Auntie SparkNotes: I Dumped This Guy and He's Really Mad About It
Dear Aunie Sparknotes,
I have been asking my friends and mom for advice, but I feel like my problem needs your wisdom. A few weeks ago I broke up with a boy who I had dated exclusively for about 4 months. He was a really sweet, funny, great, handsome guy but he just wasn't my sweet, funny, great, handsome guy. The more time I spent with him the more I realized that something just didn't feel right. Not wanting to waste both of our time, I eventually broke up with him, but he was really really really upset about it. It was just so strange that he would be so sad about something that only lasted a few months and (I felt) was not that "intense." (I don't know if that is the right word, but I mean to say that while it was a nice experience, it was not like we were in love or something.)
Now whenever he sees me he does not acknowledge my presence and overall seems pretty angry. It feels so awkward whenever I run into him because all I can think is, "We used to sleep together, and and now we can't even look each other the eye!!!" I have had a few boyfriends before and when the relationship ended it was never this awkward and uncomfortable. I have actually managed to stay good friends with all of my other ex's. We study at a small university and even though we don't have any classes together, we still run into each other often because of our mutual friends. Thankfully, they are not choosing sides or anything, but my friends have told me to leave him alone for a while. I'm starting to get tired of missing out on things just because he'll be there too. I guess my question is, if there is such a thing as ex-etiquette? How do I treat him now? Can I just say hi to him when I see him around, or should I avoid him out of "respect" for him? I know now for sure that I don't like him in a romantic way, but he is a good guy and I would like to be friends at some point. I don't understand how we can go from being in an intimate relationship to just ignoring each other. If I did really hurt him then I want to give him his space, but how long!?! It just feels weird.
Well, yes. I'm sure it does. But hey, you know what's even worse than feeling weird ? The feeling of getting your heart trampled by someone you love—and then having your feelings cruelly and completely trivialized by that person because she finds them inconvenient.
Which is, uh, what you're doing. And your condescending attitude; the way you're running roughshod over your ex's boundaries; the scare quotes around the word "respect", like having to consider someone else's feelings is just a bunch of fake, burdensome nonsense… well, barf, my friend. Barf to infinity. You're being so mean and selfish right now! It makes me sad. And I really wish you'd stop, so I could stop Infinite Sad Barfing. PLEASE, THERE IS SO MUCH BARF.
...You stopped, right? Good. I'm so glad. That was very decent of you.
And look, Sparkler: I know that the decent thing in this case is not the pleasant thing, and I know that it sucks when you want a relationship with someone who doesn't want one with you. But you know who else knows that? Your ex. He knows exactly how that feels. The relationship he wanted is the relationship you just yanked out from under him. But that's the thing about relationships: they need the full, enthusiastic participation of both parties in order to work at any level. Which is why you must respect this guy's need to not be friends with you, just like he respected your need to no longer be romantically involved. And I do mean need, darling; this is non-negotiable. Because demanding a relationship at the expense of somebody else's happiness—knowing, in fact, that your every overture is causing that person pain—is an awful thing to do.
That said, you also don't have to become a hermit and stop seeing your friends, just to spare this guy the agony of remembering that you exist. Being considerate of his need for space doesn't mean being absent in your own social life. Your ex is his own master; if he can't stand to be in the same room as you, then leaving that room is his choice to make. Your only job is to be civil and considerate of his boundaries—and once you're not wheedling and wangling for more relationship than he wants to have, he won't need angry energy to keep you at arms' length. You stop pushing, he stops seething, and eventually, maybe, the burnt-down ashes of your relationship will be cool enough to touch again. For how long? As long as i takes. You aren't running this show. And while you wait for things to reach their conclusion, whatever that conclusion is, just remember this: he knows what you want, and he knows where to find you. But if he does find you, it'll be because he's had the time and space to decide he still wants to be friends, and not because you hung around and criticized him for not getting over your breakup more quickly.
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