How can I move on from this even though I won't get any real space from him?
November 23, 2005 12:37 AM   Subscribe

My housemate and I have been having a relationship (of sorts) for the past 2 months. Two nights ago he ended it all, saying he wasn't ready for a relationship and it was making him unhappy. I know it was only 2 months but I feel distraught and broken hearted, and what's worse, I live with him, I have to see him every single day. What can I do to make this easier to get over and move on from?

He basically messed me around for 2 months, one minute saying he was crazy about me and the next, telling me he didn't know if this was what he wanted. I know I should have walked away ages ago but I'm not that kind of person, I usually stick around until the very end, and besides which the only reason I let it go on for so long was because when it was good, it was the best I've ever felt in my life. I've never felt like this about anybody. It sounds extreme I know, but I'm a very passionate person and tend to put my heart into things very fast. Besides the fact that I had a crush on him all last year anyway.
Now it's over I don't really know what to do with myself, and I don't know how to act around him. Beforehand we had an incredible friendship as well as the romantic side, and neither of us want to lose the friendship but I don't see how I can spend lots of time with him without my feelings flooding back.
I suppose it's some comfort to know he has feelings for me - in his own words, "I make him happy, but relationships don't". I know that sounds crazy but it makes sense to me - he came out of a 3 year relationship (that messed him up quite badly towards the end) only 6 months ago. I know, I should've stayed clear all the way along, given this information.
I guess I'm just asking how to stop my life from turning crap now - I've already been fretting that I'm going to have to move out so I don't see him all the time. It's going to be awful knowing he's not mine, and never will be. But at the same time, we have to maintain a fairly close bond, if nothing else, for the rest of our housemates (I live with four boys and two girls).

How soon can I just move on from this and start to look at him in a platonic light? Please say it'll be sooner rather than later. But I can't force it, pretending to myself that I'm over it won't work at all. And neither will being out of the house all the time - apart from anything else I can't afford it, I don't have a car, it's unsafe for a female to be out on her own at night, and it's really cold where I live now.
Argh. I hate love. It sucks.
posted by trampesque to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
i feel for you! getting over someone sucks, especially when you see him/her on a daily basis. first of all: can you move out? if so it would make life much simpler and probably allow you and all your housemates to remain close.
if not, in my experience it's kind of a matter of convincing yourself that it wasn't right for you either. without turning the other person into a monster, think of all the reasons that you were NOT compatible, rather than what you miss. find every reason you can think of that you're better off now. later, once he's not occupying every thought of your waking/sleeping life, then you can think about reasons you want to still be friends with him.
i'm in a somewhat similar boat at the moment, and it's not a fun place to be. be strong.
posted by purplefiber at 1:16 AM on November 23, 2005

I wonder if two months is a short enough period of time that you guys may have a chance at forgetting that this ever happened and go back to being friends. That's a very hard thing to do, and most people don't, so you should be realistic about it.

The last long-term relationship I had ended in 2001 after about three years. We were always better friends than lovers—we could stay cooped up 24/7 for weeks at a time without getting irritable or tired of each other. She moved away and we've kept in touch and she actually just got married this summer. We find that when we talk there's a set of subjects about which it feels like old times and then there's other things where there's not much to say to each other or awkward silence. I guess I'm trying to say that even when you have a pair of people like myself and my ex who are both very forgiving and kind hearted and where both really want to continue to be friends, it's still hard and it's not like it used to be.

From your description it sounds like he very much isn't ready for a relationship. Try very hard to resist the temptation to get back together (if he has second thoughts, and he might) because nothing will have changed. He's not ready. Sooner or later if you do get back together, you'll get the ambivalence and confusion you've already had once.

As far as sooner or later, I think that a two-month relationship is one that you'll get over the breakup more sooner than later. I read somewhere that the rule of thumb for divorces is about 1 to 2 years to "recover" and that was my experience and pretty much everyone I know who's been married and divorced. So at least you can console yourself that it could be worse. When you're miserable after a divorce, being miserable for a year seems like some sort of sadistic joke played by the deity.

