He loves me, he loves me not.
March 6, 2013 11:13 PM   Subscribe

Ok MeFites, help me. My best friend and her boyfriend just broke up, mostly his idea. But he says he wants to communicate still and "will always love her". She asked me what the hell this meant. I have no idea. So I'm posing the question to you relationship experts. What the hell does he want?

The back story....they dated for about a year and a half. They didn't live together but saw each other a lot and talked and texted every single day. It was a great relationship...til he broke up with her. He said there was "something missing". She is 99.9% sure there is no one else involved. He really is a super nice guy and that doesn't seem like something he would do (I know him really well). So anyway, for about the last week and a half since the break, they have been communicating and emailing like nothing really happened, just slightly less than they used to, although they have not seen each other.

My thought is that he's not super sure about the relationship, but he's still communicating with her just in case he thinks he made a mistake and wants her back...basically stringing her along. That's what I told her, but she's still communicating with him. While I think he's a great person, I think she's hurting herself by not letting go.

What do you guys think? I need help backing up my answer. They are both late 30's, if that makes any difference.
posted by fresh-rn to Human Relations (43 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
He's probably trying to "let her down gently," as the kids say. And not feel so bad about the break up, because breaking up with someone tends to make one feel like a cad.

I wouldn't read too much into this. It sounds like the kind of parting words you normally hear upon parting.
posted by vivid postcard at 11:17 PM on March 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


People generally know what they want in their late 30's.

After a year and a half of being in a relationship? In their late thirties? Men definitely know what they want. Or, in this case, don't want.

I think you're wrong that he's not 'super sure' about the relationship: I think he is 'super sure': that it's over. Your friend needs to go no-contact until she's just as sure.
posted by Salamander at 11:19 PM on March 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


A charitable reading is that he has conflicted, confusing feelings about her, and because of that he can't bring himself to rip off the band-aid.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:20 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


He doesn't want to be with her and is trying to let her down easy.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:23 PM on March 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


So anyway, for about the last week and a half since the break, they have been communicating and emailing like nothing really happened, just slightly less than they used to

If I were her I would tell him to stop contacting her - it's not fair that he continues to do that. But that's just me.
posted by victory_laser at 11:23 PM on March 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, whatever he's feeling or not feeling is almost beside the point. I'm having trouble thinking of a scenario where continuing to keep in such close contact would be a good thing.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:26 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, he's realised that she's not THE one and that if he stays in the relationship she will not end up having kids. But he likes her enormously. Just not forever. So he thinks he's being kind and gentle.

Actually, the net result of this approach from him is cruelty. And I've no doubt he'd be horrified to hear that. But it's giving her false hope. And if she EVER wants kids, she has to go no contact and move on.

I'm sorry for your friend. It's awful. But this age range is crucial for her if she wants kids. If she doesn't, the advice is still the same though.

You're a good friend to her, she's very lucky to have you in her corner.
posted by taff at 11:31 PM on March 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


that's either just one of those things people say when they're breaking up or he's hoping he can keep having sex with her without being pressured about a future. either way, she should tell him that she has enough friends and stop contacting him or responding.
posted by nadawi at 11:38 PM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Really doesn't matter why he's doing it, but she should go 'no contact' while they are broken up. They can be friends later. Like, after a year has passed and they both are dating other people.
posted by empath at 11:45 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's trying not to feel like a shitheel for breaking up with somebody he still likes but doesn't love.

It's not a good strategy and just prolongs the withdrawal.
posted by benzenedream at 11:47 PM on March 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


In the context of a breakup, "I will always love you" typically means "I value our time together and don't regret that we had a relationship," "you are important to me (as a part of my past if nothing else)," "I still think you're a fine person even though we're over," or some other sentiment along these lines. It's bittersweet but it's final.

It does not mean "I still want to be with you," "I am still in love with you," or "I am considering taking you back."

