How long do I wait to reach out?

I was in a six-year relationship with a guy that started in high school and ended about a year after we graduated college. It ended because I felt like we had been going through the same issues, talking about the same things, only for nothing to change. I had moved from our hometown to Boston to be closer to my new job. He was finishing up a few classes and living with his parents. I felt like our paths were starting to diverge. In hindsight, I really didn't know who I was, and I had to figure that out on my own. Even though I left, I still wanted him in my life because he meant so much to me. He was my first love, my best friend for almost a decade. We hung out a few times after the breakup, but it got too hard for him, so we stopped. I dated a bit, ended up in an almost year-long relationship with a great guy. But ultimately, it didn't feel right. So I left him, too.

Something came up in January of this year and the only person I thought to reach out to was my former best friend. We had only really seen each other two or three times in the past two years, and always with our other friends. I called him one night, drunk, and he talked to me for a few hours. The next day, feeling so guilty about my actions the night before, I asked if he'd see me that weekend so we could talk about why I called and what was said, because to be honest, I didn't really remember. He agreed and we met up. It was that night that I realized how much I am still in love with him. I realized that everyone in between was just a distraction as I tried to move on from him and our relationship. We continued seeing each other for about four months. There were a lot of highs and a lot of lows. Being with him again felt so good. But knowing that communication was one of our issues in the past, I made a point to work on that this time around. That was also hard for him. He doesn't open up easily.

So the highs consisted of us laughing, loving, enjoying each other again. And the lows were discussing our past issues, our present issues, and how we prevent them from being future issues. And he couldn't handle it. He left me. He said he couldn't be with someone who had caused him so much pain. He said he wanted to, but it was too hard for him right now. I was devastated. He said he needed me to not talk to him or see him. I've been doing exactly that. Because I hope that with time and space, he'll decide he wants me back in his life.

One night a few weeks ago, though, I called him after going out. I'd like to think that if I hadn't had a few drinks, I would have continued to leave him be. He didn't answer, but the next night he texted me that he didn't want me to say anything, but that he needed me to know that he wasn't OK, and that he thought about me all the time. I don't know what to do. I know he's hurting, and I want to be there for him. I want to share our lives with each other so badly. How long will he need? How long do I wait to reach out? Was his text his way of saying that in the end, we'll be together?

– Hopelessly hopeful

Your ex has made his wishes clear, so it's on you to respect them. Sure, he sent you an emotional text to let you know he's still thinking about you, but it was a response to your unsolicited alcohol-fueled call. Had you not broken the rules, his text wouldn't have followed. Read his words and believe them; he doesn't want you to say anything at all.

Part of the problem here is that the fate of the relationship is still pretty ambiguous, at least to you. According to your letter, your ex says he can't be with you "right now," which implies a "later" – but there are are no guarantees that later is ever coming.

You need to treat this breakup as if there won't be a later, because he's not here now, and that's all that counts. The two of you gave this a genuine second shot – with better timing and effort – and it still didn't work. That says plenty.

I know it hurts and that you want to hang on, but it's not good for either of you. He doesn't want you to respond, and that's your answer. The text was confusing and made you hopeful, but let's assume it was just another way of saying goodbye.

– Meredith

Readers? Does that text change anything?