I Have a Wonderful Boyfriend, But My Ex Keeps Me Hanging On


Dear Evan,

I have a bit of a situation right now. My college sweetheart whom I have dated for the past 5 years decided to move out of town. On that account, he decided to break off the relationship with me because he says that he is not ready to be in a relationship right now, but wouldn’t mind to come back with me once he’s ready (which is according to him in the next 5 years – after he has finished fooling around). It has now been a year and a half, and during that time, I have been dating this new guy who I really like. However, I find myself being emotionally unavailable for this guy because somehow I’m still hung up on my ex as I have this image that he will come back to me in the future. My ex basically keeps me on a leash – he’s not my boyfriend but he contacts me every day and knowing that I love him, it’s hard not to resist. The guy I am dating now doesn’t know of this situation and my ex also doesn’t know that I am dating someone else. It’s hard for me to make a decision on who I should commit to. My ex asks if I want to come back with him – but I’m worried that due to his past behavior (non-committal behavior) that he will just end up breaking my heart again and again just like before. But at the same time, I feel that I’m not available for this new guy and I feel that I am cheating on him. Can you help shine a light in my love life?

Cheers, A.

Until you cut him off, you will never be free to love again.

Cut him off.

Cut him off now.

Until you cut him off, you will never be free to love again.

Your ex knows it and loves it and exploits it mercilessly. He thinks he’s being a nice guy because he was “honest” that he needed five years to fool around, but all he’s doing is giving you false hope at a non-existent future.

Actions speak far louder than words — both for you, and for him.

His action — breaking up with you — should have spoken volumes about how he felt about you, but, apparently, it did not. Because the message — YOU GOT DUMPED SO HE COULD SLEEP WITH STRANGERS – is lessened by the fact that he still calls you every day and talks about getting back together eventually. How nice for you.

And your action — allowing your selfish ex to continue this charade, and committing emotional adultery on your current boyfriend — says a lot about how you feel. You already know this and you called attention to it in your email.

So where does this leave you, A?   With a pretty clear path, if you want to know the truth. Consider your options:

1)             Keep the status quo. Talk to your ex-boyfriend every day. Keep your dangerous fantasies alive. Lie to your current boyfriend. Close off the possibility for true closeness and intimacy.

2)             Cut off the ex entirely because he DUMPED you. Give yourself to the man who is NOT dumping you. Watch as your relationship grows with your committed efforts. Learn the meaning of true love.

Most of us cling to our fantasies as long as we can because a piece of us dies when we let them go.

The only thing you lose when you cut off the ex is this: the fantasy that it’ll eventually work out. Most of us cling to our fantasies as long as we can because a piece of us dies when we let them go. But for you to truly move on, you HAVE to tell your ex that it was nice knowing him and best of luck in the future. Sure, he’ll beg to come back — because that’s HIS self-preservation mechanism — but you will be strong enough to resist him.

You know why?

Because you’ll be looking in the eyes of your real boyfriend — the one who wants to be with you.

I assure you, it’s a much better view.

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  1. 21

    Cutting him off! I had a similar situation, except I was the one who ended the relationship of 3 years. I met this great guy who liked me alot and treated me well. During this time my ex kept calling me everyday saying he loves me and wants to get back together. I told him I’m not sure, and I’m dating someone. He kept pursuing me and I continued to talk to him. Few months later I find myself falling for the new guy. I adored everything about him even his faults. He felt the same until he found out that over a month ago my ex sent me a pic and I sent him one back. He dumped me and I am left with a broken heart. This was the very first time I have been 100 percent at fault. There is not a day that goes buy without regrets. I should of cut him off.

  2. 22

    Two questions:

    1. What if she wasn’t seeing/dating someone?

    2. If he comes back to her and she is single at that time: What about a second chance? Can that be a possibility?

  3. 23

    @Anisa post #22

    Would you want to be someone’s fallback choice ?

  4. 24

    It is not about me.
    But I can imagine that someone needs a break (maybe 6 months, 5 year for a break is too long) to sort things out. Or to think about what he or she really wants in life. People can grow in time.
    But maybe that is another topic.
    In this case of A., the ex wanted to fool around and maybe come back to her after 5 years. I fully agree that the best thing for A. to do is to cut him off.

  5. 25

    Another thing to consider is the lack of depth of your conversations with your ex. I am assuming you spend a considerable amount of time with your current boyfriend, but you can never talk to your ex about it. You always have to say “a friend” or lie and say it was one of your friends that you went out with. Your ex is doing the same, so there is a huge part of your lives that you have to pretend does not exist when you are talking to each other. So that only leaves surface level discussions which are not really a relationship.

