Writing a letter to someone I used to see, but have since misunderstood
October 7, 2017 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Two former co-students, 20s, both young and old. First love kind of feelings. He broke up citing time and emotional commitments taking a toll. I wanted to stay as I've had a difficult time with all relationships and have high tolerance for pain, emotionality and difficulty, if I really like someone. With our history of differences I don't want to keep sitting on our pains forever, and mindful it will affect our present and future relationships.

We are both 20s with a somewhat large age gap for that, dated briefly for a few months, although we disagreed on that definition. We are people of colour; he is a first-generation migrant while I am second-generation (born in Western country). We are both social scientists: he on the harder end of spectrum whereas I'm very multi-interpretative!

This was a year ago. We were studying together in a small college, but at different levels (he more senior). We liked each other immediately. I wanted it to be casual and unlabelled as I'd come out of two roughish emotional relationships recently and cognisant of my flaws and youth; he is religious, hadn't met someone in a while, works around the clock and brought up marriage (jokingly-seriously).

I guess we did not build our romantic relationship to last, as we did not fully understand or respect each other's long-term wants. Our relationship was sweet, and I was amazed by it. But our differences were strong. I was worried that he placed too much value on my achievements, potential and ability; when I fail a lot, have depressive and anxious tendencies. Therefore I tried to discuss things like my mental health, my difficulties with past friends, my difficulties trying to find the right job, with him. I wanted us to stimulate and try to support each other; recognise we are human in ways that fail as well as succeed. He admitted to finding it wearing and a difficult psychological experience. He told me my emotionality put him on edge, and that he was too busy. For my part, I thought he worked too hard and wasn't thinking creatively anymore. I was trying to give him new questions with a view to counterbalancing his strong opinions and habits. He also tried to counterbalance my indecisiveness. It was done lovingly, and we worked well for a short time.

A few months in, there was an incident where I knew he was going to an event, and I also went without telling him, as a surprise. I happened to be in area (sort of) & convinced the bouncer to let me in for free. I was shy so dodged around him for a half hour, then squirrelled in beside him. It was a bit creepy. He freaked out, went cold and we spent the hour awkwardly. He warned me to go home - because I showed no sign of wanting to leave his side - he said he was getting angry, and we parted hastily with caresses. (During our breakup he told me, he wished I had turned back and said something). He sounded mighty commanding the next day, saying we needed to talk. I didn't think it a deal-breaker but I had my head in the sand.

The next time we were in college, he waited till everyone had gone home. We went to a room where he broke up with me citing our differences, though he emphasised he liked me very much and still wanted us to know one another. It took another conversation (where I tried to 'booty call' him (chaste cuddle kind of booty call, it was at night but we did not have a sexual relationship) for me to fully register it was a break-up, not a break. He asked me not to make things harder.

Our breakup was before the holidays so we spent a month away, barely talking but exchanging pleasantries. I was very sad, but not crazy (yet). I coped well enough. He was super kind when we came back, and we continued to commute as we did before. Looking back, there was a pattern of me being negative in the stories i would tell him. Sometimes he smiled as if he was so delighted. But also he could be mad, these were times when I would catch him by surprise (e.g. we didn't set off together, but found ourselves at station) and stay sitting with him. For me I knew it was really awkward, but I have a high tolerance for awkwardness. I just wanted to be near him.

I became increasingly erratic and emotional. I confronted him one time a month later, to apologise for blanking him the day before. I guess it was dramatic because I went after him as he got off at the station. We had an hour-long chat, and he said he doubted whether we could stay friends. He said that would hurt him so much. I told him he had got it all wrong, but I was distraught because his uncertainty about me unsettled me and meant I could not articulate my feelings. I cried. He hugged me. College became awkward, we sometimes had conversations, sometimes very sweet humorous ones, often he just went about his business (which meant not coming into interaction with me). I got caught in a pattern of insecurity, where internally I really minded that. But I didn't have chance to express that openly. At college I was usually my extrovert self, and I was pleased to see him. Retrospectively I think that was sad and stuck on my part, but there you go.

