DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: This past week has been extremely confusing for me because one of my exes has been thoroughly confounding me.
Backstory: I “fell” for this girl in grade 5, upon seeing her for the first time I thought she was the most beautiful woman on earth (I was young) and I was determined to date her. After lots of chasing her and putting up with denials (long story), her and I became a couple on our last year of high school/first year of college. She wanted to be a doctor though, and because we were spending so much time together her grades started really slipping in school to the point where she got kicked out because she was spending so much time with me and not enough time on her school work. So I broke up with her because at the time I thought it was best for her (and because I was very immature at the time and needed to grow up, which I did when my mom died later that year).
We both moved on, but kept in touch, and I feel like we still harbor soft spots for each other. Our break up wasn’t vicious or anything, as I said, just a case of something that needed to happen for both of us. Anyways, she grew up, started dating a guy after me who she was with for five or six years and they moved away. However, two or three weeks ago they broke up and I did my best to cheer her up for her birthday. But this week, she’s started to really come on to me, suggesting I come see her and heavily implying she wants me sexually. She is very forceful about it (insisting I come see her, even though I cannot at the moment due to university) and I am most definitely interested in her (I will always have a soft spot for her). This leads me to my problem, I fear she just wants sex and to have her urges fulfilled, and I don’t want to be taken advantage of. In my conversations with her, I’m being the same sweet, caring guy to her, but she seems to only want to talk when she ‘s in the mood for other things.
If she wants me, I’m fine with that, but I don’t want whatever is going to happen become something I’m emotionally invested into and she isn’t. I cannot tell if she’s coming back because of our past or if it’s because she wants a future but she hasn’t healed fully from her break up to go about it in the right way. I really don’t know if I should just give her space but leave myself open to her approaches, or if I should push for things she may not be ready for due to the healing process. I am most definitely interested in her though, and it’s not because of nostalgia, but I think she might be feeling the nostalgia.
Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated,
DEAR THOROUGHLY CONFUSED: I hate getting letters like these because I’m fairly certain you already know what I’m going to say… you’re just hoping that you’re wrong.
First of all: congratulations on being able to stay friends and stay in contact even after the break-up. That says a lot for your relationship with your ex and for your character. It’s a hard thing to do, even under the best of circumstances.
But I’m going to be honest: I don’t think you have a soft spot for her, I think you haven’t actually let yourself heal and recover. Five or six years is a damned long time to keep holding a torch for an ex, even one that you had an incredibly intense relationship with over a short period of time.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel for you, I really do. I’ve had my own share of exes that I couldn’t let go of for years, to the point of actually damaging our friendship afterwards. I’m willing to go out on a limb and assume that you’ve picked at that particular wound – like constantly poking your tongue at a sore tooth or a bad bruise. Speaking for myself, I wasted a lot of time and caused a lot of heartache by holding out hope that my ex and I might get back together when the stars aligned and the fates smiled down on us and quite frankly, holding on to that really held me back in a lot of ways.
And I’m worried that it’s going to do the same thing to you.
So here’s the harsh advice: don’t go and sleep with her.
She’s already said in every way but with words that she’s not really interested in getting back together; she’s not responding to your sending out boyfriend vibes because that’s not what she wants. She’s attracted to you – especially since she’s made it clear she wants to jump your bones – and she’s probably very fond of you, but not in the way that you want.
Exes can make for very appealing hook-ups: they’re an appealing mix of novelty – you haven’t been together in a while and things will have changed – and the familiar. There’s a certain level of challenge in the seduction but not an insurmountable one; after all, you presumably already know what rev’s their particular engine. And yeah, there’s going to be some nostalgia there. If the two of you had a passionate relationship that ended on fairly good terms, of course she’s going to look back on it with fondness and affection.
Now believe me, I understand just how tempting all of this is for you – it’s like you’re being offered a second chance at something you’ve always wanted. But the cold and hard truth is that what you want and what she wants are two entirely different things. It would be one thing if you were the sort of person who could compartmentalize how you feel for her and separate it from the joys of just getting down and dirty with someone who you know. It’s quite another to be going in with hopes that a weekend fling might mean something more.
Here’s what I predict would happen if you go out to see her: you’re going to have a great time at first. It’s going to feel like old times only better because you’ve grown and changed and now you have more to offer and you’re in a better place than you were before. But at least some part of you is going to be asking yourself: “What does this mean?” You’re going to be reading the tea leaves into everything, trying to see whether this is just a fling for her or if it’s a sign that she’s ready to get back together.
At some point you – and I’m willing to put down money that it will be you – will try to initiate the “defining the relationship” conversation.
And that’s where it’s going to fall apart. Either she will admit that she likes you but isn’t ready – or looking for – getting back together or she will try to put it off and ask for time to think about it and get her head straight. Which will be her way of trying to postpone the inevitable. And then all those old wounds and scars are going to re-open and you’re going to have set yourself up for getting hurt all over again – and it may even make it harder to stay friends afterwards.
Now maybe I’m wrong. You know your ex better than I do. But I don’t think you would’ve written to me if you didn’t already have some nagging doubts and suspicions.
I’m not saying break off contact. I am saying that I think going to see her will be an invitation to getting hurt again and you should think very carefully about it before you actually do anything.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org