Tuesday October 21st 2014

Help! My Ex Does Not Know I Don’t Want Him Back

toronto_akiteng-686Question: My ex and I grew apart over the course of a 4-year relationship. We both could see how the other was changing and wanted different things but despite all that we tried to make it work. I finally decided that we would both be happier without the other and told him so. I also told him that I loved him and would continue to love him no matter what but I could not continue to pretend that we had the ideal relationship. He seemed to agree with me at the time. But after he picked up his stuff, I never heard from him again. Three months later, he contacted me. We texted and talked on phone for a while, then agreed to meet in person. The first two meeting were really unbelievably great. We talked about the relationship and laughed at some things that happened when we were together.

Last weekend he invited me on his boat, we both love boating. It started really well, then he opened up and told me he still loved me and wanted us to get back together. I didn’t know how to respond and said I’ll think about it. I still have strong feelings for my ex but I know in my heart that I don’t want him back now or in the future. I enjoy his company and would like for us to remain friends but I don’t know how to tell him we will never get back together without hurting him or jeopardizing our friendship. How should I approach this?

The Love Doctor’s Answer: I respect you for recognizing that people do grow apart. Not many people are aware of this inevitability and as a result are incapable of walking away from a relationship that does not support their own growth. And many more get angry and act with hate when a partner says “this relationship is not healthy or good for me. I need to get out to become the best of who I can be”.

If he still wants you back, there is no other way of you telling him you don’t want him back without hurting him and may be even jeopardizing the level of connection you have right now. I’m hesitant to call it “friendship” because of the simple fact that the two of you have different expectations for whatever is happening. You want a “friendship” but he wants a “relationship.”

The best approach is to be honest and tell him how you feel and what you are hoping for. It will hurt him, no question about that, but so will finding out later that you were leading him on. He may decide he doesn’t want anything to do with you, but that’s really up to him. Don’t push a “friendship” on him that he can’t handle right now. May be later he will want to be your friend, but that’s up to him.

You can say something like, “I told you before that I love you and will always love you. But even after all this time apart, I still feel and believe that we’re two different people who want different things. This can never be good for a relationship the way you want it. I still want to be in your life, as a friend, but if at this point you do not think it’s a good idea, I completely understand. I care about you and would not try to do anything to further hurt you.”

He may say… “but if you love me, why can’ we be together”. Explain to him that love and a relationship are two different things. Love is something we have no control over because we don’t choose who we love, but we do choose (based on many things) who we want to be in a relationship with.

This is not going to make the “bad news” less painful for him but 1) it’ll make your position crystal clear and 2) it’ll leave “good energy” in case he decides (now or in the future) that he wants to be your friend.

Readers' Questions and The Love Doctor's Answers...

15 Responses to “Help! My Ex Does Not Know I Don’t Want Him Back”

  1. Rusty says:

    I admire those who want to remain friends with an ex. But I must say I feel something dishonest about remaining friends with an ex. May be it’s just me.

  2. It’s just you and a few/many others… (:

    When a relationship comes to an end, we each decide individually how we want to respond to the situation. I think it’s a mistake to think someone who decides they want to be friends with an ex is being dishonest because their decision and experience is different from ours.

  3. ankclod says:

    My ex said she loves me but is not sure if we will ever get back together. But she also wants for us to be “friends”. I told her I can’t be her friend but I’ll leave the door open to her if and when she decides to step back through it. We contact each other once in a while but that’s just about it. Last time I contacted her I again asked her if she had made a decision and she said she can’t make one with pressure from me. Why would she feel pressured? Does this mean she’s thinking there a chance for us?

  4. pinnacle says:

    In my case, since I was the one who dumped my ex, I was the one who contacted him and extended the olive branch. But he’s angry and acts very nasty towards me. I don’t think we’ll ever be friends and I’ve just decided to leave him alone

  5. Reply to ankclod

    I don’t know if she’s thinking there is a chance for the two of you or not. A lot depends on why she’s “not sure” in the first place. That’s what’s holding her up!