I confronted him again, in a spirit of anger rather than apology, after I thought he was flirting openly in front of me. This was after a few months of not-much-but-nice contact. He was cold, and refuted everything. Which I think was fair, but it hurt that he would not allow the though he was hurting me, even if unintentionally.

I left college a few months later, to upgrade to a better and more official programme. We were close on my last day, and he said we’d definitely be in touch. “Look at me - we will” he said. Honestly all this time I still wanted a potential romantic relationship. I believed he might do too. But in my mind, I didn't see it as a given. I just know we liked each other still.

We were both at fault. I texted him and when he grew silent I continued to barrage him with messages. He never replied after the first time. I had to pop into college one time and invited him to my birthday. That was a bittersweet conversation as he looked sad and said he had to go to work. He said ‘let’s see’. As he did not reply I actually purposefully went to college a few days later and waited for him. In my head it was a romantic or charming gesture. It is very in line with my sense of humour. But why did I choose to forget that you have to be in good standing for the humour to flow the way it's supposed? I did not want to admit it could be extension of my previous erratic, surprising behaviour. I was broken-hearted. He was extremely freaked out. I am not proud of that time, except I actually apologised to him properly then. He accepted. We weren't going to stop talking except he found a time to exit. It had been a difficult convo but we ended on a humorous point, bizarrely. He smiled when I railed against him in that mock way we used to do.

I went silent after that, because I thought it was finally necessary to go no-contact. I did not tell him, but didn't see an issue as he was not replying to me. I broke my silence a month in to tell him I'd finished my first day at my new college. I just saw him again recently on the train (genuinely a coincidence), and he was totally cold, did not smile, did not take off his headphones and eyes off his reading, he inched away a little when I came closer. He looked sad and resolutely stony. It was highly awkward. I called my friend, we gave one word answers. But again I stayed close. I even bothered to tell him goodbye, so he did say 'see you'. Cold, cold. When I went home I cried the way I used to, and thought of him incessantly.

Writing all this out has been helpful. I am mindful that we both have allowed our differences to play out without any explanation, any context, any friendship, any recognition of things we shared and continue to share. I think I was skating a fine line; I wanted to be special to him, and I hoped we could be friends. I think I was pressuring him to engage with me vocally, whereas he was aiming for silence. He said we would stay in touch but we both fluffed that one up. By the way, last month I went on date with someone nice who I am now dating casually, and I am very happy with him. But i am still heartbroken and bothered over the first guy. I worry for his mental health and mine - do we unsettle each other? Is he getting support for that? Ironically, if we listened to each other a tiny bit, there'd be no need for these grievances. So I wanted to send him something. But maybe I should not. No, I should not. It is hard when sending something is a risk, but NOT sending something is a certainty of failure.

I'm just hoping for your perspectives, opinions and ideas, MeFites. How to resolve talking honestly, heartfeltly - with wanting to be silent, to forget? When both our methodologies would hurt the other - unless we had that bit more trust, faith, need and time for one another? Do we do it all alone? x
posted by yuyueying to Human Relations (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This has been so thoroughly borked up that you just can't make it better, no matter how much you want to. I would move on and just accept you can't fix it and to do better next time.
posted by corb at 7:04 AM on October 7 [13 favorites]

I'm sorry to tell you this. You are not being charming or romantic. You are harassing this man, and you need to let it go.
posted by cyndigo at 7:07 AM on October 7 [29 favorites]

To clarify, I don't want to get back together. I am also sure by this point it is not a good idea anymore, as I have seen neither of us have changed in what we want. I am simply hoping for a way to reach him, but I'm trying to challenge myself there because I don't want to make things worse. The reality is we are not giving each other the space and chances we need; and judging each other based on the small information we receive, which is inevitably, because of our history of misunderstanding, unpositive.
posted by yuyueying at 7:07 AM on October 7

