A tale of "no contact": what was your journey & how did you survive?
February 1, 2016 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I had to go NC due to unrequited love. I seemed to be recovering, but one circumstance has pushed me way off kilter again.

Two months ago I posted this: http://ask.metafilter.com/289378/Have-I-ended-an-emotional-affair-or-a-friendship-was-I-becoming-OW. I have remained steadfast with NC, sending any potential emails to a folder where I can't see them. But I'm worried about the way my mental & emotional state has been going.

For the most part, I'd been okay. Thinking about him less, until 1 1/2 weeks ago when his best male friend Robbie contacted me (it has been about 6 years since we've talked). He told me he was just off of the phone to ex-friend & thought he'd check in and say hello because, hey, it's been so long! Throughout the conversation it became clear that while the two guys had talked about me, ex-friend had not told Robbie that we weren't on speaking terms. Awkward, and isn't it a bit odd if they're so close?

It got me thinking about him again & since then I've got into an unbreakable thinking about him cycle again. Example: a friend joked about being "looking back on this when you're 50..." and I imagined being 50 and having never spoken to my friend in all those years. I burst into tears.

Despite how people have told me ex-friend is no good I loved/love him anyway. He may not have acted completely nobly recently, but before that he was a kindred spirit and once of the best friends I've had. There have been a few kindred spirits in my life and many other types of friends too. I'm not sure how to weather this, because I haven't really faced it before. Break ups were different.

I join classes, meet people, live my life - but deep inside, I feel profoundly sad/like there's a grey shadow over my life. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think "hey, you look pretty hot today" then remember my best friend rejected me and feel ugly again. This is not me. I seem to be getting sadder, rather than recovering. Those who have been here, what was your journey like and how did you re-emerge? I need hope...
posted by Ariel432 to Human Relations (27 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I got through similar circumstances by no-contacting the people who were really their friends, not mine. In my situation, this was probably a relief for them. They didn't necessarily want to talk to me any more either.

He might have been a kindred spirit before, but he stopped through his own actions. He wasn't really your best friend. You need to stop looking at yourself through his eyes.
posted by RainyJay at 2:12 PM on February 1, 2016 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I remember your question and I'm sorry you're still grieving. But I smell a rat here. Just like your friend kept you separate from his girlfriend, he also apparently kept you separate from his best friend-- and that's just off. And then the best friend, after six years, just,suddenly, decides to call you from out of the blue? Your friend set up Robbie to get in touch with you and kept out the key information that you weren't on speaking terms so that Robbie would comply.

That means your friend is still being emotionally dishonest with, well, everyone including you, Robbie, the girlfriend, and himself. He's moving the people in his life around a game board according to rules only he understands. He is not ready for an adult relationship with you, tragic though that may be. Consequently, no contact is clearly the right decision.

The only way out is through, and the above is intended to give you a spine stiffener if/when you need it. It's early days yet. Stay strong, seek out other friends and new activities, and be kind to yourself.
posted by carmicha at 2:21 PM on February 1, 2016 [37 favorites]

You need to make sure that you actually grieve this and don't just freeze in place.

The person you're idealizing is gone. That person that you knew is someone else now. And that's kind of normal for adults - we change over time, though if we're lucky we get better and not worse, but even good friendships with no precipitating event or disaster tend to fade as people grow and change in their lives and just stop fitting together.

You have to learn to let go. Invent a ritual for yourself, if you need to, to acknowledge or thank the universe or whatever for the good things that you got from that relationship, and then close the book. This is not the only non-material loss you're going to have in your life, choose to be in charge of managing those feelings instead of waiting for them to manage themselves.

He didn't tell his friend you weren't close anymore because he doesn't want to have to explain his role in that. He basically lied by omission to this "friend" of his, putting Robbie in the position to embarrass himself unknowingly, rather than pants up and admit it. So...in case you thought he was getting better, he's not.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:21 PM on February 1, 2016 [12 favorites]

What a load of game playing BULLSHIT.

You get over this by recognizing Robbie knows EXACTLY that you are no contact with that guy. They are gaslighting you, and you should be super fucking angry. It was a fact finding phone call. Block these numbers or change your phone number. Get yourself away from this toxic evil situation.

