What do I make of a good run in with my ex?
April 18, 2019 10:06 PM   Subscribe

I ended a relationship with my partner two times. Both times it was because I felt a general disconnect, didn’t feel heard or understood (a good part of the time) and issues within our dynamic that, at the time, felt unfixable.

That was last year. Ive run into her several times, both times we ended up talking for an hour or two. And both times, there was no hint of the things I ended it over. It was fun, easy conversation that I genuinely enjoyed.

I’ve struggled a lot with remembering why I did this. I generally don’t handle breakups well and have a hard time sticking to them. This one is especially difficult. And when we run into eachother and have easy dialogue, I doubt myself more.

How can I trust my decision that I’ve made twice? Both times sure it was the right decision? Where do I go from here
posted by ygmiaa to Human Relations (19 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: -- cortex

You go forward. You were right. You were right twice. It sounds like she’s a good person and you have a lot in common. But that’s not enough. The past you knew that. Trust that past you. That past you was looking out for present you.
posted by kerf at 10:29 PM on April 18, 2019 [16 favorites]

The only way to really know if you made the right decision is to get back together, but you already did that. The second decision proves the first. Doing it a third time would be an unnecessary mistake. If whatever the dynamic was that caused you to breakup is still there, and it is, the outcome will be the same.

Fwiw, my conversations with my ex-wife are so much easier now that we are divorced and time has passed. There is no pressure, no underlying dynamic.

Learn lessons from what worked and what did not and use them in your next relationship. It is called maturity I suppose.
posted by AugustWest at 10:46 PM on April 18, 2019 [8 favorites]

I was literally just thinking about this, having had a fairly positive conversation with a past partner earlier. It's entirely possible to value the easy conversation you can have with someone, the banter you developed over your time together, and even the way they see the world without necessarily needing to be together as a result. That's one of the things it can mean to be friends or acquaintances.

My former partner and I are legit bad for each other, and we were miserable all the time when we were together. I don't have good times all the time now, but I often have moments where I'm so glad I don't have to deal with X thing they did. I often get off the phone after tense conversation with them glad it's just a phone call, not my everyday reality. But then there are also times like tonight where we talk and it's good. Then I remember that we talked and it was good likely because they got something they wanted, and that put them in a good mood. And that good mood meant that they overstepped my stated boundaries and selfishly kept talking for almost an hour when I was on deadline. That kind of thing got to an entire other level when we were together all the time and neither of us was meeting the other's needs and we were both at each other (or ignoring each other and not engaging) over it. So it's good to also be mindful of the things that drove you apart. Don't let yourself forget any of their nontransient characteristics just because you had a nice chat.

I mean, in hindsight, I can even again appreciate things about people who utterly left me bereft and weeping when they ghosted me or otherwise cut me off or let me down. These states of being don't have to be mutually exclusive, because most people aren't all good or all bad. We contain multitudes, and we can recognize the good even in people who are bad for us.
posted by limeonaire at 11:14 PM on April 18, 2019 [18 favorites]

Ive run into her several times, both times we ended up talking for an hour or two. And both times, there was no hint of the things I ended it over.

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder" didn't become a cliche for no reason.

Running into someone serendipitously who you share past with and talking for an hour is easy, novel and fun.

Daily life with someone soon stops being novel. Your relationship wound up being neither easy or fun, twice. The third time will probably not be the charm.

Depending on how things feel, and on how she feels, a closer connection might be appropriate. There's only so many people you really click with in life, and you've shared some times. Don't assume that you need to get back together to have something along those lines.

(Or, basically, what limeonaire said.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:08 AM on April 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

You said both times you talked for an hour or two. Would that really be enough time to reveal the kinds of big issues you mentioned (disconnect, dynamic)? It was probably a super feel-good conversation catching up on all the things in your lives, and it would probably take much longer to fall back into old patterns and reveal big issues.
posted by sunflower16 at 12:32 AM on April 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

Consider the idea that you are better people when you are not a couple.
posted by like_neon at 1:45 AM on April 19, 2019 [12 favorites]

I'm in my 50s, I have a variety of exs – from someone I was married to for 20 years to one night stands and all points in between – that I can have wonderful conversations with for an hour or two every now and then. I spent most of yesterday going for a nice long walk with one of them. I have no plans to return to being in a relationship with any of them. And as far as I know none of them (bar one) have any wish to do so either.
posted by sianifach at 2:39 AM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sometimes people who can be amazing friends don't make a good couple. Instead of thinking "did I make a mistake breaking up" think "hey I have a friend here, that's great"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:17 AM on April 19, 2019 [9 favorites]

I would like to give a different perspective. I had a dear friend who was in a relationship, then out of a relationship, then back in again, over and over and over with the same guy. Here's the thing. The guy was the one who was ambivalent and couldn't decide what he wanted so, when he couldn't find someone more compatible, he came back to my friend. My friend was madly in love with the guy and knew that if she waited, he would come back. Eventually, the guy found someone else, married her, left town, and my friend was left realizing she had wasted TEN years of her life waiting on this guy. Please don't be that guy. If it's over, let it be over. Having long discussions that you feel good about might feel like a glimmer of hope to her. Let her go so she can find another with whom she is more compatible.
posted by eleslie at 6:05 AM on April 19, 2019 [7 favorites]

It doesn't need to have been, in retrospect, the best possible decision you could have made about this relationship.

