It's ok if you don't call
August 10, 2008 10:46 PM   Subscribe

Dumped. She said we'd talk again, but I've come to realize that I don't want her back in my life, and would rather not speak with her again. So why can't I stop mentally preparing for a call that may never actually come?

Me: 29, active social life, great job, but not very experienced with dating. Slightly damaged from past quasi-relationships (apparently I'm quite useful as a temporary guy to rebuild someone's damaged self-esteem). Been through the "figuring things out" crapfest that is the mid-20's, and for the most part, feel stable and good about where I am in life. Am ok being alone, but after turning my life around and having been single for almost all of my 20's, I'm ready to share my time with someone.

Her: 24, a month away from starting grad school in the city, unsure and confused about a lot of things in life. One of the cool kids in high school and college, and thus, has dated a lot more than me. Before me, dumped her BF of nearly two years who had by her account enveloped her life. Wants to prove to herself that she can be independent and wants to spend time outside school and work reconnecting with friends.

We dated for 6 intense and drama-filled months. Since she had just got out of a serious (and exhausting) relationship two months prior, I think she may have originally subconsciously used me to fill a physical and emotional gap in her life. Three breakups due to her not feeling ready. First was one month in, lasted one day. Second was one month later, lasted one week. Both times she missed me and called first. From that point on, she kept saying that while she liked me so very much, she was scared to get into something serious, and that to her, being with me was only inevitably moving towards a long term relationship. She admitted that she was falling for me pretty hard, but was resisting because she was in an odd place in her life and didn't feel ready. Over the last couple of months, though, she would say things like "I'm just afraid that I'm going to wake up one day and you'll be gone, and I won't be able to deal with that". While crying.

Third breakup: Two months ago. It had happened twice before so I was pretty much resigned to the fact that it was over. This one has stuck, maybe because she really wanted to be alone for a while (as she put it during the call), or maybe because of a new guy (more likely, but not sure if there is one, as I've made no effort to find out what she's up to), and I'm ok with that. I want her to be happy, and I know that while she said that she was scared and wasn't ready for a relationship, that probably just meant that she didn't want to be with me. If she has more in common with someone else, and he makes her happy, then that's great.

After a month I realized that while I am feeling incredibly lonely, I don't miss her. I miss the affection and the closeness, but we really didn't have much in common beyond that, and most of the time outside of meeting up for dinner was spent either in bed or talking through one of the various dramatic situations that popped up in her life. That being said, there were times when we both felt an incredible connection with each other, and we had often commented on how those times felt so right. Part of me feels that maybe it was just bad timing, and had she been in a better spot in her life, this could have been something great. In the end, though, I realize that she's just not the right person for me to be with. Regardless, it was all so emotionally taxing that I'm now glad it's over.

So, the crux of the matter:

When the breakup call was winding down, I made it a point to wish her luck in grad school and with whatever she may do down the road. I truly meant this, as I care for her and wish her well. However, her reply to this was quick, saying not to make any grand statements like that, because we were going to talk again. When I protested, she cut me off and adamantly stated, "No...we WILL talk again." I have a feeling that maybe she'll call one day when she's either lonely or ready for something long-term. Probably lonely. I think deep down, she had some pretty intense feelings for me, probably more intense than I ever felt for her, and those feelings scared her.

Is her being so adamant about it as weird as I think? Is this a sneaky way to make sure she stays on my mind while avoiding being the bad guy? If she were to call, is there some sort of general cooling-off period before someone attempts contact? While I don't really want to speak with her again, I have this nagging feeling that she's going to call and I'm going to need to be prepared. It's obvious from writing this that I still have some sort of feeling for her. We both tended to over-analyze things (obviously), so I know that anything she said wasn't said flippantly. She made some pretty big statements about her feelings towards me, so I think it's possible that eventually she'll call. I know what it feels like to be a rebound, and with the emotions involved, I don't think that was the case here.