This is not love, it's manipulation.

Take your precious life back by further blocking or changing your number or whatever - but make future contact impossible. You deserve better. This phone call from Robbie was gross boundary crossing disrespectful of your feelings and autonomy and wellbeing BULLSHIT.

Drop kick this out of your life. Get back to taking care of yourself. #TeamYou
posted by jbenben at 2:22 PM on February 1, 2016 [34 favorites]

Now you know why it's no contact. You were fine until this dude stirred up all those feelings. It's a set back, but you'll be back on an even keel shortly.

Please remember that the unworthy object of your affections wasn't all great, in fact he yanked you around and treated you badly. Don't dwell on the good stuff, don't even think about the shady stuff. Just distract yourself again.

I like making a play list of songs that remind me that sometimes love jerks us around, but we survive it:

Too Many Fish in the Sea-The Marvelettes
No Guilt-The Waitresses
Hey Jealousy-Gin Blossoms
The Impression that I get-Mighty, Mighty, Bosstones
Train in Vain-The Clash

I had more, your list will be different. The list should empower you. I listened to mine on repeat for about 8 hours straight.

Set me right up.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:22 PM on February 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Rainyjay, in my mind he was a kindred spirit until about 2 years ago when he changed. He's been a different person to me since his most recent relationship, . I am able to rationalise that the friendship could no longer work - but emotionally, this isn't working out for me.

Honestly guys - I am 90% sure Robbie doesn't know. Ex-friend is a renowned flake, but Robbie is a renowned sweetheart & we have more mutual friends. I don't think he'd wish to upset me. I'm not ruling it out, but I believe ex-friend has not told him.

I know I should be angry. But I'm just grey - and grieving. I rationally know I was right to cut this off but my emotions are getting stuck. I'm hoping for some hopeful stories who've (somewhat) been there & got through it & are okay.
posted by Ariel432 at 2:26 PM on February 1, 2016

Best answer: It's okay to be sad about your friend not being in your life anymore. You don't have to convince yourself he's a bad person. Everyone has friends they miss in their past - it's normal to miss people you aren't in contact with anymore, especially ones you felt like you had a special connection with at some point. Just let yourself be upset for a while.

The key thing to know, though, is that your emotions don't have to dictate your actions. You can feel mad and sad and lonely without making poor decisions that drag out those emotions for longer than they would normally take to run their course. Just keep putting one step in front of the other. Two months is not a very long time.
posted by something something at 2:36 PM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Upon your update.... I'm so sorry. There's like a 2% chance Robbie did not know. Maybe he thinks he's helping the manipulative guy out and "helping" you both by getting in touch?

This friend group is lots of drama and boundary trampling and it's no good for you. I want you to get over this and be happy. That only starts to happen when you stop making excuses for other people and giving non-deserving sitiations the benefit of the doubt. That's how you break free and grieve and get over it - you put yourself first no matter what.

You haven't spoken to Robbie in 6 years? Why do you think you still know him. People change a lot, hopefully, they grow up.

Robbie is meddling in something that does not involve him, and the results for you have not been great. Even if he was meddling out of a misguided impulse to help you mend fences, that's still immature and uncool because you already made your decision. He's interfering with your goal of caring for yourself. Independent of motive, that's the bottom line.

It walked like a duck, talked like a duck, and hurt you in the gut exactly like that duck you are trying to get over has hurt you in the past. It's the same duck that hurts you, just a different delivery system. Drop that duck. That duck sucks. Stop me before I pun again!!

I've been in your shoes. Stack of bibles, a generous reading of what happened is you hurting yourself more. Get on your own side. Close the door tight and ignore future knocks at the door. Time. Space. Breathe. Heal. Thrive.
posted by jbenben at 2:40 PM on February 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Even if Robbie doesn't know, you still don't need to talk to him if it brings up thoughts of your ex-friend. Take another step back.
posted by RainyJay at 2:41 PM on February 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was going through a rough time in my life because reasons, and someone came into my life .. it felt like he was my best friend. We spent tons of time together. We went to concerts and basketball games together. We laughed at the same things. We had a million inside jokes. I hung out with his family and friends.

