Uhh long time reader first time asker etc,
So I guess I’m a former Nice Guy. Read every nice guy article on the internet and 8 years later, I super feel no one has like an obligation to love me, just like I don’t have an obligation to love anyone else. I started trying to fix myself, going to the gym, being more social, making better fashion choices, etc. I’m no longer afraid of “The Friend Zone” because that actually means I have friends. A ton of girls friend-zoned me in the past, but it’s no problem. It’s more like, cool now I have a bunch of super hot strictly platonic friends.
But also I’m like 27 and a virgin so something may still be wrong here. I think my issue may be more about expressing myself. I’m pretty good about making friends and talking to people, but I think I’m really bad about making my intentions know. A lot of times, I get interpreted as more than a platonic friend. I guess I’ve seen so many horror stories where dudes flip out or come on too strong OR doing what I’ve been doing and coming of….not strong enough. I have this tendency of saying “Hey friend, I have feeling for you and or I think your like super attractive” is like a weird thing that had no warning and came out of left field because I tend to have anxieties about that. So it all just sorta.. gushes out.
How do I make it very clear I’m interested in someone romantically without coming on too strongly… or coming on like I’m just a strictly platonic friend that isn’t at all interested in going on a date? How do I reconcile this with the fact that typically I’m usually not going to be attracted to someone until I’ve spoken to them a few times
Doing Better, Needs Work
(Doctor’s Note: Today’s column includes frank discussion about abusive relationships and suicide)
I’m in a confusing, morally conflicted place and I could use an outside perspective.
For a long time, I was crushing on someone tangentially attached to my friend group. This didn’t stop me from dating other people, but I always paid attention to this woman in case my chance ever came up. Unfortunately, she was dating (in my biased opinion) a weapons grade asshole who was, at a minimum, verbally and mentally abusive to her. There was gossip he was physically abusive, with no obvious proof. Eventually, they broke up.
I waited a respectful amount of time then asked her out. We went on a few dates, things went well, we went on a few more, became exclusive, and time marches on. She tells me over and over I am the best boyfriend she’d ever had, she’s never been happier, so I thought things were going ok.
Until the ex shows up again, swearing he has changed, and he wants her back. You can probably guess what happened next. At first, she wanted nothing to do with him. Then she agreed to contact because she wanted closure. Then she agreed to continuing contact because she felt sorry for him. Then suddenly, she’s “unsure” how she feels about him. When it got to that point, I told her she had a choice; either him or me. She said was not prepared to make that choice. So, I broke up with her.
I didn’t scream or yell. The last time we spoke, I wished her well. I also told her that I seriously doubted the ex had changed, and I thought she was heading towards big trouble with him. I requested that when that trouble came, to leave me out of it. Given how betrayed I felt, I was not up for even pretending we could “still be friends” nor would I be willing to “get in touch” or “catch up” or anything like that after the you-know-what hit the fan. I unfollowed her on all social media, removed every physical reminder of her I could find, and went on with my life. I never brought her up or discussed her with any of our mutual friends and discouraged those friends from telling me about her. Nevertheless, I learned she moved in with the ex shortly after our break-up, which didn’t improve my mood.
Unfortunately, turns out the ex hadn’t changed. About a year after the break-up, I heard about things going badly for her; she had to flee their apartment, he got scary to the point the police got involved. Our friends started a collection to help her defray the costs of finding a new place and buying essentials. I was very happy to give money to that. But now, I’m hearing from our friends that she wants to “talk”.
I could not have been clearer when we broke up, and I have not changed my mind. I am not interested in that. Some have told me it would help her heal to talk with me. I don’t see her healing as my responsibility. I have been accused of being a bad ally. I have been told I am cruel for being willing to ignore what we once had. I would never say this to her, but I can’t help but notice that what we had didn’t count for much in the moment, so it isn’t clear why it should mean that much to me years later.
Other friends have said that if I really meant what I said about not being involved I never would have given that money; that by doing so, I raised an expectation that a relationship could be salvaged, and it would be cruel to take that away. If I am honest, that argument makes some sense to me. It doesn’t make me want to interact with her, but it does make me wonder if I have obliged myself to do so.
Finally, are some mutual friends that support my decision.
I read all this over and I know I must sound like a cold, unfeeling bastard. Believe me when I say the opposite is the case. It is way beyond my ability to describe my dread when the ex showed back up and she started giving him more and more of her time, or to describe the kick in the balls it was when she admitted she still had feelings for him, or how sad and lonely I felt when I was getting rid of all my reminders of her. Even now, there’s a part of me that fantasizes that we’ll meet back up and live happily ever after. But I know that isn’t going to happen. The same part of me that knew the ex was bad news (for her and for me) when he resurfaced knows that nothing good is going to come of re-engaging with her. It isn’t about punishing her, it’s about protecting me.
My preferred outcome would be to communicate back to her through our mutual friends that I am glad she is safe and well, and the best way for her to remain so is to focus on her future, not dwell on the past. If she believes aspects of our previous relationship offers some insight, she would be better served working that out with a professional. For my part, I am not interested in any sort of relationship (romantic or platonic) going forward.
