How to stop pining, take action, or get over it?
April 1, 2013 8:52 AM   Subscribe

What should I do about the ex that haunts me?

Over a year ago, I broke up with a fellow I was dating for about 5 months. He was the first person in years -- years -- I'd felt a strong connection with, could laugh at the same things with, loved being with. He was incredibly talented and bright, sweet, cute, the whole package. But he told me, early on, he was "selfish," and he sometimes acted towards me in ways that felt selfish and inconsiderate. There was a precipitating reason (borne out of the selfishness) that I ended it, but we'd discussed his behavior in our relationship before. So he wasn't surprised that I was ending things and didn't fight the breakup, even going so far as to admit he'd acted in an emotionally immature way, that he was sorry, that he'd been worried he couldn't give me what I needed and I deserved better, and that I was the best girlfriend he'd ever had & he would have liked to have kept things going.

I was sad about the breakup and regretted it almost immediately. We tried to just be friends and I couldn't handle it emotionally, ended up defriending him on Facebook, etc. But I tried to convince myself I'd get over it. Friends and family kept reminding me he'd behaved badly. Intellectually, I knew this.

Yet I still missed him. I still miss him, a year later. Even though I've dated other people, got a new job, traveled, and done many other things in between. He just seemed to "fit." When I think of him, I get that empty feeling in my chest. I wish he were with me doing the fun and interesting things I'm doing now. At the same time, it feels crazy that I still care about him so much, which is what's hindering me from doing anything: contacting him or working doubly hard to forget him. Also, the things he did were inconsiderate but not mean, adding to the confusion. Despite his insistence that he liked me a lot, his behavior always seemed to indicate that he could take me or leave me. But I feel like I might have been too hard on him, considering he was a busy graduate student juggling lots of things.

So, I don't know what to do. Contact him? How do I even start to get back in contact, especially since I don't even know if he's dating anyone now? Forget him? How do I do that when it feels like every other man I date pales in comparison?

The extra wrench in the works is the fact that I'm being transferred to another city at the end of the summer. I'm scared that if I don't do something about this now, while I have the chance, I'll lose the opportunity forever. But I don't know what to do or how to do it. Especially because my friends and family don't support the idea. And because he could very well think I'm crazy. And because...what if we get back together and things are bad a second time?

Am I crazy? What should I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
You went out for 5 months. That's barely enough time to get to know somebody, never mind decide that nobody else will ever compare.

You need to find a way to stop obsessing over him. I think the short time you were together allows you to see him without the flaws he has, and the transfer is heightening this feeling. Concentrate on your transfer, and how things will be new and different and an opportunity to start things all over again. Don't contact him. You gave it a shot, and it didn't work out.
posted by xingcat at 9:04 AM on April 1, 2013

This is not about the guy at all, and contacting him won't fix things. This is about you, and what this guy represented to you that you feel you can't get elsewhere. Do you think no one else cool is going to want to date you? Do you generally have low self-esteem?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:07 AM on April 1, 2013 [11 favorites]

Let it go. You're remembering your past relationship in a golden, glowy light.

Remember, his behavior was a deal-breaker, and chances are he hasn't changed. Why should he? Most people forgive selfishness or are selfish themselves.

Also, he may not have been that into you in the first place, and if that's the case there's no point in reconnecting.

It's hard to find great people to hang with, and when we're between folks, or lonely, it's easy to remember the good times, or to mentaly embellish the times we had. Remember the inconsiderate things he did, remember the fact that he didn't put much effort into your relationship, remember the way that you felt that he didn't care as much about you as you did about him.

Stop obsessing about him, he's not that great.

You will meet someone who thinks you're the cat's meow, the bee's knees and when that happens, this guy won't even be a blip on your radar.

Until then, LIVE your life. Hang with your friends, give progressive dinners, join clubs, get certified in something, Travel.

When you look back on your life, what do you want those memories to be? Now go make those memories!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:09 AM on April 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

I've been in this state once or twice, so I'm not gonna be telling you "stop obsessing" because I know you're sitting there shouting at your screen "I know I need to do that, the question I'm asking is how???"

What's helped for me -- and I'll admit, it takes a while - is first, to just accept that state for the time being. Trying to just will yourself out of an emotional state never works; so if your current mental state is "obsessing over ex," then just, sort of, accept that this is where your head is at right now. Accept that right now, yes, you believe he was The Man For You But He Is Gone And You Are Bereft Alas.

And then....just go about your life. Your life that you are now going to have to rebuild on your own without him, damn him, because he was The One and he left you alone to try to make a life all for yourself Alone Forever...huh....well, if I am alone, then I may as well indulge in this one thing that I was always gonna do because I have only myself to please because I am Alone Forever....hmm, that's actually fun, lemme keep up with that, and I have the time because I am Alone Forever...wait, let me try something else now that I have extra time, and this other person is talking to me and they're cool to hang out with and I can hang out with them, and it's okay because my ex isn't around and I will be Alone Forever...wait, this new guy is actually kind of fun, and he doesn't have that annoying habit that my ex had that I don't have to deal with any more because I am Alone Forever...wait, what am I saying I'll be alone forever?

