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His Take: “Should I Remain Friends With My Ex?”

My boyfriend and have been dating just under a year. We’re both in our early 30s, and we’re both divorced (I have one child, he has none). We’ve been fighting recently, and one night, after a particularly frustrating exchange over the phone, I told him I thought we needed to take a step back from the relationship. I told him I was worried that our relationship styles weren’t a match and that we might not be compatible in the long run. I only half believed myself as I said it, but I was pretty frustrated. The next night he came over saying that he had to know just what “taking a step back” meant. I told him I still wasn’t sure what it meant. We talked for a while, and he ended up breaking things off. He told me he hopes we can get back together some day, but that we are officially broken up (to the point of being able to date/sleep with other people, although he says he has no intention of doing that right now, which I believe).

This is where the issue comes up: he wants to keep hanging out, keep talking on the phone, keep being involved in my child’s life. He basically wants the best of both worlds — my companionship and love — without the responsibility of dating (and without the fighting). I told him several times that if we’re broken up, we actually have to be broken up — no going out to dinner, no phone calls at night, nothing. At least not for now. He doesn’t understand why I don’t want to see him anymore, and says he’s heartbroken. He says he loves me to death and that he wants to keep seeing me and hopes we get back together, but that we are officially broken up.

I just don’t know what to make of it. Do I try it his way — hanging out more casually — in the hopes that we’ll reconnect? Or do I just cut him off? He is a genuinely great guy whom I obviously want to be with, and no part of me thinks he’s using this as a chance to run off and meet someone else. But I have to think about myself; seeing the man I love, and getting only part of him when I want all of him, will destroy me, sooner rather than later. What do I do? — Part-time Lover


JAREK: You don’t only need to think about yourself; you need to think about your child as well. You can’t have men coming in and out of your kid’s life all the time. The more time s/he spends with this guy the more attached s/he will get. You need to explain to him that that is the reason you can’t see him if you two are broken up. He’s not dating just you, he’s dating you and your child. Everything you listed above regarding how he feels about you are all reasons he should want to be in a relationship, however. So ask him why, if he still feels that way, does he still want to be broken up? Don’t let him off easy with this one. Get a definite answer. What is he looking for in this “break up?” What does he hope the break accomplishes? Right now he’s using you. Even though you don’t think he is pursuing other people – which he very well may not be doing – that doesn’t mean another person won’t approach him. Right now he gets the consistency of seeing someone who cares for him while also being able to tell someone else he is single. Force him to take responsibility for his actions and make it clear that if he wants a breakup he will get a breakup, but you can’t have him in both you and your child’s life if he is not serious about it.

BITTER GAY MARK: Gee, maybe in the future you won’t say things you don’t truly mean. First, you blurt out in anger that the two of you “needed to take a step back”… Then, the very next day, when he understandably asks for clarification (which was a great/missed opportunity to tell him you were only saying something in the heat of the moment) you decide to play dumb by saying you aren’t sure. Smart move! Nothing turns men on more than their women being both bitchy and vague. Surprise, surprise, he got annoyed and called your bluff. Look, I hate game playing — and this entire situation reeks of drama queen overload on all sides. (His, too!) Yes, you both behaved childishly. But you alone seem determined to continue to do so. Whereas he is actually doing what counts in my book as “a step back” as my idea of “a step back” would be to not be exclusive, to just hang out with one another and see where it goes. You, however, seem determined to drive him away with your maudlin behavior. Grow the heck up. You’re not starring in Dawson’s Creek. If you want to see him, see him! But stop insisting on the label you want — which, ironically, was the very label you actually had but then decided to throw overboard simply because you got frustrated.

P.S. I am also a wee bit disturbed that you appear especially irked that he still really wants to see you but can do without the fighting. You’re actually annoyed with him because he doesn’t want to fight with you? Then again, maybe you do LOVE to fight… At least it sure seems that way as one reads your letter. Love isn’t always about getting what YOU want. Stop making it all about you and you may be pleasantly surprised by what happens.

