Should i give him one more chance?
August 18, 2008 12:00 PM   Subscribe

To get back together or not to get back together....that is the question....(of course it's a lot messier than that.........)

Was with my bf for 4 years (i'm 31 now and he is 32). Most of that time, besides maybe the first 6-months of honeymoon period, were not good. We fought all the time, mostly about the fact that he was completely and utterly emotionally unavailable. He would go days without calling or talking to me, then be angry and distant when i got upset about it, and/or call me 'needy' (which i know now i most definetely am not). He rarely showed me any type of love (asides from sex, which was always fantastic), and never wanted to talk about anything. In fact, whenever I tried to bring up the fact that I was really miserable and we needed to do something about it he would get angry and a fight would start. After much convincing, he came to a couples therapist with me and sat like a stone through the 3 sessions we went to. After a while I got sick of trying to convince him to go and we stopped. The therapist told me that basically i would be miserable with him b/c he was not willing to change, and had a lot of work to do and a lot to face up to, and to leave him.

We spent 4 years together (including 1 year living together in Japan during which time we were VERY isolated from family, friends, etc), and although we were close for a time, i never felt emotionally intimate with him, I always felt that if i left him he wouldn't care at all. We broke up briefly in 2006, but he begged me back, saying he had changed, and I gave him a 2nd chance only to have him act even worse. Finally i ended things with him last May (2007). He was devastated (but he acted that way everytime I attempted to end things with him).

I met someone else really quickly because, to me, the relationship had already been over for a long time and i'd been waiting for the right time to end it, where i felt strong enough that i could resist his repeated attempts to get me back.

The new guy is one of the nicest, best guys i've ever met, we have fun together, good sex, laugh and laugh, AND I feel so close to him.

THe problem is that lately i started talking to my ex again (he got a job at teh large company where i work after we broke up...i run into him now and then). He says he's been in counselling for the past year to work on all of his issues, and I even went to the therapist that he's been seeing with him, I know for sure he's been going and he seems to have made a lot of progress. I have such a strong attraction to him, and all of our history together...i find myself wondering if I should give him a (third) chance since he really seems like he's changed this time. He says he loves me and i'm the one for him and he will never hurt me again and all the rest. And i'm actually considering it. I've told my current bf that i'm having feelings for my ex, but he doesn't know to what extent i've been considering getting back with him. Now I feel like a total horrible witch for what i'm doing to my current bf. and I feel so torn and confused about whether to get back with the ex, has he *really* changed, etc. I know people say "follow your heart" but my heart doesn't seem to know what the eff it wants!

Has anyone ever been in a similiar situation? Do you think people can really, truly change? I'm so torn right now, not eating or sleeping, any advice would really help.....

posted by Waterbear to Human Relations (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I encourage you to read the first half of your post again. Do you really want to go back to that?

I vote for move on. But really this time. As in, break off contact, take care of yourself, and focus on the new life you've built.
posted by mynameisluka at 12:04 PM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

What the hell?

Here's the pattern you described:

1) You spend six months with Guy A. It's good.
2) The next three and a half year are really bad.
3) You break up.
4) You meet Guy B, who you describe absolutely glowingly.
5) Guy A wants you back... and you want to give him another chance.

The very short answer to this is "You are being fucking nuts. You're in a good place. Do not leave it for something that you spent four years unhappy with. It doesn't MATTER if he can, or cannot change, because right now you are - at least you say you are - unambiguously happy. And the whole damn point is to be happy."
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:04 PM on August 18, 2008 [5 favorites]

He sounds like a manipulative asshole who knows exactly what to say to get you back. What I'm confused about is why you're even considering it - you spent four years being miserable with him. What's the attraction in that, besides good sex?

Even if he has changed, you'd be living in perpetual fear that he'd regress - and he probably would, because no one's perfect - and you'd be miserable. Again. Some more. Mourn the death of the fantasy-person you've built up around him, but let the actual guy go.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:05 PM on August 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

If your old boyfriend was so horrible to you, why do you want him back? It feels like you fought so long to get some emotional closeness that when he's offering the intimacy now, you're willing to overlook past crap behaviour. How is boyfriend #1 superior to boyfriend #2? I’m curious, because all it takes is for a hint that he might be changed for him to completely over shadow your current male.
posted by Phalene at 12:09 PM on August 18, 2008

and all of our history together...i find myself wondering if I should give him a (third) chance since he really seems like he's changed this time. He says he loves me and i'm the one for him and he will never hurt me again and all the rest.

