Should I give this another shot?
November 20, 2013 6:04 AM   Subscribe

I searched for similar questions but had a hard time finding something that applied to what I think is a very specific situation. I'm trying to decide if I should attempt dating an ex, and I'm hoping the Hive Mind can help me out.

Here's the (loooong) low-down: We dated for four months earlier this year (from March - July). It was very quickly clear to the both of us that we really enjoyed one another's company and really liked the other person. We always talked openly with one another, had an incredible physical connection, and genuinely found the other interesting. We traveled together, spent entire weekends with one another, attended lots of concerts, met one another's families and friends. I had never had such an easy, fulfilling relationship before. It was really looking like this relationship was serious, long-term material.

That said, we weren't without our struggles. My ex-boyfriend suffers from depression, anxiety, and mild PTSD associated with his time serving in the military. With my encouragement, he started regular therapy sessions at the beginning of the last month of our relationship. Almost immediately after starting therapy, I could feel him pulling away from me. Having dealt with my own bouts of depression and anxiety, I chalked this up to him needing some space to really start delving into the work of getting better. When he asked if we could spend a bit less time together, I gave him what he needed. I supported his desire to really focus his energy inward and tried to give him space and/or attention depending upon what it seemed he needed.

At the end of our fourth month together, he broke up with me. The reason given was that he had felt ambivalent about me for about two weeks; he wasn't sure that the ambivalence would abate, so he decided to call things off. Almost immediately, he began sending me emails and leaving me voicemails where he would openly question his decision to break up with me. After a few days of this, I asked him to stop so that we could both work through the end of the relationship. I asked for some space and told him that I thought that time would clear things up for him. I did what I normally do following a break-up: spent a lot of time being introspective, spent time working on the things I wanted for myself, and even spent 15 days traveling abroad (a life-long dream that I finally fulfilled). Things were alright, despite the fact that I missed him and really just wanted to be with him.

Over the past few months (the breakup happened in early July), we've remained in contact, although the level of communication has lessened and is less intimate. We have not spent time together aside from seeing one another twice with mutual friends. I am not the instigator of conversations, he is. He probably reaches out to me 2-3 times a week, and I have done my best to simply be a friend to him.

He came to me last night and said that he thinks we need to spend time together that he can figure out his feelings for me. He says that he thinks of me daily, misses me, and misses the time we spent together. My knee-jerk reaction to this is that he still talks to me several times a week and we had four months together...isn't all of that enough for him to know how he feels? I suppose I am just wondering if you folks can give me the pros and cons of doing what he suggests.

I am still in love with him, so a very big part of me wants to test the waters with him again. That said, I don't want to put myself in a position to have the rug ripped out from under me again. I've never tried to get back together with an ex before, so I have no idea how to proceed. Help?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your knee jerk reaction is actually just your reaction.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:09 AM on November 20, 2013 [14 favorites]

No, this is a terrible idea. Block him completely. You can't get over someone if he won't go away.

This guy wants to get back with you so he can "figure out his feelings for you." That's bullshit. He either knows he loves/likes you and wants to build a relationship, or he doesn't. There is no try, there is only do or not do. This guy is a NOT DO!

What if he decides, after getting you all entangled again, and amped up and stuck on him, that, no, it isn't what he wants? He walks away, and you have to deal with the heartache again.

Tell him that no, you don't want to date him, in fact, it's better if you two make a clean break now.

Your gut is telling you what to do. RUN AWAY!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:12 AM on November 20, 2013 [11 favorites]

What has changed about you both since last time? If you don't have new methods for handling various situations, then you're going to do the same things all over again. Loving someone doesn't mean that a relationship with them will work.

I think you should go full on no contact for a while, to give both you and your ex a chance to get over the relationship. You didn't fully break up, you just kinda bent a little. Any feelings that either of you have could just be carried over from the connection you had before. It sounds like he hasn't gotten over you yet.

Go no contact and see how you feel afterwards. If you're both still up for it, great. If you're not, also great. Give yourselves a chance to get over one another, then evaluate how you feel about him as a potential mate anew.

Personally, I'd run from this. People make mistakes, sure, but if they don't learn from them, they're doomed to repeat them. Has he learned yet? And how would you even know?
posted by Solomon at 6:14 AM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

If I were still "in love" with my ex, I wouldn't need the permission of strangers on the internet to get back together with him. I'd know it was right, and damn the consequence if it were wrong.

