My ex and I were in a long distance relationship for a year and a half. We broke up about a year and a half ago, quite amicably. She was my first love, and we were best friends for quite some time before we began the relationship.
After breaking up we tried to stay friends but we were using each other as emotional crutches. So I told her I didn’t want to hear from her any more, that I needed space. This was extremely difficult as she was/is very clingy, and I’d often get texts and emails from her asking me to explain ONE MORE TIME why I needed space, but I forced myself not to respond and after a while it stopped
After 4 months of no contact, I got an e-mail asking if I wanted to catch up. She said she had moved on, dated other people, understood why I needed space, etc. It sounded good so we talked for a couple hours and caught up on what had happened in our lives, and we both enjoyed it. I felt like I was ready to be friends again. By friends I mean: people who catch up once or twice a month and are on good terms with each other.
My problem is that whenever I give her an inch, she takes a mile. Once I reach out and say “hey, let’s keep in touch,” she thinks it means, “hey, let’s jump right back into being BFF who text each other every day about our deepest thoughts.” I’ll get 10 unsolicited texts a day from her, about random stuff from her day. She asks to talk almost every other night, and she will get hurt if I don’t respond. I mean, it feels really uncomfortable when our text history reads “wanna talk tonight?” “no.” “wanna talk tonight?” “no.” ad infinitum.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed and give her the silent treatment, and the cycle starts over. Needy texts, a couple months with no contact, trying to be friends, her getting clingy, me freaking out and then back to the silent treatment. Continue for 1.5 yrs.
In summary, she wants to be way closer to me than I want to be with her. I feel like I have only 2 options: 1) be her BFF or 2) cut her off completely. I don’t want to do either of those things. (And this is not because I’m trying to spare her feelings. I really do enjoy having her in my life. Just…. not so often). Is there any way to find a happy medium, or should I really go with option 2?
This story makes me want to take your ex aside and say “Oh buddy. No.”
It sucks, because you don’t want to feel like you are unfair and controlling for trying to set the pace of communication in the friendship, but she’s really putting you in that position by stepping all over your boundaries.
The happy medium here is quite elusive, but try this:
“Ex, I would like to find a way for us to keep in touch occasionally that doesn’t set us both up for so much badness. Could we set up a monthly phone call or Skype session*? I would really like that.“
Two worst case scenarios here are:
1) She’s super-hurt by the whole suggestion and reminder that you would ever need to limit contact, and that she’s rather have no friendship at all than abide by your terms. That’s her right! If she says “I’d rather just not talk at all than do that” your answer is “Sorry to hear that but I totally understand.”
2) You guys start out well enough but pretty soon she oversteps her bounds again and you decide to cut off contact again.
These are both contained already in the status quo, right? So you can’t make it worse by asking. Maybe you’ll get lucky and be able to have a chatty call every now and again. End the calls with “Same time, next month!” and do not really respond to communications betweentimes except with an occasional “Cool, tell me the details when we talk next month.”
Other suggestions, Awkwardeers?
*I almost said “Skype date” but boy, howdy, do not use that word.