I'm not really sure what your question is, but this guy was never that into you, made that, I think, fairly clear, maybe did not handle a lot of stuff well, but is very likely completely over you and neither thinking about you often nor pining over you. You've tried to put a lot of your feelings on him and now you're asking if you can put more on him. You can't. This is something you need to handle on your own. Anything relating to you and him is completely over.
posted by brainmouse at 7:08 AM on October 7 [8 favorites]

You dated for a couple of months. It didn't work out, which is no big deal and happens all the time, and then it sounds like you started stalking him. When someone is distressed and freaked out to see you, LEAVE THAT PERSON ALONE. He's almost certainly not pining over you, and he probably feels like he dodged a bullet by getting out of the relationship. He's made it super clear that he doesn't want to be in contact with you. He was inching away from you in the train, and your response was to "stay close" - ignoring his preferences and acting like you have a right to his time and attention. That's creepy and gross, and incredibly thoughtless and self-centered.

I've had a difficult time with all relationships and have high tolerance for pain, emotionality and difficulty
It sounds like you seek out and actively generate pain, emotionality, and difficulty in your relationships. I'm not going to armchair diagnose you, but your energy would be much better spent in therapy working through why this is, how it has made your relationships difficult, and how you can learn to think and behave differently.
posted by jeoc at 7:09 AM on October 7 [26 favorites]

You acknowledge that you need to give him the space he needs, but you are still trying to contact him. Do you understand that these two positions are in conflict?

You know what you need to do, you just need to be strong enough to do it. And that means, not contact him. I know how hard it is (BELIEVE me), but it really is the best thing for him.

This is what that cheesy "if you love something set it free" thing is really talking about. You need to love him BY setting him free and not contacting him.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:18 AM on October 7 [4 favorites]

There is a disconnect between your ability to identify his discomfort and your lack of insight that your behavior is the cause. I don't think you understand why he is uncomfortable or how your actions precipitated his reactions. Showing up uninvited is not socially acceptable behavior. Repeated episodes of this behavior and it starts tipping into stalker-zone. How many times did you do this? Three?

I think you may also be missing the significance of some social cues. You are aware enough to comment that when you saw him on the train he had earphones in, wouldn't look at you, and even physically tried to distance himself by scooting away from you. That is the body language of someone who does not want to talk to you. But you talked to him anyway? Why? I'm wondering if you have a difficult time missing social cues and not recognizing appropriate social normative behavior in other aspects of your life? You should really think about the answer to that last question. It may help you to understand what is really at issue here.

Your title mentions a letter to this man. Please don't write him a letter. This is not appropriate. Leave him alone.
posted by teamnap at 7:18 AM on October 7 [17 favorites]

The misunderstanding here is all on your side. You misunderstand that your behavior is inappropriate, you misunderstand that "having a high tolerance" for awful things is an inappropriate metric in a healthy mutually fulfilling relationship.

I understand there was a spark between the two of you, a genuine connection. This does not mean you should be together, or even remain friends.

Lots of therapy and be gentle towards yourself. Forget this man and focus on self-work, healing old wounds. I'm sorry this is not the answer you wanted.
posted by jbenben at 7:23 AM on October 7 [2 favorites]

So you briefly dated a guy you went to college with. He broke up with you after realizing that you are not a good match. Since your break-up you have:
-called him to cuddle with you thinking he, who initiated the break-up, would want that
-sat with him during commute times even when you knew he was uncomfortable or "mad"
-you confronted him in anger for flirting with someone (even though he was no longer your boyfriend)
-you showed up at his new college even though had purposefully not responded to your text to catch him unawares
-you are still trying to text him, talk to him, connect with him even though he has given you many signals to cut it out

