Help me decipher a quasi-ex's actions
April 9, 2017 10:13 AM   Subscribe

A guy I had been on/off seeing eventually chose his girlfriend over me, but is now initiating contact with me again. What's going on?

We (male and female, both in early 30s) met as co-workers. He told me from the beginning about his long term (about 10 years), long distance (4 hour flight) girlfriend. We quickly developed a mutual attraction which then grew into an emotional affair. Before things got too out of hand, I asked him to make a choice between her and I. He chose to end things with both of us - we went back to being co-workers and he broke up with her.

After 9 months of that, he reached out and asked to try again. I agreed, and we started dating properly for 4 days (during which we did nothing physical and only went to the movies once) when he broke down and confessed that he couldn't date me as he simply felt too much guilt over the girlfriend. He gave a teary, emotional speech that our time together (all 4 days of it) reminded him of her and made him realise that she was the one he truly loved and wanted to spend forever with. I asked him if that wasn't probably his fear of starting a new relationship with me - he adamantly rejected that notion. I had no choice but to accept his decision. I cut all contact (save for that absolutely necessary for work) and moved on.

Cut to current day, almost a year later. We got in touch to exchange news about significant developments in our personal lives - I had lost a loved one, and he had resigned from our company. We then started texting almost daily (always initiated by him) about all sorts of random stuff and having lunch together at work. These are the same things that happened when we first started to grow close. He's also asked me out to dinner next week - he has pitched this as a "discussion" on certain issues in my area of specialisation, but he has rejected my suggestions to have this discussion over email or to invite a friend who's more knowledgeable on those issues. There are also hints he's given on activities we could do in the future, e.g. "we can go there for a hike soon" and "we'll have many more opportunities to eat there together". Lastly (and oddly?) he added me on LinkedIn.

He has not spoken, and I have not asked, about the girlfriend and what happened last time.

My questions:

1) What's his deal now?! Without the history, I would certainly think that he's showing romantic interests towards me (although the LinkedIn thing is slightly incongruent). But what happened to his One True Love proclamation for the girlfriend, which he made not too long ago? Or is this a case where I should just be patient and things will naturally clear up?

2) Has he demonstrated too many red flags in the past that I should not give him another chance?

I enjoy his company very much and feel very happy when I'm with him. He seems to feel that way about me too. We don't know yet if we're compatible physically, but we certainly have chemistry and are on the same wavelength. So, I'm delighted to hear from him again, but I'm just afraid he'll end up breaking my heart for the third time.
posted by twelvefifty to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Ask him by text, before meeting up with him. Ask him what's going on with the ex and him, whether he has dated anybody in the last year, and whether his desire to see you is (even in part) a dating-type thing. Then, based on his reaction (what he says, what he is unwilling to say, and his tone) you can figure out whether you want to meet up with him or whether you want to run far and fast in the other direction.
posted by sheldman at 10:24 AM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


He's a self absorbed drama queen who's been jerking you around for a couple years with no negative consequences and he's bored or single so he's back for more? Cut him loose and move on. In general if you're over the age of 16 and people want to ask you on a date that should be made explicit and anyone who is not willing to do that needs to be dispatched forthwith.
posted by fshgrl at 10:24 AM on April 9, 2017 [82 favorites]


So he tried reconciling with his ex and she rejected him, and then (probably) he tried dating other people with little success, so now he's coming back to you? No need for you to scrounge for this man's scraps of attention, you're worth more than that. Send him a message saying you don't think continued contact between the two of you is a good idea and then be done with him for good.
posted by scantee at 10:26 AM on April 9, 2017 [21 favorites]


Too many red flags! If he actually comes out and says, "I'm sorry I kind of jerked you around - that was bad behavior and I really regret it; I've broken up with my old GF and devoted some time to figuring myself out, and I am really hoping that you will go on a date with me", then maybe give him another chance. Otherwise this reads as "I am in need of some emotional propping up and suspect I can get it here with relatively little effort".
posted by Frowner at 10:26 AM on April 9, 2017 [64 favorites]


None of us can say what his deal is. But honestly, I don't think that matters, because the answer to #2 is that no, you should not give him another chance. My random internet stranger perspective: I don't think he ever broke up with his girlfriend, and he's bored and likes drama and feeling like he can control people in this way.
posted by Janta at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2017 [13 favorites]


If it were me, I would go to dinner with him without any expectations for what was happening next and ask him directly what happened with his ex and what he wants to happen now. It seems totally possible that he wasn't emotionally ready a year ago and now he has moved on and wants to date you for real. But if that's the case, he should be willing to talk about it and not just expect you to fall into line whenever he wants a little companionship.

