted, I MIGHT give a reason. But my suggestion is don't embarrass yourself on love's sacrificial altar for a guy who is seeing someone and has told you he wants to be friends.
posted by amodelcitizen at 3:24 AM on February 3, 2013 [11 favorites]

Also, you broke up with him a year and a half ago. That's a good amount of time, it wasn't just yesterday. So your theory that he is protecting himself doesn't quite gel. Just, if it were me, and I was seeing someone that I loved again after that amount of time, I'd be eager to think things had changed. And if he is labeling you a "friend" only in the service of not violating some terms he has with his partner when he really has feelings for you...that is best to be avoided, because it isn't quite right, he's resorting to semantics to preserve his morality or something. I think your only recourse is to strictly be his friend or be nothing at all.
posted by amodelcitizen at 3:40 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sam had a great time too and would like to continue seeing me, but as "friends" and less intimately.

He's told you what he wants. It doesn't matter why that's what he wants, so speculating and digging through old emails is madness.

I had an appointment in Sam's neighborhood and we met after dinner (which we split...smooching (Sam's verbalized suggestion after my physical hinting...Sam mentioned that it was nice that two people could do this so casually. I drove home and cried.

Although you say you are seeing growing intimacy here, what you are describing is a FWB relationship driven by you pursuing Sam, mincing words so that you don't scare him off. Tell him what you want, honestly, and let the chips fall where they may. That's what Sam did 2 years ago when he said "I want to be exclusive." He took a chance and lost, and seems to have recovered nicely. That's a good example to learn from.
posted by headnsouth at 5:01 AM on February 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

Sam sounds like a bit of a jerk.

He sure doesn't seem to mind open relatioships when he's the one in a position of power is what I mean.
And I think him pushing his desire for monogomy on you when you were a) sad from a breakup (of an abusive relationship no less) and b) he had entered into your relationship as it being poly in the first place, shows a lack of empathy at best and a lack of respect for boundaries at worst.

Sam didn't understand what I was going through and would not give me the space that I needed

These are not hallmarks of a healthy, caring, respectful partner. I wouldn't be surprised if in the long run, he was also emotionally abusive or at least incompatible with you.

soon after our breakup, sam started dating again and has been seeing this person for the last year and a half

It sounds like he wasn't that upset about your breakup.

Sam mentioned that it was nice that two people could do this so casually

It sounds like he's not interested in getting back together. You've been single for quite a while, and have kissed and had dates and he hasn't even mentioned the possibility of getting back together? I bet he likes having you as his piece on the side with no obligations towards your feelings. I could be wrong about this last one though, he might think that casual is how you want it.

Sam... would like to get together... as friends and less intimately

I doubt it. Sounds like he knows you're crushing on him and he is not interested in pursuing that for whatever reason, and that you're better off without him.

You can tell him you're falling for him if you want a shot at this turning into a relationship and it's the best way to have a chance at getting what you want. Certainly, don't pretend to have only casual feelings if that's a lie... healthy relationships are not built on misdirection, artificiality and fear; they are built on honesty, communication and trust. So yeah, if you want this, tell him so. But I don't think you should. I think you're better off without him.
posted by windykites at 5:12 AM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

Does anyone have suggestions for winning someone back from their current partner?

If you want to be with Sam exclusively, communicate that to him and then back the eff off until he is really and truly single. Because your question is basically "how to break up someone else's relationship" and that forms a pretty shaky foundation for a new relationship.
posted by futureisunwritten at 5:59 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's unreasonable to expect Sam to leave the person that they're with, but it's not unreasonable to share these feelings with Sam despite them being in a relationship.

Address your feelings carefully yet honestly. Don't go overboard with confessing your emotions at this point. Realize and accept that they are not something that can be "won" back. Sam will make the decision that's best for them. Respect whatever that decision is.
posted by livinglearning at 6:10 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, this is unpopular, probably, but I would never verbalize feelings of romantic longing to a man who said he wanted to be my "friend."

When a man continues to express romantic feelings to a woman who says she just wants to be friends, he is being boorish and any continued, unwanted sexual advances become nothing but harassment. It is no different when it is the man who says he only wants to be friends.

Move on.
posted by three blind mice at 6:24 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Okay, but do we know Sam is a man?
posted by to recite so charmingly at 6:42 AM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Well, yes, he says he only wants to be "friends" but he's quite happy to have sex with you in the process. Call me old fashioned, I don't do that with my friends. I mean, if making sexual advances to a friend is harassment, imagine what actually having sex with them would make me guilty of. For one thing.

