Why Would a Man Commit to Me and Then Change His Mind?

I started seeing a close friend after we made out one night. I had reservations because he was divorced (a year and a half ago) with 2 kids. He would drive hours to see the kids every weekend so that means weekends are off limits for us. I honest to goodness didn’t mind that because I like my own space and time. I’m very laid-back, independent, go with the flow, got her own career and money type of girl, not controlling/needy/clingy.

Things quickly escalated from there in a span of 2 months. We started going on dates at least twice a week. We text all day, late night talks, deep intimate conversations – the works. Things were so easy because we have so much in common and we were friends first. He wants to be with me all the time. We never had arguments. It was TOO easy, like too good to be true. But he was the one moving the relationship forward. I never asked for exclusivity or had the “what are we” talk. After 2 months, he asked me to be his girlfriend and said I love you. He sent flowers at work for Valentine’s Day. The week after that, he broke up with me for the reason of “I’m not ready to be in a serious relationship”.

Pardon the expletive, but WTF??! I felt like the rug was pulled from under me. He was the one who pursued me, acted like a consistent boyfriend, then seemingly out of nowhere, not ready.

I’m starting to think I’m too laid-back or maybe too independent or too laissez-faire for guys to consider girlfriend material. I don’t sleep around until I’m in a committed relationship. I’m not a doormat by any means but I’m starting to feel like something’s wrong with me.

I really need an objective “tough love” answer right now because all my friends in our friend group are either “he’s a jerk, cut him out of your life” or “he’s just confused, he needs you”. I do miss the friendship because he was one of my closest friends. And even after all this, I still care about the guy.

Gemma

I feel for you, my friend, and, like most of our readers, have walked a few miles in your shoes. Which is why I can say, definitively, that both you and your friends are making this way more complicated than it has to be.

Both you and your friends are making this way more complicated than it has to be.

Short version:

You find this whole scenario inexplicable because at one time, he acted one way, and then later, he acted ANOTHER way! I wasn’t planning on going the tough love approach, but here goes:

Your relationship is no different than any relationship in history.

I understand the WTF. I understand the confusion. I understand why you’ve got whiplash from how he changed his tune from one moment to the next. What I don’t understand is why you think this is your fault. What I don’t understand is why your friends give you a DOUBLE dose of bad advice in either telling you he’s a jerk (he’s not) or that he needs you (he does not.)

One of the most predictable things we can say about people is that they are wildly inconsistent and, often, either don’t know what they want or do things that run counter to their actual goals.

Read any one of the hundreds of letters I get from women who are currently dating selfish, abusive, non-committal assholes for five years and you’ll see the same thing.

There’s what we want.

There’s what’s good for us.

There’s what we do.

There’s what we want.
There’s what’s good for us.
There’s what we do.

Those are, very often, three completely different things. So instead of beating yourself up with this false (and disempowering) narrative that you’re too nice or cool to be a girlfriend, let’s just agree on a more objective reality.

Occam’s Razor is the problem-solving principle that, when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, one should select the one that makes the fewest assumptions.

Your assumption: “I’m a great catch; men must not want great catches!” is absurd. Men really do like laid-back and independent women.

Your friends’ assumption: “He broke up with you; he must be a jerk” is also silly. People break up every day; that isn’t a black mark on his character, no more than you should be judged for breaking up with any man you’ve dated in the past. If you know you’re not going to marry someone, or you’re not emotionally available for a relationship, breaking up is actually the KIND thing to do.

Your friends’ other assumption: “He’s confused, he needs you,” at least contains a half-truth: he IS, in fact, confused. But he certainly doesn’t need you, otherwise he wouldn’t have cast you aside. Furthermore, he has lived a full life without you for most of the time he’s known you, so the idea that he shouldn’t be able to live without you after two months is another assumption that isn’t helping matters at all.

Let’s just look at the facts:

He liked you. He escalated things. When things got serious, he concluded, for better or worse, “I’m not ready to be in a serious relationship.”

Stop beating yourself up. Stop wondering why. Stop leaving space for him to come back.

Stop beating yourself up. Stop wondering why. Stop leaving space for him to come back.

Click here to learn why men disappear and free yourself of this self-imposed torture.

You deserve a guy who DOES want to be with you. Period.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Yet Another Guy

    @Evan

    Your assumption: “I’m a great catch; men must not want great catches!” is absurd. Men really do like laid-back and independent women.

    I and most of the men on the planet concur with your assertion.   I found an interesting article about male dating behavior on Huffington Post over the weekend. It details three misconceptions women have about men who date a lot of women, but one of the reasons (#3) kind of aligns with the LW’s experience.

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/joshua-pompey/dating-advice_b_2145256.html

    As an aside, I like how the author states that men who date a lot of women are labeled as “players” or immature while women who date a lot of men are just being selective due to a lack of good men.  It is a double standard that needs to go the way of the dodo bird.

  2. 2
    Valeri

    I always find it a bit amusing when someone is told why, and they refuse to believe it.  I find men to be pretty simple.  I find women try to complicate things.  Go figure.

    1. 2.1
      No Name To Give

      Life is simple; people are complex.

  3. 3
    Theodora

    One thing never taken into account in letters like this is that maybe the other person discovered what he/she considers a huge red flag or dealbreaker or flaw. I once ended a relationship abruptly after about 6 months of being over the moon when I discovered he lied about something I consider important. I told him that I didn’t think this was  working and I lost my enthusiasm about us, because I didn’t have the courage to tell him straight to his face “You’re a liar”. I’m pretty sure up to this day his version is that I’m a weirdo who doesn’t know what she wants.

    1. 3.1
      Emily, the original

      Theodora,

      I told him that I didn’t think this was  working and I lost my enthusiasm about us, because I didn’t have the courage to tell him straight to his face “You’re a liar”.

      Yes, usually you don’t get the full truth. You get some version of “it’s not working” or “we’re not compatible,” both of which could mean anything. And since the other party will probably never tell you exactly why he/she is ending it, it’s best to accept you won’t ever know.

      1. 3.1.1
        No Name To Give

        I have found you can’t depend on the other person for closure. You have to get closure for yourself.

    2. 3.2
      Nissa

      I agree – my guess is that he was into her, then discovered something about her that was a dealbreaker, but he doesn’t have the guts to tell her. I recommend that she have a mutual friend call him for a follow up and ask what it was, so she can fix it. There’s a formula on how to do it in “Have Him At Hello”.

      1. 3.2.1
        S.

        What I don’t understand is why you think this is your fault.

        I don’t think this is anyone’s fault. Not something she did or he did.  He may just not be over his divorce. She just may not be the one for him. She even said she had reservations at the beginning.

        He tried and tried hard.  But it didn’t work out.  I think she should mourn a bit and then get going with the rest of her life.

        She seems pretty chill and could find another guy. But not if she’s spinning her wheels too long thinking about this one. Now if this was a pattern with several guys . . . but being laid back isn’t a pattern.  I don’t think is much else for her to keep digging deeper about.

      2. 3.2.2
        Emily, the original

        Nissa,

         I recommend that she have a mutual friend call him for a follow up and ask what it was, so she can fix it. There’s a formula on how to do it in “Have Him At Hello”.

        No. Unless this is happening to her over and over again with men, why assume it’s her? Maybe it’s him. But if it is a recurring pattern, she should call him. He should be able to talk to her honestly about it. The pressure’s off for the relationship to be happening, and they were friends before so presumably can talk  intimately to each other.

        1. Nissa

          ETO, why assume it’s her? Maybe it’s him.Because men don’t give up access to comfort, nurturing and routine sex unless there’s something there that is unpleasant enough to outweigh that. After all, how many times have you really broken up with someone because of you? Nine times out of ten, the person doing the breaking up has found something there, that they don’t like. The “I’m not ready for a relationship” is an excuse. Men in general are fine with most labels if it gives them access to sex. I don’t buy it. The guy is more likely to be honest with someone else than her though, which is why I think that would be more effective. Even her friends are likely to know about her negative traits and who won’t argue with him about it because they have seen her do it too.

        2. Emily, the original

          Nissa,

          The guy is more likely to be honest with someone else than her though, which is why I think that would be more effective. 

          I see what you’re saying, and maybe she could get some closure. I just hate dragging third parties in like that. It seems juvenile, although if he is the type who doesn’t like to have difficult conversations, he may not even talk to one of her friends.

  4. 4
    JK

    Evan,

    You tell her like it is at the very end, but you of ALL PEOPLE know that when the rug is pulled out from beneath you for no apparent reason, it’s quite shocking and takes time to heal/ get over it. Should she wait around for her “friend” to come back? No way. But she is in the throws of an emotional time and it’s a very hard pill to swallow that the man you thought you loved and who loved you back is now withdrawing from you and there is an abrupt ending. Poof! Just like that he’s not ready for a relationship. Don’t you think he should’ve thought about that well before hopping into bed and confessing his love to one of his best friends? Shame on him!!! I hope she lands on her feet with a better man, because those type of wishy washy guys are everywhere and it can be quite a setback.

    1. 4.1
      R.C.

      Agreed JK

    2. 4.2
      Yet Another Guy

      @JK

      I hope she lands on her feet with a better man, because those type of wishy washy guys are everywhere and it can be quite a setback.

      What the guy did is normal male behavior.  I have experienced it many times and so have my male friends. The reality is that women who make a man commit before sex will often find themselves in this situation.  Why? Because the guy has already made a significant investment in time, resources, and emotional bandwidth pursuing her, and he needs to know if the sex is worth it, so he commits half-heartedly in order to get the show on the road.  If a guy dumps a woman after pursuing her that hard, the answer to that question is a resounding “no.” I have seen women dump men after sex, so the behavior is not isolated to one gender.  It is just that very few men make a woman commit before sex, so men get called out for the behavior more often.

      1. 4.2.1
        Emily, the original

        YAG,

        The reality is that women who make a man commit before sex will often find themselves in this situation.  Why? Because the guy has already made a significant investment in time, resources, and emotional bandwidth pursuing her, and he needs to know if the sex is worth it, so he commits half-heartedly in order to get the show on the road. If a guy dumps a woman after pursuing her that hard, the answer to that question is a resounding “no.”   

        Then he should have told her didn’t think they were sexually compatible. It happens. Just because you care about someone does not mean the sex will be good. She writes that they were close friends. Given that, he shouldn’t have taken the “i’m not ready for a relationship” way out. It’s wimpy.

        And if the reason he ended it wasn’t an abrupt red flag situation like bad sex but he instead had lingering doubts the entire time about them as a couple or his readiness for a relationship, he should have made that clear, too.

        1. Yet Another Guy

          @Emily, the original

          Then he should have told her didn’t think they were sexually compatible. It happens. Just because you care about someone does not mean the sex will be good. She writes that they were close friends. Given that, he shouldn’t have taken the “i’m not ready for a relationship” way out. It’s wimpy.

          No man wants to tell a woman that she sucks in bed.  Regardless how he presents that information, that is how it will be internalized by a woman. Trust me, I have tried the approach that you suggested and all it resulted in was “You are dumping me because I am not good enough in bed?” tears.  It is just easier to take the “I am not ready for a relationship” route.  I would rather be labeled a commitment phobe than endure those tears.

        2. Emily, the original

          YAG,

           I would rather be labeled a commitment phobe than endure those tears.

