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Hi all. I would like to share my story with you. I have spoken about this situation with my best buddies, but I feel like a need a stranger's reply about the matter, as that would be more objective.


There's this girl. Let's call her Jane (not real name). Some years ago we had a relationship and we were in love. But there was a problem... at the start of our relationship, she was engaged.

I know what you may be thinking. I am not proud of myself, but their relationship was loveless and cold, and she saw something in me that could make her happy again. For some reason, however, we lasted for months in a deadlock, with me playing the lover's part and her constantly reassuring me of her feelings, but not really leaving him.


Long story short, I got fed up with this and left. She instantly left him as a response. I felt as if she had just been delaying our emotions for each other for no reason at all, and I started to grow apart from her. Our relationship was going well, but I just kept thinking and thinking about her behavior; why wouldn't she leave him when it mattered the most? Why did we have to almost split? Most importantly, why couldn't I stop thinking about it?

Eventually I became unbearable. I was often mad or sad about an event that had happened and there was no fixing it, no one could do anything about it. She tried to cheer me up, to show me I was the only one. I guess I didn't trust that. So she left, promising me we would meet one day, when the times would be right.


Cue a couple years of suffering. I felt guilty, I didn't really want to leave her, I tried reconnecting but she already had someone else. I felt like I would always be the second choice, even if I had been the first at one point.

I met a girl, Amanda (not real name). I thought I could start fresh with her without thoughts about a "third person" looming over my relationship. No such luck; she was a very vindictive girl, and would talk openly about her exes if we argued, just to hurt me as she knew I was sensible on the matter.


So the relationship with Amanda ended when I had enough about her ex-boasting. I tried reconnecting with Jane. Nope. She was seeing someone else. All that talk about meeting again? "Yeah, it's something you say when you aren't mature, doesn't mean it has to happen", she said. I was heartbroken again. I felt utterly alone. My best relationships were plagued by the shadow of the "other guy".


At that point, I realized I did not need this. I did not need a person with me to feel whole; I had to feel at ease with myself before making someone happy. I started working out, I took on various interests, I pursued and caught my dreams. I was single, but it did not matter, because I was happy with who I was.



Then one day... Jane sent me a message. Asked me how I was doing, the usual. I was very cautious but she was friendly and sweet like she was during our relationship. At the time I was seeing a girl (not very serious), but I agreed to grab a coffee as friends.

I noticed she had interest in me again. Told me she also had bad experiences with guys (as if I needed to know). I agree with her that life sometimes sucks.


We go home, she writes me instantly. I tell her, "it was fun going for a walk together today, but I should tell you I am seeing someone".

She replies, "oh, I am too".


I sank into the ground. She had all the time in the world to contact me whenever she pleased, and she did so, wanting to try again with me, exactly when she was seeing another guy. It had to be a cruel joke.

When I expressed my concerns about this behavior, she dumped him instantly. Again, like the last time, I felt a creeping sensation.


We have been seeing each other for some months now. But I cannot take it anymore. We are different people, but even if our differencs can be worked out, whenever I am tired or feel sad, I start to think that some things never change, that with her I will always feel like I come after someone else. I hate, hate being like this. And she did not help me in the slightest.


I don't know what to do. I am about to break up with her and go live on top of a mountain so I never have to live something like this again.

I have a problem. I know I do. I have no trouble if a girl I'm seeing has had others before me, that would be insane. But make me feel like I am an option instead of a firm choice, and I will leave.


Maybe I am just too extreme, maybe I had bad relationship experiences. I don't know. I just hope someone here can tell me what they think about this. Any feedback is appreciated.


Sorry for the long post.


TL ; DR : ex girlfriend came back just to create the same situation that made us break up in the first place

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What you do know about her is that she is ready, willing and able to cheat in a heartbeat. She sounds unstable. Save yourself the grief and find better women.


The thing is, she never cheated on me. Maybe I didn't make this clear so I'll make up for it here.


My problem was that she made me feel like I was an option. At the time I didn't know what effect that would have on me because I never found a similar situation before, but the thought of being a lover to the girl I wanted, while she wanted me in return, was just so absurd to the point of hurting.

