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Am I being mean and leading him on?


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Hi, I have an ex who I had a difficult breakup with. He broke up with me, kinda out of nowhere, and although I was really really sad since he was my first relationship and we had been together for a few years, I got a therapist and made new friends and started to feel a lot better and get over him and began to really enjoy being single.

A few months ago he reached out asking to get back together and I told him that I have no interest in dating anyone. We decided to be friends but ended up falling out again because he became upset that I still did not want to be with him.

 In November he began sending me messages and gifts with hope that I would change my mind. I reached out to him after having him blocked to tell him that I still did not want to be in a relationship with anyone at all, and he told me that he has been extremely depressed and suicidal since the break up. I told him that I’m sorry but even being just friends in the past did not work out because he still wanted to be in a relationship. He continued to tell me that he’s okay with being friends now since I can still be in his life that way, but I’m scared that hanging out with him while he still wants to be in a relationship would be mean and manipulative because I feel that I would be leading him on with no intentions of getting back together. At the same time I feel really bad denying him of friendship while he is in the mental state that he is in, does not have friends to talk to about his emotions, and no close contact or communication with his family. I had friends and family and a therapist to get through the break up and so I couldn’t really imagine having to go through it alone like he is. 

When he broke up with me in June I assumed that he would get over me pretty quickly, and when he reached out to me initially to get back together, I hoped that he would eventually begin to get over me and start talking to other people once I made it clear I did not want to get back together. But it has been a little less than 7 months, and it feels like he’s becoming even more attached and I’m scared that a friendship will exacerbate this. I don’t know what to do, any advice will help. 

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From what you've written you're being neither mean nor leading him on. You've been very clear with him about where you're at right now: not interested in dating him, and not feeling that friendship is something you two can authentically share. It takes a lot of mojo to be that clear with someone, just it takes a lot of mojo to walk the path you walked in processing the breakup.

Unfortunately, he has shown you that he is not in a place where he can respect the clarity you've shown. He is focused on one thing and one thing only: himself, his feelings, in ways that are bordering on "mean and manipulative." His depression, for instance, and his suicidal thoughts? Those are not currencies to deploy in order to get an ex to do something, be it strike up a friendship, get back together, or just resume cursory contact; no, those are very real issues that he needs to deal with himself, just like he needs to learn how to come to terms with his choices, like ending your relationship. 

I know how hard it is to see someone we care about struggle, but the kindest thing you can do right now—for him, and for yourself—is to let him know that you can't imagine a sincere friendship right now, not in the volatile state he's in, not on the path you've been on since the relationship ended. Wish him the best in getting what he needs, perhaps emphasizing how much therapy helped you, and then continue to carve out what you need during what is still a tender period of transition in your life.   

 

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26 minutes ago, Celestite said:

We decided to be friends but ended up falling out again because he became upset that I still did not want to be with him.
     

 he told me that he has been extremely depressed and suicidal since the break up.

 it feels like he’s becoming even more attached and I’m scared that a friendship will exacerbate this.

You need to block and delete him from all social media and messaging apps after you tell him kindly, but firmly not to contact you. Many of these tactics are staking and manipulation. Yes stop communicating, that is making matters worse. Was he abusive  or controlling/possessive during the relationship?

Edited by Wiseman2
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Good for you for doing all the right things to heal and move on.  The growth you are doing will help you immensely when you do decide to start dating again and will give you the power and strength to decide what is best for your life and future. 

You cannot be his therapist you know that right?   You also cannot be his friend for all the reasons you stated plus it just isn't healthy for either of you.  The whole staying friends after a break up is never a good idea this soon after and in my opinion almost never works out long term. In this case you need to be a little selfish and look out for yourself and let him do the same.  I often tell people that it is okay to pick someone up that has fallen but you cannot carry them.  Being friends with him and trying to be his therapist is like carrying him.  How strong will he be if you do this?

I really don't like the threats of harming himself.  Has he done this in the past before the breakup or is it a ploy to scare you into staying close?  Either way you can steer him to some social services for mental health, if he seeks out the help great but if he doesn't that is his choice.

I don't think you are being mean or hurtful, you are doing what is best for you and I believe in the long run what is best for him.

Lost

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Maybe I'm a nerd but I noticed the lovely paragraph indentations on your post and want to say that made me smile. 

Back to your situation: I agree with the other comments about you not being mean and also not being obligated to be his therapist. I would be more concerned about you than him at this point as you seem to be overanalyzing the friendship and worrying yourself to the point where you're in knots and twists trying to ensure that he is on his way and has enough support. 

My ex had covid for the past three weeks and also tried to rekindle our relationship(marriage) but the marriage is over. Covid really does something to the mind especially to someone so sensory and to a person who depends acutely on his senses daily as a chef (he lost his sense of smell and taste). We can support someone through hard times but it's important to clear the air and be kind to one another - establish some boundary and understand that even if someone can't think clearly at the moment, you can. It doesn't mean that your mental health starts deteriorating either. Clarify the situation with your ex, maintain some distance and remember to keep up your own routine. 

