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#473: A gentle breakup is still a breakup.

Dear Captain Awkward,

A few months ago I started seeing a kind, wonderful man who I fell hard for, quickly. We had a wonderful time together and he was very involved in planning dates, initiating physical affection, starting conversations, etc. After about a month, before we’d had sex, he told me he was not ready for a relationship (although he was the one who asked me out) because he realized he was not as recovered from his divorce as he thought. I don’t know the full details (I figured I had plenty of time to get them as we got to know each other better) but I do know he’s in his late 20s, was in that relationship for nine years, and was divorced less than one year when we met.

I understand and accept that explanation. Being a few years younger, and never divorced, I know that I can’t possibly put myself in his shoes or begrudge him his decision. I thanked him for being honest, told him I’d enjoyed our time together, and have not contacted him since. That was literally all I said. I started seeing other people; however, I haven’t been able to forget him and that over-the-moon feeling I had when we spent time together. I’ve been in long and short relationships, a few of them fantastic, but I have never felt that way about anyone, and I can’t stop thinking about him. I haven’t been able to go on more than a couple dates with anyone I’ve met since, although they’ve all been interesting, interested, and treated me amazingly.

I feel like I may have made a mistake in not letting him know how I feel or letting him know that I have no intention of pressuring him into a serious relationship, I just want to spend more time with him and have fun together. I’ve always believed that if someone likes you, they will make it happen, but I also know that this situation is a little more complicated. At this point, I have little to no expectation that he will want to get back with me, but I’ve been longing to contact him just so that I can say I did try for something I badly want. My heart can’t quite accept that something so promising can go away just like that, and I don’t want to always regret never giving it a shot. Will I feel better if I say something, and at least have closure, or will I be embarrassing myself and destroying my pride? If not, how do I move on from the knowledge that I may have met the right one at the wrong time?

Pining

Dear Pining:

This guy doesn’t want to be with you. “Not ready for a relationship right now” almost always means “I don’t want a relationship WITH YOU.” Timing matters sometimes, yes, and people reconnect sometimes, yes, but if he were feeling the same connection to you that you were feeling to him, timing would not matter and you would be together. Yes, he dated you. Yes, he initiated hanging out and physical affection. You offer these details as proof that he really wanted something to happen, and yes, he really wanted to date you for a while and figure out if there was a lasting connection there. Chemistry is great, but it isn’t everything, and it can fool us badly. It sucks when everything seems to be going well, the person is giving you all these signs that they like you, and you are responding the way you are supposed to to that attention, and then, *poof.* See Shirley Jackson’s short story The Daemon Lover for a good illustration of that emotional landscape. But if the shoe were on the other foot, as it is with the nice men you’ve been dating since, you know that kisses aren’t contracts, and a few dates is not a forever commitment, it is a period where you are evaluating and deciding if you want another person in your life. He decided. He decided, “No.”

The best way to get over pining like this is to stop indulging the “If onlys….” (If only we had met a few months later! If only he weren’t so recently out of a relationship! I forgive him! We can make it work!) and remind yourself of the (admittedly cruel) fact: He had the opportunity to choose me, and he chose otherwise. Those “if onlys” are lies we tell ourselves, about how this was supposed to work out but cruel fate intervened, when the truth is that this was about a series of decisions.

If someone I’d gone on a few dates with and broken things off with reached out to me and explained how they didn’t want to bug me or pressure me into anything, but they couldn’t stop thinking about me and that memories of our brief time with them were ruining their ability to date other people, and could we just spend some time together?, I would respond politely like this:

That is very flattering, but sadly, I think I made the right decision for me. I wish you well, though!”

And then I would block all electronic means of communication and dread running into them again. Because that is way too much pressure to ever have even the possibility of a casual, fun, hangout, it is not actually flattering, and I don’t want that much power over another person’s happiness.

Letter Writer, you did the cool thing. You are in the middle of doing the cool thing! Which is to accept rejection as rejection and try to move on. If things are meant to work out with this guy – he has a change of heart, or you guys just drift back into each other’s lives – it will happen. Because your interests and social circles and lives will carry you back together. I hope it happens and I am proved very, very, very wrong. But you can’t plan for that, and you can’t decide that. You have to accept that he has already decided. You are being so sweet to try to be understanding and “forgive” him his reasons, but you don’t get extra credit for that, and he doesn’t owe you anything.

He can’t give you closure. You make that for yourself.

I am so sorry, that sucks, and I have been there, and there is no cure but letting more time pass and pulling yourself out of “If only…” land. Treat it like a breakup and grieve it like a breakup. If dating isn’t making you feel good, throw yourself into other parts of your life and give it a break for a while. It will be there when you want it again.

Because there are more dudes on earth, Horatio. He is not the right one at the wrong time, because he is not the right one (if he were, you would be together and it would be easier than this). The things about you that attracted this guy and the series of great guys who treat you well are still present in you, and you have more information now about the kind of person you are looking for. You are right not to waste time getting more deeply involved with people who don’t excite you the way this guy did (which is what he did when he broke things off with you, and well within his rights). The next time something like this comes along, you’ll recognize it and value it, and hopefully it will one of the possible right ones at the right time.

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107 comments
  1. Not the LW said:

    This is excellent advice that I needed to hear and really, really want to reject. I think I need to read it about eight more times until it thoroughly sinks in.

    I’m in a very similar situation, with the added twist that the person in question has continued initiating limited platonic-friendly contact, fueling the “if onlys” — maybe it really was just about timing! Maybe! I’ve been trying to murder hope, in the words of the Captain, because I know it was a real rejection and I’m just making myself frantic and confused, but it’s so tempting to indulge in it.

    I’m so sorry, LW. Come sit by me.

    • nevermind said:

      I have been dealing with something very similar. I think I’m going to print out the quote ‘“Not ready for a relationship right now” almost always means “I don’t want a relationship WITH YOU.”’ and put it on my mirror or something. Definitely needed to read this one.

    • clodia said:

      Murder hope! Cut off contact with your person until that hope is lying in the gutter with blood artistically swirling with the water going down the drain.

      As someone who needed this advice once, and who didn’t murder hope, it only gets harder as it goes on. And it can ruin your chance to retain any kind of positive relationship with your hoped-for partner.

      • Not the LW said:

        You are both kind and wise. Thank you.

        • clodia said:

          And you are awesome and deserve all the happiness. I hope it gets better for your soon.

        • Devin said:

          Also, if they’re a cool platonic friend, you can tell them this. “Hey, I’ve been having a lot of feels (not your fault), and I think I need some time apart to help me feel like we’re starting on a friendship instead of just suffering through a really slow breakup. I don’t want you to think I hate you, though. Can I call you in three months?”

          • Not the LW said:

            I love that script! I’ve been trying to figure out a way to phrase that that doesn’t sound like a guilt trip, and that’s kinda perfect.

  2. Corvus said:

    This is timely. Only mine’s doing the “I want to keep seeing you, but I’m still hung up on my last breakup and it freaks me out to think about being close with anyone, but I like you a lot and I don’t want you to leave but I don’t know if I can be emotionally available for you but I like you” waffling thing and I think I don’t like the sort of person it’s turning me into. Ugh. Need to sit down, have one good use-your-words talk with him, and be totally prepared to move on, I think.