You are acting like a stalker and your behavior is not romantic or charming or cute. You say you are worried for his mental health and yours- worry about yourself, not him. Please stop contacting this man. And upon seeing your update, you say, "The reality is we are not giving each other the space and chances we need." No. You are the one who is not giving him space. He has not been reaching out to you. Just because you share the same commute doesn't mean he wants to be friends with you or a romantic partner.
posted by Mouse Army at 7:24 AM on October 7 [31 favorites]

reading this made ME very uncomfortable. leave him alone.
posted by anthropomorphic at 7:51 AM on October 7 [12 favorites]

Leaving him alone will be difficult - I know what that itch for contact feels like. You're consciously thinking, "I can just write a letter and straighten things out and that will give me closure". But your mind is lying to you! This is your mind's trick - it is telling you that this is closure, but it is really just one more way to have contact. If you wrote the letter, you wouldn't be satisfied, and you'd soon find that you needed to write another letter, etc etc. Your unconscious mind is trying to trick your conscious mind - which knows better, or should - into prolonging contact with this guy.

You need to tell yourself to resist the urge to contact him. Concentrate on resisting. It won't feel very good, but it will get easier. Just concentrate on sitting tight - don't contact him, don't text him, etc etc.

You're used to relationships that are kind of bad, right? You learned this model of "persist even if no one is happy" and "do things even if they make the other person upset" from somewhere. Think about where you picked this up - is how people behaved around you in high school? Is it similar to your parents' relationships? Think about where positive relationship role models come in - have you had a chance to be around people who have healthy, happy, low-drama relationships? If you've only observed high-drama, bad communication relationships, you probably unconsciously think those are normal and tend to seek relationships that are like that.

Honestly, when I was in college, I gave someone I had a crush on absolute hell for about a year. It was terrible, terrible behavior (that, incredibly, did not end the friendship - I think it was that I was a great friend about 90% of the time, and only a monster from the pit the other 10%). I didn't feel good about my behavior, but I couldn't stop, and it was this same kind of thing - introducing high drama, too much contact of an unwanted kind, not paying attention to the other person's signals. I look back in total, total embarrassment on that behavior.

The thing is, if you are young and have had bad role models or a lot of trauma (like I did!) this stuff seems natural. It seems like the only tool you have - like you're expressing your authentic self and feelings. But you're not; you're just letting your most intense feelings run the show, letting them get bigger and bigger. It feels like you can't stop it and like there's some underlying truth about love or feelings or your identity that drives your behavior, but that's not the case. The only underlying truths are that you don't have good patterns for your behavior and that something painful is making you act this way.

If you're in college now, you're still quite young - some people are full-fledged adults in their late teens/early twenties, but many of us are not. Now is the time to reflect and work through some of this painful stuff - if you have access to therapy, now is a great time. If not, self-help books and the internet are good, so is journalling. Think about the relationships you've been in and observed, and think about where they could be better.

Relationships do "take work", but it's the long-term commitment and outside issues that create the work, not just the act of being together. Staying with someone a long time as both of you change and age; staying with someone a long time even when there are new! shiny! people out there (who of course have flaws and problems but who seem new! and shiny! from far away); staying with someone when you have a serious disagreement over children, money, etc; not letting illness, parental illness, job loss or other hardships blow up your relationship - those are all things that take varying degrees of commitment and work. But if just being together with someone for a few months with no real external stressors takes work, that's a sign that it's not a good relationship and isn't going to last.
posted by Frowner at 7:54 AM on October 7 [29 favorites]

I understand your feelings and confusion here, I really do. But if someone I dated did these things to me - even if I had been genuinely fond of them after the breakup and wanted to remain friends - I would be angry and scared and exhausted by it. All of my former good will would evaporate. I would start thinking of you as obsessed with me and wonder how much more you will escalate, and whether I would need to get the police involved.

You need to understand that other people are allowed to set boundaries and enforce them, even if those boundaries hurt your feelings and you genuinely think they would be better off without them. If you are not respecting this guy's boundaries, YOU ARE NOT RESPECTING HIM AS A PERSON.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:54 AM on October 7 [10 favorites]

Please leave him alone. No contact, no letters, no "accidental" run-ins. Leave him alone.

