There’s a phenomenon that I’ve never quite understood, in dating, and that’s the need to go back to old relationships. It happens in the strangest places. I met a guy online dating (a long time ago.) We went out three times, and I really liked him. I was pretty stupid about dating, so I wasn’t showing it well, but I was sincerely smitten.
We had plans to get together on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend for dinner, and then Monday for a trip to the local amusement park. He had to work on Saturday, and was going to call me after. Six o’clock comes and goes, 7— finally, nearing 10 p.m., I make myself an omelet and admit that I’ve been stood up. He called about 10:30. “They” made him stay, and he couldn’t get away to let me know. I think I said something about “you must be starving!” and might have offered him the half-omelet I didn’t eat, and he admitted “they” brought dinner in, but he “couldn’t get away to let me know.” I was ignorant about dating, but I knew this was a bad sign, so I asked if we were still planning on getting together Monday. He assured me we were… and then stood me up. He contacted me a week later and told me that his grandmother had died and he’d had to leave town unexpectedly… and I told him I was sorry about his grandmother but thought that being stood up twice suggested that he was maybe a little busy for our relationship.
Six or eight months later, he noticed me on the site and contacted me again. I was friendly, but really not sure what he thought was different, so I didn’t encourage a relationship.
Several years later, I went on a truly painful date with a guy. We met at a Starbucks for less than 45 minutes, 40 minutes of which he spent studying his juice bottle intently, with a sullen expression on his face. He couldn’t really even be nice about it. And yet, for years afterward, I’ve caught him checking out my profile, any time I’m active on the site.
And today, my most recent ex reached out. He ended things the better part of a year ago, but thinks we should go to dinner. I’m okay with that, but I suspect that nothing has changed enough that being together would be good for me (he pulled the trigger, but it’s not like the idea hadn’t occurred to me). I think that’s the fundamental difference between me and guys who want to get back together. I tend to start from the question “have we changed enough to resolve the issues that broke us up in the first place?” I don’t think that’s the thought that has them looking me back up… I think it’s a combination of my finest qualities (whatever they believe those to be) blended with my no breakup-craziness policy. (If you want to go, go. If I want to go, I won’t be a jerk about it.)
Regardless, should be interesting.
ETA: In rereading this, it sounds like I’m pretty cold about this sort of thing. I’m not. I was heartbroken about the first guy. I had gotten way ahead of myself about planning a future together and let myself sit at home wondering if he was in a terrible accident or if I had done something wrong. I was totally convinced that I’d done something to send him away (and totally confused by his turning back up again and again.) With the second guy, it was no big thing— with online dating, you win some, you lose some. He was my third date that week, and I ended up dating my second date that week for almost a year, falling in love and getting my heart broken. Two of the three dates that week had some kind of potential (though I kid you not that date 1 that week suggested that we shoplift together, so he never had awesome potential…)— that date just became funny story fodder. My most recent ex, I had high hopes for, but had noticed a pattern where, although I liked him and we had a lot of fun hanging out and we were mostly good together, he was getting what he needed from the relationship with far greater regularity than I was. He’d be sweet and wheedle and cajole what he wanted out of me, but at the end of the day, he was a lot less concerned with my happiness than his own. Which I have trouble sorting out in the moment. Fortunately, I haven’t been in the moment for awhile now, so I’m pretty clear about it.