Laugh, Cry, Live

Pondering the emotional side of life, beginning to end.

After the Break-Up: What if He Wants You Back?

Resist getting sucked back in, for all the right reasons.

After the break-up, what if your former beloved wants you back? This can be tempting, especially if you are still in the throes of dopamine deficiency. But is reconciliation really in your best interests? Dare you risk repeating past mistakes or falling into familiar dysfunctional patterns again? Have you grown beyond what this relationship can possibly offer you?

Related to a past blog post “Coping with Distress and Agony After a Break-up” I received a most interesting inquiry last week. It poses a common scenario and several complicated dilemmas. I'm posting it here, along with my response, as many of you may find this illuminating and supportive.

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InquiryThank you for this. I've been looking for discussions on this. But what if it is your ex who is now married and keeps contacting you? We have 2 kids who I don't show to him for fear of hurting their feelings as well. I have plans to tell my kids the truth but I just know it is not yet the time. They are just turning 4 year old and 1 year old. Though it is really hard in all aspects, I even refrain from asking any help, even financial, for the desire to live a new life without him.             Need some advice: it has been bothering me for almost a year since we have separated just recently and he is now married to his new girlfriend. He also keeps on saying he loves me still. And it makes me angry, and keep on saying "If you love me why did you leave us and marry your gf?" and he no longer has an answer. I tried so hard to save the relationship but he threw me so many times until I finally gave up and found out they are already married. But it was him who contacted me again.

Please enlighten me.

Response: Dear Please Enlighten Me,

Based on what you've described, a dozen ideas come to mind. See if any resonate for you.

1. Your most pressing question appears to be "why is he continuing to contact me?" As you already know far too well, he is extremely talented at avoiding commitment and emotional intimacy. My guess is that now married, he can’t handle the commitment and intimacy a good marriage requires. To soothe himself, he is seeking an outside relationship.

2. Because you tried so hard in the past to make this relationship work, he probably assumes that he can convince you to give it another shot, all the while knowing that you'll put up with his old patterns of infidelity, abuse, and neglect. 

3. Or perhaps he’d like to take advantage of you again, to feed his ego and sense of power. He tells you he loves you so that he can manipulate you into falling under his spell. But you’ve been there, done that, and now you’re too smart to fall for him. You know you deserve better.

4. Have you considered cutting off all contact? He needs to know for sure that you are absolutely uninterested in reuniting. He might not get the message until you refuse to communicate any further.

5. When he says he "loves" you, what does that really mean? If he truly loved you, he would want what is best for you. And what's best for you is to be involved with a man who is NOT married to another woman. What's best for you is to be with a man who would never reject you. What's best for you is to be with a man who is capable of having a consistently kind, loving, caring, and intimate relationship. What's best for you is to be with a man who is capable of being a father to your children. 

6. If he truly loved you, he would let you move on without emotionally or sexually harassing you. He would not burden you by putting you in the position of refusing the advances of a married man.

7. What if you think you might still love him? Consider too what is best for him. If you’ve moved on, you owe him the courtesy of not stringing him along, appeasing him, or making you think there’s hope. Your moving on could be the best thing that ever happened to him, as it gives him the opportunity to grow and either turn to his wife or seek a better match. 

8. You are wise to resist this man's advances and manipulation. I commend you for moving on and making a better life for yourself. Indeed, if he were required to provide financial support, I imagine there would be strings attached, and you are smart to dodge that bullet. Though you say this is "hard in all aspects" I'm betting that you realize it would be even harder if he was in the picture.

9. If he doesn't want to be involved with his children, you can be thankful that as a result, you won’t need to have any further contact with him.

10. You are no doubt correct that now is not the time to tell your children about their father. It'll be time when they start asking about their biological father. The most important aspect of telling them "the truth" is to reassure them that his abandonment is not a reflection on them, their value, what they deserve, or how loveable they are. You might say something like, "Some fathers don't know how to give love and attention to their children, and that's a problem your father has. There's nothing anyone can do about it, it's nobody's fault, that's just the way he is. What's important is that you have lots of people who love you, like me and ....and ... and..... You are so lovable and so very special. It's his loss." As long as your children feel loved and secure with you and the other adults in their lives, they'll be fine, and spared the chaos or confusing messages he would bring. If they want to approach him when they are adults, this will be their choice.

11. I suggest you listen to this link for inspiration... It's a clip from an Abraham-Hicks workshop-- I just happened to stumble on it last week, and I'm so pleased to pass it on to you!  It features a young mother struggling to accept that the father of her child is unwilling to be a part of the family unit she so eagerly wishes for. In a mere 13 minutes, the transformation that happens to her thinking, her self-confidence, and her hope for the future is awe-inspiring.

12. If you’re interested in more support around accepting “what is” and moving forward with the lessons you’ve learned and blessings you’ve acquired, I highly recommend Byron Katie’s website, where you can do what she calls "The Work."  

This is probably more than you asked for, but I hope you find it enlightening. I admire your courage, strength, and ability to move forward in ways that appear to be more in alignment with your true self. I wish you the best.

Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist and author of 6 books, including one about perinatal hospice titled A Gift of Time.

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