How do I act right and show him he was wrong?
October 12, 2007 9:36 AM   Subscribe

How do I maintain my dignity and my sanity while my ex-lover is in town (and living with me)?

Earlier this year, I met a a boy at a house party. He is 20 (I'm 24) and the chemistry was instant. He left town the next day, but a couple weeks later he was back and we ended up hooking up.

The house we met in is important to this story: Its a large old house with a bunch of young twenty something boys and girls living there. It's known as a place where bands play and there's usually a couch people can crash on for the night. The boy I met lives there for a week once every two weeks. (He works out of state for two weeks at a time and then commutes back here since all of hi family and friends are here).

Independent of my growing relationship with this boy, I ended up really hitting it off with all the people who lived in the house and moved in about two months ago after my old lease was up. Everything was peachy and good....

...Until the last time he was in town. Long story short, things were about to get more intense physically between us so I knew I needed to talk with him and see where we stood in terms of commitment. Five hours of discussion later, he told me that he just didn't want a long distance relationship but he didn't want to see anybody out of state either. I was so heartbroken I spent the rest of the week sleeping at my sister's house because I couldnt bear to see him.

I was pretty devastated, but I found out later from a mutual friend that he said I was "perfect" for him (in terms of looks and compatibility) but that he just really hated long distance relationships. The mutual friend said he also ignored the blatant advances of more than one female who had heard that he was no longer seeing me.

Anyway, I'm trying not to hold out any hope for us because I know its not healthy. He's coming back into town for a week in a few days and I'm worried about my ability to handle it all gracefully since he'll be around so much. Leaving again for a week isn't an option.

1) How do i maintain myself around him? The thought of it all still brings me to tears sometimes and I doubt my ability to act like I don't care. How do you force yourself to act gracefully?

2)Is it really possible that he could mean what he said about thinking I'm awesome/perfect/whatever and still not want to be committed to me just because of distance? I'm inclined to think he made those comments to our gossipy yet reliable mutual friend, knowing they would filter back to me and soften the blow. If he really meant that, wouldn't he want me at almost any cost?

3) I'm interested in any anecdotes anyone has where you were the one who dumped someone and yet subsequent things your ex did convinced you you had made a very wrong decision.

Thank you for your responses!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is it really possible that he could mean what he said about thinking I'm awesome/perfect/whatever and still not want to be committed to me just because of distance?

Yes. It's really possible. People have different priorities, and while it's possible he was blowing smoke by proxy for your benefit, it's going to be pretty much impossible to settle the question of whether and how much he had that in mind when he talked to your friend.

It doesn't sound like this guy wants to be in this relationship.
posted by cortex at 9:49 AM on October 12, 2007


I agree that he could think you're perfect and still not want to be in a long-distance relationship. In fact, the more perfect you are, the more stressful - and even detrimental - it could be to have an LDR. It's hard to act gracefully when your emotions are tying you up in knots, and you're feeling rejected even though there are good feelings intertwined with the bad (on both sides). I think the word "act" is key: if you want to behave like you don't care, you will have to act it and pretend everything is ok. Be confident in your awesomeness, but don't wait for him to be seduced by it. Just enjoy his company as much as you can, or avoid it politely if you feel that you need to. And consider your own needs as much as his. If a situation is difficult for you, don't be afraid to express that, or take a walk, or calm down in your room for a little while.
posted by bassjump at 10:07 AM on October 12, 2007


Dating advice for young ladies usually includes some variant of "In order to seem really attractive, act like you're really immersed in your own life and interests!"

Which is sort of horrifying, isn't it? The idea that girls should only act like we have our own interests unrelated to "Bagging A Man", and then only in order to seem attractive enough to do said man-bagging?

But even so, the answer to all of your questions is to get immersed in your own life and interests:

1) It will make you feel better. You won't care as much if someone is around if you're dashing in and out to go see movies and work on your short story.

2) If you have your own stuff going on, you won't have much time to sit around dissecting things he may have said, and the fourteen different ways they can be interpreted to somehow mean that he wants to be committed to you, but is scared of his feelings/really busy with work/not ready for a relationship/blah blah blah. Try not to do this! It'll drive you crazy, and really, do you even want to be in a relationship with someone who can't just be emotionally upfront with you and whose statements require codebreaking?

