What are the limits of couples on a break?
January 21, 2008 4:31 AM   Subscribe

Should I give up getting back together with her?

Two months ago, my girlfriend split up with me, after two and a half years. The reasons she gave were that she had been depressed for quite a while about very problems in her life, and she didn’t think I was committed enough to help her through them. She wanted a committed future that she didn’t I wanted. Her doubts were understandable – I had been avoiding the subject of ever living together; there is a possibility that she will have to move cities for work later this year & I didn’t make it clear that I intended to go with her.

It was pretty much understood by both of us, though, that we might not want the split to be permanent. We kept in daily contact. About a week after splitting up, there was an evening when she didn’t answer the phone all day and all night. I was really worried about her. In the morning, daftly, I decided to go wait for her at her bus stop on her way to work. I know this was a stupid and creepy thing to do. Anyway, she came out of her house with another guy – a guy from her work who I’d been getting slightly jealous of for a few weeks because they’d been getting really friendly. (I didn’t confront them – I ran away before they saw me.)

Later that day, I told her that I’d seen them. She was really upset, said it was just a mistake, “I don’t him I want you!”, and she was worried that she’d messed up her friendship with the guy. I forgave her, admitting to her that around that time I would fuck anyone too just to try to forget about the split.

Over the next few weeks we met more and more often and it was just great. I realised how much I loved her, and what an idiot I’d been about commitment stuff, and we talked about moving in together and stuff, though we weren’t back together. We were always hugging, often kissing, and occasionally having sex. I definitely wanted back with her. She still wasn’t sure.

On Christmas Day she gave me a big gesture of a present, with a message that she wanted to have another try with me. I was full of joy. However, she had family staying and I didn’t get a chance to be with her for about a week, by which time she’d gone a bit cool, and said she’d panicked a bit after Christmas. So we weren’t back together after all.

Since then, things have been great, in a way, but I find it difficult to deal with the not knowing what will happen. We are still definitely not girlfriend and boyfriend, but we talk about getting a flat, even marriage and children.

Cut to last night. She was supposed to be coming round to mine to watch DVDs, but cancelled because she’d forgotten that she’d arranged to meet a (female) workmate for a drink. Later on, I tried calling her and she didn’t answer again (I should mention that she does this sometimes when she’s really depressed or just tired). I called her in the morning too – no answer. So guess what? I hung around at her bus stop again this morning. Stupid, huh? What happened is: she didn’t come out of her house. She must have stayed elsewhere.

I got an email from her this morning that she was sorry, she’d fallen asleep early after a couple of drinks, missed my calls in the morning and had no credit on her mobile to call me back. Now we’ve arranged to meet for lunch.

I suspect she stayed with the other guy. The thing is, I usually speak to my girlfriend every day, so I usually have a good idea about what she’s up to, and I know for sure that she’s not going out with him secretly. She just hasn’t got the time. (For one thing she was with me 5 nights out of 7 last week.) If there’s something going on, it must be quite casual. Also, I've asked her straight if there's anything going on, and she's said no. We didn't break up because either of us wanted to see other people.

So I’m meeting her for lunch. The question is, what do I do? Is it any business of mine considering we’re not actually a couple? Should I just keep quiet about being there this morning and see how things work out between us? If she slept with him, can I forgive her again because she’s free and single so she can do what she wants? I really would like to be able to do this and not feel like a complete chump. But do I have to dump her for good?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The fact that you're talking about "getting a flat, even marriage and children" while you're not even officially together in your mind says something is very wrong.

You don't trust her now, right or wrong. You will continue to be suspicious of every little thing she does, as shown by the "waiting at the bus stop" move. If you were truly concerned about her well being, like you let on, you would have gone up to her place in the morning and rang the bell. But you didn't. You thought you'd catch her in the act again.

It's over. She's using you to fulfill whatever needs she has right now, be it companion, security of the backup relationship, sex, whatever.
posted by shinynewnick at 4:39 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

She dumped you. It's over.
posted by flabdablet at 4:42 AM on January 21, 2008

You don't trust her. Move on. Really, it's that simple. It's better to have any new relationship over one where, although familiar and seemingly full of potential, it is full of poor communication and trust issues.

You know this. Here is where you get validation that it's over from people you don't know.

