Saturday, January 30, 2016

Your Ex's Birthday Doesn't Matter

One question I receive from readers frequently goes something like this:
"My boyfriend broke up with me because of X, Y or Z reason. It has been tough, but I've been following your advice, and I haven't contacted him at all since it happened. He texted me a couple times asking how I am, but I didn't reply. The thing is, his birthday is next week. It is OK to send him a message to say 'happy birthday'? I don't want him to think I am rude."
The answer is definitively, absolutely, always, without a question "no."

I don't care that you've decided to "remain friends" or how close you still are. I don't care if he got you a huge present last year and you "feel the need to return the gesture." I don't care if you say "but we just broke up a couple days ago," or that "I always do that kind of thing for people I care about, and I still care about him." And I definitely don't care if you "just think it would be kind of mean not to."

Don't do it.

All of the above are rationalizations - mere excuses for remaining in contact with him, for trying to re-initiate something or seeing if he'll take the opportunity to re-initiate something given the chance. He isn't your boyfriend anymore, and as I explain in my book, he really isn't a friend or acquaintance anymore either. He is an ex, you're single, and as long as you are keeping strings attached to him you aren't attaching new strings to someone else.


Related Posts
1. Book Release: Beyond the Breakup
2. No, You Can't Be "Just Friends"
3. Stop Having Sex to Prove He Likes You

45 comments:

  1. Welcome back, Andrew.

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  2. Great to see another post. I had a similar situation with my ex (we "stayed friends"). I briefly contemplated wishing him a happy birthday but the negative consequences outweigh the positives.

    We've come to see wishing a happy birthday as a robotic gesture when we get a notification, but it's actually a warm gesture towards someone we're fond of. I'm not fond of my exes (they are exes for a reason).

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  3. That was THE best response I've ever read. Been there, done that, and regretted it!

    Been missing your posts and can't wait to get my hands on the book! Thanks for all you do!

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    Replies
    1. why did you regret it?
      I suspect that no matter what actions you took, the outcome benefited you. I suspect that perhaps going back wasted some time before you got to the place you're in now? Did it atleast help with closure?

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    2. Well I regretted the effort that I made because I still cared about him. He was stringing me along pretending he cared, but he showed me that he really didn't care about me. So I guess it helped with closure in a way. But like Andrew said he wasn't my boyfriend, friend, or acquaintance anymore at that point so I should have known better and just let it go instead of waisting that time.

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  4. I agree with Andrew probably for the first time in history.

    Happy New Year Andrew.

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  5. No doubt you cannot move on and find peace of mind by keeping in touch with "the past". It is great to see that you are back in action!!

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  6. Thanks for writing again!

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  7. Went on a couple of dates this guy in the summer. He seemed very enthusiastic. Went to different cities, he slowly stopped contacting me. It hurt, I cried, but moved on. After summer break was over, he'd come to my college a lot (1.5 hs away from him) to hang out with his friends. He used to visit a lot too before we met, apparently. Last semester he'd send general snapchats, kinda letting me know he was here but without making any moves.

    Eventually, I told him I was disappointed because he hadn't contacted me and that if he wasn't looking to date me he should stop . He apologized and said he really would like to see me. He let me know the next time he was going to be here, but I was away that weekend. He came again last weekend, let me know he was coming beforehand, we met up, and the connection seemed to still be there. I met his friend. He already knew my name, had allegedly heard a lot about me and told me not to break his heart.

    I got really excited. Yet now he's the one who seems to be breaking mine. Didn't hear from him after we hung out. Decided to text him telling him I was confused we didn't get to spend that much time together. He said I hadn't gone to the party he had invited me to so he assumed I was busy. I asked him to clarify, asked him if he wanted to hook up or date. He said date, and apologized if he had made me feel that he just wanted to hook up. Then he asked me to be his date for the senior ball. He'd come pick me up, and told me I could invite one of my friends to be his friend's roommate. I said yes. We texted a bit the next couple of days but I haven't really heard from him since Thursday.

    I've been trying to cut him off, but he seems to be leading me on. I already accepted his invitation and don't feel so strongly rejected as to suddenly reject his invitation. Maybe I just shouldn't have accepted it in the first place, as I wasn't content with the way he was treating me. But I saw it at the time as a way for him to apologize for making me feel that way. I hold on to the hope that maybe he does want something, but the guys I've been with who were really interested would text every morning and evening. He hasn't this time (although in the summer, at first, he did).

