Miss Information

He broke up with me, so why does he keep showing up at my door in tears?

By Cait Robinson

Have a question? Email missinfo@nerve.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.

— Smothered

Dear Smothered,

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.

Tags Breakups

Commentarium (22 Comments)

Jun 13 11 - 12:21am
Cynthia

Dear LW #1: I'm sorry to say this about someone you cared for and made a part of your life, but ... your guy is an ass. He's not worthy of you. Is he a wimp who can't explain his feelings and motivations? A passive-aggressive dude who hopes that his crying will lure you back to him for a length of time that's convenient for him? Some combination of both? Who cares? Go sum up if he's been this way all along and then, if so, why you ignored that and stayed with him anyway. Then get over him ... and then find someone who knows what he wants and how to express it. Seriously, they do exist.

Jun 13 11 - 2:03pm
lily

they do. I found one. It took me six months to get over the first one-about the time I met my current and hopefully, eternal guy). He was willing to listen, is a self-admitted risktaker, and we were both just (simply) honest. I have so much respect for him, am more than enamored, and have found a deeper love than I knew existed.

Jun 13 11 - 1:36am
Violet

LW #2: For some reason this fellow sets off alarm bells. Anyone who pushes so hard so soon and shows extremes of emotion so early on can sometimes have a tendency to be emotional abusers. If he were truly respectful of her feelings, he would be more in control of what he was expressing to her. Steer clear.

Jun 13 11 - 9:08am
JCF

Dumped/Stumped, break-ups are very emotional times, and you probably won't be able to learn much about it through the process of logical analysis. The guy is battling his own inner voices reminding him of all the good things about your relationship and the ones telling him he's not getting what he's wanting. He's not going to talk about it, so don't try to get any more out of him. The best thing for both of you is to just move on, and don't worry about the Why.

Jun 13 11 - 10:48am
McKingford

#1. Guilt.

It's entirely possible to care for someone you no longer feel attracted to. And telling someone you care about you don't feel attracted to them is pretty damn hard, which may explain his reticence at expressing the true reasons for the breakup.

Jun 13 11 - 2:52pm
Rj

Good point. Agree.

Jun 13 11 - 12:42pm
TB

Dumped and Stumped: it's possible he cheated on you, felt guilty but didn't want to come clean with you, so he did the "honorable" (in his mind) thing and broke up with you to protect you from the truth... the truth of what an ass he is! (I offer this explanation only because I did the same thing to a boyfriend years back).

Jun 13 11 - 4:04pm
src

I sympathize for you, Smothered. Gently easing an unrequited crush into the FriendZone is sometimes a no-win situation, but (based on my experiences) these things can work themselves out over time if you are able to maintain a friendly distance. Don't try to conjure up romantic feelings for your smothery guy--you may cite your recent breakup as a reason for holding back, but something isn't right with this guy and you know it. His mopey emo behavior is extreme, immature, and ultimately egocentric. He may lavish you with attention, but keep in mind that affection can instantly turn into anger and bitterness as soon as he realizes his expectations won't be met. Back off and take comfort in the fact that soon you'll be literally hundreds of miles away from all this.

Jun 13 11 - 9:07pm
XEB

LW #2 - Stay AWAY from this guy. He's incredibly selfish, immature and manipulative. No, not in a way that will physically harm you, but emotionally, absolutely. If he was respectful, he would have kept his space and not made you feel guilty by acting all mopey. See him for what he is - all about him, his needs and himself. Follow your instincts and take care of yourself. He's a drain, not a support.

Jun 13 11 - 10:54pm
AJ

@ LW#2- I agree with those above that he is selfish, immature and manipulative, be careful with this guy. No credible adult would use moping to try and guilt another person into starting a relationship when they have clearly said they are not ready for one. This behavior would be barely credible in junior high, let alone beyond that. The fact that he would try this shows that he doesn't believe he can get you to accept him without such manipulation (or he is too selfish to wait for you to be ready), which in turn shows a lack of respect for himself, and you. Don't delude yourself that such manipulation will stop once you guys get together- it will only get worse, especially if you fall in love with him.