But he didn't have those feelings for me. He non-apologized ("If I've crossed any lines, I apologize" - he totally had) and things were awkward for maybe 6-12 months (Unfortunately, I couldn't go NC). Everyone else knew it was unrequited - my Mom even bought me that book "He's just not that into you."

I have since learned that we really weren't super compatible. We didn't talk about anything serious, goals for the future, stuff like that. We talked about sports and TV shows. What this person was wasn't my best friend or my soulmate - he was a friend who I got to hang out with when I was extremely lonely.

The hurt eventually goes away.

I agree with others - extend the NC to his friends, too. Just give yourself some time. Things get better - promise! And I am sure you'll find someone who wants to be with you.
posted by getawaysticks at 2:46 PM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: getawaysticks - your post has made me realise something. When it came to conversations, my friend & I were the opposite. We had intense political, philosophical, what are our dreams and how will we fulfil them talks that I generally only have with about 3 or so other people in my life. The ones I call kindred spirits. Most friends I meet are great people I can feel happy with and hang out with, but that don't quite reach that level. We'd easily finish each other's sentences & I think I'm grieving the loss of a rare connection that could not have continued for several reasons. But strangely? The intensity of the friendship overwhelmed me.

I'm really hoping the hurt does eventually go away. I don't want to have regrets. I want to believe you!
posted by Ariel432 at 2:53 PM on February 1, 2016

A story of two breakups, both romantic:

NC: Hurt like hell, grieved for a long damn time, wasn't in a relationship again for years. Still think about him from time-to-time less than charitably, but I'm emotionally over it.

Not-NC: Hurt less in the short-term because I didn't have a hole in my life where that person had been. We were on-again-off-again for a stretch of years, because neither of us wanted to end things. It was well-meaning on both our parts, we were both basically emotionally healthy and kind to each other. In the long-term, my conduct in failing to be clear about the end of this relationship haunts me, and probably always will.

Long story short, it sucks both ways, but ultimately, I prefer the clean break.

I believe you that Robbie didn't know. Sometimes you have to cut off more than just the one person who's a problem, sometimes because they'll be manipulated into keeping an indirect connection open, sometimes because it just hurts too much.

Your hurt is a valid reason to not have people in your life. I get not wanting to indirectly cause lesser hurt to people who are basically bystanders, but you have to take care of yourself.

Do what you need to do in the short term to take your mind off this - physical activity, a movie, a book, cooking, whatever feels like it might be soothing. Grief takes time to resolve, and two months is not actuallyvthat long. Maybe seek out a therapist or counselor if you're feeling badly stuck. But I do think you were right to pick NC, and should stick to it.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:57 PM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are very few people who don't get over this sort of over-intense post-adolescent attachment that turns out to be unhealthy, by the way. This is something of a rite of passage to full adulthood, and very few people get through it without some bumps and bruises, but it's not inherently fatal.

Unless it intersects with mental health issues. Two months really is a span of minutes, basically, in the aftermath of a shitty breakup/family rift/firing/eviction/suspension, and it's okay that you're not 100% okay yet, but if you are literally concerned about your survival that is too much pain for the circumstances and even if you don't live in an area with much in the way of mental health services, there are some online resources that you can take advantage of. Don't talk yourself out of getting help if you are struggling and it is not improving at all.

Also be careful about the "kindred spirit" narrative you're telling yourself. There are more mature forms of deep connection that are not so biochemically frazzling, and you are still young enough that the frazzly feeling seems really significant, but it's just juices. You will have deep and meaningful connections in your life to come that will put this situation into perspective. Still, don't live under a black cloud when you can get some help building that perspective.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:15 PM on February 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

You may feel like you are getting sadder because of the feelings Robbie stirred up. Look at what you wrote earlier, you were doing ok and thinking about him less. That is how any kind of grief works.... you are ok for a bit. Then suddenly you realize you've been ok for awhile. Then a truck comes along and hits you and knocks you back to where you aren't OK. Then, suddenly you are ok for a bit and it is a slightly quicker journey to ok for awhile. It isn't a straight path.... it is like Chutes and Ladders where you are leaping back and forth. Allowing yourself to accept you're going to some days take one step forward and two steps back won't make it necessarily easier but you can at least know "Hey at least I am on the path forward vs still standing at the start line".