Your hemming and hawing suggests that you are not really as in love with him at this point as you may tell yourself. Instead, you're infatuated by an idea, but you know, rationally or subconsciously, that this is over, that there are millions of other potential partners out there, and that many, many of them will be more together than your ex.

Personally, I'd politely decline the offer. I think your post is pretty clear that you know this is the right answer, too.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:15 AM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

He came to me last night and said that he thinks we need to spend time together that he can figure out his feelings for me.

Yeah, no. Screw that. Find someone who knows what his feelings are for you. Dating shouldn't be an exam.
posted by xingcat at 6:15 AM on November 20, 2013 [25 favorites]

He came to me last night and said that he thinks we need to spend time together that he can figure out his feelings for me.

"Figuring out his feelings for you" is something he can do on his own, isn't it?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:20 AM on November 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

I have been on both sides of this kind of situation, it was always a mistake to get back together. Firstly because the motivations for resuming are always unclear but "easy option" is usually somewhere in there. Secondly because the stresses that broke you up have not gone away.

Doing what he suggests is madness, he is saying in effect "let me see if I can tolerate being with you any better this time". Go no contact, both of you find other people to date when you are ready.
posted by epo at 6:22 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

What I mean is - he needs to be much more sure that he's gonna be down with being your boyfriend before it makes sense to get back with him. I mean, maybe he's "not sure what his feelings are for you" because he's been calling you all the time and that's just confusing HIM.

I'd tell him to take some time for himself first - and by that, I mean he cuts off contact with you cold turkey - and then, if he knows he still wants to be with you, for reals, then fine. But not yet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:23 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Go for it, but cautiously and slowly.

You both clearly still care for each other, despite what occurred. As you said, test the waters and make it clear you're testing the waters to him. Go on other dates, keep yourself busy and see what happens. Think of a timeframe in your head, say 4 weeks-8 weeks. If he can't make up his mind by that point, then call it off.

His request is odd, i.e. "we need to spend time together that he can figure out his feelings for me." Ideally, he should know, but things aren't always ideal in love or war. He's being honest with what he wants and if it works out, the payoff will be great for you. Based on your description of your feelings for him and the two of you for each other, this odd request of his is worth a bit of risk on your part.

Just go cautiously and slowly.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:24 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

My shorthand for these situations is (probably overly) simple: What you said last is how you really feel, and you should go with that.
That said, I don't want to put myself in a position to have the rug ripped out from under me again.
There you have it. This is still too fresh, and you're not the slightest bit confident that he's as into this idea of you-and-him as you are. You will spend the entire relationship wondering whether this is the moment that he dumps you again.

So don't do it.
posted by Etrigan at 6:28 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

If he's serious enough to risk your heart, he's serious enough to see a therapist first.
posted by amtho at 6:29 AM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I thought I'd get to the end of your question and read that he'd asked to get back together. Instead, I read that he wants to figure out his feelings for you. I don't think you should agree. He sounds like a great guy and I think he's being quite honest with you, but his personal issues and his ambivalence about having a relationship with you are going to make it hard for him to keep from hurting you. Don't re-engage with him unless or until he actually wants to be with you.
posted by Area Man at 6:30 AM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

He says that he thinks of me daily, misses me, and misses the time we spent together. 

Keyword is 'miss.' He uses it often here. The real danger is: if he gets you back, he will lose this driving force, with no suitable stickiness to hold the relationship together from his end.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:31 AM on November 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

I wouldn't be all radical, the guy is obvious going through some kind of process, so giving him time could be okay, in fact.
But he ought to "figure out his feelings" for you during a period of total no-contact, and not the opposite. A bit of a humble attitude should be encouraged here: how come he seems to think that you will invest your time and energy to stand by and wait while he figures out his feelings? Something's off balance in this construct.

Maybe you guys are ready for each-other in, say, a bunch of years. Maybe not. As to right now, I'd definitely cut contact.
posted by Namlit at 6:47 AM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Only date people who unquestionably want to date you, and who you unquestionably want to date.

This is not it.
posted by enlivener at 7:11 AM on November 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

misses me, and misses the time we spent together.

Well then, let him REALLY miss you. Cut contact for at least six months. That will give you time to clear your head and emotions.

