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

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 🙂

  20. 21

    This guy seems to be telling you what the truth is, in his own confused, post-divorce way:  He likes you, but he isn’t over his ex in a way that would allow him to have a healthy relationship with you.  It also seems that he made it pretty obvious that he was happy with casual, and is probably aware he is on the rebound.  
    You changed the game a bit by asking for a serious relationship, and I’ve been in that rebound place before.  You think you should want it, but it’s hard to be outside yourself enough to know you aren’t ready.
    He’s not ready.

  21. 22

    Evan, I just wanted to take a break from lurking and say hello. I found your blog last year through a Google search (very nice SEO, btw). At the time, I was deciding whether to continue a year-long relationship that had turned into a lot of work and not much joy. Your writing helped clarify my thinking, and I ended things soon after that. It was a very good decision. Not long after that, I met the person I plan to marry.
    Thank you for your good advice – especially this specific advice that helped me make an important decision at just the right time. I appreciate all the work you put into this blog, and I wish you much success.

  22. 23

    The debate whether the guy is ready or isn’t ready is pointless.  That has nothing to do with it. He isn’t into the OP enough  to take things to the next step. When a guy meets someone that he wants to advance things with, he does it.
    I believe he has grown fond of her and doesn’t want to hurt her. So this is his way of saying “its me, not you” in a different language. Anytime I was with a woman who wanted things to progress and I did not, I always trotted out the “not over my ex” or “”I have trouble trusting” excuse. 
    A hundred bucks that if a Victoria Secret model wanted to get serious with him, that brick wall he keeps hitting would disappear overnight. Move on OP. I think he enjoyed his time with you. But I bet you had an expiration date from the very beginning.

  23. 24

    Wow, I love your advice here Evan, it really illustrates the point very well (in my humble opinion, ofcourse) 🙂

  24. 25

    Can I give you a cyber-hug?  About 11 years ago I was reading a forum for people in troubled relationships when I read a post by a woman who wrote: ” I wish this myth that good relationships take hard work would die! GOOD relationships aren’t hard work. BAD relationships are hard work!”  She got some positive feedback on that and it really made me think. The relationship/work ethic was so ingrained from what I’d ever heard/read I thought it was simply a given in life. The notion that a relationship shouldn’t be considered “work” was alien.  To think otherwise, goes against the protestant (pick your ethnic, religious backround) ethic  doesn’t it? The idea that anything worth having one must work for? Work meaning struggle, sacrifice, enduring unpleansantness as part and parcel.  The idea a good relationship need not be such a struggle seemed almost fantasy to me back then. Yet, I knew people who didn’t seem to struggle…So was there something to this idea?
    A couple years later on the same forum I posed a discussion question: We have all heard the phrase “Relationships are hard work.” What does that mean to you?
    Some of the reponses involved communication – a difficulty in the partners communicating what they wanted, or needed from each other – trying to work through that. Some answered in terms of family involvement – getting along with the inlaws; working through childrearing differences, step-parenting. For some it was dealing with disparate sex drives and dips, and total lack of interest.
    The main, if I can call it a consensus,  was that most who responded to the question said they believed the “work” of being in a relationship was staying together. Not giving up. Some wrote of weathering “bad patches”. Some didn’t. Willingness to stay was the work. Willingness to stay no matter what? Was where my thoughts went. And was that a good thing really…for either person?
    So when EMK wrote on this post: “All the people who tell you that relationships are “work” are people who married the wrong people and are justifying their bad decisions. ”  It resonated with me.
     I feel fortunate to know many couples, some very long married couples, who still after X many years, even over half a century, still enjoy each other’s company. And…well I also know some who really don’t seem to, or even make it obvious they do not. But they will stay together until one dies anyway. Perhaps they are getting satisfaction out of doing the work. Or maybe they were never exposed to the idea that good relationships are not such hard work?  I find comfort in knowing I live in a time where people can consider this.

