Miss Information

The long-distance ex who broke my heart is starting to call again. Am I allowed to pick up?

BY SARAH JAFFE

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Dear Miss Information,

Two years ago, I met a guy on a summer trip. We live in different cities, and so when the summer was over, I figured that was it. But a few months after I got home, he got in touch with me. It eventually snowballed into a full-on quasi-long distance relationship where we would talk every day for hours at a time. He came to visit me and I thought that visit would culminate in us making things official. Instead, he told me that he didn't want to be in a long distance relationship - he had been in a previous one that didn't work out, and he said that he was ready to "settle down" which wasn't possible long-distance. It broke my heart, but even though we agreed we should cool things off, he continued speaking to me after he got home. I told him it was too painful to talk to him and that we had to stop. 

Nearly a year went by, during which I entered another relationship.  Shortly after it ended, the guy who’d broken my heart about a year before contacted me out of the blue. He asked me if we could try talking again and "take things slow." Now we speak pretty regularly but I haven't asked him what exactly he wants. I'm not even sure how I feel about him anymore and I'm already pretty hurt by him, but I would maybe consider giving it another go. How do I proceed?

—Long-Distance Love

Dear Long-Distance,

You know, every year I buy a big bag of Halloween candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters. This sounds basic, but I live in an NYC apartment building, so I’ve literally never had a trick-or-treater here. But every year, I convince myself the costumed kiddies I remember indulging when I lived in suburban parts of the country are coming and that I’d better provide for them. Inevitably, I eat the entire bag of candy myself. I waffle about whether I want a Reese’s, and then another, and then, hey, I’d better try a Baby Ruth to make sure they’re as good as I remember, and then I sit on my hands before deciding I definitely want another piece of candy. Before I know it, I’m sprawled out in a bloated sugar coma watching Hocus Pocus, ruing the day I ever bought the damn candy. I know it always makes me feel like shit. Do you see what I’m getting at here? He is the giant bag of candy at Duane Reade, and you, my friend, are naively fondling it and thinking, “What could go wrong? This is totally, totally a good idea.”

This guy must be one special snowflake to have you in such a thrall. Clearly, there must be something between you two or it’d be pretty tough to sustain those hours-long daily phone calls.  I’m guessing you have a lot in common and just click. Either that or he’s Michael Fassbender. (Is he Michael Fassbender?!) Regardless, he’s probably great. I believe you. He’s clearly honest: he came clean with you a year ago about not being able to meet your expectations and desires for him. But bear in mind: a year ago he told you he couldn’t have the relationship you wanted with him, because you two lived far away. It sounds like you still live far away, and that might still be a dealbreaker. In terms of how to proceed, in my professional opinion: with caution, and boldness.

Talk to him. I don’t know what he’s thinking or what he wants, but if anyone does, it’s him. If you’re chatting regularly, you can and should ask why he got back in touch with you and what he’s looking for.  That’s not a weird thing to do, and you shouldn’t be afraid of the answer. Maybe he’s bored and lonely. Maybe he wants a friendship. Maybe he decided he can deal with the distance after all.  Maybe he suspects you still have feelings for him and wants an ego boost. Who knows? You sure won’t until you ask him. 

And since your letter is full of the kinds of gray areas that come from a lack of open communication - you’re already debating giving a “quasi full-on long distance” relationship (what is a “quasi full on long distance” relationship? Is it one that’s only real for one person?) with him another shot before you know whether or not it’s on the table - it’s especially important that you make sure you’re on the same page. It sounds like your feelings for him are too strong for being strung along or for just a casual thing -- if you really didn’t know how you felt about him, you wouldn’t be writing me about your dilemma, because you not feelin’ it = no dilemma. 

So before you fall deeply all over again, gird your ovaries, find out where his head’s at, and decide what your heart can handle. If he’s ready to close the distance and settle down with you, invite me to the wedding. And if he just wants a chit-chat buddy, well, then Halloween candy’s on clearance this week, and you can hang up on those long phone calls for good while sinking into the ever-loving arms of the sweet, sweet marriage of peanut butter and chocolate. At least, until you find somebody just as great in your own area code. 

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