Style Sex & Relationships

Thursday 17 October 2019

Dear Mary: I'd like to stay friends with ex but he wants a relationship only

Illustration: Tom Halliday
Illustration: Tom Halliday

Mary O’Conor

People often look for advice on how to get over someone but I have the opposite problem: I'm not sure what to do about someone getting over me.

We met at an overseas event we were both working at and we quickly became friends. We would spend practically the whole day together with friends who were also working at the event. But towards the end, everything started to change. Before coming over, I was with someone but was having my doubts about the relationship.

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One night, as we were walking back to where we were staying, we started having deep conversations about each other's lives. I knew what was coming but I didn't stop it. We ended up kissing and saying we would try to have something between us for the rest of the time before we went back to our respective countries - me to Ireland and him to England.

I was okay with the whole thing at first but I quickly realised that he had fallen head over heels in love with me. He became very clingy and would try to go everywhere with me. I remember one night when a group of us were out at a club, I went to the Gents to try and get away from everyone and he decided to go to the bathroom too. I got very uncomfortable and decided to break off our romantic arrangement. He didn't take it too well and left the club soon after. The day after that, however, when we could both think a little clearer, we agreed to remain friends.

When we got back home, we kept in touch a lot but we always ended up talking about past events in one way or another. I also broke up with the person I was seeing before I went overseas and had started dating someone else. One day, my friend decided to visit Dublin, as he had never been to Ireland before, and I decided to show him around. We had a great time but I got the feeling that he was holding something back. Before I got on the train back home, he gave me a letter in which he said that he is still very much in love with me and that he was leaving it up to me to decide whether we wanted to remain friends or not, but he respected my decision either way. I contacted him later that evening saying that I still wanted to be friends, even if we can't be in a relationship. He never replied.

In the last while, I've noticed a few things he has posted about me online, without explicitly mentioning my name in any of it. He would post things like "I hope this person gets in contact with me soon", or "Throwback to when a person did this thing with me" or put up photos and tag everyone else in them except me. When it was his birthday, he replied to every single birthday message that people had sent him online, except for mine. He even wrote a blog post about his experiences at the event we were at but he failed to include my name in his story.

I am at a loss at what to do here. I still do value our friendship but I feel like he is making me feel guilty about not being with him. I also think that if I was to get in contact with him again, he would just accuse me of being insensitive and uncaring about his feelings. I have been in his position as well, so I can understand what he's going through. Can I do anything to help him through this or is it a case of him liking me too much to just be friends?

You obviously care very deeply about this guy but for various reasons you have decided that continuing to have a romantic relationship is not for you. You gave it your best shot, and even when he came to Ireland you went out of your way to welcome him and show him a bit of Irish life. The actual relationship between the two of you began to break down when you felt that he was becoming too dependent on you.

That hindered a fully successful equal partnership from developing and I can understand your feelings of almost suffocation when he decided he wanted to go to the bathroom at the same time as you.

The problem now seems to be that he still held out some hope of having you in his life as a partner - and when you explained that it was just going to be friends he wasn't able to do that.

So he has more or less cut you out of his life, and that is his way of dealing with his emotions. 'Out of sight, out of mind' is obviously the mantra he is using in order to help himself get on with his life.

He gave it one last try with the visit to Ireland and the letter but that didn't work out the way he wanted it to.

It is interesting how different people react to break-ups. If a relationship runs its course and the couple decide that the end has come they are much more likely to remain friends but you actually broke up with him so he was hurt.

It is also interesting that same-sex relationships such as yours suffer every bit as much emotionally as heterosexual couples, a fact which I think is sometimes overlooked.

I don't see that there is anything that you can do now, other than accept that it is over and the possibility of remaining just friends doesn't seem to be an option.


You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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