Your core problem right now—that you are actually living with this person—is a hard one to solve assuming you can't move out. It is pretty possibe (believe me, I'm good at it) to do your own thing and not see your roommate(s) for weeks at a time. If somehow you can do that, do it. Even if you're both wanting to remain friends, right now you need some distance, somehow.

Best advice: be active. It's not so much getting out of the house as it is being active and having other things to think about. Know that although people will be flippant about how bad you feel, because it is common what you're feeling, the other side of that coin is that lots of people can deeply relate to how bad you're feeling, and some of them you can talk to, but also mostly remind yourself that other people do actually understand and care. But be active. Be active, do things, and while you're doing those things you'll be happier and maybe you'll meet someone new. And that's the most effective antidote there is.

And what purplefiber said. I absolutely refuse to demonize any of my exes and convince myself that they were horrible and it was all their fault. You sound like the kind of person who may not be inclined to that, but you can still talk yourself out of thinking the relationship was the best thing ever. I mean, it wasn't, right? There were big problems. On the other hand, if you're okay with totally demonizing him, from my observation that's a very effective way to get over a failed relationship.

I feel for you, I really do. That awfullness one feels after a breakup is, for me anyway, almost the worst thing I ever experience in my life. It does go away, eventually. Occasionally much more quickly than you expect!
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:23 AM on November 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

I am sorry to hear that. :(

You need time apart. One of you needs to move out.
posted by Marquis at 1:29 AM on November 23, 2005

I suspect in this early stage of breakup you still get some sort of comfort from having him around, despite the pain, and that's holding you back from making the tough decision. Marquis's right: move out or kick him out. You may eventually get some perspective on what happened and rekindle your friendship with this guy, but it will be that much harder while you're still living with him.
posted by londonmark at 1:50 AM on November 23, 2005

I dated and fell in love with a neighbor and I regret not moving out immediately after the relationship ended. It was just impossible to get over her when I saw her all the time. Save yourself the agony by moving out now.
Hang in there.
posted by spork at 1:55 AM on November 23, 2005

in his own words, "I make him happy, but relationships don't"

Translation: You don't make him happy enough to be in a relationship with him.

Snap out of it. You're thankful that he admits to 'some' feelings? He's stringing you along like a high school girl. He knew you had a crush on him so he had a little fun. The newness wore off and now he's done with you.

I could be wrong, but if you decide you can be friends with him and then he knocks on your bedroom door in a month at least admit to yourself why he's there and what he sees you as. If you're ok with that fine, but don't sugarcoat it. It is what it is. And a relationship it isn't, and won't be. He's told you that through his words and actions.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 2:24 AM on November 23, 2005

Staying together in the same living space will only make things worse no matter which way they turn. You both need space to grow, time to think, and space to redevelop yourselves. You have to work on yourself and do what it takes to be happy. You can't solve the problems of the relationship or his issues, but you can give yourself a better life, and indeed it is necessary if you ever want to be able to relate to him again. I would try to do that, and let your relationship evolve with him naturally out of where you are at, rather than where you wish to be. I know this is hard, and I'm going through a vaguely similar situation, but seems to be the way forward for me anyway. good luck!
posted by aussicht at 3:10 AM on November 23, 2005

I should probably say at this point that either of us moving out is not a possibility. Not only do we both love all the other people we live with and are otherwise very happy living here, but our contract states that if we move out, we have to pay rent on our rooms until WE find someone else to move into it. We're students and can't afford that!!!!! and are living in a house that is a good walking distance to University. Student accomodation is extremely hard to come by this late into the term, unless you move in to a house with random strangers, which would be absolutely horrible. There is no option of either of us moving out.
posted by trampesque at 3:23 AM on November 23, 2005

I think that you are making a mistake by removing that possibility. In my opinion it is a requirement for feeling better. Which is harder - living very unhappily in one place, or finding somewhere else?

In a student area, accommodation will be opening up in December and the beginning of January as new half-term students come and go. The "find someone to replace you" stipulation is common in most shared accommodation and is not really that hard - just as you are looking for a place, other people are too. Either you or your ex should plan to move out on February 1st, say, and then go about trying to find someone to move in on that day.

