Dear Dr. NerdLove
My ex and I broke up at the beginning of the year. It was something that tore both of us apart, to the point of her blocking me on all social media accounts. We tried a long distance relationship and at first it was good. We managed to see each other 4 times in the span of last year so her suddenly dropping off the map hurt like hell.
She still contacts friends of mine telling them how she wants to come visit and see them. It makes me feel invisible and unwanted at times when they tell me.
One night a couple of weeks ago, I decided to call her but she sent me to voicemail. I decided that I would send her an email telling her how I often felt like getting on a plane and going to see her so we could talk. Not in an attempt to get back together, but just get that face to face conversation we never had (the break up was over a video call) but I know she wasn’t the kind of girl to take an unannounced visit as a good thing.
Recently, I was talking to a mutual friend who told me that she was terrified of the fact that I would show up. Hearing this hurt me in a way I never expected. The last thing I ever wanted my ex to think about me is that I’m some crazy psycho.
I can’t get in contact with her and obviously I can’t explain myself to her. I’m a bit of a loss about what to do.
Not So Scary
OK, I’m gonna level with you NSS; I’ve been sick as a dog for the last few days and frankly I’m on so many drugs right now that I can see vapor trails, so I’m going to be blunt here. I can tell you exactly what to do: Nothing. You do nothing. There is literally nothing you can do here that’s going to make this better. Every option you have that involves somehow trying to explain yourself is going to make things worse.
I don’t know the circumstances surrounding your break up, but your ex made it clear that she doesn’t want to see or hear from you. That’s why she used the Nuclear Option and blocked you from her social media: because she simply doesn’t want to see you, talk to you or interact with you. Maybe it’s because you did something over the course of your relationship that scared her and she’s protecting herself. Maybe it’s because she knew that she wouldn’t be able to move on like she needs to if she had access to you. Maybe it’s because she’s the sort of person who prefers a clean break. The only person who can know is her.
And the only thing that you can do is accept this.
Yeah, it sucks. Getting dumped via Skype or what-have-you absolutely hurts. It’s understandable and legitimate to feel discarded, even insulted by being dumped that way – even if it was because she didn’t want to spring for the ticket just to tell you “bee-tee-dubs, I’m breaking up with you”. But frankly, I don’t know what you think you were going to get from talking with her face to face, other than a chance to either relitigate the break-up or end things on your terms instead of hers. You won’t get an explanation that’s going to satisfy you, because no explanation can really satisfy us when our partners break up with us seemingly out of the clear blue sky. Nor, for that matter are you going to get closure from it because frankly, you haven’t accepted the break up. Closure is something you give yourself. It’s how you tie off that relationship on your own. Expecting her to give you closure through that face to face conversation is just another way to try to control how this relationship ended.
And frankly, I’m not surprised she told your friend you creeped her out. Let’s look at it from her perspective, my dude. First, you’re trying to get ahold of her repeatedly after she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to talk to you. Then you tell her how much you’ve been thinking about coming out to surprise her and have that last conversation. Oh sure, you wouldn’t because you know she’s not into unannounced visits… but you’ve been thinking about it.
Honestly? From her side of things, that sounds an awful lot like the suggestion that you might do it anyway. And that’s gonna creep a lot of folks out.
Now if you’d phrased it “I wish I could” instead of “I keep thinking about doing this” and you hadn’t been trying so hard to get ahold of her, then maybe she wouldn’t be as wigged out by your email. But you didn’t and you had and here we are.
The best thing you can do is simply accept that this is over, that your ex is no longer part of your life and you’re no longer part of hers. It absolutely sucks, but there is no other play here and certainly not one that won’t make things worse than they are now.
So I have this friend and his only dream in life, at least according to him, is to get married, have 2.5 kids and enclose them all in an idyllic white picket fence. Of course step one of that plan is the wife part. And ‘desperate to fill a void in his life with a woman, any woman’ isn’t a good look on him. Or anyone for that matter. So needless to say, he’s not having much luck dating.
