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November 29, 2017

Should I Help My Troubled Ex, or Leave Him Be?

Hey, Bonita…

Hi Bonita!

I need some advice on a friendship turned relationship turned “let’s take a break from talking” situation. A longtime friend and I started hanging out more than usual and eventually decided we would be in a relationship. Talk of things getting serious progressed quickly. Then, at some point, I assume he felt like it was a lot. And it was. We went from lifelong friends to talks about children in a month. He broke up with me. It was two days before my birthday, and he also peppered in that he wasn’t in love with me (thanks, I got that). So I let it go. I had other things to do. He said he wanted to be friends, because don’t they all.

We stay friends, and he comes over one night when I am alone, and things start to get intimate. After I have given him pleasure and begin to think, “OK, cool, my turn,” he tells me he’s not attracted to me. I’m upset, because again, the timing is impeccably horrible. And this dude is a nice guy, but these are not nice things. So, I start trying to get to the root of it calmly. After a long discussion, he admits to me he was molested as a child and “did things” with a family member.

I felt very bad that this had happened to him and took every effort to listen to his story and let him talk. I didn’t pressure for details and just let him say what was on his mind. He apologizes over and over to me about how things have gone, and I’m kind of sitting there unsure how to react. Yes, he did some shitty stuff, and I do think regardless of the reason, adults are responsible for their actions. But then, I’m the first person he’s told about this, and based on our long friendship I can see where this secret has played out many times in various situations.

Fast forward to two days later: I’ve checked in with him to see how he is. He didn’t say he was suicidal, but told me the weight of it had made him feel that way in the past. He told me he wants distance from me. I ask him to be more specific, and he says he wants indefinite distance.

I am almost certain this is coming out of shame he feels about what he told me, as well as his uncharacteristic behavior toward me during our brief relationship. Do I let him keep the ball in his court and talk to me when and if he’s ready? Or do I leave it be? I don’t want to disrespect his boundaries, but I also don’t want to leave him hanging with this big secret that is likely weighing heavily on him.

Signed,

Friend or Foe

Hi Friend,

This guy has tons of work to do on himself, and I'm not sure you need to be there to help him along. Clearly, he doesn't want you there, and I think it would be better for you to just move on. Childhood trauma is a huge thing to try to tackle in adulthood, and I don't think it's appropriate that you “help” him with this big secret at all, frankly. He needs a trained health-care professional to guide him towards recovery. You are just a friend, as well as an ex. Your impact on his healing will be very limited, if not detrimental to that healing.

What you can do is honor his request and work on yourself. Ask yourself why you're OK with this person making a booty call and refusing to reciprocate in bed. Ask yourself why you keep trying to approach this barn fire of a man, because honestly, he sounds like an emotional wreck with lots of learning to do. I know it sucks to learn that someone doesn't want to see you ever again, but I think he's done you a tremendous favor by kicking you to the curb. You are doing emotional labor where it has not been requested and is not needed. Take care of yourself, and don't let dudes—trauma survivors or not—treat you the way this guy has.

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