Of course, you could also text or call before the dinner to ask him all this. For me, talking about these things is easier in person though.
posted by HeatherMoor at 10:31 AM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


This guy sounds like a mess.

The vibe I get from the way you've described it is that he's got a tendency to act on impulse rather than with intentionality when it comes to his relationships, and that he hasn't been thinking a lot about the way his actions affect you or his ex. It's a pattern of self-centeredness and a lack of self-awareness.

What's his deal now?!

It sounds like he's looking for the ego boost that comes from knowing he can still get close to you, but I wouldn't count on him to be able to back that up by treating you with the respect or consistency you deserve.

But what happened to his One True Love proclamation for the girlfriend, which he made not too long ago?

Who knows? He may have meant it at the time and not realized that just because something feels a certain way doesn't make it so. Or he may have used it as an excuse to avoid actually having to get close to you having gotten the ego boost from your attention. The better question is, what prevented him from sorting this out before starting things up with you? An even better question is, what sequence of events could possibly play out with this guy, after which you'd feel like you could trust him?

Has he demonstrated too many red flags in the past that I should not give him another chance?

Yes.
posted by alphanerd at 10:37 AM on April 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


Instead of asking what his deal is, what's your deal? I ask that kindly, I mean, what do you want here? What do you think you can get from interacting with him? What do you want? Is this guy giving you anything close to what you want, need, or deserve?

Take care of yourself.
posted by sockermom at 10:43 AM on April 9, 2017 [41 favorites]


I think the main point here is that this is not someone with whom you have no romantic history, for whom a coy and subtle approach might be appropriate. This is someone you have dated before, and yet here you are trying to decipher the signs like a teenager, because he won't come out and say directly what he wants (but likes dropping hints about). Nope.
posted by praemunire at 10:45 AM on April 9, 2017 [15 favorites]


1. He wants some more of your delicious, ego-validating attention, because he's either been left by his gf, or is just feeling bored with their situation.

2. Yes. Come on. You know that.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:45 AM on April 9, 2017 [13 favorites]


As a general rule, cut contact after they give the giant heart-wrenching and cringe- inducingly premature speech about their ex (as he did after your 4 days of dating). I wish I could go back in time and tell myself this.
posted by Drosera at 10:54 AM on April 9, 2017 [7 favorites]


An ass [donkey] placed between two identical hay bushels will (theoretically) starve to death from indecision.

But actually my first guess is that your donkey friend is trying to have both you and his long term, long distance One True Love... That he, by virtue of said distance, doesn't actually need to be in a relationship with. So he turns to you for the other half of his romantic equation, but isnt smooth or callous enough to try for both bushels of hay at the same time without becoming a bit of a mess.

Personally, I think a LDR works only if the goal is to live together ASAP. 10 years... A decade.... Of this dithering does not bode well.

So, don't play his games. Don't be a bushel of hay, don't go for rides on the fickle, semi-cheating, commitment phobe donkey. Find someone who can be dedicated, devoted, and 100% enthusiastic about you, and only you.
posted by Jacen at 11:00 AM on April 9, 2017 [5 favorites]


Run. Run far, run fast, run now. Maintain nothing more nor less than a work relationship --- and since he's quit the company you won't even have that.

What you have there is your standard everyday jerk, with more red flags than can be counted. If you were foolish enough to believe him and begin a relationship, it's pretty much a guarantee that he WILL (not 'might'!) cheat on you as often as he can, just like he tried to cheat on his girlfriend with you. Again: RUN.
posted by easily confused at 11:11 AM on April 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


This guy will drop you as soon as he's gotten what he wants out of you. Then he'll come back for more when his ego has been depleted again. Don't waste your time.
posted by blackzinfandel at 11:11 AM on April 9, 2017 [7 favorites]


Well, given that he can't seem to get over his situations (notice the plural), it doesn't seem like he's in the right headspace to actually have a relationship. He hasn't successfully committed to his ex, he hasn't successfully committed to trying to date you, and he hasn't successfully committed to being single. There is no signal of honesty from his part with any of the parties involved, especially himself.

