Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“We’ve Broken Up Without Really Breaking Up”

I’m 29 and my 40 year old boyfriend broke up with me a couple of weeks ago. To make a long story short, he misinterpreted a comment I made and in turn decided he no longer wanted to be in a relationship. Since then, we have been talking almost every day and have seen each other a couple of times. Even though he maintains that he doesn’t want to be in a relationship, when we are together it feels like we never broke up. We spent Valentine’s Day together and he said he couldn’t imagine not spending it with me, and that I make his house feel like a home. He even looked me in the eyes and told me multiple times that he loves me (something that he hadn’t said since are disagreement). We kiss, hold hands, hug and go out just like we did before. Part of me thinks that I should stop seeing/talking to him because he stated that he doesn’t want to be in a relationship. However, the other part of me truly believes that he is confused and that eventually we will get back together. He has the tendency to change his mind about things. I am wondering if I can handle being in this in limbo state with him, especially if he or I start dating other people as well. I have never felt so conflicted before. What should I do? — Conflicted Ex


If, two weeks after dumping you over some misinterpreted comment you made, your (ex) boyfriend still “maintains that he doesn’t want to be in a relationship,” all the while talking with you every day, telling you he loves you and spending Valentine’s Day with you, then what he’s really saying is he doesn’t want the commitment of a relationship, but he’s happy to reap the benefits (including, I’m guessing, sex). Girl, you need to take back your power and quit enabling this behavior. The only one who’s going to make it stop is you. As long as he’s getting what he wants from your relationship, there’s no reason for him to change anything about it. So, if you’re unhappy with the way things are, tell him. Tell him that you’re sorry for whatever it is you said that set this whole thing off, but if he can’t accept your apology and take you back as his girlfriend, you can’t continue doing what it is you’re doing, because it hurts too much to be with him without really being with him. Tell him that if he means what he says when he tells you he loves you, he’ll either commit to you fully or let you go so you can find someone who will. This limbo state is not healthy, and you need to MOA if your time in it is indefinite.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

23 comments… add one
  • avatar

    TheOtherMe February 23, 2011, 9:14 am

    Great advice Wendy,

    Seems to me that no matter how many different ways he says her doesn’t want to be in a relationship he STILL IS in a relationship. The only way to really see if it’s worth getting back together is to actually be apart.

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  • avatar

    ReginaRey February 23, 2011, 9:16 am

    I agree with Wendy’s advice – existing in a state of limbo certainly is not healthy. If your boyfriend broke up with you so easily over a misinterpreted comment, he clearly isn’t willing to put in the kind of committment necessary to foster a healthy relationship. In my experience, guys (and girls, too) hold on to a partner after a breakup because they’re scared to go it alone, and they’re worried they won’t find someone else. Cut ties with this guy – don’t contact him, don’t respond if he contacts you, don’t Facebook stalk him. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s the healthiest way to go through a breakup – you’ll never get over someone or gain any valuable perspective on the relationship if you don’t stop communicating. After a while, I’m sure you’ll realize that there are plenty of other great guys out there who are willing to commit to you fully and who would never let you exist in a painful state of limbo.

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  • avatar

    ArtsyGirl February 23, 2011, 9:21 am

    LW – honestly how is he going to evaluate your worth as a partner if you are willing to take the crumbs of a relationship? Ask him to respect your need for time and distance (I would say a month of no contact) and then if he is interested in renewing a full relationship he can contact you.

    Use the month to really evaluate the relationship and if it was what you wanted. Even if he is a great person it doesn’t sound like he is a great partner since he broke up with your over a ‘misinterpreted comment’ – which I am sure you clarified – and you mention that he is indecisive – which in this context reads as a user.

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    • avatar

      ReginaRey February 23, 2011, 9:23 am

      I’m going to start using “willing to take the crumbs of a relationship” – that’s a really great way of saying it, and so true! No one should settle for crumbs.

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  • avatar

    WatersEdge February 23, 2011, 9:54 am

    It’s a red flag to me that he was willing to end the commitment between you two over a single comment/argument. He wasn’t hurt enough to stop spending time with you or to stop telling you that he loves you, so he’s clearly not THAT hurt. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a reason that he wants his “freedom” around now, like interest in another woman that he wants to pursue guilt-free. Whatever it is, it’s safe to say, if he’s willing to act like your boyfriend but he refuses the label, his intentions are not pure. Tell him it’s relationship again or break up for good.

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    • avatar

      Blitzen February 23, 2011, 11:11 am

      Exactly. It almost sounds like he was _waiting_ to take offense at something you said so that he would have an excuse to end things.

