What questions should I ask my recent ex?
July 23, 2013 1:15 PM   Subscribe

I got dumped recently, and we're finishing the breakup tomorrow night. What questions should I ask?

I dated a boy and while it wasn't for long, it was intense, and we had history and affection prior to dating.

He stopped by a week and a half ago and told me it wasn't working, because he'd rushed into a relationship after his previous one ended, and because he saw red flags in me, and rather than discussing them with me, he'd internalized them and let them fester. I was blindsided, and cried, and then he cried, and then twenty minutes later he had to leave, crying, to go to work. It was a scheduling decision I don't understand at all, though he said he'd never broken up with someone and thus didn't realize one had to schedule more than twenty minutes for a proper breakup.

After he left he kept texting me about how he was conflicted about his decision, and for three hours we talked about how awful we both felt. He asked to talk the next day, I said I couldn't unless he could give me a bigger chunk of time and not schedule me in between things. At the end of the next day, he said he didn't want to talk in person because he was worried we might get back together for the wrong reasons, and I said I couldn't text all the stuff I had to say. He had to leave for a work trip early the next morning, and we didn't talk for his entire trip.

When he returned, I gave him a day, then asked if we could talk in person, which began a several-days-long (though not continuous) discussion about how I want to get some closure and dignity and have a clean goodbye, at least, and he didn't understand, because we broke up, and getting together might result in getting back together for the wrong reasons, and would make him uncomfortable as well. He also said he didn't think the breakup was opened-ended, when I was certain it was, which is probably why we should've talked in person and not over text message, as I kept suggesting in the first place. Eventually, I convinced him to meet up with me so I can ask him all those questions I would've asked if I'd had time and presence of mind and longer than twenty minutes to process what had happened when he dumped me initially.

I'm not asking if this is a good idea— it probably isn't— but given that I'm going to do this anyway, are there any questions you think are a good idea to ask someone who recently dumped you, or things you wish you'd asked at your last breakup?

And, as a side note, how do I temper my expectations regarding getting back together? Because when we broke up a week and a half ago, I absolutely thought, based on what he was saying, that we had a shot, and now he's made it clear we don't. How do I make sure I don't do or say something that will make him think I hope we'll get back together, even though a small, traitorous part of me does?
posted by jenlovesponies to Human Relations (70 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
What is there to finish with this breakup? Do you need to sort out money, friends, living arrangements? Do you need mail forwarded, tickets refunded, outstanding plans to be cancelled? What are the logistics you're trying to resolve?

I ended a long-term relationship in November. Saturday, we got my name off the lease off what used to be our shared living quarters. In between, we've had all of these conversations. There's nothing I wish I'd asked earlier-- probably should've gotten my name off the lease sooner, but it would've made me cry November through December.

Temper your expectations by going no contact. Listen to sad music, journal if you think that'll help. Don't talk to him, especially not about the breakup.
posted by RainyJay at 1:21 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Don't have this meeting. It never goes well.
posted by radioamy at 1:24 PM on July 23, 2013 [95 favorites]

I think you should not ask questions and go no contact. The first time I went no contact with an ex it literally changed my life.
posted by JPD at 1:24 PM on July 23, 2013 [24 favorites]

No reason for this meeting other than drama. Don't go.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:25 PM on July 23, 2013 [16 favorites]

Eventually, I convinced him to meet up with me so I can ask him all those questions I would've asked if I'd had time and presence of mind and longer than twenty minutes to process what had happened when he dumped me initially.

If what you're hoping to get out of his answers to these nebulous questions is a way of getting back together, cancel the meeting and move on. He's over it. Continuing contact doesn't seem like it will help either him or you. No one has the same red flags and even if he told you the truth about what he thinks he saw in you, it's unlikely to make you feel better at all.
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:25 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just exchange shit and get on with your life? What you are really asking is: Is there anything I can say that will make him change his mind? And you know that there isn't.

This is just Drama-Llama stuff. If you're angry with him, no matter how long you have, you'll never say what-all you want to say. My friend Donna and I call this: And another thing...

What you need to do is go no contact with this guy moving forward. Just say this: I understand that we are breaking up. I don't want to have any contact with you going forward. Please don't call or text me.

Unless you have a financial entanglement or some other reason to have a discussion, don't put you or him through whatever it is you think is a "proper break up".

If I were him, I'd have just said, "No, I don't want to do that. Here's the stuff you left at my house. You can donate that sweater I left at your place. Bye."

I'm begging you, don't do this. Write a blog entry about everything you're angry about but don't waste any more time or emotion on this moribund relationship.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:25 PM on July 23, 2013 [11 favorites]

Please spare yourself the emotional anguish. The relationship is over; picking over the bones won't make either one of you feel better. Let it go.
posted by ambrosia at 1:25 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I did something like this once. Didn't have any stuff to divvy up or legal issues to sort out; I just wanted closure. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, the only question I wish I would have asked is the following:

"Hey self, why are you doing this to yourself?"

Because there is no good answer.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:32 PM on July 23, 2013 [44 favorites]

And, as a side note, how do I temper my expectations regarding getting back together?

By not having this meeting. And by going no-contact for a while.

I have never had a breakup that included long explanations of why the other person didn't want to be with me anymore be satisfying or in any way provide the mythic "closure." It was just hours of crying instead. Crying with someone who didn't want to be with me.

Go do your crying (if it needs doing) by yourself or with a friend.
posted by rtha at 1:32 PM on July 23, 2013 [10 favorites]

he said he'd never broken up with someone and thus didn't realize one had to schedule more than twenty minutes for a proper breakup.

He didn't "realize" this because it isn't true.

As for tempering your expectations regarding getting back together:

he said he didn't want to talk in person
I said I couldn't text all the stuff I had to say
I gave him a day, then asked if we could talk in person
which began a several-days-long (though not continuous) discussion about how I want to get some closure and dignity and have a clean goodbye, at least, and he didn't understand, because we broke up
Eventually, I convinced him to meet up with me so I can ask him all those questions

Well, given the fact that he's only meeting up with you in order to get you to stop constantly harassing him, I wouldn't expect him to want to get back together with you. In fact I'd expect him to be extraordinarily angry that you're making him open this emotional wound up again.

You should not have had ANY of the above interactions with him. When he dumped you, that was your cue to stop talking to him about your feelings.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:32 PM on July 23, 2013 [72 favorites]

There are no questions you can ask that will provide you with any of the closure or comfort I suspect you're looking for. Those things only come with time, and ultimately only come from within yourself.
posted by scody at 1:33 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

OH MY GRACIOUS GOD, THIS IS A BAAAAAAD IDEA (and I say this as someone who's done the exact same thing... repeatedly. I have Issues). Because why? Well, what could possibly happen?

