Friday, February 8, 2013

Set Me Free, Why Don't Cha Babe: Lost in the Remnants of a Relationship

His ex-fiancee calls every day.

"She thinks of me as her best friend," he said. So much of a best friend, I guess, that she regales him with tales of hooking up with other guys.

"Something's up with that," I said to my friend. "There's more to her telling you all her business than friendship."

The question of whether men and women can just be friends is as old as questioning the meaning of life. I believe you can communicate with an ex, keep in touch, and really just be cool...but every day? I mean, what's she really doing?

Could be a combination of a couple things. One -- she's getting off on it. Sharing the details of her sex life is a great way to throw up in his face that other men find her desirable. Then she disguises it as, "Oh we're buddies and I tell him everything," while she's getting way more satisfaction out of sharing these stories than he is.

If the girl isn't straight-up shady like that, then she could just be selfish, and may not even realize it. She needs an outlet, needs to vent, and knows he'll sit there and listen, even if he's torn up inside.

Why doesn't he just tell her to stop calling?

 ----- asks the person who's never been in love, never been in a situation where a man or a woman has a hold on you so bad that you'll listen to what you don't want to just for the opportunity to hear the sound of his or her voice.

Maybe it's not shadiness or selfishness. Maybe it's a case of two souls wandering in the purgatory of love lost. They're both getting something out of this constant communication; they're both able to keep holding on to a little piece of what used to be.

Lo and behold, a blast from the past today helped it all make sense. I was listening to the Stevie Wonder station on Pandora when an old song played that I've heard a thousand times and never honestly paid that much attention to. But this time, the lyrics spoke to me, breaking down this situation in a way only the old school lyricists can...

"Set me free, why don't cha babe
Get out of my life, why don't cha babe
'Cause you don't really love me
You just keep me hangin' on"

"You claim you still care for me
But your heart and soul needs to be free
Now that you've got your freedom
You wanna still hold on to me
You don't want me for yourself
So let me find somebody else" 

Why do you keep a comin' around
Playin' with my heart?
Why don't you get out of my life
And let me make a new start?
Let me get over you
The way you've gotten over me."

There's so much complexity and contradiction in this one line alone, that it encapsulates the whole song:

Get out of my life, why don't cha babe.

The first part is harsh, cold, hurt. The next part is softer, second-guessing, regretful, and even a little affectionate. Like saying, I can't stand you...sweetheart. 

The song is essentially saying I can't shut this down. I can't ignore you. If you call, I'm picking up. If you come by, I'll stop what I'm doing. I cannot help but to be involved with you -- on whatever level you're willing to be involved with me. Whether it's good for me or not. So I'm begging, me from myself.

Set me free.


[I was yearning to hear "You Keep Me Hangin' on" again. The song was originally recorded by The Supremes in 1966 and the version I heard on Pandora was Aretha's rendition, which I actually prefer to The Supremes. But holy moly, did I find a version that tops them both! The desperation is palpable from the first verse. Don't be thrown off by the name of the group...or the organ at the beginning. These cats are jammin'.]

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Sweet Retreat said...

OMG...So after reading this column, I had to think "Did she and I recently have a conversation about relationships", because I felt like you were writing a few chapters in my book of relationships!!! I have been on BOTH sides of this story.
I know I have held on to an ex for selfish reasons, but I still cared about the person. And I wanted them to still be there, because I wanted to know they still cared. I know its wrong, but everyone has done it one or two times in their lives.
I think people have to REALLY make sure they want to end it before they end it...and (I am learning) as much as you would want to be friends with an ex, you have to give each other that space to get over the relationship and cross that line to just being friends.

But then what if you still love the person??? And don't want to let them go????

Me said...

Hi Sweet Retreat,

It pretty much boils down to what you say right here: "And I wanted them to still be there, because I wanted to know they still cared."

Feelings don't end just because a relationship has ended. We want to know how a person is doing, but like you said...what we REALLY want to know is if they still care about us.

I think if we really care about a person and really want them to be happy with whoever or by themselves, we have to fight the impulse to be a constant in their lives. And the thing is, this person still cares about you/loves you, so they're not going to ever tell you to stop calling/texting, even if you ask them if it's a problem. In fact, they may not even know they need that space, because they do like to hear from you...even if it's bad for them.

I don't know what an ideal frequency of communication is, but every day is entirely too much. I think she calls so much to basically make sure he still picks up the phone. That doesn't seem like a person who's moved on. I don't think it's healthy.

Two people that have broken up have to get used to not being in each other's lives.

I personally think the Blue Moon approach is the best way to go. Birthdays, holidays, sending condolences. Might amount to a couple times a year, if that. Too much more than that, ehh... reeks of residual feelings to me.

Me said...

We also can't ignore that there's usually some ego involved...I think I've been saying that using a bunch of words. But yes, EGO!

Monique K said...

There really isn't a reason to communicate with an ex on the regular basis. If they were such great communicators they would still be together. There is one guy I used to date that i occasionally speak to and I must admit, I don't want to hear anything about his new relationships nor he mine. When you really think about it, I think I still communicate with him just as a fall back plan. I kind of like the idea of knowing he's there in case I change my mind about the relationship. But most of my exes I think I can't stand the sound of their voice and would never give them the pleasure of hearing my voice ever again.

Me said...

Hi Monique,

Thanks for your comment!

Maintaining a foot in the door is probably a big reason why a lot of people stay in communication with exes. And really, I don't necessarily see anything wrong with that, to think "if we get back together that might be alright." A lot of people do get back together after some time apart...the key phrase being, "time apart!"

But I think anyone you talk to on a more-than-monthly basis is a fixture in your life. And if that's an ex, folks should evaluate the feelings that are involved...and if those feelings are crippling to either person.