He wants me back … as a friend

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I have a sad question. How do you break up in quarantine together? Unfortunately there is a lot of backstory to my question. This is my perspective of our history, and I'm now realizing he has a very different understanding of our history than my narrative. It's kinda heartbreaking to not be on the same page.

We met in fifth grade and would chase each other around the playground, then we "dated" in middle school. We dated different people in high school and became an exclusive couple at the end of it. We tried long-distance for college, but it became very on-and-off-again. Always friends, calling each other nightly or at least really often, making trips to see each other and always dating when we were home together. Three years of that until my grandma died one summer. Even though he was with me for everything, I told him when I went back to school that I wanted another break and that I was going to start counseling because I was a real mess. I also was starting to think of the future because it was my senior year, and I want kids someday and he didn't want children. I wish I hadn't broken up with him then.

He started sleeping with someone and she fell in love with him, so he broke it off. When I came home after the semester, he and I started spending every day together again and in my perspective, we were together again. Sometime before Christmas that other woman called and told him that she was pregnant with his baby.

And thus, our innocent little world exploded. Shockingly, I got calm and supportive. He was my best friend. I told him we were a team and that I wouldn't leave him for it.

He had plans to spend a semester abroad. We agreed he should still take his trip and have his time before it happened. I lent him a couple thousand and researched like crazy so we could make his trip work. He was incredibly depressed and I just wanted him to not have to worry. I even found the cheapest plane tickets and talked with the Dutch embassy to get him an expedited student visa!

A couple weeks into his trip, we had a huge fight. I thought he broke up with me and he said we just hadn't even established we were dating again. It hurt so bad. I cut him off and stopped responding. We had planned to live together that summer, so I changed my plans and got a new job. I decided to go to grad school in Boston, far from our home.

When he came home from the Netherlands, he drove almost immediately to my house – like he was in a romantic movie. But now he says he wasn't trying to win me back, just that I was important to him and he wanted me back as a friend. What happened here?

– Friend?

He wanted you back as a friend. That’s what happened here.

He also finds you attractive, loves when you give him attention, and enjoys the way you care for him like a partner. But he doesn't want to reciprocate or make a commitment for the future. That means you need to get over him.

You have gone out of your way to make him comfortable; now it's time to do that for yourself. You have a new life, a new mission. Focus on that and teach yourself that while it's great that you can be calm, empathic, and helpful in a relationship crisis, you don't have to be those things  at your own expense.

It sounds like there was a major miscommunication (or no communication at all) about what kind of connection you had when you resumed your romance. It could be that he thinks of you as a "forever person" – someone who will always be around, in different roles, depending on where you both are in life. That doesn’t work for you, though. At the moment, you need that line in the sand. You want to be able to think of him as someone in your world, but not your "one." Take whatever time you need to make that happen. He doesn't require your help.

Also know that your initial reason for breaking up was a practical one. You want kids, he didn't ... and now he's on his own path with that. Maybe it's early to think about that, but you might as well accept reality now.

It doesn't sound like you're in quarantine together, by the way. You can stay away from him, which is your best move.

– Meredith

Readers? Time to take space? How do you let go of someone who's been a presence in your life for so long?