1. They might be Just Not That Into You, but also not comfortable with TELLING you this, and thus might just MAKE A BUNCH OF SHIT UP to (sate your desire for closure / make you go away), shit that will haunt you for years.

2. They might have legit reasons that you CANNOT CHANGE, and they'll tell you THOSE, [haunted-for-years, etc].

3. They might have legit reasons that you CAN change, and you will:

A. Be devastated/humiliated by hearing your innermost fears/items of self-loathing aired by someone with whom you were recently close, at a point at which you are VERY vulnerable.

B. Say, "Why, I never knew or suspected that! I am in such an emotionally-healthy and stable place that I will make solid changes in my life immediately! THANKS, pal!" OH WAIT THIS HAS NEVER IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY OR OUR PROTO-HUMAN ANCESTORS OCCURRED.
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:34 PM on July 23, 2013 [94 favorites]

Well, I'll answer the question:

I would want to know the red flags he saw, so I could do some introspection on whether they were red flags for everyone (i.e. I'm selfish and abusive) or just for him (i.e. he wants kids and I don't).

I'd also ask if I was a good partner, and what I could do to improve.

Just me though. I'd treat it like an exit interview for a company, asking what I could do better, but also saying nothing bad about the other person. I'm all about self improvement, but it would be foolish to burn bridges or turn this into a fight.

Decide now whether you want to go no-contact. You could make that clear during this meeting with "I need some space from you, please don't contact me for awhile" versus "Let's still be friends"

If you decide not to go no-contact, think about whether you would be open to a casual relationship (fwb) in the future. You could say "Call me if you feel like hanging out" for yes or "Please don't expect us to have the same intimacy as before" for no.
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:34 PM on July 23, 2013 [13 favorites]

You had communication issues while you were together. You had communication issues while breaking up.

Don't continue the communication issues when you're no longer a couple. That's called "not letting yourself move on."

Could he have handled it better? Sure. But talking about it now isn't going to change a thing.
posted by barnone at 1:36 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

First: Yeah, this is a bad idea, and it is going to make you feel worse. But you know that, and you've resolved to do it anyway, so okay. I will answer the question as asked.

are there any questions you think are a good idea to ask someone who recently dumped you, or things you wish you'd asked at your last breakup?

Your only questions should be about logistics. Avoid asking questions like when he knew he wanted to break up, or what you could have done differently, or in any way asking for him to give an accounting of himself or his actions. It is a perfectly normal, understandable thing that you want to do this and it is also a bad idea that will get you nowhere. You are trying to use logic to repair your heart. This never works.

If you go down the road of allowing your broken heart to ask questions of the guy, you will pretty much just drive yourself crazy and prolong the healing process.

So, again, if you decide to go through with it, keep questions to logistics: what happens if you wind up at the same party? How much space do you need (my advice: a lot of space, like you should not be Facebook friends for example)? And so on.

And, as a side note, how do I temper my expectations regarding getting back together? Because when we broke up a week and a half ago, I absolutely thought, based on what he was saying, that we had a shot, and now he's made it clear we don't. How do I make sure I don't do or say something that will make him think I hope we'll get back together, even though a small, traitorous part of me does?

I don't really get the sense that the part of you in question is small. I think you would like very much to be certain you don't want to get back together. I think it's certainly true that you're not expecting to get back together. But it also reads strongly like you're wishing that could be the outcome here. I think that a good chunk of your head is hoping he'll come back, and almost all of your heart is.

So ultimately here is my advice: If you still care whether or not he knows you're hoping you'll get back together, then please don't talk to him. You are not going to get anything out of it but hurt.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:38 PM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Also, please carefully consider what showbiz_liz said, because it is completely correct.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:41 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm not asking if this is a good idea— it probably isn't— but given that I'm going to do this anyway

Speaking from bitter, bitter experience: This? This is the drama llama calling. Do not pick up the phone!

You will never get the closure you want -- one of the most poisonous ideas ever developed about relationships is the concept of "closure." It doesn't exist. The answers you are seeking will never come from another person, least of all from an ex in the throes of a breakup.

Sit down alone, in a quiet place, and make a list of everything you want to say, everything you want to ask him. Then ask yourself: Why do you want to say all of those things? What answer would satisfy you? What could he say that would make this OK? What is the purpose of doing this? Answer with brutal, unflinching honesty. Then get ready to become comfortable with discomfort, because there is no great truth to uncover, no brilliant secret to be revealed. You are only reveling in your own misery, and trying to make him feel it with you.

are there any questions you think are a good idea to ask someone who recently dumped you, or things you wish you'd asked at your last breakup?

Hell no. I only wish I had not believed that I was entitled to closure, because desperately and repeatedly attempting to wrest it from someone who no longer wanted anything to do with me was immature, depressing, and frankly quite crazy. Never again.

And, as a side note, how do I temper my expectations regarding getting back together?

Do not answer when the drama llama calls. Do not remain in contact with this person, do not keep yourself up late at night attempting to justify your desire to do so, and do not expend any kind of effort trying to rein him back in under the guise of ascertaining "closure." You will get through this and grow past it, I promise! Good luck.
posted by divined by radio at 1:42 PM on July 23, 2013 [31 favorites]

Sounds like you want to make him give you the reasons he broke up with you so that you can convince him that he's wrong.

You will be causing yourself a whole lot of pain by asking these kinds of questions. Do you want to hear him say that you sucked in bed or the sound of your voice annoys him. Maybe he is no longer attracted to you. Or maybe it isn't even about you. Either way you are no longer in a relationship with this person and should not continue to make demands.
posted by mokeydraws at 1:45 PM on July 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

How do I make sure I don't do or say something that will make him think I hope we'll get back together, even though a small, traitorous part of me does?
You really have no obligation to worry about what he thinks of you. If you have to have this conversation, say whatever the fuck you want. Just don't expect a satisfactory answer.
I'm sorry for your pain. May it enhance your future happiness.
posted by current occupation: at 1:48 PM on July 23, 2013

Things you are unlikely to get out of this meeting, no matter what questions you ask:
- closure
- dignity
- a clean goodbye
- a satisfactory (to you) explanation of why this relationship wasn't working

Things you are very likely to get out of it if you go ahead:
- pain
- tears
- confusion
- more hours-long conversations, in person or afterwards by text, about how awful you both feel
- more ambiguity about whether you will or won't get back together, which might feel like comfort at the time but will feel like dragging limbo hell afterwards and won't actually increase the chances of you getting back together anyway.