If you've ever personally said or heard this, what was the result? More importantly, how do I stop thinking about this seemingly inevitable call? I just want to move on, but even though I've cut her completely from my daily life, my brain won't let go. I even have a couple of women interested in dating me, but I don't want to unless I know I'm not just going to use them to not be lonely.

Apologies for the length, but writing it out in and of itself has been cathartic. Thank you in advance for any answers, anecdotes, or anything else you may be able to offer.
posted by telephasic to Human Relations (26 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Distract yourself? After a few weeks of it not happening, you'll understand more fully that it won't happen.
posted by Electrius at 10:52 PM on August 10, 2008

I had to cut off communication with my ex after divorce. It did nothing but cause pain and served no purpose whatsoever.

My grandfather had a saying I'll never forget: The more you stir up shit, the more it stinks.

It's ok to "rehearse" for the phone call. But if you have really decided you don't want to talk to her anymore, just rehearse a simple statement to that effect. "I'm sorry, but I'd really rather not talk to you. I do wish you well, but I just don't want to talk and I can't go into all the reasons. Please don't call again."

It was hard for me to do, being a "nice guy" but it was necessary. More calls indeed came, but I just had to repeat the same statement. You can't go into why or try to rehash. It will just suck you in. Stick to your guns.

Oh and the "We WILL talk again!" part sounds controlling, like you are her child.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:55 PM on August 10, 2008 [6 favorites]

Well, I am friends with most of my Ex girl friend. While I know that this is not very American, did you ever consider it? Either you are happy that she calls to hang out with her for a beer or you are not. And when you are not then you just tell her. Then you just tell her that it didn't work out between you, that you are seeing someone else and that you wish her all the best but that you prefer her not to call again.

> Me: 29, active social life, great job, but not very experienced with dating.

Me, 30ies, active social life, shitty job, but very experienced with dating.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 10:57 PM on August 10, 2008

There could be a number of reasons she was so insistent (my guess is she believes some sort of post-breakup relationship will make up for her behavior), but they don't really matter. You really should be done with this woman, and you seem to realize that.

You want to stop thinking about any potential future conversation with her? Here's what you do. Figure out exactly what you'd want out of the conversation, if it had to happen (hopefully your goal is the cessation of all future dealings with this person, but it's really up to you). Then write a short little script so you'll have exactly what you need to say (e.g. "I'm sorry, but it's just not healthy for me to keep in contact with you..."). Fold it up and put it in your wallet. It might be a cathartic exercise, but its real purpose is to give you discipline so you don't fall back in with this girl if she does come back. Now you don't have to think about what you'll say to her, because it's already written out.

And go talk to these new women. Don't worry about whether you might be "using" them. Just treat them with respect. They know how relationships work, and will be able to tell (better than you, likely) what you're ready for.
posted by aswego at 11:03 PM on August 10, 2008

Wow, that is a head trip. So, of course you're still thinking about her, when she left acting like she had an open door to return. Now there's this door to your life, swinging open, waiting for someone to walk back in with more drama and hurtfulness. So, can you just close it? ("I should've changed my stupid lock, I should have made you leave the key...") Just because she didn't want that to be the official end, once and for all, it doesn't mean it can't be. You can either plan ahead not to take her calls, or you can plan for a short conversation like aswego describes. Then just reassure yourself, "you never have to talk to her again." You really don't.
posted by salvia at 11:18 PM on August 10, 2008

Is her being so adamant about it as weird as I think?

Yes. Nothing weird about saying "I want to be your friend" or "let's talk," but being that forceful about it sounds more controlling than friendly.

Is this a sneaky way to make sure she stays on my mind while avoiding being the bad guy?

If it is, it sure is working, isn't it?

If she were to call, is there some sort of general cooling-off period before someone attempts contact?

There's no federal statute of exgirlfriend phoning, if that's what you mean. The cliche about time healing is true, so the longer you go before talking to her, the more over things you are probably going to be. But if she is being controlling and weird, she is probably going to maintain that intermittent kind of contact that will keep you most on edge. It's easy to manipulate people, and it is easy to be manipulated. Or, some people are just kind of clingy and over-dramatic. You know what she's like, we don't.