So I guess my question to you is given our history and what she has been through, do I owe her anything? Am I obliged to meet her in person and hear what she has to say? Or can I go through with my preferred outcome and consider that a justifiable response? Your opinion would be appreciated.
Gluing Myself Back Together
Dear Dr. NerdLove:
This is the first time I (she/her) am making an effort to stay friends with my ex (he/him). We’ve been together for three years, sharing an apartment for 1.5 years. I ended things 4 months ago and moved out 1 month ago.
Since the breakup, he has asked me multiple times in different ways if I could imagine some form of cuddling/sex and I have always clearly said “no”. This was even a source of arguments when we were still together because I hadn’t been sleeping with him for some months…
A few days ago we spent the first evening together as really just friends and just the two of us and contrary to my fears it went pretty nice! We cooked, talked, listened to music. To me it felt nice and friendly, not too close or boundary crossing. Two days later he messages me “I guess this still doesn’t change the fact that you don’t want us to be closer? Sure, we had tasty food, a bottle of wine, listened to some cuddle-compatible music…”
My first instinct: Shit, I shouldn’t have done that! I was getting his hopes up with this atmosphere.
On second thoughts: Wait, I told him a million times that I don’t want to get physical with him. Do I really have to engineer our time in a way it does not get too cozy or send any ‘vibes’? Can I only put on death metal when we’re together so that there won’t be ‘that kind of mood’? Noooooo? Is it simply too soon to be friends like this?
So I messaged him that I feel like I have to state clearly for one last time that I won’t ever kiss him again or anything and that it stresses me out that I have to repeat it.
His reaction (in short): Stop mind-reading me, I was asking a question! Stop projecting your worries onto me! You don’t understand me anyways.
Grrrarg. Am I overthinking this? Am I mind-reading him? In a way I shouldn’t? I have a really hard time understanding his message any other way than “Is there a tiny chance we can fuck now that we drank wine and listened to some mellow music together”? Am I crazy?
Thank you so much
Navigating Muddy Waters
I broke up with my ex-girlfriend “Sam” about a year ago. It was a super serious relationship: timeline for having kids/holidays with each other’s families serious. The official reason for said breakup is that I was tired of long distance (Sam has a temporary position in the neighboring state).
Reality is more complicated.
1. Sam was really insecure about the fact that my ex-boyfriend was my best friend as it wasn’t “normal” to stay in touch with your exes. It got to the point that she banned me from talking about him and refused to meet him and his husband/son when they came to visit. We had planned a trip to the city my ex lived in right before we broke up and I was having panic attacks about bringing it up.
2. Sam had a lot of internalized misogyny from her more conservative, Christian upbringing that led to some judgmental statements about my past.
3. I have some mental health issues that I treat with medication and therapy. They’re well managed but if anything flared up, Sam would insist I find a new therapist because the one I had wasn’t “curing” my issues. She said I was being lied to when I stated that therapy is not a cure.
4. We’d have what I took as “Let’s agree to disagree” moments about X which she’d then bring up in later unrelated disagreements about Y. She’d usually do this in front of others, with a laugh and an eye roll.
5. Towards the end of our relationship, Sam informed me she wasn’t sure how she felt anymore. She wasn’t sure she wanted to move back because there was no guarantee our relationship would work out and she was afraid she was wasting her time with the long distance. She asked me to convince her it would work.
At some point, we had a dumb argument, didn’t speak for three days. I realized I was relieved to have a break from reassuring my girlfriend about our relationship. I was exhausted trying to give Sam a kind of security no one could. I broke up with her the next time we spoke on the phone. After some time, Sam and I started casually texting. I’m able to cope as the emotional stakes were waaaaay lower. I love her sense of humor and I do take pride in maintaining friendships with former partners. I have zero interest in anything non-platonic with Sam.
Sam and my parents/brother have stayed in touch. They became close while we were together and this normal behavior for my family (they’ve stayed in touch with my aunts and uncles’ former SOs). I’ve tried to explain to my family why we broke up but they spin it some way where it’s never anything Sam did wrong in the relationship and that I’m being too picky.
Recently, Sam has pressed me to visit/come see me. My family is ecstatic about this and asked her down for the holidays. She thankfully already had plans. Unperturbed, my parents got her a Christmas present. Not just any Christmas but fancy alcohol. Which they legally can’t ship. So I’m expected to hand deliver it and I’m not sure I’m ready to be in a room with Sam.
I’ve considered the nuclear option but doing so risks damaging the close relationship I have with my parents and brother. I’ve gone with the flow up to this point. I don’t care that my family maintains contact with Sam (okay, I care a little), but I don’t want to be in the middle of it.
Questions: Is there a tactful way to extricate myself from the love fest between my family and my ex-girlfriend? Have I screwed myself by being non-confrontational up to this point? Am I being too picky? Should I have given into my instincts and chugged the 12-year-aged Scotch I’m giving Sam in two days, consequences be damned?
Didn’t Ask to be Santa’s Helper