Also, if anyone wants to laugh at me it took 13 replies to figure out you hadn't moved to North Carolina (NC) to get away from this guy. *blush*
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 3:17 PM on February 1, 2016 [12 favorites]

For the most part, I'd been okay. Thinking about him less, until 1 1/2 weeks ago when his best male friend Robbie contacted me (it has been about 6 years since we've talked). He told me he was just off of the phone to ex-friend & thought he'd check in and say hello because, hey, it's been so long! Throughout the conversation it became clear that while the two guys had talked about me, ex-friend had not told Robbie that we weren't on speaking terms. Awkward, and isn't it a bit odd if they're so close?

I had this happen to me a few months after breaking up with someone, only the genders were reversed. Old friend whom I had not been in contact with decided to pick up the phone and call. Ex-girlfriend lied to her about whether we still in touch. Ex apparently and inexplicably took pride in being able to keep in touch with old boyfriends -- and putting forth an image of her past relationships not ending acrimoniously. Didn't admit that we weren't in touch. Didn't admit that the relationship ended very badly. Talked up how well I was doing with our breakup. In other words, she lied through her teeth.

Friend then called me and learned. Was quite surprised.

If I were you, I would not assume Robbie knew anything other than what he told you.

Those who have been here, what was your journey like and how did you re-emerge?

Obviously, you are still grieving. What you are going through is completely normal. And it SUCKS. That ex-girlfriend was also my trusted best friend. We dated for six years. I'd bought an engagement ring and was getting ready to propose. And when we broke up, I got very depressed and my world fell apart for a while.

So you hit rock bottom, and there's nowhere to go but up. You allow yourself to be numb and upset for a while. You go through the motions. You try new things and slowly learn that your life was not defined by your relationship with that other person. And you learn to value yourself and take whatever actions you need to, in order to make yourself happy and healthy and whole. If that means cutting off people like Robbie, then so be it. Sometimes clean breaks are best. Or you could try to rekindle an old friendship. The nice thing is, the ball's in your court and you don't have to do anything you don't want to do.

In my case, I'd bought a skydiving lesson for my ex for her birthday before we broke up. I went myself instead. Had a blast. Someone upthread mentioned inventing a ritual for yourself. It's good advice.

And eventually, the pain starts to ease.

This, by the way is the same with every kind of loss you'll ever experience. The death of a pet, a friend, a loved one, family, etc. Goodbyes. Betrayals. The pain and grief fades over time. It may never go away, but it does become more manageable.

I need hope...

It gets better. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it really can and does. As I said, the pain fades over time. And now, you have a little time now to decide what you want in life, and to think about your needs and explore the world beyond that relationship. To meet new people -- which can really help. And to learn how to be happy without that person in your life. Which can and will happen. Slowly.

I'll be married for 14 years as of March. To someone I met a little over a year after that breakup. We have a mutually respectful, loving, supportive marriage and two kids. And I count my blessings that I didn't wind up with that other person. I didn't realize how toxic that previous relationship was while I was immersed in it.

You may not see it now, but breaking up with people you don't belong with is a gift.
posted by zarq at 3:19 PM on February 1, 2016 [8 favorites]

So I went through a similar situation, and came out the other side. Yes, it was absolutely painful, shook my self-confidence, but I can easily now look back and realize that going NC and ultimately not seeing the person again was the best thing for me.