Grieve the loss of the actual relationship, and the loss of the fictional future relationship you've created in your head, preferably with the help of a licensed therapist. But leave this poor man alone.
posted by lazuli at 8:00 AM on October 7 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you feel you made a bunch of mistakes, and that you want to resolve them with him somehow and make things all ok again. Also, it seems like he was giving you mixed messages, by saying that you both would stay in touch, etc., and that you are really hanging onto that, and trying to make it come true.

At this point, you just need to stop and let it go. Even though he said “we’ll stay in touch” he actually doesn’t want to. I don’t know why he said that either, but he has been non-responsive to you when you’ve tried to be in contact and actions speak louder than words.

I wanted to be special to him, and I hoped we could be friends.
Totally understandable, but you need to leave him alone. He doesn’t want to be around you. You may feel terrible about this, wonder what’s wrong with you, etc. but this is not something that you should go to him with. This is something you need to work out with a therapist.

He said we would stay in touch but we both fluffed that one up.
Nope. He doesn’t want to stay in touch, actually. If he actually wanted to stay in touch, he wouldn’t have messed it up, you know?

But i am still heartbroken and bothered over the first guy.
You need to work this out with a therapist.

I worry for his mental health and mine - do we unsettle each other? Is he getting support for that?
Why are you so worried about him? You just need to worry about you. His mental health is totally his own business - you may think you’re trying to be supportive and a good friend or what not, but this is actually being invasive at this point, if you tried to contact him about this.

Ironically, if we listened to each other a tiny bit, there'd be no need for these grievances.
That’s what you think. I feel like you think you’re right or have the answers to make everything right, but you don’t. You don’t seem to understand that he has his own experiences, thoughts, feelings about your relationship and they might be completely different from your own. He doesn’t want to process this with you. He doesn’t want to talk with you about this. Yes, that’s hurtful, and you have to deal with it on your own. This is not something that you can do with him, because it’s not what he wants.

NOT sending something is a certainty of failure.
You need to disabuse yourself of this notion right now. The flip side of this statement, is that sending something is a success, and that could not be further from the truth. There is nothing to be gained from sending him a letter other than to make him more uncomfortable and creeped out by you. You are not making things right by sending him something, you are making things worse. He doesn’t want to hear from you. If you want to write something, write it, but don’t send it. Burn it, put it in recycling, rip it in a million pieces, chuck it in the ocean, just DO NOT SEND.

How to resolve talking honestly, heartfeltly - with wanting to be silent, to forget?
You just can’t. Some things in life just aren’t possible and the sooner you realize that, the better.

unless we had that bit more trust, faith, need and time for one another?
Well the problem is, he doesn’t have that trust, faith, need and time for one you and there’s no way to make him have that. So you need to let this all go.

I am simply hoping for a way to reach him, but I'm trying to challenge myself there because I don't want to make things worse.
Why do you want to reach him? I don’t think you understand what entails “making things worse.” By doing nothing, you are NOT making things worse. By doing something (i.e. contacting him), you ARE making things worse. You have to understand he doesn’t want to hear from you.

The reality is we are not giving each other the space and chances we need;
Again, I wonder why think you know what the reality is for the both of you, when he has his own reality and version of events that you will probably likely never know.

If you know the interaction is going to be unpositive, why bother? You can’t fix this.

Tl;dr: you need to let this go. Maybe you don’t want to be thought of as the bad guy in this and that’s why it seems like you’re trying so hard to fix all of this. It is hurtful to think that someone you had a good connection with now wants nothing to do with you. This is why you need therapy to work through all your feelings on this. There are a lot of things not in your control - you can’t fix this, you can’t make him want to talk to you and open up, you can’t change whatever it he thinks of you, or have him agree to your reality of how things should go. Just let him have peace. That is really the biggest gift you can give him, and maybe that's an idea you're not used to. Figure out what your problems are and work through them with a therapist. You deserve nothing less.