Seriously, you need to reconsider your position. "How will I start to feel better when I am still - and will continue to be - living in the same house, regularly seeing the person who broke my heart?" Well, you won't: at least not quickly.
posted by Marquis at 3:53 AM on November 23, 2005

And BTW, if you haven't realised, by both of you staying there you are making things very unpleasant for your other roommates.
posted by Marquis at 3:57 AM on November 23, 2005

You have to move. If you weren't feeling as strongly as you do, it wouldn't be an issue, but you do and it's going to make your life miserable. Since you're the one with the hurt feelings (and that's ok) you should move as soon as you can.

Otherwise you're just going to make yourself and the rest of the house miserable.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:58 AM on November 23, 2005

read somewhere that the rule of thumb for divorces is about 1 to 2 years to "recover"

I don't think there are rules of thumb for these things. I had heard that it takes 1/2 the time of the relationship to get over it. B.S. It can take longer or shorter depending on various factors, like the intensity of your feelings, the circumstances of the breakup.

Anyway, I say the best solution to feeling awkward and unhappy is to find somebody new asap. It doesn't have to be the perfect somebody by any means. And I'm not saying you should use somebody as your rebound either. But sometimes it's possible to be more open to relationships & to seek out relationships much more actively than you normally do (or I normally do), and I think now's the time to do it. NOTHING made me get over relationship angst like a new relationship. And the new one is soooo much better, incidentally. (3 years later)

Otherwise, I agree, be as busy as possible. Do something to improve your life, to make you proud. I've found shopping and hair treatments makes me feel better at times like these.
posted by Amizu at 5:18 AM on November 23, 2005

When this guy is finally "ready" for relationships and it's with women who aren't you--whom you'll be forced to be aware of (even meet, even know when he's started being physically intimate, etc.)--this living situation is going to seem much less cool and worth hanging on to. You think it's bad now? Don't be that unfair to yourself, to leave yourself in that kind of situation. I have an ex I'm still friendly with, and an ex I was happy to leave, and I STILL wouldn't want to have to be privy to the intimate details of either their latest sexual conquests.
posted by availablelight at 5:48 AM on November 23, 2005

Even if it's not a possibility for you to move out right now, at the very least you need to put some distance between you and him. Is there a friend you can stay with for a few days? Some universities have temporary student housing or housing counselors that you can go to with situations like these. Can you move out for a week or so, stay with somebody and just get your head on straight for a while? Getting over something like this with him in the actual house will be extremely painful otherwise.

Good luck. Situations like this suck. I feel for you.
posted by jennyjenny at 5:51 AM on November 23, 2005

Um. It was only two months. The relationship didn't end on a bad note. The day will come when you'll be friends again. The world isn't ending. Life will go on.

You may feel terrible now but it passes. These things always do. Next week you won't feel quite as bad. Three weeks and you'll be 90% operational. You don't need to move out or make any drastic changes to your life. If you have a friend you can crash with for a week or two, that'd be best. If not, then simply do your best to avoid all contact with him. Nothing beyond "hi" and "bye." It'll be difficult but you can do it.

A tip: write out a contract with yourself. 'For the next three months (12 weeks), I will have no more than minimal social contact with my roomate/ex and do my best to affect a polite but distant manner when in his company.' Whatever it takes.

Another tip: stay out of the house as long as possible. Take all your meals outside. Eat at friends house. Hang out at the library or Starbucks. Wake up in the morning, leave the house, and don't return until late at night. As soon as you get in, go to your room, close the door, and sleep. You should rarely see him unless you're trying to bump into him or hang out with him.