    The previous advice of move on is exactly correct!
    .-= Brian’s last blog ….Question #2: My Ex-Wife Is Now My Sister In Law =-.

  6. 26

    I was in this situation and I still hold deep feelings for my ex. I was dating someone for 6 months who I wasn’t in love with and then it ended because I had “hope” that my ex and I would get back together. It all took place two weeks ago when I went out with my ex and we had a lovely romantic getaway weekend. Well, suffice to say I haven’t heard from him since. Actually, I told myself that I will need to break cold turkey and not speak to him. Easier said than done. Anyway, haven’t contacted him and vice versa. It’s extremely hard to think someone who can act one way and then turn off his feelings totally. Unfortunately, my boyfriend of 6 months wasn’t having it and found me back on match.com and thought I was seeing someone else. Well, yup it was my ex and now I’m left with no one. I wasn’t in love with my current boyfriend so, it might have been a little easier when I ended it with him. I broke his heart. Well, back to the dating scene.

    1. 26.1

      This is my exact story, but I haven’t gave in yet. I’m fighting not too. Six years , he got this new girl karma came back. Now he wants me back. I love him so much, but he hurt me. My new boyfriend is constantly, begging me to stop being so numb.

  7. 27

    Anisa @ 22

    “Two questions:

    1. What if she wasn’t seeing/dating someone?”

    2. If he comes back to her and she is single at that time: What about a second chance? Can that be a possibility?”

    If she was forthright with the guy she is “seeing”, there’s a good chance she wouldn’t be seeing him anymore.

    The guy she calls her “ex” who really isn’t her ex because they’re still in some kind of relationship has all the chips. Unfortunately, it looks bad for her because he seems to know what she’s about and is acting accordingly.

    The two losers are the girl, and the guy she’s calling her “boyfriend”. The only one winning is her “ex” who has backup whenever he’s in town and wants sex.

  8. 28

    To A: It’s been a year and a half. You need to have a serious talk with your ex to find out what he’s up to. I would tell him there’s someone else in the picture now. Does your ex want to see you or just hang on the phone? Find out his intentions, spend time together again, if it comes to that. You’re not forcing the issue (maybe because you don’t really want to know). Let your ex know that you’re not available to just “date” or talk on the phone. Once you do, you may find that he hasn’t changed, and new guy may become a lot more appealing.

  9. 29

    Has anyone ever seen the movie “The Holiday”? While it may not have been the best writing it was a pretty close description of this situation.

    As far as second chances and taking breaks – my mom always used to tell me – if a man dates a woman for longer than 2 years without making a commitment (like engagement) he won’t.

    I would agree with just about every post here – he’s taking advantage and it’s all to his benefit. After a five year relationship you may just need some time “off” of all relationships to heal and figure out what you really do want. And if the current guy finds out you will have sabotaged this relationship.

  10. 30

    These folks must be pretty young…mid twenties? I do know some couples that formed at this time and have married and stayed together…well, okay: one. I don’t know the average age of EMK’s audience but I suspect we are a little more, uh, “mature,” in general.

    It matters not a ton, but I have seen men get more serious about relationships as they age. However, they usually make a serious statement and move to go along with it. I agree with Evan: buh-bye. Which will probably make him chase you more. Why are men like this? It’s more than once I’ve seen a man I care for turn into a the guy I always wanted after I was D-O-N-E: DONE! Happens to my girlfriends, too.

    Agree with downtowngirl’s statement: “Makes me wonder, do guys sense if a woman is not 100% emotionally there? Is that part of the appeal?

    It seems that whenever a woman is really into a guy he gets scared away, so we’re taught to be cool and confident, perhaps date 1 or 2 other guys at first and keep the main guy guessing until he commits. Yes, it’s game playing, but many guys have told me that anything that makes them try harder for a woman they like makes her more attractive.

    Maybe this is why I’m still single. I’m happy if I meet one decent guy and suck at game playing.”



  11. 31

    Such dilemma does happen in dating and in life. Why not accept it as it is? Most of all, don’t feel bad because you (or others) might think you were “cheating”. To me, it is really not… You are true to your true feelings and also true to your wishes… The situation is there to be and not your fault.

    Second, I trust that you have the wisest decision to make for yourself. If you wait for your ex to come back, or if you cut off from ex and decide to go full-speed with the current candidate, or if you don’t do either, I am sure it is the best choice, because only you know how much trust, hope and love you have in each case, and how much price you need to pay… after all, life is a big game. What do you want to get from all these experiences when you leave it?