Not responding to the original person's phone, email, texts - was step #1 for me. But I did more than that, here are some ideas that might apply to you?
  • Put all of that guy's friend's names and contact info into a special folder. Ask yourself if any of those people worth how you are feeling right now. Was talking to Robbie for 20 minutes worth (after you haven't talked to him in *years*) what you feel right now? If you would have talked to Robbie a year from now, what that have been fine? So you could have had a silent ring tone for his number, saved his email and responded months from now, but not in the moment. Look critically and assess all the people: Are they really your friends? CAn you put off contact for x months? Do you need to talk to them right now?
  • The other thing that I noticed was this? Example: a friend joked about being "looking back on this when you're 50..." and I imagined being 50 and having never spoken to my friend in all those years. I burst into tears. Was your friend joking about your current situation with the guy you are going NC with? That becomes off limits (think about this, every time you start to think about him, reflect on him, think what if, you are starting the cycle all over again). So tell your friends to joke about something else, not cool (maybe revisit 6 months from now, but not now). Don't ask your friend's what they think of him, tell them stuff, it will re-feed all of this all over again.
  • Then there is this: Sometimes I look in the mirror and think "hey, you look pretty hot today" then remember my best friend rejected me and feel ugly again. I'm hoping someone else will tackle this because this isn't how you should view yourself... But if you can, flip the variables around. What attracts you to men (you can base it off this past experience?) Is it physical? Emotional? Intellectual? Some combo? Whatever it is, go to a place where you can watch and just feel attracted to men and the human race. But use the time to feel attracted to people, not a judgement of how you look in other people's eyes. Just feel, as an animal, as a human.
  • I also did this as an exercise here (wrote it out, analyzed it, made a game plan as to how to meet new people) and it helped. I did not do a journal or wallow in it on and on, but wrote until I could find a solution in my head and let it go.
At the time, I felt like the guy was the most important person in the world, great friend, would never meet anyone like this again, how could I do it, etc etc etc. In retrospect, meh, we were unhealthy for each other and there really were more interesting people in the world.

I think these sorts of experiences help you understand other people?

Let him go. You can do it.
posted by Wolfster at 3:22 PM on February 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

I agree with Lyn Never entirely.

1. It's been only minutes in the scheme of heartbreak recovery, less than two months.
Given some of the dysfunctionality of many aspects of the relationship (eg, not introducing such a great friend, you, to his long term girlfriend is shitty behaviour; co-dependency and lack of authentic boundaries etc) the mourning process is inevitably convoluted. It's hard, I speak from experience.

2. You're in your mid twenties and not seen Robbie for six years, so when you were school-leaving teens. You aren't Robbie's friend now. It's nostalgia. He's attached to an unhelpful attachment in your life, and a conduit to your ex-friend. You need to see that and say it. The opening context of Robbie's call should have immediately truncated the call. 'Ah, it's clear that Mr X has not mentioned that we are not in contact. Won't go into it, but we won't be chatting about him, right?' And don't chat about it. Bam. Boundaries, authenticity.

3. Somewhere along the way, you've probably got to find some disdain for this okay-ish guy who can string a few cliched ideas together, is an emotionally dishonest and with-holding cheat and a chronic justifier. Reading your questions over the last months you are still apologising for him and aggrandising the relationship. I'm going to call it aggrandising because that is what it looks like. Again, this is almost adolescent, as Lyn Never says.

Teens and Twenties with expressive political ideas and the need for mirroring philosophies and such, are not rare. They are everywhere. You can connect with a whole lot of folks over philosophies, hopes, dreams, the universe. It's a product of adolescent-y style angst to be 'we just so get each other' and dividing up people into categories and thinking intellectually compatible people are unicorns. They are not. As you get older these things don't garner this excited treehouse style talk because lots of people, LOTS of people are out there sharing your values. He's not special. Have a laugh to yourself about some of the truly idiotic, cliched and downright condescending things he's said over the years. And there will be many of them. His rejection letter alone is worthy of a Disdain-a-Thon. It wasn't until I dismantled the aggrandisement of my former paramour and found his base idiocy and use of me, could I get in touch with how I'd let myself down by following a basic clown with no original ideas, no match for what I actually wanted. You run rings around this guy intellectually.

4. Find the rage. All that emailing, sighing and mirroring whilst in a relationship. Shitty, shitty, shitty. Would you think that kind of thing is okay if you were living as his domestic partner? He might have done it out of a lack of self awareness to prop up, or whatever, himself. Who cares, it's crap. Again, until I found the rage, I was still aggrandising the relationship and pining for it. Mourn the relationship you never had.