This relationship is over, and she needs to move on.
posted by shattersock at 12:37 AM on March 7, 2013 [49 favorites]


Agree with the other commenters that he likes her a lot, but doesn't love her as he would need to for a relationship to work, and is hoping to let her down gently. He may also be very invested in his concept of himself as a nice person who doesn't cause pain to others and think this is the kind way to behave after a breakup. In fact it is not. Keeping constant positive contact with someone you have just ended a relationship with is actually generally pretty cruel. It keeps them guessing and keeps a little glimmer of hope alive. I have made this mistake when I was young and not as self-aware.

If I was your friend and I did want to be friends with this guy in the future I would explain to him that no contact for now while my heart healed was the only way that we could make that future friendship happen.
posted by Dorothia at 12:37 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


What benzendream said. He feels bad about hurting her, but not bad enough to stay with her. (Luckily, because who wants that?)He also wants to be able to tell himself that he is not such a bad guy, she can't be that devastated or she would not stay friends with him, right? Right???

She needs to take care of herself and rip off the bandaid so she can heal. This guy has made up his mind that she is not the one and staying connected to him will only waste more of her time.
posted by rpfields at 12:41 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Super important bit of information I forgot....after about two months of dating he broke up with her in almost the exact same way...kept in contact, everything. And they got back together after a month apart. Yeah, I know!!!!! So I guess this makes her feel more like he's going to take her back again. Which I will pound into her brain is NOT. A. GOOD. IDEA!
posted by fresh-rn at 12:52 AM on March 7, 2013


You know, at this point I would just butt out. Being a power-broker at the death of your friends' relationship is not likely to endear you to either one later on, whether you end up being "right" or not. It's their trainwreck; let them handle it; let them learn from it.

Sure, be there and listen and give support; but only give advice if it's specifically asked for.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:13 AM on March 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


after about two months of dating he broke up with her in almost the exact same way...kept in contact, everything. And they got back together after a month apart.

The next time he contacts her, she says "Hey, look Melvin -- We walked this road before. If you're doing this same thing, this go-away-no-wait-come-back thing -- whether you know it or not, this sure does feel familiar, and it's making it all the more confusing for me -- you'd best decide real quick if you're going to try to come back into my arms again. And if that is what you decide, you have also to decide to stay in my arms, unless/until you find out that I'm a serial killer, or a scientologist, or a republican. Because I'm not going to be jerked around like this. No more. That part is over. So. Figure out if that's what you want -- pronto -- and let me know, either way. Then we can together decide what steps to take, whether further contact with one another is good for either or both of us.

Whatever it is that she decides to say to him, it'd serve her well to have it on paper, at least bullet points covering what she really needs to express; without having it on paper, the emotions can get the better of you (they get the better of me, that's for sure). She'll be stronger if she has her ideas right there in her hand.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:35 AM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


He wants to dump her and he doesn't want her to feel bad about it. He can't handle her bad feelings, so he plays along.
posted by SyraCarol at 3:34 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Time to shut the door on this fellow forever and move along with her life. It's called breaking up because of the severance, which means it's time for him to go away and leave her alone.

His feelings toward her are, right now, irrelevant. Their current relationship is finished and he's just a nuisance, like cave mold.

Maybe they can be friends some time in the future. But that's also irrelevant. Right now she must tell him to get lost so she can get over him.
posted by Pudhoho at 3:44 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The back story....they dated for about a year and a half. They didn't live together but saw each other a lot and talked and texted every single day. It was a great relationship...til he broke up with her. He said there was "something missing".

...after about two months of dating he broke up with her in almost the exact same way...kept in contact, everything. And they got back together after a month apart....


Oh hey, the thing missing is drama. Run now. I had one of these, dragged me about for like, two years non stop and then hung around at the periphery of my life torturing me for another eight. Just. Just no.

Cut off contact as politely as she can, and move on. She'll be doing both of them a favour.
posted by Jilder at 3:51 AM on March 7, 2013


What the hell does he want?