  12. 32

    I read some of the comments and I have to say a few things. For the poster, its obvious he is using you and you are using your current bf. I think your damaged goods in THIS relationship but could do it right if you start over AFTER cutting the ex out for good and figuring out what kind of man you want and not need in your life. Another thing I have to say is, if a woman plays hard to get it makes her less attractive (dont care attractive she is) and thus not worth it, and I mean that in the extreme and I know many guys who feel that way. I see any woman who feels they need that sort of attention as flaky or fair weather at best, you raise children, not your mate!People like to play games which is fine but they wont have much luck playing them with me, if were talkin about an xbox knock yourself out. Also in regards to the comment about someones mother saying that if a man does not get engaged to you in two years he never will, thats absolute garbage (plenty of co-habitating couples report better stats than legally married ones and more happiness…times are changing so sink or swim), and that this person is a prime example of the women you stay away from. Two years believe it or not is a very short time. Imagine I marry someone after two years and she is a complete monster, now I have to figure out how to get away from her and deal with possible kids in the mix, you gotta be crazy, its up to each couple to figure that stuff out there is no instruction manual that says 2 years…what a nutcase.

  13. 33

    Chris (# 32), how do you explain the men who more or less neglect their loving girlfriend for years while in the relationship and just after the GF is done, he comes after her with a declaration of love and begging for a second chance. Mind you: after she is D-O-N-E! It happened to me and to both my daughters: and all of us are very loyal and devoted partners, good looking and in good shape and as Moon (# 30), suck at game playing.

    Evan we need your opinion on this…

  14. 34

    Chris #32, “plenty of co-habitating couples report better stats than legally married ones and more happiness”

    Can you please name your source, and what these ‘better stats’ are? I’ve often heard/read just the opposite by relationship experts.

    And if a guy older than his mid-20’s can’t figure out whether he wants to marry a girl after 2 years, he probably never will. Sorry, but I know many people who got engaged within a year and have been happily married for years. Smart women have little patience for flaky guys.

    And I’ve heard from guys how much they hate women playing games, but they ALWAYS fall for it. I don’t mean egregious/obvious game playing or bitchiness, but those who come across confidently and not making themselves too available. Think about it, if a woman returned your calls immediately, was available to meet that day, wanted you to meet her family after 2 dates and willing to do anything you asked, most guys would either get turned off or get bored.

  15. 35

    Evan, this sounds like the start of a new post – how effective is game playing? Why is it that men get scared away when/if a woman shows how much she likes him?

  16. 36

    Since my boyfriend and I were long distance after dating less than a week, there was no game playing. On our second date (which was basically the day after our first date) he said, “I’d like to continue to see you.” I said, “well I’m not driving all over the state if we’re going to be seeing other people,” and that was it – we were exclusive.

    And now it’s almost 3.5 years later…
    .-= Honey’s last blog ….Hello 30! =-.

  17. 37

    Carolyn, #40 – yes, there are games to keep a relationship going, although at this point the most common game is called “I don’t care if you don’t like vegetables, YOU’RE A VEGETARIAN and you can’t live off cheese and crackers.”

    .-= Honey’s last blog ….Hello 30! =-.

  18. 38

    downtowngal Aug 26th 2009 at 03:34 am 34
    And I’ve heard from guys how much they hate women playing games, but they ALWAYS fall for it. I don’t mean egregious/obvious game playing or bitchiness, but those who come across confidently and not making themselves too available. Think about it, if a woman returned your calls immediately, was available to meet that day, wanted you to meet her family after 2 dates and willing to do anything you asked, most guys would either get turned off or get bored.

    Very few women will tell a man, upfront, if they are not interested.

    If I invite a woman out twice and I am declined both times without an offer from her to reschedule, I will write her off as not being interested. I will move on.

    Yes, wanting you to meet her folks after 2 dates is a frightening turn-off, but playing hard to get will often get you not got.

  19. 39

    @dowtown girl #35

    I think Evan’s answer would be conditional upon the age group and type of people.

    Game playing may work for younger people looking for a particular kind of encounter, but that same advice may be unnecessary ( or even a turn off ) with more mature people looking for something different.

    If I invite you to lunch in Grand Central Station and you accept, the first time, you will not scare me :).

  20. 40

    I can vouch for the playing hard to get. I didn’t contact my ex for two weeks after our romantic getaway weekend and just now he texts me some lame line – found a new iphone application that let’s people text for free. Now…come on….this is proof playing hard to get works. I’m still not responding 🙂

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