I don't much like the sound of Sam and I agree with windykites that you have once again found yourself in a one-down postion in a relationship. I think you have a right to say to Sam that you don't want to be friends and you don't want to be casual and you don't want to be open and you do want to be exclusive. Expect that Sam will say no to this, whereupon you must go no contact.

In my opinion, you should either be dating someone or not, either friends with them or not. Poly (if not done ethically), casual, open, FWB, just friends, all of these things are excellent vehicles for jerking you around. Don't fall for it. It doesn't really matter if Sam has an evil plot to jerk you around, or is just jerking you around.

I don't really like the sound of Sam-the-erstwhile-monogamist's "open secret" relationship deal. I wonder if Mrs. Sam knows about the "open" part or could that be a secret too, from her at least? But maybe I'm just too suspicious.
posted by tel3path at 6:46 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't think Sam wants to be won back. You had sex, Sam calls it casual, you reinforce that ...and Sam's next communication with you was to suggest hanging out as friends. Sam may have feelings for you - what mix of sexual or romantic it's impossible to say - but I really don't think Sam wants whatever the heck it is that you want, perhaps because you haven't figured it out or made it clear, but most likely because you missed your shot and he isn't checking for you in that relationship way anymore.
posted by sm1tten at 6:54 AM on February 3, 2013

[no idea what genders are involved here, but I don't think it matters.] OP, you don't have to deal with all of this at once and Right Now; that's your crush and feelings of regret talking. But you weren't ready for this relationship back when you valued drama and got embroiled in Poly and spuriously broke up with Sam. The timing is stll bad. Sit on things for awhile and see how they evolve. Be a good friend. Do nothing to sabotage or undermine Sam's new relationship. Apologize for past bad behavior without emoting all over the table. Let the new normal define itself. Eschew drama. Your crush may subside. Sam may marry or become single in due time. Maybe some day you have to tell Sam that you want more or that it's too painful to be just a friend. But that day is not today, not next week or even next month. You don't know enough yet. Chill. PS Dinner and the symphony is pretty date-like.
posted by carmicha at 7:39 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I suspect OP was pretty careful not to drop pronouns for a reason. Maybe they didn't want responses colored by gendered assumptions.

Anyway, if I were Sam, I'd want to know everything you were feeling. I'd want to be able to make an informed choice about the time we spend together and my current relationship. Sam sounds like they value honest and heartfelt communication. And your friendship. I would do a lot of thinking about the possibilities and meet them there with a pragmatic conversation about how you want to proceed.
posted by Lieber Frau at 7:54 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Honey, he's a jerk because he did not back off when you needed space. You're not the one to blame for the initial break up. He is!

Cancel the symphony. That will be torture.

I suggest you baaaaaaack waaaaaay offffffff. Tell Sam that you do like him, that you want a deeper relationship, that casual won't cut it for you, and then back way off.

Here's the thing: you can't do casual with him. It's too late.

You need to break this off and understand it's probably never ever going to work out. I also am kinda wondering about his character at ths point in your story...

I sense he is getting back at you for having "rejected" him in the past. I think he's seduced you out of fun, out of ego, but not because he still wants a deeper relationship with you. Sorry.

The thing is, you did not reject him. You just did not give him what he wanted when he wanted it. He could have handled accomodating your needs fairly and maturely, yet he did not. This is on him, not you.

You have nothing to make up for with this guy. You were resonable. End of story.

Prepare yourself. This connection is likely coming to an end. If it does end you are SO MUCH better off.


Make way for someone new and fabulous to come into your life. I think this guy is not it.
posted by jbenben at 7:56 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I meant to take the pronouns out of mine, but my answer isn't gender-specific. What Sam said to you, OP, sounded like a "not interested in you in that way."

And also, "technically open, but they don't ask questions" sounds like a buncha bullshit.
posted by sm1tten at 8:01 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

It kinda sounds to me like Sam basically cheated on his LDR girlfriend.

Plus that thing about wanting to be more casual/less intimate... he sounds kinda jerk-ish/unreliable/irresponsible. I wouldn't go too near a person like this.
posted by rozaine at 9:20 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

No. Nobody here has "suggestions for winning someone back from their current partner" because that whole idea is predicated on a false conception of how love and relationships work. Full stop.

There's no "winning" involved here. Yes, it's possible that Sam might prefer to end things with their long-distance partner and pursue something with you instead. It's at least equally possible, and probably more possible, that the you-and-Sam ship has sailed and that your delightful interlude the other night was just sex-with-the-ex for Sam. And that that's OK by the current relationship agreements Sam has going on with their partner, whereas a longer-term relationship would not be.