More importantly, how do I stop thinking about this seemingly inevitable call? I just want to move on, but even though I've cut her completely from my daily life, my brain won't let go.

You move on by enlisting every cliche in the book. You give yourself space and time, you look for all those fish in the sea, you volunteer, you stay active, blah blah blah. Therapy if that helps, drinking beer with friends if that helps. Whatever works.

I even have a couple of women interested in dating me, but I don't want to unless I know I'm not just going to use them to not be lonely.

That's exactly why you should go on (friendly, low-key, fun) dates with them. The more you do that, the more the exgirlfriend will recede into the past. You want the male version of that old cliche about getting over one guy by getting under another. It's ok to wait a while before starting a serious new relationship, but don't wait to have fun and be social. Get out there and have such a great time that there isn't much time to be thinking about the ex.

And I agree with the people suggesting that you have a script ready for if/when she calls. I'd keep it ultra short: Sorry, can't talk, not interested in talking, bye. No need to explain, or engage when she starts crying and tries to get you involved in whatever her drama is ("I miss you so much" or "no one understands me like you do" or "leaving you was the biggest mistake of my life", for example). Even better is to let her go to voicemail and delete, but you may have to talk to her just long enough to say "no thanks, bye" to avoid the problem of ducking her calls for months. Whatever you decide, write it out, practice it, and stick to that when/if she calls.
posted by Forktine at 11:20 PM on August 10, 2008

Start dating.

She doesn't get to dump you and still keep you on the line in case she wants you back. And if she finds that she CAN keep you on the line like that, she'll never respect you - she can then dump you for other guys because it costs her nothing to do so as she knows she can always have you back.
You can move on or be a doormat.

Perhaps she's not like that. Perhaps she's desperately struggling with conflicting emotions. That could explain, but still couldn't justify trying to mess with you.

She dumped you, you want it to be final, so make it final - start dating.
And you'll be much less bothered by any call if you're seeing someone fun.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:20 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, these two sentences give me totally different views of what's going on --

-- apparently I'm quite useful as a temporary guy to rebuild someone's damaged self-esteem
--she had some pretty intense feelings for me, probably more intense than I ever felt for her

I realize they could both be somewhat true. But the first makes it sound like you were used and who you were didn't matter, while the second throws that into question for me. Regardless of the second, the first statement portrays you as a victim, and it does seem like you put up with a lot in the relationship. And now, here you are, worried that you'll be victimized again by her returning. So, not to get all Pscyh 101 on you here, and I obviously know you only through these thousand words, but have you ever wondered if maybe this is a thing for you (being the victim, not protecting yourself, allowing yourself to be at other people's mercy)? Maybe I'm way off here, but if it rings true, then you could practice thinking about what power you do have in a given situation.
posted by salvia at 11:48 PM on August 10, 2008

All I can say is that while I'm still my 20s, I've never regretted cutting off contact with exes. I've told myself that even if they did call or e-mail me, I would ignore it/block it. Maybe someday I'll be ready for contact with these people, but it will be when I'm ready, not when they decide and it will be when I no longer resent them. I set my last ex's number on my phone as "NO" since there was no other way to block it. I had to do that because when I deleted it, he called and I didn't know who it was, so I answered it. Worst thing to do. Our conversation made it clear that neither of us we past the relationship.
posted by melissam at 11:48 PM on August 10, 2008

Her dictatorial "we WILL talk again" is pretty fucking presumptuous. As others have said, there's no reason for you to accept it. What do you want -- do you want to talk to her? If so, why don't you call her? And if not, then make the decision not to take her call in the future should she ever get around to it.

If all you want is closure, why don't you call her and tell her, pre-emptively, that you are not interested in any contact with her and will not be taking future calls? Wish her luck and say goodbye firmly. Not everything has to go the way she wants it to go.

In my experience it's pretty inevitable that you think about the ex-girlfriend until you get a new one, and it's also pretty inevitable that you have moments of loneliness when you're single. I would hazard a guess that almost every single person is lonely. So -- why not date one of these lonely women who are interested in you? You're lonely, they're lonely -- where's the problem? No-one has to be using anyone.