    Granted, it's only been a week since we hung out but I would still have expected more communication. My therapist always asks me why I don't initiate contact, and tells me he may not feel very wanted either. She tells me I always expect guys to prove themselves and remove all doubts, and that I never tolerate ambiguity. She says I expect a knight to come and save me. I haven't told her about these "rules" I try to follow. I wonder if I should.

    What should I do? At this point, the best decision seems to be to wait to see how the ball goes, whether he changes his communication behavior after that, and if he doesn't, cut him off for good.

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    1. The best thing you can do for yourself is to keep yourself occupied, go on with your life and do not sit and wait for him to call. There are many other options out there.

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    2. @ Anonymous February 1
      “What should I do?”

      Cut him off, and ignore him forever. He’s just not that into you. Your therapist doesn’t have a very good understanding of how guys operate when dating if she “always asks why [you] don’t initiate contact”. Trust me, he doesn’t care about “not feeling very wanted”; he’s just not interested.

      If you ever feel unsure how a guy feels you can assume he’s not that bothered (unless he’s a total beta, in which case, you probably wouldn’t be that interested in him).

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    3. Well we might have all spoken too soon. He ended up texting me today. I suspect he was expecting me to text him at some point, because I had told him I'd send him pictures of the dresses I could wear as soon as I got them, but I never did. I guess I should just go on with my life and not pay much attention to him yet, as the other Anonymous said.


      Also, my therapist is actually really good. She's also a psychiatrist, and has helped me recover from anxiety and depression. I wouldn't undermine her knowledge of psychology just because she's not a guy or has a different take on things. After all, I am not dealing with guys who are probably from a different generation than you are (I assume you are in your 30s), and I know some of her clients are guys my age. In any case, I think that what she's trying to do when saying things like that is to help me with my cognitive biases and tendency to catastrophize things so much. In any case, I think I'm going to give it a shot. Don't feel like cutting him off yet, and I have a tendency to overreact. I'll let you know how it goes.

      PS: What do you mean by "beta" and why would that make me uninterested in him?

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    4. *I AM dealing with guys who are probably younger

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    5. @ Anonymous
      “my therapist is actually really good. She's also a psychiatrist, and has helped me recover from anxiety and depression.”

      I don’t doubt that your therapist is good at what she does, i.e. being a therapist and psychiatrist. Treating anxiety and depression is serious, laudable and worthy work which I don’t mean to demean. However, dating is a separate issue with its own inherent complexities and dynamics which it appears she has a limited understanding of. I’m not blaming or condemning her for this, as it’s not within her training remit.

      But a few statements in your initial comment tell a lot:

      “Went on a couple of dates this guy in the summer. He seemed very enthusiastic. Went to different cities, he slowly stopped contacting me”

      “Last semester he'd send general snapchats, kinda letting me know he was here but without making any moves.”

      “We texted a bit the next couple of days but I haven't really heard from him since Thursday.”

      “I've been trying to cut him off, but he seems to be leading me on”


      This is classic fade-out/push-pull behavior indicating that he is ambivalent and just not that into you unfortunately. Almost everything else you wrote fades into significance when considered within the parameters of this fundamental fact. You asked what you should do. And my humble opinion is that anything further you do is actually irrelevant, as his interest just isn’t there in the first place.

      Yes I’m 32 which has some relevance, although I’m not sure how much – guys are more or less set in their dating behavioral patterns after a certain age; say, roughly 21. How old are you and your guy?

      “What do you mean by "beta" and why would that make me uninterested in him?”

      Well I mean “beta” relative to “alpha” as a simple dating characterisation of a guy’s dating persona and behavior. Beta guys are shy, awkward, introverted guys who don’t have the courage to ask women out. In that case it is okay for you to ask him out and push the relationship as he will be relieved that you are doing the hard work. However, women are rarely attracted to this type of guy; certainly not to the point of discussing their angst on an internet blog. Which is why I made an assumption that your guy isn’t a classic beta.

      Of course, I’m just a guy on the internet so I don’t know all the details of you and your guy and how the dynamic works between you. I might be wrong, in which case I hope it works out for you.