No. Honestly - reread that and see if you don't feel like a sucker. Move on, start a life with the good guy.

If you want to sleep and eat, make the decision by midnight tonight, and resolve to be happy with your decision. Don't do the new guy wrong by continuing on with these feelings. Hope tomorrow is a much better day, old-guy and regret free.
posted by cashman at 12:10 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

What? Why? No!

Look, your ex has straightened up some. Good for him. Unfortunately for you the time for him to have done that was when he was still with you (well technically you shouldn't have wasted your time with him to begin with, but who's pointing fingers at the point?)

For christsakes give up this nostalgia trip of yours and this "what-if" silliness and be a grown up. Stick with the new guy. You deserve him.
posted by wfrgms at 12:13 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's hard to imagine from what you wrote why you would go back to the old bf, unless it's that you want the "fantastic" sex again (compared with the "good" sex with the nice guy) enough to risk putting up with emotional distance and fighting again. Be careful.
posted by aught at 12:15 PM on August 18, 2008

You gave him a second change, and it did not go well. Ask yourself why you think a third would go better. Why do you think he has changed? Do you feel that you have changed? What will actively be different about your relationship? If he is unable to articulate the problems with your relationship and how he plans to fix them going forward (and same for you- a relationship is two people, not just one), your relationship will not be different.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:15 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me a third time, and I'm a glutton for punishment.

The first part of your post sounded so awful I don't know why you're even considering it.
posted by MsMolly at 12:17 PM on August 18, 2008

i never felt emotionally intimate with him, I always felt that if i left him he wouldn't care at all

If Guy B is so wonderful, why would you risk going back to Guy A if what you say above might still be true?

You have to decide if you believe that there is only one true soulmate for everyone or if there are multiple "the one"s. If it's the latter, then Guy B seems like a much better fit than Guy A, who may have fit the description for a while but blew it.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 12:17 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would rereard Tomorrowful's answer.... Seriously.... Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think you would be crazy to go back to him. Demand more from yourself from life and from others. Going back to people who you KNOW (and yes, you do know, don't lie to yourself) will only hurt you and make you unhappy is ridiculous, especially when you already tried it and it didn't work. Seriously.

How many years of your life do you have to waste on this guy before you realize you can (and are, for that matter) do SO MUCH BETTER? What would he have to do for you to realize he isn't a good guy and isn't someone you should be dating? Not to give clichee askmefit answer, but your willingness to re-establish a relationship with someone you know to be poisionous and hurtful kinda makes me think a wee bit of therapy, or at least talking very frankly about it to someone, couldn't hurt....
posted by gwenlister at 12:19 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Was with my bf for 4 years (i'm 31 now and he is 32). Most of that time, besides maybe the first 6-months of honeymoon period, were not good. We fought all the time, mostly about the fact that he was completely and utterly emotionally unavailable. He would go days without calling or talking to me, then be angry and distant when i got upset about it, and/or call me 'needy' (which i know now i most definetely am not). He rarely showed me any type of love (asides from sex, which was always fantastic), and never wanted to talk about anything.
The new guy is one of the nicest, best guys i've ever met, we have fun together, good sex, laugh and laugh, AND I feel so close to him.

Go ahead and go back to the old guy. If you're seriously considering dropping new guy and giving it a third shot with the old guy you deserve what you get and frankly the new guy deserves better than what he has.
posted by bowmaniac at 12:20 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't give this guy another chance, please. I've been in a very similar situation. The fellow in question was very, very good at saying just the right things to pull at my heart. Manipulative as all get-out. I nearly -- stupidly -- gave him a second chance but was able to step back and assess the situation rationally this time around. I realized how much time I'd wasted the last time we were together and ultimately told him to buzz off. It was extremely difficult, but I did it. I feel sorry for any woman who ends up with him.

Don't listen to your heart, listen to your gut.
posted by medeine at 12:25 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

You are going to hate yourself if you give up the good new relationship with tons o' potential, to go back to the old and busted, twice-tried relationship that you already wasted years on.