DENNIS: My immediate inclination is to agree that you need to cut him off, but it may be worth asking for an explanation first. What I don’t get is why he insists that you’re broken up, but then hopes to get back together one day. I mean, that’s like me saying that I insist on living off pork rinds and pickle brine, but I hope to live to a ripe old age. Honestly, it sounds like he either: 1) wants to break up, but is still in the ball-growing stages of assertiveness; or, 2) is lashing out passive-aggressively because of what you said. So, I think you need to ask him, sincerely and in a non-accusatory way, what he hopes to accomplish with his decision. What does he envision happening over the next few months, as the two of you continue spending time together in a coupley non-couple way? Is he hoping that you’ll fight less and eventually learn to work out your differences? Or is he thinking that this will allow you to wean yourselves off each other, making this a “breakup preamble,” of sorts? If you ask him for his best-case and worst-case scenarios, that may give you a better idea for why he’s doing this.

At the same time, I’m confused by your “half-belief” that you two aren’t compatible, which you follow up with, “he is a genuinely great guy whom I obviously want to be with.” Could it be that you’re the one who’s waffling, and that’s why he’s being noncommittal in response? Maybe you should go through the best-case/worst-case scenarios yourself. What are the underlying issues that are causing your fights? Can see yourselves learning to compromise on these issues? If you can, then obviously, it’s worth staying together. If not, then MOA.

ART: DO NOT TRY IT HIS WAY. He is a genuinely great guy. Awesome, so am I. So are all the guys responding to this letter. So is Barack Obama and so is George Bush. Genuine greatness does not make him immune to Love Idiocy. Love is more about enjoying a person’s genuine greatness, and if you can’t enjoy it — for whatever reason — then you need to remove that person completely. It doesn’t have to be forever, but how will you know it’s his proximity to you that is the problem unless you send him totally and completely away? It’s like a boomerang: if he’s really a boomgerang, he’ll come back. If he’s just a stick, then he won’t… and why did you spend $35 in Australia for a plain ol’ stick anyway?

* If you’d like to ask the guys a question, simply email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with “His Take” in the subject line and I’ll pass your question along to them.

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{ 57 comments… add one }

becboo84 BecBoo84 October 4, 2011, 12:07 pm

I have to agree with BGM on this one: He called your bluff. If you are truly in love with him and want to be with him, I would let him know that stat, and apologize for all that “take a step back” crap.

avatar Christy October 4, 2011, 3:10 pm

I love BGM. I’m glad the first response said what I was thinking.

avatar lets_be_honest October 4, 2011, 12:12 pm

Haven’t read the guys’ perspectives yet but this letter makes no sense. You said you “needed to take a step back from the relationship” and he needed to know what that specifically meant (can’t blame him, sounds like mindgames if you’re not actually dumping him) so you refused and he dumped you (can’t blame him, again). But at the end of the letter you wrote “He is a genuinely great guy whom I obviously want to be with.” You OBVIOUSLY don’t want that though. My suggestion would be figure out what you want and get back together if that’s what you want. Its not fair to pull this sorta in, sorta not in a relationship BS. Make a decision.

avatar lets_be_honest October 4, 2011, 12:22 pm

Is it bizarro day or did BGM and I just agree???

avatar MsMisery82 October 4, 2011, 12:54 pm

I thought the same thing when I read his response! -__-

avatar lets_be_honest October 4, 2011, 1:31 pm

Is that a smug face? Awesome!

Lyra L October 4, 2011, 5:01 pm

I had the same reaction…haha.

avatar lk October 4, 2011, 12:18 pm

“It’s like a boomerang: if he’s really a boomgerang, he’ll come back. If he’s just a stick, then he won’t… and why did you spend $35 in Australia for a plain ol’ stick anyway?”

I ask myself that same question every day…

avatar CottonTheCuteDog October 4, 2011, 12:25 pm

What is going on here? Seriously, he loves you, you love him. Go over and say to him “I’m sorry I said we needed to take a step back. I love you and I want to be with you 100% and if you don’t want that then leave me alone forever.” If he says “well I love you too and I still want to see you but we are offically broken up,” get a restraining order.