On preview, Frowner is bang on, as usual. Listen to Frowner, OP.
posted by foxjacket at 8:31 AM on October 7 [8 favorites]

He’s told you a million times in a million ways that he doesn’t want you in his life. Maybe you didn’t get it the first hundred times because he was nice about it and your feelings were so strong. But you have to get it now. You have mistaken his politeness for interest, but it’s obvious to everyone reading this that he has no interest in being in touch with you.

Don’t contact him. It will make everything so much worse. At some point he is going to stop nicely rejecting you; he’s going to scream at you or pity you or report you as a stalker or mock you, and you won’t be able to survive it.

Your behavior has been inappropriate and scary. I know that’s harsh but it’s true. If a man did this to me I’d call the police.

I understand the belief that if you just said the right things in the right way, it could all be cleared up. That’s just not true. I also know the feeling of just wanting to check on someone, but I guarantee he’s fine. You’re the one having problems getting over this.

I hope you can find a way to move on without involving him. I hope you have some kind of support from family or friends or a counselor, because it sounds like you need a lot of help right now.

Burn the letter. Take care of yourself.
posted by kapers at 11:15 AM on October 7 [1 favorite]

If he was a woman and wrote to AskMe about a man behaving like you have been, the first five answers would probably be recommending he read "The Gift of Fear". Please drop it.
posted by KateViolet at 12:57 PM on October 7 [3 favorites]

I don't know what the definition of stalking is but I imagine you're walking pretty close to that line. If you care at all about this person, stop scaring him and respect his decision. He doesn't want to see you. Or hear from you. At all. If you have difficulties following these instructions, you really need to talk someone about it because you're spiralling out of control.
posted by Jubey at 1:57 PM on October 7 [3 favorites]

Hi yuyueying! This is quite a lot of pain you're going through, over a relationship that only lasted a few months and happened a year ago. It's good that you're trying to date again and move on. I think it's also good you're being mindful that you still feel heartbroken from the first guy and the broken connection of your last relationship experience.

Have you read about attachment? (1, 2) IANAT, but I hear you describing feelings of intense attachment for this guy (who is now an ex-boyfriend). Attachment is the idea that human beings need to feel attached to someone in order to feel secure that they will be taken care of and survive. This is obvious for infants, who need to feel attachment with at least one parent in order to trust that their needs will be met (that someone will feed them, change their diaper, and respond when they cry). When we become adults, basically that lizard-part of our brain matures so that instead of our parents, we start to attach to another adult -- ideally, the person who becomes our partner, lover and spouse.

It sounds like you were ready for this guy to become your partner, and were not prepared when he didn't end up feeling the same way. Even though your relationship was brief, for you, the attachment still developed. And that's okay, because you need and deserve to be loved. What isn't okay is when you're living like this, like you can't stop the pain of attachment from your last relationship. The depressive anxiety that cannot be soothed (especially when you fail a lot, you've noticed) is the same anxiety driving you to stalker-like behavior. It's the survival-based part of your brain that started to believe it needed this guy in order to feel safe, secure and loved in the world.

You ask: Do we do it all alone? As hard it may be to believe, the answer is actually yes. When we've had good teachers in attachment and were raised to feel secure, then yes we can handle the anxiety that comes with the end of a relationship -- because we trust we will meet someone eventually and until that happens, we will be okay. But when we haven't had good teachers and instead were raised to feel insecure, then no we can't handle it when a relationship ends. We become anxious, depressed, insecure and despair (and even obsessive and stalkerish) -- because the lizard-brain won't let go until it believes it will find someone just as good somewhere else one day. That's why right now, the idea of doing it all alone, feels so sad and scary to you. But remember, it's just a feeling, coming from the most primitive, survival-driven part of your brain. Feeling like it's impossible doesn't mean that it is impossible. If you learn to decipher your own attachment needs by developing an awareness of how it manifests in you, you'll know it and will feel more prepared for when it happens again (in all likelihood it will happen again, even if you run or hide from it... attachment is a sneaky critter that way).