Look, what I'm saying here, is - if we were to put him in the allegorical bible story of Lot's wife as Lot... would you want to trust your fate to his level of indecision?

Lastly, this is some gender-swapped advice I once got and is always worth considering: I don't care how handsome, attractive, and caring he seems - some lady somewhere thinks he's a dick.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:19 AM on April 9, 2017


Do you know that he's actually broken up with his girlfriend? I would bet good money that he's still with her but chafing at the long-distance thing and that he's contacted you again because he is looking for someone local to have sex with. I think you can do a lot better than this dude.
posted by colfax at 11:56 AM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


My guess is that he got caught cheating and/or nervous about cheating, and now he is less nervous about it but also smarter (hence him framing this, at least in writing, as being about work)
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:09 PM on April 9, 2017



he has rejected my suggestions to have this discussion over email or to invite a friend who's more knowledgeable on those issues.


Is he in charge?

I had no choice but to accept his decision

In the strict context of him saying No to a relationship, this is only the truth. but it's also a running theme: you propose; he disposes. Make a decision that he has no choice but to accept and see how it feels. Start small, with bringing a friend to your next meeting without asking permission, and build up to something bigger, like rejecting or ignoring his little overtures when they have no purpose but to maintain you in a state of patient, alert readiness for his return, waiting for that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels.

I can see devotion to a man who loves someone else, in case he gets over her. but this man loves beholding the slow unfolding of his own mental processes and he may get over another woman but he will not get over himself.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:29 PM on April 9, 2017 [14 favorites]


It isn't hard for us to decipher this guy;
the question is how do YOU want to decipher this guy.
1. he wants to see you; alone; for dinner.
2. of course there are too many red flags...
which you might choose to ignore anyway--
because you're human and might not have decided that this experience with him is a waste of your time.
posted by calgirl at 1:36 PM on April 9, 2017


1) Only he can answer this, and my guess is he won't answer it honestly... or he doesn't even know, himself.

2) Only you can answer this, and my guess is no, or you wouldn't be asking.

This sounds so awful. I wish I didn't have enough personal experience with this to tell you that it is extremely unlikely that this is going to end well, but there it is.
posted by sm1tten at 2:36 PM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


The best predictor of his future behaviour is his past behaviour. Look, this guy has been given several chances to prove himself to you already and see how that's ended. He's shown you who he is. What do you think is going to be any different this time around? The only person who can change this is you (he's certainly not going to, he does this because he loves the attention, and gets off on jerking you around, not because he wants you.) Do not be his emotional bandaid. This guy is gross.

I'd be tempted to laugh in his face and tell him it's a shame it didn't work out with his One True Love, because according to him that's all he gets. Enjoy being single forever.
posted by Jubey at 3:30 PM on April 9, 2017


I enjoy his company very much and feel very happy when I'm with him. He seems to feel that way about me too.

Alternative theory: you like him, and he likes the way it feels when he knows you like him. Steer clear, votes this internet stranger.
posted by solotoro at 3:52 PM on April 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


Dude has attachment issues.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:06 PM on April 9, 2017


We quickly developed a mutual attraction which then grew into an emotional affair. [etc., plus a paragraph]

This sounds a lot like what one of my friends is dealing with, and half of their mess is that neither of them cared to assert some healthy boundaries. He's confused, is ostensibly not self-aware enough to know how he really feels and could just be feeding you a lot of BS, and clearly has some issues he may need to work out in therapy. Also, the emotional affair. There are red flags all over the place.

Cut to current day, almost a year later. We got in touch to exchange news about significant developments in our personal lives - I had lost a loved one, and he had resigned from our company. We then started texting almost daily (always initiated by him) about all sorts of random stuff and having lunch together at work. These are the same things that happened when we first started to grow close. He's also asked me out to dinner next week - he has pitched this as a "discussion" on certain issues in my area of specialisation, but he has rejected my suggestions to have this discussion over email or to invite a friend who's more knowledgeable on those issues. There are also hints he's given on activities we could do in the future, e.g. "we can go there for a hike soon" and "we'll have many more opportunities to eat there together". Lastly (and oddly?) he added me on LinkedIn.

It is entirely possible he wants to approach you as a friend only. It is entirely possible he wants to get involved again. It will take actually being there in the same space with him to figure out what.

[what's his deal, too many red flags?]