  25. 26

    Thank you!

  26. 27

    @John23 He is not that into her, but you can’t know why. He might actually be considerate and thoughtful and know he is not ready for an LTR. I had a dating experience where she was model gorgeous, much younger, and the best dating partner I ever had had.  She made it so easy;  was responsive to my communications, made it clear she was into me, and very accepting of me and easy to get along with. She said yes when I asked her to do something, or asked for a raincheck if she couldn’t work the timing. When she had needs or wanted me to do something a little differently she asked with gentleness and negotiated when we needed to. She was really together in her life and had accomplished much starting from nothing. So why wasn’t she taken already?  Full time single mom with a full time job and a major shy streak. We had similar values and goals.

    I never became very excited about the relationship and ended it after a few months. I was not ready. You can’t know anything about Jennifer’s bf except that he isn’t into her as an LTR.

    My easy dating experience taught me the lesson in this blog post. Prior to that I was smitten by a woman, and we dated some, but mostly I was trying to win her. I enjoyed her company and she enjoyed mine, but she wasn’t into being in a relationship with me (from her later dating patterns I think she wasn’t into being in a relationship at all, but that is a moot point. The reason doesn’t matter). That experience was work for me. After the contrast of seeing how easy dating can be, I learned that putting energy into chasing chasing chasing is a waste of effort. Yes, I put energy into dating and going out of your way to spend time do things to make her happy, and I did it joyfully not because I was trying to convince someone.  When “convince” becomes part of what you are doing, it is time to cut your losses. They will either come around on their own or they won’t.

    Something like mirroring works well for men too; if a woman doesn’t call you/email you back in a day or so,  at least with a “I’m busy right now, but do want to talk to you later” maybe try once more, but then cut your losses and move on. She might be busy and gets back to you in a week with an explanation, but there is nothing to be gained by reaching out over and over. Next! Women, if you find yourself not wanting to reply to man, and don’t value his potential enough to even dash off a quick text that you will get back to him, then you should say next too.  You should want to respond to him. If it isn’t easy and natural for you, move onto the next man or take a break from dating. 

    After seeing the difference between working to date someone and easy to date, (and becoming ready myself) I returned to dating. I quickly went through about 2 dozen women I wasn’t into or they weren’t into me and then I met my wife.

  27. 28

    Thank you for the cyber-hug!  You wrote, (quoting another woman) “ I wish this myth that good relationships take hard work would die!”  Today for me it did.  I feel euphoric… after the crying and crying until I didn’t think there was any tears left.  Relationships are easy.  I just keep saying it over and over.  I have hope, I feel renewed!

    1. 28.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Lia, are you in FOCUS Coaching? If not, you should be. Would love to see you there:

  28. 29

    I don’t think it’s necessarily true that he’s just not that into her and he’d step up if someone hotter/better came along.  I expect that he’s given as much as he is capable of, ie not much.  If she’s a victoria’s secret model then he might burn brighter a bit longer before fizzling out, that’s all.  I know someone who has had three wives and numerous other relationships and is still looking for the perfect woman.  He’s over sixty now. 
    Of course, he may just not be into it, in which case he ought to man up and end it. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.  I’d say the same to a woman, except she should woman up, who’s stringing a man along because she doesn’t want to hurt him.  As if taking up someone’s time and emotion is so kind and thoughtful! But since it’s not the OP who is writing in, Jennifer needs to do what he won’t and look after her own interests. 
    Conflict avoidance is very common amongst those of us who’ve had difficult reltionship history. You don’t get what you want out of life by taking the line of least resistance. Waiting and waiting for someone to come good, or conversely to get fed up  and walk away, seems low risk and easy but sometimes you gotta do the difficult thing.  The more you lose sight of yourself and your goals the harder it is to find them again. (But not impossible).

  29. 30

    Evan, this is one of the best posts you have ever written. You are absolutely right that people who characterize relationships as work are those who married the wrong partners.

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