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. 41

    Honey } Good for you…putting your foot down at the beginning of the relationship is fine but, you need to know that there are games that we all play that help in the end.

  2. 42

    I gotta know…what are the games that we all play that help in the end?

    How old are you btw?

  3. 43

    How often do I hear: “Men are dogs so treat them like dogs.”
    Even from happily married women. I find it hard to accept because it does not sounds very respectful, but they very strongly believe this is true.

    And maybe I must try to believe it also: Clearly (many) men can’t handle it if you are too much available and neither they can if you are unreachable. So the middlecourse would be to be (or play) hard to get? hmm….. I think I found the clue.

    Like Moonsical (I guess) I am the type of: we give 100% or nothing. Nothing in between. So Moonsical, I guess we have to give less to achieve more.

  4. 44

    My boyfriend and I set our wedding date for 6 years from the day that we met. This is because we’re still paying off grad school debt and don’t want to borrow to pay for the wedding, too. So it’s 2012 for us…

    He actually said a long time ago that he thought you had to be a certain age (I think he said 32) in order to be mature enough/appreciate marriage. He also said that weddings should be big, formal, fancy. Personally, I don’t care about the wedding, but if that’s what’s important to him then at least we’ll wait until we don’t have to go into debt to have it. I think making your first official act as a married couple paying off the $25,000 you spent in one day is not very smart. (Well, paying it off is smart. Accruing it is not.)
    .-= Honey’s last blog ….Hello 30! =-.

  5. 45

    Regarding cohabitating couples, they can be very happy if they both agree from the beginning that moving in together is it, and they are not interested in marriage. For couples that haven’t made that agreement there tends to be unhappiness from someone’s expectations not getting met, and for couples who marry after living together, there tends to be a higher rate of divorce (don’t know how much higher though).

    Clearly people have married after being together for longer than 2 years, and to say it’s an absolute that it will not happen is a gross overstatement. But 2 years is far from ‘nuts’ regarding a reasonable timeframe for getting to know someone well enough to know if you’d be comfortable taking a chance on marrying them. After a certain time the law of diminishing returns kicks in regarding getting to know someone. And even if you’ve known someone for 20 years, marriage is still a chance you’re taking.

    If I had to bet on which couple were more likely to marry, the one that had been together 1.5 years or 8 years, i’d bet on the one that had been together 1.5 years. Cause at some point, what else are you waiting to ‘know’?

  6. 46


    You have to ask yourself if you want the kind of relationship that is happy with one person manipulating the other and thinking of them as a dog.

    There is also a difference between “available” and being codependent or smothering.

  7. 47

    Hey there,

    I just find it interesting that the woman writing in has TWO long-term relationships, neither of which she is FULLY invested in. I wonder what were to happen if she were, in one? What would the man do, now having her full attention? Is it that she is only partly present that causes the interest? Just subjective thinking here.

    I do experience that men I am, “all about,” (while still maintaining my own interests and life–duh) seem to become confused and move away. I’m thinking of a WC Fields (I think?) quote, “No man wants to be part of any club that would have them.” Problem is, I’m pretty transparent; I find it difficult, if not impossible, to hide my feelings. I would like it if I could share them without men becoming scared. It’s not even that I am planning the wedding…noooo. I just like them, plain and simple. Most cannot handle this. Then they end up with some more manipulative woman, that they marry, then divorce (I’m old enough I have seen this occur multiple times.) Interesting… You guys can’t take a gal that just really digs you, or so it seems… Someday I hope I find someone who can!


  8. 48

    Steve #36, I agree, if a woman turns you down twice for a date you should move on. If she’s doing this as a game, then she loses. More likely though, she’s probably not into you.

    This is different than someone who tries not to show too much interest. From the woman’s perspective, this can be difficult. If you’re into a guy and show it, he doesn’t try as hard, but if you come across as confident but indifferent he’ll try harder. The trick for us gals is trying to figure out what this midpoint is – showing enough interest but not too much. And those women who are better at it always seem to attract more guys, so I dunno.

  9. 49

    As I said: It doesn’t sounds very respectful to me, and I treat men the way I like to be treated, but that doesn’t seem to work. Haven’t you hear that statement from men themselves? I have! So many times….

  10. 50

    @Moon #47- i think it’s Groucho Marx that said ‘i don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member’

  11. 51

    Anisa @ 49

    “As I said: It doesn’t sounds very respectful to me, and I treat men the way I like to be treated, but that doesn’t seem to work. Haven’t you hear that statement from men themselves? I have! So many times”

    A big part of compatibility understanding and honoring each other’s love language.

    It’s also the best way I know of seeing someone for who they are in a relationship; look at their feet, not their lips…

  12. 52

    Jennifer, I think you’re right!