Two months isn't long. And it's natural to go back to pining on a daily basis. Get some other voices in your mind that dismantle this aggrandisement. And keep some boundaries in place so you don't get drawn in to his friends' arc of influence. Good luck.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:43 PM on February 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

Having had more than one robbie in my life

There's like a 2% chance Robbie did not know. Maybe he thinks he's helping the manipulative guy out and "helping" you both by getting in touch?

has ALWAYS been the case. I'm always trying to be less negative, and not believe that's consistently true... But god dammit i've been burned every time for either being the one getting played or for talking down a friend who thought they were getting played and triangulated like this.

If you had hung out with Robbie a lot over the years and he was still a pretty close friend my answer to this would be different... But him popping back up at this time to do a check up call that he almost definitely went back to your not-friend to report on? Either he's getting played, and is unhelpful and not a good friend, or more than likely he knows exactly what's up and is trying to end run info around your blockade.

The probability that this is way way less innocent than you seem to think is way, way too high to me. And i'm happy i'm not alone in thinking that here.

Going no contact on someone almost always involves going no contact or provisionally/giving basically just one chance to mutual friends to avoid triangulation. Usually involves going no contact on some locations like bars you both liked too.

Sometimes the worst friends in these situations are the ones who "don't want to take sides". I feel like a hypocrite saying that since i usually am that friend, but doing that carries a lot of responsibility to not pass notes or triangulate. And this reeks to high heaven of well, that.
posted by emptythought at 5:13 PM on February 1, 2016

Response by poster: honey-barbara: The idea that "He's not special" isn't actually helpful to me, however well-intentioned. Because even though I could tell myself that intellectually, I feel that he was a special part of my life before he/his life changed. It is important for me to acknowledge that for a long time he was able to understand & support me in ways that most people were not able to. He supported me through 2 bereavements & relationships where other people struggled to say or do the right thing and I will always be grateful to him for that support. I have, however, met people with very similar interests in recent years who have at least help me to start gaining some perspective at least.

I do feel angry sometimes. And then it subsides, and I feel residual love for a person I knew once. It's convoluted because, as you say, the situation is convoluted. I feel frustration anticipating how long it may take for me to heal.
posted by Ariel432 at 5:15 PM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I know! I'm on the same continuum you are on with a former paramour. Ditto with big life experiences that others didn't seem to get. Surgery, loss, grief, financial destruction, you name it. There's complexity, nuance. It's not worth aggrandising the parts of the relationship that help prop up longing right now, because overall it's not a healing thing to do *now* - maybe in a few years, with other life experiences you can put this in its place. You seem clouded by 'no one else gets me' and he's so unique, but I'm telling you, it ain't special to be 'got' especially amidst other treatments of you that are not 'got' at all. Obviously that didn't come through in my comment. Finding ways to put the attachment style in its place is what helped me enormously in looking for healthier and more actually loving attachments.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:06 PM on February 1, 2016

Best answer: It sounds like you need a way to be angry at your ex while still respecting how important the earlier stages of the relationship had been.

Try this:
The younger version of you (YYou) and your version of your ex (YEx) had something special. People change over time and in this case, as the ex changed from his younger self (YEx) to his current self (CEx) he made some serious problematic choices so that he became a person that you no longer respect and no longer feel good about being in a relationship with. I think you can be angry with him for two reasons: first because he (CEx) treated you badly and secondly because CEx is responsible for ruining what younger you and YEx had. In an alternate universe, if Ex had made different choices, current you and current ex might have something different (because you are both older) but still special in its own way. However, in this universe that is not an option - there is no way you want to be in a relationship with CEx.

So what to do with the residual feeling you have for YEx? Mentally thank YEx for his gift of friendship. (Don't actually thank CEx - he isn't the kind of person who could understand that possibility of being grateful to YEx and righteously angry at CEx) Appreciate the contributions that YEx made the person you are now and the memories and life lessons you will carry into your future. In that way, the good part of YEx will still have life in you, as positive energy that help you to be a better person. But you can't live in the past, you don't want to be like the high school athlete who believes that the best is always in the glory days of the past and can't find any reason to look forward to the future ahead. You will never be your younger self - YEx belonged with her - not the you of today.
posted by metahawk at 6:19 PM on February 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I think it's hard to accept that someone you loved and in a sense chose can also be an ass. Because how can that not reflect on you and your judgment? Especially to the extent you feel less like the dumper and more like the dumpee. Our ego resists. And at the same time there's the pull to believe that the cause was something wrong you did or didn't do or were or weren't, because that would, however painful, restore the artificial but desperately sought for sense of control over our own destinies.

