I’m in a bit of an emotional pickle and I was wondering if you had any advice.
It’s kind of a long story but I’ll simplify as well as I can;
For 5 years I was in a relationship with a very good man. He was supportive and loving throughout some incredibly difficult times and although we certainly had our problems (both of us bought our family and mental health drama into the relationship) we were not just boyfriend and girlfriend but each other’s best friends for all those years. Living in a town we hated, in a university that was draining us, and surrounded by people we didn’t like, it was like me and him against the world.
However, last year around November we broke up. He ‘pulled the trigger’ as I put it but it had been something that had been on the cusp for a while. I had been questioning my sexuality for a while and shortly after our break up I came out as a lesbian. He was surprisingly supportive throughout all of this although I’m sure it was incredibly hard on him. Aside from my sexuality we had other problems as well, we were fighting more and laughing less, his anger which had been a problem in our relationship since the beginning was still a problem I had near completely lost patience with.
We both promised each other we’d do what we could to be friends. We’d only a couple of months earlier moved in together (we needed to get out of our previous living situation and I had hoped that moving in together might ‘fix’ me) and at first it seemed ok. We still laughed and went out to dinner, he’d point out girls he thought I’d find cute, we’d joke and make fun of each other the same way we always had. It seemed too good to be true. Well you know what they say…
After not too long a time that stopped, I’m not sure exactly why, but things became distant, and then hostile. There had been tiny glimpses of this before, (for example, I mentioned to a friend that he’d been the one to ‘pull the trigger’ and he said ‘yeah well you had the gun shoved so far down my throat that I didn’t have a choice’. He later said this was a badly worded joke) but nothing huge and whenever I’d ask he’d play it down.
But after a short while the living situation became very difficult. For a while I was scared I would be homeless because he said he wanted to move out and I wasn’t sure I could cover rent and everything all by myself (things we’d previously halved), I tried to explain this to him that I needed more time to figure a living situation out as i have no family in the city where we live and no where else I could have stayed. He got very angry and didn’t seem to care about the homeless possibility. We were in his car having a chat when this happened and he screamed at me, getting very angry as I had seen 1000 times before, and at one point when I got out and walked away he screamed “times running out”. He moved back in with his parents (something he blames on me because he says I made the living situation so hostile and tense that he had no choice but to move out) and thankfully I can cover rent and bills, though I don’t exactly have much left over afterwards.
Very shortly after he started dating a girl I know and although it felt weird at first, I’m glad he’s found some happiness, and the girl is a very sweet person who I’m sure won’t hurt him.
One of the last times we spoke I asked him how he felt about me. I told him that I can take him going from my boyfriend and best friend to my ex who i have a friendly or casual relationship with, but I couldn’t take him going from being the centre of my world to someone who seems to hate me and isn’t in my life at all. He told me that he never thought I’d hurt him, and the way I’d handled coming out and everything after hurt him and he has to protect himself. That broke my heart. We might not be together anymore (I have a girlfriend myself now), but I’d take a bullet for that guy. It breaks my heart to think that I hurt him, I certainly didn’t mean to, and I cant believe he feels like he needs to protect himself against me of all people.
I’ve been wondering what, if anything, i can do about this situation for a while. The trigger for this letter was two dreams I had in a row (I’m not the type to read into dreams but these are a little on the nose). In the first his girlfriend had a baby and my ex told me that I needed to pay child support for some reason, he seemed very annoyed with me when I questioned why I had to give him money. In the second (that I had just last night), he asked me to get something for him but I couldn’t do this, I was late to meet him and tried to explain that I couldn’t get what he wanted just yet. At first he seemed fine with this, then he took me somewhere else (his mom was in the background telling him he ‘should have done this to begin with’) and started saying horrible things to me. I asked if he hated me and he yelled ‘of course I fucking hate you, you deserve everything you get’. There are currently concerns that I have a swelling in my brain and in the dream I asked ‘what about the tumour?’ and he said ‘I hope it kills you.’ I woke up crying.
I messaged him the other day but didn’t get a response and this is par for the course pretty much whenever I try to speak to him now.
Do you think I should tell him about these dreams? Ask him again how he feels? If not, how do I deal with these very painful dreams and feelings?
Any advice would be appreciated,
I didn’t mean to hurt him.
P.S. His parents have caused more drama by insisting that I owe them money for things they bought us as a couple (his mom even wants the mattress back that she bought us), I have tried to be civil and offer them money. They’ve even argued that I should give my ex our fridge even though I paid for half of it. This does not make our situation any less tense.
Dear I Didn’t Mean To Hurt Him,
Hallo, Love. You are having a fairly normal-amount-of-difficult breakup grief about someone who has been really important to you. You say the breakup happened last November, so it’s possible that the Anniversary Effect is at play here. Add in a health scare, the looming winter holidays, and it’s a pretty strong breeding ground for a case of The Regrets.
Please, don’t tell this guy about your dreams or ask him how he feels about you again. He’s not responsible for the things he does in your dreams, and he’s clearly trying to get some emotional distance from you and the end of the relationship. It’s time to limit contact with him, definitely limit contact with his parents (“Ex and I will work out any stray money/possessions stuff between us, thanks.”), and then get on with the work of grieving the loss of this relationship and moving on.
