Not staying friends on October 19, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
I guess I don’t necessarily have a problem, I just keep running into him on a far-more-than-regular basis.
You see, my ex and I were best friends before we began dating. He wanted me to be his girlfriend … but on my end, I didn’t much care for the idea. I’d had a rough childhood of sexual abuse, and I had a baby at age 15 and gave him up for adoption, and such events finally led me to a life-threatening nervous breakdown, therapy, and the like.
Of course, he knew all of this, being my best friend and all, and he was so supportive of me. So, after receiving truckloads of love letters from the guy while I was on an internship half-way across the country, I decided I definitely wanted to give him a chance when I got back to college.
My first week back, we went out for dinner, and discovered we lived in apartment buildings right next to each other, both on the fourth floor, both facing the courtyard, and thus, we could talk through the windows, him from his kitchen, me from my living room. It wound up being one of those splendid romances that I will remember for the rest of my life. Never before had either of us shared a connection like ours. We knew it. We loved each other, and we didn’t doubt this in the least.
Well, that December I graduated from college, and he still had a year to go. We’d decided I would stay behind and work until he garnered his degree and we could move away together. La di da di da. You know the drill.
On Christmas Eve he told me he didn’t know if he could see me anymore, because the experiences that led me to the aforementioned depression “ate away at his stomach,” and he just didn’t think I was “pure enough,” and whatnot. And to paraphrase, but how did he know I would never be that depressed again someday?
Seriously. Now, that should have been my signal to walk, of course; but I felt so horrible about myself, and believed in my heart that I was, indeed, a filthy person, and that he — such a fabulous person — was completely right to question my integrity. (Yeah, can you believe it?) Well, after hours of chain-smoking and crying, he said he was sorry, just needed to get that off his chest, and said he wanted to stay together.
I accepted. Yet I questioned how he could say those things if he truly loved, and accepted, me for who I am. This led me back to the throes of depression, which I tried to hide from him. I went back to therapy, and tried to work on some more of my issues. Things were getting better, but by this point he knew I was depressed, and this bothered him a great deal.
Finally, this May, he broke up with me for good — over the telephone, no less. He moved back in with his parents, and consequently wound up becoming a summer camp counselor. Meanwhile, I changed the color of — and cropped — my hair, got in shape, started earning lots of money at my new job, made tons of new friends, and went out all the time.
Just three weeks ago he got back into town for his last semester of school. We talked on the phone, and decided to be friends … on a very slow basis, of course, so as not to confuse things. But then, when I first saw him out and about, he said “hello,” and then proceeded to stare at his feet. Every consecutive time I’ve seen him, he won’t talk to — or look at — me at all. The other night, I was having beer and pizza with some friends at a local eatery, and he and his sister and best friend came in, and when he saw me, he went straight out to the beer garden and sent his underage sister in to get his drinks and pizza for him.
Everybody — including our mutual friends — keeps telling me he’s a prick, and that he’s now so embittered and obstinant, people want to shoot him (figuratively, of course).
My question is, what the hell? Why would he agree to be friends, beg for my forgiveness, and then act like a pig? He writes for the student newspaper (where we met), and last Friday he wrote this article about a palm reader, who told him he had a long love line, but “she didn’t tell (him) when it would start.” He also mentioned that he would have a “loving wife,” whom he couldn’t wait to meet. I felt really put off by this article, because when I put the article and his actions together, it seems as though he’s out to get me, or something.
Mind you, I’ve done nothing other than enhance my life. I feel fantastic, I look better than I’ve ever looked, I’ve begun delving into the hobbies I’ve wanted to take up for years, and I have a lot of new and fascinating friends. I’ve tried multiple times to contact him about my willingness to have a friendship (because I love him, genuinely and completely), but now I’ve given up on that. I’ve given him that chance, and that’s all I can do, I guess. But I haven’t bad-mouthed him, I never discussed our breakup with people outside my closest circle of friends, and I have neither dated, nor even so much as touched, another guy since our breakup five months ago. I just don’t want to … it’s not a bitterness thing, it’s more of an I-need-to-let-myself-heal-and-get-a-handle-on-who-I-am thing.
So basically, I’m wondering what you think his problem may be. I’d appreciate it if you could give me a clue in this matter, because I haven’t the slightest. So whip out your decoder ring, and godspeed, Breakup Girl!
— Indifference Is The Coldest Emotion
I dearly love to use that fave practical-yet-adorable accessory of mine, but you know what? There’s really nothing to decode here. He is not being a “pig.” He is: uncomfortable. That is one of the chief attributes of exes. And one of the chief attributes of the other ex is attempting to “decode” what is really plain-as-day behavior. (Oh, and a little insight into the news article: he was just fudging/finessing/obscuring the personal stuff for the sake of the story.Reporters do that. For good, not for evil. What, you would have preferred that he actually write about your breakup? I think not.)
Your calling him a “prick,” a “pig,” “embittered,” and “obstinate,” on the other hand, is easily deciphered. It means “Ouch, I’m still smarting from that crappy breakup! Plus I’m smarting ’cause we said we’d be friends, and he’s not been at all forthcoming! I wish he would be, because I need to have at least some proof that he is a nice person because otherwise I can in no way justify having stayed with — or still being a bit stuck on — someone who, aside from getting understandable willies about the intimidating mysteries of clinical depression, also couldn’t deal with an icky past that so wasn’t my fault.”
I don’t mean to be harsh. Believe me, I get it. You lost someone with whom you could talk, through the windows, over the courtyard. Separate places, speaking distance. It’s a lovely image; it SUCKS that it blinked out. And you are right, Indifference is colder than hate. You would, in that odd way, prefer hate.That is precisely why you’ve recast what appears to be indifference on his part as an out-to-get-you plot — when there’s really nothing there but unease.
You say you feel fantastic. Hair, hobbies, hangouts. Brava. All code for “Buh-bye!” You’ve given yourself everything you need. So now it’s time to give your ex your undivided … indifference.