Getting back together and breaking the yo-yo cycle
September 12, 2013 1:16 PM   Subscribe

A while ago, my ex ended what had been a yo-yo relationship (on and off and on and off again) for 1.5 years. Now we are in different states and he wants to reconcile. Can this work? Has anyone done this and gone on to have a happy, healthy relationship?

The reason for the breakup had to do primarily with communication problems and a looming transition to long distance. I decided to move for professional school, and my ex said that we had too many communication problems, that he was worn down, and that we would not be able to make it work long distance because he did not have the energy any longer.

The relationship was always respectful and caring. The ways in which we were not gentle with each other had to do with each of us feeling frustrated with the other due to communication issues. What I mean by "communication issues" is literally that we had a hard time being completely explicit with each other and that neither of us had learned how to read between each other's lines, so to speak. I would say one thing, he'd understand another--and vice versa.

I was devastated when he broke up with me -- just a month before my scheduled move date.

I keep going back and forth because this isn't the first breakup, nor is it the first time that he wants to give it another go. He broke up with me about 8 months before the final breakup, citing insecurity that I just wasn't "into" the relationship enough (I /was/ really into it and I was shocked and hurt about the breakup. I do think I was being cautious and trying to stay grounded and rational, but I really liked him and loved him as much as you can love someone you've known for under a year). That breakup lasted 12 hours--but it still hurt a lot. About 3.5 months later, as I began receiving admission letters, he broke up with me again, citing same insecurities and citing fear of long distance. Before this breakup, I was prepared to stay in his state to be with him, but once he broke up with me, I took that as a wake up call to pick the best program regardless of location and decided to go with a school 1,000 miles away. That breakup lasted a week; we spoke throughout that week and at the end of it he said he wanted to keep trying. I told him he needed to figure out his communication problems (while I'm not perfect, I do think I'm better at expressing my needs than he is) if things were going to work out.

He committed to doing long distance with me about 2.5 months before the final breakup. I was very upset about this last breakup--and still am. We hadn't been in communication for about 1.5 months, and now we are in communication again and he told me that although he can't be with me now because he doesn't know how to give me a decisive, great relationship (I also told him that I don't think being in a relationship right this second will work because of these things), he has hope that he will get his act together and that we could be together. He says that he should have been more honest about his fears of long distance and that he has been thinking a lot about that. He also says he is working on his stuff and that he is going to go to therapy (I encouraged him to, having experienced its benefits myself--I, too, am looking for a therapist). When we last spoke, he told me he screwed up and that he doesn't expect me to want to try again.

Relevant context: I just started grad. school in a new city, am not handling it well, and I'm super stressed and miss both him as a person and the sense of stability being with him gave me (so, two-fold missing: both him and the relationship). I think he is wonderful but that he does need to work out some stuff in order to be a wonderful partner. He just finished a degree and appears to be experiencing a late quarter-life crisis (we are both in our late mid twenties). I had one of those a few years ago and understand how hard that is. Additionally, I have flight benefits that I could use to see him about once a month (except for breaks from school between semesters, when I could see him more frequently/potentially be with him through those breaks--my program is 2 academic years).

I genuinely don't know what to do. The part of me that wants to protect myself after all this suffering and back and forth says, "Man, if this doesn't work out again, I'm going to be so hurt--not to mention, my family and friends will throw rotten eggs at me for trying this again if I do. And how could this /possibly/ work now that I've moved? How would i know that he is actually making the changes he needs to make for this to work if I'm not there daily to experience him and our interactions?" Another part of me says, "But I still love him. If I close this door now, there will be no turning back. He has so much potential, and he earnestly sounds as if he is doing a lot of soul searching and is trying to figure his stuff out. I would love to be around for that and to be with him if he can, in fact, figure out how to be with me."

I feel like i need to either wait for him (while still living my life -- difficult) or cut off all contact for a while (an idea that makes me really, really sad). I care so much about him and want to support him and also be there to see him make changes to be more in touch with his emotions--but what if he is just saying that he's finally being introspective just because he misses me? What if he never ascends to the potential I know he has?