“We’ll definitely be friends”/”Of course we’ll stay friends” can be said during a breakup with every good intention of following through. Of course it’s weird to imagine this person who was so very important to you, this person you lived with, this person you talked to every single day, this person who was there for all these important milestones and “you and me against the world” moments, etc. will suddenly one day go *poof* from your life. How absurd! And yet, sometimes it’s just too hard to stay close in the aftermath despite everyone’s best intentions.
I know not everyone works this way, but with any significant ex I’ve stayed friends with there has needed to be a period of low- or no-contact after the breakup while I reset my life and my heart. I’ve needed time to grieve for the relationship that was. I’ve needed time to figure out if I actually want to be friends and what I want that friendship to look like before rebuilding something new on the ashes. If there’s stuff to be angry about, I’ve needed some room to allow myself to get as angry as I really feel. I’ve needed time to break the habit of reaching out to them, of saving up funny things to tell them throughout the day, of running to them with every trouble or piece of good news. Anytime I’ve tried to rush that process, one or more of these things happens:
- Hanging out with them is really good. Almost…too good? I’m reminded of all the good things about our relationship. We hug. They smell good. Soooooo good. Oh god, I miss them. I miss them so much.
- I am still so angry. So very angry. And there is so much angry stuff to talk about. I know, let’s hang out, as friends, and talk about all the painful angry stuff that went wrong between us. You know, from a safe distance. As friends. Really angry friends.
- Oops we had sex. But now we’re both crying? Why are feelings.
You’re experiencing a version of #1 and your ex is experiencing a version of #2. (You both seem safe from #3. Small victories?) Living together as roommates after the breakup kept the pressure on both of you to stay entangled with each other and it meant that you didn’t get any time or space to properly grieve. It may have been the only decision that made sense at the time (awkward roommate situations > homelessness) so I’m not throwing blame at either of you, just, you didn’t get that space to regroup and clean out the debris of the old relationship before trying to build a new friendship with each other. Even though you’re dating other people, the messy feelings about each other remain.
I can’t promise you’ll ever rebuild any kind of friendship with this person in the future. He seems pretty angry and pretty bent on avoiding you, and that might not ever change. And, he’s allowed to decide that he doesn’t want to be friends anymore. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but one thing a breakup does is give us permission to stop working on a relationship that isn’t working. He has permission to stop talking about feelings with you if he wants to. He has permission to be pissed that he’s living back with his parents and you’re living in a place with a fridge that in his mind half-belongs to him and sleeping with your new girlfriend on his mom’s mattress. He has permission to tell a story about how he loved this person and it just really didn’t work out despite everyone’s best efforts and he thought they’d be friends but now that it comes down to it he just can’t. If he’s angry and hurt about the way things worked out between you, he has permission to feel those feelings, even if they aren’t nice or fair. You don’t have to be friends with your ex, even if you thought you would be.
You have permission to do all this stuff, too. I think that as some more time passes, you’ll get pretty angry, too. You’re already starting to process some of the terrible things he’s said to you and figure out that maybe he wasn’t all that friendly when he was your friend and partner. The ways you were not right for each other (beyond the obvious sexual orientation stuff) will become clearer the more time and distance you get from the relationship. It hurts, and change is hard, and there’s no way to make it easy or quick. Time passes, and you start to care differently, and then you start to care less, and it feels better.
So, what to do with all these feelings and dreams in the meantime?
- Tell them to a therapist or counselor.
- Pour them all out in a journal.
- Tell a friend or friends. These friends can’t be your ex or your new girlfriend.
- Work on meeting new people and building a support system that isn’t built around him or dependent on any one romantic partner. I totally get the impulse to panic at the thought of going through a scary health thing like possible tumors without your ex, since he’s been such a big part of your support system in the past. He can’t help you with this, though.
- It sounds like the unresolved money & stuff questions are really weighing on both of you. Figure out what would resolve this in a way that you can say “Ok, that part is over, I have dealt with it as fairly as I possibly can and I don’t owe him anything.” I don’t know what the specifics of that look like or what’s possible in your situation, just keep in mind that sometimes the cheapest way to pay is with money.
- Stop contacting him. Hide his feeds, stop monitoring any social media, give him space and yourself space. If he reaches out and wants to be friends down the road, you can evaluate what he says then. You can’t chase him or dream your way into a friendship right now, so take it off the table as a thing that must happen. It will be nice if it happens. You’ll both be fine if it doesn’t happen.
- You still have a lot of love for the guy and you might for a while yet. Good news, you can send good feelings and good wishes someone’s way without sending them directly to the person. You can say to yourself “I hope great things happen for Ex” and put that thought out into the universe without sliding it into his DMs.
- You can daydream. You said you bonded while living in a town you hated. Do you like the town you’re living in now? Do you like your job? Your friends? Do you like your life? In a perfect world, where would you live, where would you go, what would you do? If you start journaling about your dreams and your feelings about your ex, do some daydreaming sort of journaling, too.
- Be really, really nice to yourself.
If you tell this guy about your dreams about complex emotional stuff between you, insist that you remain friends, ask him about how he feels about you, etc. it will only delay the healing process even more. It’s been a year since you ended things. Can you make a decision to at least try to leave this relationship, for better or worse, in 2017 and not carry all this work into 2018 with you? Closure is something we make for ourselves. I think he’s trying as hard as he can to make it for himself. Let him, and make some of your own.