How Do I Convince Him That I’m Not Like His Ex?


I’ve been dating this guy for the past four months. I am 26 and he is 38. We met on Both of us are divorced with no kids. We were both in relationships with someone who treated us like we were worthless. Because of that we both have a hard time trusting that the other isn’t going to be like our ex. I have been divorced for over four years. He, on the other hand, has only been divorced for about nine months. I am his first serious relationship since his divorce. He is not my first serious — I’ve had a couple since my divorce. I am not in this to fall in love and get married right away — I am in this to have a companion. Someone to enjoy spending time with and get to know and see where it might go in a few years.

When our relationship started out, it was great! We enjoyed each other’s company, always laughed, had plenty to talk about. Due to the past couple of relationships I have been in, I took my time to get to know this one. It took me over two months to get comfortable enough with him to feel like he could be someone worth pursuing. But it seemed that as soon as I got on board, he stepped off the boat. He has been distant, doesn’t chat as much, doesn’t come around as much.

We’ve had a couple conversations about it. Each time he says he has hit a brick wall. He’s admitted to being afraid that I am going to turn out like his ex. He wants to go out and do things with his friends and things he enjoys, and he thinks I will be upset about it. I told him as long as he makes time for me too, I am fine with him wanting to have his own life. I told him the other night that if he just doesn’t want to be with me, he needs to tell me and let me go. He said that he wants to be with me, but also wants to be able to do his own thing. So how do I get this guy on board again? How do I prove to him that I am not going to turn out like his ex? And most importantly, how do I trust that he isn’t just dragging me along as just a spare time girl? —Jennifer

I have one overriding dating philosophy: Relationships are easy.

Dear Jennifer,

I have one overriding dating philosophy:

Relationships are easy.

All the people who tell you that relationships are “work” are people who married the wrong people and are justifying their bad decisions.

Sorry to say that, but I believe it to be true. Happy marriages are fun, not work!

That doesn’t mean that every second of the day is heavenly. But it does mean that you should get along with your partner 95% of the time, and the 5% you don’t should be resolved quickly and painlessly.

Sounds to me, 4 months in, that your relationship is a little too much “work” for my taste.

You are the CEO of Jennifer, Inc. and your boyfriend is an intern applying for a job with you.

Case in point: “As soon as I got on board, he stepped off the boat. He has been distant, doesn’t chat as much, doesn’t come around as much.”

Then what’s the point of him, Jennifer?

What’s the point of a boyfriend who is distant, doesn’t call, doesn’t make plans, doesn’t make you feel safe, heard or understood, and generally makes you feel like you’re one more thing he has to deal with?

That’s right. There IS no point.

I’m not sure if you’ve read my materials beyond this blog, but if you had, you would have heard me repeatedly reminding you that you are the CEO of Jennifer, Inc. and your boyfriend is an intern applying for a job with you.

He may have gotten in the door because he’s got a good resume and was a solid interview, but now that he’s been working with you for four months, how is his job performance?

“Each time he says he has hit a brick wall. He’s admitted to being afraid that I am going to turn out like his ex. He wants to go out and do things with his friends and things he enjoys, and he thinks I will be upset about it.”

He may be a good guy, my dear, but he’s a shitty employee.

You need a man who arrives at work early and stays late, all with a big smile on his face.

Unfortunately, you’re acting like the intern, who is just begging for her job: “How do I get this guy on board again? How do I prove to him that I am not going to turn out like his ex?”

You don’t. You’re the CEO. You bloodlessly evaluate his work, not based on his potential, but on his performance. Then you face the facts:

Your intern isn’t cutting it.

It’s time to downsize.

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  1. 1

    Haha, great analogy Evan…
    This man has some serious healing he has to do…and that takes time (I have had a man  who had gone through 2 divorces and saw a  therapist that on average,  it takes a man 3 years to be  ‘ready’ after a divorce).    You’re  a filler girl right now, and I have to agree with Evan, if he’s not adding positively to your life, it’s time to move on.  

    We  often think we’re ready to date after divorce, but often we’re not and often we only know because we’re doing it and it’s not working  for one reason or another.   He probably doesn’t even know all this consciously.   I do give him credit though because he is articulating what he really wants to do, which is have complete freedom to do what he wants to do.     It sounds to me like he’s throwing in the “you’re like my ex” just to ease his conscience.  
    Alternatively, if you’re not in an exclusive relationship (it’s been talked about and agreed upon), then you’re single, and as such can date other men.     That will take care of this pressure both you and he are under.

