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I recently graduated from college and had been seeing someone long distance for a little over 8 months. He is the sweetest man I have ever come across, and the relationship was very casual. After graduation, I decided to move to the big city that he lived in. We talked about the decision for months and all the possible concerns that we had. In the end, we both agreed it seemed like a good decision.

He started to become distant over the summer but I wrote it off as a phase. Then I moved here three weeks ago and he is a completely different person. We are suddenly not having sex, and it is a chore for him to see me even once a week, if that. I almost feel resented. I’ve been worried that he is paranoid that I am going to compromise his independent life and so I’ve been giving him A LOT of space, even though it is very painful and lonely for me. For the most part I act like I have my own thing going on and everything is fine. But he’s still not really coming around.

I’ve addressed the issue once before and he listened, but had no idea anything was even wrong. He thinks I am overreacting or something. It kills me that he was more involved in my life when we lived 1500 miles apart. I specified that when I moved here I was NOT looking for a commitment, I am very independent, but I was looking forward to spending some time with him, and he felt the same way.

WTF is going on? Is he over it and just avoiding the uncomfortable confrontation? Is he threatened by my being here? OR is he just like every normal guy who starts neglecting their relationship after a while and doesn’t feel the need to put in any additional effort? I want to talk to him again and tell him how I really feel but I’m TORN because if I come off as the nagging girlfriend he will be even more turned off to me, but if I sit silently I will watch my relationship fade away in misery.

Cassie

Dear Cassie,

It’s over.

Pining away waiting for him to come around is just slowly peeling off the Band-Aid.

He liked you when you were far away, but now that you’re nearby, you’re a burden. In fact, if you didn’t move 1500 miles to be with him, he probably would have dumped you by now. The fact that he hasn’t yet actually makes him think he’s being nice. But make no mistake: his actions are saying loudly what his words cannot.

So now that you have your answer, what is there to learn from this situation? What piece of this can you take responsibility for? What should you let go? What do you do now?

Let’s work backwards.

What you do now is build up a life from scratch. It’s scary and daunting and lonely, and yet there is no better tonic for getting over an ex than to move on successfully. Pining away waiting for him to come around is just slowly peeling off the Band-Aid. You need to rip it off, starting now. Don’t call him again. Don’t email him again. Don’t text him again. If he contacts you, just let him know that while you had fun, it’s clear to you that he’s not the guy you thought he was, and move along. When he tells you that it’s a misunderstanding, that he’s been busy, that he really loves you, let him know that you understand, but this is your well-considered decision. It was good while it lasted, best of luck, goodbye. And then WALK.

No matter how lonely you are, no matter how much you miss him, keep walking. This creates a very clear choice: if he chases after you HARD (and that’s up for you to determine), you might end up with a devoted boyfriend. If not, you’ve been given your freedom to create the love life that you deserve, not this bullshit, game-playing, heart-wrenching drama he’s putting you through. The most likely scenario is that he’ll make an effort to keep you (because it’s better to have occasional sex than not), but then won’t change at all. Meaning: you still won’t have a boyfriend, and should probably dump his ass.

This may be hard to hear, as it forces you to go against all your feelings and emotions that brought you out to live near him. I’m positive a few readers can share stories about moving to be near a guy and the relationship dissolving. You’re not the first. But you’re young. You’ll bounce back. And you should know in your heart, that there’s no way you could have prepared for this outcome. If a guy says one thing and does another, you’re not at fault. Unless there were signs in advance, you’re off the hook. Sort of.

What you have to own is your internal contradictions. If the relationship was “very casual” as you said, you don’t have much of a right to complain that it remains “very casual”. I would suspect that you probably put a bit of pressure on him to act like a boyfriend, since you didn’t know anyone else in his city. And that’s not a responsibility he wanted to assume. In fact, I’d bet if you replayed your pre-move conversations, you’d remember him saying something to that effect: “Hey, you know nothing’s going to change when you move out here. We’ll still see each other and all, but I’m not ready for a girlfriend now”. And then you try to be all cool and understanding, although in the back of your mind, you’re thinking you’re going to move there and change him. Well, you moved there and the only thing that’s changed is that he has to deal with YOUR needs. When you were far away, he could give as much or as little as he wanted. You were the out-of-town girl – the perfect girlfriend, really. All the affection, none of the drama or maintenance. Now that you’re in front of him – and you have nobody else in your life – it’s glaring how important he has become to you. You have to lessen that importance immediately.

Lots of women like the IDEA of casual relationships; far fewer are able to pull it off with no emotional attachment.

As to what there is to learn from this sad story?

  • 1) Let your head rule a little more than your heart. This guy was never boyfriend material and you changed your life for him. If you didn’t change your life for him, but for a career opportunity, then there’s not that much to be upset about, right?
  • 2) Know thyself. Lots of women like the IDEA of casual relationships; far fewer are able to pull it off with no emotional attachment. Sounds to me like you WANTED to be able to do this, but, in practice, it hurts a lot more than you thought.
  • 3) Understand motives and behaviors other than your own. This guy’s reaction is quite predictable, yet it’s coming as a surprise to you. I know he said one thing and did another – but that, too, is predictable from a long-distance guy who carries on a low-intensity sexual relationship from long-distance. He got what he needed from you; now, you’re ruining it by showing up.

If that last paragraph sounds like I’m letting men off the hook, I’m not. I’m observing human behavior. Do so as well, and you’ll see the patterns. Men do what’s convenient and easy and selfish, until they have any responsibilities. You can’t be surprised by this behavior. It will continue through your life. It’s easy to see a woman who doesn’t require more than a text a week. Once you demand more and he balks, you already have your answer. The only question that remains is how long you drag it out.