It'll take a few years, probably, before you stop thinking about your ex. That's okay, it doesn't take anything away from the validity of your relationship with the new guy. Even if things with the new guy don't work out, don't go back to the old BF. Go on to the next relationship, or try being alone for a while-- I can pretty much guarantee you'll learn more about yourself and the nature of your heart, than to just rehash old problems and conflicts with an old flame.

As time passes, you will grow and change and the parts of your identity that were entwined with the original BF will shed like a smaller skin. But try to be constantly moving FORWARD, not back, not trying to fit into a smaller version of yourself just because it's familiar, and you invested a lot in it, once upon a time. Invest in the "now."
posted by np312 at 12:25 PM on August 18, 2008

I'd put it this way: If the memory of your relationship and breakup with A is what has caused him to evolve into a better person, why would you want to take that away from him? You have a good relationship with B and A is improving himself. Sounds like the best of both worlds is where you're at. If A doesn't think he'll ever meet anybody as good as you then that's his problem.
posted by rhizome at 12:26 PM on August 18, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your answers. I think that i knew all of this, but needed it reiterated by other rational/logical and removed people. Rational logical Waterbear says that i'm fucking nuts for even considering it. Crazy, maybe a tad emotionally damaged Waterbear says "what if..."

I think i'll have to start listing to that rational/logical side more often...and yes, maybe a bit of therapy wouldn't hurt....
posted by Waterbear at 12:29 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

The new guy is one of the nicest, best guys i've ever met, we have fun together, good sex, laugh and laugh, AND I feel so close to him.

This is a rare and wonderful thing. Don't fuck it up.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:35 PM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

Can people improve? Of course...but they've really got to want to and it can take some very hard work. I wonder what incentives he has to improve outside of getting you back, and I suspect those are very few. Chances are slim to none that there's been a true, lasting change and that you'll be happy in the end. Sorry to say it, but I truly believe it.
posted by mattholomew at 12:38 PM on August 18, 2008

I even went to the therapist that he's been seeing with him

Sounds to me like you have problems with boundaries. You went to therapy with him? This is not an appropriate step to take if you are in a relationship with someone else. First boyfriends' promises of changing are not something you should believe, based on past experience.

Stop being sucked into chasing after this guy, trying to make him love you. That's his game. Don't play it.

Stop flailing around based on emotional pressure, from yourself and your ex. Step back, think rationally about what you deserve, what you want, how you see your future. Make decisions based on your values and valuing yourself, not on your need to be needed.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:54 PM on August 18, 2008

and I even went to the therapist that he's been seeing with him

I'm going to sound a bit harsh, but if you continue to decieve new bf about this, he is going to find out. You have been taking him and his feelings for granted. He will be very, very hurt by this and the odds are that you will lose him for all time. Suddenly it will not be A that you are pining after, but B. B sounds like he has his act together. It is highly unlikely that people who have their act together are going to give you a second chance.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:01 PM on August 18, 2008

There are lots of reasons that exes can hold that kind of strange, fuck-up-a-good-thing-in-case-they've-changed power over us. For me, it was in part the fact that I never really felt that I understood why things had gone so terribly wrong. I was tormented by the idea that something I wasn't seeing might change, might shift, and if I ignored that I would miss the opportunity to have all the great times from that old relationship come back with none of the bad.

Needless to say, it didn't really work out that way. Eventually I had to muster up the internal strength to walk away from that, to accept that I was closing a door and moving forward with my life. I had to accept that I might never be there to "enjoy the good times" if my ex turned her life around. As it turns out, it was one of the best decisions of my life.
posted by verb at 1:07 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

You tagged your own post with the following: holy, crap, bad, idea. You already know the answer to your question.
posted by Asherah at 1:12 PM on August 18, 2008

Do not do it. You only want to go back to see if he can change. I think you want something back for all your time and misery. It is extremely unlikely that you will get actual happiness from this. What you want is closure, and there are other ways to get closure.
posted by Riverine at 1:39 PM on August 18, 2008

Best answer: You are not engaged. you were not married. You do not have children together. You do not have shared custody of a pet. And even if you had all of those things, there is nothing that requires you to try again, give him one more chance, or even TALK to him again.

your history? your terrible, bad, emotionally neglectful history?

this is the kind of stuff that abusers say to their victims.

it is important for you to hear this. not just "no". that won't work or you wouldn't be here.