It's an attractive trap to fall into.

One way I've worked through this is by telling myself that it really doesn't matter if he was or wasn't an ass. It really doesn't matter whether my love, or what passes for it, can overlook some pretty serious faults (for sure better women than I have fallen for worse people). And it doesn't really matter either whether there was something some alternative universe me might have done differently that would have had a different outcome. All of that can be left to be sorted out from the perspective-restoring/creating power of hindsight some day when spending mental energy on the question will be as emotionally impactful as musing about why my cat brings her toy almost all the way to me but drops it just out of reach.

All that matters is that the relationship was one way, then it changed, now it's over, and for now, his past role in your life is over and any new one is in indefinite abeyance. "For now" covers a lot of territory. A friend introduced me to that Avenue Q song in the midst of one of my first full on emotional romantic upheavals - you might like it.

There's no obligation on you and absolutely no urgency, no realistic healthy possibility and actually no need, for you to come to any well reasoned conclusions about his character, his past or possible future fitness as a friend or lover, or even on your own past actions and decisions. You just have to live with the present. I'm not saying it's easy but to the extent possible I think you should give yourself a break from trying to mentally sort through things of which a real reckoning would require knowledge of his inner workings that even he might not have.

Also I want to second that this is the nature of grief. It gets better, it gets worse, it gets better, it gets worse. The fact of it getting worse does not mean you handled things sub optimally in any way. It's just how feelings are.

Sending you hugs and confidence that you will feel better, that you can rely on whether you believe it or not (because I think an honest self-reckoning on your part would reveal that you are currently in no position to make objective effective predictions on the matter!)
posted by Salamandrous at 7:44 PM on February 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

No Contact-ing my ex was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I totally get what you are saying about the thought of going fifty years without every speaking to him. I remember being proud of myself for going twenty-four hours, then a week, then once I went six weeks and he bought me a birthday present and I caved and then eventually we stopped speaking for good and now it has a year and a half. At first there was all the "I could just..." and "he is just down the road and it is so wrong we are not spending time together" and "I know he is bad for me but..." but I did my best to think of something else whenever I thought of him. I also did my best to burn my bridges by telling everyone that I was never going to speak to him again and being extremely public about why (in fact, being incredibly childish and totally without dignity in some aspects) and hoping that even if I did cave I had done enough to make him not want to talk to me anyway.

I haven't caved... I'm certainly not going to now. And things are so much better. It's like breaking an addiction, and now the cravings and withdrawal are gone I can finally get on with other things without constantly worrying about what he is going to do to me next.

Also I totally agree that Robbie's phone call was set up by your ex-friend to test the water. How much Robbie knows is debatable, but ex-friend was definitely pulling the strings there.
posted by intensitymultiply at 5:04 AM on February 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm really hoping the hurt does eventually go away. I don't want to have regrets.

It will, but regrets are unavoidable. The point of going no-contact is that you'll most likely end up with fewer regrets.

Breaking up just hurts. You had a relationship that you no longer have. There's no way around that, and whether or not breaking up was the right thing to do doesn't change it. Going no-contact gets recommended because it's a well-proven method for keeping the total amount of suffering involved as small as it can possibly be. It's not a cure or preventative for grieving, any more than being disciplined about not tearing off your scabs is a cure or preventative for cuts and scrapes.

In your mid-twenties, two months seems like a long time. It really isn't. It's certainly not enough time to have finished grieving for a big loss. Allow at least six months before concluding that anything abnormal is going on; also, figure every contact you have with Ex as a waste of the last month or so of grieving time, and every contact you have with Ex's friends as a waste of maybe a couple of weeks.

Which is not to say that grieving runs on a strict schedule: of course it doesn't. It just takes longer than you feel like it should. That's essentially because you haven't done this before, so your ideas about how long this stuff ought to take are not yet firmly based in experience.