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The thing is, she never cheated on me. Maybe I didn't make this clear so I'll make up for it here.


Not that you know of. This girl is trouble, though, so you need to keep in mind she is the type who is capable of it and knows how to cover her tracks.


It doesn't really matter if she didn't cheat on you, really. The fact that she has done it to other guys is a serious character flaw, and one you would be foolish to overlook or minimize. You know she is very much the sort of person who shops around for a new boyfriend while still dating or in an actual relationship with someone else. That's not a becoming quality in a girlfriend.


I don't think you're being too extreme, nor that you need to go live on a mountain-top. You do need to recognize that choosing women who have shown you that they're not trustworthy will only really get you the sort of relationship you have now: one filled with angst, uncertainty, and emotional turmoil. You don't need to live like a hermit to avoid that; you just need to make better choices with women, run from those who wave red flags in your face, and not go back to them for more.

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Seems a bit pot calling the kettle black, WandererBoy. She's no good but you're no good either. You were seeing someone whom you dropped like a hot potato. If it wasn't serious, why did you have to mention it in the first place? Whatever it is (or whatever came first, chicken or the egg), the overall effect is that neither of you are good for each other.


You seem to be going back to your ex all the time and have her contact easily accessible. Start doing things differently and ridding yourself permanently of people or situations that no longer reward you or give you joy. You seem restless to me and perpetually uneasy. This isn't exactly a great headspace to be in if you're thinking about being in anyone else's company.


I don't think you're ok for a relationship at all. If it's not Jane, it'll be another woman that doesn't measure up to you right now because she's not Jane. Take it easy and slow down. Things will be ok. Just give it time and give yourself time to breathe.

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Can I ask how old you are?


Anyhow, here's my read: Your relationship was a "formative" one, meaning it left a big mark about how certain things should feel. Big problem there is that it was all "formed" in the shade, with you being a second choice/side piece hoping to be elevated to first. So your inner emotional compass is all out of whack. She is both the high point and the low point of what romance is to you, the carrot and the carrot on the stick, and kind of always has been. Imagine an actual compass, but instead of pointing "due north" it pointed you into a swamp, always. And yet it's the only compass you have. Jane is that.


She is, in ways, a woman you have longed for a thousand times more than you've been with, a concept more than a connection. I'm not just talking about the years after your relationship, but the whole grist of your first go at romance: reality was just out of reach, a thing to long for rather than inhabit. The premise was that you were shady people finding the sun together—a faulty premise. You longed with her, until it hurt. You longed away from her, hurting. And now you're with her—and, well, you're kind of still longing for something that isn't there. That pain? It's shade. It's also mistaking longing for love.


It's okay. It happens. Emotional wiring is sensitive, gets tangled up. I guess what I'm trying to say is this whole "option" stuff is a Trojan Horse. It's not really the thorn. The thorn is Jane, and who you are next to Jane. She's flightly, untrustworthy, unstable—to put it in blanket terms. A monkey-brancher who has probably not gone 24 hours of her adult life without being in something, in some form or another, to say nothing of being in multiple things.


So it's like the big person in you knows all that—that Jane is bad news. You knew it at the first kiss. You've suppressed that, molded it into other things, relabeled it this and that, but it can't totally be snuffed out because it is the big truth here. Or half of it. The other half is you. As a side piece you rendered yourself untrustworthy and so, in Jane's orbit, you will always wear that sweater. It itches. It's not quite you, or not a you you want to be. It's the small you trying to stand down to the big you—and, so far, succeeding.


I'd put this all in another context. It's something you needed to grow into yourself, but to fully inhabit yourself it has to be let go of, for real. That is bitter, I know, but it's also sweet. Bittersweet, as they say. It means it's time to grow a few inches, and further into yourself so you can have the connection you want instead of just longing for the concept.

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I thank you all for your thoughts so far. I will try to respond as best as I can.




You aren't the first to mention this, now that I think of it. "Once a cheater, always a cheater", was it?