          Yeah, but do you see how you worded this? It’s about you and what you want to endure. The conversation is supposed to be uncomfortable. And can’t you have the conversation over the phone? I mean, if it’s presumably after you’ve first had sex with a woman, you haven’t been dating that long. I don’t know if face to face is necessary. I know how you like to keep your “n-number” or whatever it is low. So you’ve probably known most of these women .. what.. 24 hours?    🙂

      2. 4.2.2
        Evan Marc Katz

        Oy. This again. A woman who says she doesn’t sleep with men who aren’t her boyfriend weeds out men over the course of a month, leaving men who want a relationship. Just because a guy changes his mind about that relationship doesn’t mean commitment before sex is a bad idea, as you’re suggesting.

        1. Yet Another Guy

          @Evan

          I am not saying that commitment before sex is a bad idea. I am merely saying that a lot of guys behave this way when they are with a woman who makes a man commit before sex. The guy gets wrapped up in the idea that a woman is a special snowflake, someone in whom to invest time, resources, and emotional bandwidth. He then commits, has sex, and it is not what he expected. In fact, it is downright awkward. What does he do? No man with a filter is going to tell a woman that she sucks in bed. Instead, he going to say that he is not ready for a relationship. I have done it and so have all of my friends at some point in time. Even if a guy is not ready for a relationship, he will often stick with it if the sex is great because women who are really good in bed are difficult to find. Women get a pass when they dump a man for being bad in bed. The difference is that women do not have to commit to get a man into bed; therefore, are not branded time wasters or commitment phobes.

          In the end, I stick by my assertion that if a man dumps a women who makes a him commit before sex shortly after they have sex, then the sex failed to live up to his expectations, and he wants to cut his losses. No man is going to walk away from great sex. He will merely string the woman along until he finds a replacement, been there, done that, have the t-shirt.  I am certain that women do it too.

        2. Evan Marc Katz

          I stick by my assertion that when a man breaks up with a woman after a month, it is not because the sex is bad (honestly, most sex is perfectly fine), but rather because he actually got to KNOW her more and discovered that he didn’t see her has girlfriend/wife material.

        3. Nissa

          I agree with Evan here. I would assume that most reasonable people have a spectrum of what they will accept, and that most sex falls within that. After all, most people will at least try to engage the other person in what they want before dismissing an otherwise reasonable prospect.It has been my experience that men are not that hard to please, at least in the bedroom. Sandwich, cold beer, backrub, BJ, and don’t talk while you are doing it. Whether or not I enjoy that might be different, but if I need to please a man, that’s a straightforward path to follow.Where I do agree with you, YAG, is that there is something else going on that the OP’s boyfriend is keeping mum about, because he doesn’t want to deal with the OP’s emotional response to it.

        4. Yet Another Guy

          @Evan

          In other scenarios, what you are saying may apply; however, in this scenario, I believe that it was in fact sex. The LW stated that she does not have sex outside of a committed relationship. The guy pursued her hard, committed, they had sex, and a week later he gave her the “I am not ready for a relationship” speech.  That is textbook the sex was not worth the effort. Now, if he had continued to get to know the LW for several weeks to months after they had sex, I would agree with your assertion.

          By the way, I disagree with your assertion that most sex is perfectly fine. What a man considers to be good sex depends on how many women he knows in a biblical sense. The more sex partners a man has in his life, the more particular he is about what qualifies as good sex. There is maintenance sex, and then there is good sex. If a guy is going to commit to a woman, it needs to be what he considers to be good sex. It is very difficult to go back to mediocre sex after a man has had sex with a woman who is great in bed. At my age, I do not believe that I should have to train a woman nor should she have to train me.

        5. Emily, the original

          YAG,

          What a man considers to be good sex depends on how many women he knows in a biblical sense. The more sex partners a man has in his life, the more particular he is about what qualifies as good sex

          I don’t know how it is for men, but I didn’t need to have “great sex” to know that I hadn’t experienced it yet.

        6. Yet Another Guy

          @Emily, the original

          I don’t know how it is for men, but I didn’t need to have “great sex” to know that I hadn’t experienced it yet.

          I am not surprised that you that that was your experience.  However, for most of us, ignorance is bliss, especially for guys because we experience difficulty not climaxing too soon when we are young.  It is not until a man has been with a number of partners that the quality of the sex becomes important.  It goes from “wow! I am having sex” to “man, could this sex be anymore starfish-like?” 🙂

           

           

        7. Emily, the original

          YAG,

          I do agree with you that there is a huge difference between serviceable sex and great sex. I just won’t understand someone who feels he’s had good sex with almost every partner because, like you, I believe sex, like everything else in life, is on a continuum.

  5. 5
    Stacy

    I have learned that it is pointless (when it comes to the opposite sex at least) to try to figure out the ‘why’ when people act ‘wishy washy’ toward you.  People do what they want to do. And, if I am ever broken up with, I have always had a ‘don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out’ mentality. If you do not have enough respect for my feelings and our relationship to decide to at least explain why you are doing what you doing, then you will probably only lie to me if I chase you down for an answer. And, even if you don’t lie, you thought the problem so unforgivable that you decided to call it quits. So since you decided that leaving is the better alternative, then I don’t want you anyway. The reasons on why you acted unseemly just doesn’t matter. If I am ever ‘thrown away’, then you don’t have to tell me twice.

    Of course it will hurt (like hell). But like anything else, you will heal and get over it.

     

  6. 6
    Lisa

    I sort of think it’s human nature to want to know why things happened, for both men and women.   Reason being that we of course don’t want to make the same mistake again, and we presume we did make a mistake, and we all want to believe that we have some sense of “control” over whether people are attracted to us, love us or want to commit, when the truth is we have very little.    It’s a woman’s nature to blame herself.   Often we seek closure, and when the person does not give us closure, or at least one that makes sense, we talk to our friends, we over analyze, we create our own reasons.    But more often than not,  the answer as to why has little to nothing to do with our behavior.  I think considering they were friends before, she could try asking him honestly.  But the truth is he may not even know the answer, or any answer he may give her would confuse her more.   The bottom line is this was just not a good match.  It’s a tough one.  I was dating a guy once for four months.  He pulled out all the stops flower, expensive dinners, you name it, then as soon as I started to show equal interest and no longer was I a prize to be won, he had “decided” we were not a good match, huh?   There could be several explanations.  In your case, I think the man is scared of a relationship.  He is lonely and so badly wants to be in one so he goes overboard, but when he gets you, it becomes real and he wants none of it. Since you are easy going it could be that committment phobes are drawn to you.  Not sure.

    1. 6.1
      Stacy

      Closure is an illusion.

  7. 7
    Suzanne

    This is so familiar. My ex of last year did this exact thing. Did the pursuing, said the right things, and then said he wasn’t good at relationships. Turns out he broke up with me to date his married friend. They are now living together. And the ex is friends with her husband.So people are wishy-washy and you’re better off without them. And some men (and women) are jerks.   

  8. 8
    S.

    I think the unusual thing is that they were close friends. She doesn’t say for how long, but say it was a long time.  Then he just cut her loose?  Maybe they weren’t really that close, but she thought they were.

    Interesting thing, whether you should try to have a romantic relationship with a friend.  You can’t ever put the genie back in the bottle, but some people do start off as friends and have successful relationships.

    I have to admit, I do ponder the end of friendships especially if we were friends for years.  Even if it’s a guy friend.  Even if it’s a women friend who probably never felt that close to me.  For that time, they felt like a friend to me and yes, I do think about why they would just abruptly end it, but I don’t think about it for as long as I used to when I was younger.

  9. 9
    Tom10

    @ Emily, the original 3.2.2
    “No. Unless this is happening to her over and over again with men, why assume it’s her? Maybe it’s him. But if it is a recurring pattern, she should call him. He should be able to talk to her honestly about it”
     
    No. He’s already told her as much as he wants/can; forcing him to reveal what was the real reason will just make him squirm and likely tell her a few porky-pies until she relents; which might result in an even worse outcome than the present (not only will the real problem be obscured but his lie might inadvertently create a new insecurity).
     
    ———–
     
    It’s difficult to assess the complete picture here from such a limited snapshot as provided by Gemma, the Op; however my guess is that her boyfriend’s pronouncement didn’t come “seemingly out of nowhere”; the signs were likely there from the getgo but Gemma didn’t, or couldn’t, read them.
     
    For a true assessment of the relationship dynamic we’d probably need the boyfriend’s piece or that of a third-party.
     
    It might well have been him (just out of a relationship, 2 kids, thought he wanted a relationship but subsequently realized that he only wanted temporary rebound flings); or, it might have been her (something she did/didn’t do, said/didn’t say); we shall never know.
     
    I’m reminded of the joke in Family Guy: “I feel like we should wait to hear Adele’s ex-boyfriend’s songs before we choose sides.” Lol.

  10. 10
    Tom10

    @ Emily, the original 3.2.2
    “No. Unless this is happening to her over and over again with men, why assume it’s her? Maybe it’s him. But if it is a recurring pattern, she should call him. He should be able to talk to her honestly about it”
     
    No (hehe). He’s already told her as much as he wants/can; forcing him to reveal what the real reason was will just make him squirm and likely tell her a few porky-pies until she relents; which might result in an even worse outcome than the present (not only will the real problem be obscured but his lie might inadvertently create a new insecurity).
     
    ———-
     
    It’s difficult to assess the complete picture here from such a limited snapshot as provided by Gemma, the Op; however my guess is that her boyfriend’s pronouncement didn’t come “seemingly out of nowhere”; the signs were likely there from the getgo but Gemma didn’t, or couldn’t, read them.
     
    For a true assessment of the relationship dynamic we’d probably need the boyfriend’s side or that of a third-party.
     
    It might well have been him (just out of a relationship, 2 kids, thought he wanted a relationship but subsequently realized that he only wanted temporary rebound flings); or, it might have been her (something she did/didn’t do, said/didn’t say); we shall never know.
     
    I’m reminded of the joke in Family Guy: “I feel like we should wait to hear Adele’s ex-boyfriend’s songs before we choose sides.” Lol.

    1. 10.1
      Emily, the original

      Hello Mr. Thomas,

      He’s already told her as much as he wants/can; forcing him to reveal what was the real reason will just make him squirm and likely tell her a few porky-pies until she relents;

      I’m not suggesting she badger him but ask him ONCE to have an honest conversation with her about what happened. They were friends before, so they presumably have some non-sexual/romantic rapport. If he won’t do that, he wasn’t much of a friend, but she certainly can’t force him. The “I’m not ready for a relationship” reason seems spineless.

      however my guess is that her boyfriend’s pronouncement didn’t come “seemingly out of nowhere”; the signs were likely there from the getgo but Gemma didn’t, or couldn’t, read them

      This is possible, although his behavior doesn’t sound like someone who was ambivalent.

      Things quickly escalated from there in a span of 2 months. We started going on dates at least twice a week. We text all day, late night talks, deep intimate conversations – the works. .. he was the one moving the relationship forward. I never asked for exclusivity or had the “what are we” talk. After 2 months, he asked me to be his girlfriend and said I love you. … The week after that, he broke up with me for the reason of “I’m not ready to be in a serious relationship”.

