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A lost friendship, a lost love. I'm not certain how to make sense of it now.


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Hey everyone. I'm not sure that I'm looking for advice here, I just wanted to share my story. Getting it out might be some sort of catharsis.

Just after my 28th birthday in May of 2019, I met somebody on a date and clicked with him instantly. He was 29. The next week he told me he had feelings for me, and the week after that he told me that while that was true he wasn't in a position to be in a relationship (this wasn't due to grief of death, but because 7 months earlier he'd split up with his fiance and was still dealing with that process and his own mental health issues). I accepted this but we continued hanging out, getting dinners, often sharing a bed and occasionally sleeping together. A month or two later, he found out his mother had a brain tumour. It was very hard, he told me the weekend he found out and I tried to be there for him. After the initial diagnosis, he stopped talking about it very much. I didn't ask about treatments or medications or her condition for the next several months because I guess I didn't want to bring up something difficult with no resolution. I'm not sure if I should have asked more or not.

There were often times I thought we could just have a nice platonic friendship and I felt content and happy with that, but we struggled to deny our physical attraction to each other. He definitely pushed me away and pulled me closer in cycles during the next several months. Sometimes we wouldn't speak for a month, and other times we saw each other multiple times a week. There were a couple of moments I got kind of upset with him, would tell him if he wanted space I would leave him alone but I wanted him to ask. He would tell me he didn't want me to stop asking to see him but that he couldn't always accept the invitations, would remind me of the circumstances, etc. and I think I did truly learn to let go my expectations. The last few months were some of the best and I believe that was the reason. I always expected it would end when his mother eventually died, so I was just trying to enjoy and soak up the moment as much as I could.

Due to my own insecurities, despite the circumstances, in my core, and maybe subconsciously - I still believed he didn't want to be with me just because he didn't like me enough. From this approach, I didn't really see the issue with sleeping together because I didn't think I had much effect on him. I never really expected it to become more than what it was. I'm not somebody who dates often and when I imagine the future, I've only ever really seen myself alone. Only now can I see that (I think) he really did want to be with me, and knew he couldn't in the way he wanted, and that caused him immense guilt. I think he projected that onto me a lot. He was somebody who was always in long-term relationships and saw that as the norm. He said several times he could tell I "wanted more" and for a little while I believed maybe he was right but I truly believe the pressure he felt came from inside himself more than from me. He was the one who would always do things that felt like more..... like invite me to his family home for christmas and birthdays, leave another NYE party to come to one I was at to see me, if he saw me with a male friend he would ask if it was a date, etc.

Last month, he initiated a conversation to tell me he really wanted to be in a relationship with me. That we can been this unofficial thing for so long that it was probably time to do it properly, or to be only friends, and he knew which one he wanted. I was apprehensive because of the circumstances, but this was the first time I'd had feelings for somebody that were reciprocated in years, so I thought.... yeah, let's give it a go. The first week was hard. He was excited and I was still apprehensive and felt there were many things we still needed to discuss before I could settle in and let myself enjoy it. We both thought the other was going to back out with cold feet, so we got dinner and he convinced me he really did want to do this, and I finally believed him. The week after that went very well, and I started to think, maybe this doesn't have to end? The following week, after getting dinner with "a close friend" (a girl he had never mentioned before), he broke up with me via text message. He wrote that he rushed into it out of fear of losing my friendship (this made no sense really and felt like an excuse) and wasn't in a place where a relationship was healthy for him. We talked it out a bit more on the phone that night and I tried to make sense of things but I knew it wasn't really worth rehashing anything, because the only answer I could get was that it didn't make sense, because of his grief.

That was nearly three weeks ago and we haven't spoken again. I didn't sleep or eat at all for the first 10 days. I wrote 30 pages in my journal. I kept going to work. Gradually I began blocking him on social media so I wouldn't be tempted to check up on him. I am worried he will take it as me hating him, as he told me often his self esteem is very low, but I think it is best for us both to have no contact for a while. I haven't blocked his phone number so the line of communication is still open if he wants to reach out. He said he would, in hopes of developing a friendship, but I'm not sure it will happen. I'm honestly not sad or upset that he broke up with me, although I think he will take it that way. I'm more upset that he spent those few weeks prior convincing me he really wanted this relationship, only to tell me it wasn't true at the exact moment I started to believe it. If he had pulled away from me at any moment before that, I'm sure it wouldn't feel so bad now. That's the part that feels like a betrayal that I am not sure how to forgive. I feel angry that he ruined our "friendship" by trying to be my boyfriend. I take a small amount of comfort in knowing we both did our best in a difficult situation, and it probably could not have turned out any other way. I think he didn't want space from me, but needed it, and so the only way to get that was by hurting me so bad that I had to be the one to force it.