Right now, you're still too hooked and invested, and he is playing into that with all this namby-pamby "but I miiiiiiiiiiss youuuuu" whingeing. If he really misses you, he will walk across hot coals and broken glass to be by your side.

Right now, you're just being nursemaid to his emotions. He broke the relationship up. Let him do the heavy-lifting of repairing it if he wants back in.
posted by nacho fries at 7:44 AM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Echoing all the advice to zoom into the bit where he says he wants to "figure out his feelings for you" and examine that. Maybe just tell him, "I care about you and want to be with you, but not if you are unsure about being with me. Think it over and if you decide it's what you want, call me and if not, don't." Also I wouldn't keep talking to him on the phone as long as the situation between the two of you is ambiguous. Don't let him get away with wanting to "test drive" you or a relationship with you. You deserve someone who can say they definitely want to be with you. Listen to your knee jerk reaction because it's telling you the right thing.
posted by mermily at 7:53 AM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Staying involved with a depressed person who is hand wringingly ambivalent is a certain formula for going through countless cycles of I miss you / I need space. You can end this now, or you can revisit us in a year to tell us how many times you have been through the cycle again. (over/under for 1 year = 2.2 more times through cycle).

Listen, it turns out life is really really really short. This becomes increasingly apparent as you live it. Do not waste your time with people who are not clear enough to totally love you. You will likely regret it, and I assure you as someone who is closer to the end than the beginning that you want to amass as few regrets as possible.
posted by jcworth at 7:54 AM on November 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

It's ok to miss an ex, but just having these feelings is not an indicator that you should get back together with that person. You need to take the step of having a clean break. Don't take his calls or answer his texts. If you see him out in the world, say hello, and keep talking to other people.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:17 AM on November 20, 2013

The same thing is happening to me. We dated for about 3-4 months, he ended it with no real reason and then came back 2 months later and begged me for a second chance. We've now been back together for 4 months and the same crap that happened before is happening again. He pushes/pulls, withdraws, takes me for granted. Nothing has changed and even though I love him, I know I can't keep putting up with this. I like that message "It's called a breakup because it's broken". There's got to be someone better for us out there.
posted by Lillypad331 at 9:20 AM on November 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

Here's the problem. You need to date someone who not only likes you, but cares about you. If your wording is correct, in the simple sentence, "We need to spend time together, so I can figure out my feelings for you," is demonstrating a lack of caring.

"We need to spend time together" is an imperative, not a request. It doesn't really respect your autonomy.

"So I can figure out my feelings for you" is not demonstrating any concern for the impact on you.

I don't want to be black and white, but I'm uneasy because he doesn't seem to show caring, empathy, and kindness in how this has been laid out. Therefore, your feelings of fear might be well founded.
posted by htid at 11:39 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

No. He is insulting you with his indecisiveness, and what's worse, he actually has the audacity to declare that he 'thinks you should spend more time together so HE can decide how HE feels.' Good God the arrogance! I know where I'd tell a guy like that to shove it. This is all about him, and however put together you are, you're his doormat in this situation. Don't settle for a neurotic mess like this guy, wait for someone who pursues you relentlessly (albeit calmly and in a healthy manner), and who never gives you reason (or in this case, flat out verbatim doubts) to question his feelings for you. You deserve way better, believe it!
posted by OneHermit at 2:57 PM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

The reason given was that he had felt ambivalent about me for about two weeks; he wasn't sure that the ambivalence would abate, so he decided to call things off.

Ummm this guy let you go from his life because he felt ambivalent -- for two whole weeks? You're telling me that rather than look inside himself to identify and deal with the source of his ambivalence, he unilaterally concluded that the problem was with you and without any discussion, cut you loose? And now he's contacting you 2-3 times a week because he hasn't dealt with this same ambivalence that justified dropping you from his life in the first place?

I think he's been spoiled by your one-way friendship in which he is the main recipient of what positive support the friendship has to offer, and now if you get back together, be prepared for the same reason to come up when being mindful of your needs in return suddenly causes him to feel ambivalent again. The only pro I can see coming from spending time with him is an improved awareness of your own need for someone who is as mindful of their partner's needs around anxiety and depression as you are.

Nthing that he is actually insulting you with his indecisiveness.
posted by human ecologist at 11:40 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

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