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

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Evan,
I’ve been dating this guy for the past four months. I am 26 and he is 38. We met on Match.com. 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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Comments:

  1. 21
    Angie

    Jennifer,
      
    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.
      

  2. 22
    Jordan

    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.

  3. 23
    John

    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.

  4. 24
    Ange

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

  5. 25
    Selena

    Lia,
    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.
      

  6. 26
    Lia

    TerriLou  
    Thank you!

  7. 27
    AllenB

    @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.

  8. 28
    Lia

    Selena,
      
    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:

  9. 29
    marymary

    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).

  10. 30
    Lucy

    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.

  11. 31
    JB

    John #23 is right it works both ways. We as men are the CEO’s of our relationships too and if interns (women)  aren’t good enough to get “hired” long term we’ll either do the fade away or end it. I date women all the time that I KNOW have an expiration date from the very beginning and when I find one that doesn’t she’ll know it.

  12. 32
    Joe

    While I agree with Evan’s point about good relationships not being hard work, I don’t quite agree that this relationship is necessarily a bad one–yet.   Almost always relationships have a pursuer and a pursued. (IIRC, Evan even suggests that women exclusively allow themselves to be pursued.   This puts the man in the role of the pursuer.)   Often, in nascent relationships, there is a switch in roles between the pursuer and the pursued.   The man initiates the pursuit, but after a few months, the roles reverse.   If the couple can’t negotiate these switches, the relationship is obviously doomed.   It sounds to me like the LW’s situation could fit the pattern.
      
    This isn’t where I first heard about pursuer-pursued role switching, but it does describe it well (was first Google hit and I’m too lazy to keep searching 🙂 ):  http://www.veronicatonay.com/pursuer.html

  13. 33
    JoeK

    Wow – quote of the year here:

    John #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.

    Women seem to want to dissect everything, to get down to the nitty-gritty details of how/why (at least every woman I’ve ever dated did this, as well as my friends and sister). While interesting (and perhaps insightful), in the end, all that dissection overlooks the most basic thing: (most) men do what they want – we take action.

    And isn’t this what Evan is always saying? Observe his actions.

  14. 34
    Amelia2.0

    I think relationships are “work” like tending a healthy garden is “work”.   Of course you have to make the time and put in the effort to till the soil, weed, prune, water, and shoo away pests.   You also have to be patient with the results.   But when you see all of your the plants happily growing and blooming and beautiful – and feel that swell of pride that comes with enjoying what you’ve earned – then the “hard work” really doesn’t feel that way because you are completely satisfied with your result.
      
    However, a relationship is the kind of garden where one person cannot to do it all and do it indefinitely.   The garden needs two enthusiastic people in cooperation to make it flourish year after year.   If your fellow gardener has a setback, then you need to step up, as long as there is a promise that they will do the same for you when YOU have a setback.  
      
    However, if your fellow gardener doesn’t actually care or stops caring about the garden, or doesn’t really know how to tend a garden (and doesn’t care to learn), then you can choose to pick up the slack here as well…in which case THEN the tilling, weeding, and de-pesting will soon feel like awful, wasteful work, because it’s all you will be doing with your time and effort, with marginal results and with no end in sight.   At least, until YOU decide to rip it all up and just start all over.
      
    Then again, if YOU are the poor gardener, then it’s not a bad idea to own up to that and work on that brown thumb.  

  15. 35
    Henriette

    @MaryMary30 – “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 suspect this is the truth.
      
    However, at the end of the day, we can’t know what’s in this guy’s head or heart; he probably isn’t completely aware of it, himself.   What we do know is that Jennifer isn’t getting what she wants or needs from her partner and hasn’t since the relationship began “for real.”   No need to try to convince him of anything.   Evan is right; just move on, girl.

  16. 36
    Liz

    I needed to read this, this am. I have grown so much in the wonderful world of dating after divorce. It took so long till I was ready to go out there and be able to be a “good date.” Read a whole bunch, including Evan’s book and love his advice. A relationship is natural and organic, but should never be something you labor to create or maintain.  
    What your response doesn’t mention though Evan (and its a good one it kicked my butt and made me smile as the CEO) is a good dose of what to do when you have mirrored, always make it to 6-8 dates, cut loose those that aren’t interested in being in a long term relationship, and this happens over and over again while you look for your prince, right when you start to get excited. It can be so wonderful meeting someone, clicking with someone, slowing moving towards being closer over a month or two, but it is very hard when a man realizes he can’t make you feel safe and happy for whatever reason and is standing there trying to explain this to you. Even the toughest ego and the most optimistic girl can feel sad and can’t help but think “what is wrong with me?” I am having one of those days despite this great post and was wondering what everyone does in these situations.  