      Have you never spent time with someone you were on the fence about? Were you doing the above things? I’m guessing you were giving a lot of mixed signals and maybe spacing out the calls/dates so she wouldn’t think you really liked her.

      1. 10.1.1
        Yet Another Guy

        @Emily, the original

        Have you never spent time with someone you were on the fence about?

        That is a move that women are more likely to do than men.  Guys are likely to cut their loses fairly quickly.  We have the advantage of being pursuers.  I wish more women would not string guys along hoping that attraction will increase over time.

        In one of his skits, Chris Rock basically states that nothing a man does will increase his probability of getting sex from a woman, that she knows if she is going to have sex with him within the first fifteen minutes of meeting him. That has been my experience. Women can be pretty darn transparent when sex is on the table. However, there does appear to be a proper subset of women who attempt to override a lack of initial physical attraction because a guy is witty and likeable. Guys almost never attempt this maneuver unless they are going for low-hanging fruit sex, and, even then, it is just sex.

        1. Emily, the original

          YAG,

          Guys are likely to cut their loses fairly quickly.

          I meant that he was getting sex. In that case I believe he will drag something out indefinitely if there is nothing else on the horizon. A woman will do this, too. Have a steady sex partner she keeps on the backburner and at arm’s length.

  11. 11
    Chi

    We text all day, late night talks, deep intimate conversations the works. Things were so easy because we have so much in common and we were friends first. He wants to be with me all the time. We never had arguments.

  12. 12
    Green Wood

    It’s the great post thanks for sharing an Article.

    men friend who probably never felt that close to me.  For that time, they felt like a friend to me and yes, I do think about why they would just abruptly end it, but I don’t think about it

  13. 13
    Clare

    I feel for Gemma. It’s tough when the guy you were dating used to be a close friend because then it’s a double whammy if it doesn’t work out. You lose a boyfriend and a close friend because it is unlikely that you will simply be able to pick up your friendship where you left off. It’s always a gamble with a friend and I think as my life has gone on, I found it easier to date men who were not friends before and keep the ones who are friends as just friends. It seems less painful for all involved.

    As far as dating a recently divorced dad, this is something I can directly relate to and have recent experience with. In my experience, men take a long time to get over a significant relationship, more so if the relationship was a marriage or engagement or long-term relationship. This is a generalization of course, but if he’s the kind of man who is a good man with an ounce of sensitivity (which I assume he is because of him and Gemma being close friends and because of him driving up to see his kids every weekend), it is going to take him a while to get over his divorce.

    My guess is that things with Gemma were going well, perhaps too well, and he sensed that she was the kind of woman with whom things would quickly progress and become serious. If this is the case, he has done the right thing by cutting the relationship off, even though it hurts. If he is not in the same place as you emotionally, it is better that you find out now rather than months down the line. You can take it as a positive sign that he at least recognises that he is not ready for a relationship – hopefully he will do his own inner work to sort his stuff out and will be ready in time. In the meantime, simply accept that this was a relationship which quickly ran its course and continue on your search without beating yourself up.

    In the case of the divorced dad whom I dated, our relationship followed an almost identical pattern. Things were going wonderfully and we liked each other a lot, and a month and a half in, he told me that he was not ready to be in a serious relationship and that he needed time to sort his life out.

    He has contacted me since then and wants the door to be left open for later when he has got himself sorted out. I have told him, however, not to contact me until that day, and if or when it happens, we will see how we feel.

  14. 14
    Jeremy

    I think that what Clare and YAG wrote are possibilities, but frankly I agree with Tom.  It might be that he didn’t like the sex, it might be that he isn’t ready for a relationship, or it could be that as he got to know her better and the initial infatuation wore off, he discovered that he just wasn’t terribly compatible with her.   I once dated a woman that I pursued.  She was very good looking, very intelligent, and I was very interested.  Then one night we went to dinner and she was rude to the wait staff.  And frankly, the level of rudeness/entitlement that I observed in that environment made me totally lose interest in her.  I broke it off and told her that I just didn’t see it working out, but wasn’t specific.  Should I have told her that I found her rudeness disgusting?  To what end?  She would only think I was being sanctimonious.  It was over, I wasn’t interested, so I broke it off in a way that wouldn’t lead to too much discussion and resentment.  And if it left her confused because I was formerly very interested, well so be it.  Over is over.  To the OP, be the best version of yourself, but remain yourself.  Be the person you think you should be.  And if being that way filters out some guys, those guys are not right for you.  Painful as breakups are, they serve a positive purpose of preventing you from wasting more time with someone who isn’t right for you.

    1. 14.1
      S.

      Wow, Jeremy.  That is really tough love.  I’m not even fresh from a break up and it’s a lot that I don’t want to hear.  But I’m glad you wrote from the male point of view, because I had suspected this.

      I wish men would just say it.  I have so many sticky conversations at work, in my personal life, with family.  Tears, raised voices, awkward apologies, can ensue.  I don’t love these conversations.  There isn’t anything in it for me to be honest with folks, but I am. Especially not at work since after each job ends I never, ever lay eyes on those folks again.  Over is over, right?

      I feel we’ve lost some of the honesty I truly value in your response here.  I didn’t like hearing it but sometimes it just needs to be said.

      1. 14.1.1
        Jeremy

        Honesty isn’t always the best policy IMHO, S.  Many years ago my first serious girlfriend broke up with me.  She had used my computer to check her email previously and had not logged out, so when I opened my browser I saw her emails and made the mistake of snooping.  And while she had told me that she had broken up with me because we were just too different and respected me, and blah blah blah, I discovered that she had been badmouthing me to all of her friends, all of whom cheered our breakup and congratulated her on it, I discovered that she had been seeing another guy who lived in her apartment and had been spending nights there several weeks before our breakup, and I discovered that this person neither liked nor respected me in any way.

         

        Was I better off knowing that?  No.  It did not make the breakup easier on me, though logically it should have.  It was a huge blow to my ego and to my sense of judgment.  It made me question my worth in all sorts of ways that I probably shouldn’t have.

        Because her opinion of me is not the “truth.”  It says more about her than it does about me.  It wasn’t necessary or helpful for me to know what her opinion was.  It only mattered that it was over, and that neither of us waste another second with each other.  And that perspective is far less “tough” than brutal, unnecessary honesty.

        1. S.

          Oh, I wasn’t talking about the honesty about the reasons for a breakup. I agree with you there.  Reasons differ and there isn’t always a lot of use retreading that.

          I broke it off in a way that wouldn’t lead to too much discussion and resentment.

          This is the honesty I meant. That men want this sort of no-fuss, no emotion end to things.  I never understood that.  Most time I act that way, like it doesn’t hurt but I regret it.   If I want to grieve, I should do it in my way. It won’t change anything anyway so who cares.

          And if it left her confused because I was formerly very interested, well so be it.

          And this too. I’m not saying you tell a woman this when you break up with her.  Oh, no.  I just mean in conversation, non-dating conversation, people rarely own up to just wanting to be ‘Over is over’ with a person.  Nothing wrong with it, I just don’t hear it expressed generally.

          It just helps me understand how different people handle things.  When I break with women friends it’s sometimes this no-emotion thing, but as a woman? I never expect an end to be easy or emotionless.  Heck, even men have cried during a breakup.  I expect tears and emotion. It hurts.  So it was interesting  and instructive for me to see a different take on it.

        2. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          What if your wife wanted to end your marriage? Do you think you’d want an explanation then? I think the situation with the OP is different in that she was previously friends with this man. She was not with him very long but they already knew each other. What if a couple is living together for a couple of years and one wants out? Does one owe the other an explanation? I’m not suggesting the one who wants to leave should lacerate the other person with too much detail about the new person they are with or what they don’t like about the other person, but “it’s over” and “it’s not working out” seems a bit vague.

        3. Jeremy

          Emily, I think that even in the case of divorce (where, I agree, the person being served papers will want to know why, and feel he is OWED a reason why) – it is often better to be kind than totally honest, even if we have the insight to BE totally honest.  “Yes, I’m divorcing you because I no longer find you attractive and I’m not sure I ever did.  I really wanted someone to give me children and help me raise them, but now that that’s done and over with – I’ve had my kids, my support, and my status – the only motivation I have to remain married is companionship and sex, and I don’t really enjoy either of those things with you, and I no longer see the benefit of continuing to put up with your shit because I just don’t get enough in return.  So thanks and bye.”  Hmmm…..perhaps better to say “I’ve just fallen out of love and think it would be best if we both moved on.”

        4. S.

          @Jeremy

          I disagree. I think that a wife and mother of his children deserves to know the truth.  Maybe in a bit of a kinder way, but why not?  If I spent years with someone and that’s built on a lie, I need to know that.  And the lie isn’t that he was never attracted to the wife, it’s that he’s just not the man she probably thought he was.  They are connected forever with the kids.  I personally would like to know who I’m really dealing with.

          What you describe is a person who married the wrong person or for reasons they didn’t share or weren’t aware of at the time.  I think the soon-to-be divorced partner needs to know that. Heck, I like to know if a friend has changed on me, much less someone I considered a life partner.

        5. Jeremy

          So again, S., I disagree.  Though it was interesting (to me) that you interpreted my example as a man divorcing a woman in spite of my pronouns (and statistics) showing the opposite.  The example that I gave is common.  But rarely plays out in such a simple way.  More commonly, the wife who married for the reasons I listed loses motivation to prioritize her husband, which leads him to feel resentful toward her, leading him to withdraw, leading her to feel resentful, giving her an excuse to divorce that doesn’t make her look bad (to herself or others).  How often will she admit how and why the process began?  How often will she think beyond the resentfulness she feels in the more recent history?

           

          But let’s say she could admit it, and let’s say she told her husband the real reason she is divorcing him.  How do you think he will feel about her afterward?  Do you think his respect and positive emotion for her might just fall through the floor, leading to an absolutely dreadful co-parenting situation?  Sure it might give him closure to realize he was married to a person who was selfish in her motivations….but will that make his future better or worse, given that he will have to work with her in the future?  And given that he might one day want to find another woman – how might it affect his ability to ever again trust?

           

          Over is over.  It is often better not to know.

        6. S.

          @Jeremy

          Hey, your opinion is your opinion and as I said in my first comment, I value your honesty here.  Some people are ‘over is over’ and some people are not.

          Even if the pronouns were switched I still think the man should know why his wife is divorcing him.  I have dated men who were divorced and say they don’t know why the marriage broke up.  In just a few weeks of dating them, I knew why it didn’t work for me.  Did I tell them? Of course I did.  In the kindest way possible. I really liked them and I gave them the opportunity to know before I was truly done with things.

          Should their wives have told them their reasons? I don’t know. I don’t know if the reasons are the same, but I suspect they might be.  People don’t really change, unless with extreme hard work and motivation to change.  It’s an unfounded suspicion, though.

          I can speak for myself, I often want to know why someone has broken up with me and I’ve been blessed with men who have told me.  Sometimes brutally honestly.  (I also grew up with a quite honest mother so I’m used to this and it’s my preference.).  It doesn’t mean something was necessarily wrong with me or I needed to change. I just knew how they felt. Helps me learn about men.  They are all different.  The reasons were all different.  But it was their truth and I find value in it and appreciated their sharing. That’s it.  Did it help my future to know? It helps me to learn about men, period.

