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Friendship after relationship
teeny
6 Posts
A little bit of a backstory...
I started dating someone and three months later he got his diagnosis. Stage 3 melanoma and he went through two surgeries and Nivolumab as his treatment every 4 weeks. Our communication slowly broke down more and more as the time went on and we saw our own therapists as well as went to couples. Some of the things helped but it got to the point where it felt like he was bottling up and hardly sharing with me and I probably pushed more than I should have. I tried to get him to make healthier choices and open up. It was very hard to be on the sidelines and care so much but not really be able to do anything and I couldn't even imagine how hard it all was for him. He ended up breaking up with me just after a year of being together, Said some things like his priorities have changed and that maybe we dont have as many things in common as he thought and that he felt soo guilty all the time about not being able to put as much into the relationship as he would have wanted. Still don't totally get why but not really fair to ask. He might not even know. Either way it almost seemed like he was trying to save me the hurt.

Now..
Three months after the break up we are trying the friendship route. I am not going to lie it is so hard for my feelings and it seems like he really opens up to me and tells me things that he hardly tells anyone else. He is opening up more now than he was before. He is also actively making healthier choices and being more proactive. Feelings don't just disappear and they are there and when he talks and shares I just listen and dont nag or criticize and things are smother and easier but at the same time it is not a true friendship because I share with my friends. I get into deep conversations but I am unable to do that with him. He wants an easy friendship and makes sense but it doesnt feel like me all the time. I think I mostly keep my stuff to myself to save my feelings but it really is tough. Ya things are easier and the friendship is smooth but that is because I keep most of my stuff out of it and I am just being the nice supportive friend.
Recently the doc found a lump in his armpit and he has to get a CT scan for that. He also let me in on some of the survival percentages for his type and his treatment and I think reality hit a little hard with this. I really didn't realize. He has a 28% chance of making it past ten years. This created extra thinking and realizing maybe his priorities did totally change because he said he might not want kids anymore and maybe he doesn't want to be with anyone either to not have to go through the hurt. But at the same time he does talk about the future and makes plans. I just end up getting lots of mixed messages and I know it is probably just as simple as he sends a message when he wants to talk or he asks to hang out when he wants to but its tough when its flirty and joking.
I guess I can be the supportive friend when I am up to it but at times I am going to have to be selfish and keep that distance so that it doesn't become more confusing for me that it already is.
It is a hard balance of taking care of yourself and helping them and I am not even in an intimate relationship with him anymore.
7 Replies
Brighty
6765 Posts
Hi @teeny‍ ! Going to connect with you shortly
Brighty
6765 Posts
teeny‍ good to hear from you again after so long. You know, I had a feeling your boyfriend would get back in touch with you. It takes time to process a cancer diagnosis, and people dont always know what to do with that. He could have very well been trying to protect you and save you the hurt.. my fiance told me many times I should leave because he was 'useless 'to me now as he put it. I think he also wanted to protect me. I know you went to therapy but if one person is not ready to try doing the things a therapist suggests it won't work. I suppose at that time he was not ready. I also pushed and nagged my fiance to open up, make better health choices, but he was not ready to listen...and I ended up pushing him away emotionally. I only wanted the best for him. In his heart he knew that. And I'm sure your boyfriend knew it too. Near the end he admitted it and thanked me for all I'd done for him.
I'm glad now your ex is making better choices. It can only happen if the person themselves wants this. It did take me a bit to learn that no amount of nagging is going to change a stubborn man.
I know what you mean about keeping some of your feelings in....but after everything you have been through with him,you need to protect yourself emotionally too. without intention, he hurt you too. You said it doesnt feel like a real friendship. Sometimes it is just easier to open up to some people than others. There are some in your 'front row' and some you have to keep a little farther in the audience for various reasons. There is nothing wrong with rekindling the friendship but for now...not to get too emotionally attached agsin.
it does seem like you are getting mixed messages from him. Perhaps he really wants to remain hopeful, but realistic at the same time. The survival percentages could be outdated or inaccurate. Treatment has come so far. I wouldn't put any weight into statistics. Many on here beat odds. You are a great friend and great person and glad you reached back out to us.
Cynthia Mac
3194 Posts
teeny‍ , My takeaway from your whole post was this bit:

I guess I can be the supportive friend when I am up to it but at times I am going to have to be selfish and keep that distance so that it doesn't become more confusing for me that it already is.
It is a hard balance of taking care of yourself and helping them and I am not even in an intimate relationship with him anymore.


As for Brighty‍ ‘S “feeling,” I am truly not surprised, nor, would Runner Girl‍, be, I suspect. My ex did it, her ex did it, in fact, I can only recall two instances in my circle of friends where an “ex” didn’t make an “end run” to either reconcile or “be friends,” sometimes when they had made some serious breaches in trust!

May I say that being “the supportive friend when [you are] up to it” is being anything but selfish. When he broke up with you, he broke off your relationship and the fact that you’ve agreed to “be friends,” is a huge concession on your part, especially if you are not yet over that. So, if you’re having a “feely day,” and need some time off, you’re entitled!

You say “he wants an easy friendship.” That’s nice. What do YOU want? If you’re going to be a member of this friendship, shouldn’t you also get something YOU want?