    Anyway, yes, I hear from one of the men responding above that if a woman is, “too available,” they get bored. How awful to have an attractive woman that’s really interested in you–genuinely–make time for you. Sucks.

    I have read books that advise women in this position to, “duty date,” just to keep their main object of affection interested. Or, I guess you could lie and pretend you are spending time with multiple men, instead of taking up more of your time with those you are *not* interested in. Which amounts to lying. I can’t make myself…so far, anyway.

    So, I’d love to hear back from our, “caller,” and hear of her decision and results.


  13. 53

    Anisa #49, “As I said: It doesn’t sounds very respectful to me, and I treat men the way I like to be treated, but that doesn’t seem to work.”

    So true. A guy’s going to do what he wants. I learned the hard way being too giving toward a guy I liked, only to be taken advantage of. I’ve learned to sit back and allow the guy to treat me before I give. This doesn’t mean playing games or acting bitchy, it just means being myself, the gal he liked when he met me. The key is showing him my appreciation for what he’s done for me.

    If a guy is into you he’ll want to please you. If you’re into him you should demonstrate your appreciation for what he’s done.

  14. 54
    older man

    Personally I don’t want a woman that would be a doormat. Conversely, I do not want her leading the relationship timeline either. Let me be the leader.

    If she’s dating other men, that’s a serious turn off for me. Can you never just be you? Do you have to have a “date” every weekend? Why? Do you abhor yourself so much that spending time alone is intolerable? I know popular advice is to date several people at once. Why is that? Because you have trouble controlling your emotions? I suggest you work on your “inner” stuff first.

    If you think you might be interested in a relationship with me you had better make sure I know that. That would be best done with actions, not words.

    Lastly, we always hear women say that they want their men to make them “feel special”. Well, guess what – so do us men. If I get the impression from you that I’m a “dime a dozen” and replaceable tomorrow, . . Why would I continue spending time with someone who doesn’t care about me?

    On topic:
    Yeah. A. should cut the ex off. She should also tell the new b/f what she’s been doing and, expect him to dump her too.

  15. 55

    This thread helped me like nobodies business!   3 Months ago, my fiance of 7 years dumped me.   I started seeing someone almost right away afterwards and I am still with him now and I know he loves me and I feel like I could really love him however my ex has a tendancy to possess my thoughts!  

    My ex, when he first broke up with me, used to always contact me, we would go on dates and everything, he just didn’t want to commit to me because he wanted to play the field (broke my heart)   but I kept going to see him until one day, in a bout of self pity and puffy eyes I thought “I bet he isn’t wasting his time crying over me!”   and I know I was right.   I picked myself up and decided to attempt to look at it in a different light.

    I’m not saying it isn’t hard.   Today especially i’m having a hard time with it (hence me being here)   but I generally feel better these days.   A, I’m not sure how old this post is, but i just wanted to say one thing:

    How can you expect anyone to respect and love you if you don’t respect and love yourself?  

    I know this sounds cliché and i haven’t gotten it all figured out but i feel like i’m on a pretty good path to loving myself and allowing myself to be loved the way i deserve.

    Good luck A, we are in this together!   go us!

  16. 56

    I am .. correction .. I WAS in the same situation. But I got really great advice from a book by Emily Giffin and it was this:
    Time to let the ex go, let the fantasies die, and be with a man who commits to you.

  17. 57

    Break it off before he breaks you! Thats my best advice…if you keep going this way…your going to end up with niether hope…just LONELY!!!!
    ~sincerly, Esined*

  18. 58

    Evan is spot on again.
    Start getting angry because your imaginary (ex) bf treated you like a doormat. You will feel empowered, relieved and grow a backbone when you dump his manipulative ass. Remove and maybe burn every reminder of him that exists, and move on.

    Appreciate and honor your new guy or let him find a woman who appreciates him.

  19. 59

    So I don’t get something, so what if he wants a strange girl in his bed every night ? That’s his problem. He didn’t want a relationship and wants to be friends. She moved on and they are friends so if they talk every once in a while to catch up, how does that ruin her for the new guy?

  20. 60

    I’ve been a subject to this situation myself and I’m so sorry I wasted so many youthful years on a man that didn’t really appreciate me for the woman I am. I got hooked into a relationship that just caused so much heartache, insecurities, frustration and unhappiness. We kept going backwards and forwards over 5 years! The second last time we broke up, I got on my feet and became confident and happy within myself. I met a lovely younger sweet man who treated me so special. I was seeing this new man for around 2 months and low and behold I allowed my ex back into my life! He promised me the world and he admitted his mistakes and because he still had my heart, I fell for it all over again! Well my mistake, he just became his same old self and nothing changed, he was back to his same old ways, day by day all over again! I was stupid to let this happen and I lost a fabulous opportunity to a wonderful man. So don’t do it, it’s now worth it, cut your losses and move on. Great advice Evan

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