Should I contact my ex?
December 9, 2018 12:00 AM   Subscribe

There is a lot to this story. I hope you can take the time to read this and give me something. I need some advice.

Hello dear members,

I want to talk to you about something that is been very heavy on my heart. I am afraid that I also know what the answers are going to be about but I need to hear it from somebody else than my own mind. I cannot talk about this to anyone.

I broke up with my boyfriend of 4 years last January. You should know that we are both from another country but lived together in Germany. I get by here very well as I am half German and I found myself a pretty good job from the beginning. He was living here long before we met, but he always had trouble with the language and struggled his way through, never finding the right job and ending up in a huge pile of debt.

However, this never seemed to be a problem in our relationship, the first 3 years at least. We had an amazing time together and I can still tell you, after all this time that we have been apart, that he was and is the man of my dreams. The man who wanted to marry me on our 5-year anniversary.

There were absolutely no signs from him nor how he was treating me to let me know what was about to come. The only thing that was going pretty bad was his debt pile that kept growing and no matter how much I tried to help we couldn’t find a way out.

You should also know that he would travel back to Romania whenever he could just to see his family and his old friends. So last Christmas, he said he would go to celebrate with them and come back in about 2 weeks. And the guy never showed up again.

It was all so confusing. He would write everyday and be completely normal, talked to me about his flight tickets and what stuff we would do and plan as soon as he returned. But then 2 weeks passed, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months. I would constantly ask what was wrong, why he isn’t returning and if he wants to break up. The answer would always be that everything is fine, that he has some problems with the family and that he would return as soon as possible.

It was a horrible time for me. I would wait everyday and look out the window because I was sure he was just going to surprise me with his return. I had my 26th birthday in that time. And I spent it alone, at home, waiting. I have no family and not many friends here either.

At the end of the 3rd month I told him that I would pack his stuff in bags and bring them to his best friend if he wouldn’t return in 2 weeks. He begged and begged for me to calm, but he didn’t return.

He continued to send me messages and call me for about another month, to the point that I told him he would be welcome again if he returned and that we would make it work together. I took a step back and tried everything to make this work a second time. But as time passed, nothing happened, again. Until one day I said goodbye and blocked him everywhere. From this day I have heard nothing from him. He knows my home phone number, he knows my address, there were plenty of ways to contact me if he wanted. But nothing.

In the past year I managed to move on quite good, I found myself a new job, new friends and even met someone new. By this time, we are together for about 6 months and everything is going great, but that unbelievable pain this past relationship left in me doesn’t seem to vanish. It’s been so long and I still hope everyday that he would just ring my doorbell and tell me he is moving to Germany again. I would not hesitate to give him another chance, no matter what happened.

The pain is still huge. I never understood what happened and why he left me like that without any explanation. He was the love of my life. I have been depressed for the whole year now, I think about him every day, sometimes it’s okay but most of the time I feel like I want to give up. I am not capable of giving my new partner the things I have and want. I am desperate.

The past weeks I thought about it a lot and decided to call him sometime. I don’t know where he is, if he is with his family in Romania or if he lives here again. I don’t know if he has met someone new. It would be a betrayal to my new partner, I know.

I don’t know what to do. I miss him so much and time doesn’t seem to change a thing. My heart is broken.

Thank you all in advance for your answers. I just had to share this story with someone.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is there any scenario in your mind where contacting this person would bring you happiness? If there is, how does likely does that scenario seem to you?

You know the answer to this yourself. More than that, if he should ever try to contact you again on his own, do you think that such contact will bring you happyness? The only thing this man has to offer is further misery.
posted by el io at 1:07 AM on December 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

"Should I contact my ex?"
Only if you want more heartache.
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 1:53 AM on December 9, 2018 [26 favorites]

Betteridge's law contends that any newspaper headline which includes a question should be answered truthfully with a "no". This is often dismissed as humour - but it is based on the premise that no journalist (or editor) who could land a scoop with an article entitled "Cats Found on the Moon" would ever write an article headlined "Could there be Cats on the Moon?"

"Should I contact my ex?" should really have a similar law (answer is always NO!). Again this can appear as being glib - but it is based on a truth: if you had an ongoing dialogue with your ex-which allowed you to continue talking without negative problems - or if something overwhelmingly important had happened that necessitated you to contact them - then you would not be asking the question; you would just do it. If you have to ask then there is not sufficient justification for the problem and pain that re-contact can generate for you - and your ex and others in both of your lives.
posted by rongorongo at 1:54 AM on December 9, 2018 [17 favorites]

We had an amazing time together and I can still tell you, after all this time that we have been apart, that he was and is the man of my dreams. The man who wanted to marry me on our 5-year anniversary.