I feel sad now that it is his birthday in a week, and I won't see him for it. I thought about texting him but I don't think I will do that unless he breaks no contact first. I won't know now when his mum passes or be able to support him through that and that's a hard realisation. I did meet her a few times during the past year and as a very empathetic person, I feel  somewhat connected to the family situation through him. I guess I'm not really sure what to do now except for let myself feel broken and try to put myself back together again and move on. I would really like it if we could salvage a friendship from this as we did get on extremely well, we had a lot in common and a lot to offer each other, but I am not going to be the one to initiate anything. And I think it might be difficult to maintain a friendship that doesn't keep me/us from developing relationships with others.

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I am very sorry you are in this situation.

You said you do not want any advice, so none given.

I do want to mention that this is unfortunately, common and you are not to blame for it.  For that matter, he may not be either as he may be as puzzled as you as to his response. They usually don't know or understand their own feelings when they're going through this.  I've read all of the threads in this section and you definitely see a pattern when you do that.

I'm sorry it hurts...been there.  :( 

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Thanks Kay. I've read through a lot of these threads during the past week and found some solace through that before sharing my own story. It's really nice and comforting that you are so active in responding to everybody. I think I know what happens after this but if you do have any thoughts to share I would be appreciative and interested to hear them. I think there are little things I feel some anger over, but I don't feel like anger is helpful it dealing with this and moving on with my own life. I feel like the only thing that helps me to feel better is having compassion and forgiveness, although sometimes it feels like there is so little joy in being the bigger person. While I do think it would be a shame if we can not manage to salvage some sort of friendship in the future, I am not holding out for it, and I know if it happens at all it will likely be months or even years from now. Part of me, of course, still wishes he would contact me telling me he messed up and wants what we had back but I know that is unlikely too. And I'm not sure what we had was really healthy for either of us or not, even before it was an official relationship? I must be slightly masochistic to continue into something I felt was doomed from the start? I suppose as time keeps moving, as it must, I will keep finding more clarity. I think this situation has effected me mentally and physically more than I remember any other relationship breakdown in the past, and I find some strength in knowing I can survive hardships again and again, even though I wish I didn't have to.

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Anger has a place but of course we don't want it to reign.  It can fuel our resolve and strength in doing what is healthy for ourselves to a point...all part of the process of adjusting to the changes for ourselves.  I'm sorry if you feel he wasn't straight with you, they sometimes give mixed messages without even being aware of it...speaking for myself, I know I went through that with Jim when he was grieving.  You are so right about forgiveness!  I have found it to be key in our ability to move on in a healthy manner as resentment has the opposite effect we'd desire, it changes us and not in a good way!  You are very wise.

I found for myself (and most others) it helps to have a period of no contact to allow yourself to heal and gain clarity.  Sometimes emotions cloud our thinking straight.  It definitely helped me when I went through it ten years ago.  We are friends still today although not as much anymore, he has his XW living with him and they do everything  together as a family but aren't a "couple" per se.  I feel he drifts emotionally rather than setting goals, planning, kind of lets life/circumstances dictate how his life goes.  I think everything worked out for the best in our case although I was blindsided at the time and in shock/heartbreak

You are so right, I have found the same thing true for myself, that having survived hard places strengthens my resolve and knowledge that I will again when I encounter hard places, although none of us relishes them!

As you have read me to say time and again, continue to focus on YOU, you can be sure he is doing HIM.   Best of luck to you!  I hope you'll give updates as it goes...