I also don't know how we'd fix a mess like this over long distance. I'm an idealist and want to believe that there is a way, but I don't know if I'm just being crazy.

Has anyone managed to do this successfully and go on to have a wonderful relationship? Thanks for any insight. Is there any way this could work if we both try?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
This does not sound at all as though it would decrease your school-, move-, or relationship-related stress.
posted by headnsouth at 1:24 PM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


He's playing games with you. Stop playing ball and say no. You can find someone who won't do this to you.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:26 PM on September 12, 2013 [17 favorites]


No, this isn't the right time for you, and this isn't the right relationship for you.

Love shouldn't be this hard.

Right now you need to focus your attention on your program. You made a bunch of significant life changes and it takes awhile to settle in and really feel good about where you are and what you're doing.

Your Ex is exploiting this weakness. You're lonely, you miss your old life and he's promising to help you back into that. The problem is, you have a new life, and you can't embrace it if you're reaching into the past.

If this had been a good and strong relationship, you wouldn't have broken up, he wouldn't be so wishy-washy and indecisive.

It is so easy to try for the fifth and sixth time because it's easier than starting over from scratch.

First, you have to wait until you are well and truly over your Ex. That could take months!

Secondly, you have to find someone. You have to go on first date, ugh! You have to tell and re-tell your stories and anecdotes. It's a lot of work!

Thirdly, you have to connect with the new person and fuck it, let me just go back to Whatshisname because at least I know what I'm in for with that.

I get it, I do. But this is a GREAT opportunity for you to focus on school and put relationship drama on the back burner.

Go back to no-contact, you aren't ready to make this guy your friend.

Make some new friends in your program, work on your studies, use your flight benefits to travel to exotic and amazing places and to explore them.

Leave the past, in the past.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:28 PM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think you will get a lot of other good advice so I just want to say something about this:

Relevant context: I just started grad. school in a new city, am not handling it well, and I'm super stressed and miss both him as a person and the sense of stability being with him gave me (so, two-fold missing: both him and the relationship

....

I was prepared to stay in his state to be with him, but once he broke up with me, I took that as a wake up call to pick the best program regardless of location and decided to go with a school 1,000 miles away.

...

I care so much about him and want to support him and also be there to see him make changes to be more in touch with his emotions


Please, please, please take this as another wakeup call. Right now is not the time for you to be supporting Boyfriend and helping him be in touch with his emotions. You just started your first semester of professional school. Right now is the time to take care of YOU.

All of your focus needs to be on doing really well in school, and taking really good care of yourself. It's great that you want to help Boyfriend meet his full potential but right now is a extremely crucial moment for you in meeting YOUR full life potential.

The first semester of professional school is a time when, if you have a good partner who cares about you, they will be doing everything reasonable to support you. If all this guy can think about is his own emotions, feelings, and soul-searching, that's not good. If he offloads all of that to you at the expense of your stability and well-being in your first semester, that's not good.

Believe me, I completely understand how it is to break up after a serious relationship and feel like a major chunk of your support system is missing. I think it is crucial for you to have a support system but NOT HIM. Please, please, go to a therapist. Don't make it into a drawn-out process of indecision, just pick one and make the appointment. Get to know your schoolmates. Look for the friendliest face and invite them to lunch or invite them to have a study session. Go to the Dean of Students and ask what resources your school has for helping students get settled in. Ask about peer mentors.

You don't need to go no-contact with this guy FOREV0R!!!!! Give it 12 weeks. Please value yourself and your own well-being enough to just focus on building up your own life during that time and not worrying about him.
posted by cairdeas at 1:31 PM on September 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


The part of me that wants to protect myself after all this suffering and back and forth says, "Man, if this doesn't work out again, I'm going to be so hurt [...]

Please listen to this voice. This is your self-preservation talking. The part of you that keeps saying "but what if..." is saying it less out of love and confidence, I suspect, and more out of fear of finally letting go once and for all, and fear of the idea that you'll never feel strongly about someone else again.

