I have known this guy for two years now. We started off as friends, had a bit of a romance, then broke up and we are now starting to be friends again.
I feel like I was always the one who was more invested in the relationship. He is very guarded and emotionally unavailable and has past issues that he doesn’t want to confront. So my question is, how do I support him with that kind of a baggage as a friend now? How can I make him understand that even though we are starting fresh, we still have a past and some things could come back to us in the future unless we solve them now? And how can I maintain my confidence and self-respect now and not get emotionally swept away again, like I did before?
We have come far and I never thought it would be possible to try and be friends again after a romantic history, but I also want to avoid making the same mistakes I did before. What should I do?
If you’ve read my articles and newsletters, so I know you know that I don’t sugarcoat my messages. As always, though, I want to make it clear that my biggest goal is to help you… so if I come off harsh or very blunt at any point, it’s nothing against you personally. If anything, it’s to bust through heavy layers of thoughts, beliefs, or ideas that are holding you back and actually causing the problems you’re concerned with.
So let me start off by saying that your question doesn’t strikes me like a woman asking about a male friend. It strikes me as a woman who wants a second shot at romance and wants a guarantee that her heart won’t get broken in the process.
For the sake of answering your question as you wrote it, though, let’s assume that you really are “just friends” with nothing romantic between you.
In that case, why would you care if he has “baggage”? You’re not his girlfriend, what does it matter? What does it matter if you guys have a history? You’re friends now… you’re not doing the relationship thing… I can’t imagine that you try to force your other friends to talk about stuff they don’t want to talk about.
Moreover, if it really is a friendship, you’re basically saying that you are friends, he wants a clean slate and you want to talk about emotions and baggage. In other words, you want to dump all the most unpleasant parts of a relationship on him (talking about difficult emotions, baggage, stuff he doesn’t want to focus on) without “relationship-only” type stuff like physical/sexual intimacy, exclusivity, etc. Doesn’t sound like much fun.
To be honest, this doesn’t really hit me like he’s the one with the baggage. It sounds to me more like you are the one concerned with the past, you are the one who wants to bring it up, you are the one who wants to dig it out of its grave and breathe life into it again.
The past is done… and as far as most guys are concerned… if it’s not happening right now at this moment, it doesn’t need to be dealt with… it’s resolved.
Yes, maybe bad things happened to him in his past that effect him. Or maybe he just said they did as an excuse to avoid getting closer than he wanted to get. Regardless, it’s his business… and guys deal with their business themselves, alone, away from everyone else.
If he wants to talk to you about his past or any of his issues, he’ll bring it up. Not necessarily to discuss it, but rather so you can understand where he’s coming from. When that happens, it’s a good sign – it shows that he wants you to be on the same page with him and it shows that he values you as someone in his life that he trusts and lets in.
Guys don’t open up to you and trust you because you bust down their defenses and force them to talk about stuff. If they want to talk about something, if they trust you to not react negatively or selfishly, and if you give them enough space, then they’ll open up to you at their own rate. For some guys, it could take weeks, for others, years.
The important factor here is that you give the guy space. The worst thing you can do is try to bring up heavy negative emotional topics as something to talk about with him… that’s a very quick way to shut him down and trigger his walls. The key is to give him space… step back, leave the issue completely alone, and if he wants to discuss it he’ll come to you with it. You can’t force these things.
Another point on that… I want to make clear that it’s not because he’s emotionally available or guarded. It’s because he’s a guy. Guys don’t like to dive into talking about negative emotions… especially if they think the person they’re talking to is going to have some kind of emotional reaction to what they’re saying. Guys generally avoid emotional conversations at all costs – in fact, a lot of guys would rather be single and alone than have to deal with emotional conversations.
So to make the first major answer explicitly clear: do not talk to him about what you perceive to be his issues, emotional baggage, or your history. Leave it alone. Bringing it up won’t help anything… it will just be you creating a problem when there didn’t need to be and you’ll regret it.
The other side of what I wanted to address (and I actually believe this is your biggest concern) is: How do I make sure my emotions don’t consume me?
Essentially, you don’t want to develop feelings for him again and fall into a torturous unrequited love situation. I hate to say it, but you’re already on the hook with this guy. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have sent your question to me.
Again, my perception is that deep down inside, you want a second chance at love with this guy. You believe that if you can just break through his emotional shell and help him past his issues, he’ll realize what an amazing girl you are and will finally love you back the way you want to be loved.
Fact is, it doesn’t work like that. It comes down to one thing: Does he want you enough… or not?
I know some world-class baggage superstars that immediately get their stuff together when a girl appears that they want a relationship with. It wasn’t that she helped him get over his baggage – it was that he know she wouldn’t put up with that nonsense and, if he wanted to have her, he needed to drop it.
I’m actually floored at the number of women who fall into this trap. They know better, but the moment they think a guy is wounded or has some sort of emotional scar that he needs to get over, all reason goes out the window. In many cases, the guy will explicitly say he can’t be (or doesn’t want to be) in a relationship.
Her best move at that point would be to say, “OK, no relationship with you. Got it.” Like I always say, “When a guy says he doesn’t want a relationship… believe him!!!”
Instead, most women fixate on the hope that if he just didn’t have the emotional wound, everything would somehow work out. His “baggage” isn’t the problem… his lack of interest is.
That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t enjoy sex with you. It doesn’t mean he wouldn’t enjoy your company. It doesn’t mean he dislikes you as a person. It means that, when all is said and done, he’s not interested in having a relationship with you.
In those cases, the only thing that ever changes his mind is if the woman moves on from him completely. I’m talking about in her mind, heart, and soul… not an act to try and get him chasing her.
In the cases where a guy really thinks that a woman will move on if he isn’t going to have the type of relationship she wants, one of two things happens:
1) He realizes that he will lose her if he doesn’t make a decisive move and he locks her down in the relationship she wants… or…
2) He lets her go. This might sound disappointing, but it’s actually a huge relief – you get to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that he was never, ever going to commit to a relationship with you. That’s not a loss… that’s freedom… and you get to save yourself from wasting years of your life on a dead-end.
When you really let this sink in, you will realize that you never have to worry about being swept away by your emotions again. Reason being, you’ll know that things are actually quite simple: either he wants to have the kind of relationship that you want (and so you do, right here, right now) or you don’t (in which case, you move on).
The only way you could possibly have a problem with getting carried away by emotions is if you build up a fantasy future. What I mean is that instead of you looking at your present situation as it is right now, you say, “Well, the situation is like this right now… but if this one thing changed, then it would be great and everything would be how I want it to be.”
In the scenario of building a fantasy future, he’s not giving you false hope… you are… and that means you have the complete power and control to prevent it from happening.
I know it doesn’t always feel this way, but relationships really are simple. The issue that people struggle with is accepting the situation as it actually is and dropping it if it’s not what they really want. Cutting something off is very hard… even when a person knows it’s not working.
The people who ultimately end up in the happiest relationships are the ones that cut off the options that weren’t working to make room for the relationship that really did work in every way that was important to them.
For your situation… if you want to have a friendship with this guy, you have to stop feeding the ideas that you have a relationship with him. If you feel that you have a relationship with him, then don’t call it a friendship.
Hope that’s helpful,