The return of the exes

I'm 22 years old and I need some advice. I've been contacted by three exes in three weeks, all of whom broke up with me at one point in time. I will talk about each of them and what they said to me in the order that they've contacted me.

About three weeks ago, an ex-girlfriend who I dated for a year and a half (the longest I've ever been with anybody) contacted me and has been reaching out ever since. It began with her awkwardly saying, "Hey, what's up?" I responded nicely and asked her how she's doing. She started talking about how she hopes I find a nice girl and that she feels responsible for the fact that I haven't. That weekend she texted, "Am I gonna see you out tonight?" That was really weird to me, because we don't ever run into each other. Three weeks later, she's still reaching out for brief conversations. I don't really have any desire to get back together with this girl.

This second girl is one who I was seeing more recently. I had and still have feelings for her that I've never had for anyone. We dated last year but it ended abruptly due to different agendas. She told me she was seeing somebody else and I didn't get mad. I have always been nice to this girl. She's different than any other girl I've met. I would like to keep her around in any way I can, even if that means just as friends. It's like I care more about her well-being than my own, and I've never felt that way about anybody before. But after we ended, I was pretty hurt. I had to cut off contact with her so that I could move on.

But then a couple weeks ago, she texted me asking about my weekend. We got into a little conversation, joked around a little bit, and then it ended. This has happened a couple of times. This past weekend, I wound up seeing her at a party. I admit that upon first sight of her, I froze and I couldn't bring myself to talk to her. She came over to me, hugged me, and asked how I was doing. Then we talked and joked around for a little while. The party moved over to this bar shortly after. Long story short, we talked to each other and nobody else from the time we got to the bar until the time she left. Mind you, this was a loud place where it is hard to have a conversation in the first place, but that's exactly what we did. When she left, she suggested that we hang out again soon. Now, as far as I know, she's still seeing this guy. We wound up going out with our roommates, and not even an hour later, she texts me that she'd like to do that again. She said she has a fantastic time with me whenever we hang out, and that she misses spending time with me. Then she said that she trusts me more than anybody. I don't want to read into this incorrectly, because she could just be trying to establish a friendship. But I find this very odd, and being that this could be the first girl that I've ever actually loved, I don't want to mess anything up.

Finally, this last girl is one that I was seeing a couple years ago. We ended pretty badly and eventually stopped speaking to each other. She tried to mend our relationship a few months later, but the first girl I told you about wouldn't let that happen. So we continued not talking to each other, and we both kind of held our own grudges. Today, she messages me on Facebook to ask what I've been up to and says that she wants to meet up and have a drink. I would like to do this because I feel bad for the way we stopped talking to each other. And I'm curious to see where this goes.

Now, everywhere I turn to find answers, people say that if you want a girl to miss you and to come back to you then you need to ignore her when she reaches out. They say to treat her as she treated you when it ended, but I find it hard to do that. The way I see it, what's wrong with being nice to them when they reach out to you? I'm thinking that as long as you show that you're not desperate to get them back and you're doing well without them, is that really going to hurt your chances of maybe getting back together with them one day? I guess this is my question to you. Also, what are these girls doing? Why did this all happen at once? Clearly, I'd like to have another shot with the second girl I talked about. But I'm not ruling out anything, and I'm not jumping the gun on anything. If they want something, they're going to have to ask for it. But my head is spinning, and I could use some direction.

– What do I do?, Boston

I don't know why these exes are reaching out. Maybe it's the weather. Or maybe it's a Rule of Threes thing.

All I know is that you shouldn't attempt to manipulate these women or play games with them. Don't ignore them because you think that your elusive behavior will make them fall back in love with you. Don't behave like a jerk because that's how they behaved at the end the relationship. Instead, be honest with them. If you're honest, they'll follow your lead. Behave like a human and they'll have no choice but to treat you like one.

You have my permission to ignore Ex No. 1. There's nothing to save there, and it doesn't sound like she's a real friend.

You can absolutely have a drink with Ex No. 3. My guess is that when you see her, you'll be reminded of negative things, but it sounds like you need to satisfy your curiosity. So go.

As for Ex No. 2, you have to be clear about your intentions. Tell her (in person or in an email – not by text) that you still get butterflies in your stomach when you're with her. Explain that you want to hang out more often, but that you can't promise that your intentions are platonic. Ask how she feels. Tell her that it's OK if she's confused -- you just need to know where you stand.

I don't mean to be corny, but I believe in the Golden Rule. If you're empathetic, confident, caring, warm, honest, and awesome, these women will want to return the favor. But please know that if Ex. No. 2 says that there's no chance of a real romantic reconciliation, you'll need to limit your contact with her again. Explain that to her. She sounds great, but you're not in it for friendship and there's still too much on the line.

Readers? How can he get Ex No. 2 back? What does Ex No. 2 want? Is she trying to get back together with him? What about Ex No. 3? What about 1? What about treating someone like they treated you at the end of your relationship? Discuss.

– Meredith