          Do they have to? Of course not. No one has to do anything. But I really appreciated them doing so. I appreciate you responding to my comments.  You don’t have to.  Nothing in it for you.  So yes, I am appreciative. 🙂

        7. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          “Yes, I’m divorcing you because I no longer find you attractive and I’m not sure I ever did.  I really wanted someone to give me children and help me raise them, but now that that’s done and over with – I’ve had my kids, my support, and my status – the only motivation I have to remain married is companionship and sex, and I don’t really enjoy either of those things with you, and I no longer see the benefit of continuing to put up with your shit because I just don’t get enough in return.  So thanks and bye.” 

          If that is truly how someone felt about their spouse, shame on them for marrying that person. But this is an extreme example. The most common reasons for a divorce are (I’m guessing) wanting freedom/not wanting to be married anymore, falling out of love/growing apart (as you listed), falling in love with someone else. So in those examples, assuming both parties had initially entered the relationship with good intentions and one of them now wants out, then, yes, an explanation is owed. Not a laceration.

        8. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          I think that even in the case of divorce (where, I agree, the person being served papers will want to know why, and feel he is OWED a reason why) 

          And I’m not sure why you’ve capitalized the word “owed” here, but if you have built a life with someone, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the other party to sit down with you and have a conversation about why he/she is leaving. Yes, the leaving party does owe the other person that.

        9. Jeremy

          Emily, I capitalized it because the person being divorced probably really feels an explanation is owed.  So I guess it was for dramatic emphasis, but probably unnecessary.

           

          As for the example I gave, it wasn’t extreme.  It is common.  I can think of so many of my own acquaintances to whom it applies, both divorced and still married but unhappily.  It isn’t that the women married the men for consciously nefarious reasons – they legitimately didn’t understand their own motivations and then followed a predictable script.  As Mrs. Happy wrote, people do things for a variety of reasons that are only sometimes understood consciously.  There is no shortage of male assholery out there, nor female assholery.  But the ways in which we are assholes tend to be different.

        10. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          As for the example I gave, it wasn’t extreme.  It is common.  I can think of so many of my own acquaintances to whom it applies, both divorced and still married but unhappily.  It isn’t that the women married the men for consciously nefarious reasons – they legitimately didn’t understand their own motivations and then followed a predictable script.

          We are all stuck in our personal narratives. I know I certainly am, but you bring up the above topic often. As in almost every post. I certainly have not done a survey but I have friends who are divorced and used to belong to a women’s group that had a lot of divorced women. Those women had been very hurt by their divorces and were trying to reestablish their lives. NOT ONE ever said that once the marriage was over they realized they had only married for children and had never really found their husbands attractive. And given the fact that women usually initiate divorce, there had to be at least a small percentage of them who had been the ones to leave. In other words, they weren’t dumped. They wanted out, but even then, they were reeling.

        11. Jeremy

          But here’s the thing, Emily – it doesn’t surprise me at all that none of them said that, and that they were all devastated, even the ones who initiated the divorce.  They all wanted love.  They all hoped their marriages would last forever.  None of them ONLY wanted children and not a relationship, none had nefarious goals.  They just didn’t realize how much their primary motivation would sap from their other motivations until after the fact, or the cascade that that change would predictably initiate. I guess that one thing YAG and I have in common is that we are both trying to provide (what we think) is good advice to the women here.  YAG’s message – that men like him exist and are in the majority.  And the response of the women here – “we know men like you exist, we are trying to avoid you.  So we don’t need your message.” My message is different.  So many relationships and marriages break down, and when that happens it is more often the woman who becomes introspective.  She is more likely than the man to wonder what went wrong and how she can avoid repeating the mistake – so she seeks advice.  And as much as I’ve said that the advice for men out there generally sucks, I have to say that much of the marital advice for women isn’t much better.  Because while it is definitely valid to tell women that they need to choose better and to set better boundaries, if you ask many miserable husbands what is wrong with their marriages, their answer is almost never that their wives chose wrong or need more boundaries.  It is that they CHANGED.  When they went from girlfriends to wives to mothers their priorities reshuffled completely – that while they believed they were compromising, they were merely being polite while standing on their prerogatives.  Their problem was too many boundaries, not too few.  Or rather, too many boundaries with their husbands and too few elsewhere.  You can’t change the calculus of your priorities mid-marriage and expect your husband to “grow up” and accept it.  I repeat this message because it is the best piece of advice I have for women who want happy, peaceful relationships with men.  Act like you did when you were his GIRLFRIEND – don’t make excuses as to why you can’t.  If you do, and if you are married to a quality guy, he will do the same.  The reverse is not usually true. IME.

        12. Yet Another Guy

          @Jeremy

          I discovered that she had been seeing another guy who lived in her apartment and had been spending nights there several weeks before our breakup, and I discovered that this person neither liked nor respected me in any way.

          Man, I got a knot in the pit of my stomach reading this comment. Truth be told, I was engaged a few times in my before I married. My first fiancee was a flight attendant. We were engaged when I was in my late twenties. She lived with me in the first home that I had purchased before marrying.  One day, I received a letter in my mailbox while she was away. It was from a guy in Florida. Let’s say that curiosity got the best of me, and I steamed the bad boy open. What you wrote brought back how I felt when I read that letter. There were no direct references to an ongoing relationship, but there was a lot of smoke.  I ironed the letter and envelope to remove the wrinkles caused by steaming it open, resealed it, and gave it to her when she returned home. There was not a peep from her. Two months later, she returned home after a series of flights. We had to go to the emergency room that evening because she was not feeling well. It turned out that she had chlamydia. As I have mentioned many times on this blog, I have seen the ugly side of women.

        13. Yet Another Guy

          @Jeremy

          You can’t change the calculus of your priorities mid-marriage and expect your husband to “grow up” and accept it. 

          I believe that you have been on the money with this sequences of comments. Women do not get it, and they never will. Men are done talking when they decide to move on. There was absolutely nothing to be gained by telling me ex-wife that I wanted to get laid by a non-controlling woman who I desired. She figured that out soon enough after I moved out.  I had come within a hair’s breadth of cheating, and I was not going to push fate.

        14. Jeremy

          @Emily, I was thinking about your comment all morning – the one about how we are all stuck in our personal narratives – and I think you are right.  I’ve often read the comments section here and wondered if certain commenters were actually bots – computer algorithms designed to mimic humans.  Because so much of the time they just said the same thing over and over, refusing to change or to learn.  You flipped that back on me and made me realize that often times I do the same.  So thank you for that.  The world is a big place and people break up for lots of reasons with fault on all sides.  The grains of sand on the beach, as Mrs. Happy said.  So I’ve said my peace about the issue above, and will try to refrain from returning to it.

        15. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          When they went from girlfriends to wives to mothers their priorities reshuffled completely – that while they believed they were compromising, they were merely being polite while standing on their prerogatives. …   If you do, and if you are married to a quality guy, he will do the same.  The reverse is not usually true. IME.

          Idk, Jeremy.The few women I know who have children seem overwhelmed. They are lucky to have good partners who help out, but I have no idea if the partners feel they are no longer prioritized. Can I ask you this, though? Does your wife work fulll-time?  Because if she does and you have four children (and I realize you also work full-time), that’s a really heavy load. Four children without full-time work is a heavy load. Maybe she feels completely emotionally drained at the end of the day by four little people who are totally dependent on her. I’m getting tired just thinking about it. I’m not saying this is right or wrong, but people only have so much in their tanks.

        16. Jeremy

          No Emily, she works half time for the school board (9-3:30 every day, summers off).  She took a full year of mat leave for each child, followed by half-time work.  For all of that time she had a full-time nanny and cleaning lady in the house.  Because helping her with being overwhelmed was absolutely the first thing I did years ago, being obvious.

        17. Jeremy

          *Should have read “9-3:30 every SECOND day” (not every day)

        18. Stacy

          I actually agree with Jeremy. 

        19. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          I was thinking about your comment all morning – the one about how we are all stuck in our personal narratives – and I think you are right.  I’ve often read the comments section here and wondered if certain commenters were actually bots – computer algorithms designed to mimic humans.  Because so much of the time they just said the same thing over and over, refusing to change or to learn.

          I’m guilty of spouting off the same stuff over and over again myself, though I have learned from the comments on this site.

          No Emily, she works half time for the school board (9-3:30 every day, summers off).  She took a full year of mat leave for each child, followed by half-time work.  For all of that time she had a full-time nanny and cleaning lady in the house.  Because helping her with being overwhelmed was absolutely the first thing I did years ago, being obvious.

          Ok. Well, if she’s had a good amount of help and is not making you feel prioritized, I can understand your frustration.

        20. Mrs Happy

          Being a boyfriend or girlfriend is so different to being a spouse, and I think it’s mainly to do with time, though effort/habituation/energy/bandwidth also contribute.  I understand the want under Jeremy’s comment,

          “the best piece of advice I have for women who want happy, peaceful relationships with men.  Act like you did when you were his GIRLFRIEND – don’t make excuses as to why you can’t.  If you do, and if you are married to a quality guy, he will do the same.”

          When I was a girlfriend I did many things for or with boyfriends.  These included getting really dolled up for outings, and this equated to: shop/sort/dress in outfit (1-2 hours), wear fancy lingerie (expensive), wash and style my hair (1.5 hours), makeup (15 mins), other hair removal (1.5 hours including trip to beautician), baking him a cake or cookies or something (1.5 hours) – and that’s all to just see each other on say Fri/Sat night/weekends.

          Every moment we were together I’d prioritise him, and vice versa, within reason, and we’d be able to immerse ourselves in one another.

          I’d think of him between catch-ups and buy him presents (focus, time, bandwidth, money), organise outings (time, effort, money), plan and throw dinner parties (hours of organisation and tasks).  We’d go on trips or romantic holidays together and spend time (days-weeks) with only one another.  There was lots of sex and physical intimacy (energy, time, effort).  I’d compliment him, listen to him, he would be my focus, while we were together.

          But then Monday comes around and for 5 days we both go back to our own homes, work all week, have less/ little time for one another between the slog of life: commuting to work-working all day-hitting the gym after work-commuting home-cooking a quick dinner-showering-doing a household chore or two-something relaxing like reading or internet or a social/hobby thing-going to sleep.

          The boyfriend-girlfriend time and effort I expended previously were only possible because they were part-time.  That amount of focus and effort on one other adult just cannot continue once you live together unless it is at the expense of other real life commitments including other family and friends, earning a wage, exercising, running a household, etc.  No-one with a balanced life can sustain that intensity, and it wouldn’t be seen as healthy to only focus on your spouse like that.

          I suspect what Jeremy meant is, guess/discover the love language your spouse wants, and make some time to give to them, in that love language, more than you naturally do if left to your current busy life.

          Being treated like a girlfriend (intense time together, lots of new outings, compliments, stimulating conversation, endless acts of service, overseas holidays, continual gifts, novel exciting intimacy and sex) was really fantastic, but it would be completely impractical to expect that from my spouse.  My spouse just cannot do all that, continually and over decades, like boyfriends could.

