Separated guy ends it what now?
June 29, 2016 8:02 AM   Subscribe

My divorcing bf of 5mo ended it, saying he wants to fall in love with me and give himself wholeheartedly to me but can't let himself and needs time to heal from his marriage. He messaged next day saying he has set up counselling and will sort everything out, I responded to say he should take the time he needs to heal. He messaged again to say he enjoyed every minute with me and is sorry he's not himself at the moment. Every time he messages it's hard as I miss him but I don't want to cut contact as I hope he'll come back. What should I do?
posted by Anastasia100 to Human Relations (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Every time he messages it's hard as I miss him but I don't want to cut contact as I hope he'll come back. What should I do?

Cut contact.

He sounds like an honest guy who respects you enough to not string you along. Don't respond to that by stringing yourself along. Wish him well and move on.
posted by headnsouth at 8:12 AM on June 29, 2016 [16 favorites]

"Hey [guy], I miss you too, and I want to give you the space you need to heal. But it's hard to do that if you keep messaging me, as it reminds me of my own hurt. I would like to go no contact until Labor Day, after the summer we'll both be in a better position to figure out where we stand. I will be blocking you until then, not out of malice or anger but just because we both need space."

And then really do block him. And go date people who aren't legally married for a while.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:12 AM on June 29, 2016 [28 favorites]

Cutting contact has nothing to do with him coming back or not.

It would be best for him to get some clean break time, it would be best for you to encourage it to support him and also protect yourself from the whiplash. If you take a fake-break and get back together, it'll be crap and you'll eventually break up again. Hoping for that to happen just so you don't have to be unhappy right now is counterproductive.

Also, if you want the relationship to have any chance of working out, you need to have and express and defend some boundaries. He broke up with you, have some kind of feeling about that other than just wanting him back. Tell him you don't want to hear it anymore unless his shit is sorted.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:13 AM on June 29, 2016 [9 favorites]

You can go no contact for the time being, and even date other people, while simultaneously remaining open to the idea of getting back together later on if you and he want to. You don't have to burn the bridge, but you should stop crossing it for the time being.
posted by orange swan at 8:18 AM on June 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I do feel upset, angry and confused. We had a good relationship and I was there for him. His divorce should be final in a couple of months so I could ask he not contact me again until he is divorced.
posted by Anastasia100 at 8:27 AM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

No no no. Just... Fade. For your own best interests!

Hey. When people are in crisis, they're not always themselves. You don't really know this guy, or he thinks this person you know is not him - it's the same thing.

He needs space. If you push it, or leave the door open, leave strings, etc., you likely won't enjoy the relationship drama that ensues. This is a simple but true fact.

Go clean break. Don't pine. Consider it over. Take the good and move forward. If you do it this way, you will win either way. Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 8:36 AM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think you know that going no-contact for at least a couple of months is a good idea, but that's going to be hard. When you feel like caving, try this thought experiment:

Imagine you 3 months from now, you haven't seen him since you broke up, and you happen to bump into him somewhere. How do you want to feel at that moment?

Would you feel good about having thought of him every day, or would you rather have taken some time to yourself in the meantime? Will it knock the wind out of you, or be a pleasant surprise? Will you have a lot to talk about, or just want to tell him how much you miss him?

No right answers of course. But it might help you to figure out how to act now, in the best interests of future-you!
posted by greenish at 8:41 AM on June 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: When you say 'fade' just ignore his messages?
posted by Anastasia100 at 8:45 AM on June 29, 2016

Just believe him when he says that he wants to heal from his marriage. He seems smarter and more sensitive than a bunch of divorcing dudes I've seen. Everyone will likely benefit from this.

Do tell him, however, that it would be easier for you to deal with this situation if he would not message you. ...To help you heal, too, from what must have been a bit of a shock.
posted by Namlit at 9:00 AM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

There's a special kind of fucked up rampage of emotions and questions experience as one's marriage breaks up and ends.

All the typical effects of growing estrangement in the marriage - feelings of betrayal [no matter if infidelity wasn't the cause], sexual detachment, feelings of growing neglect, confusion, regret, anger, grief, plummeting self-esteem [no-one gets out unscathed], mean that the next relationship is a very exciting, yet draining and confusing experience. The temptation is to latch onto the first available, and awesome person you meet. And the new lover seems awesome in all the ways your former spouse ended up not being during the estrangement and separation process.

It's easy to foist onto the new person a range of feelings and attachments that you felt you missed. It's time for the divorcing person to take time to live and grow towards an independent life, find out more about what has happened, and why, what to take away as education for the future. I have found amongst my circle of friends that it is very rare for the first lover after a marriage to be a sustainable partner long term.

It is also easy to feel that one has liberated oneself from one difficult situation, and immediately revisited those trapped and powerless feelings in a new dynamic. This creates internal friction and fear.

The best thing you can do is let it rest for some time. Let the tide of his confusion be his own mission. Let your expectations of deep, connected reciprocity fade into accepting that no matter who you are, let's say a totally awesome person with much to give, that what you have/want/desire is not where he is. Separating is traumatic, and one's intimate reflexes are often skewed and nerve-wracked.

I think it is best to lovingly detach and to take stock of your own hurt and losses. What do you need right now? Closeness and continuance with him? This is not possible. 'I love you, I get it, this is really difficult - but I have to lick my own wounds for awhile. I hope you can work through your stuff and we can one day be supportive friends. At the moment, you need to find that elsewhere. Best wishes.'
posted by honey-barbara at 9:06 AM on June 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: He was cheated on by his ex and the divorce was getting increasingly nasty, she was also threatening to move back in (don't think she liked me being on the scene).
posted by Anastasia100 at 9:25 AM on June 29, 2016

Response by poster: They were only 2mo separated when we met too.
posted by Anastasia100 at 9:26 AM on June 29, 2016

He is going through quite a lot right now, and could come out on the other end as a rather different person. I'd try to concentrate on fun dates with other people.
posted by kmennie at 9:30 AM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

When someone you have a vested interest in dating tells you they're unavailable, there's only really two choices. You either wait for them to become available (which may not occur), or you cut contact and move on.

