DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Roughly one year ago, just before I turned 31, the most serious relationship of my life ended rather abruptly after four years. I will admit, there were some warning signs I didn’t see leading up to it – casual things I just dismissed while I was oblivious being “too comfy” – you know, just coasting through the relationship because it seems that is what you need to do, right? (Wrong).
The problem is, she was like my best friend and I treated her as such until she finally lost faith in us in a relationship and realised she just couldn’t commit to that anymore. I had also made that relationship my one interest, and lost every hobby or interest I once had just trying to make her happy.
During the break-up I came across your website (life-saver) and your Nuclear Option (bigger life saver). I followed it by the book – removed her number, facebook contacts, pictures, relatives, everything I could. I told her I didn’t want to see her ever again. She seemed so hurt by this at the time, angry at me because she figured we were still going to best friends after this. That I was cutting off my nose to spite my face.
I went away. Licked my wounds, was twisted and bitter, angry, felt I had done everything perfectly and deserved more. Gave myself some grieving time. Set a few goals to make my life better, reviewed all my options. Then eventually things changed, I worked on my hobbies, got back some interests and found my old self again (time heals all wounds right?). Started getting back into the dating scene (boy we won’t get into how that’s going right now, but needless to say it needs some work….. one step at a time).
Around a month ago, I read an article you posted on surviving a breakup. How the final stage is to forgive your ex. I read it and it hit me – I had forgiven my ex. I was no longer bitter, angry. Then it hit me again, I really missed her as a friend. She was after all, my best friend, someone I had such a good connection with.
Once I had realised this, I started missing her and it has stuck since. It made me want to meet up with her. Just for a beer, a chat. See what she’s been doing. Tell her what I’ve been doing. Tell her she probably did the right thing.
However, all my friends & relatives think this is a terrible idea. That I am setting myself up for hurt and pain. That it will flood back old feelings and make me miserable.
The idea is still with me. I don’t think it will be a “meet-up once a month” kind of situation, more a one off (on a side note, I am planning to emigrate to Australia before the end of the year).
I need your advice Doc – what do I do here? Can you forgive someone without telling them? Should I ask my ex to meet up? Does this defy the Nuclear Option? Am I setting myself up for failure, hurt and misery?
One More Shot
DEAR ONE MORE SHOT: The whole point of the Nuclear Option isn’t to throw things around and say “I never want to see you again, you’re dead to me forever,” it’s to take away the temptations to pick at the wound so that you can heal. You get rid of their number so that you can’t get drunk and call or text at 4 in the morning when men’s souls are at their lowest ebb. You unfriend them on Facebook and unfollow them on Instagram and Twitter so that you don’t have the temptation to continually check up on them to see if they’re suffering as much as you are or if they’ve gotten over you already. You’re putting barrier after barrier up so that you can focus on your healing, instead of letting them and the ghost of your relationship continue to occupy space in your head rent free.
It sounds to me like you’ve done that work. You’ve gotten over things, you’ve started to process just why the two of you broke up and you’ve taken ownership of your part of the failure and end of your relationship… and you’ve forgiven your ex. If you’ve grown and matured and you’re a different person now and you’re in a different place, then it’s not unreasonable to see if it’s possible for the two of you to have a friendship – one that’s going to be very different from your romantic relationship. So as long as you’re looking for genuine friendship – not “closure” or validation – then there’s nothing wrong with putting out a tentative offer to see if it’s possible. Just keep in mind that she may no longer be interested in being friends after the way you handled your end of things.
And just FYI: telling her that you’ve forgiven her, unprompted, isn’t going to be the best move – especially if she hadn’t done anything beyond ending the relationship. Under the best of circumstances, that’s going to read like arrogance or some weird status-game; you’re “forgiving” her in your wise beneficence and she should be grateful, bla bla bla. Don’t do that. Just put out the offer for friendship and see what happens.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve been a visitor to the site for a few months now and I’m hoping you could help me out.
I contacted this girl on a self-help website looking to get help with a prior situation of mine and we really got to talking and found out that we have very similar interests and things. Since then we’ve now gotten to texting each other, sometimes long into the night, and the conversations are great. Now she knows that I’m really into her and, while she hasn’t said it explicitly, she is kind of into me as well.
There is the distance thing between us at the moment (she’s halfway around the country from me) but the real thing I need help with is that she has had bad experiences being alone with guys before and she has told me that she doesn’t know if she’ll ever be comfortable being alone with a guy in the future, which I get.
What I want to know is how can I show her that she has nothing to worry about? Is there anything I can do to make her feel more comfortable with me? I should add that neither of us have had any kind of relationship experience in the past and I really want to make this work out.
DEAR SHY GUY: First of all: I get that you want this to work, but don’t start making plans on what you think she’s feeling. Right now it sounds like there’s more wishful thinking than confirmed romantic interest so slow your roll a little.
Now that being said:
The way that you show her she has nothing to worry about is to respect her boundaries. Don’t try to convince her you’re good and safe, don’t tell her you’re good and safe, SHOW her you’re good and safe by making sure she’s comfortable and that she’s not alone with you. If you’re going to meet up for the first time, do so on her territory, where she’ll feel the most comfortable. Meet up in public places, make sure there’re plenty of people around, invite her to have a friend or two if she like it, keep a respectful – but not excessive – distance from her and keep your hands to yourself. Don’t demand, insist or ask her to let you be the exception. Don’t pressure her into just trying to be alone with you. Don’t get upset or have a sad because she may not be comfortable enough with you and don’t put a deadline on when she might be.
Let her make the moves at her own pace, when she’s comfortable and feeling secure. Be someone who she can rely on, who can be respectful and patient without nagging or pushing her on.
And if you can’t do that? Then the two of you aren’t right for each other and you need to move on to someone else.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)