Hope I explained that kind of clearly? You just sort of endure this obsession like a cold, and work around it. Treat it like this weird feature in your environment that you can't do anything about, it's just there, and you're gonna just work around it.

To speed things up a bit, alternate the daydreaming you're going to do about The Perfect Moments With Him (because I know you're going to do them) with daydreaming about The Things That Bugged You. You know? Like, every time you find yourself thinking about the adorable names he had for you or the way he held you while you both took a nap or whatever, replay things like the fight you had over how he thought someone trolling an epilepsy support group was funny.

If someone really gets under your skin it can be hard to stop thining about them, even though you intellectually know they were bad for you. Your emotions aren't going to respond to logic. However, they do run their course, and the trick is to keep building a life despite having these emotions there. And the beauty of it is - building this life on your own speeds up the process of having these emotions run their course.

It's a weird sort of Zen approach, but it worked for me. Took a couple years, mind you, but it has worked.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:29 AM on April 1, 2013 [55 favorites]

Eh, I don't know. I think you should go for it. You should get in touch with him and say you'd like to give it another shot. You should invite him out.

The likelihood is that it won't work out, mostly because you now have a longer fantasy of him than you did a relationship with him, but it might, and how great would that be. Either way, you are likely to have a bit more closure than you do now, and you can then act accordingly.
posted by OmieWise at 9:30 AM on April 1, 2013 [12 favorites]

The extra wrench in the works is the fact that I'm being transferred to another city at the end of the summer. I'm scared that if I don't do something about this now, while I have the chance, I'll lose the opportunity forever.

This is probably for the best. The guy was not a good boyfriend for you, which you and everyone who knows you seems to be aware of. Maybe the increased distance will make it easier for you to move on. Just because you haven't found a better connection with anyone since then doesn't mean he's the best there is. Far from it, based on your description.

Am I crazy? What should I do?

You are not crazy, but I'd recommend not dating anyone or even thinking about starting a new relationship until after you've transferred to the new city. Until then, launch yourself into non-relationship activities and learn new things that don't involve dating anyone. Fresh start.
posted by wondermouse at 9:30 AM on April 1, 2013

When I think of him, I get that empty feeling in my chest. I wish he were with me doing the fun and interesting things I'm doing now.

That feeling is normal and is totally okay. But it can help to remember that there are good reasons he's not here with you having fun and doing interesting things: he's a person that you decided wasn't good for you. What you want, it seems to me (having been there, let me tell you) is for him to have been a different person than he was, so that you could be in a relationship with that person.

He's not that person, though, and you had good reasons for breaking up with him. So embrace those reasons. You decided you were better off without him. It doesn't do you any good to imagine some alternate him that he never was. Embrace your reasons. You made the right decision.
posted by gauche at 9:41 AM on April 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

I also think you should go for it - what might not have worked then for valid reasons might work now. Life is too short to spend it on "what ifs". In situations like these (and I've had similar!) I always try to accept that I might feel the emotion of "regret" no matter what I do -but I ask myself if I'd rather feel regret about something that I tried and failed (one possible outcome) or regret over something I didn't even try. Go ahead, reach out to him - you don't have to profess undying love in a simple "get back in touch" email/text. You can just say, "Hey, just been wondering what you're up to. Would love to get together for a drink/coffee sometime - would you be up for that?" And then take it from there. Also, there's no reason your friends or family need to know (or bless) simply getting back in touch with him - unless you didn't include this in your OP this does not seem like any sort of abusive situation so it's really none of their business.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:43 AM on April 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Some people come from the "Life is too short" school of thought. I come from the "Life is too long" school.

Life is too long to live with diminished self-respect. Every time you go against yourself -- your principles, your code of conduct, what you know to be right -- you chip away at your integrity. Do that enough times over the years, and you end up like way too many women of a certain age (my peers)...they no longer know themselves. It's heart-breaking to see.

You did right by yourself in walking away from the selfish man. Keep walking. You'll bump into someone who shares your worldview, and who will uplift you rather than bring you down.

posted by nacho fries at 10:10 AM on April 1, 2013 [20 favorites]

Go for it. Refriend him on Facebook, send him a short message saying you'd love to get together and catch up, and see how he responds. It might lead to nothing, or maybe this time it will work. Everyone else is telling you to just move on, but really, you don't have that much to lose by giving it another shot, even if you do find out he is just the same selfish guy, you'll know, and it will be easier to move on. Or maybe he's dating someone else, or just not interested, again, you don't have much to lose by finding out. And maybe it works out!