To make matters worse, because he’s putting all his hopes of future happiness on his dating success he goes into an emotional tailspin whenever a relationship falls apart (and we’re talking 2 or 3 dates is what he considers a relationship) or whenever a girl he’s talking to ghosts him. He will withdraw from social contact, and when friends ask what’s wrong he will say he’s too depressed to do anything.
I’ve done my best to try and help him. I’ve told him repeatedly that he needs to stop trying to date right now cause he’s not mentally prepared for it. I’ve gently suggested that therapy might help him work on handling his depression. I’ve tried to explain to him that he needs to slow his roll and that he can’t put the burden of fulfilling his life on every random woman he meets. But no matter how often I say it, whether I put it as kindly as possible or break the chair leg of truth over his head, he just doesn’t hear. He insists that once he finds the right woman all will be well. And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of watching him make the same mistakes over and over. I’m tired of cleaning up the mess whenever he falls apart. He’s a good person and I value his friendship but enough is enough.
Is there some way I might get through to him? And if not, how do I establish boundaries now when I’ve been letting him vent to me about his relationship troubles for years? Thanks for your help, and keep up the good work!
-Cupid’s Lead Arrow
I have a litmus test for a lot of the clients I work with, CLA – outside of my fee, that is. It’s a couple of simple questions. First: what are they willing to do in order to actually get better at dating? Second: why haven’t they done it yet? The answer to the first question is almost always some variation on “anything”. That’s more or less to be expected. The answer to the second question is what tells me whether they’re ready to actually move forward or it they’re just going to be spinning their wheels and wasting their time and mine.
The folks who are ready to improve – who are going to improve – will be honest. They’ll say they don’t know where to start, or that they need that push to get them moving. Some of them have logistical, physical, financial or emotional issues that make it difficult to make those changes – a totally legitimate concern. I completely respect that. Some will tell me that they don’t know why they haven’t yet. And the ones who I have the most hopes for? They’re the ones who tell me that it’s because they’re scared or afraid to do things differently.
On the other hand, the people who simply aren’t ready yet? They have lots of excuses about why they won’t do things differently. Not can’t, won’t. They just “know” it won’t work. They haven’t tried it yet but it’s just “not them” or they don’t see the point. What they want is for me to either tell them that they’re doing everything right and they don’t need to change, or to wave my magic wand and give them the solution to all their problems with minimal effort on their part.
As much as I side-eye Alcoholics Anonymous and its various brethren, they’re unquestionably right about one thing: somebody won’t change until they’re ready. Now this doesn’t mean that they “need to hit rock bottom” or whatever… but they do have to be ready and willing to commit to doing things differently. Because frankly, if you’re going to keep doing the same things over and over again, you’re going to get the exact same results every time.
So it is with your friend. He’s not ready to admit that what he’s doing isn’t working. He’s still convinced that the solution to all his woes is to find someone to plug into that hole in his life with the world “girlfriend” scribbled over it in magic marker and all he needs to do is keep trying to shove people into it until they stick. You know that’s never going to work. I know that’s never going to work. But until he’s ready to accept that he needs to change, then he’s never going to get better.
As frustrating as it may be for you as his friend… there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve done what you can – encourage him to seek help, nudge him in the right direction – but you’ve reached the limits of what’s actually possible.You can’t force the dude into therapy. You can’t clamp his eyes open and use the Ludovico Technique to force him to confront his issues. And to be perfectly blunt, you’ve got your own live to live and your own affairs to manage. Trying to fix his – especially when he chooses not to participate – is only going to take energy and time away from your life.
So the best thing you can do is draw a firm line in the sand. Tell him “Listen: we’ve been having this exact same conversation for years now and nothing has changed. I’ve told you what I think you need to do and I’m getting tired of repeating myself over and over again. So from now on, I don’t want to talk about your relationship problems. If you change your mind and you’re ready to do things differently, then maybe we can revisit the topic. But until then? That topic’s off limits and I don’t want to hear about it any more.” If he tries to bring the topic up again, remind him that you don’t want to talk about it with him. Keep repeating this until it sinks in.
It’s a shame that he has his problems and that he’s having a difficult time resolving them. But that doesn’t mean he can keep dragging you along on his journey. It’s time to enforce your boundaries on this matter.