Your only obligation is to yourself so take better care of yourself. Find some middle ground where you can be compassionate or empathetic without bringing pain or confusion on yourself. Big hugs.

Edited by Rose Mosse
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1 hour ago, Celestite said:

 In November he began sending me messages and gifts with hope that I would change my mind. I reached out to him after having him blocked to tell him that I still did not want to be in a relationship with anyone at all, and he told me that he has been extremely depressed and suicidal since the break up

Ahh, poor guy- sounds like he's dealing with some mental health issue's 😞  .. But, that is NOT on you.

Is not up to you to 'make him feel better'.   You worked your way thru on your own to get where you are today.

I feel he needs to do something similar.

Could be that he had pulled away - broke it off due to something like this ( in the past I did the same).

Sadly, he is struggling .  I guess he still wants you in his life.. BUT a 'friend' can be difficult, if those emotions are still present.  This, he needs to understand.  No, I cannot be friends with an ex, if the feelings are still there, and I am not friends with many- for my own mentality.  We are ex's for a reason.  Then don't expect more  😞  .

 

You are not leading him on.  You have tried to explain yourself.. IMO,  He is the one who has to 'accept & let go. And not expect much from you.

A 'friend' is someone you know who won't judge you or expect you to always solve their problems.. won't bring you down & someone you know you can truly rely on.  ( I doubt he is anywhere near this... right?)

Don't feel guilt.. and don't let this bring you down.

I feel you BOTH need some serious down time- to get over all of this & get back to good.  To feel yourself and able to move on again.  ( keeping up this way, you can't).

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The kindest thing you can do is not to remain friends.   You have handled this correctly.   It sounds like he needs professional help to get through this period.

Edited by Hollyj
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If you want to go forward and be happy....STOP TALKING TO HIM. Your biggest mistake is saying "I still did not want to be in a relationship with anyone at all", That's totally leaving the door open to him. He's looking at it as. You should have said I never ever want to be in a relationship with YOU"

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Thank you very much for everyone that has replied, I really do appreciate all the advice! I forgot to mention a very important piece originally, which I should have definitely included in order to clear up my current dilemma. On NYE, he messaged me saying that he feels the worst he’s been in months and can’t even appreciate the good things going on in his life because of how sad he is (he recently moved into his first apartment with his friend and has been introduced to a few new girls). I suggested that he seek someone professional to talk to because I don’t know what to do to make him feel better. After that he had asked me several times to hang out and I continued to tell him I was busy or unavailable because I was still very unsure about what to do. A couple days ago I felt really bad for blowing him off so many times that I told him we can hang out sometime this week if it would help him. Now we have plans to meet up this week and after reading everyone’s replies and seeing that you guys generally have the same thoughts about the situation, I feel really terrible and wish I had started this forum before I had ever said we could hang out. 


     Everyone that has replied and even my therapist has let me know that I can’t feel responsible for other people’s emotions, but with this situation, any choice I make causes me an overwhelming amount of guilt. I don’t want to continue leading him on with a friendship, but I would hate to abandon him while his emotional state is so down, and I don’t think I would ever get over it if he ended up doing something harmful to himself because he is still very young (23) and has a lot of potential.  


     A couple people mentioned that I should suggest therapy to him, which I’ve done constantly even before our breakup, even telling him how much it has helped me the past several months. However, although he has become a little less against the idea (he outright refused therapy for months saying that he didn’t need someone to tell him about his own emotions and would get defensive when I would bring it up), he is still hesitant about the idea (I don’t think that he feels comfortable being vulnerable with people that he is not close with). 
     

I know it would be rude to blow him off again, but I don’t know how to effectively handle this situation after already agreeing to hang out. I understand that a friendship would be unhelpful for us both, but how do you remove someone from your life completely while still caring for them and being really concerned about their mental health? How do I end all contact with him knowing that they don’t have any emotional support around him? I want him to move on and be happy but thinking about him being so depressed feels so heavy and I fear him doing anything self-destructive or pushing people away that may be able to provide the romantic relationship that he wants from me. 

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Have you processed the break up and why do you feel this guilt? Have you talked about it with your therapist and what does he/she say about the break up and the guilt? 

Have you told your therapist everything you are writing here or the meeting coming up? 

Guilt implies that you feel responsible for someone and/or something. Why do you feel responsible for his happiness or moods? Ironically your accountability could be robbing him of his. I'm thinking outloud here so bear with me. He has to sort out his own issues without you getting in the middle of it. I think it's your guilt that's causing this situation to be very overwhelming. If you feel safe and/or comfortable meeting, it's just a meeting so don't overthink it. After that you can distance yourself if you need to. 