There's nothing you've written that suggests there is really a meaningful potential to build a strong, healthy, loving relationship here. This doesn't mean you're doomed never to have that sort of relationship in your life, but only that it seems pretty clear that you're not going to find it with him.

The thing is, it doesn't actually matter if anyone out in MeFiLand had a similar rocky, dramatic, chaotic relationship that may have eventually worked out in some way. What matters is the fact that this relationship is bringing you pain, sorrow, and anxiety, and there are no concrete reasons to believe that this will change. It's time to put a stop to it. Yes, it will be sad. Yes, the depth of that sadness may be really frightening and unsettling and difficult to bear. But the fear of something being unbearable or impossible doesn't actually make it unbearable or impossible, and sometimes the hardest thing to do in the short-run is really the best thing in the long-run.
posted by scody at 1:32 PM on September 12, 2013 [19 favorites]


Also, I was once with someone who always seemed to start fights and cause drama at really critical times for me. And if, say, I needed him to drive me to work in the morning, surprise surprise, we would "end up" having an argument where he would "need" to sit in the driveway arguing with me and making me late to work. If I steadfastly ignored any baiting, then he would eventually come up with things he "forgot about" that he "needed" to do before we left, making me late to work.

It happened sooooooo many times before it occurred to me that there was a pattern there.

I'm not saying your guy is doing the same thing, but I think it's a little weird that he always seems to rock your boat at really critical times for you. If he's doing that, he might not even be doing it consciously! But it's a very, very destructive thing.
posted by cairdeas at 1:36 PM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Can it work? Oh, sure. of course it can. But it s work. A lot of work. The long distance multiples that by about 5.

Work on you, and your priorities (degrees! stability! Financial security!) before you work on him. Later, when your life is more stable, your can see if you want to pick this up
posted by Jacen at 1:48 PM on September 12, 2013


I was prepared to stay in his state to be with him, but once he broke up with me, I took that as a wake up call to pick the best program regardless of location and decided to go with a school 1,000 miles away.

I just want to also say, one of my friends was in this situation. She was prepared to go to a so-so, in-state professional school over one of the top-10 programs in the country --- which was only an extra hour or two away!!! --- for the sake of this guy.

Guess what, he dumped her anyway, in a super harsh way, began dating again quickly, and is now married to someone else.

She went to the top-10 school.

Shortly after they broke up, the profession for which she was going to professional school experienced an extreme contraction. She would have been screwed, SCREWED!!!! if she had gone to the state school. A significant amount of the success she was able to have coming into a rough job market was down to the prestige of her school.

It's not common for women to be willing to completely screw themselves over for guys who don't really seem all that concerned that she is screwing herself, guys who often leave to go do their own thing in the end anyway.

Please don't make that mistake with your first semester grades.
posted by cairdeas at 1:48 PM on September 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


while i don't think he is intentionally trying to hurt you he is jerking you around by his behavior. i'd let him go. if it is meant to be you will be reunited someday but now doesn't sound like the time. he has much work to do on himself and he may or may not do it. do not date "potential". been there, done that, big mistake. date who is in front of you.
posted by wildflower at 1:51 PM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do you think the communication problems that broke you up in the first (and second, and third) place would be improved by long distance?
posted by ook at 1:58 PM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


1) stop getting back together with this guy
2) stop sending or receiving any email, im, text messages, letters, telephone, telegram, smoke signal, semaphore, morse code or psychic communications to or from this person. Immediately. Cut him out of your life.


This is drama, and- say it with me- the way to avoid drama is to stop engaging in drama. Don't engage with this man. Put a stop to this. It is not going to work out.
posted by windykites at 2:15 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think there's two important things to consider here, one of which i've never actually said before but i've seen other people say quite a few times.

What would you tell your best friend if they asked you what to do, or what you would do in this situation?

Have you asked your best friend, or a couple close friends about this situation?

I watched my best friend completely fuck himself over with a relationship like this. School, i think at least one or two really good job opportunities, several pretty big(as in, free ride across the country and a hotel to perform at a major thing) artistic/musical opportunities, even several relationship opportunities with way chiller people during the "off" periods, and all kinds of other shit. It's really painful to watch from the outside.