There is a reason so many people here are saying 'don't have this meeting', and it's not because nobody likes the idea of finishing a breakup on a friendly, civilised note where all your questions are answered and all loose ends are tied up. Everybody wants that! But that's not how these meetings go. I mean, you could ask "what was it you saw as 'red flags' in my behaviour?", and there is a chance he could answer in a way that'd be helpful to hear and useful to you for the future, but it is a very, very small chance when you're having that conversation with your ex immediately post-breakup and all your wounds are still raw. Most likely whatever you hear will make you feel even worse, and send you off down a spiral of late-night phone calls to friends to sob "Am I needy? Am I? Because I didn't think I was, but there was that time I got upset because he couldn't make dinner and oh my God am I an awful person who's going to die alone?". Spare yourself this.

I suspect part of you wants to do this so that the relationship ends, in some way, on your terms. (I suspect this because that's why I'd be doing it if I were you.) But there is no sense of closure and finality this meeting can give you, especially not when he's already violated Break-Up Rule No.1, which is "don't torment your ex with your doubts about whether breaking up is the right thing to do." Give yourself that closure and finality you're looking for, and do it by saying "Goodbye."
posted by Catseye at 1:49 PM on July 23, 2013 [12 favorites]

There are no good questions in this situation, especially while things are still so raw. But you are going to do this thing anyway. This may have to be filed under 'some things, you can't learn from others' mistakes; you just have to make those mistakes yourself.'

You know, I did this once, and it was the worst hurt I have ever, ever experienced. Now, I did learn a lot from it. But none of what I learned came from any of the questions I asked that night. It came from putting myself back together in the aftermath. Could I have arrived at the same place with less pain? Honestly, I don't know. I am sure some people could have. Me, maybe I needed to go ahead and get burned first. The fact that you are putting this question forth suggests maybe you are the sort of person who can seek help first, and take good advice.

If so, I'd suggest listening to the chorus of replies that precede this one. And I am really sorry you're hurting so bad. It truly does suck, I know.
posted by fikri at 1:53 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm going to be really honest and say that I don't believe for two seconds that this meeting is actually going to happen, because I think you (sorry to be harsh) hounded him into agreeing to it, and he doesn't legitimately feel the need to do any of the relationship post-mortem that you want/need/expect.

I don't think there are any questions that you can ask that don't scream out "pick me". My experience is that asking questions like "why" opens the door to "but I can change," or "well, here's what's wrong with you" which only causes the hurt to linger. You could best temper your expectations about this meeting, should it actually come off, by remembering that he broke up with you and repeatedly said he didn't want to get back together, that your understanding of it being open-ended was false, that meeting with you would make him uncomfortable, and that essentially no good could come of it.

In short, listen to what people are telling you. Listen to what he is telling you.
posted by sm1tten at 1:58 PM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

I have a long history of doing things that I honestly knew were probably bad ideas, but I know all too well that invisible line when I've been building something up in my heart and my emotional inertia is far greater than my rational self can hope to rein in.

I honestly wish you the best... Because, if I think you're where you are in this decision making process, I'd go too, even knowing it'll probably be really awkward, really suck, and I'll be twenty times more miserable for doing it.

With that said, having been in similarly uncomfortable and heartrending circumstances, I have a feeling that even if you divined or prepared 20 of the best questions anyone has ever asked about a breakup, they'd all go out the window the second you saw him.

Just realize you're running off of your emotional self, and trying to bring some sense of logic or rationale to this situation will probably not go over as you envision it.

If at the end of the day, it's really done and over... Well, use this experience as a chance to learn about the little mistruths we all tell ourselves, whether out of hope or denial. But don't feel too badly about doing this. It's a part of life, and the heart wants what it wants. Worst case scenario, if you pay attention to your sadness, anger, and other emotions, you'll learn some invaluable things about yourself and what you really want out of life.

That said, after you recover from the awkward pleasantries (From my personal experience, it's usually gone something like: Do we kiss? NO.. no kiss... hug? Bighuglittlehug? Umm... OK, handshake? OH GOD WHY DID I COME I LOVE YOU SO MUCH SOMEONE MAKE THIS STOP

1. Be honest. If it's really over there's really nothing you can say that will change his mind, and that includes saying "embarrassing" things. But since you're going on the hopes that he may change his mind, full disclosure is best. When I lie or hide the truth, if it doesn't go my way, I always berate myself and wish I had told a different lie, or not withheld that thing. Honesty is facts, and reality is what it is.
2. Don't beg, try not to plead too much (I've been here too). Know that there's no such thing as the one, just the one feeling of loving someone and being loved. There's many roads to that destination.
3. Especially with this, you may find that the pain is mandatory... but suffering is optional.
posted by Debaser626 at 2:03 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Think of it like this: somehow you manage to get back together. You are going to have this hanging over your head until he one day does not show up or calls or returns your calls or anything. It will be sitting there: "he does not really want to be with me" until it happens.

Yeah, from your description he definitely was not being entirely truthful with you, and there was some definite spinelessness on his part. But it all was sending you clear messages.

"Closure", is really something you give yourself, not what other people give you, and at the end of the day, as dramatic and intense as it feels it really is just a short term relationship we are talking about here. Which doesn't make it feel better, but it is true.

Finally, you already recognize this is not a great idea, you identify it clearly. Now, listen to yourself because it will be needless torture for both of you. there is nothing noble, or really worth it. You don't even know what you want to ask him.
Deep breaths, find something to distract yourself, let it go, you can be strong.

be well
posted by edgeways at 2:05 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

What you're doing to this guy is sounding more than a little like harassment at this point. You're broken up. He's done. You should be done. I'm genuinely sorry that things didn't work out with this relationship like maybe you wanted them to, but you've GOT to listen to people when they say they don't want to talk to you in person (which may actually be a nice way of saying "I don't want to talk to you at all"), and you've got respect those wishes. As so many other people here have said, no contact is really what both of you need here.

I really hope this conversation does not end up happening, but if it does, yeah - impersonal logistics are the ONLY thing that have any business being on the table. And not logistics that are sort of being pulled out of the air to kind of justify this meeting - no "hey I think you have a spoon of mine from that time we made ice cream together, hey remember when we made ice cream together?" - just the big or important stuff that will enable you both to make a clean break, as quickly as possible. Really. Focusing on logistics - and trying to get into a mindset where you hope he's GLAD you're focusing on this (and not a mindset where, in some drama-feeding way, secretly hoping that you're hurting him by keeping things impersonal), is going to do you a lot more good than any sort of personal "but why did you dump me?" questions you may want to ask.
posted by DingoMutt at 2:06 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

There is nothing he can say to you that will make you feel better about this.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 2:08 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I sympathize with you, but I hope you can follow up, because there are a few things I don't understand.