You're still in your 20s. Consider using some of your time in college to access counseling. Spend some time working on yourself and seeing a counselor, unpacking the anxiety like you've unpacked your relationship question here, until you know how to soothe the inner infant (until you know how to trust yourself to figure out how to get your needs met). It sounds like this first guy was one of your first strong experiences in attraction, connection and bonding, so go ahead and learn* from this experience about what it is you're really looking for.

*If one reason you liked this guy was a sense of shared ethnicity, then I want to say -- as another second generation person-of-color, also born and living in a Western country -- those of us who grew up under an immigrant parent did not necessarily get the best education in how to get our attachment needs met in the context of Western culture. Our parents came from a place where their societal culture had a collective way of guiding those needs. When our parents came to the West, no one gave them a handbook on how to adapt, let alone how to adapt parenting for their kids. If part of your reason for feeling so attached to this guy is because it feels like you never have the chance to connect with men of your ethnicity, that's a legitimate reason to get stuck. It's okay to start considering men's ethnicity as you date. It's also okay to start considering your own identity-based needs as you date, which often get overshadowed (i.e. white-washed) when dating in the West. Good luck!
posted by human ecologist at 5:13 PM on October 7 [5 favorites]

I am simply hoping for a way to reach him, but I'm trying to challenge myself there because I don't want to make things worse.
Any further contact with this person is going to make things worse.

That means no emails, no texts, no letter(s), no more scary "spontaneous pop-ins", no waving to him if you see him on the street. Nothing.

The best thing for you both is that neither of you ever see or hear from each other again.

A note about "surprising him" by showing up at places you know he is going to be at...

This is stalking.

He does not want to see you.

Life is not a bad RomCom—what you are doing is not cute, and he is not "equally to blame"—you are hurting and scaring this person.

Stop stalking him and get yourself to a licensed therapist.
posted by blueberry at 7:15 PM on October 7 [1 favorite]

Leave this guy alone. Stop thinking about contact or letters and if you find yourself on the same train, get off and get on the next one. For heaven's sake, don't edge closer and don't try to interpret his movement or expressions. Just use some self-control and stop yourself.

Look, the hardest thing about a lot of breakups is wanting to get a chance to set everything right. We trick ourselves into thinking that if we could just have that ONE LAST TALK where we can rehash everything for closure, we get to put a giant bandage on things and move on happily and separately into the sunset.

This does not happen in real life. Breakups are messy and they end with no resolution. Stop looking for a resolution.

I am simply hoping for a way to reach him, but I'm trying to challenge myself there because I don't want to make things worse.

I really hope you see how unsettling this reads. He does not want you to contact him yet you're asking for a way to reach him. STOP IT.

The reality is we are not giving each other the space and chances we need...

Dude, YOU'RE the one not giving him space so cut it out. Let this go and leave this guy alone.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:05 AM on October 8 [3 favorites]

Thank you so much to everyone for your responses so far. From the harshest to the most gentle, they are just as fair. It's been really useful to hear.

I do want to say though: thank you particularly to those of you who spent time with my problem and gave me such compassionate and generous responses, from your souls I believe. Thank you for your psychological, personal and cultural critique. Rationally speaking, I do not expect or think I deserved such kindness in this context, but it always the secret way of the hurt child. Compassion also helped me to feel comfortable and at ease. When I forgot to do this, resulting in how badly I have hurt this person. Also I hopefully this does not sound self-serving, but he deeply hurt me too. There were promised talks that were genuinely intended, but in the event he did not engage (we were both quickly insecure, getting insecure all over again). I do accept that peace-building was a task beyond us both, and especially I took this negatively. As the more troubled person I should have worked hard to desist, and become healthy, rather than putting it all on him. I regret I was too embedded then to see. I do not blame him, though I believe he thinks I must do. I have hurt him so much that he like me, has come to mirror at times, some of my worst aspects post-breakup. I in turn have made some of the worst things we both imputed of myself, true. Yes, I could use experienced help here!