Amanda Amanda October 4, 2011, 12:28 pm

I think, possibly, one of the problems here is that you want to have control over the relationship. Then you went and tested it by saying what you said. When he asked what you meant, you wanted to keep the upper hand by being vague. Your boyfriend then said you were breaking up. Which took the control away and now you have to play by his rules.

And I’m guessing that bothers you.

Which is okay – but admit that and talk about it. I don’t know you or your boyfriend but it sounds like you’re both struggling to have the upper hand here. Both of you should sit down and talk like adults (you’re in your 30′s), figure out what you want and either get back together or move on if you’re not compatible.

Honestly, though, if control is an issue for you maybe talk to a therapist before jumping into another relationship. Love is not about playing games and control.

avatar Stilgar666 October 4, 2011, 12:35 pm

LW sounds crazy, this “great” guy shouldn’t waste his time.

avatar JennyTalia October 4, 2011, 12:36 pm

It sounds to me like he wants to break up, but he doesn’t want to be depressed and lonely, so he wants to keep you around for companionship without the pressure of a relationship. He’s going to lean on you until he finds a new girlfriend, and then drop it like it’s hot.

If you really want to be with him, say so. Give him to options: 1. You work together to make this relationship work, or 2. You go your separate ways. There is no happy medium.

avatar JennyTalia October 4, 2011, 2:06 pm

Two. Not to.

avatar Rachel October 4, 2011, 12:39 pm

I’m with Dennis. You should both probably figure out what you actually want before you decide how to proceed to get there.

Jess Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com October 4, 2011, 12:50 pm

Skipping over all the details of what happened and who said what, I go back to the fact that you were fighting and getting frustrated. Probably a sign that you don’t understand each other well –and that point is reinforced by the fact that you have communicated so ineffectively to each other during this break-up that may not be a break-up.

I don’t think there is necessarily blame to assign –just what you said, a very questionable compatibility. And to have this much struggle in under a year? I don’t know. Only you know but maybe your first instinct here was right. A year is long enough to know and short enough to MOA and find someone that’s a better match.

Hope it all turns out well for you.

avatar SSBoo October 4, 2011, 1:34 pm

I don’t think it’s such a big deal they got frustrated with each other during an argument. That’s going to happen regardless of compatability. I think the big deal comes in with acting immature and saying something (“taking a break”) without really thinking it through.

LW I agree with both BGM and Jarek. You said something, he called your bluff. You need to think about what you really want, think about what is best for your child and go from there. Set a good example for your child. Also, I really don’t understand that point of “breaking up only to get back together later”. If you really have any intention of getting back together, why wait?

avatar Nick October 4, 2011, 12:51 pm

The guys have stuck their sharp sticks of sanity into the soft mud goo that is this problem. She’s conflicted and needs to simply make a call– it’s yes or no, in or out. Think of the kid.

JK JK October 4, 2011, 12:54 pm

All pretty good advice totally agree with Jarek. I really hate it when I read letters (to other columnists, as well) from single parents dating and getting their kids involved with the current bf/gf. Kids need stability in their lives!
Thankfully my husband and I have an apparently stable marriage, but I know for sure if I ever become single my daughters aren´t going to meet anyone I eventually date until the r/ship is extremely commited. And I would hope the same from their father.

Jess Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com October 4, 2011, 1:01 pm

To be fair, they’ve been together for a year she says. So I don’t think we should be too quick to say that she isn’t taking her child’s role in this matter seriously. For all we know, they weren’t introduced until 10 months. I don’t know that she saw this break-up on the horizon and after all, all you can do is use your best judgement. There are no guarantees in any relationship –only instinct.

avatar LittleBird October 4, 2011, 1:12 pm

I agree with Jess. Take it from a once married, now single mom. A) You just don’t know what you’ll do until you’re actually in that situation (which I hope you never will be) and B) In your thirties, being together for a year and being completely committed to someone is a pretty serious relationship. You will have to introduce the child(ren) to the new bf/gf at some point, because like Jarek said, you’re not just dating the mom, you’re dating the kids too. Are you going to wait until you’re engaged to your boyfriend to introduce your kids and find out he’s horrible to them?