    • Oh yeah. Run like he’s on fire.

      You deserve someone who actually wants you and wants to want you, not someone who wants you to hang around propping up his ego and confidence and undermining yours.

      • Corvus said:

        Yeah, I’m all set and ready to haul ass. Figure I should probably tell him though, so waiting for him to be back in town.

        It makes me sad though. I really liked this one, until he started pulling this stuff.

    • Sarah N said:

      I will second the suggestion to run. CarbonatedWit is absolutely right and it is so hard to actually internalize that lesson.
      I’ve been here and I let it drag out way too long when I was and let myself get more hurt than I needed to.
      He is waffling and probably just doesn’t have the courage to say that this isn’t working. It may be a combination of not wanting to hurt you and not wanting to feel like the “bad guy.”
      If you end it, he can pretend you’re not hurt and preserve his sense that he’s not the bad guy, but that’s not helping you.
      Halfhearted doesn’t work in love and you deserve more.

    • adorkable said:

      Use your words. And yes, be prepared to leave. Let me second the Captain’s advice – if it’s meant to be, it’ll work.

      My current relationship started like this.

      After about two months, I went, “Here’s the deal. I want a relationship, and I want one with you. Do you want to do this?” He said, “Not yet,” and I said, “Well, I am sure there are other people I would like just as much out there somewhere, and this hurts me, so I’m leaving.”

      I didn’t intend it as an ultimatum. I intended it as, “This is bad for me, and I’m leaving.” It happened to work out because he decided that was a thing he wanted, but it could’ve just as easily worked out that we never spoke again.

    • espritdecorps said:

      “You deserve someone who actually wants you and wants to want you, not someone who wants you to hang around propping up his ego and confidence and undermining yours.”

      Frame this and put it on your wall, then get the hell out of there.
      After a bad breakup I did this with an amazing guy, and I regret it deeply. It was really not cool.
      Because he was so awesome, the sex was good, and we had the same friends, I assumed that I was just gun-shy, and that intense feelings would happen eventually. So I kept him around even though I knew he was invested in things way more than I was.
      Breaking up with him to be with my (now) husband was really awful. Because it turned out I was very much not gun-shy, and had no problem being emotionally available to a partner, I was just enjoying being wanted by him without having to give back.

    • staranise said:

      “I want to keep seeing you, but I’m still hung up on my last breakup and it freaks me out to think about being close with anyone, but I like you a lot and I don’t want you to leave but I don’t know if I can be emotionally available for you but I like you”

      TRANSLATION: “I want you to treat me as nicely as if I were your significant other because I like the attention, but I don’t want to have to go to that effort in return (because it scares me).”

      • JenniferP said:

        That is also my translation of this. Even more bluntly: “Sleep with me, but don’t expect that I’ll be your date to any family weddings.”

        • Or do nice things for you if you’re sick or overwhelmed or have had a crappy day.

          I want to be just involved enough with you to keep you from finding someone else who would actually do those things.

          • staranise said:

            Just don’t have any expectations about me, and we’ll do fine!

          • And if you do, Staranise, I’ll call you needy.

          • JenniferP said:

            But if you can tell yourself a story about how you are generous and kind for taking care of poor, confused me (and my penis), this will all go much better, don’t you think?

          • Elikit said:

            And if your heart is broken and/or your feelings get hurt, it’s not my fault, because I told you up front that I couldn’t be your boyfriend.

          • Ve said:

            it’s not my fault, because I told you up front that I couldn’t be your boyfriend.

            BINGO. This is how it’s pretty much guaranteed to end.

          • popesuburban said:

            My word, you seem to have found the secret decoder ring for my last ex! He slid a really bizarre breakup letter under my door (That I am 99% sure my roommate who found it read, but I don’t blame her for that), but then wanted to “be friends,” which meant, “be nicer to me than he had been for the month prior to the breakup, and drop hints that he wanted more.” Eventually, I tried dating again, and the ex got really pissy with me when he ran into me and the new guy. And lo, in that moment, did my feelings become un-conflicted, because who the fuck would expect me to wait around through all that shit forever? Haven’t spoken to him in years, and while I don’t have a grudge, I also know his behavior at the time to be pretty atrocious.

          • neverjaunty said:

            …..did we all date THE SAME GUY?!

          • popesuburban said:

            I think we did. Man, that shitlord does get around! Here’s to the fact that we’re all well shot of him, though! :D

    • Alex said:

      Oh my God, there lies badness. This was the exact relationship I had with my ‘ex’, to the point where he would tell me crap about how I was “the star of his life” and he “would scale barbed wire fence” for me and talk to me on the phone every night for hours and have phone sex and drunkenly tell me we should go to Argentina together (without telling me he was drunk) and soberly tell me we should go away for a camping weekend together, and then call me up at 1am to cry to me about how he’d been to his ex-girlfriend’s birthday party and he was pretty sure she was the only woman he could ever love and how hard was his life. And then when I did tell him that it wasn’t good for me to be talking to him and to please not call, his response was: “OK. I understand. Can I call you in a month, though?”

      Please, please, OH GOD PLEASE, if someone isn’t over their ex and is making ambivalent comments about how much they LIKE you but how much they LOVE her and if ONLY and how much they LOVE TALKING TO YOU; YOU ALWAYS MAKE ME FEEL BETTER: then really. Run, don’t walk. Save yourself the year that I wasted on this schmuck. I can’t tell you what a wrecking ball it was to my self-esteem, to know that I was the girl that he would call when the girl he really loved was making him feel bad, when he knew that I was crazy about him. Don’t be the person that someone you genuinely love has on a string, to distract themself from their own life’s messiness and/or heartache. It can be so devastating.

  3. He sounds wonderful. I can imagine why you like him. But you have to take him on his word. He’s told you that he isn’t ready. Don’t push him. Please don’t hang around all accidentally on purpose, hoping for some breadcrumbs of affection. Love isn’t a video game quest. You deserve someone who likes you all the way.

  4. rmloro said:

    For once, I don’t agree with the advice. The only way to get it out of your system is to get a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and most of all, to tell him how you feel, which you haven’t done.

    I have experienced this before. For one year I was drowning in ‘maybes’ and what could have been, and it was awful – but I didn’t want to disturb him and I was scared to ask. Then I sent him an email, once. He replied and let me down gently and sweetly. And that was that. The first thing I felt was embarrassment and heartbreak, but the relief also came immediately. The following year wasn’t a constant questioning and ‘maybe’ anymore. I was able to move on because I knew I had tried.

    What bothered me the most wasn’t ignoring whether he loved me… what troubled me was to think I might regret it later on, because I hadn’t tried. Whether he wants to be casual, or he doesn’t want to be with you, it will always be better to know that you told him how you felt.

    So my advice is tell him. Once. Respect his boundaries, and take the answer as it comes. If he doesn’t reply, that’s a ‘no’. But if you need to try, try. There is nothing wrong with telling your feelings to clear the air.