It’s OK to set some boundaries for yourself, even with his health condition. If “flirty and joking” upsets you, you can say to him, “I’d rather you not do that. It takes me back to a time when we were intimate, and we don’t do that anymore.” If he’s sending mixed messages, you can kindly call him on that without being accusatory. For example, if he says, “I don’t want to have kids,” you can say, “Yes, you’ve said that. So, what would you like your legacy to be?” You can even address that “hard balance” thing I re-quoted above, by letting him know that at times you’re struggling with your distant past in contrast to your recent past, and that you’re trying to find a way to “move on” and find intimacy, while still supporting him as a friend. (I can almost picture his mind whirring on that one!)

It’s great that you’re still there to support him, but I encourage you to do that in such a way that you don’t end up paying too high a price.

Runner Girl
1688 Posts
teeny

I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with Cynthia Mac

Let me explain what she was referencing me with. I had a fiance when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. He was all on board. I started seeing red flags when I was going for my biopsy and needed someone to drive me. He said he couldn't take any more time away from work. I said fine and had my girlfriend go with me. Well darned if while we were sitting there waiting for my turn to go in if he didn't show up. I was angry, when I was called in I said to the both of them that they could duke it out while I was in there to see who was going to take me home. I ended up going home with him as otherwise would have been very awkward. He took me for surgery, was all on board with all my appointments, etc. Then came time for chemo - he moved me to the spare bedroom the weekend before chemo started. I never received an appropriate reasoning for this. He took me to my chemo appointments, ignored me during my infusion (either on his phone or in the cafeteria) then took me home and promptly left. I went thru several scary side effects alone after being dropped at home. A week after my 3rd chemo he told me to get out of his house (I gave him a dose of ignoring him as he'd been doing to me and it took 2 days for him to crack). I laid into him with what he'd been doing and things changed for a short while. He took exception to the radiation doctor examining me and told me I could attend the remainder of my treatments alone. So I did - I went to 21 radiation treatments by myself. I was still completing my Herceptin treatment when he got up very early one morning (I was up and getting ready to go to work), he said that the relationship was over and I needed to get out. I agreed and I promptly found my own townhouse and moved out in August 2019. Just before my birthday in 2020 he showed up at my door, with a bunch of crap he said belonged to me (he'd cleaned out his fridge and pantry and brought it to me - so gross, it all went in the garbage). He handed me a card and letter. It was a birthday card and the letter was asking me to reconcile, with conditions. I'd have to go to counselling with him and I'd have to get rid of my cats! Can you guess what my response was? We do not speak and he has not shown up at my door since.

Sometimes you need to make a clean break. You are young and should be exploring relationships with people who want to be with you. Just don't feel obligated to be friends with him and put your life on hold with that.

Runner Girl
Refuge33
20 Posts
Wow, what a hard one. I am sorry your ex did not have it in him to be your caregiver. Some people just get totally freaked out and are unable to cope. As for him not liking the Dr examining you and your breasts - sheesh grow the f**k up. Its Dr doing their job. Its not sexual nor is trying to come on to you. Just ask him sometime - how many breasts do you thienk he sees in a day, week, month, year. He has a lot of growing up to do and you don’tvneed to be worrying about him as well as yourself. And putting conditions on a relationship | never heard of such a thing. As hard and a stab to the heart as this whole episode is, he has shown you that he is not ready for a mature adult relationship. I am so sorry you have to put with his crap and trying to h3al and get better at the same time. Better off, I think, just having to concentrate and deal with one life impacting event at a time.
D33
13 Posts

That's heartbreaking..but at least now he does open up some. Best of luck and don't be to hard on yourself.

teeny
6 Posts

Thank you all for sharing with me and the kind words. It means a lot to hear others stories and try and get more of an understanding that I can wrap my head around.
I did end up having a talk with him about it not being fair to have a friendship that is so similar to what the intimate relationship was like. He understood and agreed that some boundaries are important and left me some time to think about what those would be. In our conversation he opened up about a lot of his fears and what was going on and actually got vulnerable around me and it was a good talk because it gave me the opportunity to open up more. It was also a tough discussion because he was able to talk to me and Let me in more than he has since his diagnoses. This made the feelings stir a bit more. I missed that and being let in and for me to be understood is all I was needing and he was giving that to me in the moment but I had to remember it’s easier to do that now without all the added stresses of being in the intimate relationship. I let him know that the mixed messages were playing with by feelings too much and I needed more clarification and we were able to get on the same page. I did end up pleading to have the relationship back again a bit but he told me he can’t be in a relationship now and the way ours was at the end was not good and thats what he will always think it will turn into again. Not really fair because a lot happened . There was a lot of stress and not enough space to deal and process it all. I could tell he had conflicting feelings but I do too and I need to see what I really want. I did want to be with him but it is not a mutual feeling so can not be. I have to think a bit more about what it is I really want now and what boundaries might look like to have that and not have to go through the emotional turmoil. These boundaries may change and adapt along the way but i need to figure out the initial ones and make them clear to him. After we had that talk I told him that texting is difficult and let him know not to message me until set date and that is helping a lot.
I had also told him he can’t have his cake and eat it too lol and that one seemed to get through pretty well with him. We do not have the romantic relationship and you can’t get all the companionship that there was in it without actually having that relationship. I am a person with needs and feelings too and I am reflecting on them more to see what I want. That is such a good and powerful question. And very difficult at the same time. Thank you for asking it.
It was a difficult and long talk with him but so necessary and it was hard in the moment but it seems to have lifted that heavy feeling I had in my chest. I’ve said my piece and heard his and now I can close the door on that possibility. It was tough cause he would make it sound somewhat closed but open at the same time but I do not want to play that game. I am not here to just get strung along. I have to live my own life and find the things that make me happy . I am not going to live for anyone else but myself. so easy to say these things now just to actually practice and do.

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