If your plan is really to not date anyone until you no longer feel lonely -- well, that sounds to me like a shitty plan. Believe me, I used to have the same notions you did, that I should wait until I was self-sustained and independent in my own self before starting a relationship with another person. That day never arrives and in the meantime life passes you by. Why don't you date all of those women who are interested in you -- non-committally and respectfully -- and then see if anything comes of it? Having a dinner date with someone is hardly a crime against humanity.
posted by creasy boy at 12:44 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Change your phone numbers and start dating the new girls!
posted by zarah at 1:24 AM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

We dated for 6 intense and drama-filled months

If you like drama, stay available. If you don't, don't.
posted by flabdablet at 2:58 AM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Stop being a chump and take matters into your own hands. Either call her or write a snail-mail letter and let her know you consider the relationship a closed chapter of your life. By all means, wish her well, but have the last word on "future contact" and tell her it's best if you cut ties and went your separate ways.

By letting it be in the air, you being on edge waiting for her call, it's like you want it to possibly happen. Give a clear signal--at least to yourself--that you definitely want to get over it.

I'd advise against preparing (at least in writing) for any more contact with her after you say your piece about ending contact. Any external reminder will prolong the period of forgetting that it's over and keep you on edge longer. I'm not strictly saying forget about her and that she ever existed, just stop thinking about her in the present or future tense.
posted by itesser at 3:24 AM on August 11, 2008

I agree with itesser. Be proactive and let her know you will not be talking or communicating with her again. Then you don't spend months waiting for the call.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:51 AM on August 11, 2008

flabdablet answer = perfect. It sounds like you're moving on in a very healthy way from the drama and you want to keep that forward momentum. Listen to that good instinct.
posted by allterrainbrain at 3:53 AM on August 11, 2008

Seconding changing the phone number... OR, take the preemptive strike - call HER, wish her luck with grad school / life (good karma), but that you'd rather not be contacted by her again. If she asks why, tell her you'd rather not her 'backup boyfriend' (been there, done that - and that's what you two sound like), or whatever portion of the OP you feel like sharing.

In any case, you'll move on, be fine, and more than likely find someone better. Take care and be safe.
posted by chrisinseoul at 5:57 AM on August 11, 2008

Oh for fuckssakes, don't change your phone number. She's not a stalker. She's not harassing you.

Be a grown up. Move on.

Either she calls or she doesn't. So what? Do you really think it's time well spent obsessing over it? Worrying about it? Rehearsing it?

Look, we all do this. And as someone who spent a significant amount of time after one brutal breakup (when I was a lot younger than you) crafting a bunch of "What if she calls ... what if I run into her at the cafe ..." type scenarios I can tell you it is not worth it.

Here's an idea: why don't you get out there and get on with your life so that when she does call you can say, "Oh hi. I'm balls deep in my new girlfriend, can I call you back later?"
posted by wfrgms at 6:45 AM on August 11, 2008

Oh wow you are in a tough spot my friend....I'll give you an advice from the other side of the situation.....after a very very tough drama-filled relationship I decided to break up with someone whom I was very very close, I was adamant to do it but I realized it was the right thing to do. After we broke up over a period of 6 months we talked on the phone exactly 3 times over a period of 6 months. I called her 2 times and she called me once. So it kinda went like this, I called (first), she called (second) and I called the 3rd time......The third time we spoke she told me she had gotten a boyfriend, was deeply involved and her boyfriend was uneasy about us talking on the phone. She asked me if it was possible not to contact her anymore.....Do you know what I did?

I didnt go all crazy, told her to F**K off or tried to kill her boyfriend.....I said I understand the of luck to her in the future...hung up...and proceeded to delete her number.....and well let me tell you...she will never hear from me again..

