Ex wants to reconcile. I said no, but not sure it's the right decision?
May 17, 2014 4:41 PM   Subscribe

Ex broke up with me 2 months ago and asked for reconciliation a week later. I have chosen not to reconcile but am having doubts about this decision.

You’ll see my recent post about break up and him immediately regretting it. Cliffnotes: last Summer we decided we would move abroad together in a year’s time. In the meantime I had taken a brilliant first graduate job & was spending time with a relative with a terminal illness. I had warned him about my family going through a difficult time before we got into the relationship and he still said he wanted to be with me. The other downside was that to move beside the job I would be 1 ½ hours away from him but for a year we thought we could do it.

But a few weeks after my relative died he actually blew up saying everything was “always about your needs”. He had a tendency to bottle things up instead of communicating. But we seemed to get over the worst of it and I did try to say we had had to weather a hard time and things would get better. Things had generally always been very good between us and he was the first guy I could ever really see myself moving in with and looking at building a life together.

But around Feb time he became distant – was more reluctant to visit me (we alternated visiting each other) & said we needed to try moving in together at home before we moved abroad. This was difficult/not going to be easy for a few reasons. He started becoming very critical and broke up with me a month later then regretted it a week later saying he’d made “a terrible mistake”. Cue many long, heartfelt emails but I was still in a state of shock.

And now? I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel love, or hate, (occasionally anger) and it worries me a bit. Have I fallen out of love completely? I did feel somewhat betrayed by the break up because it was somewhat out of the blue. Every so often I receive a message from him asking how I am, asking what I’m doing and that he hopes I’m well. Also that he hopes we can talk again in the future. But I never respond.


- I loved him and I’m pretty sure he loved me
- He was kind most of the time
- I clicked with him on a deeper level than most people I have known
- The sex/compatibility in that area was incredible!

- He repeatedly bottled things up instead of discussing them.
- He took any issue I brought up as a criticism of his entire being. Then he went into a shell and became distant from me. I was his first proper long term relationship (he is in his late 20s) and sometimes it felt like training a teen how to communicate.
- A point I think is important – he sometimes said he felt we were uequal (this is related to our jobs) and after he broke up with me I felt that maybe this was his way of regaining power and maybe it wouldn’t last. Then I was right and he came back.

The thing I’m most scared of is stubbornly choosing not to reconcile if we could be happy together. And potentially not meeting someone else I love – I was really disappointed with my ex boyfriend’s decision partly because I feel many couples these days give up at the first hurdle. I feel like he did that and felt we were worth more. I’m terrified of taking the wrong path when it comes to love.

Usually I make decisions and am happy that they are the correct ones. In deciding to not reconcile, I have no idea whether it is the best decision for me or not in the long run and that worries me. I think about him every day but maybe that’s normal at this stage. How can I feel at peace?

The thing is I am still going to go abroad and live for a while and I know that he is too. I so wish we had had that opportunity to travel together because I think it could have been great but I now don’t feel I could ever trust him not to abandon me. I am sometimes so mad at him for messing up a great potential. To me we were a unit. We had our issues but I didn’t think we would ever give up on each other. And then he broke that unit.

What are your thoughts?
posted by Kat_Dubs to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
He's cuckoo and you should stay far away from him.
posted by bq at 4:51 PM on May 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

The way you put it, loyalty and a sense of being a team is what you value most in a relationship. Particilarly when life is challenging. But this guy's style of communicating, especially when faced with a challenge, is to attempt to manipulate you, whether with silence, a cold shoulder, or a breakup. In other words, the opposite of the team idea. You sound fundamentally incompatible to me. If you need to think about whether to keep him in terms of your overall romantic prospects and goals, I guess you have to assess how likely you think you are to attract someone better, or whether you'd be happier alone than with him.
posted by Philemon at 5:02 PM on May 17, 2014 [8 favorites]

From what you've written about him previously, I think your decision to leave him in your past is an excellent one. Don't let him invade your mind space. It'll get easier as time passes. Wishing he was different and things could have been different is natural. But, wishing doesn't change intrinsic problems and red flags into a blissful union.
posted by quince at 5:05 PM on May 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

You'll love again. You'll find sexual chemistry again. Don't worry.
posted by discopolo at 5:11 PM on May 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think you can safely leave this one in the breakup column. Sometimes we meet people who do have real potential, but for whatever reason are not ready on a mental/emotional level to be good for us. They're unripe fruit. Dude's not ready. Dude is only kind to you "most of the time". Dude can't handle his emotions or communicating. Whatever maturing process he needs is going to take longer than two months - and your presence will not speed it up. Nah, leave that green apple on the tree. Go travel and meet more people. Maybe drop the frequency of contact with him if you find it stirs up conflict for you.