    Good luck!

    • Elikit said:

      But she’s already been let down gently, when he said, “I’m not ready for a relationship.” And his continued non-contacting of LW is a clear no.

    • Canomia said:

      I’m with you on this one. In my situation we are still good friends but if we hadn’t talked about our feelings after accedentaly hooking up again I would have still been wondering “what if?” and it was getting to be like torture. No I know he doesn’t feel the same but that he does really value my friendship and things are slowly starting to feel better. Truth and a clear answer does worlds of good for the process of moveing on.

      • AlieMichelle said:

        I think that is a bit of a different situation, though. The LW has had no contact from the guy since he let her down. There are already boundaries in place, and if she contacts him after he has already told her he isn’t interested, she is crossing them.

    • atma said:

      Yes. There is the middle ground between “OMG, if i can’t be with you, my life is hopeless FOREVER!” and assuming that he was giving you a gentle white lie type of let down.

      Ask him, once, just as you would ask a crush. And if its a no, any kind of soft no this time, you drop it. Let it be the end to all the “if only”‘s

      • JenniferP said:

        It’s not like asking out a crush, though. Asking out a crush (even if you might get rejected) is not intrusive, it’s a question that you don’t know the answer to.

        Asking out someone who recently dumped you is different, because you already actually know the answer (“Not you”) and are pushing the person to change their mind because you don’t like the answer.

    • See, here’s the danger of that: he says “ok, let’s give it another go.” Not because he’s realized in the interim that “it” really was there and he was just feeling uncertain because he’s on the rebound. Because if that was the case he knows where to find her and say “you know, I’d like a second chance.”

      No, if he says yes to giving it another go on her initiative, after she’s promised she has no expectations and just wants to have fun, it will because she is awesome and attractive and fun, and better than alone. Even though in his heart he knows “it” isn’t there. So she undoes the benefit of his honesty, invests more of herself and her time and her heart in this guy, shapes her life around him (even if only to an extent that would be perfectly healthy), stops dating other guys, and falls harder and harder in love. When all the while, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, she is really hoping that some point he will say “whaddaya know, I think I am ready. And I do love you the way you love me!”

      Instead, they break up two years later when he meets someone he does feel that way about, and she wishes she’d just listened to what he said in the first place. I want better for her than that.

      • Texpatriate Dreams said:

        Hallelujah and amen. I played this game myself once, and it ended exactly as you say. I hung around and convinced myself that it was going to work out if I just Gave It More Time, and then when it didn’t, I wished I had just taken him at his word that he didn’t want to commit (to me).

      • Exactly this. LW would be in danger of offering herself up to be his stop-gap. He wouldn’t have to be a villain to accept and LW might not have to press hard to make it difficult for him to say no, if he’s flattered and unused to having to reject people (which, divorced in his late twenties after a nine year marriage, he’s going to be). But then it would be likely, as you say, to end much more messily, much later. As it is, both parties have done and are doing the correct and honourable thing, however the ex really feels.

        Incidentally, there are a lot of us who have used the “wrong timing” thing as an excuse when we meant “wrong person” and wanted to be gentle, right? It might not be fair, but there’s a good reason the Captain’s inclined to read it that way.

      • sasha said:

        Or alternate ending: she continues “just having fun” for a few months before moving away. Meanwhile he continues to tell her that he cares about her so much, and isn’t it just so, so sad and dramatic that it’s not going to work because Life, but he’ll always wish her the best. And no, I’m not dating $WomanWhoWrites”ILoveYou”AllOverMyFacebookWall, why do you ask?

        Only to find out later that, of course, he started dating WWWILYAOMFW months *before* you split up and was lying to you all along. Not that I’d know, or anything ;)

    • clodia said:

      While I’m glad that it worked for you, and I understand the pain of the lingering maybes and the desire for closure, I think that it’s not advisable here.

      What’s the best case scenario? That he’s wild about her, he’s changed his mind, but he’s too…something…to call and tell her that? While that’s a lovely story in a romantic comedy, that’s not how I’d want to get back into a relationship. He broke up with her. She knows he doesn’t want to be with her. If that’s changed, it’s up to him to let her know.

      It’s never been a question of whether she wants to be with him or not. Her telling him that she wants him isn’t a new and changed circumstance. Therefore, there’s no need to wonder what has changed on his end.

      • Clodia said what I was thinking. He didn’t contact LW, so there are only two possibilities here:
        1. He doesn’t want to contact LW.
        2. He does want to contact LW, but won’t.

        It doesn’t matter which one is more likely. Neither one will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

    • staranise said:

      Two ideas I’ve picked up at Awkwardtown are “No answer is an answer” and “closure is something you give yourself.” I really like them. Because yes, it is like being a worm on a hook to dangle on “If only-!” for yourself. But if you really want to keep doing that, you can keep inventing all kinds of scenarios that mean you shouldn’t lose hope, even in the face of a firm, clear “no”. It’s your choice to move on.

    • ToeStands said:

      While I agree that contacting the guy probably isn’t advisable in this case, I have every sympathy for the feeling of needing to try just one more time. There’s a middle ground answer to this problem that I don’t think I’ve seen anyone suggest yet, but of course I could have missed it.

      What you do is, you write a letter, holding nothing back. Feel free to be as pleading and unrestrained as you want. And then you NEVER EVER SEND IT. You put it away somewhere and do not touch it for a very very long time, or until you feel you are over him. You mentally mark the ‘one last try’ thing as done and try to move on. (Symbolically burning the letter once you have written it would not go amiss, but YMMV.)

      Jedi hugs the the LW and I hope they find money on the ground.

    • neverjaunty said:

      But she already got a clear answer. The answer was ‘no’.

  5. Mortality said:

    From my experience this kind of break-up can be harder to handle than breaking up with someone you’ve spent years with.

    When me and The Ex broke up after nearly three years together it took me less than six months to get over. I was still in love with my ex when we broke up, but we Just Didn’t Work. Mourning the things that had been was hard, but took a couple of months.

    When I almost got together with a guy who made me feel like This Can Last Forever, it was harder to let go. Letting go of What Could’ve Been was a million times harder than getting over my ex. This guy and I spent less than two months being exclusive in the late summer of 2010. I’m not sure I’m over him yet. Now it’s easier to handle though, he’s got a girlfriend who’s “The Best Thing That Happened to Him” and I’m with a great guy I can see some kind of future with. Once in a while, I will still go down the road of What If though.

    Letting go of What Could’ve Been is hard. Talking to him won’t make it easier. Only time and distance can do that.

    • sasha said:

      Letting go of What Could’ve Been was a million times harder than getting over my ex

      Yes, THIS. I got over a guy I’d spent 6 years with in a couple of months, because I KNEW it was over. I’m still only maybe 90% over What Could’ve Been a year-ish after our 3-year relationship ended.

      It’s hard, and you’re right, time and distance – and new friends and/or love interests – are the best ways to get over What Could’ve Been. Staying “friends” only works when you know you’re 100% over someone, IME.