He was in debt, broke your heart, disappeared on you and strung you along for months. How is this the man of your dreams? Let me tell you, you gotta have better dreams.
posted by lunastellasol at 2:35 AM on December 9, 2018 [86 favorites]

He was the love of my life

I'm so sorry to say this, but he was not the love of your life, he was the liar of your life. Every single time he said he was coming back, and then didn't, he was lying to you. Every conversation that he acted like everything was normal and referred to having plane tickets was a pack of lies. He was willing to say whatever it took to get you to respond with love, even if it meant that it would hurt you terribly when it turned out that those were just empty words. I know it hurts to acknowledge that, but that's the only way you are going to be able to let go of those feelings and move on with your life. He just wasn't the person you thought he was, and he never will be. And it doesn't make you a bad person to have believed in him while you guys were together, and things felt good, but now he has absolutely proven that he cannot be trusted. Please don't contact him again, he will just hurt you again. Do whatever you can do to forget him, ok? you can do this.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:02 AM on December 9, 2018 [37 favorites]

I'm really sorry, but you've been abandoned. It is a distressingly common phenomenon. I have a cousin whose then-fiancé abandoned her a week after the premature birth of their son—just flew back to his home country and was never seen again. Thank your lucky stars that your case wasn't as bad as that, although I understand that it's still quite devastating.

This man is not the man you thought he was. He has abandoned you; there will be no closure. He has moved on with his life, walled off whatever shame he feels, and has started his life anew. There will be no closure, or at least you won't get it from him. You will have to close this chapter yourself, move on and move forward.

The silver lining here is that you dodged a bullet. A man who would do this is not a man who would have been a good husband to you. At least he abandoned you before you got married, saves you a lot of trouble.

Again, I'm sorry. Take the time you need to grieve, and then move on. Trying to contact him, successfully or not, will only keep the wound fresh. It's time to let it heal.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:02 AM on December 9, 2018 [21 favorites]

Please watch this discussion from a professional psychologist regarding the emotional and physiological reasons why it is so difficult to move on from heartbreak. It covers everything you are going through, including the idealization of someone who hurt you without batting an eye. The main take away is: you have to fight it as an addict would fight withdrawal symptoms in order to successfully rid yourself of it.

And no you shouldn’t contact him. He abandoned you.
posted by Young Kullervo at 4:36 AM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

Well I have a different opinion. You have such a strong love for him. It's keeping you from living the life that's right in front of you. This seems to me the kind of feeling that could go on for a long time. It's not healthy for your current life.

So sure, contact him. Even consider going to Romania to visit him. See what happened. There's a 90+ percent chance that this will just be a painful coda to your love story, but there's a chance that things will be different. More importantly, anything you can do to process or understand or come to accept it or get a new perspective on it -- so you can move on -- is worthwhile.

Of course, break up with your current partner before pursuing all this. If you're not willing to, then use that part of yourself that knows it's not worth giving up what you have with the new person for this as a way to persuade the other parts of your mind to accept that same conclusion.
posted by salvia at 4:56 AM on December 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

Do not contact him; he has nothing to offer you. Only lies. And he's given you plenty of those already.
The pain will fade, trust me. I've been there, it will. And the less time you spend thinking of him, the sooner it will fade.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:00 AM on December 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

There is no answer that he could give you that would make what he's done even a tiny bit OK. There is no missing puzzle piece that makes this an acceptable way to treat someone, and certainly not someone who was a romantic partner. He has had ample opportunity to treat you with consideration and respect and has chosen not to. Don't contact him. Heartbreak is hard, but it will get better. The first step is acknowledging that he is not the person you thought he was. Grieve and move on with your life.
posted by quince at 5:00 AM on December 9, 2018 [9 favorites]

Don't call him.

In a rush but everything I want to say to you I said in response to a prior ask.
posted by bunderful at 5:06 AM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

I guess if you think it would be cathartic, you could work yourself up into a cold, poisonous fury and then call him up and unload on him at length about what an absolute scumbag he is. He certainly deserves it. There are worse things you could do than shatter the warm little bubble of delusional self-justification he has no doubt constructed for himself.

Only if it would make you feel better, though.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:08 AM on December 9, 2018

Changing countries is hard. Being foreign is hard. Being foreign and not speaking the language is next to impossible. You, on the other hand, had it easier than him. It sounds like you were not fully aware of how challenging his situation was for him.

