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Beware The Relationship Rebooter

Elizabeth asks:

My boyfriend of 2 years broke up with me about a month ago and his reasons were... questionable. I mean, they made no sense. He was making up things and just, they weren't actual reasons. I don't know how else to explain without writing a 10 page paper. Anyways, the break up was not a clean one. It was a BAD one. Really messy... not good. Left me heartbroken. Kept telling myself its over for good, hes out of your life, move on, don't contact him, etc. Unfortunately, I am not a smart women when it comes to break-ups, nor am I a strong one either. I caved a lil over a week later and emailed him (assuming my # is probably blocked) and he responded with just a one sentence email. Nothing moving, or worth any thoughts of maybe it working out. So, I dont contact him anything after that, but a week later, he sends me a friend request on Facebook. I leave it pending and few days later (monday night) I decide to email him again. He responds and we email back and forth for a bit, but all his responses to anything were very dark.. and depressing and angry. So I leave it alone and dont push anymore. Well... spiraling into a dark hole myself leads me to trying to see him very late that tuesday night, & of course, I dont. He was sleeping and I was making a fool of myself going over there anyways. I dont hear anything from him the next day or so until randomly that Thursday night. I went on a date with someone I had met through okcupid (wasnt a very good date either) and I decide to see if maybe my ex is home and hopefully see him. As i'm just getting close to his place, I check my inbox at a red light and he had emailed me 15 mins earlier asking "how i would like to meet up for a movie, dinner, beers... whatever?" I am practically at his place when I see this, so we do end up hanging out for a couple hours, had some dinner and just catching up. He kisses me towards the end and we cuddle for a little and just lay with each other, but didnt have sex. I leave shortly after since it was already pretty late. I dont try contacting him at all afterwards and when he doesnt either I figure, all right.. that was that and just that. Move on.

But he does end up emailing me later that evening inviting me over to watch a movie. I end up going over there and we watch the movie, but then we end up sleeping together. And it was really nice and intimate and loving. I stay the night and we go out to breakfast that morning and it's really good feeling. As I am leaving his place after, he talks about hanging out the next day. Nothing set in stone, no set time and place or anything. But it was his idea and seemed like he wanted to. We email a couple times throughout the day after I get home and before going to bed he emails me saying "maybe we can still do something" in regards for tomorrow. I respond yes and go to bed. I wake up the next day late (kinda had the feeling I actually wasnt going to hear from him) and I was right. Around 1 pm I email him, not anything in relation to our plans, but just to see if he'd even write back and if he still wanted to hang out or not... He does a while later but cancelling because of chores he needed to do, but also asks ."...can we try again tomorrow for a date? maybe dinner?" I have responded yet. Should I even respond? If so... how should I? I dont know what to do... because I was a little butt hurt about him cancelling but I also know situations like this, between exes, takes time and patience if theres any hope of possibly getting back together. What do I do, in regards to answering this email?

Breakups are never truly out of the blue. The signs were always there, we just ignored them.

It sounds like your boyfriend didn't want to break-up so much as he wanted to continue dating, just without any real obligation or expressed exclusivity. My podcast co-host, Sarah, called this "Relationship Re-Botting" and that's a very apt description. The nonsensical nature of his reasons for breaking things off lends to my theory that he doesn't really know what he wants as far as a relationship goes, but he's quite certain he doesn't want to be in a full-fledged serious one right now.

By friend requesting you, he was opening the door to reviving the relationship. The only problem here is that he wants all of this to unfold on his terms and on his timeline. First he suggests you two see each other two nights in a row, then he walks that invitation back, likely because he thought better of it. Two nights in a row might give the impression he's ready to be your boyfriend again. It doesn't sound like that's the case. He wants the benefits of the relationship - the companionship, the sex - but doesn't want to commit to anything serious.

You can respond to him, but I would do so knowing that he's nowhere ready to talk about what, exactly, is going on between you two, In fact, he's praying you don't bring that up. Like, ever. Whether or not you want to wait this out is up to you. It could just be that he had a momentary freakout and was feeling claustrophobic. You can give him some time, but please always make your feelings and schedule the priority over his. That's the thing here: he doesn't want to make you a priority over his needs at the moment. That's pretty selfish, if you ask me. It's definitely not something I could just act all breezy about.

That's another important point here: you are under no obligation to play The Cool Girlfriend. What he's doing is unfair to you. He's well aware of that. You're within your rights to speak up and tell him this are we/aren't we thing isn't cool. But I would only do that if you're ready to walk should he start hemming and hawing about how he's confused and needs time. (Fuck that guy.)

It's totally understandable that you might want to stick this out. I probably would for a bit, too. You miss him and this is better than feeling the pain of the split. I get it. We always think the pain will be debilitating, and sometimes it is for a while, but it doesn't last. Just understand that the longer you delay the grieving process, the worse it is going to be. You need to ask yourself if he's truly worth that kind of discomfort. If you can't say for sure - with no hesitation - that he is, I would take a step back and re-evaluate this scenario before you get badly burned.

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