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Did he ever care?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  January 28, 2010 08:11 AM

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As I mentioned in the chat yesterday, I’m going to post some updates tomorrow.

Today is a classic break-up letter ... the pain of going from all to nothing.

Q: My relationship of two years ended two months ago, and while I still have my "miss him moments," the split was something I definitely needed. The end was tough as we realized that we weren't heading in the same direction in life and neither one of us was willing to consider a change of paths.

The breaking point involved an ultimatum from me and an unexpected answer from him-- he was out, he couldn't do it -- that was it.

I appreciated his honesty and saw the break up as an opportunity for me to work on myself, my career, and move towards finding a relationship that was right for me. Deep down I had known for a long time that my ex and I wanted different things in life, though when we talked about the future (and we did, plenty of times), he told me that he had similar goals and dreams and that he wanted to be with me. I ended up feeling a little betrayed and wondering if he had been faking it with me the whole time we were together.

The problem now is this: I am an emotional person and was very attached to my ex. Our lives were intertwined and I still see him as a special person I care about, even though I know that a relationship won't work. He, on the other hand, acts like he never cared about me, or even knew me for that matter. The night we broke up, he told me he didn’t love me anymore and was ready to be in a relationship with someone else. He has taken these statements back to various degrees since, but his ability that night to be completely emotionless and detached disturbed me.

For the first month, we talked once a week, which was something we agreed on as reasonable since we wanted to remain friends. Two weeks ago he stopped answering my phone calls. The first time it happened, he called me back a few days later and immediately said we couldn't talk anymore. He felt like I was pressuring him. I was completely confused and explained to him that it was not my intention to pressure him, but if he didn't want to talk anymore, I understood. He apologized, said it was a misunderstanding and asked that I just give him some time to cool off. Still, I was confused (cool off from what?), but I obliged and said let's talk next week. He said OK.
The next week I call and leave a message, no response. A few days go by and I'm feeling ignored, but decide to let it go because I don't want to pressure him into doing something he's not comfortable with.

He finally calls back and is clearly upset talking a mile a minute -- he can’t talk to me anymore, it’s too much pressure, it’s not up for discussion, stop contacting him. I said OK.

This was only a week ago and we haven't talked since. I realize that all I can do now is give him space and I will, but it’s hard for me to understand where this hostility towards me is coming from.

I don't actually feel bad about not talking anymore; what feels bad is knowing that this person who I was so close with and shared so much with, would prefer to pretend I don’t exist anymore. I'm all for moving on (and am doing it, slowly), but I don't understand why he's acting so cold. When we were together we shared things with each other that no one else knew. He always had difficulty expressing himself and dealing with emotions, so part of me wonders if he is shutting down now to protect himself and prevent his feelings from bubbling up. Or was it really that easy for him to move on and forget "we" ever existed? How and why has he turned so cold? Was I wrong to believe that he actually loved me? And why is he so angry with me?

– Cold Shouldered and Confused, Boston


A: CSAC, it isn't easy to break up with someone you love, even if you're ready to move on, even if you want to date other people. The process usually involves making a case against your partner so that you feel more confident about your decision to leave. Your ex made a case -- and now he's trying to stick to the plan. Calls from you don't help.

But he did care for you -- and I’m sure he wasn't faking your relationship. If losing you wasn't a big deal, he wouldn't sound angry with you at all. His anger is evidence of his confusion, irritation, hurt, and guilt ... the normal stuff that comes after a break-up. He has every right to process those emotions on his own -- and so do you.

Give him space. Give yourself space. And be comforted by his cold behavior. Again, if this was no big deal, he'd be breezy. A phone call from you wouldn't matter so much. You obviously mattered quite a bit.

He's trying to set boundaries. He's not doing a great job of explaining them, but the boundaries are reasonable.

Try to lean on some other friends for support. You both have to go through this process with some independence so that you can really move on. Help him out so that he doesn't have to be so cold. He's just trying to make this break-up thing real. Because it is.

And hang in there.

Readers? Was he faking it? Is he just being cruel to be kind? Why does she want to talk to him? Share.

– Meredith



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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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