           

          I find it interesting to consider the place between desires.  If my desire at the end of an exhausting week of work and emails and phone antics and traffic and ferrying/organising/feeding/cleaning/grooming/homeworking/playing with young kids and running a home and paying bills and all the rest of it, is to lie on the couch on Friday night and close my eyes and order take-away, eat it and then go to sleep, but I know my spouse’s desire is to have a nice healthy home-cooked dinner with freshly-shopped for ingredients and well behaved just happily-entertained-fed-and-bathed kids and a clean home and then a freshly groomed wife enjoy with him 30-60 minutes of physical affection and sex…. what do I do? What does he do?  What happens?  I suspect in most marriages, something between those desires happens, and both spouses are left with only some of their wants fulfilled.

        21. Jeremy

          I completely agree, Mrs. Happy, and you correctly interpreted my meaning.  Of course we must negotiate the space between desires.  And I think that most good spouses try to do so, yet fall victim to laziness and hedonic adaptation.  A good negotiation does not result in a 90-10 split.  I understand wanting to relax after a tiring week (boy, do I).  I understand the desire to not have to give of one’s self for a while.  A girlfriend/boyfriend makes the time.  A spouse struggles for power (yes, I went there again – tiresome, I know).  What is power, after all, but the ability to get our way when we want to?

        22. Gala

          @S: I disagree. I think that a wife and mother of his children deserves to know the truth. To what end though? The last thing you need is to aggravate the other party in the middle of the divorce and custody situation as it would lead to even more hurt feelings and as a result to higher legal bills. This is such a bad idea. I completely agree with Jeremy.As an aside, we as a society should really de-stigmatize and promote non-romantic co-parenting. I mean this is what most marriage become anyway over time. It would be a lot better if people who just wanted kids could get together just to have kids, with the upfront understanding that they’re not going to suffocate each other with romantic relationships restrictions. Right now the way to arrive to that blissful state where you can co-parent and still live your life without constantly compromising, apologizing and tolerating somebody else’s shit is to get married and amicably divorced… to complicated

        23. S.

          @Gala

          If you know someone never loved you and there is no possibility of reconciliation then may be easier to let go. Not for everyone, but for some. Especially if said person says it to you kindly, but firmly to your face. Also easier for the kids too. I don’t know maybe it’s a cultural thing. I value the truth even if it hurts.  When things aren’t said in words any fantasy could ensue. Still could even with words, but less likely my opinion. And I admit that I personally am not a person to strike out in anger when someone I love and respect tells me the truth kindly.  Especially if we were to have children in common.  But I’m a very . . . restrained person, I have to admit. 🙂

          I agree with you about non-romantic co-parenting.  I wish this was more culturally acceptable, just in terms of living situation, etc.  The thing is that parenting and dealing with another person with that is so time-consuming, it might be hard to find a romantic partner while investing so much energy into kids and the co-parent.  Maybe if it was just a friend? But then people don’t want to sleep with friends because of no attraction.

          It’s difficult.  You’d have to go into that with no romantic attachment whatsoever. So no romantic memories, etc.  For me, that pesky oxytocin after orgasm can be tricky.  But if you were having sex just to procreate maybe there wouldn’t be any orgasm for the woman . . . I know people have done this in decades past.  Hmm.

          suffocate each other with romantic relationships restrictions

          I don’t know if it has to be suffocating.  Some people really are happily married and accept that the relationship changes over time.  I think we as a culture have to realize that we can pin all our needs on our life partner.  It’s just not realistic, I agree with you.  But it’s difficult for people to let that particular fantasy go.  I wish happily married people would speak out generally (not necessarily meaning this blog) and dispel that myth but they are too busy being . . . happy.  Whatever that means for them. 🙂

        24. Jeremy

          I don’t know, Gala.  I think that learning to compromise and to love and live together and accommodate for differences helps parents raise better children.  Assuming, of course, that parents can do this.  Perhaps instead of encouraging non-romantic parenting, society should be discouraging people who can’t compromise from having kids?  Just a thought.

        25. Emily, the original

          S.,

          I wish happily married people would speak out generally (not necessarily meaning this blog) and dispel that myth but they are too busy being . . . happy.  Whatever that means for them. 

          I actually think it would help if we heard from more happily married people on this blog. Not just Evan, Mrs. Happy and Sparkling Emerald. What things have they compromised on in terms of living together and getting along? Do they feel heard and understood? Is their partner willing to listen and adapt a behavior if their requests are reasonable? (The other person wants to spend more time together, have more sex, spend more or less time separately with friends, more or less with extended family, etc.) Do they feel fulfilled in the relationship?

    2. 14.2
      Nissa

      Jeremy, I can understand not wanting to have a long discussion, but it would have been a kindness to at least send an email that said “you were rude to the wait staff, and that made me realize I’ve seen that behavior in you many times, and that trait is a deal breaker for me”. And if she thought you were being sanctimonious, who cares? I would argue that there’s more value in being forthright than in how the other person responds to it. Not telling her, robbed her of the opportunity to become a better person. If this same issue came up again, she is likely to batter the new person with the argument, “no one else ever had an issue with this”, not realizing that she in fact has lost other relationships over this same issue.As to your other experience, that’s a different thing. Of course, it’s crushing to have someone cheat on you, I’ve had it happen to me. And yes, seeing the evidence of it and seeing or hearing how everyone else knew about it and egged your ex on to break up with you, does feel horrible – that happened to me too. But in hindsight, that just says much more about the ex than you. Frankly, unless you are psychic (and even then, there are limits, ya know?), you can’t be expected to know something, that your partner is ACTIVELY HIDING FROM YOU. That means your judgment was likely not flawed, it was based on incomplete and/or inaccurate information. If it’s not WYSIWYG, then it isn’t. In fact, that makes it more likely that your judgment was accurate, because if she thought you were stupid or not worth having, she would not have bothered to hide it.Of course your ex’s opinion was not necessarily “truth”. But I have found that someone else’s negative opinion of me doesn’t really hurt unless I believe there’s some actual truth in it – and knowing that is of value to me.

      1. 14.2.1
        Gala

        The way i see it, giving reasons “why” opens the situation up to a negotiation. What if they say “i will change, i will no longer do XYZ, please don’t go”?

        1. Nissa

          So what if it does? If you are open to negotiation, great! You are getting an opportunity to get what you want. If the other person can’t sustain it, it’s still a benefit – you supported your self respect and integrity by asking for what you wanted. When the partner fails, then you walk away. The second time, the partner really can’t convincingly argue “I’ll change”. You (the general you, not you specifically) might find this difficult, but my experience has been that I felt relief in giving that person a chance, especially when that person failed. It made me feel like less of a bad guy.And if you aren’t open to negotiation, then you just say that. If they say, “I will change” it’s simple to say: “That might be, but I’m not willing to try”. That ends the discussion. It’s a simple case of “that’s not what I want, and I’m not going to do something other than what I want, even if you do”. If someone persists after that, I just wouldn’t take their calls. If I had to have contact, I’d make it email or text only. That tends to limit blathering.

    3. 14.3
      Clare

      I think I agree more with Nissa, in that there can be a benefit to being honest about the reasons for a break up in some circumstances. To assume that other people will dismiss your opinion as sanctimonious or that they will get bent out of shape is not giving them any credit for being willing or able to look at something within themselves.

      I know that if it had not been for the brutal honesty of some people in my life (particularly ex-boyfriends), I may not have the insight into myself that I have now. I know that not everyone appreciates criticism, but for my part, I do appreciate someone I’m in a close relationship with being straightforward with me about those things. It gives me the chance to self-evaluate and possibly grow.

      For my part, I am sometimes honest with people with whom I break off a relationship and sometimes not. If I think there is any possibility of them taking the information on board and doing something constructive with it, I will tell them why I ended it. If it will not cost me anything to be honest with someone, then I will also tell them, in the hopes that the penny will drop one day. For instance, one of the reasons why I left my ex-husband was because his family was very overbearing. He never saw it or set proper boundaries with them. However, years later when he was married to his second wife, he phoned me and said she had said exactly the same thing about his family and wanted to know what I thought he should do.

      If we don’t have the courage to be honest with people, some people will never change. Of course, there are many people who are simply not interested in self-improvement and to whom being honest will achieve nothing but drama, but that is not everyone.

    4. 14.4
      SparklingEmerald

      Jeremy Said “Yes, I’m divorcing you because I no longer find you attractive and I’m not sure I ever did.  I really wanted someone to give me children and help me raise them, but now that that’s done and over with – I’ve had my kids, my support, and my status – the only motivation I have to remain married is companionship and sex, and I don’t really enjoy either of those things with you, and I no longer see the benefit of continuing to put up with your shit because I just don’t get enough in return.  So thanks and bye.“I know you intended this as a script wives give when leaving husbands, but this sounds a lot like YAG’s marriage/divorce as he describes it.  He pretty much admits that he wasn’t very attracted to his wife but just married her to have a family.  It’s not surprising that she was the one who wanted to stop having sex, because on some level she probably sensed that her husband really wasn’t all that into her.  OR, maybe she married him, not being very attracted either, but wanted a family also.Also your scenario somewhat described what my  ex husband told me when he pulled the rug out from under me after 23 years,  only slightly modified”Yes, I’m divorcing you because I only married you for your looks,  we had great sex, and I wanted children.  I really wanted someone to give me children and  raise them, while I came and went as I pleased, but now that that our boy is grown, I don’t need you and you bore me, because you aren’t “athletic” enough and I don’t really enjoy your company. I appreciate what a good mother you were to our son.  We’ve simply grown apart. I’ll always “love” you for giving me a child, but I am no longer “in love” with you.  So thanks for the baby, mama, good- bye.” I get the impression that you think only women leave long time marriages because their unconscious goals were now met and the hubby is now disposable but men don’t.  (Apparently they have different types of assholery, but not this)Not saying this to be argumentative, but I really don’t buy into the notion that most women’s primary motivation for marriage is kids, and most men’s primary motivation is sex, and here’s why.  Both of these might have been true in the 1950’s, when sex outside of marriage was really taboo, and unwed motherhood was very taboo and almost illegal.  These days, a man doesn’t have to marry to get sex.  The free nookie sampler platter has been going around for a few decades.  And women can and do have children out of wedlock all the time, with no stigma, and probably a lavish baby shower to boot.  And not always pregnant “by accident” but often by choice.  Sometimes through adoption or a sperm bank, and sometimes the old fashioned way.   So I think in these modern times, the motivations are flipped.  Since it is harder for a single man to become a single father (surrogacy and adoption are the only options, and that’s no easy feat)  if a man really wants to have children, marriage would be an easier and more effective way.  Women don’t need to get married to be mothers, so I think it is more likely that a man would marry primarily to have children than a woman.   JM2C.

      1. 14.4.1
        Yet Another Guy

        @SE

        The free nookie sampler platter has been going around for a few decades.

        Lol! That is hilarious. You pretty much described my marriage except for the fact that my ex did not marry me to have children. She wanted to continue to climb the corporate ladder.  Wanting children was something that came out of the blue after we had been married for a year and half.  Everyone in her family was shocked to learn that she wanted to have a child.  While my ex was good with our children, she is not good with young children in general.  She never allowed anyone to watch our children because she did not want to have to return the favor, and that mindset extended to my siblings and their children, which my sisters found to be very weird.  While she loves our children, I am certain that she would have been just as happy to have never had children.