      • LizzieAnne said:

        Yep, this. I’m just extricating from a relationship that’s been dead for a while now, and I’ve just refused to admit it – BECAUSE OF WHAT IFs. (ugh)

        It took me months and months to get over a 3-month relationship that was a classic example of the OP’s issue. I don’t see this being an issue with my current break-up, despite the fact we’ve been together 6 years. Staying friends will be easy with this one.

    • If you just hold on for so long you destroy any bit of feeling you ever had for them, it’s a really easy breakup! ;) I needed no time to be over my ex-husband, I was so dead inside by the end. The two breakups I’ve had since were a million times harder because I still wanted to be with them.

      Nevertheless, I don’t recommend either holding on till you don’t care about them in the slightest, OR trying to get back with the ones you are sad about. It’s frickin’ hard and not fun, but any alternative is EVEN LESS FUN!

  6. Jessica said:

    Jedi hugs here!
    I believe that if you need to tell him, do it, but that it’s all. No more lies…

    I’ve been there too. Once a boyfriend I was dating said he was not ready to be in a commitment… At that time I thought: “That is sad, and I am full of anger, but I understand you”. Of course I didn’t, but to myself I knew I was dating someone who was unsure about every chapter in his life and as I chose to be in that commitment I didn’t get to complain when we broke up. (Lame, but I said that to everyone then and I believed that). What happened was that one month later he was seeing another person. It may not be your case, LW, but he has made his choice by telling you that. With or without another person. Even if you seek for closure by telling him, I think then it is possible to be in that situation where you’d be his moral support, and then have sex ocasionally, and then he would tell you “but I am not ready”, and the whole cicle repeats it self, and you would be damaged and hurt by your investment. So that it’s why I think that if you need to tell him do it, but then no more contact. I think you wouln’t want to be in a relationship where he was unsure about you or ”commitments” in general.

    I hope you get all the advice and support you need.
    You deserve someone who cares about you and wants you so deeply much.

    Things will get better! My honest jedi hugs.

    • clodia said:

      Would dishonest Jedi hugs be Sith hugs? Force-choke? Vulcan Nerve Pinch? Or an air-hug while you roll your eyes, maybe?

      [jedi hugs] I’m glad you’re not in that situation any more. It sucks to be there.

      • Jessica said:

        Hey,
        Im not an english native speaker and I am not quite sure I understood what you meant…
        I just wanted to help and be nice.

  7. I’ve been on the other side of the LW recently, and it sucked. I had dated Guy for a year and a half and broke up, then tried to do FWB, then to finally just be friends, which was actually working. And then we talked about getting back together, mostly because Guy wanted to be able to say he gave it one more try and he would regret it if he didn’t. He gave me all sorts of assurances that even if it didn’t work out, it was okay because it was all about just seeing if there was still a shot; that we could just casually date to see where it goes. But it wasn’t casual, there was a shit-ton of pressure, and when I told him I wasn’t feeling it, it blew up in my face and I haven’t heard from him since. We went from being really close friends to not talking at all.

    So now I feel like the villain for not giving us/him another chance, and I’m missing one of my closest friends. I agree with the Captain…let sleeping dogs lie.

    • I’m sorry to sound mean, but good riddance! You sound so much better off without him. You’re not the villain here.

    • He wasn’t your friend. He wanted to date you, you didn’t want to date him and obviously he didn’t handle that well at all. I’ve had friends want to date me when I didn’t want to date them. We took some time out from seeing each other, and once their feelings were mostly gone we started hanging out again.

      • I don’t think anyone needs to have been the villain. He can just have been a guy tantalized by an Almost, really trying to make it work. The fact that things got messy and unpleasant in the second try is kind of par for the course when someone is in denial that it’s not meant to be.

        • Mortality said:

          I didn’t mean that he was the villain, just that he wasn’t interested in being only a friend at that point in time. Also, he didn’t handle rejection well. I didn’t say he was a bad person.

    • VA said:

      You are not the villain. You gave him a completely fair shot during the first 1.5 years you dated, and you knew it wasn’t working for you. What was there to be learned by giving it “another chance” – that it DEFINITELY wasn’t working for you?

      Maybe a way to reframe when Jerkbrain starts whispering “You’re the bad guy” is: “It sucks that it didn’t work out, and it super sucks that our friendship is spoiled and awkward now, but I didn’t create that situation by myself. And now we’re both free to find people we’re truly crazy about, and who are crazy about us in return.”

  8. Elikit said:

    Right now, you’ve had a clean, classy break up, and you want to get back in there because if the guy who said he wasn’t ready for a relationship knew the true depths of your feelings, he’d totally be up for a a relationship? Or for you hanging around indefinitely til he was?

    He said he wasn’t ready for a relationship, you parted ways and haven’t been in contact for months. Closure? Seems pretty closed to me.

    I’ve been there and done that, I really have. But it just seems like you’re going to barrel back into this guy’s life when he’s encouraged you to exit stage left a few months prior, in order to get him to reject you in more concrete terms.

    • JenniferP said:

      Exactly. This guy was not a jerk about things. He probably has quite positive feelings about the LW – “What a cool lady, I hope she finds someone awesome.”

  9. I agree with the advice. If he really wanted to be with you then he would be contacting you. My bf did something similar to me. After our first (great) date he emailed me and said he hadn’t healed from his last relationship and so on. I responded with “Ok, well when you are ready we can try again,” and then left him alone. A few days later he contacted me and we have been together ever since. If there is really something there than he will let you know. http://twitterpatedss7.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/dating-post-70-date-two/

  10. embertine said:

    Timing can definitely be a factor, as it was with me and the GF (she was newly single after a bad break-out, I was suffering from work-related depression). BUT – the difference was that we lost touch because other things took over, not because one of us explicitly stated they didn’t want to pursue it.

    Believe me, LW, I know that feel, but he said no and I’m afraid you’re going to have to respect that. Seconding the taking a break from dating, BTW.

  11. What this situation says to me is that you are awesome and attractive and he had fun with you, but he just wasn’t feeling “it,” that elusive special something. And he thought to himself, “whoa, this woman is so awesme and attractive and fun that if I’m not feeling it, there must be something wrong with me. It must be that I’m not as over my ex as I thought I was.”

    But really, that magic thing is capricious. It doesn’t matter how perfect a person is, or even how perfect they are for you, or even if they feel “it” for you. It doesn’t always show up when you want it to, even with someone who is awesome and attractive and fun and has lots in common with you. (It sounds like you, too, have had the experience of being with someone objectively awesome, who was crazy about you and you felt honored by that, but you just didn’t quite reciprocate. That’s what this is, from his side.) He could sincerely believe this is just about being “ready,” only to fall head over heels for someone who, objectively, criterially speaking, doesn’t seem half as right for him, but who makes his heart sing.

    I’m sorry that you had this tantalizing experience of almost perfection because unreciprocated feelings suck. But I’m also not sorry, because it reminds you what you’re looking for. It’s making you more aware of what is missing with the other guys you’re dating, no matter how objectively lovely they are, too. Because you want that Oh My God This is So Right feeling on both people’s part.

