If it was the right decision, why does it feel so bad?
September 17, 2019 11:27 AM   Subscribe

I just ended things with this guy I was seeing very sporadically over about a year, and just for sex. Logically, he was bad for me in every way. So why do I feel so emotional about it? (more juicy details inside)

We were never serious about each other and saw each other just for sex the entire time. There was no communication between late night booty calls, but when we’d spend the night together it would feel very intimate. Lying in bed together, we would have deep conversations about life, he revealed a lot of personal things to me, as I did to him. However, in the morning – it would dissipate. He made it clear through his actions that he didn’t see me as anything more than an f buddy, and I was okay with that because that’s how I saw him and I didn’t see any relationship ever developing. He was also kind of a jerk. He could be very cold and detached – and actually, that’s probably what drew me to him, his emotional unavailability. And I knew he was seeing other women – there were some red flags that he was actually seriously dating someone else. So after I found this out – I stopped contact with him abruptly and blocked him for 2-3 months.

Of course, with my wonderful cocktail of lack of being able to establish healthy boundaries plus self esteem issues combined with intense sexual frustration… after a few months, he reached out to me again through social media and we hung out. This time, he was nicer and much more open. We actually saw each other during the day (gasp). He was very complimentary to me. It felt like him maybe being manipulative, but also really good. We hung out all day together and came back and did the deed. We had two more dates like this. The sex was like a drink of water after walking in the desert for days. But I knew that I’d get attached again if I kept doing this – and with my goal of ultimately being in a healthy LTR, I knew that he was the WRONG person to get attached to. So I came up with an arrangement – we only see each other every 3 months so I can get my needs met, and still not develop an attachment to him. He agreed.

So, I have no willpower whatsoever, and I reached out to him again before the 3 months were up – this past week. I admitted to having developed feelings for him. He admitted he had feelings for me too (but again, I couldn’t tell if it was true, because he did have incentive to string me along). We spent a weekend together, and I thought after our conversation about “feelings” that things might feel different – but his attitude towards me was the same as it was from day 1 - still quite distant, emotionally detached but polite and friendly with a mostly sexual overtone. The morning also felt as it always did – like he was okay with me being there, but also ready for me to leave.

Which brings me to now – I feel that I was JUST in this same situation with another guy for 3 years, with no future but just our magnetic attraction carrying us along. It was such a waste of my time and energy, and it wrecked my self esteem. I feel that with this guy, I’m falling into it again. And obviously the other option for an “arrangement” to see him super infrequently didn’t work. I just ended things in a really permanent way over text, saying I think it’s best if we don’t have any contact at all. No response from him.

Deep down on some level, I think this was the right thing to do, but I feel really sad, and I wonder if this was actually right. Wouldn’t I feel much better about it if it was the “right thing”? I did like him and enjoyed spending time with him. The attraction and sex and intimate moments were fun and nice, and like I said, I had started developing feelings for him. I don’t have much of a support network (hell, I don’t have any besides my family) – and he didn’t really serve as one either, but it was nice to have him around on lonely nights. It just didn’t feel fulfilling or “right”, and I know I deserve that, but I won’t find it if I’m spending emotional energy on him. It just sucks that I have to keep cutting people out of my life, and I’m never sure if I’m doing the right thing.

What do you think, metafilter? Was it right to end things so permanently at this time and ask him to never contact me again, and why does it hurt so much if it was the right thing to do?
posted by koolaidnovel to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Relationships that are bad for us are still hard to end, because ending them means fully admitting to ourselves that it’s never going to change to become a good relationship. So long as we don’t end it, we can always tell ourselves that possibility exists.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:32 AM on September 17, 2019 [13 favorites]

The sex was amazing and there was intermittent reinforcement. That is a recipe for disaster and you’re just going to have to white knuckle it like any addict. You did right and We’re here for you!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:37 AM on September 17, 2019 [37 favorites]

Yes it was right - and the memory of him is standing in the way of your happiness.

