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It's Still Possible To Care About an Ex

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I think we all know this. The ex and I were cohabiting for over a year. She was, up until that time, the absolute most perfect girlfriend that I had ever had. There was just one HUGE issue. Her son had Asperger's, and I just couldn't deal with it. I tried so hard, but I just couldn't do it. I told her so. I admitted that it wasn't her fault or her son's fault. It was my inability to be patient enough to deal with his situation. We parted amicably, she went on to date one or two other guys, and I eventually went on to date an even more wonderful girl (with normal kids) who is going to be my wife.


The ex has been emailing me lately. We work for the same large company, but in different areas, so we never see each other. I told her that I was engaged, and she wrote back saying that she was horribly depressed that I had told her that. I still care for her, but I wonder what I should do here? Should I write back that I'm really sorry, should I not do anything, should I just not even answer her back? I'm not interested in leaving my fiancee in the least to be back with the ex, but I still care about her, and it would really bother me if I was some trigger that led her into some downward spiral. Thoughts?

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This is a tough one. If I were you, having been in the situation that your ex is in, I wouldn't tell her anymore. It will just make her feel worse and even that much more alone. I have a child too and I have been heartbroken by a guy because we were too much for him, although he never admitted it. He didn't have to because I could tell. And please don't tell her anything like "someday you'll find someone" etc. because that doesn't help either.

If you do still care about her like you say you do, maybe you should just apologize and leave it at that and not stay in contact with her. I'm sure it's confusing to her because it's not fair for you to still care about her while being engaged to someone else. It will just make her feel worse and I'm sure you don't want that for her. She deserves someone that cares just about her and her son.


Hope this makes sense

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I would explain this all to your current gf so that she doesn't get any wrong ideas.


If your ex needs help that you could provide without it getting in the way of your current relationship or making you feel awkward, I would try but explain that if you start feeling odd, you'd stop.


Otherwise just let her know that you didn't mean to hurt her but only to let her know that you cannot be friends/around/whatever.

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I think you should reply back one more time, but don't be overly emotional. Just say that you are sorry that she is feeling upset and hope that she too finds the happiness that she deserves.


Then I think you shound cut contact- for the sake of your current relationship, and for her own good.


As for the reason for the breakup, taking care of an individual with a disability can indeed be very difficult. Her son is always going to be her first priority (and rightfully so) because a.) he is her child and b.) his special needs will likely require more support than a child without special needs. I work in the disability field and see the dedication that parents have for their kids first hand. Many of them have sacrificed their own lives (social life, education, career) to take the best possible care of their child. This often lasts a lifetime if there is a disability involved.


You would be doing the family a disservice if you stayed with her and was annoyed by her son or if it caused you any resentment. Taking on another person's child is a complex situation to begin with, and I would imagine if the child has special needs it can make things even more complicated.


So if you knew you were not able to contend with the lifestyle she had to live to care for her son, there is nothing wrong with that. So don't feel guilty for doing what was in your best interest and her son's best interest.


I do think you should cut contact though, so that both of you can move on. It doesn't mean you stop caring, but IMO the communication isn't really appropriate if you are engaged to someone else. (Unless of course, your fiance knows and has no problem with it)

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It sounds like she re-initiated communication with you with some hope (maybe unconscious) of getting back together. Your news was appropriate to share, and while it's unfortunate that it upset her, she had to be prepared for that possibility. She set herself up to be hurt by starting to email you and finding out what's going on with you.


So although you don't want to be cruel to her, I think you have to recognize that in this situation there's nothing you can do for her. I agree with LittleLion that trying to reassure her that someday she'll find someone who's right for her won't go over well ... it just sounds condescending, even if you're being sincere. I'd just say something like, "I think the world of you and wish you every happiness, which you definitely deserve to have. Given that news of my engagement has caused you pain I think it's for the best that we don't try to force a friendship between us." Or something like that: short, kind, but unambiguous. If she's been nursing hope for a while that the two of you might try again, any loopholes she perceives -- or any cracks that she imagines might exist in your relationship with your fiancée -- are things she might try to exploit. Not because she's a bad person but because she's lonely and you're the only person she sees as a viable option.


You need to make it clear that you're not an option for her. You should do this for her sake, your fiancée's sake, and your own sake. If you can do that and convey that you still care about her, great ... but don't forget that part of the communication process is how the listener interprets things, and if she's inclined to harbor hope of getting back together with you, things that you intend to be merely kind might be taken as promises you won't live up to. Better to err on the side of caution, even if it means that you don't have the satisfaction of knowing that she knows you still care about her.

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Excellent replies. I have decided to email her back and just tell her that I was sorry if she felt badly, but I wanted to be honest with her that I was in a committed relationship with another person. She seems to be doing OK with that... I was just weirded out by getting an email from someone that I had not heard from in over a year.

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