And I tend to agree. Thing is, both in the old relationship and now, Jane was a good and kind person for the whole duration but the start, where this "other dudes" deal is/was. I do agree with you, there's no need to be a hermit. It's just so confusing that, even after she knew such a situation is a deal breaker for me, she just came back into my life bearing that exact situation years later. I cannot get over it (I overthink a lot, huge problem), it just feels like wanting to damage yourself before you even start.


I wish I was wise enough to take things with a colder approach, and I usually do in my life, but with her, it just seems impossible. Where I am usually very clear and decisive, I feel like I'm muddled and confused with her. And not because she abuses or manipulates me; it's just how I am around her and I have discovered that I cannot help it at all...



Rose Mosse


You are right. I am responsible of a lot of mistakes in my relationship with Jane, and I paid dearly for all of it; I have been through a painful year and a half. Regarding the other girl I was seeing, I mentioned her here because that sentence about her was what prompted Jane to say "I have someone too".

In my defense, and I will understand if you don't believe me, I had already decided to leave the other girl. She had feelings for me and I did not, it was unfair to stay with her. It just so happened that Jane came at the time, so I carried through with the break up. I did not kiss Jane until I had told the other girl I didn't feel like continuing the relationship with her.


I think Jane knows exactly where to hit in order to make me... fragile. She knows what to say at the right time to make me reconsider my positions and choices. I am uneasy indeed, but if that's of any consolation, I had already long stopped comparing other girls to Jane (something I did in the first 8 months after splitting up), and my focus on myself was already a result of my choice of slowing down, as you say.


Right now I just feel like I have thrown away the peace of mind I found alone, and traded it for something I already knew wouldn't work, because it didn't work the first time. It's horrible.





I'm 25.

I've always thought of that relationship as a formative one aswell. Up until that point, I had had my share of fun, but just one other important ex girlfriend. Then came Jane and I was still very immature about a lot of things. Teenager things, like being vengeful or spiteful out of jealousy and whatnot. My skin crawls when I think back to that time, but luckily things have changed.


I think you are on to something with the compass analogy. I admit that I have no clear direction right now. Sometimes I want to end it and resume my life alone, some other times I think she's the one for me, some other times I'm apathetic. But this should not be a way to conduct a relationship, should it?

And what does one do with the faulty compass? Does one just throw it away? Go in the opposite direction, or keep going straight regardless?


I had idealized her throughout these years. At first as a regretful memory, then as peaceful acceptance. When she came back, she was... human. And I realized how stupid of me it was to think she would be something else, because we are all human and none of us is made of purer matter.


If I may ask, what do you mean by "The pain? It's shade"? I'm intrigued by the form you used.


I don't know if she's overall bad news. But I concede that she is for me, if the past is of any indication. I knew it would go badly, and it did. I hoped it would work, and it didn't. So what do I do? Do I wave Jane goodbye forever? It would feel absurd after having gone to hell and back thinking about her. At the same time, it would feel absurd to stay. I don't think there's a winning scenario for me. It's more like a choice between two evils...

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Ah, 25. Not to generalize or condescend, as I'm no sage at 40, but that makes some sense. And comes with hope attached: this can just be youth, if you're willing to grow up a bit.


To answer your question about the pain being the shade: What I mean is that you sought out some very basic human desires—love, connection, sex—inside a shady paradigm. Pain was there from the beginning: sometimes lurking, sometimes striking, but never fully eradicated. And of course it wasn't: you had to make shady choices just to connect, and in that you hurt yourself.


It's a bit like trying to eat healthy by only eating candy: tastes good, feels wrong. And yet, the sugar: the brain gets wired to it, quick. Easy way to stave off that queasy feeling that comes from too much sugar? Well, it's to just eat more sugar and get the buzz back on on. Works, but comes with a cost: the queasiness gets worse, to say nothing of what's happening to your teeth, your insides. Time passes and what once seemed like the easiest of choicest (salad or Snickers?) has become a loaded emotional quagmire.


