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Mixed messages from my ex -- wait for him, or go back to NC?


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Hi everyone. I'm deeply confused and conflicted and I need some clarity and/or advice.


I broke up with my boyfriend almost a month ago. We had been together for nearly two years, we're both in our mid-thirties. He's basically a textbook commitment phobic person -- he's had a bad marriage that ended in a bad divorce, and after that came a long-term relationship that ended after about a year. (He initiated the divorce, but was dumped at the end of the long-term relationship.)


We got together originally just for casual NSA sex via a hookup personals site, but when we met in person it was clear we had tons of chemistry and there was lots of mutual interest in spending time together. He took me off on a weekend getaway only a week or so after we met, and what followed were several romantic, intimate months together. Then I got a job at his company, in his division, that he had helped me to get (he referred me for the position, it's a hard company to get into so an employee referral matters a LOT) -- I started the job about 5 months into our relationship, and in retrospect that's when things started to go downhill.


Some background: He had met his ex-wife and his ex-gf at work. Those are his two most significant adult relationships, for sure. And with the ex-gf, they were basically joined at the hip -- they worked together, they lived together in her house, they were in a band together, they had all the same friends. Same with the ex-wife, to a degree -- worked together, lived together obviously, all the same friends, almost all the same hobbies.


We did not live together. When we met he told me that he didn't plan to ever live with someone again, although he said if the circumstances were perfect he might consider it. We both really like having our own private space and we're both pretty introverted people -- not living together is not a dealbreaker for me, actually my ideal living situation would be something like living next door to my partner, or having a plot of land together with two small cottages separated by a garden. Together, but apart. He liked that idea, too, but due to financial issues the likelihood of us managing to pull that off in the next few years is slim. Not impossible, but slim.


We didn't socialize much outside "us" -- he has pretty major social anxiety and he lost most of his friends to the divorce and the breakup before me, so he doesn't really socialize with much of anyone aside from colleagues that he has dinner with on occasion, and a couple of women that he dated briefly a few years ago before deciding they worked better as friends. He's met a couple of my friends, but he hasn't spent more than a couple of hours with them and hasn't really talked to them ever.


About two months ago things got really weird between us. He got really distant and needed a lot more time to himself and told me he was struggling with his need to hole up and be solitary vs. his need/desire to be a good boyfriend to me. At one point he took a week off work and drove up to Canada to visit an old college roommate and his family. When he got back he told me he'd done a lot of thinking about us, and how when things were good they were really really good, and how the bad times made him sad, and what causes the good and bad times, and what possible fixes there are to this problem. He followed that up with this:


What makes this so upsetting is that i love you, and the reason why i am dealing with this is because i want to deal with it. if it were a matter of me just deciding that i no longer wanted to be with you, then this would be much, much easier. but it's not about that. it's about me having to critically evaluate why i feel the way i do, the things i want from life, if it is healthy, if it is something that i genuinely need to get over, etc. for example, the living together thing. i have been thinking a lot about that. i have been analyzing if i'm just continuing along the same path i established for myself after getting divorced because i'm being pig-headed or if it is something i genuinely want, etc. the reason why this is hard because most of it is just deep introspection into myself, which can get pretty ugly. i have definitely been doing a lot more critical thinking about my own past, present and future than i ever have before.


I gave him as much time as I could, and after a couple of weeks I decided that what we both needed was a break. So I called for a break, and I lasted about three days before I was going nuts not talking to him. I caved in, reached out, and we started talking again... but things were tense, and we were getting into lots of fights over email and instant message. The one time we talked on the phone during that time period, we both cried a lot and he told me over and over again how confused and sad he is and how he has no idea what to do.


After a week or so of this back and forth business, he mentioned one day that he really really didn't want to lose my friendship, that it's very important to him because I'm his best friend. (He's my best friend, too. That's why this sucks.) I let that sit in my brain for a day or so, and then I got him on chat late one night and asked him point blank, you said you don't want to lose my friendship -- are you saying that you just want to be friends and that's it? He said that was what he was trying to say, yes, and that's when I told him that meant we had to break up. It was awful, and we both cried and got very very upset, and I went to bed feeling horrible.


I told him the next day that if he wanted to maybe go to therapy for himself, to work on those issues he mentioned about having to rethink his entire life, then I would be willing to be a friend and support him through that, and I even gave him my former therapist's contact info since that guy was awesome and really helped me a lot. He thanked me and told me how much he appreciated my offer. We kept in contact every day via email or chat, and it was really great but also really hard on me.


On my birthday two weeks ago, he had flowers delivered to my office. Attached was a handwritten card that said, "With love and affection, [his name]". He'd never sent me flowers, no one ever has before. It was sweet. The weekend before that I'd been out of town, and he'd dropped by my house to check in on my cat for me.