    5. 14.5
      Nissa

      You can’t change the calculus of your priorities mid-marriage and expect your husband to “grow up” and accept it.I absolutely agree with you that “lane changing” is problematic. I’ve experienced it firsthand. IME, it’s not that people are doing it deliberately, or are even aware of it. It often requires someone else to mention it before they even notice.But I’m not sure that I would equate that to having too many boundaries. Would I say, new? Or different? Yes, I’d agree to that. But I would also argue that relationships that span decades are bound to change, and the people in them change even without their awareness.After you mentioned that you considered having sex twice a month was equal to no sex, I spent at least 10 minutes trying to remember how often I had sex when I was married. I literally can’t remember. My best guess is, “when he was in the mood” or “more often in summer?”. But, I’m also sure that is because my ex never complained about this, it was a non issue. But I do remember that we only had sex in the bedroom in the last 5 years we were married, because that was a change from when we were dating. He refused to have sex anywhere but the bedroom, despite my repeated requests for alternatives. Was it a change? Yes. Did it have anything to do with me? I doubt it. Was it a new boundary? You could call it that. Was it a dealbreaker? No – so our contract was rewritten based on his new / changed / different desires. it didn’t make him a bad person. He just changed. Was it a way for him to hold me at arm’s length? I’d agree with that. Did it reflect his increasing unhappiness with our relationship? I’d agree to that too.You also mention having “too few [boundaries] elsewhere”. [Just like my ex did when he spent hours ‘hanging out with friends’ instead of coming home at night]. Again, I would say that people in general are not self aware enough to even realize that they have made a significant change. If a wife has a child, then is not aware that she’s not making time for her husband, I’d agree that that’s a problem. Would I also assume that she’s aware of it? No, I wouldn’t. If a woman has time to talk to her mom or sister on the phone for two hours, but not time to have intimacy with her husband, then she is prioritizing that above her husband. Is she aware of it? Probably not.If the husband explains it to her and she’s not willing to make the change, then she’s not prioritizing her husband’s stated wants or her relationship with him. But it’s not gender specific. If spouse A expresses that something that’s a deal-breaker has changed, and spouse B says, “too bad, that’s how it’s going to be”, then spouse A has every right to refuse to agree to the change. Spouse B is now changing the contract (just like my ex did). It’s only a deal-breaker if spouse B makes it one. For me, while I was disgruntled, it wasn’t enough of a problem to end the relationship over it, because I still got enough of what I needed on other ways. Was he acting like he did when he was my boyfriend? No, but I didn’t expect him to, either, as we were in an entirely different phase of life. Did I expect him to make a reasonable attempt to honor the contract we started with, or to articulate any changes he wanted to make? You betcha. But what I got – was sulking, passive aggressive, reluctant compliance and issue avoidance.  What I got, was an argument about why what he was doing was perfectly fine, even though I made it clear that my wants were not being met. He also failed to suggest any ways to meet those wants or to meet his wants in a way that dovetailed better with my wants.So I agree with you that if someone’s needs or wants aren’t getting met, the best way to resolve it is to put on the big panties and deal. Or have the guts to admit that they aren’t honoring the contract they agreed to in the first place. But most of us aren’t willing to deal with our partner’s refusal to conform to our wants, so we don’t ask.Most of us would rather spend time trying to get other people to change or honor agreements that they are no longer willing to honor, than to admit we are failing to implement any consequences or new boundaries for the new contract, which results in a covert agreement to the new contract. And if we are doing that, we really can’t blame them, for us not negotiating for our own wants or our decreased willingness to provide benefits in the new circumstance.  

      1. 14.5.1
        Nissa

        Oops – only a deal-breaker if spouse A makes it one.

      2. 14.5.2
        Jeremy

        So, where I disagree with you, Nissa, is on the issue of the contract being covertly re-written due to our tacit acceptance of a change in behavior.  If a couple is in an un-committed relationship, I would agree more with your statement.  But marriage is the confounder.  If a husband starts acting like a workaholic and is never around for his wife emotionally and if she continues the marriage in spite of that, is it that their emotional “contract” has been rewritten, or is it that she has been forced to accept a change to the contract because the consequences of her breaking the original contract are just too expensive in some way (whether emotionally or financially)?  Did she accept it, or was she coerced?

         

        On the one hand, I understand the advantages to a no-fault divorce system.  But on the other hand it leads to all sorts of injustice.  It allows the wife who decides to go off of sex in a marriage to essentially blackmail her husband.  “Go ahead, leave.  But if you do, you’ll pay me forever.”  Of course, kids do the same.  “Go ahead, leave.  But you’ll lose access to your kids.”  Or lose support in raising the kids.

         

        Marriage is the overt contract, but we sign it because of the unspoken contract – that we like each other the way we are, and want each other to remain essentially the way we are now.  Any major change to that unspoken contract that is not overtly negotiated (like, honey, let’s have kids) and agreed upon is a breakage of the unspoken contract, not a change to it.  We can’t just say that if the spouse accepts the behavior the contract is changed.  It’s not so easy to leave.

        1. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          Marriage is the overt contract, but we sign it because of the unspoken contract – that we like each other the way we are, and want each other to remain essentially the way we are now.  Any major change to that unspoken contract that is not overtly negotiated (like, honey, let’s have kids) and agreed upon is a breakage of the unspoken contract, not a change to it.  We can’t just say that if the spouse accepts the behavior the contract is changed.  It’s not so easy to leave.

          Have you and your wife been in couple counseling? It sounds like it may be a benefit because these themes emerge in your posts over and over … broken contracts, covert communication, change in personality, change in priorities, unequal power.

        2. Jeremy

          LOL Emily, it was therapy that introduced me to those terms 🙂  It was understanding about power balances that helped me progress toward a resolution during those difficult times.  Without understanding, all we have is raw emotion.  IMHO, one should not enter into a marriage without understanding how power balances work.  Here’s an excellent article on the subject that I think should be required reading in every church, synagogue, or city hall where marriages are performed:

          https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-attraction-doctor/201407/husband-tracks-sex-spreadsheet-does-wife-owe-him-more

        3. Emily, the original

          Mr. Jeremy,

          You know, I would like to have a serious relationship at some point, but, to be frank, I am very nervous about relying on one person for a big portion of emotional well-being and 100 percent of my sexual well-being. That’s not to say I would want an open relationship, but that relying on one person for all of that is a tall order, and, as you know, men and women think very differently and feel things very differently. For example, today I emailed a friend about a simple financial matter (I was using his address until I found a place to live when I moved). I’m waiting for my IRS refund check. Did he get it? I have a change of address in with the postal service, but I just found out the postal service won’t forward refund checks. He completely ignored the question and went on about something else. I don’t like relying on other people.

        4. Nissa

           I agree with you that any major change that is not overtly negotiated and agreed upon is a breakage of that unspoken contract. (That’s why covert contracts don’t work as well as overt contracts). But being there every day IS unspoken consent to the amended covert contract – and it is that unspoken consent that causes me to label this a re-writing of the original contract, rather than a break. The original contract says, we will live together, raise kids together, be faithful, and stay the way we are – and if the terms aren’t met, we won’t be together. Remaining together is unspoken acceptance, no matter what reason. The wife has broken the contract by refusing all sex and/or failing to negotiate a new frequency schedule, and the husband has broken it by failing to provide the consequence. That is his choice, based on his own judgment that the cost is too high.  I feel for you, because I experienced this. My husband changed (almost 10 years into the relationship). When I expressed my unhappiness about that, he didn’t care, wasn’t willing to make any change or offer any suggestions other than “if you don’t like it, leave”. I definitely felt forced. It felt like I had no choice and did not have the option to re-negotiate because all my ‘bids’ were dismissed. I felt coerced, because he still wanted to have sex, for me to pay bills, to do things his way, etc. It felt like I had to play by the original contract and he didn’t.  But I did have a choice. A friend of mine used to say, “You don’t choose marriage once. You choose it every day”. This is similar to what Evan says about boyfriends that start out great, but then fizzle out. I had to ask myself those questions: Am I here because of how my husband acts today, or how he acted 10 years ago? If we were just starting out, is this behavior I would accept? For a few years, I chose him based on who-he-had-been, not who-he-had-become.  I thought of Viktor Frankl of the book Man’s Search for Meaning, finding meaning in suffering and the loss of everything he held dear. I thought about Mel Gibson in Braveheart, screaming “they may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom”. I thought about Corrie Ten Boom of The Hiding Place, who chose to hide Jews and ended up in Ravensbruck, yet still came to the thought: God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies. Even under horrific circumstances, they all said the same thing: I choose. I choose my experience, my meaning, my journey. My heart is my always my own, no matter what circumstance or coercion. While my circumstances were so much better, yet I had difficulty recognizing my own power over my heart, my choices and my circumstances.  I had thought that my husband ‘forced’ me to accept his behavior, but I was the one that came home to that house and sat in the same room as him. No one twisted my arm. I chose, because I felt powerless to change my circumstance. While I demanded that my ex honor the original contract, he refused. I had to come to terms with the fact that any contract is essentially a consent given by both parties, and that this consent can be revoked at any time. Even though I wanted to retain the original contract, that option was not on the table. My husband withdrew his consent, said that he would be choosing that behavior from then on. Once the consent is withdrawn, there can be consequences, but imposing costs for the purpose of changing behavior is coercion. As you say, I don’t get to tell you what you can and can’t say. I do get to decide how to respond to your words.  And it was expensive. Trying to accept the new behavior shriveled my soul, hurt my heart and created shame that my own husband didn’t want me. When I gave that up, my heart flooded with relief, and hope for a life where I was honored. My home, for which my family had put up the down payment, was foreclosed. I moved to an apartment, which only allowed two dogs (I had 3) and lived in fear that I would be found out & become homeless. At my mature age, I faced fears that I would never again marry or have love. I gave up half my pension and had to borrow money from family to pay the attorney, which took over three years because my ex refused to come to court and the judge rescheduled a few times. He also refused to take my name off of his mother’s home, so that I could restore my credit and buy a home of my own. This took up to four years to resolve. Was that injustice? I say, in the end it didn’t matter, because I’m not responsible for the behavior or integrity of someone else. I am responsible for myself. And I would do it again in a heartbeat. Because it was already costing me my soul to stay. Would I stay for kids? I have always found more power in asking for what I want, even when I am refused, than in staying silent & fearing the possible actions of others. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Kids are smarter than we think, and they know when a parent loves them & wants to be involved. Actions speak louder than words. Deal with them directly, put it in writing if you need to, and make choices from the heart. I’ll shut up now.   

        5. Clare

          Nissa,

          I really love what you have said here. To me, this is an empowered way to look at life and the world. Realising that we have a choice every moment we choose to stay in a situation or interact with a particular person changed my life. This way of thinking eradicated every bit of victim mentality that I might have had.

          It’s perfectly fine to debate the fairness and unfairness of a particular person’s behaviour or get upset about the injustice of a particular situation. But at a certain point, you have to make a choice whether to stay in it or with them or not. Because if you see what is going on and you stay, you are participating in it. That does not mean leaving is easy, or socially acceptable… I think so many people get tripped up and trap themselves in bad situations or bad relationship because of the “shoulds” that are so prevalent in society. You *should* stay with him because he’s your husband/you have children together; you *should* put up with their shitty behaviour because they’re your parents/siblings/boss. And you can choose to buy into that thinking… keep banging away at a relationship that isn’t working out of obligation. Or choose to stick it out in situations that are a terrible fit for you because it’s too expensive/difficult/inconvenient to leave. But where does that leave you? Most likely miserable with the life being drained out of you.