Yeah, you toss the broken compass. You stumble around in the woods a bit. You find a road. Road leads you to town, where there's a camping store. You buy a new compass, and set back out to explore. It's kind of all the same—woods, mountains, sun, rain—but you've got this added bonus of knowing where you are and where you want to go, for real.


From what you're writing you're in a classic situation—the sunk cost fallacy. Look that up. It's when you keep investing in the thing that's leading you to bankruptcy in hopes that more investing will make you rich. But a bad investment is a bad investment. Past all the specifics here, your gut right now is trying to tell you that this is bad investment because you're simply not feeling it. You're edgy, full of doubts, offset by the occasional flash of joy. You're likely to feel that in romance a lot—it's kind of the default of dating, with the exception being the deep stuff. Without knowing what the deep stuff is—or having some faith that there's deeper—you train yourself to mistake snacks for a meal, candy for health.


Good part? You're young and smart. That means you can un-trick yourself. It's a bit of work, but it's worth it.

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I'm sorry you're going through all that pain.


I believe you. I think you are regretful for picking it up with your ex and feeling guilty and sad about wanting to end it. Running away from your problems isn't going to help solve them. I'm referring to your impulse or desire to isolate yourself on top of a mountain. It's not fun living on a mountain by the way. I've done it and it's not that great. It's lonely, very cold and other animals eat your things all the time. If you're lucky, you don't get eaten either and they don't eat your clothes. It's also not quiet at all and deafeningly loud (very annoying most of the time or takes getting used to).


You're not the first(and you won't be the last) person who has ever given someone a second or third chance only to find out that you've made a mistake yet a second or a third time. What a blow it is to the ego and the heart. Yes, I know what it's like to feel so low and crippled by that first stupid decision and only to make the same bad decision a second time. What do you do? You pick yourself up off the ground, tell yourself live and let live and start planning and making better decisions for yourself. I feel like you have all kinds of guilt and regret. Let all that go... it's just not worth it. Most of all be honest with yourself. Once you can do that, it's easier being honest with other people. If you promise yourself not to do certain things or date certain people again, you'll be on the right track. It means you've started to call a spade a spade and be more in tune with your limitations (what you can and can't do/what's good for you and what's not). This is all part of learning in life. Don't be so hard on yourself. Keep on going.

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It's like 2 a.m. now so sorry for the short reply! I don't think anything good ever comes out of having an affair because that person wasn't truly committed to you from the start. You were more of a side piece, the other man. You had a bad foundation with Jane and that's why you couldn't build anything good from it.

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When people get nostalgic and backtrack like this it's often because there's been a void or disappointment or some sort of loneliness. What is the situation in this case?

Let's call her Jane (not real name). Some years ago we had a relationship and we were in love. But there was a problem...at the start of our relationship, she was engaged.
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I'm sorry for the late reply, but I had little time in the past days.


I thank everyone for the advice, both kind and harsh, because every perspective helps and I know I have made some questionable choices.

Living on a mountain doesn't seem so nice anymore ahah. But yes, facing the problem is the only way. I know that, but I somewhat try to delay the crash. I feel like I am afraid of losing her forever, while at the same time I know we cannot stay together as things stand. I am torn between staying and leaving. I don't know if the sugar analogy is fitting, but it sure holds merit when I think of the rush I get in the brief moments of peace with her.


I didn't feel lonely before she came back, quite the contrary. I was putting my life together and achieving a ton of life goals all at once, which felt both amazing and weird. Maybe I took her back because now I am a different person and I thought I could handle the past and whatever current situation would present itself now. Perhaps I overestimated what I can do.


I haven't seen her in 20 days. It was both by my choice and a forced situation due to IRL complications (don't worry, I'm fine). At times I miss her, but more often than not, I dread receiving her messages, I don't really feel like talking to her, and I'm all too happy to drop my phone and go do something to not think about it, while maybe right before she wrote me I was binge watching youtube videos.


I'm sure this also ties in with the procrastination before the big crash. I'll have to see her this weekend, and I fear I'll reconsider again and tell myself I can do it, while really I cannot (or I don't want to...).

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