So yea, read this on the screen as if it was the story of someone who you cared about. What would you say? how would you react?

And yea, then go ask a friend or two you have like that and see what they say. I bet it'll be a calmer gentler version of PULL UP, PULL UP YOU'RE GONNA CRASH OH GOD EJECT EJECT!

This line really jumped out at me in that context too, my family and friends will throw rotten eggs at me for trying this again if I do. Really listen to those people now, think about why they're saying that. This is really one of those "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Situations. Because really, what variables have changed at all this time besides the stakes of screwing your life up being higher?

I also definitely have something to say about what cairdeas said about "intentional" sabotage on their part. Not much to add beyond what she said besides yes, i've definitely DEFINITELY gotten that feeling knowing both people quite well who were in a relationship like this, and watching how one did what definitely seemed like sabotage to the other one when they weren't getting what they wanted. Or when that person was under pressure, or when that person had a good opportunity that made them uncomfortable for some irrational reason.
posted by emptythought at 2:36 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Has anyone managed to do this successfully and go on to have a wonderful relationship?
Briefly -- my experience was no.

If I close this door now, there will be no turning back.
So far, this hasn't proven true for this relationship, so why should it now?

What I think is that honestly, once you close this door, you won't want to turn back.

Think about what he's offering you. It's not a relationship. It's not even a long-distance-relationship. It's a work in progress. Why don't you wait until he's actually got something to offer you - beyond his "earnest" attempts to get his shit together - before you waste your time and flight benefits on a relationship that wasn't working when you were in the same place and isn't going to to get any easier now that you're physically apart?
posted by sm1tten at 2:53 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hate to say it, but your odds don't look good with this guy. He has shown you, consistently, exactly who he is and how he handles stuff, for the entire year and a half that you have known him.

And now, 'He also says he is working on his stuff and that he is going to go to therapy (I encouraged him to, having experienced its benefits myself...)' He is saying this to you because it may help his cause in getting you back. Even if it's not literally that calculated in his mind, this is what is essentially happening. I would pay less attention to what he says, and more attention to what he has done.

And lastly, even if he does actually start seeing a therapist, I think its usefulness will be limited if he is just doing it to try to prove something to you. If he actually sticks with it (and that's a really big 'if', given his behavior), it could take a good long while for his patterns of behavior to change.
posted by fikri at 3:06 PM on September 12, 2013


you know: fool me once...
posted by Postroad at 3:35 PM on September 12, 2013


Why go back into a relationship which has caused such stress and whiplash in the past?

Okay, there can be reasons. "We've been married for thirty years and have kids". Fair reason. At least, it makes sense to work a little harder if that's the case.

But, you? There's nothing there.

You don't own a house together.

You don't have kids.

You've been together for 18 months, for pity's sake.

So why go back into a relationship that, historically, has caused you a great deal of stress?

I can't think of a reason. Well, I can't think of a good reason. Maybe you like stress. Maybe you look at a dysfunctional relationship as a sort of personal challenge. You are proving how strong you are by showing how you can survive a crappy relationship. It's sort of extreme sports in the dating world. Maybe you just want to prove to all the doubters that you were right all along.

Ask yourself if you'd rather be happy or right. Set another personal challenge - not going back to this guy and finding someone else instead. Someone who wants to be in a relationship with you.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:36 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Has anyone managed to do this successfully and go on to have a wonderful relationship?

Not generally, no. Usually because one of the people is acting really fucked up. On-again, off-again for a year and a half? OP you deserve better than that.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:15 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not supposed to be this hard. If you were supposed to be with him, you wouldn't be asking. People shouldn't be hesitant about each other at the (new) start. If you can't both go into it with a Brand New Day state of mind then I don't think you should put yourselves through it. That distance was one of the major contributing factors to your problems, and that it continues to be an issue, makes for even less confidence.