Here are two possible next steps that are ethical and respectful: a) Say something very clear like "Sam, I don't think I can hang out as friends with you now, because what I want with you is a romantic and sexual relationship". b) Hang out with Sam as friends and never make another sexual or romantic move on Sam while you know they're still in a relationship. Pursue other relationship opportunities. Don't be a Nice Guy or Nice Girl or Nice Genderqueer Person to Sam; really be Sam's friend, not someone circling Sam in a holding pattern waiting for your chance to pounce.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:53 AM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Does anyone have suggestions for winning someone back from their current partner?

Sure. Here you go.

For what it's worth, I think that is an unethical thing to do. From a utilitarian standpoint, I don't think it's a smart way to begin a relationship you hope will last and bloom; and from a moral standpoint, I think it's icky and wrong. But sure, if you just want an answer to your question, there it is. Decide for yourself.

I drove home and cried.

Yeah, you have described all kinds of emotional red flags and this is one. Sometimes people who are emotionally tumultuous will look back on their most recent experience and say, "Thank God that's behind me, I've really learned and will be stable now!" and then proceed on to their next emotionally tumultuous experience, after which they will again say, "Thank God that's behind me, I've really learned and will be stable now!" There are many such people. Maybe you're one.

Generally speaking, I think it's wise to keep moving forward in relationships. It's a lot more realistic to expect that you might learn from your mistakes than "fix" them. Not to be cute, but don't be Gatsby.
posted by cribcage at 10:00 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Find someone else. From your description Sam doesn't sound like a particularly nice person, he certainly didn't treat you very well after your first break up. I would not expect him to behave differently now and currently you sound so unhappy.
posted by florencetnoa at 10:43 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: First of all, I just want to thank you all. I'm a little in love with the internet right now. Still new to MF, and I really appreciate the feedback.

As rhythm and booze suggested, I did email Sam to apologize for my past treatment. It was a pretty neutral email, though it conveyed a sense of sadness. I felt good writing it. I won't get to see Sam now for a little over a month because of conferences and travelling, but the symphony is still tentatively on.

I want to back off and just give some time to the situation (time that I wanted when we were dating) but I still want to make it clear how I feel. This song is how I feel now. I want a monogamous relationship with Sam. I want to be with Sam. I want kids with Sam (eventually). (I think.)

The problem lingering is that I haven't been explicit with Sam about my desires. I don't know if I should be right now. I don't think email is the best way to communicate that desire and we won't be seeing each other for a while. Would it be better to just try to meet up for coffee (hard-ish to do during the week because we're both busy and on opposite sides of the city) and get that over with? Should I just do it by email? Should I wait until our friend-date in a month or so?

I know things may not go how I want them to, and I'm ok with that. I just do want to lay my cards on the table. Suggestions for how to do that?
posted by chrysanthemum at 12:14 PM on February 3, 2013

i don't mean to rain on your parade, really i don't, but i think sam has communicated clearly what they want:

Sam mentioned that it was nice that two people could do this so casually.

sam told you this after you slept together, so i think sam was trying to be clear here about what they wanted. sam has a LDR so it makes a lot of sense too. when you later mentioned in email having a great time and wanting to be casual sam said:

Sam had a great time too and would like to continue seeing me, but as "friends" and less intimately.

sam is trying not to lead you on here but be clear that a relationship isn't going to happen as sam already has one. also, sam isn't interested in being so intimate again.

sorry for being so blunt as i know it isn't what you want to hear.
posted by wildflower at 3:14 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Just tell Sam what you want. If it's not what Sam wants, Sam will let you know, and then everybody can move on. We can all try to interpret events six ways to Sunday, but this is the only way you will actually know what Sam is thinking.

I'd say don't get your hopes up, but you might as well ask.

As for how to do it, I think email is actually a really good way. That way Sam can have time to think about a response and not feel blindsided and have to make a hasty decision.

Good luck!
posted by exceptinsects at 4:37 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Message sent. Weight off my chest. I don't expect to hear anything too soon, I told Sam to take some time. I said that moving forward, I wanted to be friends regardless, but with clear boundaries if the LDR is still there. Thanks guys!
posted by chrysanthemum at 6:55 PM on February 3, 2013

Response by poster: It's done. Finished. Over. But we're still going to the symphony (with boundaries in place) and I'm happy about that.
posted by chrysanthemum at 8:40 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

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