I get why this is the question she's asking. It's so easy to get sucked into the vortex of "but what is his thought process here?" in this kind of situation, where he's changed his mind about a breakup with her before and he still wants to stay in touch almost as much as they were before and what the hell does "I'll always love you" mean in this context anyway and etc etc etc.

But, still, it's not the question she should be asking. Trying to puzzle this out makes her a passive figure in this, just patiently going along with his wishes. She needs to be asking "what the hell do I want?" And regardless of whether or not he decides to get back together this time, I bet that what she wants in the long run isn't to feel like she's living in limbo while he thinks this through.
posted by Catseye at 3:54 AM on March 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


There's someone else, and he's hedging his bets in case that doesn't work out.
posted by lalala1234 at 3:56 AM on March 7, 2013


It's not so much that he's trying to let her down gently; this is very much about his feelings, not hers. He likes her enough to want to continue to talk to her in his daily life, but when it comes to lifetimes he knows she's not the one. It's understandable, but selfish. At this point, your friend needs to realize that it's up to her to protect her emotions because he isn't going to do it for her.

To say that you still love the other person, and to continue to want to contact them is very common in the wake of breakups, but I think it's telling that they haven't seen each other since the break. He's not in this for some hot, casual, drama-filled post-breakup sex, that's not the reason he's stringing her along. He's stringing her along because even though he has doubts about her in the long term, in the short term it's hard to be with someone daily and then not be. Not making excuses for the guy, this is cruel what he's doing. Clearly though, he had enough doubts to instigate a breakup, which means your friend should take care of her own feelings, which means no contact, because he clearly won't do it.
posted by malapropist at 4:04 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


By the way, considering their track record, I bet your friend probably could coax him back into a relationship, but you should ask her if she really wants to be in a relationship like that.
posted by malapropist at 4:05 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


My last ex said that he would "always care for me" after he broke up with me. Within two years, he'd stopped talking to me entirely.

I think that often even when you're the one doing the breaking-up, there is a part of you that still in that moment does care very much for the dumpee, wants good things for them, and feels bad, and ....you just end up saying stuff like this. But it doesn't necessarily have a long shelf life.

I'm so sorry for your friend.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:14 AM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


He's not a "super nice guy". He's a guy who wants it all. He wants a break-up without having to be a bad guy. Then he doesn't want a break-up. Then he wants a break-up again. That's not nice. That's playing yo-yo with another person.

In the end it doesn't matter at all what he wants. It matters what she wants. And if what she wants is to have a clear ending, then she has to cut off contact. Beyond that, if she continues to engage him in this way, she's signing on for another tug of the yo-yo string whether she realizes it or not.
posted by inturnaround at 5:36 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand all the dumping on the guy. Surely this woman is an adult who is perfectly capable of communicating her needs and wants. If he wants to stay friends why shouldn't he say so? I don't find that cruel or selfish. She can say yes or no as she sees fit. What seems strange to me is having someone point blank say it's over and then sitting around wondering *what the he'll they really meant by that?! * They meant its over. Move on. Be friends or don't but he's been honest with you now be honest with yourself.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:02 AM on March 7, 2013


This is a guy who is keeping his options open. He's knows (and has known) that your friend isn't the right woman for him, but hey, it's not like there's anyone else around. So, he's "being honest" with her, yet, he continues to see her, talk to her and probably sleep with her because "they're staying friends."

Trust me, if and when this guy finds another girlfriend, your friend will be dropped so fast it will make her head spin.

You know and I know that she should have no contact with him at all. How can he miss her if she won't go away? She's desperately grasping at him, hoping he'll come back, as he has in the past. And he may. Not becuse he loves her, or respects her, but because he's horny, or lonely or whatever.

It's sick.

Now, if I were counseling your friend directly, I'd tell her to DTMFA, no contact, and to work on finding a relationship with someone who will love her in the way she deserves to be loved. But she's not asking.

