My ex and I remained friends after our breakup. He has a girlfriend now, but he’s constantly telling me he wants to be with me and the only reason he’s with her is because we’re not together. I think he told me he’s thinking about marrying her to get a reaction from me. How do I get him to see I’m fine with being friends? —S.M.
You’re not friends with your ex. A friend doesn’t “constantly” tell you that he wants to be in a relationship with you even when you’re both single, and especially not when he’s in a relationship. Friends also don’t ignore your boundaries. You’ve said “no” several times, and he continues to push up on you despite you trying to shut him down. That’s ignoring what you want and pushing his own agenda. Your ex is your ex. And he’s very shady.
But this uncomfortable situation isn’t all on him. You’re participating in this by continuing to engage him, and you need to take accountability for that. You know that he is in a relationship, you know that he is being continually disrespectful to his girlfriend—and to you—and yet you continue to speak to him. You’re saying no, but every time you’ve answered the phone or responded to a text after he’s pushed up on you, your actions are saying, “well, maybe.” He keeps approaching you about wanting to be with you because he’s going by what you do, not what you say.
Surely there are many things that you like about your ex, which is why you have continued to communicate with him under the guise of friendship. It sounds like he may still have feelings for you, and he moved on to another relationship before they were fully resolved. Let’s “keep it 100”: One of the reasons you continue to speak to him, despite your protests, is that the attention and the interest are flattering to your ego.
Who doesn’t like to hear from someone they cared for that they miss you, made a mistake and want a second chance with you? And you probably like the idea that he’s saying in so many words that he’s not all that satisfied with the woman who came after you, and he perceives you as better than she.
You’re not interested, otherwise you wouldn’t keep telling him no. But you like that he is, or you wouldn’t keep talking to him. You don’t want him, but you want him to want you. That’s all ego, and you shouldn’t let it get the best of you or continue to fuel this drama, because, really, that’s what this is.
Based on his actions, your ex doesn’t really care that much for her or you. Despite the many times he’s said he wants you back, he’s still in his relationship. He’s all talk. If he was really unhappy with his lady, he’d leave. He hasn’t. And if he really wanted you back, he would free himself up so you could genuinely consider being with him again. He hasn’t done that either. More than anything, your ex sounds bored. And selfish.
This ends when you stop fanning this clichéd flame. Stop playing around, and shut this down for good. Call him up and tell him that you’re uncomfortable with his repeated advances, and he is disrespecting his girlfriend and you. If he brings it up again, tell him the “friendship” is over and he’s no longer welcome to contact you. If or when he tries it again, say goodbye and stop responding to him when he reaches out to you.
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.