Dear Dr. LoveMy relationship of 9 months recently ended because my ex-boyfriend admitted to not loving me, though he liked me a lot and wanted to continue dating me.He also said he was pretty sure I wasn’t his life partner. We had been having relationship talks for the past 2 months because on Valentine’s Day I was upset at him for falling asleep after dinner, when I was looking for a bit of ‘romance’. Once he woke up we talked about it & I forgave him. . but that night I kept having a lot of anxiety.So the next morning, I told him how I am nervous about our relationship and was unsure. That though I am nervous at the idea of a committed relationship I would only date someone that I felt ‘may’ have the ‘potential’ for a long-term committment, since I am 29 and would like to settle down in the next 3-4 years.He was very sad ’cause he thought I was about to dump him. I told him that ‘no, I just want to see that we are on the same page as far as what we thought about dating & relationship. I love you and don’t want this to end. I just wanted to express my feelings and see how you felt about our relationship.’My Ex told me that that conversation really ‘changed’ things for him ’cause he wasn’t thinking that seriously, though he did think I had potential up to that point. . he suddenly felt a pressure to ‘know’ if I was ‘the one’ or not. I tried repeatedly to reword my previous statements, that I didn’t need to ‘know’ he could marry me. . but I needed to know he saw a ‘potential’ otherwise I felt like we were both wasting our times.After Valentine’s he needed a lot of space (we saw each other only when he felt up to it) and said he constantly felt like he was on eggshells around me ’cause he did not want to upset me. But at the same time he said I made him really happy & he thought I was great but he felt he wanted a ‘serious dating’ relationship and wasn’t sure if we were compatible because I needed more attention and time than he felt comfortable giving.Strangely, before Valentine’s we were spending a good amount of time together in my eyes. I was hurt for feeling constantly rejected because of the little time we were spending and also feeling angry that my needs weren’t being met. But I knew he needed space so I gave it to him for a while. . but I felt 2 months was more than enough.So this past week when I asked to spend some more time with him & he still felt uncomfortable, I asked him ‘why’ and he said he felt badly ’cause I always ‘gave’ love in this relationship & he never did anything & didn’t feel a need to do anything for me lately & he had to ask himself why that was. This led him to realize that he did not think I was ‘the one’ and he didn’t love me.He said he lacked a spiritual connection with me, but he still liked me a lot & would be ok with ‘serious dating’, but knew that I wanted more & that by continuing this I was settling and I shouldn’t ’cause I could find someone that could satisfy my needs better than him. This prompted me to bring up the topic of breaking up (which I have brought up in the past 2 months a few times ’cause he was say these things & then say ‘he still saw hope’).But this time he claimed he was ‘sure’ that things would not change. . so I said I thought that meant things were over between us. I clarified that this was not what I wanted but I could not keep my dignity and self-respect staying with a man that did not want to make me happy and saw no future for us.What I am thinking now is: did I bring up the serious talk too soon? When is a good time during dating to talk about your future hopes, while clearly stating they were just ‘hopes’ and you weren’t asking for a proposal within the next year. I also felt hurt that after 9 months with me he never felt love for me. . was I expecting too much?Also, my family feels that I was impatient with giving him ‘distance’ and that if I just waited he would’ve come around and things would have worked. I’m not sure if that is true. In all honesty I think things could have worked out if Valentine’s day never happened, but it did.I still love my ex very much & really think that we may be right for each other. But he is convinced we aren’t. Is there anything I can do to try to work this out without losing my dignity?I want to be happy and not ‘right’. He seems to feel what we did was ‘right’. . but I am not happy.
You have given me a clear picture of what went wrong. Here’s my understanding of what happened.All the problems erupted on Valentine’s Day when he fell asleep when you wanted romance. You said that this incident triggered a great deal of anxiety in you and that the following morning you began questioning him as to his intentions for the future of your relationship. He started to pull away after that and eventually your worst fear came true when he ended the relationship.What struck me in reading your letter was the following sentence, ‘Though I am nervous at the idea of a committed relationship I would only date someone that I felt ‘may’ have the ‘potential’ for a long-term commitment. ‘ What I read in this sentence was your own ambivalence about having a committed relationship.If you study your ambivalence, I suspect that you will find that you have a fear of abandonment. This would explain why you became so panicky when he fell asleep–because your unconscious mind assumed that he was pulling away from you. In your terror, you launched into a discussion aimed at getting reassurance that he would commit to you in order to ease your abandonment fears.I think that this discussion backfired because his own terror of being smothered was activated when he felt pressed to talk about your future. The way he expressed his terror was by backing away. The space he then demanded intensified your abandonment terror and since you didn’t want to humiliate yourself by begging for more attention, you began speaking about breaking up.His fear of being abandoned then led him to break up with you before you could dump him. In other words, the two of you are struggling with the same issue. You can certainly talk with him from this new perspective and see if he’s open to giving the relationship another shot. I hope that he does.In either event, you can learn from this experience that you have abandonment issues that need addressing. You also will benefit by becoming aware that your urge to pin a guy down in order to assuage your abandonment fear can backfire if you’re dating a guy who has his own fear of intimacy and commitment.