People gradually outgrow each other especially after a break up. This is normal and healthy while you go your separate ways and become independent of past shared experiences and go on to create new ones. It's up to you when you want to move forwards and let go of that guilt. This is just a shot in the dark but he may be healthier overall without you worrying over him. Eventually moving on is up to you.

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Celeste,

Your instincts have been right-on since the break up. You are still doing exactly the right thing. Good job. Don't let anyone guilt trip you into anything. 

 

Edited by Jibralta
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1 hour ago, Rose Mosse said:

Have you processed the break up and why do you feel this guilt? Have you talked about it with your therapist and what does he/she say about the break up and the guilt? 

Have you told your therapist everything you are writing here or the meeting coming up? 

Guilt implies that you feel responsible for someone and/or something. Why do you feel responsible for his happiness or moods? Ironically your accountability could be robbing him of his. I'm thinking outloud here so bear with me. He has to sort out his own issues without you getting in the middle of it. I think it's your guilt that's causing this situation to be very overwhelming. If you feel safe and/or comfortable meeting, it's just a meeting so don't overthink it. After that you can distance yourself if you need to. 

People gradually outgrow each other especially after a break up. This is normal and healthy while you go your separate ways and become independent of past shared experiences and go on to create new ones. It's up to you when you want to move forwards and let go of that guilt. This is just a shot in the dark but he may be healthier overall without you worrying over him. Eventually moving on is up to you.

Thank you so much for taking the time out to reply to my post, it means a lot to me! In regards to whether or not I’ve fully processed the relationship, I genuinely believe that I have. I have no intentions on getting back together, and even while being around him, although I have good memories with him and he’s one person that I can relate with for certain things, there’s no part in me that sees myself getting back into a relationship with him. Also, when he reached out hoping to get back together, we had a really long conversation that I feel answered a lot of questions I had and gave me closure since the relationship was so abrupt and unexpected. 
      I’m not sure why I feel so guilty, but I know that it’s not specific to this situation. I’ve found myself always feeling responsible/ guilty for the feelings and mental state of people around me, even if I’m not that close with them or when their problems have nothing to do with me. Not that I necessarily always try to intervene or help them, usually I let them be unless they come to me to talk or ask for help, but I usually feel a certain weight when I know someone is in emotional pain. 
      I haven’t addressed any of this to my therapist, I’m not fully sure why. We’ve mostly been trying to develop my confidence and self esteem so I guess the topic of my ex just hasn’t come up. I also feel a bit bad that she may be disappointed in me if I tell her that I’ve been in contact with my ex, since she was the one that encouraged me to remove contact after our falling out (that was the last time I brought him up to her) and expressed how proud she was of me for moving on. She helped me realize how unhealthy our romantic relationship was and that my ex did have a tendency to be emotionally manipulative and possessive in several ways. I know that this defeats the purpose of therapy lol,  I guess a large part of me just doesn’t want her to feel like I’m moving backwards in my progress. 
     I know that it’s important for me to let go of this guilt, but in my head it’s just easier said than done. I think it’d be a little easier if I at least knew he had someone else that’s really there for him to make sure he’s okay, but he makes it seem like he has absolutely no one for emotional support. 
    And apologies for the super long posts lol, I just try to get as much out since the responses aren’t immediate. 
     

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His speaking of suicide when you turned him down for friendship or romance is just another weapon he's using since you say he's always been manipulative and possessive. It's totally textbook, and I experienced the same thing as a teen when I broke up with my bf of 2 years because I couldn't take those negative traits about him any longer. He also threatened suicide. I told him I cared about him and I didn't want him to do that, but if he chose to, I wouldn't feel guilty because it was his decision. And then I called his brother to let him know what he'd said so his family could keep an eye on him.

Would I have felt guilty if he'd done the deed? Sure, but I wasn't about to let him know that, and wasn't about to let anybody manipulate me in that way. Nowadays, you can call their bluff and tell them you will be calling 911 if they threaten suicide. That'll usually put a stop to the boy that cried wolf.

It's on him if he hasn't developed a support system. He doesn't need your pity. Perhaps he's not a decent person who attracts good friends, and if so, that's also on him.

That bf I had as a teen was fine--depressed for a while, but eventually he married a perky, pretty lady (known because of a mutual friend who told me years later). 

Your ex will likely get back on his feet, and will probably do it a lot faster without you enabling him.

You can change your mind about meeting up with him. It's totally fine to have your own back and change your mind about important things. He's a toxic person and you were smart not to get back together with him. Now, be smart again and block him permanently. He will make your life hell when you start dating again, and a good man who wanted to date you until he found out your ties to this ex will run far and fast. 

Begin your new year free, doing what's best for you and toss your savior tendencies. 