Life is funny and if that potential is strong and true, maybe your paths will cross later, in five or ten years or longer. But right now, he's not capable of being good for you. Choose what is good for you.
posted by griselda at 5:11 PM on May 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

"I clicked with him on a deeper level than most people I have known"

A truth I have gradually learned (and still work on!) is that if you struggle with self-worth issues, past trauma, dysfunctional childhood issues... immediately "clicking" with someone does not necessarily mean true connection. That comfortable feeling may be because it's what you're used to. Is what you're used to - the relationship with this guy - what you want for yourself in the long run? Is how you feel when he says critical things to you, breaks up with you with no warning, and rebuffs your requests for support the way you want to feel in a romantic relationship?

The body wants what it wants. But I am supremely confident that if you move on from this guy (and if you choose to do so, cut off contact by all means! don't email him back! don't engage!) you will not only find someone you click with, you will find someone who you can feel comfortable and affectionate with who WILL ALSO care about you and treat you in a loving way. You can have great sex with other guys. You can click with other guys. It may be hard, but it is TOTALLY POSSIBLE.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 5:32 PM on May 17, 2014 [13 favorites]

"And now? I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel love, or hate, (occasionally anger) and it worries me a bit. Have I fallen out of love completely?"

I'm not entirely convinced you ever were in love. I mean this break up literally only happened about 8 weeks ago and already you say your major feeling toward him is indifference. I think it's something else that's making you reconsider. Perhaps the fear of potentially 'missing out' is being mistaken for being in love on your part.

Perhaps this is a blessing because it seems he's not as emotionally mature as you are anyway. He has obviously tried to manipulate you due to his own insecurities. It's probably best to cut your losses now.
posted by manderin at 5:33 PM on May 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh hey I remember you; that was not a good relationship. Trait me you'll have much better than that one. Successful reconciliation is pretty unusual, and sport unusual at your age, with good reason. Eyes forward, look to a better future, and what kind of relationship your next one will look like, to Moshe your happy.
posted by smoke at 6:02 PM on May 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your staunch commitment to relationships will serve you well -- when you meet someone who has the same staunch commitment you do. This guy demonstrated that he's someone who will run. Maybe this breakup will be a lesson to him in the longer term future. However, I don't think the right choice is to make up for his lack of commitment by putting in extra commitment on your side.

What's to say that he won't go critical on you, then leave again, but when the stakes are higher? When you've had kids and you're "putting the child's needs over his." Or when life throws you another curve ball. He broke your trust. It's unfortunate, but that's what happened.

Unfortunately, in your shoes, I don't think I could bet my life on someone who showed this lack of commitment. The really unfortunate part is that there's a good chance he'd be fine in the future and not do it again. But best practices say that when you are in this situation, you should respond a certain way which is to see the red flag and heed it.

It's definitely a tough choice though, and I feel for you.
posted by htid at 6:18 PM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

That said, love is worth something, and life's not perfect, and if you decided to reconcile, you wouldn't be the stupidest person ever. Sort of depends on how you went about it, and whether you got counseling, etc.
posted by htid at 6:28 PM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can do better, and at any rate this relationship is not in move-in condition.
posted by rhizome at 6:33 PM on May 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

You have a lot of CONS. In the end you want someone you feel right with. Trust your gut, release and move on :)
posted by cheetahchick at 6:44 PM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I’m terrified of taking the wrong path when it comes to love.

By my figuring there are really only two ways to 'take the wrong path' when it comes to love. The first is to cut yourself off from it. The second, and IMHO the relevant one here, is to lock yourself into a relationship that isn't working, thereby preventing you from finding one that would be good.

It sounds to me that you should let this one go so you can find a relationship that you really want.

As for your conviction that travelling together would be great, as a former tour leader, trust me when I tell you that travelling together places more stress on a relationship than most people realize. I have seen more couples than I can count go on an overseas adventure thinking that it would strengthen a shakey relationship. Occasionally it worked but more often than not, it was the beginning if the end (and sometimes it was literally the end).
posted by scrute at 7:11 PM on May 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

He was kind most of the time

Don't let him suck you back in. Find someone who is kind ALL the time. My husband isn't perfect like me :) but he's always kind and decent. "Most of the time" is not good enough. We have our moments but he's never unkind. You deserve someone who's kind all the time.
posted by Kangaroo at 7:18 PM on May 17, 2014 [16 favorites]

You made the right decision. Your regret or uncertainty is not an indication that you were wrong. It's growing pains, as you learn how to make healthier choices. As stated up thread, clicking and great sex aren't good reasons to stay in a bad relationship. Trust us - and your gut - this was a bad relationship. You will learn from it. Look up. Better days are coming.
posted by Gray Skies at 8:26 PM on May 17, 2014

next bus around the corner, as i once read on another comment on this site. you'll meet another person with whom you feel love, sexual chemistry, and the potential to build a life together. leave him behind. "kind most of the time" doesn't make a reliable partner.
posted by zdravo at 9:27 PM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

You made absolutely the right decision when you broke up with him! The only way you could make it 'wrong' is if you were to cave in and take this guy back.