The person you should spend your time and energy with should make you say "yes! yes! yes!" not "yes, if you change and if I can learn to trust you again and the distance doesn't become a complication, etc. etc."
posted by juliplease at 4:32 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


So this dude has dumped you at least three times already, and each time he dumps you he eventually changes his mind and insists you come back..... and so far, you have.

Break the cycle: go fully no-contact with him for at least six months, if not a full year. No phone calls, no texts or emails or snailmails or anything else. Delete him from your facebook page, and avoid *his* fb page. Have absolutely ZERO contact with him, in any form whatsoever.

It's hard to break up with someone, I know, and you're also hurting because of the timing of this breakup. But love, real true love, means supporting your partner while they're reaching for their goals, and your ex has done nothing but break promise after promise. It's pretty well guarenteed that if you were to fall for his current blandishments, he WILL dump you again, and beg you to come back, and dump you AGAIN, and beg you to come back..... he'll continue the cycle until HE is bored playing with your heart, at which time he dump you while more-than-likely he'll already have somebody else lined up to be his next toy.

Save yourself the continued heartache: go full no-contact.
posted by easily confused at 5:15 PM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Even if he had 3 strikes, he is already out.

And I think in terms of relationships, three strikes is already 2 too many.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:32 PM on September 12, 2013


A relationship where you get dumped three times in only 18 months is not a good relationship. I repeat, it is not a good relationship. Maybe ask yourself why you'd keep subjecting yourself to this behavior?

I care so much about him and want to support him and also be there to see him make changes to be more in touch with his emotions--but what if he is just saying that he's finally being introspective just because he misses me? What if he never ascends to the potential I know he has?

What, are you his mom? Why is his potential your responsibility? The world is full of relationships where one partner keeps hanging in there because they're hoping the other partner will finally change. Here is the best relationship advice I've ever received: look at your partner as they are now. Not as you want them to be, not as they say they'll be, not as you hope they'll be. And ask yourself: if they never, ever change, are you OK with staying in the relationship?

People can change, but it happens in their own time, on their own terms, and most of the time the change never happens. So if you really want a relationship with this guy, then you need to become OK with being treated the way he has treated you up to this point.
posted by schroedinger at 5:42 PM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Let's say you get back together with him. What do you think is going to happen?

He broke up with you before your scheduled move date. And while you were receiving your admission letters. It seems that he likes to break up with you before major change happens. So let's say you're together and… you have a big test/assignment/presentation. Or you have an interview or something. What makes you think this time is going to be any different?

And the whole thing of wanting to watch him make changes, etc. - I bet he'll make even bigger and better changes once you finally close the door on him. He won't have you to manipulate back into a relationship, he'll actually have to sit with himself and think about his own issues. I really think you should give him that opportunity, and to yourself too.

Sure cutting off contact is sad. Just because it's sad doesn't mean it's the wrong thing to do, or that you shouldn't do it. It's ok to grieve.

Let him go. Set yourself free.
posted by foxjacket at 6:08 PM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


After many, many, many mistakes, I have a new rule: the first time someone breaks up with you, or that you break up with them, it's almost certainly over. If it isn't, the second time means there's no room for doubt. I've done this exact thing, more times and with more people than is warranted for a person of some putative intelligence. I'm not going to assign blame or say he's playing you or say you're playing him or whatever. I am going to say that you two don't work, and you can tell you don't work because it keeps not working. Cry your face off for a while if you need to, god knows I have, but you're not doing each other any favors by keeping this threadbare hope alive. It isn't a kindness to either of you, and it isn't an expression of faith. You can do better for yourself, not necessarily in terms of guy but in terms of fulfillment, but even if you couldn't, it wouldn't matter, because this is still over.
posted by Errant at 7:41 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yup, this is a yo-yo relationship. He's just pulled back the string, and here you are, agonizing whether to go back AGAIN?

Listen to the small voice of sanity that says move on with your life.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:58 PM on September 12, 2013


Don't do it! Getting back together with this guy is an invitation to madness, angst, and stress. Nobody needs more of that in their life. Listen to your friends here on AskMe, they are giving you good advice. Walk away, never look back, be free.
posted by Scientist at 8:04 PM on September 12, 2013


This is the kind of person who will divorce you when you're pregnant because he's suddenly unsure about becoming a parent.