 

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The last time we spoke he told me his mum is being "strong" and not really admitting she is dying. Maybe just to him, and she knows it in herself, who knows. She told him she had been sleeping more which means she is "healing", but he knows it means she is getting worse and probably close to the end. I do not even really think or hope to be in his life again now, but my empathetic heart still breaks for him. I wish there was something I was able to do to just be there through all this pain, send some little note or a book or something that would be of some comfort to him in this time. Not to have him let me in again or get any sort of response (as I fear it would be taken, so I will probably do nothing, but doing nothing feels so empty and cold), but just to know that I am still here and I still care for him, even if we never speak again. I guess none of it is any of my business now, and he doesn't want me to have any part in it. Maybe he does, since he said he hoped we could remain friends, or maybe not. I won't know unless he chooses to tell me one day. I know it is not my burden to make guesses. I know that my wishing I could help ease the pain of his circumstances is probably part of what added to the pressure and guilt he felt, although I don't feel I ever really pushed this point. Perhaps he could see that longing just in my behaviours. Made his own inferences, etc.

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When I've had breakups I've found it much easier if I can understand what happened and get some closure.  But it isn't usually tied up as neatly as all that!  Sometimes we have to make our own closure and realize we may never fully understand their intentions or what happened.  I choose to think the best of people whenever possible but sometimes it's kind of like agreeing to disagree in that we have to accept that it didn't work out even if we were caught off guard or don't get it.  I've found it helps also to have some faith in the process or God looking out for us or whatever we want to call it...that maybe just maybe an intervention was necessary to preventing a worse fate than that of our current break up.  Like, God forbid, MARRYING them and THEN coming to realize...in time we sometimes get partial answers.  At least for ourselves.  I tend to be very tenacious, to a fault, and that can leave me continuing to try to fit a square peg into a round hole long after I should have thrown in the towel!  Consequently, I'm usually the one broken up with, and not the one doing the breaking hearts!  ;)

11 hours ago, nothingbutashell said:

The last time we spoke he told me his mum is being "strong" and not really admitting she is dying.

Could he have been partially in denial?  Common...I think I was when my sister died, although I was not privy to all of the facts.  Perhaps that's true for him too.

11 hours ago, nothingbutashell said:

my empathetic heart still breaks for him.

Of course it does!  I felt that for Jim too, because I still cared about him very much (still do although I am not "in love" with him by any means).

11 hours ago, nothingbutashell said:

I will probably do nothing, but doing nothing feels so empty and cold

Actually, although it may not FEEL like it to you, by giving him his space you ARE doing something, you are honoring his wishes and respecting HIS choice.  Sometimes a bit harder that pushing our OWN way, for sure!

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Well... he broke the silence and texted me last night, and said he would have done so sooner if I hadn't blocked him on social media. He said sorry and he will miss me and hopes we might be able to be friends again some day, and mentioned returning some things I'd left at his house. I'm glad it gave me the opportunity to say some of the things I wanted to. I said I hoped we could be friends again some day too, although I'm not sure if or at what point it will be healthy and possible to do so. In his breakup text he said he thought it was unhealthy for him to be in a relationship right now, which completely makes sense and is understandable. But I feel that if our "relationship" was unhealthy, then our friendship preceding it also was, because for me the label didn't really change anything?

I got the message immediately after arriving at a birthday party and had to hold back tears spending 30 minutes to write my response. Some of the people there were our mutual friends so I couldn't be obvious or mention what had happened to anyone there. He hasn't replied again and several hours have now passed. I think perhaps he expected me to be far more insensitive or upset or angry, and now doesn't know how to take it, but I'm not sure. I only asked him one thing which required a response (how to get items of his back to him). I don't know what else we really have to say to each other for the moment.... because I don't feel like he has the energy (or that he should exert the energy) right now to discuss where we went wrong, or more importantly, how to enforce boundaries necessary for a friendship going forward. I guess I'll just leave it up to him again to contact me if he wishes and have faith that whatever happens is what is meant to be and mostly out of my hands.

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I packed up everything I could find of Jim's around my house and dropped it off at his place the next morning (his roommate was there).  I'm sorry if it ruined your time at the birthday party.  :(

 

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He thanked me for my reply the next morning and said he agreed with me on everything and still looks forward to working on a friendship in the future. The one thing I'm still struggling to get past.... is that I never really saw this as an enduring relationship until he convinced me otherwise. I know that he had probably convinced himself too, and only being truly in the situation did he realise he wasn't able to give what he wanted. So it wasn't necessarily a lie, but it still just feels like he used me to figure out something that he should have had the self awareness to realise before involving me. I don't know. I guess maybe grief and emotional numbing made that impossible to do, but I hate feeling like collateral damage.

