Dr. Love,Did I give up too soon?I am a fairly recently divorced woman (one and half years) getting back into dating. The last gentleman I dated was wonderful!! He was intelligent, caring, kind, fun, responsible, liked my son, simply everything I could have asked for in a relationship.After 2 months, he said he wanted to date me exclusively (this was after he met my son, at his request). I agreed. During the next few months, he discussed putting an extra story on his house (I never brought up the subject of us moving in together), going to see my parents in another state, and spending the holiday season (several months away) together.I smiled, and made plans with him, but never got pushy or clingy, kept up my friends and outside interests and let him know that he was very, very important in my life. After 4 months of dating exclusively, he decided that he enjoyed his solitude too much, that at 37 (never married, longest relationship 6 mos and no roommates for 8 years) the thought of an ‘instant family’ was a bit overwhelming.Well, I had kept meetings with my son light and pressure-free, and we had never talked about marriage. We hadn’t even said we loved each other yet!! Well, when he said that (after being distant for a couple of weeks, I had asked him about it), I just said, oh well.I can’t change him or his opinion, no amount of begging or pleading on my part is going to make a college professor who has never had a real long-term relationship change his spots – right?After 1 week, he called me up, and asked me out again. I told him, that he just gets a good-night kiss at the door if we’re not in a serious relationship any more, and he replies, ‘Well you didn’t seem too upset about it’. Huh????I cried over this breakup. I could see us together for a very, very long time in the future. I could see him as father to my son. We were making plans for a very long time (months!) in the future. But I wasn’t going to push where I didn’t think I was wanted. Did he expect me to chase him?I called him just as much as he called me. I took him out just as often as he took me out. In fact, those last few weeks, I was the one initiating everything, that ‘s why I asked him about the distance I felt between us.I just want to know if I gave up too fast. I had felt him pulling away, and when he presented his problem (the instant family issue) I knew that was non-negotiable. I have a child, and if he wants me, my son comes with me. I’m not going to push myself or my son where I think we’re not wanted. Was there a better way to have handled this?I still miss him, but I’m accepting dates from others who ask me out. He’s still calling or e-mailing about once a week. And each time hurts worse than the last. Because I think about all the ‘could haves, would haves, should haves’ about this relationship, and even he admits that we made ‘a great team’, but he’s not ready for the final commitment. Not that I remember ever discussing marriage, or bringing it up. It was wayyy too soon in the relationship for that.I just don’t know if I should have done anything differently. Are there any warning signs I should looked for that I just didn’t pick up? (other than the obvious – 37 yrs old, and no long-term relationships) I was very careful, moved very slowly, protected my emotions and my son’s (he remembers the dog more than the man), didn’t build my entire life around him.What went wrong?Nothing about me changed while we were together. He knew right from the beginning that I had a child. How can I keep this from happening again? Thanks!! Reentry Blues
You did absolutely nothing wrong. I am afraid you were on the receiving end of a set-up that he may not have been fully conscious of arranging. This man moved with lightning speed, then became scared and pulled back.You respected his need for more space, and took your distance. Then, he points the finger at you and says that you accepted the break-up. What happened here?It sounds to me like this man had an unspoken fantasy. That when he broke up with you that you would chase after him and declare your total love. Unfortunately, you aren’t a mind reader! A person who runs a number like this is not ready for a relationship.He is too terrified of being abandoned or rejected, which led him to reject you first. This was his way of testing your love. (Do you love him enough to chase him?)Since you didn’t realize that there was a hidden agenda going on, you took him at face value, which made him feel rejected. Then, he felt justified in letting the relationship go. What a number he ran on you!I hope you see that did nothing wrong here. The only thing that you can learn from this is that you need to be wary of becoming involved with someone who is older and has never married. You need to be concerned that he will become terrified and run for the hills.Realize that even if you had been aware of this dynamic and had slowed the relationship, you wouldn’t have saved the relationship. If you had pulled back earlier, he would have felt rejected by you sooner rather than later. So basically you were in a no win situation.Next time that you date someone, listen to your warning vibes and start asking questions.For example, with this man you might have said, ‘You know that I care for you and am glad to see our relationship progress. I notice that you are moving quickly here, by building an addition, and I am wondering if you are going to get cold feet?’Good luck to you. You sound lovely and insightful. Trust your instincts and go with them and you should be fine.