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  • avatar

    JennyTalia February 23, 2011, 10:30 am

    LW, you need to move on – at least temporarily. Wendy is right, it sounds like he is using you for all the benefits you bring, while you don’t get the relationship commitment that you seek. I think you should start to date other people, and seeing you slip away will likely be the kick in the ass he needs to realize that he needs to nut up or shut up.

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  • Heather

    Heather February 23, 2011, 11:00 am

    At least if he said to you “I don’t want a relationship, but I want the benefits.” you could respect the honesty. But this is obviously not the case. Girl, he is sending you mixed signals up and down the river. MOA. As someone else commented, he was so hurt by the comment to break up with you but not to quit spending time with you and declaring his love for you, etc? Maybe there’s something we’re missing, as is the possibility with any letter that gets sent in. But going strictly off of what’s written in here, and any possible inferences we can make, this just seems shady as all get out.

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  • avatar

    cdj0815 February 23, 2011, 11:01 am

    Basically it sounds like he want the cake and the ice cream.

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  • avatar

    Moonshine February 23, 2011, 11:04 am

    LW, my 2c here :). I got involved with a guy 2 months after he broke up with his girlfriend. I knew I was going to be a rebound girl, but at the time, I didn’t really care. Over time though (4-5 months later), he got over his girlfriend, and we became really close. Like really really close. I brought up the topic of a relationship. From his actions, I realized that he’s over his girlfriend, and he’s really into me. But he told me that he doesn’t want a girlfriend. I decided to take whatever I can get out of this, the ‘crumbs of a relationship’… And now (a year later) he has a girlfriend. A woman that isn’t me…

    So when he told me he’s not looking for a girlfriend, what he really meant was ‘I don’t want YOU as my girlfriend’. He suddenly changed his mind when he met her? I doubt she held a gun to his head haha.

    I agree with the other commentators – don’t settle for less than what you had previously. And don’t let him drag you on emotionally… It’s not good for you. And you have to start thinking more of yourself… It’s worth it to be selfish when your emotional health is concerned.

    And you know what’s going to happen if you stay with him like this, in limbo? When he’ll meet other girls, he’ll tell them that he’s single, and he won’t be lying!!!

    You also mentioned in your letter that he changes his mind a lot. From my experience with one of my other exes, this will drain you emotionally, and will confuse you a lot. Over time, it’s going to get a lot harder to deal with. When it’s trivial stuff, like where to go eat, it’s not a big deal. But when he changes his mind about long-term life plans that will affect both your lives, it will be very hard to deal.

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    • avatar

      silver_dragon_girl February 23, 2011, 1:38 pm

      And you know what’s going to happen if you stay with him like this, in limbo? When he’ll meet other girls, he’ll tell them that he’s single, and he won’t be lying!!!

      Exactly. The longer you stay in this “limbo” state, the more likely it is he’s going to start seeing someone. And then, because you’re so involved in his life, he’s going to start telling you about her. And asking your opinion on things. When it happened to me it was almost more painful than the break-up itself.

      Do yourself a favor and cut the guy out for a month or so. See how life is without him, and then see if you still want him in yours at all.

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  • avatar

    Amy February 23, 2011, 11:31 am

    You deserve better than this! If you are going to take the time and energy to be in a relationship with someone – make darned sure they are willing to do the same. This sounds like just a long-drawn out heartache if you keep putting up with this nonsense. AND…. even if he did decide he wanted to be in a relationship again, would you honestly feel free to speak honestly with him in the future? It seems like it would be very difficult to not second guess everything you said in order prevent a “misinterpretation” of your comments.

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  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didn't February 23, 2011, 11:51 am

    LW, I’ve been here. I know, it seriously sucks. But like other commenters have said, you are setting yourself up for even more hurt in the future by being willing to accept whatever little crumbs of affection he’ll give you. He broke up with you over a “misinterpreted comment”? This is clearly not someone who is interested in putting in the effort required for a relationship. These type of guys seem to love the attention that comes with having a “sort-of” girlfriend, but have crazy commitment issues and aren’t mature enough for a real relationship. Plus, this way they can make themselves feel better- “I’m really good friends with all my ex-girlfriends, so I must be a good guy”. Anyways, I digress. Rent “He’s Just Not That Into You” from your local library and read it! (I’m totally serious). Cut off all contact with him and insist that he refrain from contacting you. As hard as it is, it’s the only way to truly move on.