So I'll counsel YOU. Butt out. But, I encourage you to say this to your friend, "Trixie, I know that you and Ed are trying to stay friends after breaking up, and while in the land of unicorns and dragons, that's an awesome goal, in the real world, it will make it nearly impossible for you to get over him and move on. I suspect that you're hoping that he'll change his mind, as he did in the past, but I don't think he ever did. He knew then that he didn't want you long term, and he knows it now. You're just postponing the inevitable, and one of these days, instead of remembering the time you spent together fondly, you'll resent the time you wasted with him. My advice to you is to cut off contact with him. After a while, you'll be ready to date again, and you'll find someone who will love the shit out of you. Ed ain't the guy, and now, you're just spinning your wheels. I've said my peace on this. I'm not going to mention it again. I love you and I want what's best for you."

After that, you're done. Don't mind-fuck every little thing this guy says, don't encourage her to go on and on about how she thinks, they're getting back together. "Trixie, you know how I feel, let's talk about something else."

If you have the time, perhaps the two of you can go on a girls vacation together. Get away from everything, go to a remote island with no cell or internet connectivity. Enjoy fruity rum drinks on a beach and meet new people.

Beyond that, there's nothing you can do except slowly watch the train wreck in slow motion.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:02 AM on March 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


He wants to break up with her and he will always love her. Sometimes that's how it is. I've said this to people I've broken up with and meant it. I still love certain (not many) people many years after we were together. It just didn't work out, that's all. Love in the end isn't everything. Sorry!
posted by cincinnatus c at 6:05 AM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


When he says "I'll always love you," it's not that he's lying, he just doesn't mean it.

Joining the chorus that he's either letting her down gently or keeping his options open, so the best thing for her to do is find someone who really will love her -- right now or forever.
posted by mibo at 6:07 AM on March 7, 2013


I think Ruthless Bunny has it. I would bet that when they got back together the first time he knew all along that she wasn't The One, but it felt good so he went with it. It's time your friend believed him and moved on. No contact will make it easier for her to move on. And I also like the advice to state your piece just once and then refuse to engage. You can use that exact speech that Ruthless Bunny typed out.
posted by CathyG at 6:12 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


after about two months of dating he broke up with her in almost the exact same way...kept in contact, everything. And they got back together after a month apart.

This guy is shopping for something which will probably (surprise!) also leave something missing in his life, only he doesn't know that yet. Waiting around for him is a bad idea.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:32 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


What the hell does he want?

His cake and he wants to eat it too.

I agree with you that she is being strung along.
posted by Leezie at 6:35 AM on March 7, 2013


But he says he wants to communicate still and "will always love her".

This is classic keeping-his-options-open. He feels like he's "settling" for her, so he wants to play the field a little, and keep her around for when he needs the emotional (and probably physical) support of a relationship, until he finds someone who's just like her but a little better.

Tell your friend, in the gentlest terms possible: "From this moment on, you will always be his second choice, whether it's behind A Better Version Of You That Wouldn't Take Him or behind He Realized That He Doesn't Want To Be Forty And Alone. You deserve better than that."
posted by Etrigan at 6:51 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


And another thing to add to Ruthless Bunny's speech and something that worked for me when a "great" guy was giving me this speech: "OK, let's keep communication open. You can call me whenever, but I won't be staring at my phone."

He never called like he said he would, but that's fine because I'm not staring at my phone.
posted by mibo at 6:55 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


But he says he wants to communicate still

Sure he does. And that makes him a grade A asshole*. When the breakup is unilateral from his side, the decision to communicate or not after that is not his prerogative. He does not get to choose how things shall be; he takes what he gets and lives with that- just like the one who was broken upon with is dealing with the consequences of his unilateral decision.

and "will always love her".

'I love you' and 'I am in love with you' are two very different things. I love my dog but I am not in love with my dog**. You need both kinds of love, especially the second one, to be in the relationship and the second one is out of the window here.