I dropped a DVD in his letterbox yesterday while (I assume) he was at work, he has a couple of mine he said he would do the same thing with soon. I broke no contact by putting in a handwritten quote about grief that I found on this forum that I thought might bring him comfort. He honestly might never open the case to find it, but the same way I used to leave letters to strangers in airplane safety guides as a teenager, I wanted to do something that felt true to myself as a final act of kindness. I don't plan to initiate contact again so the loose ends are tied up now on my end. Although in the next coming weeks, I think it's likely I will run into him at public events. I'm not really sure how to approach those situations yet, but I guess I will cross that bridge when it comes.

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You're doing great!  You're self-aware and I think it's fine what you did, it wasn't a bid for contact, it was showing compassion which is a faith demonstration of your forgiving process.

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I had a difficult weekend because it was his birthday. I didn't contact him for it, but I accidentally stumbled across videos from his party that mutual friends posted and I felt a bit sad that I couldn't be there to enjoy it with him. Over a week later he still hasn't dropped my things off in my letterbox and they're not important but I do wonder why he doesn't get it over with? I guess it will be bittersweet because it might be the last time we ever interact (although I won't actually see him, I'll know he was here)

Like I've said already, I don't plan to initiate contact between us at any point, I definitely don't ever expect or want a relationship, and I barely expect or want a friendship at this point. But I do wonder, if he reaches out to try and reconnect as friends.... will it be worthwhile to talk about the broken communication/miscommunications/misinterpretations we went through? I just feel like he assumed and projected a lot of things onto me that weren't accurate and that feels like an injustice I have to correct. Currently, I feel like I would have to openly communicate that and for him to fully understand in order to build trust again, but maybe that's just because I'm not fully over the sting yet and I would need to be before speaking with him. It's just difficult to know if/when he would be receptive to that conversation or if he would get defensive or even worse, take it as me trying to "get him back" or something. 

Is the only way to forge a friendship to completely move on, forget anything that has happened between us before, and start completely over from scratch? I think since we met - I always held back from him because he told me he was emotionally unavailable and not in a place to be in a relationship and I believed him, and he always held back from me because he was worried I would not believe him and would interpret intimate conversation/behaviour as mixed signals. So now that we both know that is never a possibility, I think we could actually have a really good friendship with open communication. Maybe with time of knowing each other this way, he would realise his incorrect assertions about me in the past more organically, without the direct confrontation?

I guess I'm looking for advice about reconnecting and re-establishing a friendship, what the early conversations were like for others, etc? I don't know if it will happen, but I'd like to feel like I'd know how to handle it if it does.

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2 hours ago, nothingbutashell said:

that feels like an injustice I have to correct.

At this point, does it really matter what he thinks?  I came to the point where I realized (with space/time to help me heal and have clarification from emotions dying down) that was not the person I needed.  We did resume contact some a few months later as friends and I learned not to take to heart anything he said as it couldn't be relied on.  I have been alone all these years since and that is okay by me.  God knows where I'm at if He has someone in mind for me!  He is able to put us together if that is what He has for me.  ;)

Perhaps real closure isn't as much what he says/thinks as making your OWN closure in realizing and moving on from it...

 

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Thank you, you are definitely right. Currently, it does not matter what he thinks of me. It's something I struggle with in general as somebody with social anxiety: hyper-managing the way I come across to others, and also wanting other's perceptions of me to match my self-perception. Which I do have to work on getting over and I am a lot better now than I once was. I guess I just feel like if I can't speak openly with somebody about my thoughts and feelings, is that much of a basis for a friendship? Maybe an acquaintance, but I do feel I need my close friends to understand who I am and where I am coming from? I don't know

Hopefully that need will fade as the sting of the hurt does, and then when I feel I have healed fully - I will be in a better place to assess how to respond if he ever does reach out to me.

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5 hours ago, nothingbutashell said:

I guess I just feel like if I can't speak openly with somebody about my thoughts and feelings, is that much of a basis for a friendship?

Good question. Knowing yourself well enough to know your own needs and giving yourself permission to get those needs met is important in any relationship you choose to have.

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On 9/4/2020 at 7:48 PM, nothingbutashell said:

1) I think it might be difficult to maintain a friendship that doesn't keep me/us from developing relationships with others....2) Hyper-managing the way I come across to others.