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  • avatar

    Painted_lady February 23, 2011, 12:54 pm

    A good friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend about a year ago, and yet they did the same thing you two are doing, which was breaking up in painfully slow motion. He took three months to move out, and then still they spent all their free time together, he organized her birthday over the summer, she called him when something went wrong in her apartment, it was zero difference from actually dating.

    The problem was, while they thought it was too painful to actually break up, they were still going through all the pain of a breakup, over and over. Every time he left, each time we left the bar and they took separate cars to separate homes, anytime he flirted with a girl or she went on a date, one of them would have a meltdown. Don’t perform that sort of torture on yourself over and over!

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  • bagge72

    bagge72 February 23, 2011, 1:02 pm

    I agree with everyone else that if he broke up with you that easily over some little comment you should probably MOA. I personally think that he might be keeping you are around to reap all those benefits while he maybe out looking for something else unfortunately. Usually the only reason a guy will act like a boyfriend, but refuse to be in a relationship is because he is still looking for something else.

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  • Kristina

    Kristina February 23, 2011, 1:57 pm

    I know it’s not fair to bring age up, but a 40 year old man that isn’t married that acts like this just shows that he doesn’t want commitment right now. The LW is giving in to what he wants, which is the benefits and a seemingly no strings attached relationship, but it isn’t that way for the LW, and it can’t be because of the previous relationship. Just MOA.

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    • avatar

      Moonshine February 23, 2011, 4:54 pm

      I was thinking of that too. By 40, he’s gotta have his act together, or he’s just a player. You may have doubts when you’re younger, but when you have that much more life experience, you should know what you want, for god’s sakes. And not change your mind as the wind blows!

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  • avatar

    spaceboy761 February 23, 2011, 2:12 pm

    General rule:

    Any logic that ends with the phrase “will take me back” is wrong.

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  • avatar

    AKchic February 23, 2011, 2:53 pm

    He misinterpreted a comment you made and broke up with you. What comment? What did you say? What did you mean? And just what the hell did he think you meant?
    These things do matter when considering how to deal with this.

    He says he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you, but you still spent Valentine’s Day together, still hold hands, still go out, he still says he loves you, etc. Uh… isn’t that a relationship? Isn’t friendship by definition a relationship all on its own?

    He’s not confused. He’s playing with your mind and your emotions, and he’s having fun with the control he gets out of it. Do you really want to stay with a guy who is willing to break up with you over one “misinterpreted” comment, which you explained and apologized for already? If you do, then break out your damned big girl panties and tell him that since you are still doing everything you previously did while in your relationship, that either you officially get back together, or stop communicating all together.
    Right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is just continuing your “non-relationship” until he can find a replacement for you. As if you are the powdered non-dairy creamer in the cupboard until he can get to the store to buy real creamer for his coffee.
    If he says he doesn’t want to be “in” a relationship with you again, then drop him like a used tea bag and you will be doing yourself a huge favor.

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  • avatar

    Green_Blessings_Goddess February 23, 2011, 3:19 pm

    Oh my Goddess, I dated a jerk like this once. He did the same thing, broke up with me when I found out my grandfather was dying of cancer the same day and still tried to kiss me and took me out for Valentine’s Day, the idiot even showed up with red roses on Valentine’s Day but was the same way not wanting to be in a relationship so I sat him down and talked to him about wanting to be in a serious relationship and get married and he didn’t want that so we went our separate ways.

    Talk to him and if he won’t commit, don’t let him string you along like this.

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  • avatar

    Jordana February 23, 2011, 3:27 pm

    LW: MOA. I agree with most of the comments that others have posted. He is just using you for his own benefit without considering your feelings. If he is willing to end things over a misunderstanding, then he is not mature enough to deal with a committed relationship. He is 40 years old but he is still acting immaturely by continuing to lead you on. Please do yourself a favor and find someone that you deserve and that is willing to commit to you.

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  • avatar

    Red_Lady February 23, 2011, 3:40 pm

    I love all the new phrases I’m getting out of this site! “Crumbs of a relationship”, “Why in pluperfect hell”, “MWD for ‘megawatt dick'”, and probably others that I can’t remember.

    Oh, and LW, this dude really doesn’t sound worth it, based on what you’ve written. If you really do think he’s such a great guy, talk to him about re-establishing your relationship. But if you can’t come to an agreement, cut him out of your life, permanently. You can find someone who loves and respects you enough to hold on to your relationship, and not throw it out over a single comment.

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  • avatar

    Morning Quickie February 24, 2011, 3:06 pm

    This is why it is so important to break up with someone properly. Dragging it out only leads to more heartbreak and confusion. For tips on how to avoid the drama, check this out:

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