Last week I decided I needed to go no-contact after we fought pretty viciously on instant message. I told him that if he wants to talk to me about anything he has to call me or arrange to see me in person, I'm not going to fight over electronic mediums anymore. So he made an appointment to call me the next night, and we spoke for about 45 minutes. He told me that it will hurt him a lot to not have contact with me, but that he'll do whatever I need him to do in order to feel okay, so if that's what I need, he'll respect that. He told me to contact him if I need anything, and I told him to do the same.


Fast forward to this week -- MAJOR financial crisis in my world. Due to fraudulent activity on my bank account, my rent check bounced and I don't have enough cash on hand to cover it. I ran into my ex outside the restrooms at work today -- I had been in there crying about my money woes, and when I got back to my desk he instant-messaged me to ask if I was okay. I explained what was going on and he immediately offered to loan me money without even asking how much I need. I told him repeatedly that I felt really weird about it and that it's a large sum of money, and he kept saying he could help, then I flat-out refused the offer and he said, "Okay, but the offer still stands. If you won't take help for you, take it for the cat. I would hate to see either of you homeless." His only requirement is that I come up with a reasonable payment plan to pay him back.


I'm at a complete loss. This guy has pushed me away, but he keeps trying to be there for me -- a dear friend is very sick with cancer, and he keeps offering to help me get down to her city about 3 hours away to spend time with her, he offers money help today, he loaned me his car a couple of weeks ago when I needed to go to the dentist (I don't own a car)... but when I say that I need to cut contact with him because otherwise I'll have a harder time convincing myself not to wait for him to want me back, he says nothing at all. He's just silent.


I don't really have any other options for help right now, unfortunately, so I'm going to have to accept his offer. But I'm so confused -- is he indicating that he wants me back? Should I take the help and stay in contact with him, leave the door open for him? Or should I take the help and go back to no-contact, sending him his repayments through interoffice mail?


Please help. I am so confused, and so sad, and I miss him so much.

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You have someone here that is very willing to help you in times of need. At some point you have to stop and think that even if there is no future relationship he has been enough of a loyal friend that he deserves at least that. Are you willing to give up help that you so clearly need simply because of your current emotions that may very well heal in the future?


He only wants a friendship and he isn't forcing you into a corner (he isn't asking for intimacy without commitment). He's being a damn good friend.


EDIT: Sorry, regarding how you should go about it. If you truly want him back, then you need to show him what attracted him to you in the first place. You can do that as a friend, if you're emotionally healthy enough (its tough to be yourself around someone you love). However, if you sincerely don't feel like you're well enough emotionally to be yourself around him, then I suggest limited contact such that you suggested.

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Yes, you're right. He is definitely a very decent guy, in that he's so willing to help and he's not asking for anything in return except repayment, which is so totally beyond fair. And I really, really appreciate the offer so much. It's a very kind and loving thing -- I guess that's why it's so uncomfortable, and why it hurts a little. I still love him very, very much, and when he does things like this it makes me think that he still loves me, too. But then he tells me that he's not even sure he wants to change anything about his life yet and that ultimately he might be better off "dying alone" even though that scares him. There's a big wall between us.


I would love to be able to show him what attracted him to me in the first place. I don't know if I'm capable right now, though. At the same time that all of this has been going on, I've been going through extreme work stress brought on by a recent health diagnosis. (I was just recently diagnosed with adult ADHD, which is wreaking havoc on my work life, and I'm struggling to get things under control.) And at the same time that things started to fall apart with the ex, I found out that a dear friend is fighting a very aggressive stage 4 cancer. It's been a really, really hard month, to say the least.

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I personally doubt he wants you back as a partner/girlfriend, but he does want to keep the door open for a friendship. I know that if my boyfriend and I were to ever break up, he would want to be there for me, and I for him... simply because we are each others' best friends as well as partners. You said that this is also the case with you. And, if this is the case, he likely WOULDN'T encourage you to go NC... because that would hurt him too, even though he just wants to be friends. The other possibility or motivation that comes to mind in regards to his offering to lend you money is guilt. He knows you miss him, but he simply couldn't handle the relationship.


Right now, you need to look out for you. Accept the fact that the relationship likely isn't going to go anywhere and work on yourself. If you can handle it, maintain some contact with him, or not. This is ultimately simply what you can or can't handle on a personal level. But, make the decision based on YOU, not what you think he might be thinking, wanting, or doing.

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I think the thing that is hardest to cope with is that he has said a few times that we've reached the point in our relationship where, in previous relationships, he's had the strong need to get out, and in his mind he feels like breaking up is probably a good idea, but for the first time in his life, his heart doesn't want to let go. I don't quite know what to make of that.

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You're making it harder on yourself by considering every little thing he says means something. If you want his friendship, let him have it and move on. Meet new people. But if you want him back you have to understand that it isn't your decision. You can't make him love you. The only control you have is whether you want to let him be your friend, he's the one that has the power to open himself up for another attempt at a relationship.


I seriously think you should move on, but I know how difficult that can be.

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