I want to release my mental concept of him from my body into the world. He deserves not only safety and dignity in his person from me, but dignity in my thoughts. I will focus on caring for myself, my studies and work, my friends, and my new dating friend. If I see him, I would smile, move and breathe. He changed my life, but it doesn't follow he must be in my life.

Some final responses I have.
1) There is no question we both wanted to build a different relationship together;
2) This desire went in a cycle: mutual if uneven reaching out, experimentation, happiness, uncertainty, withdrawal, reaction, reaching out... to my last day perhaps;
3) The pattern should be treated as totally broken after I reacted particularly inappropriately and we are more literally in different places now;
4) I wanted to write him a letter, because from our misunderstandings, we both constructed our own narratives. I think we both think we are right to do what we're doing, which is not conducive to a relationship;
5) But that's not what led to this mess. Its a consequence only. Me acting without consensus and so destructively is the first reason;
6) He wants/needs a relationship less than I do;
7) I see now sending him a letter would be a bad continuation of the same old narrative;
8) to break the narrative, I should stop, breathe, understand and reroute. I am lucky. At my new college I think i can get some support. And my course is so demanding, I could see how much of a small drop my pains really are.

Thanks once again - we could close the question, or I'd welcome any more responses should they come :)
posted by yuyueying at 4:53 AM on October 8 [1 favorite]

yuyueying, I really don't want you to think I'm not being empathetic but your update is just sort of worrisome. You've concocted this romcom story in your head that's so overly flowery and poetic, but from some of your statements, I'm not sure you're really getting what everyone here has said.

Let this go. You're hyper-fixated on the past and the hurt and blame and his feelings and how he also hurt you. Please don't put any mental energy into what he must think about you; in fact, try to redirect your thoughts so you're not thinking about this any more. I hope you can see how trying to read his mind, long after this has ended, is truly unhealthy.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:09 AM on October 8 [8 favorites]

Yes I said yes I will, I was just going to post what occurred to me right after typing all that:

9) I have abused him, and I am redoubling on my crime by romanticising it and storing it.

I think understanding and recovering from this will be a process. I cannot internalise these informations within the space of a day. This problem was not created in a day.

But thank you anyway. I don't think I shall reply anymore, just quiet myself and listen.
posted by yuyueying at 6:37 AM on October 8 [3 favorites]

I've read all the comments and I just have to say, yuyueying, you are doing a wonderful job of listening to the advice. To say that all of the comments were useful to hear, even the harsh ones, was a very humble and vulnerable thing to do. You're openly admitting your mistakes, and I think you're on to the right idea of 'quieting yourself and listening.' Being able to admit your mistakes and learn from others, even when the advice is hard to hear, is a major life skill that will take you far.

I would like to add that many people suggested seeing a therapist, and I hope that the advice did not make you feel like 'you are crazy - so crazy that you should be seeing a therapist.' The truth is that many, many healthy, intelligent, wonderful people choose to get therapy - because they recognize that therapy can be an extremely helpful and positive, life changing tool. Please do consider getting therapy - not because there's something wrong with you, but because you are obviously in pain, hurting, and feeling that your actions aren't what you want them to be. Therapy can really, really help you learn how to live your best life, as corny as that may sound. Best wishes.
posted by quiet_musings at 9:32 PM on October 8 [7 favorites]

Reading this really made me uncomfortable, too. I think you should completely focus on your mental health and get the support you need for taking very, very, very good care of yourself, mind body and soul. Turn all of the attention you've been giving to this man and the relationship toward yourself, calming your anxiety, treating your depressive tendencies and so on. This is all about you and not about him. Don't write him again and let go of the stories you've made up about what he meant to you. These stories are not to be trusted and are mostly a figment of your imagination.
posted by Gray Skies at 8:34 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]

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