Good luck with your finding someone new, and don't hang out anymore at bus stops watching. Really, it is more than a bit dysfunctional no matter how you try and frame it. Actually, "creepy" comes to mind.
posted by qwip at 4:57 AM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

The only way you're going to know if any of this is the real deal is to have to some time apart - really apart, as in no contact. You've said you split up, but really how is that the case if you still act like boyfriend and girlfriend. What either of you are saying doesn't really matter, it's what you're doing that's most revealing. Two and a half years is long enough to forget how to be on your own. Why not set a time for no contact, like six weeks (I think you need at least a month). This gives you both a chance to understand what not being together actually means. Just get on with your lives without the other present and see how it fits. Do stuff you haven't done before, throw yourself into a project - it will be hard but at the moment you're obsessing and it's not helping any.

If there's something with greater potential between you afterwards then fine, but you both have to want it. If she's actually left in her head but not in her habits you're bound to hang in there, so this way you get some breathing space and hopefully some perspective. Approach the break as a positive thing for both of you, a chance to clear the air and work stuff out. Set a date for a get together after the 'cool down' is over. And take it slow. If she really is moving on, at least you get to start the process for yourself. I know it hurts but you need to give yourself a break.
posted by freya_lamb at 5:01 AM on January 21, 2008

The question is, what do I do?

Figure out what you want. No really, close your eyes and think "Do I want to be with this girl, do the good times outweigh the bad, if I had a million dollars or just 5 bucks would I still want to be with her?" Figure that part out and you'll have your answer.

Is it any business of mine considering we’re not actually a couple?

No, it isn't.

Should I just keep quiet about being there this morning and see how things work out between us?

Yes and you should stop trying to be there in the morning.

If she slept with him, can I forgive her again because she’s free and single so she can do what she wants?

There's nothing to forgive. You two aren't together so she could fuck the entire football time or become a nun and neither would be any of your business

I really would like to be able to do this and not feel like a complete chump. But do I have to dump her for good?

If you're worried about being a chump, then you're thinking more about yourself than her and that really doesn't make for a good relationship.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:03 AM on January 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

jesus christ no
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:15 AM on January 21, 2008

you're just making it hard for her to do what she wants to do

people who really want to be with other people get with those people and stay with those people when given the chance....

delete her from your phone, don't answer her calls or emails, and forget about her completely and totally

it's the best and only way
posted by Salvatorparadise at 5:44 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

PS: Staking her out is creepy, but ingenious!
posted by Salvatorparadise at 5:45 AM on January 21, 2008

Is it any business of mine considering we’re not actually a couple?

No, any more than is it any business of yours who I might choose to have sex with. But your feelings are valid, in that if her having sex with other people is a dealbreaker, then that is a dealbreaker, and you need to move on. What you are not allowed to do is get back together with her and then throw "you slut, you slept with X guys when we were broken up" in her face for the next decade. Either care and move on with your life, or leave it as her business and get back together with her.

And dude: stop stalking her. Morally wrong, sometimes illegal, and waaaaay too creepy. Phoning her at just the right intervals to keep tabs on her social life counts as stalking, too -- don't do that either. No standing outside her door, no checking her email (if you know the password, let her know so she can change it), no calling her to see where she is sleeping.

Basically I think you need to shit or get off the pot. Tell her directly "I want to get back together with you" or "I want to be friends only" or whatever. If she's into it, too, great. If not, move on. Don't do this dragged out ultra-drama thing for the next three years. We all know that guy, and really, you don't want to be him.
posted by Forktine at 5:45 AM on January 21, 2008

I have a friend who is in a somewhat similar situation. My initial advice to her and my current advice (the soap opera keeps on going) is that the only thing to do right now is to cut off all contact. For like...6 months or something. Because she's getting all her emotional talking needs met by this guy, even though he's routinely sleeping with someoen else. It's been going on for 6 months, off and on. She can't get any perspective because she's always in contact with him.

You have to stop stalking her. That's bad news. I know the lure of wanting to know but you are going to get yourself in trouble. I think you need to make your contact with her only intentional and mutual. I.e., you call her on the phone and she answers and you make a date. Or...you leave her one message and wait for her to call you back. And then you don't call her again for a month. 1 message.

But really I think you need to cut off all contact and get on with your life and maybe revisit in 6 months or so.
posted by sully75 at 5:52 AM on January 21, 2008

She has a life of her own.

Stop stalking her and get a life of your own.