He went home and was likely enveloped in comfort immediately. Friends and family who cared, a language he could laugh and joke in, smile in.

I'm not saying calling him will bring him back. Even if he should have done better, to give him the benefit of the doubt, he may not have fully processed himself why he can't seem to get himself to move back. That despite being in love, he "failed" at life in Germany.

If part of you wants to know if you could be back together with him IN ROMANIA, call him and tell him you want to visit him THERE. At least your heart can get all the answers it wants. There is a chance the answers will be really bad- like a new wife- but maybe they won't be. And you'll know.

Good luck and know that you will get through this episode in your life, and eventually be in a better one.
posted by cacao at 6:41 AM on December 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

He had to leave to avoid paying his debt, maybe he is trying to wait long enough that it's forgiven, maybe he is never coming back. I think he did love you but his inability to get a better job and pay his debt down would make it extremely difficult in the long run to have a good life together, it might have been bigger than you knew. He may well also have to help his family out too, but for whatever reason he felt he had to leave and couldn't tell you why or that he wasn't coming back.

To move on you need to accept that and let yourself grieve (which his lying prevented you from doing). If you need to see him again to confirm that is your choice but I think the situation will not end well. Once you can accept that it's not going to work out then you might be able to connect with someone else. Also consider yourself lucky he didn't try to pull you into his debt, or get you to pay for his flight tickets, he did you a big favour.
posted by lafemma at 6:41 AM on December 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Let me tell you a story about contacting an ex:

Once upon a time, when I was 20, I fell in love with a guy. We had an immediate connection and everything seemed great and I thought we were going to get married.

Then, after about a year, he cheated on me. So I broke up with him and was heart-broken, not only for the loss of the relationship (which was a lot shorter than your relationship was!) but also for the loss of this perfect picket-fence future life I envisioned.

I started seeing someone new, but I still really missed my old boyfriend and what we had/what we were going to have. But everyone advised no contact, so I went no-contact. But I missed him so much! I remember walking down the street one day, in a totally different city, and thinking I saw him out of the corner of my eye and it was like getting punched in the stomach, I had to stop and catch my breath. I used to daydream about him showing up on at my door and practice what I would do, what I would say. (My new relationship wasn't going so well, either, and I would retreat into these fantasies as a way of avoiding the real incompatibilities with the rebound guy.)

About three years after we broke up, he emailed me saying he was going to be in my city for a conference and could we meet up? It was like the daydream had come true! We set a date and time and I got all dressed up and went to the restaurant.

It was such a disappointment. I had changed in those three years, and so had he, and we spent the hour talking past each other and then he got on the subway going downtown and I went over to my best friend's apartment and cried. Rather than some grand romantic Hollywood moment like I'd imagined, it was suffering that loss all over again.

Do not contact him; let him contact you if he wants. Even then, think hard about whether you want to let someone who willfully hurt you back into your life.
posted by basalganglia at 7:15 AM on December 9, 2018 [22 favorites]

You’re missing closure, in even the most minimal sense. It’s like he walked off the earth. Have you considered hiring a private detective? I’d be so curious to know the real story. Although, it could be the most mundane explanation: he’s a selfish cad whose own interests are more important to him than anyone else’s pain. It could be the debt. Money problems can twist one’s mental health. He could be a criminal. He could have a second life. Or, perhaps you were his second life!

Do you remember that article that was going around about how to “fall in love with anyone”? It linked to a list of some 40-odd questions to get to know your person. It also had an activity where you just looked into each other’s eyes for a set period of time, an intimate activity. Consider doing these activities with your current partner. Give your mind something else to ruminate on.
posted by amanda at 8:32 AM on December 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think you probably know that if you contact him, you’ll only be setting yourself up for more disappointment. He won’t give you what you’re looking for.
posted by a strong female character at 8:38 AM on December 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

I agree that you’re idealizing your ex. We’ve all done this, and because of the way he left you hanging, of COURSE you feel this strong urge to get in touch and everything feels big and important. However, the strong urge is because it’s unresolved, and you didn’t deserve to be walked out on and lied to, and you’re of course craving some explanation or apology or closure.

I can tell you that this person who abandoned you, lied to you, and strung you along is the last person on earth who can make you feel any better. I think you have to decide how to close this chapter on your own. Maybe it’s writing it all down and sharing with a trusted friend. Maybe you can take a trip by yourself somewhere new, and treat yourself really well.