    And no, you should not call this guy. Be glad he didn’t string you along, trying to make himself feel what he doesn’t feel, getting you in deeper and deeper and letting you build a life around him. It sounds like you have lots of opportunities, dating-wise. Think “I want to feel that again, only with someone who feels it for me, too.”

    • JenniferP said:

      There’s another great short story about this: “When the Messenger is Hot” by Elizabeth Crane. It’s about a perfect, perfect date that goes nowhere, and the narrator decides that maybe this date was just there to remind her of what she deserves and how great dating should be and not to settle for less.

  12. There is some good news in this — you got heartbroken by a guy who seems like an actual good guy. He didn’t string you along or anything. Since then you’ve been dating guys who sound like good guys. They’re not working for you, but it doesn’t sound like they’re abusive or jerks or anything.

    That means you are calibrated well! You are going to have relationships with people who are good fits for you!

    It also means that when you have relationships end, they’re more likely to be “near perfect” or “near misses” instead of “OMG WHAT WAS I THINKING HE WAS DARTH VADER AUGH”.

    I spent a while going through some inappropriate partners before I started narrowing in on more appropriate partners… and the breakups hurt so much more, because I wanted a lifetime partner and these guys were Almosts. Two of them, including Mr. “No Time For A Relationship” married the *next* woman after me. I’m still a little stuck on that most recent ex, even though we’ve been broken up for like three times as long as we dated… and I am joyfully married (to the next man!).

    So… what I’m getting at, is that there’s good reasons this hurts so much, even though it was just a short little thing. You had a great connection, you were attaching, you were full of the bubblies of new relationship energy, and then BOOM. Done. OW. But odds are good, just based on what you’ve told us here, that the next one or maybe the one after that will be a relationship full of zing with a guy who’s good for you.

    • CoolNewAnonymousNickname said:

      “There are good reasons this hurts so much”–YES! You start investing and dreaming the future when you’re clicking or thought you were clicking with someone, and it’s hard to let go of that possible future where the two of you are together. I find too that my previous incarnation as an overlooked late-blooming wallflower Who Never Gets the Guy gets very put out when I experience (even gentle!) rejection Love those parts of yourself if they’re in there–they just want to be acknowledged. This guy made a classic post-divorce mistake, which is trying to get back into things too soon. I’m sorry that his lack of judgement has hurt you, LW, but this time it really isn’t you–it truly is him.

      • Or maybe it is not him, it’s the combination of you + him, like when you’re doing a jigsaw puzzle and the piece really looks like it should go but it actually doesn’t, and jamming it in is only going to screw things up later. And he just happened to figure it out sooner than you did, so you wound up being the leave-ee instead of the leave-er, but it was going to happen eventually and sooner is better.

    • Well said.

    • Badger Rose said:

      Just wanted to second that this is very well said.

  13. Alukonis said:

    The thing that’s so insidious about these sorts of things is that you haven’t actually dated the person long enough to find out all the stuff you *don’t* like about them. The breakup happens when it’s still all butterflies and rainbows, in that initial “yay I am dating new person and they are so cool!” stage. So you haven’t had time to discover all the little things that make them a little more human, like how they take giant dumps that clog the toilet or how they like to get delivery food and eat it in their underwear on the couch watching bad reality TV (not that these are bad things, but they do take the shiny off a little).

    It’s easy to get caught up in how ~totally awesome~ something would have been when you didn’t have time to find out about the goofy way they do their laundry. The initial parts of relationships tend to not only be when people put their best foot forward, but also when any flaws get glossed over because of the butterflies. That’s the real challenge of any long term relationship, to make it past that initial butterfly stage. That’s when you find out if your connection is really a good one. Are you going to get grossed out and upset about the toilet, or are plungers going to become an inside joke?

    What I’m saying is, it sounds like you are very hung up on the shiny butterflies you had with this guy. And butterflies are awesome! But you will find other butterflies with other people, they are not exclusive to this guy. No contact from him is a clear answer – the butterflies wore off for him, and there wasn’t enough there for him to keep dating you, for whatever reason. This doesn’t mean you aren’t awesome, just that you weren’t his kind of awesome. And maybe if you’d dated longer, you would have felt the same way about him once your butterflies wore off.

    Don’t settle for someone that isn’t totally into how awesome you are, and isn’t excited to hang out with you. Go forth and find someone who gives you all the butterflies and who feels the same about you.

    • Amen to that! File it away in the little box in your brain where you keep the happy memories. Take away the way you felt (as it is how you should feel) and the respect with which he treated you (as it is how you should be treated, always), then move on. He wasn’t the right guy for you, or you weren’t the right gal for him (doesn’t really matter, it wasn’t meant to be). Trying to hang on to that will only tarnish the memory and may make you more bitter about it. We have saying in France: “Avec des si on metterait Paris en bouteille!” which roughly translate as “with what ifs you can put Paris in a bottle”, which of course metaphorically means “what ifs” are chimeras.

    • espritdecorps said:

      Yes! This is so true.

  14. DP said:

    Alukonis, thanks for writing that post. I’m not the LW, but it strikes a chord for me too, and you’re totally right.

    For the record, LW, I think you should contact him once more if it’s bugging you. (What do you have to lose? And what does he have to lose by it? Presumably nothing.) CA is correct to say that if he were feeling what you’re feeling you’d be together now, but divorce is huge. There is, whatever CA says, a possibility that he was being honest. He might as well be aware of your interest when he does venture back into dating. Would it make sense to specify in the message that he doesn’t have to respond as long as his feelings are unchanged? I don’t see that your message would necessarily place any weird pressure on him. It’d be sweet. (That said, as soon as you send it, do everything you can to move on).

    clodia, thank you for the “Murder hope!” image. I’m going to have to defriend the object of my angst within the next month, and if he asks why I’ve done so it’ll be a struggle not to say, “well, I had to murder hope until it was lying in the gutter with blood artistically swirling with the water going down the drain.”

    Tangentially, can there be a thread at some point with recommendations for books/music/movies that deal with this kind of situation in a cathartic way? Because at the very beginning of my current ordeal I opted for “The Sorrows of Young Werther” and by god was that the wrong choice. #oops

    • clodia said:

      :D Glad you like it.

      Your comment clarified something for me. There’s nothing to lose as long as he says no. But if he says yes and for the wrong reasons, then they might both lose months and self-respect and a clean ending. That’s the problem – if we can assume he’s a rational actor, then he’s said no and she should respect it. If he’s not a rational actor, then he might have meant the no but say yes anyway when she approaches him again. It’s hard to break up with someone! And having someone say they’re really important to you when you feel vulnerable is very nice! And that could lead to a very unhealthy relationship for both.

  15. Every time I read stuff like this, my first instinct is to post a link to Tim Minchin’s “If I Didn’t Have You”, but I never know if it’s appropriate.

    The idea of soul mates was always… strange… to me because there’s over 7 billion people on this planet. Odds are that feeling can be found with more than one person.