          I’m not suggesting a person just ups and pushes off at the first sign of something we don’t like. We need to satisfy ourselves that we’ve made the effort we are willing to make and have weighed up the consequences. No one can make that decision for you. BUT far too many people see themselves as powerless victims, and then start seething with resentment and anger, instead of walking away. That option is always available to you (almost always). If someone is hurting you and making you miserable, you need to honestly assess why you are staying instead of breaking free of the source of your suffering. Like I said, I’m not suggesting that the alternative is easy or a bed of roses, but in my experience, acting from an empowered place always brings more happiness and more of what you want in the end. We don’t have control over what other people do, and often what they do has nothing to do with us anyway. But we do have absolute control over what we do and how we respond to what they do. Realising this at a deep level is the beginning of life as a very strong person. Having the courage to do what is right for you, even if it is not socially acceptable, is important too. I am not of the camp that believes that marriage is till death do us part if one of the parties changes the contract, or that you have to stay in a marriage that is hurting you and making you miserable. You have one life to live. One.

  15. 15
    ScottH

    I had a breakup similar to Gemma’s.  She kept telling me how happy I made her, that i just might be The One and how she couldn’t wait to see me when she got back from vacation and on and on and when she did get back, she broke up with me and her excuses were absolutely ridiculous and contrary to all the other things she told me.  The confusion was horrific and painful.

    I had another one where she told me why she was breaking up with me in a very difficult and respectful conversation and while I think her reasons were ridiculous, it provided almost immediate closure.  Her reasons made it clear that we were not a match and I was able to move on rather quickly.  But the confusion from the other one was unbearable.  She told me “A” over and over and over and then suddenly she told me “not A.”  I absolutely think it’s appropriate for a relationship that’s progressed beyond a certain point to have an honest discussion about why one party is walking.  That’s what grownups do.  It’s inhumane to suddenly leave someone hanging without a credible explanation.  And to say that we should be glad that such an inhumane person has left us isn’t much consolation, at least not for (anxious) me.

    1. 15.1
      Emily, the original

      ScottH,

      I absolutely think it’s appropriate for a relationship that’s progressed beyond a certain point to have an honest discussion about why one party is walking.  That’s what grownups do.  It’s inhumane to suddenly leave someone hanging without a credible explanation. 

      I agree. If you were adult enough to get into it, you’re adult enough to get out of it.

    2. 15.2
      Yet Another Guy

      @ScottH

      I absolutely think it’s appropriate for a relationship that’s progressed beyond a certain point to have an honest discussion about why one party is walking.  That’s what grownups do.  It’s inhumane to suddenly leave someone hanging without a credible explanation.  And to say that we should be glad that such an inhumane person has left us isn’t much consolation, at least not for (anxious) me.

      In my humble opinion, there are things that are better left unknown.

       

      1. 15.2.1
        ScottH

        @YAG:  “there are things that are better left unknown.”

        Sure, I guess ignorance is bliss to some.  Just because someone says or does something that might be hurtful doesn’t mean we have to internalize it.  It might say more about them than us.

        1. Yet Another Guy

          @ScottH

          It is just that there is nothing to be gained by telling the truth in these situations. Personally, I have no interest in hearing the truth. If a woman no longer wants to be involved with me, I look at it as an opportunity to find a new woman. I am never going to be so wrapped up in a woman that she can bring me to my knees. I allowed my ex to bring me to my knees by threatening to take my children and leave. No other woman is ever going to have that kind of power over me. Life is too darn short to feel that helpless.

  16. 16
    Tron Swanson

    I agree that, whenever this sort of thing happens, it’s logical to assume that some sort of red flag has popped up, even if it isn’t verbalized. Still…whenever men suddenly give up on a relationship, I think that women have to keep two factors in mind:

    1. Some percentage of men only want sex. Most of them either mislead women to get it, or they mislead themselves–the more conscientious or guilt-prone ones believe that what they want is wrong, so they need to force themselves to be relationship-oriented, which is about as successful as gay people trying to be straight.

    2. Some percentage of men think that they want a relationship, as it’s so ingrained in our culture, but they actually just want sex or minimal/temporary companionship, and not a serious, long-term relationship.

    The former should be self-explanatory. I’d like to explain the latter. When I was younger, I knew that I didn’t want to get married or have kids, but I still thought that I needed/wanted a relationship. If you’d asked me why–and no one did, it was just taken for granted that everyone wants the same things–I wouldn’t have been able to explain it very well, beyond some vague, cliched “That’s what people do to be happy”-like statement. But I never put much effort into getting relationships, and when I somehow ended up in a few of them, I felt restless and unsatisfied. I thought I wanted one, but I actually didn’t, and the combination of social conformity and lust was enough to fool me…for a while, anyway.

    In short: be careful, ladies. Men can lie to you, but they can also lie to themselves.

  17. 17
    Mrs Happy

    Looking at the title of this piece – “Why would a man commit to me and then change his mind?” makes me think – how many grains of sand are there on my local beach?  Because really, people break up with their significant other for a myriad of reasons, and most people never truly know why they were broken up with.  Even any stated explanatory reason, which may or may not be true, and almost certainly isn’t all the reasons, is only the reason a person can consciously tap into at that moment in time and is comfortable saying.  Hence all the wishy-washy vague reasons people give.

    At no other time in any social interactions is complete honesty encouraged.  I don’t tell my colleagues they are narcissistic.  I don’t tell complete strangers they are ugly.  I don’t tell acquaintances they are boring.  So why on earth would we expect anyone to suddenly tell us hurtful truths at the time of a break up?  It doesn’t happen, and all the ‘but it would help the other person improve themselves’ theories don’t matter, and possibly aren’t correct anyway.

    It’s useful to remind ourselves of the mindset of the person doing the breaking up.  They have already decided to walk.  They want to minimise hurt.  They want to deliver the news then exit the situation as fast as possible.  They want to avoid seeing or experiencing distressing emotions.  All of this is normal human behaviour.

    To the OP: he broke up with you because he didn’t want to be in that relationship with you.

    1. 17.1
      Jeremy

      Yes.  To pretty much all of this.

       

      I think there might be some truth to what Clare and Nissa wrote above regarding opportunity for improvement, but it is very dicey whether or not that information will be well-received, whether it will be taken as an opportunity for bargaining (as Gala suggested), or whether it will result in further negativity and prolonging the awkwardness.  Can it be useful for a person to know why someone broke up with them?  Yes.  When my first girlfriend broke up with me, as I described above, and I learned that she just thought I was too boring for her, I learned a very important lesson….but not right away.  I had been hoping that I could be “normal,” be one of those people I grew up with who liked going to lounges and clubs and all the other things people in their late teens/early twenties were doing.  But when I got to those clubs and lounges with her, I thought that if there was indeed a Hell in the afterlife, it must look something like those noisy, pretentious places.  I tried very hard to like those places, not just so that she would like me better, but so that I would better like myself.  But when she broke up with me I learned fully that I would never be “normal,” never like the things normal people did.  And that led me on a journey to discover what normal actually means, and ultimately to realize that both she and I were indeed normal, but not at all the same.  That people can be grouped based on their underlying assumptions, and that our underlying assumptions differ systematically.  That I might as well have been an owl living among sparrows, lamenting my inability to sing like they do, while wondering why they couldn’t see as I do. That there was nothing wrong with me, only with my assumptions of normalcy.

       

      But honestly, how many people – if told they were too boring by a romantic partner – would learn that lesson?  How many would try to be more exciting for the next partner?  And how many would take it to mean that something was wrong with the first partner’s priorities?  Both of which lessons would be incorrect and potentially lead to wrong and harmful solutions?  Better, in so many cases, not to know – and to just continue looking for someone more compatible.

      1. 17.1.1
        Noquay

        Jeremy

        I agree, “normal” can encompass many traits and what one should be looking for is “compatible”. Trying to respectfully tell the other person what is “wrong” with them is just going to generate denial, hurt, anger, especially if it’s a situation where changing is difficult or impossible. At my age range, behaviors, culture, and ways of looking at life are very ingrained and will not change unless something catastrophic occurs.  Lifestyle, outlook, is determined over decades of life experience and is how that person self identifies even those things are not in a persons best interests. No outside person is going to change that so yep, it’s best to move on and look for someone compatible. I would say that folks should enter into relationships knowing full well what works and doesn’t work for them, what they realistically have to offer, have healed from their last rship, and take time to really assess a potential partner before having sex unless you’re both into casual. After all, if things haven’t worked out, you have wasted the other persons time and emotional investment.

      2. 17.1.2
        Nissa

        Jeremy, I’m an owl too! Like you, I tried hard to like all those things other people like, and it just wasn’t me. I did finally learn that most of those people I was so worried about liking me fell into one of two camps: either they never liked me no matter what I did anyway (like my husband) or they liked me the way I was already. My life got much, much better when I stopped hanging around with the first group and focused on the second group. The kicker was, I had to accept myself first, with all my many flaws. That was truly the hard part.Your post made me laugh because I did indeed find my ex boring. Although I dearly loved him, and tried hard to adapt to him, a number of things he enjoyed doing were dead boring. I honestly don’t know how I stood it as long as I did. Clearly, love kept me wearing rose colored glasses, because as soon as I left him, I never did those things again and I’m still hugely grateful I will never.ever. have to do those things again. BUT – I’m sure those things – video games, car parades – would be interesting to someone – just not me. In fact, the one time I dragged him out to my thing, dancing,  he told me:”I hated that the whole time we were there and I’m never doing that again”. I’m sure he was bored by me as well, but this doesn’t particularly bother me – it’s just one of the areas where he has poor taste. I never took his poor choices in footwear personally, and I don’t take his poor taste in other areas personally either. I don’t think it would ever have occurred to my ex to try to be more exciting for someone else (or that he would try even if it did occur to him). I very much think that it implies something was wrong with MY judgment – not his. I was willing to accept someone who really, was a terrible match for me. When we broke up, I used that knowledge to make positive change in my life, by changing my life to include people and activities that reflected my wants instead of someone else’s, and by learning that there were people out there who got excited about the same things I did – my job was just to put effort into making that happen. It required me to trust that people would love me just as I am. When I got excited about myself, the people who responded to that turned out to be a much better match for me – and not boring at all.

        1. Jeremy

          I think there is a middle ground on this, Nissa.  I don’t think that partners necessarily need to be interested in all of each other’s interests, just tolerant of them and willing to enjoy the other’s enjoyment of them.

           

          My wife loves the symphony.  She was a cellist in her youth, and particularly loves string performances.  I don’t much like classical music, but I’m happy to book symphony tickets for the two of us.  I enjoy making her happy and am happy to keep her company.  And if I occupy myself by picturing Elmer Fudd tiptoeing around to the music hunting for wabbits, so be it.

           

          We don’t like the same type of movies or books or music.  She doesn’t love fish, but tolerates the reef aquarium I built.  We might find some of each other’s interests boring, but we don’t find each other boring.