  17. 37
    Lia

    Evan,  
      
    Funny you should ask… 🙂   After crying my eyes out (still doing that at the drop of a hat these past 24 hours) one of my first thoughts was, “Oh sh*t, I am going to have to lose this weight before I go on line.”   
      
    The realization that “relationships are hard work” is a lie – is THE linchpin for me.   I now understand why I immediately stopped exercising and gained weight when circumstances in my life changed and for the first time in years I would be available to have a relationship.   I couldn’t face what I believed would be even more hard work.
      
    I woke up to a very different world this morning.   It is a world full of hope and possibilities. I was up before 6 this morning excited to work out.    I was up even before my alarm went off because I have a plan…  
      
    My goal is to be back into my “skinny”/ dating clothes by December and go back on line then.   I start back to school this summer.   I by the end of September I will have my taxes paid off and I will get “Finding The One On Line” (I want to study your program before I go on line.)   Then in December (during Christmas break) I am going to jump back in to the dating pool, and I will be doing your Focus Coaching!!!!
      
    Lia
      
    P.S. Started reading the letters from the women you helped but started crying again and had to stop reading. I have to go to work and can’t have nasty mascara running down my face.   How do I turn off this faucet? 🙂
      
      

  18. 38
    Julia

    echoing what JoeK said  
      
    John #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.
      

    After about 2 months of focus coaching and 28 first dates in 10 months, I found a guy like this. Even though I was aloof he was persistent. He took every step to see me and let me know after 5 weeks that I was his girlfriend. Its now been 6 months, he’s met my parents, we talk about the future. We have a comfortable relationship and the two minor minor disputes we’ve had have been about communication. Its totally easy.

  19. 39
    John

    Lia @38
    My goal is to be back into my “skinny”/ dating clothes by December and go back on line then.  
      
    Lia this is the right attitude for sure. Get yourself in order physically and then do the dating thing. I have talked to overweight women who say they are about to embark on an exercise program but they want to date in the present. I rarely go out with them because when I did, they never really met their goal. Or they refused to listen to my advice on how to properly workout and after 3 months of going on a treadmill for an hour a day, they still looked the same.
      
    I am very into weight lifting and when I sustained an injury that preventing me from training for over a year, I didn’t date. Once I was able to resume and got it all back, then I hit the market and it was smooth sailing. But if I tried going out with girls from online dating where it is all visual, I would have failed miserably when I was still scrawny.
      
    Take before and after pictures. And once you meet your goal (do weights instead of just cardio!)show any new guys your transformation. Any guy that is into fitness will have great admiration for that. And use those new pictures in your new profile.

  20. 40
    Tom10

    Liz #37
    “What your response doesn’t mention though Evan is a good dose of what to do when you have mirrored, always make it to 6-8 dates…and this happens over and over again…it is very hard when a man realizes he can’t make you feel safe and happy for whatever reason…Even the toughest ego and most optimistic girl can feel sad and can’t help but think “what is wrong with me?”…was wondering what everyone does in these situations”
    I’m sorry you’re feeling a bit down at the moment Liz – you always seem so sweet in your comments. I hope you don’t mind me trying to answer this one and let you know how I deal with it. I would say the best way to deal with this is from three different angles: 1) Dealing with rejection, 2) Keeping your feelings in check until he’s your boyfriend and 3) developing a sense of self that is based on your behavior not someone else’s.
      
    1) Rejection. Unfortunately rejection really sucks, for everybody. The only way I managed to deal with it was by realising one day that 99% of women in the world don’t want me, so it’s just a matter of finding the 1% that do. Whenever I think of the times I was rejected I just immediately force myself to think of something else, anything else. Over time thoughts of the incident recur less and less and eventually just  fade away.
      
    2) Evan has a great axiom that says “until he’s your boyfriend he’s not real.” Keep reminding yourself in the early stages of dating that until your man steps up to the plate, he is just an illusion. Everyone is on best behavior in this period so you’re not seeing the real person underneath. I know it can be difficult to keep your feelings in check though, especially if they seem like a great prospect.
      
    3) Self-worth. This is probably the most important. It is really important for everybody to base their sense of self and self-esteem on their own behavior and achievements and not on someone else’s. Be proud of who you are, what you have achieved and how you affect those around you. Try not letting the opinion of some guy you hardly know affect you.
      
    I know all these things are easier said than done, but by thinking like this over time you will eventually radiate confidence and positivity which are such attractive traits.
      
    Good luck.
      
    PS. There is nothing wrong with you.

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