So this is what you want:discussion about how I want to get some closure and dignity and have a clean goodbye, at least

So it sounds like you know what you want, right? So I'm confused why you ask us what you should ask? What would give YOU closure? What would let YOU feel dignity? Those things might not be the same for you as they would be for me.

Eventually, I convinced him to meet up with me so I can ask him all those questions I would've asked if I'd had time and presence of mind and longer than twenty minutes to process

I'm wondering what ARE those things that you want to ask him?

Now, there are a couple things I speculate you are wanting to ask. I think I can shed some light on a couple of them in case you don't get a satisfactory answer from him about them.

-He also said he didn't think the breakup was opened-ended, when I was certain it was
when we broke up a week and a half ago, I absolutely thought, based on what he was saying, that we had a shot, and now he's made it clear we don't.

Is one of the things you want to ask him, why did you say that we had a shot at first but now you're saying we don't, what changed??

I don't think anything changed. Here is what I think is most likely, in order of likeliness.

-He was too scared to outrightly say it was permanent. He downplayed it so you wouldn't get upset.
-Afterwards, when he was texting you about how he was conflicted about his decision? There are some people who get scared by making major decisions and freak out about them at first, even if they are pretty sure what they want. They settle down later. I think it was insensitive of him to use you as the sounding board of his indecision about his choice.
-The variant on that is he freaked out at first and kind of at least still wanted to have you as a possibility, but then got more settled in his choice and saw the sun still rose the next day, so was less freaked out after a few days.
-Afterwards, when he was texting you about how he was conflicted about his decision, he knew he didn't want to be with you, but he was freaking out at the idea of his source of sex drying up.
-There is someone else he wanted to try to go for and he wasn't sure if it would work out with them at first so kind of wanted to keep you as a backup, but it turned out that it did work out with them.

All in all, not very nice though.

-he said he didn't want to talk in person because he was worried we might get back together for the wrong reasons

To me, my translation of this is, "I'm really horny and if I see you in person I might not be able to resist trying to have sex with you, but I'm still not going to want you to be with you and I will feel bad if you get really hurt afterwards."

I think this is a good one to heed.
posted by cairdeas at 2:10 PM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

"Finish the breakup"?
"A proper breakup"?

What the bloody hell are you talking about? He has broken up with you. The breakup is already finished. The breakup is finoshed the minute one person indicates that the relationship is over.

Take a deep breath and a biiiiig step back because you are acting like a crazy person! You are acting in a way that is going to make you humiliated and ashamed for years to come, in ways that are making him think "wow, I really made the right choice to break up with this crazy lady."

The fact that you are pestering him, pushing him into a meeting that he has clearly stated that he does not want, and generally disrespecting his boundaries speaks loudly about whether he was right about those red flags. You are not healthy or adult right now! You're acting like a kid throwing a tantrum. Listen, I'm not saying this to shame you. I say it with love because I have been the crazy girl acting the way you are and worse, and trust me when I say that you ARE NOT going to get closure from this meeting. Nothing he can do or say will give you closure. You're not going to get it. And frankly, it's not his job to give you closure or make you feel better. Your relatioship is over and your feelings are none of his business! He behaved honorably by being honest and straightforward. He isn't going to be able to give you closure. In this situation, the ONLY closure you will get is by going no-contact and getting your ass to therapy. Now! Immediately!

Please also read this book which is written in an obnoxious early 2000's cutesey voice but has the exact help that you need right now.

Always be classy, never be crazy.

I'm sorry that you are going through this. You are gonna be ok.
posted by windykites at 2:10 PM on July 23, 2013 [21 favorites]

Write a letter to him. Include all your questions. Express your pain and anger. Then, cancel the meeting and burn the letter.

These meetings don't go well. He is very unlikely to say anything that will help you process this breakup.
posted by Area Man at 2:14 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

The only question you're liable to get a really good answer to is "how much more miserable am I willing to make two people before I am finally ready to move on". Yes, really.

You got dumped. It sucks. It hurts. It's like a thorn in your soul. If you want it to stop hurting, then stop dicking around with the thorn and just fucking yank it out and go no contact.

Send him one more message saying, "you know what, that meeting was a bad idea. Sorry for bringing it up. Let's just move on. I'll be fine, you'll be fine, and I wish you the best in everything you do. Signing off, jenlovesponies." Then erase his file.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:20 PM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Very obvious what you're trying to accomplish at this meeting. Which also implies you're aware of the inherent gamble. But, life is about risks. So...

Go for it then - if you're successful, you will get what you want. And if you're not, you will be as prepared as the best of them to deal with it.
posted by Kruger5 at 2:20 PM on July 23, 2013

Closure is not about Knowing All the Reasons or Doing Everything You Possibly Can. It's about the attitude you take to the reality. The reality is completely crap, and I'm sorry.

The most useful question you could ask him is, "This is hard for me, so can you help me out with the no-contact thing by not contacting me from now on, ever, at all?" After that, the kindest thing you can say (for the both of your sakes) is thank you, I wish you the best, goodbye. And let it be. Anything else is putting up your peace of mind as collateral to borrow a whole lot of misery.
posted by Gingersnap at 2:22 PM on July 23, 2013

Mod note: A couple comments removed, I think trying to voice support and normalization is totally fine but if you're putting words like "CRAZY BITCH" in other people's mouths when that hasn't actually happened previously, things have gotten a little off the path. Please regroup and try again?
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:33 PM on July 23, 2013

I think Captain Awkward has relevant advice in this post.
posted by ziggly at 2:50 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Upon the break up of my first serious relationship, I think I asked some pretty awful things and attempted some desperate emotional blackmail to make him feel really REALLY bad about the way things had ended, and to MAKE him realise the error of his ways and take me back.

I cringe when I think about those long, drawn out conversations we had.
What made it worse was that we lived together at the time (university house) and I had to see him every day so there were plenty of opportunities to continue trying to find out why we broke up and what I had done wrong.

Jen who loves Ponies - don't put yourself through that if you can avoid it.
If you really have to ask him, then no-one on the internet can tell you what questions to ask, that's for you to decide.

Sometimes there's just nothing to be done. And you'll only ask questions to which you may not want to hear an answer. Get a hobby, distract yourself as much as you can and I promise one day you'll wake up and be fine again.
posted by JenThePro at 2:55 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Trying again with less grar. OP, I think it's pretty common to get a bit of pushback in situations like this - whether that's here, or in real life. And when that happens, I think many of the people giving the pushback are sincerely trying to give you advice for your own good.

I just wanted to give you my note of support, because the conventional wisdom around this seems really weird to me. That someone can "rush into" an "intense" relationship with you, enjoy your body, encourage you to start bonding to them, and then ditch you abruptly - and if you react with anything other than the calm acceptance of the Dalai Lama, you're acting like a crazy lady who is totally disrespectful of others' feelings and rights and way out of line.