If you keep this behavior up you are going to get served with a restraining order.
posted by pieoverdone at 6:00 AM on January 21, 2008

Also, she isn't going out with other people 'secretly'. She's going out with other people because she's an autonomous human being. Her social calendar is none of your business. Any of her activities are her own business and have no need for forgiveness from you because you think she's wronged you in some way. Chances are she's placating you with letting you 'forgive' her because she's afraid that if she straight up tells you to shove it, that you're going to pull some even creepier stalker moves (none of which I will list here because you may think they're great ideas). So I'm going to tell you straight up - shove it.
posted by pieoverdone at 6:04 AM on January 21, 2008

I know I’m a sucker for punishment, but I still hope that somehow we end up working things out. I’m crazy about her. But I’m certainly going to maintain no contact with her for a very long time and concentrate on other areas of my life that I’ve been seriously neglecting in this period of uncertainty.

Good for you. Sorry to hear about your imploding relationship, but at least you're clear about where things stand. Go and have a great life and put off worrying about her until much later.
posted by outlier at 6:10 AM on January 21, 2008

Why would you want to work things out with someone who dumps you, lies to you, manipulates you and pretty much makes your life difficult and unhappy? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds? You should ask yourself why you feel that you deserve so little. As they always say you have to feel 100% about yourself (which obviously you and girlfriend do not) before you enter into a relationship. I think the next while should be about you and your hobbies and interests and not following her around.
posted by Carialle at 6:31 AM on January 21, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry it hasn't worked out in the short term, but good for you for standing up to her now. Concentrate now on meeting new people, girlfriend or not.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:42 AM on January 21, 2008

get back with her only if you like suffering and disappointment.

Avoid that bus stop. She was an someone else's place last night. I would not bet on that someone else to be a female friend. If you keep the urge to monitor that bus stop, talking to a therapist would be a good idea.
posted by Baud at 6:59 AM on January 21, 2008

Also, she isn't going out with other people 'secretly'.

For whatever reason[s], she was still maintaining a relationship with him – including emotional and physical intimacy. If she was going out with other people and hiding it she was doing it "secretly" even though it's her right to do so.
posted by D.C. at 7:07 AM on January 21, 2008

Don't tell her about your suspicions. Tell her you need a break. Tell her that you don't think that either of you are in the right place for this and that you need space to figure out what is going on. Ask her not to call until March.

Then never call again. Don't answer her calls. If you still feel the same way about her call in March.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:12 AM on January 21, 2008

Life is complicated. I don't really understand all of these people who are advocating never speaking to each other again. It's not like one of you killed the other person's puppy! It seems like both of you have needed (and still do) to figure some shit out both about yourselves as individuals and as a couple. It might be great (albeit boring) if that all happened cleanly and clearly, but life doesn't work that way. Life is messy and confusing and unclear and sometimes you have to sit with a certain amount of unresolved feelings and discomfort while things get sorted. It's not comfortable, but it's the process of life.

I do agree that you need a break. It's hard to get any clarity or perspective on what you might actually and truly want when the stimulus of the other person is always present. When I have found myself in similar situations (i.e., I don't take the break I need), it seems that I spend a lot of energy on responding, rather than focusing inward and generating my own thoughts and behaviors. So do step back for awhile, and give yourselves a break. Don't do anything rash at this point -- it's just not warranted.

Oh, and do stop waiting for her at the bus stop. That's no good for either of you.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 7:59 AM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

eyeballkicks: We met for coffee. Had a bit of chitchat, she’s got an interview for a job blah blah. After a bit, I looked dead serious at her and said, “Tell me the truth.” She said, after a long pause, “I got really drunk and stayed at James’s.” I said, “Are you gonna claim you didn’t sleep with him or something?” She said, “No, I’m not.” Then she said: “Are you never going to speak to me again?” I said, “No, I’m not,” then “Thanks for the coffee,” and that’s that.

Man, you handled that very, very well. Better than I ever imagined it could be, in fact: you're a cool cucumber, friend. I couldn't have done that, let me tell you. I think you have pretty much a perfect outlook on how to approach this in the future, too; good for you for working on moving on. It's hard, but you need to take care of yourself, and neither of you were doing the other much good.

This is an odd case where the asker of a question on Ask Metafilter has taken the answers given and done better than any of us could've advised them. Again, good job.
posted by koeselitz at 8:13 AM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

One thing I might recomend...if you are having trouble not wanting to call her, is make a date in the future (far into the future) to talk to her again in your calendar. Like 6 months from now. Then you don't have to worry or wonder when it is the right time to call her. You have it written down.

By the time it comes around you may have forgotten her and/or found someone new.