If you feel so strongly about someone that you can imagine marrying them, then yes, you will likely introduce your kids to them, to see if you all would be compatible as a family. And if it sadly doesn’t work out, your children may be sad, they may not, and you use it as a chance to tell them that it’s wise to date people to make sure you really want to marry them, and although it makes Mommy sad, she realized that so-and-so was not the man she wanted to get married to. And the LW seems to be stating that she takes issue with the BF still wanting to be invovled in her child’s life if they are broken up.

avatar lets_be_honest October 4, 2011, 1:23 pm

I’m glad you brought this up and that JK did too. One thing I’d like to add is if they are constantly fighting, hopefully it is not in front of the kid.

avatar WatersEdge October 4, 2011, 9:15 pm

As a child of divorce, whose mother has yet to remarry, I have to say that you’re being a bit unreasonable. As a kid, my mother brought about 4 guys around us total. She didn’t just bring around any guy that she liked, but there was definitely more than one and she obviously never married any of them. So I’ve been there.

As a kid, losing your parents’ significant other is not the biggest deal in the world. If you really liked them then yeah, you kinda miss them. Like the way you miss a good teacher when the next school year comes around. But the idea is that the kid’s parents, siblings, and extended family members are the real support system, not the parent’s SO. The SO is like a friend. Yeah, you want to be careful about introducing new guys to your kids, but a few serious boyfriends over the course of a childhood are in no way damaging.

JK JK October 5, 2011, 8:30 am

We are all entitled to our opinions, but I really don´t feel I´m being unreasonable, you know why? “keep being involved in my child’s life”. That to me doesn´t sound like LW just brought him around her daughter like you say your mom did, but more like he was a 2nd father figure.
What I should have made clear in my 1st post was that of course it is different according to the age of the kid, a teenager will be more likely to understand what is going on than a preschooler. I know my 3 year old already has a hard time understanding why sometimes both parents don´t live together, I´m sure having another paternal figure introduced then to disappear after a few months would be very hard on a kid that age.

CatsMeow CatsMeow October 4, 2011, 1:00 pm

One time I got in a REALLY heated argument with a boyfriend, and I blurted out, “I DON’T LOVE YOU!” He fell silent, looked at me and just said, “Is that true?” and I said, “No, of course not, I just blurted it out in anger.”

The thing is, though, it WAS true. It wasn’t something I had thought consciously or articulated yet in my brain, but once it was out there, I thought about it, and realized that yeah… I didn’t love him anymore.

Sometimes the truth comes out in anger. You said that you’re worried about being incompatible, having different relationship styles. AND you’re fighting all the time. That’s a big deal! And it’s also a tough thing to come to terms with when you’re already attached and in love.

You’re both being indecisive. You, LW, by saying you want to take a step back but not knowing or defining exactly what that means, and him by breaking up but still wanting to act like a couple. At this point, LW, I think you need to figure out exactly what your issues are and then either work on them together as a couple, or decide that the issues are insurmountable and break up for good. Otherwise….”seeing the man [you] love, and getting only part of him when [you] want all of him, will destroy [you], sooner rather than later.”

avatar thyme October 5, 2011, 7:42 pm

YES. It IS true. They are both waffling because, despite their differences, they still love each other. And… that’s exactly why breakups suck so much. But love is NOT enough. Grit your teeth, rip off the band-aid, and break up for real. No communication, no playtime with the kid, no nothing.

avatar spark October 4, 2011, 1:01 pm

Wait, do you want him or do you not want him? You say, “seeing the man I love, and getting only part of him when I want all of him, will destroy me.”

