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My ex-boyfriend and I had a difficult break-up. We haven't talked much since but I recently got a message from him about how he can't even enjoy watching TV shows anymore because this is something we used to do together. I assume he is still having a hard time... I haven't responded to him yet because I don't know what to say. If I said I understood, I would be lying because I'm not going through the same emotions (though it hurts to know he's suffering if he still is), but I don't like ignoring him either. (I'm guilty of not responding to him right away thinking it would be more painful if I kept in touch).

On top of that, his parents are visiting from the United States and they want to see me. I'm planning on meeting them and I'm looking forward to it. His parents have been really nice to me in the past and I do appreciate and respect them a lot. They are discreet and private people and I don't think they will ask me questions which might put me on the spot (e.g what happened with my boyfriend or if I am single). Americans are different in that they aren't as involved in their adult children's lives compared to parents from the Mediterranean region, which I hate.

However, I do want to ask about my ex, how he is actually doing/feeling and I am not sure if I should. If I don't ask at all, I'll feel like a jerk. If I do ask, I might feel I have to explain to them why I ended the relationship (though I'm sure they are aware of problems with my boyfriend) and I don't want to sound apologetic. For some reason I feel I should say something.

How can I show I still care about my ex, how he is actually/honestly doing/feeling? (e.g. Is it weird to ask if he's over the relationship?)

If I do ask and all I get is, "he's doing fine" (ex is living with his parents now), should I insist on knowing how he is really feeling and what's the best way to do that?

  • You say you are in the US, but if there is any specific cultural influence, you might mention that. Parental roles can vary. – user3169 Sep 30 '17 at 6:19
  • @user3169 No, all the parties involved are American even though I am not currently in the US. – Tycho's Nose Sep 30 '17 at 7:29
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    Messages like the one you received from him are meant to be emotionally manipulative. It's good that you're not answering them. Try not to feel too guilty about the whole thing, and remember that you had good reasons for leaving. – AndreiROM Nov 1 '17 at 17:27
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    You hate that American parents aren't as involved in their adult children's lives, or you hate that Mediterranean parents are as involved as they are? – PoloHoleSet Dec 14 '17 at 15:07
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    @PoloHoleSet I'm glad you caught that. I initially meant to say that I hate that Mediterranean parents are sometimes too involved but in some cases not being very involved might have negative consequences as well. – Tycho's Nose Dec 22 '17 at 6:46
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If I don't ask at all, I'll feel like a jerk. If I do ask, I might feel I have to explain to them why I ended the relationship (though I'm sure they are aware of problems with my boyfriend)...

It's polite and kind to ask about someone's loved ones when having an extended conversation. It's not a lie that you're sad that he's suffering. But it's not like you're the only one involved in the end of the relationship (people who are very happy together don't break up), and if the parents already know there was trouble, you may not need to say much more.

If they treated you well in the past, they will probably continue to do so. So, out of kindness and respect for them, ask how their son is doing. If they say, "Fine", answer that you're glad to hear that, and drop it there. If they say, "He's having a hard time," say, "I'm sorry to hear that. I suspected he might be." Because you really aren't happy that he's struggling, are you? (If you are, that's a different matter, and you shouldn't ask in that case. But I'm pretty sure that's not the case.)

should I insist on knowing how he is really feeling and what's the best way to do that?

No. What right do you have to that information? Your relationship is over. That's a personal matter. If you ask that, they have every reason to ask you why you broke up, another personal matter.

You don't have to feel apologetic about ending a relationship that wasn't working out. But you can still feel sad that someone is hurting. Someone the parents love is hurting. Kindness is called for.

If it were me - which I can't imagine (meeting my ex's family), but anyway - and the parents did ask me why we broke up, I would give a short explanation. They have gotten details from your ex. They might want to hear your side. Unless it's intensely personal, I would answer. If it's intensely personal, I would say that. But that's me.

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I apologize if I'm reading too much into this, but it sounds to me like a big motivation for asking is because you feel guilty about causing him pain. If that's the case, instead of asking questions to indirectly show you are concerned for his well-being, just tell them.

I hope John is doing alright. I know he took the breakup hard, so I've been trying to give him space, but I do hope he's okay.

Edit as you feel appropriate, but I would keep it short or else they might think you want to get into a discussion about the breakup.

If they think it is appropriate to tell you anything more, they will. If they give you a generic response, drop the subject. You're not dating anymore, so you can't expect to get that sort of personal information now. Insisting on "no, how is he really feeling?" is inappropriate, and will seem like you are prying or are still interested.

It's normal to wonder how someone is doing that you used to be very close to, and it's normal to feel bad that you caused pain to them, but that's something to work out on your own or with your own friends and family, not his parents. As much as they like you, they're still seeing the situation from his side.

(I won't guess whether or not they want you two to get back together, you would know best. I've talked to an ex's parents after a breakup without any "pressure". But, the only time I brought up their son was when he texted that he was in a car accident and appeared to have forgotten we broke up..)

If you really do want information about him, it would be better to ask a trusted mutual friend. I've done this before when I was close friends with my ex's roommate. If you do ask, make it an open-ended question: "Have you hung out with ex lately? How is he doing?" as you would with any mutual friend you haven't seen in a while.

3

TL;DR No, you probably shouldn't ask, and if you do ask don't press the issue.

Unless you're hoping to rekindle this relationship it would probably be best to leave it be. Asking his parents about him, in anything more than a passing way, may be perceived as a signal that you would like to resume the relationship. If they read your question that way, you can be sure that someone will say something to the ex eventually, particularly if the parents like you.

In cases where an ex is having a hard time getting over you, it's usually better to give them the time and space to heal. There's likely nothing you can really do to facilitate that process, and a lot you could do to harm it. Best to leave it be...

I've been contacted by my various exes' parents after a few bad breakups. Usually when they've asked about the relationship they were either digging for gossip or hoping that the relationship could be reconciled. In both cases I found it better to give very bland, non-committal answers.

Sometimes things just don't work out.

It's ok to be curious or concerned about your ex, but don't pry. Especially not with his parents. He's likely to hear about it, and his reactions probably won't be good for him or for you. He'll likely think you want to reconcile or that you've crossed boundaries. Either way it will slow his recovery.

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Are you so close to them that they would visit you just socially, or is it likely that this visit may have to do with their son? Here are some thoughts that apply in either case.

Asking casually about your ex, as in "how is your son?", would be indelicate in the circumstances (you, him, his parents are not in a casual context). Asking about him without pretending to be casual/unconcerned would be interpreted as wanting to rekindle the relationship. If you want information, it is best to ask someone else.

But you can, and perhaps should, tell your ex's parents, early during their visit (on the first opportunity for quiet conversation) that you are sorry the breakup was so painful for both of you, but that it had to be. This way you make it clear that you have no intention of renewing the relationship. You can then go on to say you are sorry for the pain it must have caused them too, indirectly, how much you value their kindness to you, in the past and in the present. Independently of your original purpose, to find out about your ex-boyfriend, you need to also establish a new basis for your relationship with the parents.

Then you may say that you hope one day to hear from them that he is well. This is their cue. Of course you should not press if they don't take it.

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