When to Fold ’Em?
Lots of people have asked me this over the past year. “If my partner is moving away, is leaving me, when should I give up? How do I make that decision?” I did write one article on how to get ‘em to make a decision about joining you in a relationship. This article is based on the same principle involving a person who maybe acting passively at a time when you want some decision. And remember this is all based on your continued wish to reconnect.
The decision you want is a) that your partner decides to come back toward you or b) that you reasonably get to stop waiting for them.
Here is the setup. They have moved out, either physically or emotionally or both. Their actions have led you to understand that the previous relationship you had with them somehow “sucked” – enough for them to leave. So now you don’t want the old relationship back, but do want to make a new and better relationship with them. You have read my article on What to do when he/she leaves and are trying to follow the four steps.
So the question is, “How long do you wait?” The current wisdom out on the internet seems to be to not contact them at all. I do not think that a wise course. No contact may make them become aware of their “loneliness,” but also may communicate that you don’t care – that you want them to go away.
So here is my suggestion. Modify this as you chose. In its pure form it takes 5 months.
- Establish a contact channel: email, or cards are ideal. It should be cheap and easily permit the sending of a very limited amount of information. I find text messaging is not very suited to this, nor is voice mail, but you choose. You want them to receive your contact and have perfect freedom about what they do with it: read it, trash it, etc.
- Plan a message that you are going to send. You may have to send as many as 10, so make this simple. The message should contain a “greeting,” an optional bit of news, a clue to your work on yourself, a gentle invitation for more contact.
- The greeting can be nothing more complex than “Hi,” or “Dear Mike,” etc. Keep this light.
- Optional newsy bit is just something like “It’s raining hard,” “The lilacs are out,” “Broke my leg the other day. Doing ok, tho.” Don’t mention anything awful that they might feel obliged to fix. Don’t ever say, “I’m miserable without you,” or the like.
- The clue to your work on yourself is part of my instruction to “3: Work on yourself visibly.” This should be different in each note, and I think these should be pretty abstract. You want your partner to be curious for more. Some examples are, “Seeing my counselor weekly and I am sure learning a lot,” “Wow am I learning about how pushy I used to be.” “Boy, I am getting it that I have been asleep for years.” Etc. Anything you are learning that might involve some subject of their past “complaints” might be good. An example could be that if they complained about your temper, you say, “I am working really hard on getting rid of my anger. I realized it’s been a problem to me for years.”
- Lastly you include a gentle invitation (not a push) to more contact. “Love to hear from you any time you feel like it,” “It’d be fun to hear your voice.” “If you ever feel like contacting me, feel free.” (I strongly suggest you don’t ask questions. None, if you can. Just gentle invitations.)
- Then sign it, bluntly or not at all. “Dave,” “Yours,” etc. Do not say, “Your most obedient and humble servant, begging for your orders, please, please.”
- Send one message only, once a week for one month. (4 messages) Send one message, once every other week for two months. (4 messages) Send one message, once a month for two months. (2 messages) STOP.
If at any time he/she re-contacts you, follow my rule #4 and respond minimally. Oh, if their contact is neutral or simply newsy, read it and ignore it. The contact you are looking for is some request to connect to you coming from them. Example: if they say, “Life is crazy here,” you might feel an impulse to write back something like, “What’s going on?” Don’t do it! It’s a trap. If they say, “Tell me more about what you are learning,” that’s a move to reconnect. Respond minimally to that. Wait for them to be explicit.
Do not be surprised too much if he/she contacts you after the five months of this process. Your partner is leaving that period with a memory of your wanting them, but not pushing. That, I think, is the best you can do.
I’ve been slowly reading your articles over the past few months, and I can’t begin to tell you how your wisdom has changed my life! Thank you for all you do to change relationships for the better. Even my relationship with my family has transformed because of all I’ve learned from your site!
So, I am doing all the things I need to do to survive. My ex even commented that I seem to be doing “more than okay” when we met for coffee after I moved out. At that time, I suggested that we meet to talk about the issues that led to the breakup if he was willing. A few weeks later, he reached out and we met. I told him the reasons that I led to my “shutting down” in the relationship and he thanked me for meeting, though ended the conversation by saying all of this was “emotionally draining.” I agreed that condensing a few months of realizations into 30 minutes would be a lot to handle. When we parted, I left it open for him to reach out if he wanted to talk further and I told him I would understand if he would not. One thing I noticed was his closed body language compared to when we met for coffee (where he was warm and even gave me a lingering hug).
Yesterday, about a month after that meeting about issues, he messaged wanting to “finalize” the details of our separation. Before we talked, I learned (on my own and really just by sheer dumb luck) that he has been speaking to, likely seeing, another woman, and it seemed to have started before our last meeting, which may explain the “coldness.”
When we talked I did not feel that it would be appropriate to ask if he was seeing someone else, but after we figured out the final logistics, I told him that I am very sad that we have come to this point but I trust that we are doing what is right for us. This seemed to actually stir some anger in him as he threw something I said back to him in a mean way. All I did was say okay, and that I will miss him. The conversation did end amiably, but I was surprised at his outburst – though all people make sense all the same. 🙂
Once the final details are wrapped up, do you think I should reach out to him, even though he has likely moved on with another person? I do feel in my heart that we are meant to be together, but I think I need to give him time and more space. If he is in a rebound relationship, I think it means that he is not allowing himself to fully process that we are no longer together. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated, as always.
Thanks so much,