I agree he's manipulating you. I agree you should not get back together with someone who has dumped you three times.

Block, delete, run.
posted by jbenben at 8:06 PM on September 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Agree with everyone else here. Like cairdeas said, this semester is REALLY important for your future. Do whatever you have to do, to do well. Have a fling, fly to exotic places, spend a lot of time in your room playing solitaire. Don't waste time worrying about this guy.
posted by 3491again at 9:03 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can this work? Has anyone done this and gone on to have a happy, healthy relationship?

I dont have anything to say about this part but I do have some other things to say that may answer the above for yourself.


I was devastated when he broke up with me -- just a month before my scheduled move date.


I think the timing of the breakup, when you are the one being broken upon with, is very telling about how much the other person really cares about you. That tells you whether your well-being is even being considered in coming to the decision or if its all about the other person.


Relevant context: I just started grad. school in a new city, am not handling it well, and I'm super stressed and miss both him as a person and the sense of stability being with him gave me (so, two-fold missing: both him and the relationship).

Sometimes it really helps me to keep reminding myself that what I think people are capable of, what their potential is, is something that really exists only in my head. What you see is what is true in the present and what is true in the present is what you get. That is the reality, here and now. Not much else matters.

When you miss the stability, remind yourself of how many times he has broken up with you. How many times in your life was this guy there to support you, for you, and not thinking of his insecurities and making unilateral decisions at awful timing for you. You really think that is a stable relationship? Or will you have to mother him to understand his responsibilities if you can still have him in your life while you are going through the stressful experience of graduate school?


I think he is wonderful but that he does need to work out some stuff in order to be a wonderful partner. He just finished a degree and appears to be experiencing a late quarter-life crisis (we are both in our late mid twenties). I had one of those a few years ago and understand how hard that is. Additionally, I have flight benefits that I could use to see him about once a month (except for breaks from school between semesters, when I could see him more frequently/potentially be with him through those breaks--my program is 2 academic years).

You can clearly see the potential in the guy (and it is still debatable whether the potential you see is something that only you see or its actually there, if that even matters in the first place). But then you abruptly switch to how you can bend over backwards to make the relationship work. If you do a cost-benefit analysis regarding the relationship, given this guy's history of breaking up with you and at the timings he has chosen, do you think you will feel emotionally supported by him while you are in school? Or do you think you will be studying AND trying to plug every hole in this boat to not let the relationship sink? And will he be helping you with it, or just sitting in a corner thinking of how everything is affecting him?

I genuinely don't know what to do. The part of me that wants to protect myself after all this suffering and back and forth says, "Man, if this doesn't work out again, I'm going to be so hurt--not to mention, my family and friends will throw rotten eggs at me for trying this again if I do.

Always listen to that tiny voice! And when you are afraid of how the family and friends will react, think very hard why that is so. There is an excellent reason for both things.

I would love to be around for that and to be with him if he can, in fact, figure out how to be with me."


It is not really your place or option to wait around for things in life. Life is all about timing. Right place at the right time. Right person at the right time. You can't live in the future.

I feel like i need to either wait for him (while still living my life -- difficult) or cut off all contact for a while (an idea that makes me really, really sad). I care so much about him and want to support him and also be there to see him make changes to be more in touch with his emotions--

What you really need to do is figure out what you value most in your life, irrespective of whether its with a partner or without. There is absolutely no reason why you need to wait for him (he could wait two years too!). I think you need to learn to not lose your own self in supporting others, and worse, let others screw you (figuratively at least) while you support them through things they should be dealing with on their own in the first place.

Is there a reason why you can't take a break from all the drama, a breather, and get your degree and take time to figure things out for yourself first?

..but what if he is just saying that he's finally being introspective just because he misses me? What if he never ascends to the potential I know he has?


I'd stop thinking in terms of potential and stick to the history with the guy.


I also don't know how we'd fix a mess like this over long distance. I'm an idealist and want to believe that there is a way, but I don't know if I'm just being crazy.