    I think the captain is right. LW, you have your answer. And you got it in a away that was actually awesome. And the things you’re doing now? Keep doing them, because they’re right. Both of you are awesome people who are handling this in all the right ways. Don’t stop now.

    There are other awesome people out there. With over 7 billion people on the planet, half of them men, I can guarantee it.

    • The Captain linked that song in the last paragraph ;)

      • So THAT’S what that link was to! I didn’t check… heh…

        *embarrassed*

        • JenniferP said:

          Aw, I am so grateful to the first person who linked me to that song, it’s great! Don’t be embarrassed.

          • Ve said:

            It’s a fantastic song, I love how you wrote “Statistically Accurate Love Song” for the link hover.

  16. Linden said:

    As Natalie at the relationship blog “Baggage Reclaim” would say, people who find you irresistible don’t resist you.

    I repeat this to myself quite a lot when faced with these sorts of situations. It really has helped.

    • phalanxgirl said:

      “…people who find you irresistible don’t resist you.”

      I love this. Thanks for sharing it!

  17. gmg said:

    I think the advice of “He’s just not that into you, move on” is solid. But HOW do you do that? I was in a similar situation recently, and I did the cool thing too, and then like the LW, I tried to get back on the dating horse … but here’s the rub: I JUST DON’T MEET MORE THAN A VERY FEW PEOPLE, EVER, with whom I get a real, bona fide spark. Some people are either luckier or made differently and encounter the spark much more often. But some of us don’t. So maybe the key question for the LW isn’t “Should I try again or just move on?” but “Given that moving on might be harder for ME than it is for the average bear, what are some good tactics for doing it?”

    (And please, for the love of God don’t answer “Don’t be so picky!” I have a friend whose dating advice begins and ends with that phrase. I love her, but it ain’t helpful.)

    • Daniel said:

      First, moving on is separate from dating someone new. A common theme on this blog is that the world doesn’t owe you a partner. You should be able to be single and not be obessing over your last relationship (or crush). I’m not saying that’s necessarily easy, but it’s a goal.

      Second, meet more people. You can check previous CA posts for suggestions on how to do that (ex. take classes, take up new hobbies, etc.). Interacting with more people means more chances to find someone you actually click with.

      • gmg said:

        Yes, excellent point. After all, I AM a shut-in with zero friends or non-work activities — no wonder I’m not meeting anyone. Oh, wait, no, actually I have an extremely busy and full life.

        Sorry, I know I am being snarky, but it’s very, very hard to give this particular kind of advice without coming off as condescending. I not only accept my single status but enjoy many things about it — but I refuse to believe I am only single because I “just don’t get out enough.” For many of us there ARE deeper emotional barriers at play. And yes, before you ask, I have a therapist, and this is a frequent topic of conversation.

        • espritdecorps said:

          Dating is a numbers game.
          You can have a very full and social life, but if you are hanging out with the same groups of people all the time, you’re not going to meet new potential partners.

          Find new groups with people you haven’t already either dated or dismissed as possibilities. Hang out with them for a couple days a week. Date the ones who spark you. Dish with your current group of friends. Keep doing that until it stops being fun, or you find one you want to keep.

    • DP said:

      I second this post. I don’t mean any offense to CA or anyone else when I say that the “there are seven billion fish in the sea, or half that many if you aren’t bisexual” advice comes across as dehumanized to me. The *spark* can’t be denied. (It can and should be repressed, of course, when not reciprocated. But how to extinguish?)

      As others have noted above, the *it factor* is spontaneous- and I agree with gmg that some people experience it less frequently than others. (Or, even, that when people discuss dating some are talking about limerence and others are talking about compatibility. Those who talk about compatibility can speak of ‘just moving on’, but for those of us who mean limerence, it’s trickier. Right?).

      That said, I’m young, and this may well be a maturity issue. I look forward to learning how to give fewer fucks about individual unavailable men, even the sparkly ones.

      • gmg said:

        My only quibble here is I have a problem with the term “limerence,” which has always struck me as an awfully condescending (and frankly made-up) term suggesting that people’s real feelings are just silly crushes and they should get over them already because if they can’t it suggests all kinds of awful things about their lack of maturity, problems with intimacy, etc.

        I juuuuust might be a little overly sensitive about this, and I freely admit I have a tendency to dwell on things, so maybe that’s how I should be looking at it, in a more holistic way — ie, not how can I stop spinning my wheels in regard to dating, but how can I stop spinning my wheels, period.

        • I don’t think anyone’s disputing that the spark is real, or worth holding out for, or hard to find, or really freaking hard to let go of when you’re feeling it but the other person isn’t. It’s all those things. But no amount of feeling on one side makes up for a lack of it on the other. In fact, the more lopsided things are the worse they feel.

          All anyone’s saying is that you are better off looking for it in the great wide world than looking for it with someone who has clearly indicated they don’t have it for you.

          • gmg said:

            It’s a really good point — “if only” is a waste of time that you might be spending finding the person about whom you don’t have to say “if only.” Food for thought, thank you!

    • JenniferP said:

      Be fucking picky. Be extremely picky. It’s hard for everyone to move on, you’re not alone or particularly special there.

      But you having a special spark with someone doesn’t mean they have the same with you, or mean that spark entitles you to something because it is so rare.

      Dating is unfair. Attraction is unfair. Be picky. Give it a lot of time. Take a break and do other shit that interests you when it gets to be depressing and exhausting rather than fun. Jump back in when you feel good about yourself.

      • gmg said:

        Thanks. I have a pretty enormous chip on my shoulder about the “Don’t be so picky!” advice because all I hear when I hear it is “Date the guy who you do not find in the slightest, tiniest bit attractive, because he likes YOU!” Perhaps putting said chip aside from shoulder is the thing to focus on.

        • Ve said:

          I feel like there’s a difference between “Don’t be so picky” and “Be open-minded” or some variation thereof.

          People say don’t be picky when you’ve already made up your mind about whether someone is a potential romantic partner. Not only is that dismissive of your opinion and what you should supposedly tolerate in a partner, but who would want to date someone who had to admittedly lower their standards to even consider them?

          To me, open-mindedness is a little different, finding love in somewhere or someone unexpected, different from whatever your “norm” or “preference” tends to be. For example, I technically met the man I’m in love with at a bar. I never thought a genuine connection of any sort could start with a conversation from a stranger at a bar and am generally hesitant of men who approach me at one. But as others have mentioned, there was a definite spark, something was very different about him even from the first few minutes talking.

          In short: being picky is best for everyone, but you may be surprised where or with whom you find love, and may want to make yourself open to something a little different.

          • fir3dragon said:

            Ve, you’ve said really well something I also believe, about being open to finding that spark in places & with people you would not expect! Like you, I met my honey in a bar. At first I thought he & I were waaaay too different, he could never be for me. I have been so surprised, and so grateful, to have been wrong about that. :)

            With that said, I also believe in being picky! Especially when it comes to finding a true spark and being with someone who finds you irresistible.

      • This idea of not being picky… that’s all thanks to Nice Guys(TM).