Aren’t you the one who caused the break-up? Isn’t he the one wanting you back? I guess he “officially” did, but it seems that that was only in response to what you said, and he even said that he hopes you can get back together. So, do you want him or not?

avatar spark October 4, 2011, 1:01 pm

BTW, bitter gay mark is SPOT ON!

landygirl Landygirl October 4, 2011, 1:20 pm

I liked his Dawson’s Creek reference too.

avatar artsygirl October 4, 2011, 1:19 pm

Great advice guys all around!!

avatar demoiselle October 4, 2011, 1:25 pm

My (personal) rule is that people who test their partners by threatening to leave them/break up/saying maybe we don’t belong together are lemons. The LW’s boyfriend is better off breaking up and staying away from the LW. Yes, I know relationships are complicated, and it is very confusing when one is uncertain whether one should stay or go.

Yet, it is unkind and a power play to hold imminent breakup over a partner’s head, especially if you don’t really mean it. What does a person who does this expect to get? See if he really loves you because you can push every button and he’ll still stick around?

Personal anecdote-haters may skip the following:

I am not sure if this is the one and only exchange of this type that this LW has had with her bf. My live-in ex-boyfriend frequently did this kind of thing to me. It kept me in constant turmoil. He’d start a fight (often over something mystifying to me), drive me to tears, accuse me of crying to manipulate him, then threaten to walk out/stay over with a friend/say maybe we don’t belong together.

Finally, one time he crossed my final line and really broke my trust. I asked what he was going to do (what *we* were going to do) to repair that trust, and he said he didn’t think we could, that we should probably just break up. And I said OK, that’s what we will do.

His shock over the next weeks as he realized that I’d *meant* it was immense. And I never did want to see him again. All the testing had been too painful. And I’d learned what a life with a “tester” would have been like.

Anecdote-haters can return reading here:

I don’t know why the LW’s ex wants to hang around. Perhaps this is a one-time thing, and it will work out. Or perhaps he really is over the relationship but has come to love the LW’s child. By being “friends” with the LW, he can try to maintain that relationship. I’ve had male friends who were heartbroken when their relationships with women with kids ended–they loved those children, too.

And if the LW is not a “tester”, some sympathetic advice: really take a break and don’t see each other. You and your child don’t need the turmoil that his constant presence but lack of commitment would provoke. At least, that’s my thought. Those who know kids better may have other advice.

avatar lets_be_honest October 4, 2011, 1:30 pm

I loved your advice and as a person who maybe “know(s) kids better” since I have one, your advice about the turmoil was on point too. P.S. Anecdote-haters, love it.

avatar artsygirl October 4, 2011, 1:53 pm

I completely agree!! She was frustrated and wanted to see how much he was invested into the relationship (she told him she wanted to take a step back and wanted him to ‘fight’ for the relationship by giving in to her). Even if it was subconscious this is probably not a relationship that should work out.

Budj budjer October 4, 2011, 1:32 pm

Mark is right on. Jareks child perspective is a great point too. Stop gaming and either take back what you said or cut him out completely.

avatar Amy October 4, 2011, 1:54 pm

Ooooh! I’m writing this down and taping it to every mirror in my house right now!!!! “It’s like a boomerang: if he’s really a boomgerang, he’ll come back. If he’s just a stick, then he won’t… and why did you spend $35 in Australia for a plain ol’ stick anyway?” So applicable to my present situation!!!!

Now – back to LW – any chance you are both just having a hard time adjusting to a relationship with a new person after going through the breakup of a marriage. It’s so scary to be vulnerable – perhaps you are pushing each other away because your fearful of being vulnerable – yet you truly like each other. It can be really hard to figure out new relationships at this point in your life (or maybe in general??) Be kind and gentle with yourself and with him. Don’t be so stubborn that you overthink your feelings and don’t let your feelings overrun your head. Just be calm and work together to figure out what you want. I think it might be easier to do that without the quasi-relationship though. Maybe ask for a month of no contact and see where you both are then.

