This isn’t anything serious but I thought you would have some great advice or direction.
My ex and I are seeing each other again. We dated for 4 years, 2 of which were living together. We were in our early twenties and the living together was much less a mutual choice and more so charity/kindness on his part as my student loans made it impossible to live on my own and living with family was not a healthy option. I think between us both being young, in a stressful almost depressing point in our lives (job issues), not having the best communication skills, and my moving into his (not our) place waaay too soon were all reasons for the breakup rather than a we’re not good for each other sort of way. After breaking up, we took about 6 weeks off but then started talking again. This time around, we’re going slowly (we’re doing things casually, not being exclusive, going at our own pace), being clear about our expectations with regular check-ins to make sure we’re both on the same page, and communicating like professionals; we’ve both grown and matured astronomically. Overall everything is exactly where I want it to be. I’ve never been happier with him or in my life and all past issues seem like a bad dream. If things continue as they are, I can see us eventually trying again with potential for it becoming really serious.
However, in the back of my head I’m worried about getting hurt. My friends, who are more like siblings, were around for the most of the relationship are skeptical and concerned. They want me to be happy and wish only the best for me. When I give them updates on my romantic life, I sometimes get comments like “make sure he’s not using you” and “I don’t think you guys are right for each other, but I hope I’m wrong.” I know that my friends have an outside view of my situation so they might see flags that I’m blind to, but also that they come with their own expectations for relationships and separate past experiences that don’t apply. My gut rarely fails me, but I am also scared that my gut may be too optimistic and might ignore sage, heart saving advice. How do I know when to trust their input to guide some choices, when to take it as an idea to mull over, or just thank them and ignore it?
Thank you much!
All advice is subjective and should be approached with skepticism. If you read something here and you think it has nothing to do with your situation and isn’t about you, then it isn’t about you and you shouldn’t follow it. If someone gives you advice, and your immediate reaction is “Nope, the opposite of that” and your considered reaction a few days later is still “Nope, that’s just not right” then do what you think you should do. You’re the expert on your situation, you’re the expert on your desires, you’re the one who has the most at stake, and you don’t owe it to anyone to take their advice to the detriment of your own happiness. It feels great to be able to say “Thanks, but I’ve got this,” and it also feels pretty good to hear it from someone who knows their own mind and heart.
That said, I can think of four advice-seeking/advice-getting sort of situations that are indicators that something is off, either with the relationship, with your own state of mind, or with your friendships.
1) If you find yourself constantly asking for advice and seeking input from others about your romantic relationship, pay attention. Why are you so unsure that you need constant input?
2) If you find yourself avoiding telling your friends things or minimizing things about your partner because you’re ashamed or you fear their judgment or you feel like you already know what they’ll say, pay attention.
3) If you find constantly apologizing for and translating your partner your friends (“He doesn’t mean it that way,” “If you knew him you’d understand,” “He had a rough childhood,” “He’s trying,” “He’s just not good at social skills,” “He means well,”) or vice versa (“They just don’t know you like I do,” “They’re protective of me,” “They just want me to be happy, they’ll come around,”), pay attention. Watch also for the oversell to your friends that is really you trying to sell this relationship to yourself. When hanging out with a friend and their partner turns social events into Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? the fact that “I know, but he’s a really great dancer and he just made partner at the firm and I love the way he leans” does not matter. When we see someone we care about with someone we think is a total douche, I think we all know by now to assume that they have some secret sex magicks going on, we don’t need to read the entire brochure.
4) If whenever you see your friends, a lot of the time is spent checking whether you’re okay, pay attention. (“Are you getting enough sleep?” “Have you seen a doctor lately?” “Is everything ok, you seem really stressed out?” “You don’t seem like yourself lately, is something up?” “If you ever need to talk, I’m here.” “Call me anytime, day or night and I will come pick you up.” “Let’s go out of town for the weekend, just us.” “How…are you” or “Sooooo….how is…partner” with that little pause, “Well, if you’re happy, I’m happy for you.” + IMMEDIATE SUBJECT CHANGE whenever partner comes up, etc.)
I don’t want to freak out the painfully literal folks, so to be clear, not every one of these behaviors or phrases indicates a crisis or even a problem, especially not on their own, especially isolated from context. It’s more important to pay attention to a) patterns and b) how you feel. If your friends are constantly asking if you are okay, they don’t think you are okay. If you’re constantly apologizing or translating or smoothing things over for your partner or worrying how that partner’s behavior will be seen by others, chances are your partner is fucking up somehow. If you’re constantly editing how you present information about your partner to the other people in your life, chances are you don’t think things are fine since you’re working so hard to paint a rosier picture than the one that exists.
There are certain exes that, if my friends got back together with them, I would have a hard time restraining myself from yelling “WHY GOD, WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY” “ARE THERE LITERALLY NO OTHER PEOPLE ON THE EARTH” “HAVE YOU JUST DECIDED YOU HATE BEING HAPPY/OK I GUESS THAT’S YOUR DECISION” before flipping a table, and from the full-body shudder my friends give when I even mention certain exes I know that feeling is more than mutual. There’s a reason things didn’t work (and all the reasons you identified would put a lot of stress on a relationship), so, I can see why your friends have some side-eye now. I also couldn’t tell from your letter if you started *talking* again within 6 weeks of breaking up or if you started *dating* again within 6 weeks of breaking up. Six weeks do not seem sufficient time to me for these astronomical changes in communication style and maturity to unfold and are hearkening me to this comment from another recent thread:
“I can’t tell you what to do obviously, but I can tell you that whenever I sat mine down and told him that I was unhappy and things needed to change, he would get a little better just long enough to get past the crisis point, and then return to his old ways.“
However long it’s been, the good news is that success and happiness are their own sales pitch. If you are actually happy and comfortable, you can reassure your friends that you understand and hear their concerns, and let time do the rest. If you are actually happy over time, your friends will get it. If you are brittle and faking happiness, they will see that also. Don’t oversell them on your reunion or on this dude’s greatness. He’s gotta show, not tell here to earn back their trust and yours. I’m glad you are feeling good, and I think you are very smart to take it slow. If I were your friend I would say “Enjoy yourself, and I will lay off of your ex for now and give him a chance, but please promise me that you’ll sign no leases and hire no moving trucks for a good long while.”