Easier said than done but a lot easier than an ulcer.
posted by sully75 at 8:34 AM on January 21, 2008

I know that what you've given to us is just a summary of events, but I notice that you only became interested in the living together, marriage and children after you saw that she was moving on from the breakup and sleeping with someone else. You weren't actually into that stuff when you were together exclusively, facing the future side by side. Ask yourself honestly if you want those things with her, or if it's just a result of jealousy or denial. Best of luck.
posted by lhall at 9:15 AM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to say I think you did the right thing by asking her directly. Games only get more complicated and make everyone miserable. It sounds like you need to give her a LOT of space now though - and yourself too for that matter. Get on with other things for a while. Good job!
posted by MiffyCLB at 9:16 AM on January 21, 2008

I wonder if no contact works. I was in a similar situation and when I tried no contact it just made me romanticize him and our relationship.
posted by idle at 10:16 AM on January 21, 2008

It's not really clear if you're discussing your relational status clearly. It's not clear if you are really, at this point, prepared for commitment - the issue, it sounds like, that broke you up in the first place. It sort of sounds like you are both keeping it in this limbo state for your own reasons. But when you're obsessing over what your not-girlfriend is doing and hanging around outside her apartment when you don't know, and she is sleeping with someone else but hiding it and lying about it and feeling bad about it, it means this method is not working.

I think you should clarify what's going on between you. Specifically, you should accept that you are not dating and that you are both free to see other people, and that you personally want to minimize contact while you work on yourself, and that before you two start dating and fucking again, you settle on being in a committed, monogamous relationship with agreed upon-directions/goals (what it sounds like to me that you want, if you're not going to give up on it, which is probably what you should do, but you know, love is blind).
posted by nanojath at 10:26 AM on January 21, 2008

yes, it's time to move on. look, you've known her for at least 3 years. if you get the sense she's lying, then she's lying. she probably isn't trying to be mean, she's probably just trying to not hurt your feelings (women are stupid like that. for that matter, so are men. oof.)

regret is a wonderful clarifier. why not give it some time, with no contact, and see how you feel in a few months?
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:36 AM on January 21, 2008

Stop having sex with her! You're a booty call.
She's terrified of being single and that's why she keeps coming around.
This girl is being quite selfish.
posted by idiotfactory at 10:45 AM on January 21, 2008

Quit being "a sucker for punishment," it's only going to get you into more of these situations in the future. Become a sucker for reward.
posted by rhizome at 12:57 PM on January 21, 2008

You were with her for two & a half years, and completely avoided the subject of ever living together. That's a huge red flag. I'd guess that she was pleasant & fun to be with - an ideal Saturday Night Girl, but not somebody who you've ever seriously contemplated as a permanent part of your life.

I think you're missing the good times now - understandably, two & a half years amounts to a reasonable amount of rapport & shared experiences - but forgetting the fact that at the time you were together, you weren't exactly serious or committed. I'd say forget it, move on, and in particular, stop the graveyard sex, jealousy & stalking already.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:17 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

But, UbuRoivas, you've got it wrong. Serious business was always on my mind, and hers. The problem was that we didn't really communicate about it enough

I'd like a RelationshipFilter disclaimer line that reads something like "Any observations I make are based on the best interpretation I can make of the facts, as presented. If you know better that my assumptions are wrong, then feel free to disregard etc".

I mentioned the not moving in thing as a specific red flag because I've had two LTRs end, in which the girls themselves & other female friends have specifically pointed to decision points at which we could have looked for a place together, but didn't, as very strong indicators of problems, if not actual turning points at which things soured. Hence, I believe that any relationship that has gone longer than about a year without specific plans or attempts to share accommodation is shaky or doomed (obviously, unless there are other explanations) and it's a personal belief that many women specifically monitor for that sort of thing.

As for the drunken email, no comment really, other than that these kinds of communications are exactly the ones that you want to be clear-headed for. Get drunk & write it in your head, maybe, but don't send it yet! Oh well, too late. "In vino veritas" can be your safety net then.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:47 PM on January 21, 2008

don't contact her til March AND don't drink til March.
posted by desjardins at 7:49 PM on January 21, 2008

You're the backup solution for her. She left you for the other guy, he slept with her and left her. You're nothing but the fallback guy, now. Move on.
posted by markovich at 9:18 PM on January 21, 2008

cincinatus I think I am also a fall back guy for my ex, (post later) but I do agree of how difficult it is to get off this roller coaster. Curious to see how your situation turned out.
posted by dieseljay at 7:04 AM on November 16, 2008

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