Why does he still reach out to me?

Dealing with a breakup? Unrequited love? Having trouble on apps? Moving in with someone for the first time? Making a life change? What's on your mind? Send a letter to [email protected] or fill out this form.

My high school boyfriend and I had a passionate but toxic relationship. He would cheat on me and I would always forgive him. That began in 2012, and we were on and off again from 15 to 18. I broke up with him the summer I graduated and he started dating my best friend in retaliation – and she got pregnant two months later.

They’ve been together now since 2015 and have more kids. I still hear from him at least once, sometimes three times a year, and have met up maybe four times and have even had sex those times. He tells me he isn't happy, misses me, wishes he never left me, and that he and my ex-friend will never have what we had. He tells me he checks my social media at least once a week.

If he feels this way, why doesn't he leave her? Does he really love me if he says these things but won't leave? He always says he doesn't want to have to be taken away from his kids, which I understand.

Recently I started dating more – for the first time in 10 years. Mostly, I didn't think about my ex at all. But then as experiences fade, I find myself missing him, and recently linked up with him. What can I do on my end to forget about him? What is my ex's motive for all of this reaching out and telling me his secrets and deepest feelings? When we dated he was super prideful and would never admit to any feelings, and acted as if I was not able to affect him. Today he takes full responsibility for what he's done and is remorseful, but why now?

– Still Connected


"What is my ex's motive for all of this reaching out?"

Possible answers:

1. He needs attention.
2. He's bored.
3. He wants a mini vacation from his partner and children.
4. You remind him of an easier time (high school).
5. He likes to manipulate people.
6. He's lining up a backup partner, just in case things go wrong.
7. His actual partner doesn't have time to focus on him much because of the kids, and he knows you'll listen (this one is similar to No. 1, I guess).

Notice that nothing on that list is about you. He's not fueled by selfless love or a real understanding of what he left behind. You were with him as a teen, which means he barely knows you now. Also, when he's with you, he's talking about himself. He might love the way you make him feel, but he's not focused on making you happy.

You deserve a love that's yours, one that doesn't require waiting, decoding, lying, and second-guessing. He can't give you that – and his remorse, while nice to hear about, has nothing to do with what he can offer now.

You said that when you were dating others you didn't think about this person much. Maybe that means you should get out there more. Not just with dates, but with friends. Embrace the part of your life that has nothing to do with him.

It's easy to make this situation sound romantic – to say that you were soul mates in high school, that you were pulled apart, that you never forgot each other. But the reality is, he's just some person cheating on his partner after a long history of toxic behavior.

Cut him out. Instead of asking, "Why now?" consider, "Why should I care?"

– Meredith

Readers? Why now? Does it matter?