One thing you said really jumped out at me: "it also made me sad, as I assumed that I'd ruined the friendship." You are making a big mistake if you think this guy is your friend. He's not your friend, and you do not owe him the courtesy or consideration that you would give a friend. A friend is someone who has a small or non existent interest in a romantic relationship with you, who is in your life for other reasons than the possibility of a relationship, sex and love. This guy is not doing nice things for you because he's your friend, he want's you as his partner, and that's ok. But you need to separate in your own head the difference between a platonic friend and how you would interpret their actions and needs, and how that's different to someone intensely interested in sex, romance and presumably loving you. Someone perusing a relationship with you needs to be handled differently to a friend. So you can't "ruin the friendship" here by protecting yourself from a relationship you don't want. End of story. Manipulators like this guy rely on you feeling this way to pressure you into giving them what they want, regardless of how healthy it would be for you to give it. They rely on your empathy and the feeling that you owe him something to make you hesitate to do what's best for you.

"He thinks we are destined to be together" is another HUGE red flag. No credible adult would say or believe this before you have even begun a relationship, he sounds like he has the maturity of a 12 year old. The fact that you say the word "friend" and he clearly hears something very different is another huge red flag. You deserve someone who is not so self centered he doesn't know or care that he's making you uncomfortable with his pressure for you to give him what he want's. He sounds like an emotionally unstable liability who is going to hurt you. Think twice, and then twice again before you start a relationship with someone like this. If you do start one, take it very very slowly.

Jun 14 11 - 8:16am
em

One word: masochist. Or sadist. But if you don't feel complementary, go far away from it all.

Jun 16 11 - 12:33pm
at

does anyone else get the comments covering the questions when they open this page? it seems to happen anytime i open miss info or dan savage.

Jun 19 11 - 1:20am
CaitRobinson

Actually, at, that happened to me before--but only from my phone. I'm too tech-clumsy to know why. Maybe the solidarity helps?

Jun 16 11 - 8:15pm
NYAH

You really have no idea what he might be thinking. On the one hand he is acting like he is using his pride to cover his separation anxiety. But that separation anxiety might be a pose to some degree, and he might just as easily attach it to any other object. What was there in the relationship that hasn't been brought to a close? What is there in his background that would leave him scared of detachment? If he does ask to get back together then by all means go for it, but in the meantime explore your own attachment problems with other guys.

Jun 17 11 - 3:04am
HB

Dumped and stumped: He does not like you, but still wants to fuck you. If you like the sex, do him. Do not think this is a relationship. It isn't. Fuck him, but look around. Most women do.

Smothered: Get over it. He wants you. He does not want to be friends with you. Stop playing games. Do him or dump him...If you like sex with him, have lots. Stop the stupid romaticizing. Keep looking.

Jun 18 11 - 2:04am
ricochet

LW#2 - You say you have mixed emotional/romantic feelings for the new guy. Did you ever tell him this? If you did, big mistake. Prior to your "just friends" convo with him what gave him the idea anything could ever happen between the two of you? He doesn't sound like a psycho. Just mixed up. Just cut him off, it will be better for the both of you.

Jul 22 11 - 7:06am
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Mar 26 12 - 4:31pm
Jessica

I broke up with my bf of 3 and a half months out of anger but it was not for no reason, I was a bitch one weekend and that gave him doubts about our relationship, he ignored me all week only talked to me if I messaged him then he was short with me, I asked him what was wrong and he said nothing, finally he said he was having doubts about us but he expected me to wait 3 or 4 days to discuss them. I got so angry b/c i thought wow he doesnt care to fix our relationship or he wouldn't be selfish and make me wait 3 or 4 days to talk so I dumped him via text message. I know that it was wrong of me to dump him by text, it was a long distance relationship and he clearly wasnt finding the time for me. I seen my bf at the time one day at week in which I drove an hour each way to see him and I always spent that 1 day a week hanging out with his friends, seriously who does that, it makes a girl feel great that the only alone time she can get is in a bedroom. Why are guys so selfish? Now I am the bitch that dumped him and his best friend is saying nasty things about me. I just don't get it. Did I actually hurt the guy that clearly only cared about what he wanted and didn't even think about my feelings, the worst part is that I actually love the guy and I apologized but he doesn't care. Now he is ignoring me and probably won't ever speak to me again. Why are guys so immature and all about themselves? he seriously doesn't think I don't care god I cared more then anything and now a second chance can't be given? some one please help me understand the mind of men. Does he need time to cool off before speaking to me? it's been 2 weeks since I last sent him a text message.