Some people will tell you that people who interacted with you in that way didn't do anything wrong and you need to just chill out and get over it.

But, I think it can often be pretty callous towards the reality that not all human beings are just "cool with" having something like that happen to them. I don't think the fact that you are really upset, confused, and seeking closure shows that there is something wrong with you. I think it just means that sex and expressions of intense feelings makes you bond. I don't think the person who bonds is wrong and out of line while the person who doesn't is just doing what they are entitled to do and it's all fine and dandy. I think a lot of this is based on ... dum da dum... misogyny. The streak of misogyny that started in the '60s, when everyone was supposed to be open to whatever and having free love, and that turned out great for a lot of guys and pretty miserable for a lot of women.

I just wanted to bolster you because I don't think there's anything wrong with you or what you are looking for. He broke up with you and then got in contact with you a bunch of times to talk over his confused feelings. You are confused and want to talk too. IMO, that makes you just one of the many variations of normal.
posted by cairdeas at 2:56 PM on July 23, 2013 [45 favorites]

I think it is really sweet, and a boon to your ex that he reacted in such an emotionally distraught way to your sadness, and that he continued to communicate with after the break-up. He sounds very empathetic for a guy who is doing a break-up for the first time, and trying to do the right thing. The problem going on here is that he is expressing that he is conflicted about his decision and dragging things out. Now that is not so good or kind to the other person. You break up or you don't, you don't play with someone's emotions that way. However, he may have been feeling quite overwhelmed by your distress, and was trying to let you down more easily.

YOU need to be the strong one here, and cut things off, clearly he is incapable of follow-through, and is just dragging out the misery for both of you. Cancel all communication IMMEDIATELY. THAT is how you will get back your dignity (which you both lost in all this messiness), and YOU will then EARN your clean break.
posted by nanook at 3:08 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I went through the end of a more than 6 year long relationship recently, and I had to fight for one of these conversations and it did help me, so I don’t necessarily think they are a bad idea. However, I had some very specific questions that I wanted answered. My questions were mostly about how we had been together for 6 mostly happy years and didn’t he want to see if we could fix things, and once I got those questions answered it did help me let go and move on.

You don’t seem to have anything specific that you need answered – more just an idea that if you talk and try to hash things out for long enough that you will get “closure.” You probably won’t and I kind of think this is going to make you feel worse. And it isn’t that I think the desire to talk and try to figure these things out is wrong, but that I just don’t see how it will be helpful to either of you.

Even though I had very specific questions and things I wanted to say, having that conversation with my ex was horrible. I ended up being super angry at the end and cried a lot all day. But then I blocked him on Facebook, called my best friend to talk, and started taking small steps to getting over him. That is what I think you should do too. Skip the talk, break off contact with him and start the process of getting over this relationship.
posted by Sabby at 3:12 PM on July 23, 2013

I don't think there's anything wrong with you or what you are looking for

I agree with this. But you're not going to get that in meeting with him, unless it's the most unusual post-breakup-what-happened conversation in history.

You are in no way wrong to feel confused, hurt, slighted, angry, in need of closure and answers, and so on. The likelihood of having any or all of that resolved by something he says is pretty damn small, and may only create more (unanswerable) questions.
posted by rtha at 3:18 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Just me though. I'd treat it like an exit interview for a company, asking what I could do better

I ctrl+f'ed for "exit interview" because i had a feeling this would come up.

I think i broke up with someone who had this sort of concept about this weird meeting. The thing is, that neither person is in a position to be "professional" at this stage. Maybe in a few months, maybe in a year, maybe never. But not RIGHT after it happened.

At best, you get this weird "oh i'm going to be really cold and distant and maybe even a bit condescending" thing going on while the other person just sobs or some shit.

Mostly though, what ends up happening when people try and be all "professional" about this is that the entire thing becomes a farce. Both people lie to try and be "nice", and the entire thing just turns in to a stream of lies that both people later look back on and go "why the fuck did i say that? i guess it sounded nice and i was just trying to fill in the blank spaces"

There is nothing meaningful to come from these types of exit interview "meetings" in this context.
posted by emptythought at 3:31 PM on July 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

Yeah. When my ex and I broke up I didn't ask any questions because I was so stunned. Then when I found out he was dating someone else I found my voice and asked all the stuff I had wanted to.

So. You say he said that he saw "red flags". I'm assuming you want to ask him what he meant by that. I mean, that's reasonable, right? Who WOULDN'T want to know what they did wrong, so that they can improve themselves for the next time, right? But I am not sure you are thinking through really how this conversation will go.

You: "So, you said that you saw red flags in me during our relationship. What exactly did you mean by that?"
Him: "Oh, well I just thought that you [were too clingy/texted too much/were way too involved with your family/weren't willing to do THING in bed/liked asparagus/had funky morning breath]."

Imagine him saying that to you. To your face. Will it make you feel good and improved? Because it sure didn't me. All it made me do was call up my mom and sob on the phone during my lunch break. And we didn't get back together. And I approached my next few potential beaus with the idea that I was fatally flawed at relationshipping.

But you know what? I could ask the exact same questions of my current SO and he would probably say, "Whaaaaaaat? You're wonderful!!!!" No accounting for taste I guess. :-)

Your ex doesn't have a good opinion of you - he broke up with you so he doesn't think you're that great. Why do you want to hear his answers to your questions?
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:44 PM on July 23, 2013 [12 favorites]

I once took a very intense, emotionally exhausting seminar taught by a trained psychiatrist. We all went through a lot together, and there were some hurt feelings. On the last day of class, he cautioned us not to seek closure from each other, because often, when we seek closure, we just end up opening up new emotions/hurts/wounds, ie, making things worse. This has been true in my case.

If you're set on having this meeting, go into it with the knowledge that this will probably make your breakup worse/harder. That's all been covered above. Have a plan for how you will take care of yourself without contacting your ex. The only questions you should ask are logistical, but you'll probably be tempted to get him to tell you why you broke up, and those answers will be hurtful. So have a plan for how you will deal with that hurt, and how you will work to make sure these answers don't mess with your head for years to come.

And remember: breakups do not have to be mutual decisions, and no one is required to have a good reason to break up with someone. There's no breakup court. If he decided to break up with you because he prefers brunettes and you're blonde, that's his prerogative. If you decide to break up with your next boyfriend because you suddenly get bored, that's yours.
posted by lunasol at 3:45 PM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Do you have mutual friends/ hobbies/ objects owned in common?
Do you have a favorite restaurant/bar/etc that you both hang out at frequently?