3) While I really don't think you should fake having a life to appeal to a man at least if you're busy and disinterested he won't be convinced that you're trying to smother him. Some (many) men are leery of The Clinging.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:10 AM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but I'm not buying the long-distance relationship reason for not wanting to be with you. He spends one week out of every three in your town, because it's where all of his family and friends are. He makes those long-distance relationships work by spending as much time as possible with them, why couldn't he make it work with you as well if he really wanted to? Also, two weeks out of three out of state isn't so much, either. Wouldn't a relationship with someone where he works out of state come close to meeting his definition of an LDR, as well? By his logic, it's possible that any relationship he had would be long-distance. I think he's making excuses.
posted by amro at 10:13 AM on October 12, 2007


97% of twenty-year-old guys don't know what they want, and act accordingly.

And it could be true that he thought you were awesome but doesn't want to be a in a relationship with you.
posted by drezdn at 10:14 AM on October 12, 2007


The best advice I have ever received on this topic is that both people have to want it for it to work. Have you ever gotten that annoying email fwd that says, in part, "If a man wants to be with you, nothing can keep him away; if he doesn't want to be with you, nothing can make him stay?" It rhymes and sounds dippy, but I have found that to be the utter truth. (I imagine it is true in any gender mixture, but, like you, I'm a female who dates males).

Your questions:
1) The absolute best thing you can do is not to act like you don't care, but act as though it doesn't affect you. Be friendly, be cheerful, but just interact briefly and then talk to someone else or go for a walk or something. Anything. Don't cling. How you do this might mean before you see him, talk it out with a friend, get the tears out, heck, even role-play with a friend who supports you so you have had practice. The first time will be the hardest, but you will derive confidence from getting through it and the next time will be easier.

2) Yes, he could think all of those things, and probably does. But he told you he doesn't want a long distance relationship. He told you. So he doesn't. I know you are going to wonder why, but it doesn't matter why in the end. It doesn't say anything about you as a person. It just isn't the right fit, either because of circumstance or his preferences or a number of things. But he told you. Listen to what people tell you. They usually tell you what you need to hear (especially men - they usually mean what they say). (I said USUALLY - don't email me, y'all).

3) I have dumped people who tried to make me think it was a bad decision, but they were wrong. Usually things work when they work, and they don't when they don't. It is kind of simple like that, but we (including me - I'm not fussing) often make it difficult.

You will think about this intensely for a while, and that's fine. Talk to your friends about it and analyze it all you need to. Soon, you will think about it less and less and then you will have moved on. It won't be easy, but you can do it.

Also, you might want to sit down with yourself and decide beforehand if you are going to be, ahem, involved with him in any way when he is in town. There's always the possibility that you both could be drawn to hook up, even though the terms have been decided.

I wish you the best in getting through this, and hope it all goes well!
posted by frumious bandersnatch at 10:17 AM on October 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


Sadly, this idea of someone dumping someone else but it being a "wrong" decision makes no sense, even though I too have been in the situation of wanting it to. If someone wants a relationship to end it's the right decision, automatically. Things can change, of course, but it is ultimately really unhelpful (to you) to think of him as having made some kind of error.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:27 AM on October 12, 2007


It doesn't matter whether he's just "making excuses." For whatever reason, he doesn't want to be with you. For your own sanity, please believe what he has very clearly told you. Second-guessing will just drive you crazy and drag out the process of getting over him.

As far as his visit is concerned: I would look very hard at your assertion that staying somewhere else is not an option? Really? No friends you could couch-surf with? No hostels in the area?

Because given where you seem to be at, not being there as much as humanly possible is the best way not to spend the whole week obsessing about every footstep on the stairs.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:32 AM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Could you tell him to find another place to stay?
posted by dead_ at 10:42 AM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


1) Focus your energy on liking him as a friend, and try to be happy and normal around him, just as you would be otherwise, sans the sexual tension. I recommend satisfying the HECK out of yourself beforehand. What he thinks of you, or your grace under pressure, are irrelevant. The goal here is not to seem cool, but to be cool. Just like Fonzie.

