Question: I’m writing to you because I’m worried that I’ve ruined any chance of getting my ex back. My ex broke up with me and for over a month we had no contact. When I contacted him he said being “just friends” is all he could offer me at the time. I had read in many articles that we can’t be friends with an ex, so I told him I loved him too much to be ‘just friends’. I could not pretend I didn’t have feelings for him. It’d be too hard for me because I wanted him as my boyfriend not friend. He looked really disappointed but said “I understand. I’d probably feel the same way”.
I didn’t contact him or hear from him for 2 weeks. At that time I bought your book and you said not to get all worked up because an ex said he wanted friendship but to use that as space to show that things could be different. I contacted him asking him what’s up. He replied right away. We’ve had some minimal contact as per your book but I feel that he’s guarded with me. He responds to my contacts sometimes right away and sometimes after hours or a day but he always makes a point to respond. I’m worried that because I said we couldn’t be friends that he’s probably moved on. Do you think I ruined my chances with him or is there still hope for us?
The Love Doctor’s Answer: I don’t know if you ruined things or not… what happens in the next few weeks/months will make it clear whether it’s really over or not.
I do however think you made the mistake most people make of thinking being “just friends” for a transitional period of time is a bad thing. I know many “get ex back” books and articles say never accept an offer to be “just friends.” The reasoning behind being that when you reject the offer of friendship, it’ll make an ex worry about losing you and want to get back with you right away. But as most people will testify, this advise is misguided. He wasn’t worried about losing you when he broke up with you, he won’t be worried about “losing” you just because you say you can’t be friends. It may temporarily make him sad that you won’t be in his life but he’ll get over it — even much faster when someone new catches his interest.
People with an “all-or-nothing” mindset often fail to get an ex back, not because the ex doesn’t want them back but because they’re too insecure, controlling or simply not good at give-and-take relating. And in my experience, being insecure, controlling or not good at give-and-take relating is the very reason why the relationship didn’t work out. By doing exactly what ended the relationship, they’re repeating the same mistake that got them to where they are in the first place. The sad part is that most aren’t even aware that that’s what they’re doing.
Trying to force an ex to make a decision – one that he or she would rather not make right now ALWAYS backfires — soon or later. One simply can’t “force” love to happen. You have to nurture it and what better way to do it than in a “friendly space”.
In the “friendship zone”, you get to contact him without worrying about whether or not you should. You also have access to any new information about his current love life and can make informed decisions based on fact/reality and not heresay or the imaginations of your mind. But best of all, in the “friendship zone” you get most of the same continued companionship of having him around so you can demonstrate to him that you’re not the same person he broke up with months ago.
It’d probably look silly for you to go back and apologize or say “let’s be just friends.” I personally advice my clients not to offer “friendship” mainly because the other person may not understand exactly what you’re saying or offering. But I also tell them when offered, accept it not as a “label” but as a “space” you can use to turn things around.
My advice is for you to stop worrying about him being guarded and work on getting him to let his guard down. He’s giving you “the space” to do that, and instead of being insecure about it or trying to control things, show him you’re a better person than the one he broke up with and for that reason he can expect a better relationship than the one the two of you had.