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He broke up with me, so why does he keep showing up at my door in tears?
By Cait Robinson
Have a question? Email email@example.com. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.
Dear Miss Info,
I got dumped two weeks ago in what I'd like to call a "freak break-up." We were laughing and watching cooking shows. Then, as a casual conversation got more serious, he admitted he sometimes felt bored in the relationship. Suddenly, as we were holding hands, he broke up with me. I started crying, and the weird thing is, so did he. The next day, when he came to drop some of my stuff off, he started crying. Again. After a while, he hugged me and left for work.
The next week, I wanted to talk with him about the break-up, since he really didn't explain himself thoroughly at the time. He said he didn't regret his decision, that he was enjoying being single, and that he didn't have romantic feelings for me anymore. Then a few minutes later, he said that that was a lie and that he still had feelings for me. And then he started crying. For a third time. We haven't talked extensively since then.
I'm a little flabbergasted. As much as I would love to get back together with him, I feel like it's foolish to hope that I will. The way he's acting confuses me. If he was truly unhappy with the relationship, wouldn't he be happier — and less weepy — once he ended it? I feel like he has no right to be this upset since it's what he wanted. Or is it? Are any big signs jumping out to you about how he might be thinking? Because frankly, I have no idea.
— Dumped and Stumped
Dear Dumped and Stumped,
He could be thinking about any number of things. Current sports statistics, for one. Or a big sale Williams-Sonoma has going on. Or the ending of The Sixth Sense and why he never saw it coming. (Maybe he's a late bloomer, pop-culturally?)
We could wade into the quagmire of "Why? But why?" But we won't, because it actually doesn't matter here. You've already broken up. This means that his meltdowns are no longer your responsibility. Case closed, no exceptions. Maybe it is all a big mistake, maybe he does want to get back with you, but until he can put on his big-kid underoos, handle his shit, and level with you, he's not a partner worth having.
Dear Miss Info,
My relationship of a year and a half ended about two months ago. It wasn't my decision; he was my first love; it was (and continues to be) extremely emotionally damaging. I'm getting over it, but slowly.
There's another guy in my life. He's been around through the end of the relationship and through the breakup and my breakdown. I like him very much and I want him in my life. He likes me very much and wants a full-on, no-holds-barred relationship. I am as of yet incapable of such a relationship.
We've gone back and forth several times, with him getting close and me pushing him away because it's too much too soon. I get scared, because he gets really intense really fast and I'm still not over the guy who broke my heart. (I wish I could just suck it up and get over myself, but it doesn't seem to be that simple.)
Eventually, I sat him down and talked to him, convincing him that I couldn't have those romantic feelings for him right now. It was a lie, but it made the overwhelming romantic gestures (which were making me nervous) stop. It also made him mopey and sad and sent him into avoidance mode. And it also made me sad, as I assumed that I'd ruined the friendship.
A week after that, on my birthday, he brought me a very thoughtful present, then went back to moping. Yesterday, we talked and it came up that I wanted to be friends again but that we wanted different things, and neither of us was going to change that. But he, I think, assumed that the inch of friendship was the mile of a relationship. He left the conversation beaming, even though I used the word "friends" multiple times.
I don't know what to do. He thinks we're destined to be together, and I think I need to sort myself out first. I'm also moving out of state soon, starting a new job. I don't know what to do with the romantic feelings I have for him, which I can't seem to deal with acting on. Any insight on the situation would be greatly appreciated.
You nailed it with this line: "I think he assumed that the inch of friendship was a mile of a relationship." If it were possible to attach sounds to my columns, I'd put a slot-machine jackpot noise right after the period. It sounds like you've got a solid grasp on the situation, a good understanding of his emotional place, and respect for both. Cherry, cherry, cherry.
The biggest thing here is that you're moving. You'd only have to manage his expectations for so much longer before circumstances fly you away, right? Judging from your tone, that's exactly what you would be doing in a relationship: managing his expectations. No relationship where you have to guard your borders and ration affection is ever gratifying. And given all this moping he's been doing, it doesn't even seem like he's exactly Captain Charisma. You rightly feel that you can't have a fling with this guy and leave him behind; it's an all-or-nothing situation. It's great that you respect that. But pay attention to what you want — so much of your letter is been focused on him and his reactions, not yours. He can't be a healing figure in your life if you have to expend extra energy bubble-wrapping his ego.
I applaud you for being honest with him, but don't necessarily expect words to stick. The love-addled brain hears what it wants. You may be saying, "We'll be friends, the kind who stay three feet apart at all times," and he hears, "Sweet! She wants to meet my family." If you need space, you'll need to back the words up with some actions. Be kind, but keep your distance, and don't go out of your way to see him, especially if it could be considered date-like. You've done the hard part by talking to him, and now you just need to stick to your guns.
Anyone who is nursing a (semi-) unrequited crush can't help you work through anything. If you're looking for intimacy while you sort through the detritus of your last relationship, find it elsewhere. Until you're in a place where you and this guy can see eye-to-eye, it's safest for both of you to avoid any hint of romance with one another entirely.