No contact is a good idea for a while. If you're going to do that, it can help to have a "how do we do that" conversation beforehand. If you own anything in common, or if your sweater is at his place, split that up.
If the relationship arose out of a common friend group, figure out how you will treat each other when iwth your common friends.
If you have separate friends esp. since it was relatively short you probably let his friends go for now.
If you have frequent common hangout spaces, one of you finds a new space; could be useful to figure out who this is.

These are the sorts of questions you will find useful. When I went through a similar "finish the breakup" conversation (he left me while I was away for work, we met up when I got back to.. I don't know exactly), I think we also talked about loads of other things, but now 6 or 7 years later, I have no idea what they were; all I really remember was figuring out if I was still going to go to weddings of our common friends, and crying a whole heck of a lot.

Also I really didn't wnat to go in that coffee house again for several years. So, uh, don't meet up anywhere you'll have to be again soon, and it should be neutral ground.
posted by nat at 3:54 PM on July 23, 2013

Closure is a myth. You very likely will not feel better after this meeting -- and may feel worse. Resist the urge to dress sexy and seduce him back. Better yet, just don't go.
posted by quixotictic at 3:56 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Questions I would ask:

1. Before we broke up did you do anything that might have endangered my physical health in terms of stds?

That's it actually.
posted by spunweb at 3:59 PM on July 23, 2013 [19 favorites]

If you are going to do this in spite of all the good advice above, the thing I would ask is, what are the red flags he mentioned?

And then just listen to what he says. Don't argue with him, don't try to explain, don't get insulted. Listen to what he says and just say "thank you for telling me."

If you can't do that, then probably best not to go at all.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:14 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just here to underscore this point: Nothing good can come from "constructive criticism" you receive in any post-breakup conversation.

It's not working for him. That doesn't mean you've done anything wrong. It just means you two are not a good fit. Any feedback you get from him will not be helpful in finding out your character flaws, if there are any. It will just tell you what *he* doesn't like. Just assume for the time being that you're fine, he's fine, and you aren't a good match.

If you have flaws that would put off everyone in the world, or even most or many people, your friends will help you figure that out, if you ask and encourage them. An ex-boyfriend is not a good resource for this. He's biased, he's too close to the situation to be able to give reasonable feedback, and even without realizing it, it serves him best to think negatively of you, because that will help him de-cathect from the attachment he had to you.

It might not be a bad idea for you to foster a little anger over this yourself. Let yourself think of him as the "bad guy" for a while, and that will decrease your desire to see him or get back together with him.

Breakups can be really difficult, and sometimes the hardest part is getting it that there's no "why". Sometimes it just is. No explanations. No reasons. Just: that's how it is.
posted by janey47 at 4:22 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I just want to repeat the phrases "haunted for life" and "fatally flawed at relationshipping." Also this: "It was just hours of crying instead. Crying with someone who didn't want to be with me."

What is most likely to happen is that he's not going to know what to say, so he's going to bumble around and say something dumb, and that thing is going to haunt you for a long time. (I dated someone who wouldn't eat spaghetti because his ex- mentioned his messy spaghetti-eating in a breakup conversation like this. Can you imagine feeling like your spaghetti-eating is so horrible that someone stopping loving you??) That and/or he's going to feel terribly guilty and sorry for hurting you and therefore say lots of nice stuff, leaving you asking "but why???" twice as intensely.

There is almost no comforting answer anyone can give to the question "why don't you want to be with me when I want to be with you?" I'm sorry.
posted by salvia at 5:43 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

One practical suggestion: you might try writing out a letter that says all the "last things" you want to say. Then you can decide if you want to give it to him, or if you want to burn it.
posted by salvia at 5:47 PM on July 23, 2013

Then you can decide if you want to give it to him, or if you want to burn it.

I would strongly suggest burning it, no matter what you think you might want to do otherwise. I once wrote one of these letters, and sent it. Two days later, I got a call from the police for harassing my ex. This is a real story.
posted by scody at 5:59 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am going to disagree with a lot of what's written above. This is from recent experience (about a month ago) as a dumper.

1st thing -- 20 minutes is fine for a breakup. I purposefully scheduled 20 minutes between appointments, because I knew I was going to deliver bad news, then the person would probably cry and I thought he should have the privacy to get that out of his system. It's emotionally much better to get the news and spend a day processing it, then to follow up with questions. IMO. I think he delivered this news in the best way possible.

2nd thing -- Disagreeing with most of the above, I think there is some purpose to a follow up conversation. My ex called me to meet up one afternoon about 3 days after our breakup. He had questions to ask. His main questions were to try to hash out, for himself, why things had ended and when it went wrong. He was insecure about having made specific missteps, and I reassured him that it was more of a gut feeling thing than any particular mistake he made. It was useful for him to talk out some of our history to understand how it was from my perspective, at certain key moments. For instance, I had sort of recoiled after our first kiss. I explained to him that, yes, I was feeling like it wasn't the right relationship for me even then early on. On his side he felt like all was peachy, and he had to ask questions to understand/believe that it wasn't mutual.

He also needed (IMO) for me to really drive the point home that it was over. I told him about a few times when I really liked someone, and we had tons in common etc., and it blew my mind that the person didn't want to be with me because of a gut feeling. I didn't really understand it when I was on the receiving end. And yet, those relationships ended. I told him that I had been on the receiving end of that and it sucked, and that there isn't/wasn't a good explanation, but that both people really need to feel like they want to be in a relationship. Hearing how certain I was about the breakup was useful to him.

I gave my ex this "closure" and I think it was useful to him. For him to hear more about my feelings, and my story, gave his empathy a chance to kick in and for him to better accept the breakup. Still, he pinged me for a few weeks after (not obsessively or anything) because I think he would occasionally get his hopes up and would need to get rejected again for it to really sink in. I tried to do this kindly... I recognized that he needed it emotionally.

I think he's now doing fine, and having a "closure" conversation helped with that.

MAJOR CAVEAT: I am a kind and empathetic person. The way it went with me is the best way this could go. I have been on the receiving end of closure done wrong, and rather than giving you closure, it can SUCK. Two times in my life, men have felt guilty or not known how to be honest without hurting me, so they were dishonest. They expressed uncertainty because they thought it would make me feel better, when actually what I needed was closure, not to be strung along. In both cases, the conversations went gravely wrong. In both cases, they were sure in their hearts that it was over, but couldn't bring themselves to say that firmly, calmly, kindly, and repeatedly. They had strong feelings for other people, which they did not have for me, and they couldn't bring themselves to say this outright. Instead, they hemmed and hawed, complimented my qualities, said "Maybe in the future," which prevented me from healing. In those cases, the closure eventually (like, a year or more later in both cases) came from going no contact and/or seeing them with someone else for a long time. Those conversations did NOT lead to closure, they led to me being strung along, because instead of tearing off the bandaid, the men told me what I wanted to hear.