      Either way dealing with your anxiety and depression is a good thing, so I wish you well on fully healing from that. ;)

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    6. I'm with @Thomas on this. The guys that are really into you will stop at nothing to reach out and set up dates/hang outs with you. If a girl is ever confused by a guy, there is really no confusion.. He's just not the one for you. If a guy genuinely likes you or is interested, he wouldn't be playing games or fading in and out. The random times he does reach out does not make up for the other billions of times he left you waiting for his texts.

      A good, solid relationship does not start off with anxiety, confusion, and drama. Wouldn't you rather be with someone who is actively pursuing you rather than feeling this uncertainty?

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    7. The original poster here. I'm still dating him and it's been going great. He's been treating me really well and has been going out of his way to come see me (he lives 2 hours away). He escalated contact ever since he took me to the ball and I've noticed he's more comfortable when I sometimes initiate contact as well. I can tell he cares about me.
      The day after the ball I didn't hear from him and I was freaking out (as usual). He ended up texting me the day after, confused because he hadn't heard from me (he was waiting for me to text him and tell him how I felt it went). So he literally told me he was waiting for me to initiate contact.

      I know you all and Andrew are trying to mean well, but sometimes your wishful thinking makes you come to incorrect conclusions. I think you all have this idealized separation of roles which is outdated. I'm not saying men and women aren't different, but not as much as you claim.

      Shout out to Susan from Hooking Up Smart, with whom I shared my story as well and who told me he probably WAS interested but was unsure about how much to communicate (which ended up being true!!). I think her blog is more up to date with the dating world nowadays, or at least the dating world in which I am part of! (I am 21 years old, so is the guy I'm seeing).

      My therapist also ended up being right haha! I'm just a really anxious girl, and my feelings about how much he liked me indeed were not good indicators of how interested he was in me.

      Oh look at that! He just texted me :).

      Anyways, I'm still going to come read this blog, but for all of the people out there reading it, please take it as an opinion of someone who has a particular experience dating and a particular way of viewing the world and that it does not necessarily apply to real life. I do appreciate everyone's comments and efforts, though!

      All the best

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    8. Okay fair enough Anonymous.

      Your guy is 21, so at his age there is always the probability he hasn’t worked out how to date/communicate effectively, therefore my inferences might have been slightly off.

      Either way, best of luck, hope it works out. :)

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    9. I don't believe a word that anon wrote in that last post. I doubt he's treating her royally, young girls tend to live in a fantasy bubble about men.

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    10. I wonder why you would doubt that? We're still dating, he's my boyfriend now. He's going to military school and is about to graduate, after which he'll have to serve in the army for five years. The place where he'll be stationed at is one of the few that would not require him to get deployed. Yet he's planning on switching to a different station where he'd risk getting deployed just to be closer to where I'll be living. I know it sounds like an exaggeration, but he'd literally be willing to risk dying just to be closer to me. At least, he's willing to risk getting deployed, which is pretty shitty too. I guess what makes you think it's a lie is that when I wrote that I wasn't completely sure about it myself?

      It's actually me now who is not sure about what's going on. I feel like it's too soon to make this decision, and I feel too young to get into this level of commitment. It's weird to hear him say that he wants to be with me for a long, long time, that he just 'knows it.' Yet I never would have thought that I would meet my future husband, so to speak, so young. I feel like I still have so much time to grow. :(

      Also, it's weird, but I just saw a picture of a guy I used to date, a guy I really liked, and what seems to be his new girlfriend and it just breaks my heart. Objectively, I can see all the ways my boyfriend is better than this guy, but in my heart I just feel like crap, like the girl's just better than me, and that kills me. I did a lot of self-improvement since I got over the fact that this guy didn't like me, which is how I think I managed to attract my current boyfriend. But the 'breakup' still hurts. It had stopped for a while when I started seeing my boyfriend, but now that I saw this picture of this guy with this girl I'm just feeling so sad. How can I get over that feeling? :( Is there any remedy other than just self improvement?

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    11. I also feel the need to correct myself and say that not initiating contact with my boyfriend was probably a good thing. Sure, it may have made him mad, I might have hurt his ego, but it showed him, or at least made him think, that I was not like 'other girls' and was not desperate for his attention. That I was willing to live without him, and I was. Specially after having been rejected by the aforementioned guy, I had learned how to accept rejection. Sure, it still hurt, but I was willing to move on instead of trying to change it. He told me that my behavior (testing him, in a way, or waiting for him to prove how much he liked me, rather than just welcome him back with my arms open) made him realize how much of an asshole he was being -- because he was expecting me to do just that: welcoming him back with my arms open. But since I didn't, and I called him out, he learned to respect me. These are all things he's shared with me recently. He says he was in this kind of 'dark' place before he started dating me, that he was emotionless and never let anyone in. But little by little, he said, after having different conversations with me, he started liking me more and more and caring about me more, which actually makes me question Andrew's claim that men don't fall in love gradually.