In my experience, 'waiting' for someone has never, ever panned out for me. Sometimes 'I just can't love anybody right now,' does mean exactly that, but in my experience, it's always meant, "I just can't love you."

Which sucks, and it hurts so bad, but it happens. Moreover, maintaining contact in those situations has been emotionally excruciating for me on so many levels, that with hindsight, it trumps any and all pain I've experienced with a clean breakup. False hope is the worst, you know? It really is. It's angsty and anxiety-inducing and it gave me some slight trust issues I still carry with me today. Would that I could do it again, I'd tell my young self to get as much distance as possible as soon as possible, but knowing me, I wouldn't listen. The worst part? Deep down I knew I needed to do no contact, I knew it was the end, and I think you know it too, hence the question.

It seems so so so hard to take that step to no-contact, but just try and get some distance. Distance will help put things in perspective. I promise it will get easier in time, in a way maintaining contact won't. Be strong. There are other dudes out there, available dudes who want you. It'll be okay.

Best of luck.
posted by Dimes at 9:33 AM on June 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I know it just does my head in and hurts as a couple of months ago he said he was falling in love with me and now seems to have done a 180. Very hard not to take personally.
posted by Anastasia100 at 9:39 AM on June 29, 2016

Thank you for the back story. That fills in a lot of gaps.

I think you should put his messages on silent and work on not responding. This is not a guy who is separated and has himself under control. He's got A LOT of drama and baggage, and uh, you should get as far away as possible. I think it's crap he broke up with you and now keeps texting. It sounds like you did too much for him during a difficult time. Take a huge step back.

Also. He might be getting back together with his ex, or they might be hooking up out of hate and anger. Even if the ex is not involved, he should not be contacting you in his position since he broke up with you.

I suspect he's stringing you along given his current actions and the timeline of events.

Either way, RUN. This doesn't end well.
posted by jbenben at 9:40 AM on June 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've been in this guy's shoes. Its hard to overstate exactly how tumultuous my brain was after I separated from my wife. I deeply love my rebound lady, but she was very, very wrong for me in a long term situation. I would not have dated her if I was in a better place. She provided absolutely priceless shelter and desperately needed.... kindness, really.

TRUST HIM! He is doing a very very good job of telling you that he is a mess now. When people tell you that they are in a bad position, that they are bad for you, it pays to listen to them.

It is 100% ok to say "I enjoyed our time too! However, I need to not talk to you for x months (3 minimum, 6 is good too) so we can both get our heads in the right place. Thanks"

It sucks letting go. It will hurt and you will grieve. But I believe it is the right thing to do.
posted by Jacen at 10:05 AM on June 29, 2016 [12 favorites]

During my divorce, the first person I got involved with was very emotionally expressive, something my husband was not and which I was starved for. At first, it was wonderful. After a while, this really got on my nerves. It soon became clear this was not someone I could live happily ever after with.

I think this is typical and probably why rebound relationships have such a bad reputation. You were what he needed at that time and he was thrilled to get it and it was a big deal and he wants to call it love and wants it to be happily ever after. But the odds are poor that it is a good long term fit.

Say your goodbyes. Wish him well. Go take care of yourself. This has very poor odds of working out.

I am so sorry. I think he probably still wants it to be love and is hoping that it still will be, but it really isn't likely.
posted by Michele in California at 10:36 AM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

He's wounded. You are triage. In another time line the two of you might hit it off, but in this one you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. This situation puts a lot of baggage in front of a relationship. Set a no-contact period and block him from your phone. From now until Thanksgiving would be a good stretch for the both of you to get your feet back under you.

I was there, he was me. Friends are gold, but searching out another sweetheart makes for bad decisions. For one thing, it takes a while to get rid of the baggage; the messier the last relationship, the harder it is to deal with the baggage.

It hurts now, but it will be worse later on, when he takes a big piece of your heart with him to his next relationship.
posted by mule98J at 12:43 PM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Ohhhhh, boy - if you and he met only two months out from his separation, then he is NOT IN ANYWHERE NEAR a good headspace right now.

Trust me - the last major breakup I had was with a guy who met me only a month and a half after his last ex had moved out. And this was a major, major relationship - I'd have absolutely said yes if he proposed. But he didn't, he dumped me after almost a year.

And I did the math one day and realized -

* He'd met me only a month and a half after his last breakup.
* He'd met THAT woman only a couple months after the girlfriend before that.
* He'd met THAT woman only a couple months after his ten-year marriage ended.
* There were a few other women mixed in there, all just about as close to each other - he wasn't ever single for more than a month or so between girlfriends.

And speaking of that marriage - he still wasn't over it by the time we were dating, and he and I were involved ten years AFTER his divorce. And that's how I figured out that he wasn't letting himself recover from the divorce - he was instead going from one woman to another superfast, like we were bandaids or something. He has since remarried, but I think part of the only reason that they're still together is because they both each travel a lot for their respective jobs and are rarely home at the same time so everything is still in the shiny happy stage.

This guy is taking the brave step of getting his head right. He may decide to stay on his own for a while, and he may decide to come back - but you want someone who doesn't come back until he does get his head right. Because if he comes back without his head right, he very well may leave again if you're just the band-aid that isn't fixing him any more.

Help him get his head right by asking him to go no-contact-at-all for a set time. And prepare yourself for not getting back together, just in case.

I'm sorry. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:02 PM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

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