What To Do When Your Ex Comes Back

Out of the blue a few weeks ago, I had a message in my inbox from a name I hadn’t seen in at least four years. It was my ex; I’m sure you know the one. He was the ex, the guy who never cared as much as I did, and who left me with nothing but emotional issues when it came to all other relationships down the line.

We met when I was 17, and for the past nine years, he’s orbited around me. Orbiting is like a new form of ghosting, but rather than drop off completely, the orbiter will continue to keep tabs on you on social media, essentially keeping you in his back pocket to come back to later. We were only ever officially together for about five months, but for four years he would come back to me like clockwork every time it didn’t work out with another girl. Every time I would forgive him, let him back in, and allow myself to get hurt again, because nothing ever changed and for some reason I refused to learn.

I decided I didn’t deserve how he treated me almost five years ago, so I stormed out of his life and slammed the door behind me. I thought the orbiting had finally ended and I would never hear from him again when I saw on a mutual friend’s post on Facebook that he was engaged. About a year later, however, that relationship also ended, and it was only a matter of time before he came back to me yet again.

This time he sent me a novel-length apology for being a “narcissistic asshole,” saying I never deserved the awful way he treated me, and that he’s kicked himself a million times for pushing me away just because “he always knew I was too good for him.”

My initial reaction were angry tears and calling bullshit on the whole thing. This was far from the first apology he’s ever given me, and like every time he popped back into my life, he was newly single.

So much has changed since the last time we spoke. I’m not the same person I was five years ago. I still have a tendency to be too forgiving sometimes, but I haven’t allowed myself to be walked on the way I used to let him in a very long time.

Ultimately, part of me decided I wanted to rub it in his face how amazing my life has been since ceasing contact with him, and the other part genuinely thought it would be nice to reconnect. So I gave him my current number and we spent two hours talking, about everything—our shared past, the past five years, and our plans for our futures. I told him I wasn’t talking to him because I trust him, but because I trust myself not to make the same mistakes again.

Exes are strange. He was such a big part of my life for so long, and while I know I’ve been much better off without him, I had to acknowledge the fact that there was a time when he knew me better than anyone else. I was reminded of that a few times on the phone:

“Are you laughing or crying? Or both? You always laugh when you’re about to start crying.”

“You are one of two people in the world I felt comfortable telling I would go gay for Ryan Reynolds.”

“…and then I stopped talking to him for a month…”
“You did the Lindsay thing.”

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But just because he knew me then doesn’t mean he knows me now. I don’t think he was surprised by how much I’ve grown, just proud. And for his own sake, I’d like to believe he’s grown too. He claims he has, and based on the fact that we were both able to look back on some of the awful things he’s said to me over the years and laugh, I believe him.

We even gave each other advice on our more recent relationships (or in my case, lack thereof). He’s about to finally start the life he wants, with or without his ex-fiancée, who sounds like she still has a lot of growing up to do herself. Meanwhile I’ve fallen into another too-forgiving hole with someone who clearly cares but is afraid to commit.

“He sounds like me. Maybe I should have a talk with him. ‘Look man, I did the same shit to her, but she’s the most wonderful girl. Don’t screw it up.’”

Despite everything, there’s a part of me that will probably always care for him, at least a little. But all of the romantic feelings died a long time ago. I do trust myself to not make the same mistakes again, because even though reconnecting was nice, I’d be fine going another five years without speaking to him. Or if we for some reason do stay in contact, I know there’s better for me out there, because I’ve found better. Holding a grudge just doesn’t seem necessary either. I’m not sure if I ever would’ve learned how I do deserve to be treated had I never learned what I don’t deserve, and for that I’m thankful for even the bad experiences.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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