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  8. I can't believe I broke all these rules during my 2 year on and off relationship with someone abroad. And I used to be the confident, don't give a damn type. After I left the country he never contacted me - nothing about how my flight was, did I get home ok, didn't even say 'bye' the day I had to fly out. But 2 years away in another country, with him being my closest confidant there, made me clingy and nostalgic so I called him when I got home. He sounded indifferent the first time, then for the next 2 months wouldn't answer and come to find out he'd blocked my number. I could still text him though. I emailed him a long apology about my behavior (which at times was bitchy I admit) without any expectations whatsoever other than to take away some of the pain I had caused him during our verbal clashes. Then a couple of months later I texted him again. He responded, but always curt and indifferent. Around that time I saw he'd reconnected with someone from his past who'd visited his country during the summer. Someone he'd slandered to me. I know men like to leave doors open but this one shocked me and I sent a final, mean, berating text to him basically saying how he was never good enough for me, that I enjoyed the respect of better company than his, that I couldn't believe I had given him so many chances, and that everything negative he'd ever said about me applied completely to his new girl. He liked to boast about how he never goes back to anyone so of course I mentioned that and ended it with "Have a nice life."

    Messy i know, immature. I have nightmares still of my time abroad with him, sometimes waking in cold sweat. Wish I'd never gone there or met him. Clearly he wasn't into me and I accept that but being that it was the 1st time someone was acting this way towards me, I did not know how to handle it or navigate it so it was just one big giant cringy mess.

    My question is, now that I have cut him off for good, with that last mean text, will my image as a self-respecting woman (something I used to be before this mess) be restored to him? I don't want him back. But I do need my image restored. And I'm very aware that the guy hardly has any fond memories of us since most of the time we were fighting. Oil and water. I don't need him to care. I don't need him to want me back or feel nostalgic. I just need him to respect me again, the way he once did.

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    Replies
    1. If you respect yourself enough, does it matter if he does or not?

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    2. It does because he's in a country that wont grant visas to travel to the US and all he'll ever have of me is a memory. I would like that memory to be somewhat decent, not all-negative. It probably makes no rational sense to want this but I do.

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    3. I think that your caring what he thinks of you means that you aren't truly letting go and moving on. Let him be your past. What he thinks should not matter any more and you shouldn't let it affect you.

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    4. Hi Andrea, getting "hung up" on someone does not mean you're not "over" him. This usually has more to do with oneself and the psychological and emotional issues one has in order to hand over such power to another person, even someone you don't care about anymore. I think LW is trying to prove something to him, and more importantly to herself - that she is someone deserving of respect. That she keeps this unhealthy back and forth with her ex in order to force some sort of respect from him indicates some sort of self esteem issue.

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  9. What if you broke up with him and want to show you care even if it didn't work?

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    Replies
    1. This will just make him think you still have some feelings for him and will hurt him further when you inevitably reject him a second time. Don’t do it. Leave him be: he will get over it.

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  10. The comment that hit hardest was "He's not your boyfriend any more".

    My neighbour lives 3 doors down. It started as a fling and it got intense. Learned later that he has very serious issues including drugs (but you never find out the worst of this till later.) Made the mistake of a few back and forths before I learned the worst.


    Decided to learn from this. Got a new job in a new city. Close to completing my first novel. Went to Al Anon. Stayed sober. And kept the hell away from him. It's now been over a month. Saw him come out of his house last week and never said a word. Not one word. Neither did he. And that's the way it's supposed to be.

    He's not my boyfriend, you see.

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    Replies
    1. So far yours is the most mature comment here the rest are wayyy too needy or clueless or obviously insecure.

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  11. So everyone always says grow thicker skin in the dating game, but just how do you do that? How do you get more confident that recurring events like this don't take its tole on you?

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    Replies
    1. I guess by relaxing and not expecting too much too soon. By having interests that give you fullfillment and not waiting for a guy to give meaning to your life. Also having strong standards of how you should be treated and sticking to them, as well as a feeling of self worth. Treat dating as nothing more than fun, with absence of neediness and drama, until the guy you are going out proves that he is serious about you.