Eventually, what I learned is this: closure comes from a person's actions, and time. If you want closure, tell this person you like him and didn't want to break up. If he loves and wants you, he'll find you and be with you. If he doesn't, it means he doesn't have strong enough feelings for you to be your boyfriend. That's all you need to know. That's all you'd glean from a conversation, anyway. That fact will become stronger and stronger in your mind over time, every day that you don't hear from him and you see that he's not coming back.

Sure, you could have a conversation and have him tell you this upfront so that you don't have to wait for the solid knowledge that your relationship is over. That would be nice. I try to give people that if I'm dumping them. But, he might not be capable of that, and he could be capable of stringing you along. If he's already crying and being wishy-washy, I doubt his emotional capacity to give you closure. Your best bet is to get your closure from the actual, concrete, real-life fact that he's not dating you. The observation of that fact over time.

You might also want to know the reasons he broke up with you. I will tell you why I broke up with my last bf. There is a certain physical feature I like, which is not a physical feature that most people like, but something I have a bit of a fetish for. (It's nothing really sexual, it's not that he be well endowed or tall or anything - it's a random feature I am into.) This guy did not have that feature, despite being almost model hot, and therefore I didn't want to make out with him. Shallow as that. He would have learned nothing from poking at me for reasons. There was nothing to change on his side, nor anything he could change. I would also never share this reason with him, because a) I don't want to broadcast my fetishes to the world, and b) I wouldn't risk him misconstruing it. All I could tell this guy was that, on my side, the romantic feelings weren't there. And I am a good dumper. If I were not, this guy asking for reasons could have misfired for him. I could have criticized his appearance in a way that made him insecure for a long time going forward, when there was no reason for that. Words are hard to forget.

In summary: all you really need for "closure" is to know someone doesn't want to be with you, which this guy has already said. You can let him know that if he changes his mind or wants to work something out, he knows where to find you, but I'm sure he is already aware of that. Closure comes over time from observing his actions, that he is not with you.
posted by htid at 6:55 PM on July 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

People are all sorts of complicated and hard to fathom. It's extremely unlikely that you will gain any clarity from meeting with him. Instead, wish him well, and move on.
posted by theora55 at 7:01 PM on July 23, 2013

There are a couple of things I want to follow up on, OP, in case it might be helpful to you to here something other than my (and most other's) initial response of "OH NOES."

1) His red flags may not be red flags to another person who is right for you. So if you do talk to him about what those flags were, consider the source and the context carefully before trying to overhaul yourself to "perfect."

2) If you are going to have this kind of conversation, I think that it's a much better idea after you've gotten closure on your own. You may find that you don't need to have the conversation after you've healed, you may find that having the conversation is fruitful. The reason that people are warning you off so hard is because so fresh off the event it's likely to hurt you more and prolong that feeling for longer.

It's not that it isn't understandable that you want answers, just that you are unlikely to get anything of value to you right now, especially in the manner in which you are going about it.

And I almost forgot:

3) Intense relationships, even ones with some history behind them, tend to burn very brightly and burn out very quickly. Partly it's because the person driving much of the intensity, once it wanes naturally (or due to there not being enough to really maintain a relationship in the first place), starts ramping things up to try to sustain it. Figuring out which one of you was the "driver" (and if it was you, why) might be very helpful for you for future relationships.
posted by sm1tten at 7:35 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

htid's example is definitely a best case scenario, and it's one that I don't see panning out for you quite as well here due to the details you provided, with his being reluctant to meet up with you and thinking it might lead to getting back together for the wrong reasons.

If his brief but intense relationship with you was him rebounding after a previous relationship, as he said it was, that's pretty much a full explanation right there. I don't know that there are any questions worth asking with that in mind. It sounds like he tried to be honest once he figured out what was going on and that he regretted hurting you, for what that's worth.
posted by wondermouse at 7:54 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by mlis at 9:01 PM on July 23, 2013

After he left he kept texting me about how he was conflicted about his decision, and for three hours we talked about how awful we both felt. He asked to talk the next day, I said I couldn't unless he could give me a bigger chunk of time and not schedule me in between things. At the end of the next day, he said he didn't want to talk in person because he was worried we might get back together for the wrong reasons, and I said I couldn't text all the stuff I had to say.

I would ask what his red flags were. I would ask about his conflict and ask that he own it and frame it in a non-blaming fashion. (i.e. "I like blondes with big boobs and while you are blonde, you aren't busty. This is my issue because I am shallow and looks matter way the hell too much to my erection." Not "It is somehow your fault that I have internal conflict.") I would ask him what piece of it was him, what piece was me, what piece was situational. I would ask what "wrong reasons" he feared might get us back together.

But I am a cold hearted, thick skinned, overly analytical bitch who spent an hour or two a day, twice a week, crying on a therapist's couch (about sex and stuff) for, um, a couple of years? I would only do this if I felt really prepared to be all analytical and detached about the feedback. You do not sound like you are there.

FWIW: Three of my last four "break ups" involved just drifting apart or no longer speaking with no formal break up. I don't like confrontation. But if I am going to confront it, I want real honesty, which tends to be real fucking painful. And I won't be grudging about it if I asked and someone answered even though it hurt (unless I really truly believe they were merely using it as an excuse to be assholish and abusive to me). That is not a common talent.
posted by Michele in California at 10:48 PM on July 23, 2013

I think the other thing to remember right now is that as the dumpee, you do not have the advantage of having started to think about this and consider what it would be like if you broke up, etc the way the dumper did. It's like still being in shock. And because you are used to being able to talk about the Really Big Things with this person who is so important to you, of course you want them to be able to help you with this too. But he can't. He doesn't want to be with you anymore, and any attempt on his part to help you get through the breakup is only drawing out the relationship in an unhealthy way. It's one of the most annoyingly unfair things ever that in this situation, even a half-assed "no" is more powerful than the most passionate "yes". It's not always the kind of "no" that gives you closure, or is neat and graceful—in fact, it's usually messy.

Wallow in miserable music. (I recommend repeated applications of this song.) If you do go ahead with the meeting, and hopefully all of our well-meaning advice isn't just putting your back up, try to keep the questions as logistical as possible. What are the practical things that need to be sorted out, I would really like that jacket back, etc. Confirm to your satisfaction that he really does not want to be in a relationship with you anymore, but I'd steer clear of asking him why he thinks you're not right for him or (worse) what he thinks is "wrong" with you. I know you want to know these things, but no good can come of it. Break-ups do not make sense, they suck. And the learning from them usually comes well after the fact.

