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You Don’t Owe Anything To Your Ex After A Breakup. Or May Be You Do.

Other friends have said that if I really meant what I said about not being involved I never would have given that money; that by doing so, I raised an expectation that a relationship could be salvaged, and it would be cruel to take that away. If I am honest, that argument makes some sense to me. It doesn’t make me want to interact with her, but it does make me wonder if I have obliged myself to do so.

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Finally, are some mutual friends that support my decision.

I read all this over and I know I must sound like a cold, unfeeling bastard. Believe me when I say the opposite is the case. It is way beyond my ability to describe my dread when the ex showed back up and she started giving him more and more of her time, or to describe the kick in the balls it was when she admitted she still had feelings for him, or how sad and lonely I felt when I was getting rid of all my reminders of her. Even now, there’s a part of me that fantasizes that we’ll meet back up and live happily ever after. But I know that isn’t going to happen. The same part of me that knew the ex was bad news (for her and for me) when he resurfaced knows that nothing good is going to come of re-engaging with her. It isn’t about punishing her, it’s about protecting me.

My preferred outcome would be to communicate back to her through our mutual friends that I am glad she is safe and well, and the best way for her to remain so is to focus on her future, not dwell on the past. If she believes aspects of our previous relationship offers some insight, she would be better served to work that out with a professional. For my part, I am not interested in any sort of relationship (romantic or platonic) going forward.

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So I guess my question to you is given our history and what she has been through, do I owe her anything? Am I obliged to meet her in person and hear what she has to say? Or can I go through with my preferred outcome and consider that a justifiable response? Your opinion would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Gluing Myself Back Together

Dr. Nerdlove

Hoo boy.

OK, GMBT, this is a complicated one. And that means it’s going to be time to break out the Chair Leg of Truth to sort it out.

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On the one hand, you have an absolute right to decide what kind of relationship you want (or don’t want) with your ex.

As I’ve told people before, you aren’t required to be friends with your ex or even have any contact with them whatsoever. You have the right to decide that staying in contact with an ex is entirely too painful for you and that seeing them again will be like a hammer to your gut and sandpaper to your soul. That is completely legitimate. I’ve seen far too many people who’ve kept emotional wounds open and bleeding because they were trying to be “the bigger person” and keep a relationship going even though it was killing them inside.

On the other hand… I think you’re being an asshole here. Yes, it’s based on ignorance – which I will get into in a second – but you’re absolutely being an asshole about this.

The problem is that you’re missing a critical factor in your break-up with your ex: the fact that she was in an abusive relationship. That changes the math on her relationship with her ex. See, people who leave abusive relationships rarely make a completely clean break. In fact, part of the cycle of an abusive relationship is that many times, the survivor of abuse will leave their abuser… and then end up going back to them. Often repeatedly. What tends to happen is that the abuse survivor will try to leave, only to have their abusers re-enter their life. When this happens, the abuser will frequently love-bomb them and express guilt or remorse and make grandiose promises of how things have changed and they’ll be different this time. This is known as the reconciliation/honeymoon stage, and many, many survivors will end up going back to their abusers during this stage. It’s made all the more insidious because there’s frequently a calm period, where the abuser will make any number of promises – including agreeing to go to counseling or couples therapy. But this period never lasts, and the cycle will start again.

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Harris O’Malleyhttp://www.doctornerdlove.com/
Harris O' Malley is a dating coach who provides geek dating advice at Paging Dr. NerdLove, as well as on Kotaku  and elsewhere. He and his work has been featured on Nightline, Vice, The Guardian, New York Magazine, The Huffington Post, Wired, Sex Nerd Sandra, Daily Life, Slate, The Austin-American Statesman, Austin Monthly, Geek and Sundry, Boing Boing, Everyday Feminism, Buzzfeed, The Daily Dot, The Washington Post, Kotaku, Lifehacker, NeilStrauss.com, The Good Man Project, MTV’s Guy Code, The Harvard Business Journal, and many others. Paging Dr. NerdLove has been featured as one of the top 10 dating blogs on DatingAdvice.com
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