        Trust me. I know this from personal experience (I’m embarrassed to admit… I was one of them once… :(). It’s very much a double standard, insofar as they’re happy to have standards, but they think the women they’re attracted to shouldn’t have standards. Hence, after having convinced themselves of this, they never blame themselves. They never catch the common denominator in every rejection.

        And no, it’s not because they see themselves as more attractive than they really are. They don’t. I certainly didn’t (to this day, I’m fully aware of my deficiencies in the looks department), and most of the other Nice Guys(TM) I knew and know (both online and in meatspace) were aware of it, too. They just didn’t think their looks should matter… to women… because men are owed sex.

        Period.

        So of course we thought the man was the head of the household and all that, because kings n’ gods n’ shit.

        Yes, it is as disturbing as it sounds. Sometimes I wish time travel into the past were possible because if it was, the first thing I would do is go back into my past and kick some sense into my own head.

        But that whole “don’t be picky” thing? Y’all have Nice Guys(TM), myself included I’m ashamed to admit, to thank for that. And I really am sorry about that.

        Definitely let it go, because it’s total bullshit. Please be picky. Picky is better for everybody.

        And I will say this now for anyone who wants to defend nice guys; there’s a huge difference between genuine nice guys and Nice Guys(TM), starting with the fact that for the latter, the “n” and “g” are capitalized and it’s a title, thus followed by a (TM). Nice Guys(TM) are not actually nice guys, as opposed to genuine nice guys who really are nice. And you can tell the difference very easily: if a guy refers to himself as a nice guy and then follows that up with a tirade about being “friendzoned” and all that jazz, you’re not dealing with a genuine nice guy, but with a Nice Guy(TM).

        Once you’ve established that you’re dealing with a Nice Guy(TM)… run. And don’t look back.

        • “You mustn’t be so picky” is not the sole province of Nice Guys. It also comes from relatives who want grand kids (or nieces and nephews) and want you to mate with some dude to get them, regardless of whether he makes you happy. Or “friends” who just want you to have a guy because they find your singleness “awkward,” or maybe because you mope about it. Or people who genuinely believe that you’re so lonely that even not-the-right-person (maybe even a very wrong person) would be better than nobody at all. Or some variation on the theme.

          “Don’t be so picky” can also be about people who for whatever reason don’t believe you deserve that kind of happiness, or don’t believe it exists. They think the only way to get a “mate” is to lower your standards ’till it’s no longer a prerequisite that you have zing, or common interests, or mutual respect; all you have to have is the requisite complementary body parts.

          Seriously joyless way to look at dating, though, isn’t it? Much less mating? Is it any wonder that a person thinking this way does not come across as interesting or attractive or fun? That he/she has trouble connecting?

          And to paraphrase what Jennifer said in another thread lately, the prize for being superlatively unpicky is someone you would never pick. In your life, your space, your mind.

          No. Be picky.

          • Huh. I never heard “don’t be picky” from anyone in my family at all. They were always all “find the right person for you… no matter how long it takes”… even with the women and girls in my family. The men would joke with the boys, of course, but we were all, boys and girls alike (cousins n’ such), given the same advice.

            It was always from my friends, who were almost all Nice Guys(TM), and they always directed it towards women… we were ourselves quite happy to be picky otherwise.

            But, of course, you’re probably right.

    • gmg said:

      Sorry, LW and everybody, and thanks for the useful kick-in-the-pants comments on this slight diversion from the topic.

    • bluecandles said:

      GMG: Just wanted to say, as a fellow ‘find it very hard to find even the teensiest spark’ singleton, I can relate. However, I have also been in an ‘unbalanced not-really-a-requited-relationship’. With a few years hindsight, I can see that even ‘lonely’ singledom is way way better than that dysfunctional, inevitably heartbreaking time ever was and ever could be.

      Also I have many of those lovely ‘don’t be picky’ friends/acquaintances & I used to be one of them to myself (until comments in a Captain Awkward post set me some perspective).

  18. Jaye said:

    You have to be such a jedi to stop indulging ‘If Only’ if it’s a guy you can’t escape from though, i.e. someone at school, work, social group, the coach of your baseball team (to name a completely specific example :P), etc. Especially if that thing (baseball, school work, friends) is what you should be throwing yourself headlong into right now to distract you from pining.

  19. LW said:

    Hey, LW here. Thanks so much for this beautifully written response. It embarrassed me quite a bit to send it, since I usually feel like I have it together and can be sensible about these things. But this experience really blindsided me, possibly because I’ve been out of the dating scene for awhile by choice, and I never in a million years expected to meet someone so soon that I had so much spark AND compatibility with, and I definitely didn’t expect said person to disappear after initiating the relationship! Oof.

    Anyway, this turned out to be exactly what I needed to hear, especially since deep down I’ve known it since he left. My friends and family, who were convinced that he must be my soulmate and excited as hell for me, have not been giving me this kind of advice. They’ve been encouraging me to contact him again, now or down the line, because they believe he’d be a fool to walk away permanently. Which is sweet, but totally unhelpful. So if any of them bring it up again, I might just print this out and give it to them.

    I think now I can finally begin to move on and stop torturing myself with hypotheticals. I’ve read all the comments so far, and will continue to check in, and I want to thank everyone who chimed in. Y’all have been so understanding and awesome and it helps a lot to know I’m far from the only one who’s experienced this.

    • Jedi hugs, LW! It sucks so hard, but you’ve done good.

      I always also try to remember that I start to ignore all the less-good parts in favour of BUT I WANT HIM!!! Not being with them makes it easy to think that it would have been perfect forever if only…

      My most recent If Only was a bit different, but I am steadfastly NOT contacting him to say “It’s totally okay if I’m a secret after all!” Fistbumps of solidarity. One day at a time!

  20. zilla said:

    There’s an “if-only” guy in my past. He said I was his best friend but he didn’t want to be lovers. We kept drifting back into each other’s beds, anyway, and then he’d break up with me again, and I eventually realized I could not be his best friend and told him so. It was probably the smartest thing I ever did, but also one of the hardest.

    I haven’t seen him in 20 years, but I still fantasize about running into him somewhere completely random. If I see one of his employer’s trucks I always crane my neck to see if it’s him. It never is, and I don’t even know if he works there anymore, but it’s just part of the background fabric of my life. I have made my peace with it. I hope you will too.

  21. notdeep said:

    Oy, this is really going around lately. I went through something EXTREMELY similar recently (except add a decade to our ages), except it took him a good month of back and forth emails to actually come out and say the words that he was done (or as he put it ‘just wanted to be friends’). So I engaged in good faith in what I thought was an exploring of our boundaries and then felt like a huge idiot when I realized he’d been trying to end things for a month! Good times! So I feel you LW and I know it sucks, but I think the Cap is dead on. Thanks, Cap, this letter and the murder hope one recently have really helped me get through some of this.

  22. I usually agree with the Captain but in this case, I do not.

    I disagree with the idea that (absent any abuse in the relationship) hearing from an ex who says they still care for you and enjoyed your time together is remotely scary or stalker-ish (note that CA didn’t use the word “stalker”, but when she talked about blocking all electronic communication and dreading hanging out with them.) I also don’t think it eliminates any chance for being friends. I don’t know what happened to the Captain to make her feel this way; I know I have been on the receiving end of declarations of affection that were pushy and scary and of those which are not pushy or scary, and maybe she has had more of the scary ones. But I think she is wrong.