Also, you should really give up any hope that you'll ever have a serious relationship with this guy. It's quite clear you like him far, far more than he likes you. This is a terrible situation to be in already but hoping that you'll be friends or such "sooner rather than later" is terribly unhealthy. Admit to yourself that this is not the guy for you and you'll never be more than "friendly" with him (if not actual friends). And you should not be looking forward to even that. If you guys can get by as "tolerable, polite roomates whom you see a few times a week" until the lease runs out that'd probably be best for everybody.
posted by nixerman at 6:49 AM on November 23, 2005

This may suck, but you were the rebound and he treated you like one. Friends don't do that to friends, 'cause it's dickish.
I don't know if you need to move out. The people advocating that seem to be made of weaker stuff. You do want to be the first one to get laid, which is about the best burn you can lay on a housemate who dicked you over. Don't be desperate, just be more open, as the poster said above. (And since what he did was unfair, I've got no problem with advocating that you tell him that you'd be uncomfortable with him bringing any other girls home for a while. Make him wait until you've got something new.)
But honestly, you sound like you're pretty young. This sort of thing happens and you just kinda have to deal with it as part of being an adult. You're probably not gonna end up friends, and you're totally within your rights to be cold to him (you should make sure that at least some of your housemates know what happened, as, again, he's the dick here so they should be sympathetic). Don't go looking for drama though, as it will make everyone resent you even if he's the cad.
posted by klangklangston at 7:00 AM on November 23, 2005

I'm going through the process of watching my live-in boyfriend of 3.5 years move out. It's very painful, but I'm learning that having somewhere else to sleep (my parents' place) when I can't handle it helps. It's also important to let yourself feel unhappy in that space for a while--if you don't feel it, you'll never heal.

Letting myself reorganize the space keeps me busy, and I try to do silly things that make me feel better--like lighting a candle to clear out the air, buying new sheets, listening to music he'd never liked and singing along. I'm also keeping busy, working on new projects, buying travel guides and planning vacations. I like to believe that when he comes by to pick up another load of his sweaters, he sees a woman who is sad but surviving, someone who is determined to succeed in spite of the fact that he lost faith in me.

There's power in surviving, and power in learning from the ways loss deepens you in a person. Let yourself feel that power in your house, and after a while you'll be miles beyond the place he used to occupy in your life.
posted by hamster at 8:26 AM on November 23, 2005

I'm very sorry that you're in such a position. I went through something similar a few years ago and I know the situation is hard, but I have to also chime in "Move out!" Dec-Jan is actually an ok time to look for a place. Post on craigslist to find someone to pick up your end of the lease. Your landlord won't care. He's renting to students so as long as someone is paying rent he's happy.

That said, get busy, get out of the house, try not to return before 10pm. Pick up a hobby, pick up an instrument, volunteer, get in touch with old friends, join a club at school, what the hell, study.

And as someone who's also lived with people who went through a situation like yours, I have to say that when you guys stepped over the line you kinda dragged everyone else into it too. It sounds unfair considering the shit situation you're in but living in a house with more than one person requires that you consider their living situation as well. Not saying anything is your fault, but just the tension in that house must be uncomfortable for everyone and moping around will not solve anything. Keep moving and good luck!
posted by like_neon at 8:51 AM on November 23, 2005

I know this goes against all the advice here, but I'll throw it out there if moving out is really not an option. I once moved in with a ex (and other roommates) shortly after a breakup. It was probably a more mutual breakup than yours, as things were great for a few months -- it was as if we were still dating, without the physical intimacy. Some friends didn't realize we'd broken up.

Once we started casually dating other people it got very hard (I hated passing girls on the way to the bathroom in the morning). And then it got easier. That's just how it happens.

We even moved together to the next apartment too, and are still friends.
posted by nev at 10:36 AM on November 23, 2005

He's just not that into you.

Ok, sorry, wisecrack.

I've been there, dating a housemate (almost a year, though), and moving out was the solution for sure. We stayed pretty close (even had a couple more dalliances, but neither of us was laboring under any illusions that we could restart it, so it was okay).

I recommend the move out. Leveling-down your intimacy in such intimate conditions is extremely difficult and uncomfortable, not just for you two, but for your housemates as well.

If maintaining a close friendship is a priority for both of you (I sincerely hope it is), then moving out & making some time to hang out away from the housemates/social circle will help it happen. Moving out will also clarify your feelings and clarify his intentions re: lasting friendship.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:29 PM on November 23, 2005

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