2)It is possible, and the only way it'll ever come to be between you two is if you cool it, and keep things copacetic until more fertile conditions present themselves, but don't fret over that, you'll probably be married to Ryan Gosling and all by then.

3) I dumped my first long term boyfriend over the phone from college while he was still in high school, and it was wrong. I was immature and wanted to go wild and stop missing him so fruitlessly. I did go wild. It was fun and terrible. I tried tog et him back for a long, tearful time. But that was after two years of dating him, so I don't think there's much for you to glean from it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:00 AM on October 12, 2007


If, like me, you're not too proud to use self-deception, try pretending he's gay, which automatically puts him in the "not available" category (in my head anyway), no matter how cute or flirty he is. It does take some mental discipline, though, which I wasn't always able to keep up, and if you are (sub)consciously expecting him to fall for you, which it sounds like you are, it might not work.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:37 AM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


You can be in his presence and decide that you are not going be upset or throw yourself at him shamelessly ('cause, y'know, have a little pride.)

Or you can avoid his presence until you meet someone else.

Also, what Ambrosia says in points 1 and 2.
posted by desuetude at 11:43 AM on October 12, 2007


If someone wants a relationship to end it's the right decision, automatically. Things can change, of course, but it is ultimately really unhelpful (to you) to think of him as having made some kind of error.

Word. You're basically asking us, shouldn't this guy want to be in a relationship with me? But there is no should. If he wanted to, he would be, but he doesn't, so he's not. Don't even bother planning out elaborate mind games to try to win him back, because they probably wouldn't work, and if they did..... well, do you want to be in a relationship with someone whose mind you can control?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:20 PM on October 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


I doubt my ability to act like I don't care

I don't see why you would have to do this. Go ahead. Let him know it is difficult for you and that you are going to try your best.

Sounds counter-intuitive, but it sure beats having to act in a manner which isn't true to your feelings.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:40 PM on October 12, 2007


I'm inclined to think he made those comments to our gossipy yet reliable mutual friend, knowing they would filter back to me and soften the blow.

A 20 year old dude? Highly unlikely.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:42 PM on October 12, 2007


3) I'm interested in any anecdotes anyone has where you were the one who dumped someone and yet subsequent things your ex did convinced you you had made a very wrong decision.

I've done this. I was going through a massive breakdown from stress and I pushed everything and everyone away - including my boyfriend, who was my main source of support at the time (I had others too, but he was the strongest). I felt that I couldn't do him justice and that he deserved better, so I broke it off. Regretted it immediately. I'm depressed, and I'm rejecting the one thing that made me happy? Yes, very smart.

It was a hard two months - we remained close friends, and while we desperately wanted each other, I was in no state to maintain a relationship and he was still reeling from my emotional breakdown (I was crazy moodswinging and had to go back on therapy). Uni holidays was near and I took a month break to relax, which helped a LOT. We kept talking, and decided to give it one more shot. We're still happily together.
posted by divabat at 1:23 PM on October 12, 2007


Keep busy and stay out of the house as much as possible (the less you see him the less trauma for you to deal with). When you do see him be polite but brief (again less time less drama/trauma). Good Luck these things are less than fun but survivable for sure.
posted by estronaut at 2:43 PM on October 12, 2007


You did have a relationship with him. It's just that you want an exclusive one and he's not ready to commit to that, and/or whatever else you think of as a 'relationship.'

If you know that you don't want to have a romantic and physical connection with someone who's not ready to sign up for 'relationship,' then more power to you.

But have you considered going along for the ride? Discussing what *your* connection would look like, without comparing it to whatever a 'long distance relationship' means to each of you? Deciding whether you're okay with that? You might both get a lot out of it.

Anyway, if you're sure that's not what you want, then I think you should just focus on taking care of you. If you can't stay with a friend, maybe invite a friend to stay with you. Do stuff that makes you feel better.

Talk to him, even cry at him, if you're feeling it, or, if you'll feel better if you *haven't* shown the impact of his loss, avoid him and/or fake it. It's not about him, it's about taking care of you. In the end, you're the one you'll be with, and if you think about it, I think you'd agree that you'd want him to see and love the you you actually are, and not the one you're acting out.