1) After I had been widowed, I had a FWB relationship for a while. My mind started to wander over to "If only..." on how it would work as a real partnership but it wouldn't have, for a number of reasons. I emailed him one day to tell him just what you've stated: that I wasn't going to give anyone else a fair shot unless I stopped seeing him.

2) I try to adopt the attitude that other people think of me is none of my business.

Personally, I might give someone with this chaotic a personality a wide berth. I'm not sure from the sound of things he has what it takes to BE a friend. In fact, Current Guy and I have someone like this we  periodically deal with. She seems to desire friendship, but she treats people rather poorly. Neither of us are social workers or mental health professionals. It isn't up to us to help her, and she has said things to slander Current Guy. (She only sent me a text reading she hoped G-d punished me seven times seventy for the sins I'd committed against her)

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I guess the thing is for me.... I'm honestly in no rush to be in a relationship. I've been in one long-term relationship in my life and it was awful and I've never been much of a dater. I like to pour my energy into myself and platonic relationships mostly. When I picture my future, I usually imagine myself alone, and not in a sad way. I think because he was so used to being in relationships, he assumed that was what I wanted from him, so tried to give it to me only to realise he couldn't do it in the way he thought I deserved because of his mental health & grief. But.... I was perfectly happy in a FWB situation and nothing we did ever made me feel like I wanted or needed a commitment from him. I know he probably does want a relationship though, maybe it doesn't feel possible for him right now, but in the future he will. So if it didn't end like this, it would have ended with him finding somebody else which might have felt worse. Right now I really just wish I could call him and go back to how we were before we were "together" but I know it's not going to be possible. Every day he feels more like a stranger to me that I'm sure when we finally do cross paths.... he won't feel like the same person I knew. And I won't be the same person either.

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I can't stress enough to focus on yourself (he will be focused on himself you can be sure), and your support system, family/friends.  If your relationship with him doesn't matter as you say, let it go from your thoughts.  Do positive things for yourself!  Take a walk, meditate, breathe deeply, eat healthy, etc.

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Ok so... a quick update. I'm not sure all his behaviour is even a response to grief after all. As it turns out, he started a new relationship before even breaking it off with me and also lied to all his friends about the reasons for it all. So I'm thinking now he might just be an emotionally immature child in a 31 year old man's body who had so much self-loathing he can't stand to be alone with himself for even one minute. Maybe grief pushed him into that more but I think it could also be a pattern of behaviour for him in past relationships. Regardless, I've definitely closed the door now on feeling any empathy for him, or having any desire of a friendship with him in the future. Seems like such a shame after knowing somebody for that length of time to realise you were complete strangers.

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I am so sorry but I hope this aids you in moving forward, at least you have the finality of knowing.  VERY aggravating, I am sure!!

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I think the hardest part was not understanding the why, so it is certainly much easier to move on now that I've found the root of it. I think the true reason for the relationship breakdown is that before we were "official" I dismissed a lot of bad behaviour because we were in that weird limbo where we were not true friends or truly together, so I accepted that situation for what it was, and took what could be enjoyed from it - physically intimacy and some companionship (although in hindsight - not worth the trade off of immense anxiety). When he pursued me for a relationship, I actually stood up for myself more because I thought if it was going to be an enduring relationship (something I never expected), I wasn't willing for it to be a bad one. I have done that before and didn't plan on doing it again, so I confronted the issues between us directly. I think when he saw that he would have less control and compliance rather than more, he realised he couldn't handle that. He literally told his friends we broke up because I offended him, which feels truly laughable. Textbook narcissism. Very boring.

It's now been exactly a month since I saw him last and over 2 weeks since we communicated via text. He still hasn't returned my things but I'm probably not going to bother following it up, it's not that important to me. I'm feeling basically back to my normal self now, and I know that the small parts of him that I might miss weren't ever a real person at all, only a fabrication designed to manipulate, and they are all traits I can easily find in other people. Thanks everyone for helping me through this difficult period.

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You will be fine, you have a lot of wise insight.  I hope you understand you are not responsible for this, anyone can lie to and deceive us.  You will take with you all that you have learned and may be extremely cautious going into your next relationship, which is fine, but you know what to look for, so I've no doubt you'll do great.  ;)

 

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