Think about it this way: since he knows how to reach you and hasn’t, he doesn’t even want to be in touch. How would that feel? To contact someone who vanished on you, lied about it, and couldn’t, after all you shared, even muster the decency to tell you why? To put yourself out there and take this huge risk of reaching out to him, and he doesn’t even care? Please, don’t do that to yourself. You’ve been through enough.

I’m 39 and in my experience, every single time a man or his actions have seemed “mysterious,” the big mystery was that he was a coward who didn’t give a shit about me.
posted by kapers at 8:44 AM on December 9, 2018 [21 favorites]

He has words and his words encourage you. But his actions tell you the real story. He has not shown you respect, communication, kindness. If ex- wanted to be with you, he would be with you. Listen to his actions, and save yourself the misery of communicating with him.
posted by theora55 at 8:47 AM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

It would be a betrayal to my new partner, I know.

There aren't any other issues of consequence here. Either break up with your new partner and do as you please, or do not contact your ex. You may cause yourself any amount of suffering, but you may not betray someone who you have encouraged to love you and thereby injure their capacity to love, to the degree that they love you, by means of their love for you.
posted by ckridge at 8:52 AM on December 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

Oh, my gosh. What he did to you was so cruel I gasped reading it. You deserve someone who loves and respects you, not someone who literally abandons you. Don't subject yourself to further heartache; don't throw away your current relationship.
posted by praemunire at 8:54 AM on December 9, 2018 [11 favorites]

I'm so sorry, this is awful. I think there's an important double meaning in the phrase 'the man of my dreams' that it can be useful to be aware of. It can mean:

* I have dreams of my future life, and I've placed this man as I perceive him to be, (possibly even as I wish him to be) into those dreams.

And there's

* I have ideas of what qualities are important in a partner, and this man fulfils them, not only in what he says to me, but what he actually does.

It's so easy to get so swept away by the first version that you ignore the second. Based on what he has actually done to you, he cannot possibly be the man of your dreams, however much that hurts.

I'm reluctant to join the chorus saying 'don't contact him', becuase I know that in your shoes I'd find it incredibly hard to just walk away and not keep trying. But I know it's the right answer really, and probably so do you. Best of luck.
posted by penguin pie at 9:07 AM on December 9, 2018 [11 favorites]

Even if he did somehow decide he wanted you back, what he did is so awful that you should say no. Commit to your new life. Your shitty ex will fade in time. Make no mistake, anyone who would abandon you and then lie for months is shitty. Actions count, not words.

Intermittent reward is addictive, and your ex's sweet talk has you addicted. To nothing, because he's not there. Break the addiction. There will be withdrawal and it will hurt, but you can get through it.

Try to fall deeper in love with your new partner; usually this is done with eye contact and talking and sex and take a trip or go camping with him if you can. You have a nice person right in front of you.

Try committing to him for 6 months- when you think of your ex, replace the thought with "I don't think of that guy anymore, because I am in love with Wolfgang." Do it like it's a religion for 6 months, and see how you feel. Good luck.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:22 AM on December 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

The only thing that was going pretty bad was his debt pile that kept growing and no matter how much I tried to help we couldn’t find a way out.

Were you helping by either paying his debts or else subsidizing her life (like always paying for meals on dates, or paying more than your share of rent)? Because that leads to two thoughts - you were his sugar mama and he could see the well was running dry, or he was emasculated by being supported by his partner. Money does weird things to relationships, and your throwaway statement that “the debt kept growing” (as though he had no control over money) makes me think he has a disordered relationship with money. Considering it sounds like you have no relationship with his family it sounds like he was always keeping you a bit isolated in case of the relationship ending as to protect his own interests. I’m sorry you went through that - it sounds awful but is not a reflection on you or how lovable you are.
posted by saucysault at 9:32 AM on December 9, 2018

Even if you did reach out and he, what, somehow had a perfect explanation for his cowardice, lies, callousness, and betrayal, and he begged your forgiveness, and you decided to leave your current partner and overturn your life for him, would you ever really trust him again? The man who was fine to leave you literally staring out the window waiting for him as he started his new life? This is not a trustworthy person to give your heart to.
posted by kapers at 9:34 AM on December 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

The man who wanted to marry me on our 5-year anniversary.

A person who says they want to marry you at a time that is not now, or is not ready to actively start planning a wedding now to marry you at that later point, is trying to come up with excuses for you to stay while they figure out if they really *do* want to marry you. A person who does this and then moves away and doesn't tell you or explain why is a disaster, and you came out of this the better for not having actually married him. Getting in contact with him again now does nothing to guarantee that you're going to get an honest answer about this; if he was going to give you an honest answer, he would have done that when it happened.