You'll know when it's time to contemplate renewed contact: that will be when you can see this guy clearly as somebody you used to know, and you find that you're maybe a bit curious about what he's been up to all these years, but he is no longer The Ex. And that's nowhere near where you are right now.
posted by flabdablet at 7:30 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Liz DiAlto (an online coach) has a video outlining a forgiveness practice/ritual that you might check out. Depending on how you swing with the woo woo stuff, this might feel too New Age-y for you, but hey -- it's a 10 minute video, so you could always listen and see if it resonates in whole or in part. Personally I find it really powerful for those situations that just make me feel ICKY to think about because there's so much unresolved emotion, and if I'm honest, I'm as mad at myself as I am at the other person/people involved (she addresses self-forgiveness in the video and practice). Anyway, I know this thing isn't everyone's style, but thought I would point you to the resource in case it turns out to be something that connects with you.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:30 AM on February 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I have thought carefully about all of your answers and I found metahawk’s especially helpful as I have thought of the friendship in this way. My “YEx” would have warned me to take a step back from the friendship with CEx in order to stabilize my own state of my mind.

I talked it over with a friend today & she said that while she agreed he wasn’t a person I could be friends with now, I might not want to cut him off forever. She pointed out that when I first moved abroad 1 ½ years ago he checked in with me more than most to see that I was settling in.

Thirdly, he is not the first male friend I have been close with where boundaries have become blurry. I’ve known a guy for 8 years who I’ve had “will we/won’t we” moments with but we ultimately have chosen the friendship over something that may not work. When we hung out together recently, he talked about how easy it sometimes is for close friendships to move into something else. And hearing him say that made me feel less crazy for feeling the way that I did. I feel I have a level of transparency with this friend that was missing with YEx.

My friend's reaction to my admission affected me. A big reason why: my gut instinct told me he, on some level, felt more too. So, when he acted so surprised to hear my feelings had changed…it felt like a blow to my self-awareness? I generally pride myself on being self-aware.

Finally, I think it may help me to slowly start dating again in a month or so. A few evenings ago I met a man who treated me well & paid me sincere compliments. I felt ugly and worthless in the aftermath of the rejection; I know people will say: you can’t hang our self esteem depend on what a man thinks. I don’t, generally. But we all need to feel attractive sometimes. It just made me realise that when I actually made the effort to get out there – men are interested!
posted by Ariel432 at 3:35 PM on February 6, 2016

I might not want to cut him off forever

No-contact is actually quite rarely forever.

The point of no-contact is for the people involved to give themselves time to grieve their lost relationship and let it go. To anybody still inside that grieving period, this will often seem like an impossible task and an unrealistic expectation besides. There's a huge mass of experience that says it's neither.

After giving themselves enough time to learn how to live a genuinely satisfactory life in a world that no longer includes the specific relationship that just broke up, it's quite common for the ex-participants to resume contact and find themselves in a different kind of relationship: good friends, as opposed to intimate partners. But this cannot be rushed. If you've broken up, and gone no-contact, and you're still experiencing intense longing for the other person's company, you're not done grieving yet.

Meeting other people can certainly be a tremendous help, as it can show you irrefutably that it is possible to be happy without the involvement of a former partner.

There are standard traps that people fall into while doing this, though. The big one is to consider the next person you're attracted to as some kind of replacement for the one you just broke up with. This is toxic to healthy relationships. Good relationships are built on both partners having a mutual clear-eyed understanding and acceptance of each other as they are. Frequent comparison of your immediate experience of the person you're with now to your memories of the person you were with before can really get in the way of that.

my gut instinct told me he, on some level, felt more too. So, when he acted so surprised to hear my feelings had changed…it felt like a blow to my self-awareness? I generally pride myself on being self-aware.

One of the most important things I learned from experiencing recovery from psychosis was that gut instincts are excellent and useful but require reality checks. There are things that can happen in our brains that render our gut instincts temporarily unreliable. Psychosis is one of them. Another is the giddy euphoric rush brought on by strong attraction.

Don't beat yourself up just for having a normal human brain. Nobody in the whole history of ever has achieved a state of permanent and perfect self-awareness under all conditions. Sometimes you're just going to stub your toe, and that's OK.
posted by flabdablet at 8:13 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

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