I don't mean emote willy nilly, necessarily. If you have a better judgment that's nagging you to hold back, listen to that too, that's also part of *you*.

This is a situation where I think as long as you take care of yourself (and avoid deliberately hurting others), there really isn't a right or wrong, or even a better or worse. What is meant to be will be, etc.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:14 PM on October 12, 2007


For the first few times he visits, sleep elsewhere, then sleep at home and just ignore him. For whatever reason, he didn't want you, so move on, his lost.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:18 PM on October 12, 2007


Be aloof. If anything is going to happen, he's got to work for it. You don't need to be rude, but trying to act normal when you're not over him is going to hurt. There's no shame in stepping back.

Personally, I've tried being friends with ex's and it sucks until you're really totally over each other. You're not near that or you wouldn't be writing.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:40 PM on October 12, 2007


I believe his reasons, especially if he's been in a LDR before.

I was in one for a few years, and although it definitely had its high points, there's no way I'd go into one with someone else, unless we'd been together for decades first.
posted by twirlypen at 7:05 PM on October 12, 2007


I want to address your 'Is it possible he really means it and loves me and circumstances are what's keeping us apart?' question, if I may. Then the 'how to spend the time' issue.
Earlier this year, I met a a boy at a house party. He is 20 (I'm 24) and the chemistry was instant. He left town the next day, but a couple weeks later he was back and we ended up hooking up.

[...]

Everything was peachy and good....

...Until the last time he was in town. Long story short, things were about to get more intense physically between us so I knew I needed to talk with him and see where we stood in terms of commitment. Five hours of discussion later [etc.]
You want to know how to maintain yourself around this dude? Accept that, in the words of Confucius and Thucydides and John Milton and James Brown and my little brother and a fortune cookie I just ate...

'HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU.' Cliché and so forth but Jesus, listen to yourself - 'I met a boy and we had chemistry, we talked for five hours and after he knew exactly how I felt he told me to piss off but then he gossips about being into me when he's far away...' Sounds like a keeper I don't think. You're not going to convince him. Nor should you be trying to; let things get settled and if they work out, they work out, but you're not gonna win this guys affections. Cut your losses and move your mind.

Quit dwelling on 'Damn I could have made it work' and start thinking of 'Man I've got all these other more productive ways of spending my time.' You're not a chemist: so don't waste your energy thinking about 'chemistry.' If he was going to work at it and get it right with you, he'd already be doing so. You can't wish him into signing up for your thang so, since he'll be around soon:

1) Keep yourself busy doing cool shit at that time.

2) Hang out with him in a 'we're pretty definitely not dating' kind of way.

3) Make something. Anydamnthing. So you have something great to show for the week even if he pisses all over your fantasies - which seems likely, since he's a 20-year-old guy.
posted by waxbanks at 7:25 PM on October 12, 2007


Salamandrous had some excellent points, I think.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 7:20 PM on October 13, 2007


I've done the LDR thing when we could only see each other one week in three.

IT SUCKED. HARD.

As a result, I have an intense distaste for LDRs. Now, I've got friendships I maintain like that, and family which is like that ... but both of those are very different things from an exclusive sexual relationship.

Another LDR experience - I spent 3 months out of contact with my husband (then bf) once - it sucked beyond all measure. There did not pass an hour, not a minute, where I wasn't homesick for him. I didn't miss my friends or family - but by God, I missed him like he was oxygen.

If this bloke has had a similar experience - well, I'm totally unsuprised. For some people, those sorts of relationships are simply unsustainable without a great deal of effort and emotional trial. And, frankly, some hottie who lives with my friends wouldn't be worth it. Even if he was 'perfect' for me. If it was meant to be, well, it'd have to wait until we can see each other sufficiently often.

He may very well be 'that into you' - but the LDR thing may be a deal-breaker, no matter how perfect you are. I'd suggest backing down to a friendship, and well, if things change ... then give it a go. But talk to the guy.

All the above IME, IMO, YMMV, etc.
posted by ysabet at 5:25 AM on October 14, 2007


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