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4 hours ago, Celestite156 said:

. She helped me realize how unhealthy our romantic relationship was and that my ex did have a tendency to be emotionally manipulative and possessive in several ways. 

Unfortunately what is going on now is just an extension of the abuse, therefore you are still in an abusive relationship.

Perhaps your therapist isn't being clear on how to extricate yourself fully from an abusive relationship, since actually you Are still in this abusive situation. 

Have you done any reading/research on abusive relationships?

Do you have supportive friends and family who could help you extricate yourself from this?

As long as you comply with the brainwashing effect the abuse has had on you, the more damage will be done to you.

All his behaviors are almost textbook abusive. Your concerns about his mental health are completely misplaced.

It not your job to fix him. It's a red flag that you'll continue being in this abusive situation, because you misunderstand the dynamics of abuse and your therapist is not being clear that the abuse is continuing with your engaging his abuse tactics 

 

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The problem with befriending an ex is that it forces you into going one way or the other--reconcile the relationship or suffer yet another breakup.

Speaking only for myself, once I'm done, I'm done.

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I believe he is just fine emotionally....he is using the oh poor whoa is me tactic for manipulation purposes to make you feel guilty...and it seems to keep working because you keep responding to his messages. This is why he keeps doing it. He's feeding you bs. Don't believe everything they tell you, especially when you know what their end goal is. He wants you back, and he's going to do whatever it takes to mess with you emotionally to break you down. Pure manipulation.

 

Edited by smackie9
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I was going to suggest you tell him in person when you "hang out" that for your own healing that you will not respond to any more of his contact but that may be a dangerous situation to put yourself in since he has already threatened to harm himself.

 You should contact him and let him know you talked it over with some people helping you through all this and you have decided that you cannot hang out with him or have any contact at all any longer as it is not helping you heal and move on.

 Breakups are messy and hurt but the longer you pick at the scab the longer the pain will stick around and the wound will be slow to heal.

Lost 

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17 hours ago, Celestite156 said:

Thank you so much for taking the time out to reply to my post, it means a lot to me! In regards to whether or not I’ve fully processed the relationship, I genuinely believe that I have. I have no intentions on getting back together, and even while being around him, although I have good memories with him and he’s one person that I can relate with for certain things, there’s no part in me that sees myself getting back into a relationship with him. Also, when he reached out hoping to get back together, we had a really long conversation that I feel answered a lot of questions I had and gave me closure since the relationship was so abrupt and unexpected. 
      I’m not sure why I feel so guilty, but I know that it’s not specific to this situation. I’ve found myself always feeling responsible/ guilty for the feelings and mental state of people around me, even if I’m not that close with them or when their problems have nothing to do with me. Not that I necessarily always try to intervene or help them, usually I let them be unless they come to me to talk or ask for help, but I usually feel a certain weight when I know someone is in emotional pain. 
      I haven’t addressed any of this to my therapist, I’m not fully sure why. We’ve mostly been trying to develop my confidence and self esteem so I guess the topic of my ex just hasn’t come up. I also feel a bit bad that she may be disappointed in me if I tell her that I’ve been in contact with my ex, since she was the one that encouraged me to remove contact after our falling out (that was the last time I brought him up to her) and expressed how proud she was of me for moving on. She helped me realize how unhealthy our romantic relationship was and that my ex did have a tendency to be emotionally manipulative and possessive in several ways. I know that this defeats the purpose of therapy lol,  I guess a large part of me just doesn’t want her to feel like I’m moving backwards in my progress. 
     I know that it’s important for me to let go of this guilt, but in my head it’s just easier said than done. I think it’d be a little easier if I at least knew he had someone else that’s really there for him to make sure he’s okay, but he makes it seem like he has absolutely no one for emotional support. 
    And apologies for the super long posts lol, I just try to get as much out since the responses aren’t immediate. 
     

 

I agree with the others that he is emotionally manipulative. Please, please talk about all of this with your therapist. Do not hide the info from her thinking that you are saving her from disappointment. She's paid to do a job so get her money's worth. Would you know when your next appointment is? Do you feel comfortable talking about this with her now?

I also want to mention a little more about your fears regarding your therapists emotions or reactions. Do you see what you did there? You've avoided being completely open with her because you have again taken on your therapist's "mental state". 

If you feel controlled or swayed by someone else's emotions and helplessness or can't explain why you do the things you do and yet feel confused regularly, upset, frustrated and like something is just wrong, it probably is no good for you at all. 

Talk with your therapist about how you may seek validation from others. She may help you address any low self-confidence or self-esteem issues. If you have always worried about the mental state of others, when did it start? Did you shoulder a lot of the burden growing up or did someone train you to feel guilty all the time at some point in your life? Where is all this coming from? Why is it so easy for someone to twist you into this state without you walking away easily or knowing that you deserve better? 

 

Edited by Rose Mosse
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