What makes you think that in the even that she calls and you tell her how you feel she will react any different?
posted by The1andonly at 7:10 AM on August 11, 2008


1. call her and tell her not to call you
2. change your phone number
3. say anything about your balls if she does call


1. let time pass
2. try to have as much fun as possible, on your own or with others
3. practice for her call if you want, but try not to obsess

The more you do 1 and 2, the less you will do 3 and if enough time passes with you having as much fun as possible, if she does call it won't be a big deal because you will have completely moved on. If at that time she does call, I recommend saying "I really hope that you are doing well and I wish you nothing but the best, but I am in a different place right now and I don't think us talking would be good for me right now" and if she wants reasons or to try to talk you out of it you can just say "I am sorry, but I have to do what is best for me. Good luck" and hang up.

The letting time pass is always the hardest part, but concentrating on having fun makes it easier. Good luck.
posted by ND¢ at 7:19 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is this a sneaky way to make sure she stays on my mind while avoiding being the bad guy?

Possibly, but probably not. I was once about her age and dropped my fiancé immediately before moving to attend grad school. Many things in her life are about to change and she's unsure. Clinging to an old relationship (even one she doesn't want) may feel safe. In the next few weeks, her life is going to be full of new people and pressures. She's probably not going to be thinking about you, beyond nostalgia. The call most certainly is not inevitable.

Get on with your life. If she calls and you don't want to talk to her, then don't answer. If you run into her somewhere, then smile, nod and move along.
posted by 26.2 at 8:23 AM on August 11, 2008

I actually told someone that while I was not up to talking to her at the moment (she'd dumped me several weeks before), I was fairly sure that we would pick this up in the next lifetime. I wished her luck in this one, and that was that.

Many years later, I am still fairly pleased with that response.
posted by Danf at 8:37 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

More importantly, how do I stop thinking about this seemingly inevitable call?

Move on, move on, move on. Live your life without this girl. That's it. It will get easier with time. Corny, but so, so true. Do things other than thinking about her and that phone call.

And that's it.
posted by zardoz at 8:44 AM on August 11, 2008

Also, odds are high that she's just saying that and doesn't really mean that some day, she WILL call. A lot of people like to "leave that door open" and then not actually go through it. It makes them feel like less of an asshole for dumping you. She could call, sure, but not for like, years. Or ever. Don't think of it as an anvil hanging over your head, just think of it as a blowoff response.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:49 AM on August 11, 2008

I even have a couple of women interested in dating me, but I don't want to unless I know I'm not just going to use them to not be lonely.

Um, that's what dating IS. Spending time with people you like, and part of the point is that you're not alone. It goes both ways. You benefit from closeness, they benefit from closeness. There's nothing wrong with wanting that.

I don't get where "using" comes in. You would be "using" them if you dated them a few times, didn't like them, but kept them around anyway.

It seems like you're looking for a relationship where you're treated poorly, because you're terrified of treating someone else poorly.
posted by sondrialiac at 9:18 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

So why can't I stop mentally preparing for a call that may never actually come?

That is limerance. It is a phenomenon of intrusive thought patterns relating to intense romantic emotional attachment. It will plauge you for a while but subside eventually. The chemicals in your brain relating to loving someone are causing it--they would like it if you would get back together.

Recognize this for what it is, a chemical reaction that should be dealt with on the level of "how do I deal with this chemical reaction," instead of "what do I do if she calls."

Remember, you are built for feeling these feelings and that you have all the programming needed to figure out how to react at that time. The facts of your life will be much different at the time it happens and you have no way of predicting what will be happening if and when she does call. So focus on the feelings and not the actions you might take should this happen.

It will subside in time. Everytime you feel it, just say to yourself "limerance."
posted by Ironmouth at 9:19 AM on August 11, 2008 [9 favorites]

how do I stop thinking about this seemingly inevitable call? I just want to move on, but even though I've cut her completely from my daily life, my brain won't let go.

Once you've truly made up your mind not to speak to her again, it will go away. Right now, the option is still somehow open to you, and that's why you can't let it go. Do not call her to tell her not to call you - just either not take the call or hang up when you hear her voice. Let it go, and it will be gone.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:33 AM on August 11, 2008

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