avatar Painted_lady October 4, 2011, 2:35 pm

Look, I’m a firm believer that you either break up or you don’t, and you either get back together or you don’t. If you were angry enough to suggest backing off, either you were testing him to see how much he wants to be with you or you really meant you wanted to break up. And then he did break up with you, which means he was testing you or he decided he really did want to break up. At any rate, after a year, you should know whether or not you want to be with someone, and you should know whether or not they want to be with you. Anything else and the relationship isn’t as stable as it should be by now, and you’re not right for each other. So break up for real. It’s not going to get any better and you two are either too insecure or too incompatible. And instead of feeling bad for him about how much he’d miss your kid if you cut him off, worry about your kid and how confusing mom’s on/off boyfriend is. The boyfriend will understand and move on. Your kid won’t. And if you really feel things got so out of hand because you both lost your tempers and did and said stupid things (it happens), make sure the whole “figuring out” process happens on nights you have a babysitter and you wait until you’re really, really sure before he comes back into your kid’s life.

avatar jess October 4, 2011, 2:48 pm

Mark got this one exactly right

BriarRose BriarRose October 4, 2011, 3:41 pm

Alright, I’m woman enough (I hope) to admit that I was the LW. I certainly don’t think of myself as crazy (or a lemon), but I suppose heartbreak might have made me sound that way. One defensive clarification: I didn’t mean to imply that I was mad he didn’t want to fight anymore. Good grief, no! I hated fighting with him, and I don’t relish it or miss it at all. Poor writing on my part.

It’s been about 6 weeks since I wrote this letter to Wendy, and I’m grateful she published it. Of course a lot has happened over the last 6 weeks. I certainly wasn’t intending to play games with my ex-boyfriend, or test him (at least consciously), when we got into that big fight. It was over an issue we’d been having over and over, and I truly was upset and frustrated. I was mad and lashed out, no question. Since it all went down (and since I wrote that letter), I apologized to him for saying that in haste, and said that if he wanted to be with me, then we should get back together, and slowly figure this out. He rejected that request (on more than one occasion) and insisted that we are completely broken up, yet should still hang out. Like some commenters said, I wondered if he wanted to get back together, what was the point in waiting? I got to the point where I really started to resent him-he would tell me he loved me, be affectionate with me, but then would continually insist we were broken up. As much as I missed him and wanted an opportunity to see him, I realized I was just prolonging the pain of breaking up. And lest anyone jump all over me for “bad” parenting, during this time any interaction with him was when my daughter was not around. She is aware that relationships unfortunately don’t always last (after all, her father and I are not together anymore) and I’m glad she knows it’s ok not to stay with someone just because it’s been a year, or you’ve introduced them to your child, or whatever other reason.

This relationship was my first serious one after my divorce, as well as my ex-boyfriend’s. I think the fighting was a by-product of two people who genuinely love each other, but aren’t right for each other. We both wanted to be right for each other, and I think that’s what the fighting stemmed from—trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Looking back, I think the fighting was neither of us wanting to admit what we were subconsciously starting to realize. I’m sad over the break up, and miss him terribly, but continuing to see him when I knew in my heart of hearts that he wasn’t the one for me, was only prolonging my pain. I wrote in out of frustration, because he thought I was being cruel by not wanting to see him anymore. I appreciate everyone’s input.

avatar lets_be_honest October 4, 2011, 3:48 pm

Hey, thanks for clarifying and updating. Best of luck to you and your daughter. Be proud of making the right decision and, hey, we all do/say things in the heat of the moment. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Everybodys got a little crazy in ‘em sometimes :)

Budj Budjer October 4, 2011, 3:52 pm

Yea – thanks for clarifying now I feel like an ass hole…jk…

Definitely not cruel to call it off – what is the point of continuing that relationship if he isn’t willing to commit now?

avatar Amy October 4, 2011, 4:29 pm

BriarRose – I think I have a lot in common with you! Good Luck! I hope we can both figure out our respective love lives. They are not quite what we thought they’d be at 32 when we were 23 are they! I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one in this boat – and you aren’t either! We just need to be kind to ourselves.

avatar AKchic October 4, 2011, 4:55 pm

Sounds kind of like he’s still hurting by his own divorce, and doesn’t want another break up (especially with a kid involved this time) so soon after the divorce and wants it more amicable than his divorce was.