    Finally, convincing is a horrible position to be in…for the person doing it and the person receiving it.

  2. 2

    That is very good advice.

  3. 3

    Loved this one Evan. 🙂
    It took me an embarassingly long time to understand *good* relationships aren’t hard work – BAD relationships are the ones that feel like hard work.
    Jennifer, since this guy would rather be doing his own thing than be your boyfriend, aren’t you better off doing YOUR own thing and  stay open to finding the guy who does want to be your boyfriend?

  4. 4

    Sounds like he’s making excuses. He wants to do as little as possible to keep getting easy sex and once a week companionship with her. Let him go and find a guy who doesn’t make excuses.

  5. 5

    This is so common. Most relationships don’t make it past the 3 or 4 month mark. Also a big difference between someone who has been divorced for over 4 years, and someone who’s been divorced for 9 months, who was probably married longer, too. In fact, I don’t think the problem is that Jennifer will be like his ex, it’s more that he’s not ready to get serious with anyone yet.
    My advice would be to back way off from this guy – give him plenty of space. He may change his mind, but it needs to be his decision.
    “…you are the CEO of Jennifer, Inc. and your boyfriend is an intern applying for a job with you.”
    Love it, that’s a very empowering way to look at the situation.

  6. 6

    Evan has really hit the nail on the head with this one.   Prior to discovering the “True” professional trainer for women in love, I was always on the fence in this type of situation.   Always trying to be the best girlfriend to a guy.   After reading Evan’s blog, I learned what I was doing wrong.   Evan is right, I am the CEO and was able to weed out which guys are the best for me.   Guess what, Evan’s ideas all have worked for me.   I had a choice of 3 men….wasn’t sure which one to choose… all of evan’s relevant blogs and and his book then made just the right choice.   This man is so wonderful to me!   Thank you so much Evan.   So glad I ordered your book, it has really helped me!   Also happy I took your advice and tried on-line dating.   It really, really works!
    Love the picture of you and your family on facebook.   Seems like only yesterday when you were single….now you are married to a beautiful woman and have very lovely and adorable children.   Wow!   God Bless you and your family!!  
    Jennifer, please exit this relationship.   You will find a good man who will want to do “things” with you not without you!

  7. 7

    100% agree with Evan and Michelle.   This dude is not ready for a relationship.  

  8. 8

    A   lot of people who say relationships take work mean you have to invest in the relationship.   If both of you aren’t investing in the relationship, there won’t be a relationship.   However, if investing in the relationship isn’t an easy and fun thing  but instead feels like a chore – get out.  
    I really enjoy your comments, Evan.   It always seem so clear.  

  9. 9

    Great article and so true!

  10. 10

    The boyfriend and I do our own thing. Girls’ night, boys’ night, ballet, football, but we do make the relationship a prioirity too.   Sometimes it is “work” to make time, but it shouldn’t feel like you’re trying to turn round the reluctant. Good work is helping to look after their sick relative, supporting them in redundancy, picking them   up at the airport at 6am. It’s not about persuading them to see you.
    If you’d been married x years, with kids and some good times behind you, it’s worth trying to salvage.   But not after four months.   You still don’t really know each other but I reckon this is who he is rather than the good prospect at the beginning.
    Evan has got your back.

  11. 11
    Jackie H.

    Hmmm…I do think all relationships take work…I don’t think people can stay together for a lifetime without work…

  12. 12

    Loved the analogy!    Will definitely makes things easier in  the dating world.    Thanks Evan!

  13. 13
    Heather K

    When I read this posting, the age gap also kind of sticks out at me in combination with him being still pretty fresh out of his marriage.   There is nothing wrong with a large age gap in a lot of cases but from what I’ve observed there are a number of men who come out of a serious relationship or marriage and they want to have fun and they typically associate women in their twenties with having fun and someone they don’t have to commit to or be serious about – along with the fact that dating someone so much younger sometimes is an ego boost they can’t pass up on and then when a relationship starts to develop they might back off because there was not much intent to get involved again at this point.   This can happen with men who date women there own age as well – this is not just something exclusive to this kind of age gap, but somehow reading this the ages of the people in question made me go huh.