    A few years ago, I was dating a guy. As in the LW’s case, he pursued me. We dated for a few months, and at first I was really squirrelly because I had just been burned by a brief but intense relationship with someone else. However he assured me that he wanted a relationship with me, so I let my guard down. A few months or so after that, he dumped me. It was very painful. There was definitely a lot of “what might have been” as well as what actually was. Although we had some contact after the breakup, it wasn’t much, because he knew he had hurt me and a) thought I hated him and maybe didn’t want to hear from him and b) didn’t want to be reminded that he had hurt me.

    About five months after we broke up, he was preparing to move out of state. I realized I was in love with him. I had not stopped thinking of him or wanting to be with him during that time. So I told him how I felt. It was terrifying and extremely nerve-wracking. And he told me that he loved me too but wasn’t ready for a relationship. And we agreed to not be in a romantic relationship, and hugged, and were friends. We still had contact (he contacted me frequently in fact) but we lived in different states and went on with our lives.

    Very shortly thereafter he realized that he *was* ready for a relationship, and that he wanted one with me. We just had our second anniversary a few months ago. We live together and have a really good relationship. If I had done as the Captain advises here, I wouldn’t have this.

    So, LW: I say go ahead and contact him and let him know. You don’t have to pour out every detail, but just let him know that you enjoyed your time together and still wonder what might have been. The worst that could happen is that he rejects you a bit harder, and that will hurt, but you certainly won’t be left wondering.

    You talk about fears of embarrassment and destroyed pride. I had those same fears! But I decided that the possibility of getting what I wanted was bigger than those fears. It was worth the gamble, worth the possibility of embarrassment and bruised pride. I think letting pride keep you from reaching for what might make you happy is a big, sad mistake. It is a mistake I have made before, but in this case I decided to really get uncomfortable and be willing to be embarrassed and willing to sacrifice some pride, and it paid off.

    The guy in question is sitting behind me, and reiterates that he is thrilled that I reached out and told him how I felt and thinks any advice not to do so is awful.

    • MsM said:

      I think there’s a difference between “I am in love with this person” and “I am disappointed this opportunity didn’t work out and am having a hard time accepting that it didn’t, which is not helped by the fact I have not found anyone else as awesome yet.” The former might be worth the risk (though it carries a corresponding risk the other person will not be feeling the same way at all, thought they were as clear about the love-vibes not being mutual as they could be without hurting you, and will respond like you’re stalking them). The latter seems to be more what the LW is feeling. And I think a nagging itch is better ignored until it goes away, or unless the person who gave you the itch indicates they’d be willing to scratch it after all. Because even in your case, your guy still ultimately had to be the one to tell you he’d changed his mind about just being friends. Do you think he wouldn’t eventually have gotten over his fears and pride and gotten to that place on his own, or that you wouldn’t eventually have met someone else if he hadn’t?

      • Well, at the same time that I had decided I wanted to tell him how I felt before he moved, he had decided that he had to tell me how *he* felt before he moved. But the idea of doing so was very nerve-wracking and scary for him, because he felt very guilty for breaking up with me and jerking me around, and thought that perhaps I hated him. So at this point it is of course unknown how or when or if he would have done it.

        In our case, me telling him how I felt was just that: me telling him that I still cared and wanted a relationship with him. I prepared myself for the possibility that he would say “I’m not interested in you that way, sorry.” That would have been painful and wounded my pride, but I decided to take the risk. Instead what he said was that he loved me and wanted a relationship with me too, but that he wasn’t ready to be in one.

        I do think that the situations are similar in that my now-partner and I did not date for more than a few months, he pursued me and made his interest plain, and we had a remarkable chemistry and a great time together. Then he dumped me, very painfully. People are making a big deal out of the fact that the LW’s guy hasn’t contacted hir, but that guy could be feeling embarrassed or thinking that the LW dislikes him. Lack of contact doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t *want* contact with the LW.

        The LW isn’t in love with hir guy, but sie does have some kind of lasting attachment to him, and he didn’t actually say “I’m not into you,” but that he wasn’t over his divorce. I think a nagging itch is best scratched. The worst that can happen is the LW’s ex says “Sorry, not interested” and then sie might have an easier time moving on.

  23. “I’m not OK with you being genderqueer, and I want to see other people but I don’t want *you* to see other people, but I like you so much and I think we could really have some great sex and I like the emotional power I have over you. Can’t you just, you know, repress your gender identity for me? And stop seeing that awesome girl you were seeing before we even met?”

    It worked, you guys. And when I finally ended the physical intimacy, I made a fool out of myself with FEELINGSbombs and late night drunken Gtalk conversations, until I finally realised the only way out was to put him in technology jail (calls and SMS blocked, social media blocked, emails auto-deleted). He wanted to be ‘friends’, but part of that friendship was – consciously or not in his behalf – about reminding me about the emotional hold he had on me that I couldn’t have over him.

    If it had been a relationship, it would have been horrible and abusive. I am glad it wasn’t a relationship, but if I had to do it over I would just cut off contact from the word go. Making my FEELINGS plain didn’t help either of us. It sounds like your If Only is a not-abusive, all round decent person, but that isn’t going to make FEELINGS-comms any more of a good idea.

  24. porcupine said:

    My experience is also different than what CA suggests. I also got all sorts of lingering warm fuzzy feelings for a guy that I had a brief fling with and then he left. I wasted around one month hoping that he would change his mind. I was thinking about him nonstop. When I finally told him how I feel (that it was more than a fling for me, apparently), and he reiterated he didnt feel the same way, I was finally free. I didnt think of him anymore, because I was 100% sure the answer was no. I dont think he was traumatized by that, and after some time, we can still talk occasionally and have both moved on. I dont really understand why it is so terrible to talk about feelings, yes, it may create some awkwardness, but why is it so bad to ask again after some time has passed and the LW has seen that there is still something left. We are taught as women to never go after somebody who hasnt given signals, to never be that pathetic girl who keeps trying, to be able to tell when hes just not that into us and not make fools of ourselves. But what if getting a flat rejection is exactly what we need to move on ? It has been extremely helpful when I did it to other people and when they did it to me.

    • “We are taught as women to never go after somebody who hasnt given signals, to never be that pathetic girl who keeps trying, to be able to tell when hes just not that into us and not make fools of ourselves. But what if getting a flat rejection is exactly what we need to move on ?”

      Hear, hear!

  25. Ca1forniaCat said:

    One tiny quibble: the reply seems to assume that there are two possibilities (a) pine in silence and be “cool” or (b) send an obsessive stalker-like email. After several months have gone by, it seems reasonable to send an email to see if things might have changed. Also, I’d agree with porcupine (above) that sometimes confessing great attraction and getting a clear rejection is really helpful/freeing. Having been on both sides of the clear rejection, I recommend it.

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