There are people on this planet that have the ability to manipulate you without you realizing they are doing just that. i had an ex who had that ability. he was so subtly manipulative he could temporarily convince FRIENDS of mine that he was the wronged one.

here's what will work: the word "no" and the refusal to have any further contact with him. not a phone call. not an email. not a cup of coffee. you have to be strong on this. get a friend to help you. people like this will make you feel horrible for ignoring them and will pour on every ounce of emotional manipulation designed to get the result they want.

you went to therapy with him - which as others have pointed out, inappropriate. i am pointing out here because this is definitely a hallmark of someone with this kind of manipulative power.

you need to have a friend who sees through his bullshit. you also need to clearly tell him to not talk to you at work, and if he continues to do so, GO TO HR. i don't care if you think he'll lose his jobs.

the kind of symptoms here can easily escalate to stalking or worse.

i've been there.
posted by micawber at 2:01 PM on August 18, 2008

Hell no.
posted by delmoi at 2:27 PM on August 18, 2008

Best answer: he really seems like he's changed this time

Maybe. But you don't. You're torn and confused. Again. You were probably torn and confused for most of the four years you were together. I agree with the post above that you miss the fantastic sex. My guess is that sex with new guy isn't quite as satisfying, or has lost its newness after x months together, and talking to old guy is bringing up the past sexual attraction.

My theory is that some guys who are fantastic lovers are making up for other deficits. The nice guys, the good guys, aren't necessarily as incredibly mind-blowing, but sex alone is not a solid basis for a long-term relationship anyway. I'll take the nice guy ANY day.
posted by desjardins at 2:32 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

When selfish guys break up with girls, they get lonely after a while. I know this because I'm like that. He just wants you back because he does not want to be alone and he's not getting anything else.

If you can laugh with someone else, then forget that guy. Really, I see myself in the other guy, and selfishness is not something that goes away. Break off all contact, because guys like us are bad medicine.
posted by ChabonJabon at 2:48 PM on August 18, 2008

I did this, rather i tried to do this.

I went back to the old girl, and we lasted TWO WEEKS. I was a total idiot. I broke off my 2 year relationship with someone amazing for a dumb two week mis-adventure.

I regret this every single day. Now, I'm on the other foot, trying to get back with the person I've spurned. I've waited two years, but I deserve it b/c I shouldn't have done it in the first place!
posted by unexpected at 3:07 PM on August 18, 2008

I think you should go back to him - the fact you are even considering it shows that you don't really deserve someone as nice as your current partner, and you should give him a chance to be with someone who is committed to him and can have a mature relationship.

In the same paragraph, you say "to me, the relationship had already been over for a long time" and also "I have such a strong attraction to him, and all of our history together" - all your history together sounds horrible... and it definately sounds like you got in another relationship without dealing with the issues from the previous one.

In summary, my advice is to leave your current boyfriend since you are already half way out the door and he deserves to be with someone who isn't still hung up on her issues from her past relationship.
posted by Admira at 3:14 PM on August 18, 2008

People change...
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 4:25 PM on August 18, 2008

Absolutely not. He made it clear that he didn't care enough to work on things when you made it clear how important it was to you.

I'd say maybe, *maybe* give him another chance if there was no else in the picture. But as it is, no way. I understand the desire to reopen the door just to see what's behind it, but that never seems to accomplish much.
posted by mintchip at 5:08 PM on August 18, 2008

I am not trying to be harsh.

Please set aside your ego; don't believe he saw the light and was willing to change solely for you. From your description, his happiness is what comes first.

You are not a security blanket for him.

He has to accept he screwed up twice; no more mulligans. He was rejected by you. Don't let him take that power away from you.

I myself went back to my ex after giving him ONE chance plus a year and a half of us apart. But he actually changed BEFORE I gave the ONE chance.
posted by ayc200 at 5:09 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I gotta tell you, I think there's another important reason to not go back.