I didn’t catch the age of your daughter. Yes, kids can/do understand that relationships end, but too many can get confusing. I’m not saying anything bad at this point. It’s only your first relationship after your divorce. If it had been 15 new guys she’s met and it’s only been a year – then I’d be giving you a talk.
Entering the dating pool after divorce (with kids) is like being tossed in an ocean while sitting on a beanbag chair and hoping it will float, then finding out the ocean is half pudding. Confusing as all hell, and no matter what – you’re not right. Everyone critiques the hell out of you, from your mother, to your ex, to your friends, etc. Some want what’s best for you, some just want to sabotage (either consciously through jealousy, or subconsciously through jealousy), some want to live vicariously through you, and you just want to live your own life while not damaging your kid(s).

*hugs* One day at a time. That’s all I can say. One day at a time.

BriarRose BriarRose October 4, 2011, 8:41 pm

I think you’re exactly right. His ex-wife cut off all contact with him, and I know that hurt him tremendously, especially since they have a lot of in common friends and even go to the same functions occasionally. She acts like he just doesn’t exist, and I’m sure he was trying to avoid that with me.

Your list line was so completely true. I just want to live my life, without damaging my daughter. That’s really all I want at this point. I want love and companionship and I want my daughter to be happy and well-adjusted. That’s all I want.

Lyra L October 4, 2011, 5:26 pm

Thanks for the update! I responded before I read through the comments, so some of my comments below obviously don’t apply now. Hope things go well as you delve into your next relationship!

CatsMeow CatsMeow October 4, 2011, 6:03 pm

” I wrote in out of frustration, because he thought I was being cruel by not wanting to see him anymore.” – It’s not cruel. It’s both normal AND necessary! It’s really, really difficult, but you both need a clean break, especially if you have lingering feelings for each other. Then MAYBE after you’ve had some space, you can re-explore whether a friendship is feasible.

BriarRose BriarRose October 4, 2011, 8:44 pm

Thanks again to everyone, and I’m glad my further ramblings helped explain it a little bit more. I was obviously a bit upset when it all first happened, so I think my letter didn’t make total sense (it was written only a few days after everything happened). I really did appreciate reading everyone’s take on it, the good and bad. It’s not ideal to read some less than stellar conjectures on your character, but at the same time, it’s nice being old enough to be able consider what everyone said, and contemplate if there was any truth to it. I’ve been given a lot to think about.

avatar thyme October 5, 2011, 7:53 pm

Your letter made perfect sense to me :) I totally get what it feels like to care deeply about someone who really isn’t right for you in the long run. It’s really scary and heartbreaking to make yourself come to that realization, and it’s so very painful to force yourself away from them, especially when his heart is breaking too and you can see it all over his face. I’ve had to do it a couple times, and it is so, so hard.

Lyra L October 4, 2011, 5:11 pm

I’m pretty sure this is the first time I have agreed wholeheartedly with BGM. First time for everything, right?

I have a few comments for you, dear LW:

1. If you still want him, TELL HIM.
2. If you would be heartbroken without him, TELL HIM.
3. If you fight, big deal!! Everyone in a relationship fights. Find a way to compromise and move on with your lives.
4. Your boyfriend is NOT A MIND READER. You basically told him you need your space, so he sure isn’t going to glance into his crystal ball and magically appear at your doorstep.
5. It isn’t going to do you or him any favors to have this friendly relationship he proposed to you. It’s all or nothing in this situation.
6. You’re in your 30′s with a child. It’s time to put yourself in that mindset. Make sure you think things through thoroughly and rationally before you talk to your boyfriend/ex/whoever he is right now.

avatar HmC October 4, 2011, 5:45 pm

“I told him I was worried that our relationship styles weren’t a match and that we might not be compatible in the long run. ”

This is so freaking broad, I feel like I couldn’t give this LW advice on what to do unless I knew more about what exactly this meant…

avatar HmC October 4, 2011, 5:56 pm

Ah, and having read LW’s update, it appears that the incompatibility was the real problem after all…

avatar Peter October 4, 2011, 7:42 pm

We men are somtimes very stuipid and believe things women tell us, and even that is wrong! Work out what you want and then tell him, honestly. then start again

avatar Dennis Hong October 4, 2011, 8:41 pm

Jesus Christ, Mark. You really do live up to the “bitter” moniker, don’t you?

