Dear Miss Lonely Hearts,
I dated a girl from Reed all of last year. Over the summer, I found out she was taking the fall semester off. We decided to end things because the long distance was really hard. I've been at Reed this past semester and I've been doing really well. I've moved on and I haven't spoken to my ex since we broke up over the summer. But she's back this semester and I've heard from mutual = friends that she wants to talk to me. I don't really want to have this conversation. I know she still likes me and I'm just not a confrontational person. I see her a lot in the halls and around campus, but I've been trying to avoid her. I can't keep this up all year, so how do I make it clear to this person that I don't want to rekindle our old relationship?
The Anxious Dodger
Dear Anxious Dodger,
You’re probably not going to like my answer, but at the same time I think you know that it’s not right to avoid somebody for the rest of your time at Reed. It’d be one thing if we went to a huge public college, but we don’t. That being said, even if this was Portland State and you could avoid your ex, you shouldn’t. Although it seems like you both agreed that long distance was too difficult and had a mutual breakup, it’s obvious that you two are in very different places. Imagine coming back to Reed after eight months—not so easy. Now imagine that the last time you were on campus you were in a relationship, and now you aren’t and are also being avoided. It’s hard enough taking leave without having to worry about where you stand with your ex when you return. So before you make any decisions about your ex, put yourself in her shoes. She deserves some empathy on your part.
You have more information than I do, so let’s assume that you’re right about her wanting to rekindle your old relationship. Even if she wants to talk in order to get back together, I’m also guessing that she’s looking for closure, especially if she’s realized that you’re avoiding her. Because a relationship is out of the question for you, you owe her closure even if she’s not looking for it. You are by no means obligated to date somebody because they’re having a hard time, but you are obligated to be a decent human being. That means talking to your ex in person (even if it’s only for 15 minutes in a coffee shop), letting her know that getting back together isn’t an option, and wishing her the best. You don’t have to be friends, but you do owe her a real explanation. I hate confrontation too, but ultimately you’ll save yourself a lot of time and you’ll save her a lot of confusion if you simply tell her that you’re not interested. While it might seem clear to you that avoiding her means you’re not interested, the person being avoided often takes a long time to catch on. After all, we’re not mind readers. So expedite the process and just tell her that your feelings have changed.
It’s understandable if you’re worried about being so blunt, especially in person. Even if it’s painful for her to hear that you’re not interested, you’ll cause her more pain if you lead her on for months. And if she cries or insists on getting back together, keep in mind that you’ll only be ruining one day of your life rather than months of her’s. When she hears that you’re not interested, it will allow her to move on and to jump back into life at Reed. If she gets that information from a mutual friend or a text, it won’t seem as real, and it’s less likely that she’ll lose interest. The semester has started, so it’s time to rip off the bandaid. Call your ex, set up a time, and let her know what you want. You’ll walk away from your coffee date knowing that she’s better off. Who knows, you might find out that she changed just as much over the summer and past semester. You could even become friends. No matter what, you won’t have to avoid her, which will make the rest of your time at Reed infinitely more pleasant.
Miss Lonely Hearts