  14. 14

    This hit the nail for another reason. I just ended a one month thing with someone. They came on super strong for the first 3 dates, then when I said no sex until exclusivity, he backed way away.   We kept seeing each other, but he was treating me worse and worse – calling but not making plans, slotting me into small time slots, and not being even more than kissing with me.   I should have listened to the red flags – Date 1 – talked about work incessantly and when asked how a relationship fit in – continued to talk about work. Date 1 – mentioned that not all women understand his passion for work. Date 2 – when asked about previous relationships mentioned intensity, not duration and could not articulate what he was looking for. Date 3 – mentioned he wanted a partner for when he had extra time. And on date 4, told me he could not give me exclusivity in relation to the sex stuff. I held on for 2 more dates, and on the last one, when I felt like I was begging him to spend more time (not really), I decided enough.   I am good enough to not have to beg.
    I sent him an email ending it stating I wanted more than he could give, and that I wished him well. He sent me some nice platitudes about being great, but certainly let me walk away.
    I feel rejected, even though I was the one to cut it off. But when I move onto the next one, I will know I did the right thing….

  15. 15
    Lauren Smith

    Excellent advice, Evan. It doesn’t sound like this guy is as ready as Jennifer is? I love your take on becoming the CEO of you. That’s a new thought for me!

  16. 16

    Excellent advice and I agree.   If you are with a good person, the relationship will be fun and you will respectfully work thru the issues that arise.   Subscribe to the blog Jennifer. you will learn a lot of good stuff!   =)

  17. 17

    Dear Evan,  
    If there are times when this blog seems like too much trouble, please remember that you never know when you are going to write something that changes everything for someone.  
    I have been doing my personal work for so long trying to learn from my mistakes and learn how to make different choices.   I have been reaching for information and wanting so much to do better.
    I read this post and found it good like so many other things you have written here.   I nodded to myself in agreement, but it really hadn’t sunk in yet.   I read the comments.   I read Selena’s and thought “Yeah, me too!” I read Justme and marymary, then Jackie H… But it wasn’t until I started writing a comment that your words started to sink in on a deeper level.  
    With all that I have read and learned here, I couldn’t understand why I still had such resistance to having a relationship.   I kept saying to myself someday I’ll be ready to have a relationship.   I have been so frustrated with myself.    I devour everything you write, I read other books on relationships, I have worked so hard at trying to see where my blind spots are and still I could not move forward.
    When I read your reply to Jennifer, I thought that I “got’ it, I really did.   When I read Jackie’s comment I wanted to write and say “NO – relationships do NOT have to be hard work”   But I realized that I didn’t believe that, I wanted to, I really wanted to, but the belief that “relationships are hard” has been my belief… ALL MY LIFE.
    I believed that relationships were work, work, work.   I could see that there were many good things about having a man in my life but truly I just wasn’t up for all that work.   It’s not that I thought that *men* were troublesome or difficult but RELATIONSHIPS inherently were. No matter how lonely I have felt, no matter how much I miss being touched and held, no matter how much I want to have someone in my life, I just couldn’t face a lifetime of endless work.
    Because I read this blog, I can finally see that block, that enormous wall that has been sitting there forever, blocking so much potential happiness.   And here’s the thing – it is not that I didn’t know that belief was there… I just didn’t know it was a LIE.   When I finally got that, I started to cry.   I deleted what I had written and wrote this, crying so hard that at times I couldn’t see they keys to type.  
      Thank you Evan, Thank you so much.

    1. 17.1

      Thank you for writing your comment. You made me realize that I unconsciously believed that relationships were hard work (probably from watching my parents’ strained marriage.) I really haven’t dated much, due in part to this mistaken belief. I also like the distinction that JustMe made between investing in a relationship and working at it. When I think of my dearest friends, it is clear that we invest in our friendship, but I wouldn’t say that we have to work at it. You have really helped me identify one of the fears that has kept me away from the dating world for so long. Thanks Evan, and thank you everyone else for your comments.

  18. 18
    Valley Forge Lady

    The guy is doing to you what he pulled in his marriage and he is not interested in changing.
    This is not the last man on earth!
    I spent years trying to change men like this and it was a total waste of time.
    I am now with a great guy who can’t stand to be away from me and gives all that I want emotionally and then some.
    This guy does not have it, does not want it, and is not really looking for it.
    His wife threw in the towel for a good reason.   You should do the same.
    Yes, there are guys out here who are licking their wounds from a bad deal and they want something better.     They are willing to make the effort.   Find one and show showe appreciation…..     The right guy will not let you go!

  19. 20

    Wow, Lia. What a brave and honest comment. Thank you so much for sharing, it really hit home with me. “You never know when you are going to write something that changes everything for someone”. Right back at ya 🙂

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