My thought is that he's not super sure about the relationship, but he's still communicating with her just in case he thinks he made a mistake

Nah, he is pretty damn sure. He is communicating because he likes having her around like that because, well, he can.

...basically stringing her along. That's what I told her, but she's still communicating with him.

Nope. At this point, she is stringing herself along. She is preparing her heart to be sliced and diced, and only she is responsible for that right now.

They are both late 30's

When I started reading I thought maybe these are young kids. Late 30s, seriously? The woman needs to start reading the Qs on moving on post-breakup (some really awesome answers in some of those, btw) and start "accepting the reality of the loss" to grieve and heal. Maybe show her the answers posted here?

----

* The answer would be the same if the genders were reversed- just FYI because I am pretty sure it happens both ways.
** I don't really have a dog. That was just an example.
posted by xm at 7:03 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


after about two months of dating he broke up with her in almost the exact same way...kept in contact, everything. And they got back together after a month apart.

Given that these are two people in late 30s, this guy is either remarkably immature and confused or amazingly sick and deceitful. The woman is his Plan B and she really needs to see him without the rose-tinted glasses and start accepting reality. It will take a long time but that why there is the no-contact rule.

What would she say/do if her younger sister or best friend were in her position?
posted by xm at 7:18 AM on March 7, 2013


I firmly believe it is possible to love someone you once dated and not want to be in a relationship with them. My ex-girlfriend is one of my best friends, I care deeply about her and even love her in many senses of the word, but I don't want to be in a relationship with her. She feels exactly the same about me. As much as we care for each other we know we're different in a few important areas and we both know we just won't work together. Maybe he's feeling something like that? He really adores her, but there is some incompatibility that is an issue with him?

If she cares to in any way maintain contact with him, she needs to just outright ask him what he means and what he is thinking. Talking things out is severely underrated.
posted by Vonnegut27 at 7:42 AM on March 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


What the hell does he want?

He wants to be able to tell himself he's a nice guy, and that he let her down easy.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:48 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Normally that's just what people say to let someone down "easy", but given the previous break-up/make-up, it's possible that this guy has built a virtual glass case in his brain, and placed your friend in it. Outside of the case are a hammer, and on it are painted the words "break in case of relationship emergency." He may well actually care about her, and think she's pleasant enough to settle with if nobody better comes along. And he may well crack open that case if he can't find someone better in a hurry (I'd even rate that as likely). Settling is dead common, especially as single folks get to/past "that" age -- nobody wants to be the one left standing without a chair when the music stops.

The "right" response is, of course, to say "don't be second best, ditch him!" That's probably what I'd say. But the reality is that many people end up with someone they know wanted someone else, and at least try to pretend they are ok with it... relationships are complicated.

Your friend needs to decide if she's willing to a) be in contact with this guy when he ends up with someone else, and/or b) get back together someday knowing for the rest of her life that she was the backup plan. Hopefully she's got the self esteem to say no to one of those and ditch him, but... that's not a given.
posted by Pufferish at 8:33 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounds like to me that he thinks she is pretty well perfect except for one thing (EG: she's too good of friends with her parents; different view on kids; her BFF is someone he can't stand; she drinks/smokes pot; she doesn't drink/smoke pot; etc.). So he keeps coming back to the good and then remembers that the "bad" isn't worth it.
posted by Mitheral at 9:46 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Thanks everyone! You really are relationship experts. She knew I was writing this and she read all the answers and she went no contact!
posted by fresh-rn at 11:28 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


She knew I was writing this and she read all the answers and she went no contact!

AWESOME! It will such so many haunches, but it's the 100% right thing to do.

Now, why don't you both ditch work tomorrow and take a long weekend together. Even the Motel 5 20 miles out of town can be fun! Get magazines, old movies, and junk to munch and stay in all weekend with no cell phones or email allowed!

Rest, relax, enjoy a nice meal with a good bottle of wine.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:24 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


it means he doesn't want to feel guilty about dumping your friend.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:40 PM on March 8, 2013


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