But I think you know this. You're living with not knowing, and you're not doing great at that, and this isn't your most sensible self coming up with this plan, it seems like. I'm not intending this as an insult--I've been there. I know that therapy is a pat response, but learning to live with things like this having happened is a thing that therapy or counseling can do really good things for. There's no outcome of this that leads to you actually knowing for sure what happened and you feel better about it forever, so what do you do about the doubt now that it's permanent? Closure can't be a thing you can only get from other people; sometimes you have to make your own, and it can help to work with a professional on that.
posted by Sequence at 9:44 AM on December 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

There are ways to rid yourself of this longing and heartach and they do NOT include contacting someone flakey that lied and abandoned you.

His debt is red flags everywhere, when you are past this, you will be crazy grateful this ended when it did.

Do you have a regular exercise practice? One proven way to work through stuck emotions is regular strenuous exercise. You are not just a brain in a jar, you are a full person. Include your body in this problem, get moving and work through this. You can do it. Start now.
posted by jbenben at 9:51 AM on December 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Contacting him will all but negate the year you've spent working to move on and healing your heart; you will likely end up starting the grieving process all over again.

Now is the time to completely let go, say goodbye to him in your heart, and look forward to your new, better life.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:50 AM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

In my 20s I had a relationship that ended similarly abruptly and one-sidedly. It took me (too) long to get over, and that was mostly due to my very rose-colored glasses. I idealized the version of him I thought I was in love with, and how things had been, and I pined.

What got me over it was to realize that the version of him I'd been in love with was the incomplete version. The whole him included someone who could abruptly walk away. Someone who could not begin to negotiate whatever it was he needed. Someone who had that cold-hearted "I'm done here" in him, who could be that cruel, honestly. That is not a small component of a person, and it's not a nice one, to say the least. The whole of him included those parts, and I did not know it until then. I did not get a chance to decide whether I was ok with those parts too. I think they were a my-way-or-the-highway part that would have been unbearable to me anyway, or would have quite curtailed the person I've grown to be.

And honestly: it is better that it happened earlier than later. Than, say, after you'd moved to a new country with him, or planned a wedding, or had children or decades. That part of him that had the ability to desert you? It was always there. It would have always been the sword of Damocles over your relationship, your life. It's not good to live under a sword, even if you don't even know it.

You can't go back to a timeline that doesn't include what has happened, and more crucially, you can't go back to being with a person who wouldn't do what he's done. It's perfectly natural and understandable that you wish it hadn't happened, and that his true colors weren't these, that you could call him and it would all go back, but -- reality is different now. You've already been no-contact, and you'll be better able to move forward if you keep it that way.
posted by Dashy at 12:05 PM on December 9, 2018 [17 favorites]

anonymous posted">> The answer would always be that everything is fine, that he has some problems with the family and that he would return as soon as possible

I bet he has a new girlfriend and was keeping you waiting while he made sure it was working out with her. Don't contact him. Let someone else pay for his meals.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:52 PM on December 9, 2018 [10 favorites]

I've had a couple of guys pull a disappearing act on me, and it is incredibly hard to move on from such a cruel abandonment. It can make you feel like the bottom has fallen out of your world, like you don't matter and nothing you do matters. I know it's tempting in such a situation to see the guy as someone who can help you get over what he did to you and to want to talk to him so that you can get that help from him, but the hard fact of the matter is that guys who are cold-hearted and selfish enough to act that way will never lift a finger to ease the pain they caused you. If you ask them to do this or that to help you get closure, they might promise to do what you ask, but they won't follow through. They'll just keep stringing you along with promises that they will never, ever keep.

In cases like this, the key to real healing lies in your coming to understand that the guy who betrayed you isn't worth being with, caring about, or grieving over, and that more contact with him will only expose you to more of his shitty behaviour, which will only make you more damaged. Others in this thread have given you good advice about how to see this guy as he really is rather than continuing to idealize him as "the man of your dreams", so read and re-read it and follow up on the practical advice they've given you until that healthy, realistic perspective comes to be your own.
posted by orange swan at 7:16 PM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

Huh. Honestly, if it were me, I would reach out, but I'd tell my current partner all about it.

I wouldn't be looking to get back together, but just for some insight. For me, hearing that the guy just couldn't bring himself to come back and deal with the debt; or that he'd met someone; or... any of the other likely explanations... would be a helpful nail to have in the emotional coffin of the story; it would help me move on.

But I am a person who really loathes ambiguity and loose ends. I'd rather beat that horse good and dead myself, than wonder how it died.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:05 PM on December 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

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