Don’t you think you’re being just a bit harsh on the letter writer? Have you ever heard of giving people the benefit of the doubt? Look at how many assumptions you’re making here. Playing games? Drama queen? Loving to fight? Where in fuck’s sake are you getting all this from?!?

While I think the LW is confused, I in no way believe that she’s just playing games. If anything, I applaud her for being open about her feelings. If someone I’m with isn’t sure whether or not she wants to be with me, I’d rather she be blunt and tell me what she’s feeling, instead of bottling up her confusion for the sake of not making me think she’s playing games, only to have her frustration rear itself passive-aggressively, or worse, blindside me when she finally breaks up with me, because I had no idea how unsure she was about the relationship.

As wishy-washy as we may both think she’s being, at least she’s being HONEST.

Either way, it bothers me when you tear into letter writers like this. We’re supposed to be HELPING these people, dude. I know it’s fun to play up stereotypes, and the bitter rants make for entertaining reads. But they are in no way helpful to the people writing in.

Despite what your name may imply, I’ figure you’re a real person (see, that’s ME giving you the benefit of the doubt). So maybe it’s time to stop being a freaking cartoon character. Otherwise, I may have to start calling myself “Angry Asian Dennis” and offer to solve everyone’s relationship issues with… KUNG FUUUU!!!!

bittergaymark bittergaymark October 5, 2011, 12:05 am

Eh, I sometimes think people need to be told the hard truth. Seriously. What is interesting about this latest His Take was that not one, but several of my most vocal critics actually said I was dead on with this advice. But yes, I will admit I am not big on giving people the benefit of the doubt. Especially when the entire letter is really obviously just so much self created drama. Also, I didn’t see much honesty at all in the initial letter. I just saw a lot of contradictory statements.

avatar Dennis Hong October 5, 2011, 6:49 pm

I’m all for the hard truth, but the problem is, that’s NOT what you’ve offered here. Now that I’ve had a chance to read through the comments and catch the letter writer’s updates (see BriarRose’s comments above), I stand even MORE adamantly behind what I said.

I think the the issue here is that people see this as a site for tough love, but they take it way too far. As a professional, Wendy knows how to tease out the details from a letter and figure out when to be sympathetic and when to tear into the reader. And I’m gonna get haughty here, but I work with juvenile delinquents, so I’d like to think I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on the tough love, too.

So, people read Wendy’s responses and think that’s what they need to do, too. But the problem is, it’s way too easy to confuse tough love for flat-out inappropriateness. If you’re gonna dole out the hard truth, you’d better make damned well sure you’re telling the truth. And if you read through BriarRose’s response, clearly you have NOT. Your entire response to the letter is based on unfounded assumptions. And since you’re a contributor here, you’re effectively leading this charge of intended tough love that’s, in actuality, turning into nothing more than cattiness.

Either way, even if I agreed 100% with the content of your response, I just don’t think you said it in a very tactful way. And just because a grip of people agreed with your reply doesn’t make you any more correct. It just makes you the one leading the mob with the torches and pitchforks.

But of course, that’s just my opinion. If you guys all think it’s appropriate to jump down a writer’s back the way you did, that’s your prerogative.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

avatar thyme October 5, 2011, 7:57 pm

For the record, I completely agree with you Dennis.

avatar MissDre October 5, 2011, 8:03 pm

Me too! I almost always agree with Dennis.

avatar Fabelle October 5, 2011, 9:42 am

I feel like the contradictary statements make the letter more honest, though– people are often full of contradictory feelings & not necessarily looking to “play games”. Also, some fighting is a natural part of most relationships. For the guy to say he didn’t want ANY makes it seem like he just wants easy companionship and not a PARTNER. And the fact that he’s still trying to be with the LW, without “officially” being with her is lazy and manipulative.

avatar Fabelle October 5, 2011, 9:45 am

To clarify– I feel like he could be using “we’re definitely broken up” as an avoidant tactic to pull out whenever shit in the relationship starts getting real again.

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