I briefly dated someone, and thought about him for years after it ended, fantasizing about him walking back into my life. One say, after five years, he sent me a message. We got together, started seeing each other, and it was better than it ever was before. And when it eventually ended that time, it was much easier to move on, I had the closure I didn't the first time around.
posted by catatethebird at 10:12 AM on April 1, 2013

I did this. I pinged an ex I still had feelings for in a "want to get coffee" way. Eventually it led to an emotional outburst and conversations. The relationship did not rekindle, though the person could not satisfyingly tell me, "no" either. It didn't give me closure. However maybe it bought me some time, bc I had contacted them and therefore my work was done because I had no more reasonable moves to make. Am I better or worse off? Unclear. I have a little more info, but am also a little closer to the situation, and the past, than I might have been by staying away.
posted by htid at 10:21 AM on April 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Re what nacho fries said, if you do this, it must be with integrity and self respect. I had certain limits going in, like that if the person is in a relationship they want to maintain, I walk away 100%. I also said what I had to say honestly, so I didn't have things left unsaid. I left the ball in their court as much as possible. Lastly I was always polite... Please, thank you, met up at the other person's convenience, apologized if ever necessary, didn't beg, no ultimatums, no threats, nothing that might lack integrity.
As I mentioned, I don't know if I'm better or worse off overall.
posted by htid at 10:29 AM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

The extra wrench in the works is the fact that I'm being transferred to another city at the end of the summer. I'm scared that if I don't do something about this now, while I have the chance, I'll lose the opportunity forever.

What have you got to lose by giving it a shot? One issue that hasn't been addressed: if you get back together with this guy, then what about your job? Are you willing to put your career on hold for him? Or, have you considered what a long distance relationship with him might look like?

Looking back to how your relationship ended, when a guy says something like, "You deserve better than me, but you were an awesome girlfriend and I wish we could have kept it going," it's not a compliment. What he's really saying is that he knowingly strung you along, fully aware that you were way more into him than he was into you. It was fun to have you around for the time being, but you weren't significant enough for him to put in any genuine effort or be inconvenienced by your needs.

This previous thread on the green is all about dating red flags, and the "You're too good for me/I don't deserve you," line is mentioned several times and favorited many, many times over. There's good reason for that. Men who are admittedly selfish and yet content to enter into relationships at their own convenience are unlikely to change. They want the easy route, and if a man is charming and charismatic enough, there will be no shortage of women eager to cater to him.

Life is too short to keep going back for seconds of a mediocre dish. He didn't make you happy. You made the right decision over a year ago.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:41 AM on April 1, 2013 [11 favorites]

Five months into a relationship is still the honeymoon period IMO. If you're not having fun then, get out as fast as you can.

Have you ever read a book that totally fit your situation at the moment you were reading it? I had a brief relationship several years ago with someone who I thought I really connected with but for a variety of reasons, it just didn't work. Looking back, I feel like it's as if I was reading a book that totally fit my situation at the time I was reading it, then left it on the subway or misplaced it in such a way that it is totally gone. This was a rare book so it's hard to find and by the time I found another copy, I wasn't in the same mindset so it didn't click as well as it did before.

You and your ex were on intersecting paths for a brief time. Then your paths diverged. I think it'd be better for you to look at what's on your current path than to attempt to make a U-turn. Focus on what's in front of you rather than what's behind.
posted by kat518 at 10:46 AM on April 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

Everyone else is telling you to just move on, but really, you don't have that much to lose by giving it another shot, even if you do find out he is just the same selfish guy, you'll know, and it will be easier to move on.

See, I dunno about that. I had the experience of rekindling a previous relationship that I'd ended due to its being a bad relationship. But I'd had such an amazing connection with this guy that I decided to give it another chance a few years later, because I thought maybe it would be different, and I wasn't finding anyone else I had the same connection with. Without going into detail, I consider that a terrible mistake. I really should've known better. In fact, I did know better, but I went ahead and did it anyway because of emotions.

If I could go back in time and slap myself repeatedly until I didn't get involved with that guy again, I would. This is why I say, "Don't do it. He was not good to you, and even he knew he wasn't treating you well. He told you that to your face so you would be aware of it. As hard as it is to believe now, you are better off without him." I mean, he could very well have a new girlfriend now and not be available anyway, but it's not worth the risk if he is single.
posted by wondermouse at 11:48 AM on April 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

I vote that you are not crazy, but that you should actively try to get over this guy, for two reasons.

1) I agree with showbiz- that this is more about you than it is about him. This guy may not have been "mean" to you but he was inconsiderate, selfish, and unapologetic about it and that's not nice, doesn't make you feel good, and people have been dumped for far less than that. Why would you want to go back to that? Do you have some reason that you think that he's changed? Because you haven't.

2) I dated this guy! I really did, and I reached out and tried to "do over" and he was still a total jerk AND the "re-do" would have been on terms that would only have brought me pain. I regret it because it made me feel terrible and foolish. So I'm biased.
posted by sm1tten at 12:25 PM on April 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not much else to add except that it seems to me that telling someone that they were the best girlfriend they ever had and wishing you could keep it going when that person is breaking up with you for your behavior is a continuation of the selfish behavior you had a problem with.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:07 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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