    If you’ve decided to leave the door open, the best thing to do is not stand there holding it. There is a point at which “waiting” gets frustrating. It’s best to leave it open and go live your life. In my experience as coach, I’ve seen exes who had the intention of walking back in, do so sooner because they didn’t feel the pressure of someone standing there holding the door waiting with that “Well, are you coming in or not?” attitude.

  6. Reply to pinnancle

    If the relationship ended with anger and resentment towards each other, there’s not a lot to remain friendly there. Expecting friendship is asking for the impossible. Leave her alone for now, if and when her anger subsides, she may contact you.

    Please see my post: Dealing With a resistant and Angry Ex

  7. androidlex says:

    There is no such thing as friends with an ex. I just don’t believe it’s possible.

  8. There is such a thing…is very possible. Some relationships are “good” relationships that simply ran their course in due time. That said, I do admit that it’s quite rare in today’s relationship environment for exes to part ways with little or no animosity. My personal opinion is that too many people become “romantic lovers” without necessarily cultivating “friendship” and when the “romantic love” dies, there is nothing else left but anger and resentment.

    The really smart lovers nurture both romance and friendship.

  9. Cody says:

    We were together on and off for 7 years. This last time she is the one who broke up with me. I told her I wanted her in my life and was willing to be just friends if that’s what it took. She said she didn’t want to lose me and wanted us to be friends. But for the last 3 months I’m the only one that initiates contact. She responds but never initiates contact. I ask myself what friend treats a friend this way?

  10. It’s difficult to have a friendship after years of trying to be lovers. In most things in life if we “work hard” we’ll get the results/outcome we expect. Not so always with relationships. This is one main reason why many “hard workers” have difficult/unhealthy/unhappy relationships. Often times the harder you “try” the worse it gets.

    Perhaps what you should do is stop “trying” to be friends (the way you were trying to be lovers) and let this settle to what it’s supposed to be. Letting it be (not the same as giving up) may just be what is needed.

  11. Joe says:

    I recently came to the realization that resenting my ex-wife for the divorce hurts our children more than it hurts her. I told her this, and we’re trying to be friends. I can’t even begin to explain what this has done to the kids. I’ve never seen my kids happier and it brings tears to my eyes to think that my overwhelming hatred for my ex hurt my kids so deeply.

    Please write more about this topic. It’s so important.

  12. Reading this brings tears to my eyes…

    Friendship with an ex/friendly divorces is a very polarizing subject but I’ll try to write more without attracting too much negative energy to the blog [*fingers crossed!*].

  13. Adrianne says:

    We had a good relationship by all standards but he said we just didn’t have the same goals anymore. I was heartbroken when he broke it off but despite everything I’ve been through, I can say I’m in a good place and we’re truly better off as friends than we were as partners. It took us a while to get there but we did.

  14. Eli says:

    My ex and I are talking as friends but yesterday she told a mutual friend that she wants me back. We had a very bad break-up, she accused me of stealing from her and got me arrested. She also said some nasty things about me on her FB and took it off when a friend of hers called her on it. She has apologized to me for doing all those things, said it was because she was hurt. I’ve forgiven her but I just can’t get past the past. What should I do? I still love her but not sure I want her back. I need some advice. Thank you.

  15. Do you think she’s a different person from the one who said and did all those things? I’m not talking just different because she has apologized but different in that she’s done some real deep inner work to get to the root of why she reacts that way to feeling rejected. Her telling you she’s been thinking and realizing stuff is NOT enough. Anyone can think and realize what they’ve done, very few actually do something meaningful to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    If you decide to give it another try, don’t rush back in. Chances are if she doesn’t like you “taking your time” and not responding how she wants you to, she’ll blow up again. If that happens, you know, the apologies and all that, were just so that she can get you back.

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