Get out and date more - he's not the only one! The best thing to get over an old lover is a new lover... and the possibility of something more.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:38 AM on September 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Was it right to end things so permanently at this time and ask him to never contact me again

Sure. Sounds like it was the right thing for you to do. He wasn't bringing what you needed to your life and seems he was causing active harm.

why does it hurt so much if it was the right thing to do?

You can feel more than one thing at once, and feelings are not mutually exclusive. You care about this guy. It's also true that he's bad for you and it has to end. It's all real. That's not comfortable but it's how emotions sometimes work.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:39 AM on September 17, 2019 [14 favorites]

Yes! It was definitely the right thing to do.

And I second the idea that this was a case of intermittent reinforcement - I strongly suggest you follow the above link!

Also, maybe therapy to discuss why this is a pattern you've fallen into. I'm not judging - you sound exactly like me throughout my 20s. Therapy definitely helped me with these patterns.
posted by thereader at 11:46 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Definitely the right call. Some wise mefite in another post said something along the lines of:
There are tons of other men out there who will also have the characteristics that were good about him, but ALSO be good in other ways without the aspects that are negative or toxic.
I think this is super advice. Its normal to feel sad because you're giving up something that had good elements, that was meeting some of your needs. But if you let it go you can find someone who meets those needs and other needs too, and who makes you feel good about yourself and the relationship.
posted by DTMFA at 11:53 AM on September 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wouldn’t I feel much better about it if it was the “right thing”?

No, or else nothing that felt good in the moment would be bad for us. We all know that’s not true.

In the long run, you will feel good that you did this. Just not yet.
posted by sallybrown at 12:03 PM on September 17, 2019 [9 favorites]

Just as in every human I've ever heard of, the rational mind has a very limited influence over the emotional mind. The rational mind is the new kid on the block, a breakthrough in survival cognition, and it/you made the right call here, but, it's going to take a while for your emotional mind, your "gut," to move on from a sexual sure-thing and a source of emotional pleasure. Give it the time it needs, instead of resetting the clock by calling this guy again.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:11 PM on September 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

Yes, it hurts! A lot! Because you never got as much as you wanted, but he gave you enough hope at times to make you think and hope that he would.

I'll be honest: the fact that he was cold and detached are probably part of what drew you to him. It can be easy to confuse an attachment crisis with love and passion. That roller coaster is so exciting! And he would give you more at times when he was worried he might lose you... but then back away when he felt like he had you. This is brutally hurtful.

I strongly recommend reading the book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment. It's excellent, and I think it will give you a lot of insight into this relationship and your previous relationship. And I think it will help you recognize these patterns of behavior so you can help yourself put an end to them.

What's going on with you is what's called a bungee cord break up: the further you go, the stronger you feel the pull back to him. That's why you couldn't last three months. That's why you can't have a healthy relationship with him at all: he will never be able to give you what you want and need.

So, you said you only saw him as a fuck buddy, and you didn't want to get attached, but here's the thing: I think you will heal better if you are honest with yourself. You did want more, and you did develop feelings for him, and you are attached to him. That's why this is hard, because logically you don't want to be attached to him, and you don't want him to be the kind of guy you're with.

Treat this as a regular break-up. Do the break up things: have some ice cream, make plans with friends, cry, watch funny movies, and get lots of activity and exercise. Give yourself space and time to heal and move on. Minimize any interactions with him, including passive (unfriend/block/unfollow). Don't feel bad because you feel bad. Forgive yourself for getting involved with him and let yourself heal.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:24 PM on September 17, 2019 [8 favorites]

One of the odd things about people is that we can seek and receive comfort from the very people who hurt us. This is most clear in abusive relationships or child abuse, but it's also there in dealing with totally normal families (kids are often upset by their parents telling them they can't have a cookie right now, for example).

Someone says or does something you don't want, and you're upset; then they comfort you, and you feel better and more attached to them. Even though the pain wouldn't have been there without them either, they're getting reinforced in your psyche as a person you turn to when you're upset and when you need validation.

You need to find new people to turn to, because otherwise your recent habits are going to keep bringing you back to this guy because he's what you're used to having when you need comfort.
posted by Lady Li at 8:40 AM on September 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

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