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    2. Actually, Vasiliki's advice is very good. I have recently been watching a programme with one psychiatrist and he did say the same. His advice was not to care about the result, not to think about it. Do things without expecting a result. Also, his relationship/dating advice was to give something to a man without expecting anything back.

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  12. Hi Andrew I discovered your blog last summer. I read all of your posts the day I found this blog, and I think it's been really interesting to see these kind of things from your point of view. There are a lot of topics that I've always wanted to know how men felt about and I think you're brutally honest, which is good. Please write more often!
    From México

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  13. Hit the nail on the head. I've never understood X's being "friends".

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  14. Hit the nail on the head. I've never understood X's being "friends".

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  15. Perfect timing with this. My guy Amd I just had an amicable breakup after 7 months. He said he decided he does, in fact, want to have babies (though he said he didn't) and that it will not be with me since I have kids at home and can't move in soon enough. Not much I can do different here though I do wonder if this was his way of maintaining nice guy "I really like you but it's out of my hands" status.

    I think the real issue is that he was not motivated enough to be with me; basically I was not the one. I have to say though that we got along GREAT, never a problem, etc. However, I do tend to glorify a relationship after a breakup. He rarely called (mostly texts, calls for complicated plans or if he needed to cancel he would call and actually say it) and we were mostly a weekend thing. I always went to his place. Just prob made it super easy for him...too easy.

    I am proud that I kept my value throughout. Waited a good amount of time and laid out my standards before sleeping with him, refused to continue a physical relationship (at his suggestion upon our amicable breakup) and have not contacted him since (3 weeks). Sure do miss him though! Oh well!

    His birthday is in 3 days and I have been SO VERY tempted to post a friendly happy birthday message on his wall as I did not delete him on fb (I did unfollow him and have not been in actual contact with him on there. He liked a couple of most posts during first week of breakup and then nothing).

    I would love if he realized he is a BIG STUPID IDIOT and wanted to give us another go. Really fun guy. ��

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    1. Argh! Please ignore my typos. Darn phone.
      *my guy and I
      *He liked a couple of *my* posts, not most posts.

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    2. "since I have kids" you do NOT have the time or energy to be wasting on this guy. BLOCK him on FB you're a parent now act like a mature person if you can't handle this shallow nonsense how can you teach your kids healthy self esteem, any other mothers can answer, too. I am tired of hearing these single mothers acting as those they are care-free child-free ladies.

      You always went to his place on the weekends what about your kids???? Weekends are prime mothering time. smdh

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  16. Dear Andrew
    Thanks very much for your blog, which is fabulous.
    You often mention in your potings that "gentleness" is considered feminine and is very attractive to men. So is the feminine instinct to love and nurture.
    But what exactly do you mean with gentleness? Do you mean she has a gentle character for example she doesn't support death penalty because she finds it too hard?
    Or do you mean the way she moves or talks?

    And what do you mean with the instinct to love exactly?
    With the instinct to nurture, how can a (Single)Woman nurture a man she is dating/meeting so that it attracts him? I am scared to appear motherly and turn him off if I start nurturing him too much.
    How does a woman nurture a man in general?

    I would be really thankful to hear from you. Best regards
    Lara

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  17. Soooooo Andrew...

    What if it's the other way around? Still applies?
    Guy I've been seeing asked for space ("supposedly" due to work issues) and said he didn't want to end things (ahem). Silence for 2 weeks (I didn't reach out, fyi) and then I got a HB message.

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    Replies
    1. He's not into you, come ON! He's not your boyfriend he's trying to see if you'll be a booty call the HB message was the hook. Move on.

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  18. This may seem unrelated, but in trying to be more attractive to men physically, how much is too much? Like extreme dieting, plastic surgery, hair extensions, going to the gym days a week etc?

    Because all these things require constant maintenance, and what happens when you land the guy and have a baby? It's like starting the whole process over again.

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  19. "he's not your boyfriend anymore"
    I know it's hard to let go sometimes, but if I were dating a guy who was concerned about wishing his ex happy birthday,I wouldn't want to invest too much energy into him for fear that he's still carrying a torch for her. I can't compete with that.

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  20. People who seek advice from sociopaths deserve what they get.

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