My ex broke up my last relationship, but I forgave him and we became cordial. When we were together, he treated me like crap, but in the spirit of forgiveness, I moved on and told him we could be friends but we were never getting back together. He kept spending money on me, insisting that he was doing it from the heart because when he was down and out, I was there for him in the clutch. He then began asking for sex. I said, “Hell no,” and that we were never getting back together.
I went away for four months to study abroad. He would say, “I love you,” “Can’t wait to see you,” “I miss you,” etc. I missed him, but not in the same way. I asked him to pick up things while I was away and told him I would pay him back. I got back; he insisted it was a gift.
Long story short, a guy I fell madly in love with last year (but things never worked out) tried to make things work again. He asked me to be with him, and I said, “Yes.” My ex snapped. I feel bad for hurting him because I never want to hurt anyone. But I told him that we were not getting back together. What do I do? —Anonymous
Sigh. There is so much wrong with this story. I’ll begin with the bottom line: You should move on with the new guy and stop speaking to your ex for good. The relationship with your ex, the ongoing back and forth, the hazy gray area you’ve both been playing in? All of it is done, unless you want to sabotage your current relationship, too.
Now, let’s go back to the beginning and discuss the myriad bad decisions that led to your ex flipping out. Hopefully you can find the (many) teachable moments in your story:
1. When a guy treats you like “crap” as his girlfriend, you don’t befriend him. It’s one thing to not want to be in a relationship anymore. That doesn’t make anyone a bad person. But the guy strings you along and dogs you on the way out? That is not a friend. You don’t give him the privilege of remaining in your life. He had his shot. He screwed it up by treating you poorly.
2. Forgiveness does not mean friendship. You should forgive the person or people who wrong you. Not for them but for you, so you’re not walking around bitter and angry at someone who may not even care. But there is no part of “moving on” that says you have to forget how someone has treated you and pretend everything is fine. You can forgive and love from afar.
3. Men who aren’t related to you do not make a habit of buying you things just to do so. The vast majority want something in return. Your ex wanted to continue the sexual relationship. When you didn’t respond to him implying it, he straight up asked like you were a prostitute. Any ego stroke you were getting from his attention should have disappeared then.
4. He snapped because your words and your actions don’t match. You strung him along for months. You said, “We’re not getting back together,” but your actions said it was a possibility when you accepted his money and relied on him to help you.
Your actions and your words need to match. I get it. It’s a huge ego stroke to see the person who treated you like “crap” suddenly declaring his love, getting sappy for you and lavishing you with gifts. But when you accepted those gifts and asked him to run your errands, everything about your actions implied that you were interested in more than a friendship. And while you think it may be “sweet” or “cute” for him to shower you with attention and praise and to act for all purposes like a boyfriend, what he’s really doing is ignoring what you want and pushing his own agenda.
5. You’re not technically in the wrong. You did communicate to him that you didn’t want to get back together. He should have listened. But in the same way that a guy doesn’t want to be with a woman he knows wants him, you intentionally played in a gray area and used him until you found someone you were interested in. So you’re not entirely blameless, either.
As I said, whatever situation was going on with you and the ex is done. Apologize if you feel you owe him one, and cease communication for good.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “He Did What to Your Phone?! Aw, Girl, It’s Over”