Dee has been yo-yoing back and forth for eighteen months after her seven month relationship ended. Since he broke up with her, he’s been saying “I miss you!”, “I hate being without you!”, “I can’t believe I let you slip away!”, “We’ll be together one day…”, and “It hurts so much being apart.” When she told me it had been going on for all of this time, I was curious about what was ‘preventing’ them from being together – he’s had a couple of girlfriends, various flings, and when they have briefly gotten back together, it’s barely lasted a few weeks at a time. Yet she says that she ‘can’t’ let go and finds it near impossible to move on, not least because each time she attempts to, he’s back talking out of his bottom again and making claims and declarations he can’t deliver on, including marriage, babies, and… paying her back the money he owes.
Here’s the thing: How much can someone truly miss you or want you back or whatever, if 18 months has gone by while they’ve been saying it?
What kind of situation could someone possibly be in, that from the moment they’ve uttered the “I miss you”, “I love you” and “Nobody’s ever going to be able to do you like I did” (I kid you not) sentiments, that they haven’t been able to close the gap between missing you and being back together?
It’s important to understand what missing someone actually means: It’s recognition of the absence of you from their lives, whether it’s as a result of something positive such as you being away on a trip or being unable to spend as much time together as they or you would both like, or the result of loss, which may have come about through a falling out, moving away…or a breakup, which incidentally they may have been the driver of.
When someone misses you, it can also be an expression of sadness and regret because they no longer get to enjoy you in their lives, whether that’s by your choice…or theirs. They may think of you fondly and wish they had another chance to have you around again, and let’s be real, if they’re somewhat of a navel gazer, it won’t be about reuniting in a mutual capacity, and it’ll be more about missing the things that helped them enjoy you on their terms.
Now you know, I can understand when you’re thousands of miles apart due to work or a family situation, or you’re both expressing that you miss one another, but also reminding yourselves of why you’re apart and heeding and respecting that decision. What genuinely mystifies me, is how someone can bleat about how much they miss you, when they sit across the office from you day after day, week after week, or you live in the same area / post code or city, or there is no real obstacle to being around you…other than themselves?
I should also point out that really, even in the situation where you know it’s right to be apart, telling each other you miss one another beyond a short period of time, is just mind effery that prevents each of you from moving on and being able to fully honour your emotional commitments elsewhere. How comfortable would you be if you discovered that each time your partner speaks with their ex, they’re saying “I miss you” as if they’re being thwarted by dark relationship forces?
Just like after a breakup, when that bog standard line of “Let’s stay friends” gets trotted out, saying “I miss you” has become the currency of those who talk a good game but haven’t got much else going on.
Saying “I miss you” or something similar to that effect is also one of the easiest ways to mess with somebody’s head and keep a foothold in their life without staking yourself to something you might be called on later to deliver on. It’s vague and it’s an expression of sadness and regret, but it’s not really saying anything and it’s definitely not a commitment of any sort – this is a bit like when someone says “sorry” without really knowing what they’re sorry about or having no true regret.
“But you said you missed me!” you say angrily after building your hopes up and possibly dropping your underwear.
“I did say I miss you. I do miss you but my situation hasn’t changed. I thought you understood that….”they say while avoiding looking you in the eye.
“You’ve led me on!”
“Er hold on a second here! I never said that we were getting back together!” And….bingo.
Someone missing you is not equivalent to wanting to be with you or wanting to get back together. If they truly want to be with you, you’ll know you’re getting back together without having to be sold pipe dreams or dropping your pants.
They may want to be with you again to enjoy the presence of you in their lives, to reconnect, and to assuage what may be some of their guilt. In fact, let’s be real – you responding to their “I miss you’s” lets them mentally tick their standby list as confirmation that you’re still an option, plus it relieves that fear of the medium to long-term regret that they think may arise from a ‘mistake’.
You may have convinced yourself that it’s just a matter of time, or an obstacle in the form of another person or ‘situation’, or are even blaming yourself for not being ‘enough’, but the truth is that they may miss you, but they don’t miss you that much that they’d put their action where their mouth is.
They are the obstacle. It’s not about you.
“I miss you” is just something that they say and mean to an extent…just as long as you’re not expecting them to follow through on it. It’s also fair to say that it’s a pacifying statement – I receive thousands of emails from people who are still emotionally invested, clinging to the dream, and often laying out an ego stroke, shag, a shoulder to lean on or even money, for someone who misses them so much, they’re never able to do anything on a medium to long-term basis to solve the issue. YEAH, that’s really what being missed looks like.
Some people like to stay missing you – it’s No Man’s Land where they can sit on the fence uncommitted.
They can go “Poor, poor me, they’re gone, wah wah wah…” which in their eyes is a legitimate reason to ‘check in’ with you (read: disrupt your life) and talk about the pipe dream from time to time, and on the flip side, they can miss you, but they can quietly, and sometimes loudly, come up with ‘objections’ for not resolving the situation, or back-peddle when you buy into their sentiments.
It’s like ‘missing’ you gives them a claim on you that they don’t even value.
If someone misses you, but they’re not backing it up with solid, consistent, lasting action that takes it from missing you to being with you, it’s time for them to jog on. They can keep missing you from afar while you get on with your life.
If you’d like to move on from a boomeranging ex, check out my book and ebook Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, as well as others in my bookshop.