You say he's made changes. But he made them after you two split up. In other words, he made them when it suited him. He was motivated in this change entirely by his own needs. And while whatever change he's accomplished is very nice and all that, the critical thing to consider is this: when it was important to you, he wasn't interested. In fact, he was hostile and passive aggressive and let you be completely miserable for three and a half years.

You are not the priority here and you never will be. Run, don't walk.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:27 PM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

You'll always wonder about the path less taken. Except that you tried that path two other times. He might've fixed some stuff, but who cares? You're happy now.

Let's throw the bullocks "s/he's the one for me." He's not your soulmate. The way I describe it is that you're lucky if you find someone else who matches, say, 80% of your criteria for awesome. You'll never find someone 100% perfect because perfect people don't exist. This guy has to be hovering close to the 20% range and perhaps the magnitude of his perceived changes leads you to wonder if he could perhaps be better than current boyfriend.

Short answer: No. Current boyfriend is awesome. You enjoy him. You're happy. You haven't had to go through 3 years of hell to realize you could do better, because you've landed with someone better.


And then stop talking to him. At all. Period. And bang the fuck out of new boyfriend. And smile.
posted by disillusioned at 7:41 PM on August 18, 2008

has he *really* changed, etc.

People change, they do. But almost always, the change is very minimal. Think about yourself. Think about the thing about yourself that you most want to change. Think about how hard you have worked on changing it. How much have you changed, really? If he had only changed that much, would it be worth it to you? And most people just become more the way they were as they get older.
posted by salvia at 7:51 PM on August 18, 2008

There is very rarely a consensus as obvious as this in relationship AskMe questions.

Listen to the hive mind. We know what we're buzzing about. This will NOT wendell.

Do you think people can really, truly change?

No. People can IMPROVE, but people can not inherently change - short of a lobotomy. And even if this guy COULD change, why would you want to go back if he was a different person from the man you loved? Different doesn't necessarily mean better. Maybe he is improving, maybe not, but let that be HIS problem and not yours.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:04 PM on August 18, 2008

oh, please do not let go of the good that you have now for the possibility (remote as it is) that things have changed with your ex. i think the temptation to revise the past to a happier ending, by having a successful relationship with someone who currently is not a positive memory is so strong that people can act completely irrationally. you have to admit, there is no good reason to go back to him other than to try to revise the past. but that really isn't likely to happen. it seems compelling but at the end of the day, as everyone else has said, it's not a smart choice. don't do it.
posted by smallstatic at 8:54 PM on August 18, 2008

Anyone who is willing to let the relationship languish like it did for 3.5 years does not love you the way you deserve. Keep that in mind and it will put everything else in perspective. He may be able to change, sure, but look at what it took to get there. What about when the next issue comes up? What if it's only another 6 month honeymoon period?

You have a great boyfriend---build a new life with him and don't look back.
posted by lacedback at 10:37 PM on August 18, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all your answers. I'm going to cut him off and not look back. If he harasses me at work i'll call HR. I realize that he is kind of like an addiction, poison, damaging, and yet utterly compelling. i'm going to come clean with my new guy because he deserves it, and hopefully he will forgive me. thanks again.
posted by Waterbear at 6:23 AM on August 19, 2008

Did you hear that? That was the sound of the train leaving the station. The time for former boyfriend's counseling and wheedling was ages ago. Good for you for recognizing you are indeed attached for reasons other than true love and caring.

You will be faced with the difficulty of tearing away from him. Be the bandaid ripper. It's gonna sting; remind yourself that you need to be away from him. Over time - my experience has verfied this - it gets easier. Once you are a little more emotionally distant from him, you'll better understand you left something broken behind. You may even wonder why in the hell you stayed with him so long.

Now: this stage is about you, not him. Remember the words coming from him are going to be saturated with manipulation and they're probably going to ratchet up into full-blown begging, guilt trips, and other drama. Your job is to stay true to your own good mental health and that can be done by cutting off all contact with him. This is going to suck and likely cause some really pitiful actions on his part. But you're going to keep your head faced forward because there is nothing good goin' on in that rearview.

In short: he had his chance. He blew it. Don't let this overshadow your new gig because New Guy sounds wonderful and promising. Don't let your ex take that away from you, too.
posted by December at 2:13 PM on August 22, 2008

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