Look, you obviously began questioning this relationship long time ago: back in December, when you'd said only been together for six months, you were having problems with him. He's basically always been pressuring you into things; you apparently starting dating him just last summer and almost immediately he got you to agree you would move abroad together in a year, plus he's been pretty insistent on moving in with you from the very start. Now he's trying to pressure you into taking his ass back..... please don't do it!

As I said in your last question about him, when everything is going his way and people do what he wants, he's sweet and loving; when you don't fall in with his every plan or do what he tells you do to, he borders on (if he's not actually over the line of) emotional abuse. When you had a job equal to his part-time dead-end position, you were fine; when you got a job better than his, with actual advancement possibilities, instead of getting off his butt and doing something about his own job, he sulked. When you've been simply too tired or in actual physical pain to go along with his demands, he sulked. When your grandfather died, for crying out loud he sulked.

Please: not only don't take him back, you should go 100% No Contact with him for a minimum of six months, preferably a full year. That means send him one --- and only one! --- message that you do not want him to contact you in any way. Then you hold firm: never answer any phone calls, facebook messages, texts, emails, carrier pigeons, or anything else from him. Tell your friends you do not want to hear one word from or about him. Delete him from your phone, block him from facebook, send all his emails directly to the trash. "No Contact" means exactly that: totally, completely, absolutely no contact whatsoever.
posted by easily confused at 5:41 AM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can't ever be happy with him if he bottles things up, is oversensitive to criticism and has that weird ego power balance thing going. And by the way, "going into a shell" when you try to have a conversation is classic emotional manipulation if not right out emotional abuse. (That sounds harsh but I premise that on my experience in at least three relationships with guys who would claim "past trauma" at relationship conversations and get all strong & silent whenever I'd have something I needed to talk about. Bad times. You deserve to be listened to AND get a response.)

Getting (back) with someone who has these known-Cons is like buying pants two sizes to small. Yes, they are cute and on sale and yes, they will be perfect and comfortable when you're done with Insanity. But if that's the only pair of pants you get, you're going to be pants-less for at least eight weeks. In relationship years, that's actually never because he's not going to change.
posted by mibo at 6:02 AM on May 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

PS. "Kind most of the time" is utterly insufficient. People who are truly kind are kind even when arguing, when getting poor service at a restaurant and when cut off in traffic. People who are kind "most of the time" are manipulators who can turn it on and off to get what they want. "Cruel a little of the time" is an unacceptable trait for a happy relationship, in my experience. Everyone has their faults, but based on this and your last several posts, you should stay far away from this guy and stay single long enough to figure out the basis of the attraction once the emotions recede. I regret not giving myself time to do that and ending up with three predatory manipulators instead of just the one.
posted by mibo at 6:06 AM on May 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think about him every day but maybe that’s normal at this stage.

Yup. Highly normal. I still think about an ex of mine at least a couple times a week, and we've been broken up two years, and if I ever saw him in person I'd have to physically restrain myself from setting him on fire, that's how much I dislike him. But your brain gets used to thinking about a person and takes a long time to learn Not to think about that person. It does not mean anything at all except that you're not done wrapping your brain around the situation and its aftermath.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:15 AM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you made the right decision not to reconcile. Second-guessing that decision, especially given your fear of "taking the wrong path when it comes to love" is pretty normal.

I bet, dollars to donuts, when he starts dating again you'll stop hearing from him.
posted by sm1tten at 12:20 PM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The first two cons you mentioned remind me of problems my husband and I had in the early years. We were strongly committed to each other; neither of us thought of breaking up over our differences. I went to a therapist on my own and she immediately suggested that H and I get some training specifically in communicating and arguing. That training was brief (two sessions) and the changes were pretty difficult in the beginning, but it changed our relationship completely. With practice, we learned to trust that each of us was acting from their best self.

The communication principles are just the usual 'listening skills,' 'active listening,' 'assertiveness training,' etc. You can find explanations and examples all over the internet. When I first heard the rules and guidelines, I though it sounded simplistic and I doubted it could help in real life -- but it did, and continues to help us even after 25 years of marriage. I do think that we benefited a lot from having the therapist with us when we first tried it out. We needed a referee to keep us on track because we had habits and feelings that kept pulling us back to our bad communication modes.

Even if you decide not to reunite with this guy, it would be good for your future relationships for you to learn how to listen and to make sure your guy hears what you need to say.
posted by wryly at 1:21 PM on May 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh I'm positive it was the right decision, as I was dating the same person and broke up with him three months ago. Seriously. Same guy. Whenever I expressed emotions to him, it pissed him off. Didn't really matter what emotion it was. Even happiness was a challenge. My conclusion was that he was actually, in a sense, insane, in that he was looking at me expecting to see himself. Otherwise known as a Narcissist. They don't tend to get better. We can expect far more from a partner.

Peace and joy to you.
posted by macinchik at 3:08 AM on May 24, 2014

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