You are not being crazy. You do need to realize, the hard way or not, that things don't work on our timetable in life. We dont always get what we want. Not everything turns out well. And sometimes, the best thing to do is really to just let go and let the chips fall where they may. There is a tremendous relief in letting go. Try it sometime.
posted by xm at 10:34 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This guy has broken up with you not once, not twice, but three times. In my opinion, he's lost all of his healthy-relationship credibility with you.

You deserve someone mature; someone who wants to be with you, knows it, and shows you through his actions and words.

(And think about cutting contact with this guy—his head-games and invitations to second-guess yourself are just going to be unwanted distractions. Save your energy for your classes and for being awesome.)
posted by blueberry at 1:30 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I spent some time with a serial breaker-upper back in my misspent youth. Breaking up (or threatening to) was his way of manipulating me and getting the upper hand back when things weren't going exactly his way.

Breakup manipulations work on two levels: the most obvious one is that it is meant to play on your fears of abandonment (being alone, missing the other person, what if I never find anyone else, etc.)

But it also works as a manipulation tool because it introduces drama. Yesterday your impending move to start school was the big important thing that was taking priority in your lives; once he decided to break up, it brought your relationship front and center. Introducing this drama at a critical time muddied the waters nicely, breaking the momentum of where your goals and plans were taking both of you. It bought him a small opening to potentially turn the situation back around to where he was comfortable. It was a gamble, and he lost.

After several years of breakups and take-backs, what I finally figured out in my own relationship was that I had taught him (by my behavior) that breaking up was an effective way to get the upper hand in the relationship. And every time I went back, I reinforced in his mind the idea that I would always go back, eventually.

At some point I realized I had painted myself into a corner. The only way to stop him using breaking up as manipulation was to stop going back. But of course that meant that the next time we broke up, the relationship had to be really truly over. Because even if I relented and went back months later, it would only be teaching him that months of badgering was what it would take to get me back. Which to him wasn't that bad, since there would be all that drama and interpersonal engagement with me while he worked his wiles to get me to come back.

Unfortunately, I think that may be where you are. If you go back with him, he will sigh with relief (boy, that was close, she almost didn't take me back!) but it will not be a wakeup call for him to do anything different. The only lesson he will internalize from this is that you will always take him back, eventually, if he finds the right things to say, and the right buttons to push. You will never be free of this game until you cut him loose for the last time, and stick to it.

Nobody was more surprised than my ex when the last time he broke up with me, I refused to take him back and even started dating someone else shortly thereafter. I felt bad for his pain, in a way I almost felt responsible, because I had inadvertantly led him to believe that his way of controlling the situation was always going to get him what he wanted. And he was all about getting what he wanted, even if it was sort of shitty for me. Or a lot shitty for me.

Breaking up really was the best course of action. I have been so much better off without his selfishness and manipulation. And maybe I even taught him a lesson that may have benefitted his next partner... that sometimes when you gamble on someone always coming back, you lose.

I think it is time for your boyfriend to learn that lesson.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:18 AM on September 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


,he has hope that he will get his act together and that we could be together.

There's a great Housemartin's lyric:

"I have confidence in confidence, I hope that hope pulls through, but I think a little more is needed now."

It would've been nice if he'd called you when he already had his act together.

He talks a mediocre game.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:34 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I read a lot of "He wants", "He wants", "He wants", and a lot of vulnerability and unsuredness in your account of yourself.

Take a break for six months. Live the new life you are creating for yourself. Then think about whether he fits into your new life, with his old habits.

And please, take it from someone who's been there - "Communication issues" never go away. Someone once put it to me this way: "Sometimes two people are like Macs and PCs; both good machines, they just don't work the same way".
posted by vignettist at 7:53 AM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


What if he never ascends to the potential I know he has?

Honey, nothing you've said here indicates he ever will.

Lots of people NEVER reach their full potential. Lots of people don't want to do the work involved.

If you stay with this guy, he's going to prevent you from reaching the potential you know YOU have.
posted by yohko at 1:36 PM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


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