Good luck, I hope you get through this with less misery than many of us have clearly experienced!
posted by Athanassiel at 11:37 PM on July 23, 2013

I'm going to answer this from the perspective of a friend who was suddenly dumped by someone who gave very similar reasons, and was totally blind sided. Upon asking what the issues (red flags) were, she got told that "she wasn't conventionally attractive enough" and "when you laugh you are really unattractive". These 2 statements gave her serious self esteem issues for a lomg period of time, despite that rationally she knew them not to be true. It did not help her grieving, and hampered her ability to trust that any future partner could find her attractive for a while.

Think seriously about asking this question. Is there anything he could say in this painful period that would help you?!
posted by shazzam! at 11:50 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

When somebody doesn't want to be with you anymore, it doesn't matter why. I always thought if they could just explain what happened well enough, it wouldn't hurt anymore - that's the 'closure' I always sought. Sadly, there is no such thing.

Appallingly, there's nothing beyond logistics to discuss. They get to make that unilateral decision and there's nothing to be done but move on. I would have saved myself a great deal of pain if I had learned that a long time ago. I'm sorry you're going through this and I hope you feel better soon. Good luck.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:57 PM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

Here's another thing: people lie. Even the nicest, most decent people will lie to avoid conflict and thereby make their own lives easier/more comfortable. People who are no longer personally invested in your happiness are even more likely to lie. Just to make the whole issue, y'know, go away.

I say this as someone who has just been cheated on and lied to for 3 solid months. Even when I caught him red-handed and told him I never wanted to speak to him again, he lied to me about how long he'd been seeing her, where he met her, and how often he'd slept with her. That's right: a person who never had to see me again lied to me in a text message when the truth would have made no difference, because...who knows?

My point is, I've wanted to try and force some kind of 'closure' from this asshole, like, a million times. I have written, and deleted, at least 3 or 4 looong emails. But now, two weeks later, I'm so glad I didn't send any of them. Because the last message he ever has from me is from the day I ditched his cheating ass, saying that I know he's a liar and a cheat, and I can do better, and ending with a breezy 'Au revoir!' (Then I went and got drunk and cried for pretty much 2 days straight.)

Anything this guy tells you in an 'exit interview'-type conversation is likely to be a watered-down version of the truth. Either because he just doesn't really know the truth himself, or he doesn't want to hurt you any more than he has, or he doesn't want to look like a jerk. And you'll know that, and this elusive 'closure' thing will remain out of reach. And you'll be more frustrated and hurt.

Please don't do it. But if you do, I strongly agree with what cairdeas said: don't feel bad, whichever decision you make. If someone can make the effort to have sex with you and develop a relationship over a sustained period of time, then no, I don't think it's too much to ask them for an explanation when they end it. The problem is that you can never be sure they're really giving you one. (An honest one.)

Take care. Memail me if I can help. I know how much it fucking hurts.
posted by Salamander at 12:13 AM on July 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

(Geez, sorry...like 'most everyone else, I didn't really answer your question. So here goes: if you decide to talk with him, only ask him factual questions. Do not ask him his subjective opinions about you. At this point, you don't want to know that stuff. Good luck!)
posted by Salamander at 12:17 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hey, I'm sorry if my earlier response was one of the ones that hurt you-- I'm really sorry. I said that you shouldn't go through with it because I have had friends in similar situations and they have not gotten the magical "closure" answers they needed. Months later, they're still fretting over "the truth," when in fact the guy's answers have been varied and opaque. I agree that sometimes, those conversations can be really good. But it requires good faith from both participants and honestly, it doesn't sound like this is a conversation he wants to have. If you want to know about the red flags, you can ask. I just don't think that answer will help solve all the pain from losing a relationship, and it might very well make it worse.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:30 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had one of these talks with an ex after a similar relationship - short and very intense - and there is one question I am still very glad I asked him.

If you knew you were "incapable of love", then why did you start a relationship with me?

By extension: if your ex was conflicted about his feelings about you/his previous relationship, why did he lead you on?

I found it difficult to distinguish between the regret and wanting to continue together, and the "indignity" I was feeling, but once I did I realized his answer (in context) had all the information I needed to know from him to understand what had just happened to me.

Unless he's a very good liar, you'll know if it's not the truth. I think it's the only kind of closure you can get from him: getting close to understanding why he acted the way he did. For the rest of it you need to look into yourself. Having that info cleared my confusion and I could move on - I chose to construe it as "he was just an immature, selfish, manipulative liar", but YMMV.
posted by ipsative at 8:40 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Eventually, I convinced him to meet up with me so I can ask him all those questions I would've asked if I'd had time and presence of mind and longer than twenty minutes to process what had happened when he dumped me initially.

I'm not asking if this is a good idea— it probably isn't— but given that I'm going to do this anyway, are there any questions you think are a good idea to ask someone who recently dumped you, or things you wish you'd asked at your last breakup?

You mention "all those questions I would've asked if I'd had time and presence of mind". Presumably you have questions already, right? So...what more is there to ask, you know?

If I were 20 I'd probably do something similar, just to find some semblance of an answer to the question of "Why?"

If I were 40 and in your position, I'd ask "why" when the other person announced the breakup, listen to them and then move on, even if I really loved them and it broke my heart. If someone doesn't want you, then so be it, get away from there as soon as possible.

So yeah, it may not be a good idea to have this meeting, but it may be something that's good to do now and learn from the experience about how to let go. It won't be easy and it will hurt, but having this meeting may be useful to gaining emotional knowledge. There's thinking something won't be a good idea and then there's knowing something isn't a good idea, because you've done it and experienced the emotional fallout from that action.

You also mention wanting "a proper breakup". It's worth considering what you mean by that, keeping in mind that one can't not always get that closure.

What to ask? What do you want to know? What are the red flags he mentioned? Why didn't he bring them up to you? What could have gone differently? Are the red flags a you thing or a him thing?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:32 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: after dithering most of the day, and reading and rereading the advice here, in private messages, and in my own super fun MeTa thread, I got a text message from him saying just so you know, I'm probably going to be uncomfortably quiet. That's what happens in these situations. Then I dithered a little longer and sent back I've given it a lot of thought and meeting up is probably a bad idea. I'm sorry for suggesting it. I'm glad we got to be friends. All the best.

Thank you to everyone who took time out of their lives to talk to me.
posted by jenlovesponies at 2:22 PM on July 24, 2013 [65 favorites]

Way to be, jenlovesponies!
posted by spunweb at 6:02 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dude, amazing. Good for you! Hugs.
posted by tristeza at 8:40 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

You did great!!!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 1:22 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, congrats Jen. Good luck moving forward; you can do it.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:10 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wow. FWIW, I want you to know that I think your text response was super classy. And it's really, really hard to stay classy in these situations. You are great!
posted by Salamander at 7:56 AM on July 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

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