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Ask Dave-Why Is My Ex Still Calling?


His former love left him for a woman—but still keeps in touch. How to handle this dicey situation?

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
I was in a relationship for four years with this guy who claimed that he wasn’t gay. I would always ask him why he was in a relationship with me and he stated, “I like it.” After a slow start, we went from a non-contact relationship to an all out freak-fest, and then it just ended. He met this girl who lived down the street and began dating her. But during all this time, he’s still calling me and trying to keep contact. I am not seeing him. But it has been 17 months now and he still calls! I still take his calls, too, but he knows it’s hard and weird for me, and I’d rather not talk given what happened. I am very confused and need some advice. Why is he still calling? If he left me for a woman, why doesn’t he just cut all contact and be with her? Help!
-Is He Gay, Bi or
How he self-identifies isn’t the real issue.
What?

Dear IHGBOW,
The most important question you can ask yourself right now is not “Is he gay, bi or what?” It’s “Why do I care if he’s straight, bi, gay, blue or green?” How he self-identifies isn’t the real issue. The real issue is why you are still focused on him.

What are you getting out of this admittedly lame communication with Mr. Confused? It doesn’t sound like much. Certainly, there’s no physical relationship anymore, so you can rule out the “Yes, it’s dysfunctional, but at least it’s a hot affair” excuse for staying connected to him. He doesn’t seem like a real friend, either. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of honest, open communication that a post-dating friendship requires.

My guess is that he’s probably more confused than you are about what he’s doing. But he didn’t write to me. You did. So my suggestion to you is to actively avoid him.

What does active avoidance entail?
  1. Tell him that, since he’s clearly dating someone else, you don’t see the point of these phone calls. Remind him that he moved on and make it clear that you now want to move on, too. The fact that he’s with a woman and the possibility that he’s not gay (as he claims) are irrelevant. He’s involved with someone else. End of story. Ask him not to call you anymore.
  2. If he does call, ignore the calls. You are under no obligation to stay connected to him.
  3. If you run into him and he wants to talk with you (more than a cursory “How are you?”), don’t launch into a “broken record” replay of the reasons you’re avoiding him. Just state that you’ve already explained once why you’ve cut off communication, and remove yourself from the situation.
  4. If 1, 2 and 3 don’t work, send him the Madonna song “Hung Up,” with lyrics appropriate to your situation, including:

    “Ring, ring, ring goes the telephone
    The lights are on but there’s no one home
    Tick tick tock, it’s a quarter to two
    And I’m done
    I’m hanging up on you”
Madonna aside, taking charge by emotionally “hanging up” is the best thing you can do to curb these unwanted calls. As the great “advice columnist laureate” Ann Landers always emphasized, “No one can take advantage of you unless you let them.” Your passivity is, in some way, giving this man permission to
He needs that adoration like a fish needs water.
stay connected to you. You can’t change his behavior. But you can change yours. Get tough and stop giving permission.

The other thing to realize is that anyone who continues to call you for 17 months after dumping you, without a whit of attention paid to whether or not those calls are welcomed or helpful to you, has narcissistic tendencies. You ask, “Why is he still calling? If he left me for a woman, why doesn’t he just cut all contact and be with her?” I think it’s because a narcissist will always call someone who adores him. He needs that adoration like a fish needs water. His concern is for himself and what he needs, and that’s not a healthy balance for a friendship, let alone a romantic relationship.

Which brings me to my final point: Though it might be painful to ask yourself some hard questions relating to your role in this relationship, I hope you’ll consider doing so. You sound like someone who wants and misses a solid romantic relationship in your life. So why would you be in a relationship with another man who claims he’s not gay, whose simple reason for staying with you is “I like it”? That hardly sounds like the kind of committed, loving response you dream of after a four-year relationship, does it?

For whatever reasons (he was hot, it was comfortable, you had some good times together), you chose to be in that relationship for a long time. Going forward, what would you choose? What lessons have you learned from this relationship that you’d want to apply to the next one? An obvious one might be to raise the bar of expectations and require clarity and reciprocation before committing yourself next time. Instead of spending one more minute of precious time second-guessing why Mr. Confused is still calling after almost two years, spend that time more wisely by focusing on what you want and deserve in the future.

Bottom line: Someone else’s confusion is not your problem. That is, it’s not your problem unless you adopt it as your problem. Then your real problem becomes that you’re focusing on a no-win, joyless situation instead of zeroing in on the kind of life-affirming, positive relationship that will bring you joy. In business terms, there’s an opportunity cost to staying connected to this man: Time spent on him is time lost on someone worthy.


Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit Dave’s website and send your dating questions and comments to him at davesingleton.writer@gmail.com.
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