We don't know yet if we're compatible physically, but we certainly have chemistry and are on the same wavelength.


First question: Are you physically attracted to him? No? Then keep him platonic. I have friends, even guy friends, with whom I have 'friendship chemistry', but I don't want to sleep with them because I'm not physically attracted to them.

Second question: Even if you are physically attracted to him, what do you want out of this? Do you really want to put up with his issues? I wouldn't suggest it.
posted by actionpotential at 5:00 PM on April 9, 2017


(1) He wants to fuck you.

(2) Seriously?
posted by mister pointy at 5:05 PM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


This guy is setting up a situation where he can sleep with you without any commitment because he already told you he's in love with someone else and you should have known it was never going to go anywhere. But yeah, that's what he wants. By continuing to see him after he's told you this, he'll take it as you agreeing to it because that's what he wants to see.
posted by Jubey at 6:38 PM on April 9, 2017 [5 favorites]


He told me from the beginning about his long term (about 10 years), long distance (4 hour flight) girlfriend. We quickly developed a mutual attraction which then grew into an emotional affair.

Already attached (10 years!). Yet develops an emotional affair.

Would suggest you read this paragraph several times and decide if this is a person you want to give another chance.

Also, ask yourself: What exactly is making you happy when you are with him? Are you sure this isn't a crush/limerence thing that could be warping your thoughts?
posted by TrinsicWS at 8:45 AM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


This person sounds like me when i was in my twenties. It's taken me a long time to start figurinng my shit out and part of the reason is because for a long time i expected to find my answers in other people.
All the red flags are warnings to not get very attached to this person if y'all do start romantically dating. If you like his company than yeah sure, spend time with him, just like, y'know, be careful with that heart of yours because his past behaviour is *not* indicative of a trustworthy person who has their shit together and knows what they want.
I'm not saying he's bad or malicious. I mean maybe worstcase he is, but probably he's just confused and doing the trashy cis white male thing "teach me about me". That's a lot of emotional labour, to date somebody and help them grow up and understand themself? Bleh. Dealbreaker.
Btw i call bullshit on him wanting your advice on some specific matter. Maybe that's how he's justifying it to you (and himself?) but it's some classic flattery+deception=i get what i want.
posted by peterpete at 5:54 PM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


enjoy his company very much and feel very happy when I'm with him.

The funny thing about emotional manipulators and abusers is that they can be lovable, charming, and fun- making it easy to second-guess your qualms about their terrible behaviour.

He seems to feel that way about me too.
Why? Because he lost interest when you tried to assert some reasonable boundaries?

we certainly have chemistry and are on the same wavelength.

If you were "on the same wavelength", you would know what it was that he wanted here and the whole time he was stringing you along. People on the same wavelength understand each other. You're not on the same wavelength. You're on metafilter asking strangers to tell you what wavelength he's on.

So, I'm delighted to hear from him again, but I'm just afraid he'll end up breaking my heart for the third time.

Why are you delighted? He's a mess. He's been in a LTR for 10 years (holy shit) and he tried to cheat on his girlfriend with you (holy shit) and when you eventually tried to set an ethical boundary (instead of immediately running away...Next time you find out someone you're falling in love with is already in a relationship, run away) he disengaged with you (holy shit) and then some time later he ended a 4-day "relationship" with you in totally inappropriate levels of emotional drama (holy shit) and then, later, apropos of nothing, began trying to insert himself into your life again, but without any clarity about his position or desires (holy shit) and is pressuring you into a meeting you are clearly trying to avoid by suggesting alternatives to him (holy shit) and is hinting vaguely at a future together without defining or committing to anything (holy shit) and hooking you into engaging in a flirtation that you walked away from months ago...


Why do you want this person in your life? Run away! He is at best a mess and at worst, a manipulative, volatile potential abuser. Emotional abuse is real and it's awful, and it's not all yelling and insults. It's mind games, dishonesty, and manipulative behaviour.

What is happening is not ok. He's got you off balance, confused, and letting your guard down when you know he can't be trusted.

Don't give anyone an opportunity to break your heart three times.
posted by windykites at 8:24 AM on April 11, 2017 [7 favorites]


I assume you would like to be with a person who can be trusted.

This guy cannot be trusted.

So unless you're comfortable with playing second fiddle (or him having another one), move on and let him find another sucker.
posted by raider at 3:18 PM on April 15, 2017


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