Aside from a very real question about whether she should even be willing to get back together with you if it wasn't a good decision to have made, there's also a question of whether the circumstances are so different that you won't do the same thing again... whether it was a good idea the first two times or not. If nothing significant has changed about your circumstances, then there's no reason to think you're going to feel differently just because you think, with the benefit of hindsight, that you should have felt differently the last time. If it was a mistake, then it was a mistake you somehow made twice and you still can't identify a way in which things are different now. If you put yourself into the same situation again, you're going to feel the same way again.
posted by Sequence at 6:45 AM on April 19, 2019

Thanks guys. Lots of good perspectives. I just want to add what I think is an underlying thing that’s going on::

I quite literally can’t remember the bad things about this relationship. Which is either because..

1. They weren’t that bad and I can see that objectively now that I have some distance
2. The distance is causing me to romanticize our dynamic and remember it for something it wasnt.
3. I’ve grown in some big ways the last year and could actually make this relationship work now.

I am having a hard time letting of the hope that maybe this person I am now-with all the growth and new experiences and perspectives gained-could go back and make the relationship work.

How can i figure out which one is the case so I can move forward?
posted by ygmiaa at 7:45 AM on April 19, 2019

I’ve found that run-ins like this can happen when the other person has moved on by finding another relationship, love interest, or some other way to let go of you as the primary focus of their romantic interest and angst. Once that person has another focus to pine over and worry about, it dissipates all the tension coming at you, which makes encounters between you relaxed.
posted by sallybrown at 7:48 AM on April 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Is she waiting around for you to rekindle the relationship? Consider that perhaps she is not interested in a relationship either. I think you should just remain friends, as that sounds like what you really are. Just because you enjoy time with someone of the gender you are attracted to doesn't mean you have to be in a relationship with them. Friends is a good thing. Maybe after a time that could redevelop into a relationship, but I wouldn't make pursuing that your goal at all. Don't test out your various theories of distance and your personal growth on a woman you have dumped twice. That's a little cruel. Find someone new to date and see where that leads instead.
posted by greta simone at 9:39 AM on April 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Any ability you've gained to make this relationship work is also ability to make other relationships work.

Wouldn't it be exciting to meet someone new and discover you can talk for hours? Wouldn't it be liberating to fall in love with someone who hasn't hurt you in the past? Wouldn't it be cool to start a new relationship knowing that you've gained a bunch of skills and you can offer your best self to the other person?

Dating your ex again might be better than nothing, but it's not better than the things you have to look forward to.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:54 AM on April 19, 2019 [7 favorites]

You might want to look into Relationship OCD (ROCD). Some of what you describe—not doing well with breakups, rekindling and then snuffing out the same relationship multiple times, the self-doubt—seems to fit the pattern.
posted by gold bridges at 11:17 AM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's a very normal thing to get along well as friends with someone who you were terrible with as a couple. If all took to be in a functional relationship with someone was an hour-long pleasant conversation then...everyone would be in a relationship. To be honest I find this so obvious that I'm a bit confused as to your asking us.
posted by thereader at 1:19 PM on April 19, 2019

Relationships are a source of stress, some good, some bad. The way you are feeling without the stress of a big-R Relationship isn't indicative of how you'd feel once that stress returns. Right now, you have minimal obligations to this person, and she has minimal obligation towards you, so an easygoing, friendly chat doesn't have to carry more weight than that and will feel more natural.

Also, TBH, I feel like it's more fair to her to let this one die. It feels a bit like you might be unintentionally stringing things along while you figure yourself out if you did make the attempt, and no one deserves that. I think you'll both be happier if you move on.
posted by Aleyn at 2:28 PM on April 19, 2019

Were there any songs or movies or other media you consumed around your break up that was at all meaningful and heartfelt at the time? Are there friends you spoke with about the relationship? Did you do any journaling or write any emails? It might be worth re-visiting those songs or conversations with friends, etc. to see if they jog your memory.

One thing some people (ahem) might do in a difficult break-up is to journal a list called "Things I Hate About Ex In Case I Am Ever Tempted to Forget."
posted by bluedaisy at 4:25 PM on April 19, 2019

I ended a relationship with my partner two times

I am having a hard time letting of the hope that maybe this person I am now-with all the growth and new experiences and perspectives gained-could go back and make the relationship work.

someone who has been dumped twice in a row by the same person and is still willing to go back in for a third round of punishment is, technically, responsible for her own choices. but if you like her as well as you think you do, you will not lobby hard to get her to make such a self-destructive choice. that would not be a friendly thing to do.

assuming she would even consider it, and your refreshing new dynamic may indicate she would not. maybe you are not the only one who has grown. maybe her own growth and experience and perspective will mean she is not so easy to get back a third time.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:46 PM on April 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

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