           

          So I don’t know that we need to find a person who shares our interests or gets excited about the same things we do.  More important IMHO is sharing a vision of the type of life we both want to live – how it should look in the general and the specific.  And sharing a love and a mutual respect for each other.  With that as the foundation, it matters much less if he loves video games and she loves dancing.

    2. 17.2
      Nissa

      Mrs Happy: You ask, So why on earth would we expect anyone to suddenly tell us hurtful truths at the time of a break up?This is a genuinely great question. My answer is: because they are asking. That’s the moment!! It’s the moment that the person is ready to hear it, ready to make change, ready to be open to new information. For example, when I was getting divorced, I had three co-workers in a group discussion, tell me I was insecure. I don’t even remember what we were talking about, but years later, I remember them all nodding and saying, “yes, you are insecure”.It was a bombshell to me, and I brought it up again later, because it was fundamentally at odds with how I thought about myself. Yet, because they all said it, and with small looks at me to see how I was receiving it, spoke volumes to me. When I brought up to them that I didn’t think I was insecure in general, could they clarify? One of them mentioned that she thought this was about men specifically, rather than just in general. This was such a blessing to me, because I so appreciated their honesty and courage in speaking truth to me, when they could have easily given the socially acceptable lie.I was able to use this truth to see myself more clearly. I realized that they had heard me say things like “No other man will want me, so I might as well stay married to someone that I love, even if things aren’t great”. It made me reexamine my beliefs about my lovability and why I thought those things. It made me reexamine all my relationships in a new, more objective light. It made me resolve to pay attention to my words and realize I had some real hurts from the past that caused me to think that any man I liked would reject me. I very deliberately spent time getting to know my father better, so that I could heal old wounds relating to male relationships. I was able to take ownership of my choosing a spouse who was a poor fit for me, and ownership of why I made those choices. All of which makes me a better partner today.I get that the person breaking up wants to minimize his or her own distress. But to me, it honors the relationship by providing insight which that person may never achieve on their own. If the person was worth having a relationship with, then they are worth honoring in that way. 

    3. 17.3
      ScottH

      @Mrs Happy- I usually agree wholeheartedly with you, but not this time.

      “most people never truly know why they were broken up with”
      “only the reason a person can consciously tap into at that moment in time and is comfortable saying.  Hence all the wishy-washy vague reasons people give.”
      “narcissistic colleagues, ugly complete strangers, boring acquaintances…”

      We’re not talking about strangers, acquaintances, and colleagues.  We’re talking about someone you enthusiastically swapped body fluids with, shared a lot of sensitive time with, got to know things about each other that most other people will never know.  And yes, when we’re broken up with, we (I) would like to have some credible reason of why, even if i don’t agree with it or like it.

      “They want to minimise hurt.”

      And by not giving a credible reason why, the hurt is amplified, not minimized.  To go from saying how much they cared about us and talking about the future to suddenly saying that they don’t want to see us again and there is no future, well, getting the rug suddenly pulled out is incredibly hurtful.  I suppose it would be ok to just send a short text message saying that it’s all over and you can figure it out on your own.  No, that’s just plain inhumane.
      “To the OP: he broke up with you because he didn’t want to be in that relationship with you”
      Sometimes people reach a point in a relationship where the intimacy is overwhelming and they can’t handle it so they cut and run.  It sounds to me that’s what happened in Gemma’s case.

      1. 17.3.1
        Mrs Happy

        This has been my experience.

        Decades ago, I would explain WHY I thought I was breaking up, whenever I broke up with a boyfriend in my teens, then 20’s, but because it played badly repeatedly, often seemed to worsen the distress, I stopped doing it.  I learnt to give vague, half-truth reasons, to not be too blunt/honest or mean.

        I was trying to avoid the guy bargaining, “I can do x differently if you don’t like it, I can change” and being angry at me – they are realities and common reactions when you mention negatives to a partner who is hurting.

        In retrospect, the reason/s I thought I was breaking up, weren’t actually anywhere near the full story, and that usually became clear only long after the relationship ended and I had time and distance away to more objectively evaluate incompatibilities.  So for example if I turned down a marriage proposal during my 20’s I usually said I wasn’t ready for marriage yet, wanted to travel, progress in my career, live alone independently for a while longer.  But really, though all those were/are true, I now realise the issues were often more around me feeling serious incompatibility (from my point of view, not his), or some difficult-to-define problem, or reservations I had about a future together, or something else.  I couldn’t have communicated those at the time of break up even if I’d wanted to.

        Thus I think I learnt during my life not to be TOO truthful with partners I was leaving.  I believe this is really common and almost everyone does this.

        Maybe it would be better for them to hear blunt honesty as has been suggested above, but I don’t think it always would.  At the end of the day, I did what was best for me, and what I thought was kindest for them, and essentially this is how most people behave across most domains of life.

        1. Selena

          @Mrs. Happy

          Similar experience here. When I was the one to break off a dating situation, I could always come up with *reasons* at the time, but would give the guy some kind of “it’s not you, it’s me” explanantion to avoid/minimize hurt feelings, potential backlash.

          It took time and distance to realize the real reason I backed out was simply because I didn’t feel the fellow was a good match. I didn’t feel enough attraction, compatibility to want to continue. All the little *reasons* I told myself at the time, were attempts to justify what I couldn’t articulate to myself.

          It wouldn’t have been helpful, nor kind, if I had told these fellows what they did that bugged me, because if I had felt more for them those things would have matter less, if at all. Nor would it have been helpful or kind to say, “I just don’t like you enough –  I don’t know why” which would have been closer to the truth.

          As for the the letter above: I suspect Gemma’s friend came to feel he just didn’t see her as a long term partner and chose to break it off rather than string her along. 2-3 months of dating is often a common point for coming to such a realization.

      2. 17.3.2
        Clare

        ScottH,

        I ag ree with you completely.

        I don’t really buy Mrs Happy and Jeremy’s arguments that not giving reasons is more comfortable and minimizes stress, and that most people will not change anyway. As far as the former goes, discomfort and stress is most certainly not minimized for the person being broken up with, and his or her possible attempts to get answers will not minimize discomfort or stress for the person doing the breaking up. Sure, the person doing the breaking up could block the person they’ve broken up with, refuse to take their calls and shut down like Fort Knox, but this seems to me to be a rather emotionally stunted approach. Wouldn’t it be easier and more mature to have a brief, calm and respectful conversation where you give the summarized version of your reasons? If the person being broken up with cannot handle that, then that is on them. At that point, you can walk away knowing you at least did the decent thing.

        As for the second point, that most people will not absorb the information or change anyway, well, that is their business. What they do with the reasons and information you give is not your concern. But with most people, if enough people say the same thing, some kind of light will start to dawn on them. I can think of so many examples of this, and this is because I am a straightforward person and I am honest with people. Right now, as we speak, an ex-boyfriend of mine is in therapy. His therapist told him that he seemed very closed off emotionally. And he said to her, “You know, all my ex-girlfriends have said that, including the last one” (the last one was me). He is now making a sincere effort to open up emotionally. When I told him that I found him to be a closed book and that I felt he had a wall up, I had no way of knowing whether he would do anything with that information, and it didn’t matter anyway. But I’m thrilled that he is doing something with it.

        It will forever be baffling to me how someone can be so open with someone one day, being intimate with them, sharing everything, communicating constantly, and then the next day, decide that a phone call or an explanation as to why they are ending things is too much trouble. I will never forget a short relationship that I had where we spent Valentine’s Day together and he gave me the most beautiful gifts and lovely card with a loving message, and then broke up with me by text two days later in a very vague way. He refused point blank to take my phone calls or reply to any further communication. It took me weeks to get over that one, weeks of crying and distress. He had every right to end it, but it was the confusion which hurt so much, and as an anxious person, that was torture. Funnily enough, when I was finally able to get him on the phone, my anxiety disappeared and I was able to move on instantly. And I thought, wouldn’t it have been so much easier just to have had this conversation in the first place, and spared us both this trauma?

        While the person doing the breaking up has every right to do so, I do not buy the idea that they have no obligation to the person they are breaking up with. They got into the relationship willingly and intentionally, knowing full well what they were getting into. A romantic relationship develops a closeness and intimacy that far surpasses that which one has with a colleague, a friend, or even a family member. People make themselves vulnerable in ways that they do not do with anyone else. Being open and clear in the way that you end it is literally the very least you can do to respect both yourself and the other person.

        1. ScottH

          Right, Clare.  When I talked to the one who gave me the respect of a face to face breakup and she gave me her reasons, I immediately felt the attachment disappear.  I thought her reasons were ridiculous, but they were hers and that’s who I would have been with had we stayed together.  I got to see the real her, and that wouldn’t have been good for anyone.  The other one flipped almost overnight and virtually disappeared and threw me into a tailspin for a long time.  How does the song go, “and if you loved me, won’t you always love me?”  Sure, you can say that I should be glad to be rid of someone who would do that but that’s not how my mind works.  Disappearing seems to be more common than a respectful face to face though, unfortunately.

        2. Emily, the original

          Nissa,

          Clare,

          Being open and clear in the way that you end it is literally the very least you can do to respect both yourself and the other person.

          I totally agree, and I don’t think it has to be a long conversation. But the conversation needs to be had. And when the person who wants out says that want to minimize hurt, what they really mean is they want to minimize the awkwardness for themselves of having the talk.

        3. Yet Another Guy

          @Clare

          Wouldn’t it be easier and more mature to have a brief, calm and respectful conversation where you give the summarized version of your reasons?

          As I mentioned above, there are things that are better let unsaid or pushed aside.  For one, I am never going to tell a woman that I broke up with her because she sucks in bed.  A man only has to tell a woman that one time before he learns to keep his mouth shut and come up with a different reason. I bet that few women have the courage to tell a man that his penis is too small to bring pleasure. Yet, I have had women tell me that they broke up with men because their penises were too small to bring them pleasure. Women routinely tell men that size does not matter, but my experience tells me that it does, especially girth.  When a woman does that shallow gasp as a man inserts his penis, he can be pretty much assured that he is larger than her last lover.

        4. Emily, the original

          YAG, 

          I bet that few women have the courage to tell a man that his penis is too small to bring pleasure. 

          That might have been true for those women, but I was once with a man who was a fairly small, and let’s just say he’s the only man I’ve been with who got me there through intercourse alone (nothing else was touched … if you get what I’m saying) without any instruction. He instinctively knew how to move, an extremely rare skill most women would love a man to have. Just sticking it in and slamming it around (sound crass, but I’m not sure how else to put it) doesn’t provide pleasure for most women.

        5. Clare

          YAG,

          I will say this for you… I almost never agree with you, but your comments often amuse me enormously. *Shallow gasp*? This cracked me up. For some reason I was sitting here imagining you towering over some woman with a Machiavellian-type smirk on your face while she swooned and fainted, Mills-and-Boon style.

           

          Emily,

          “He instinctively knew how to move, an extremely rare skill most women would love a man to have. Just sticking it in and slamming it around (sound crass, but I’m not sure how else to put it) doesn’t provide pleasure for most women.”

          Yes to this!

          I have once broken up with a guy because his penis was too small. I did not tell him this, of course, because the information would not have benefited him in any way, I told him it was because he was a workaholic, which was half-true.

          However, I have to completely agree with you about the guy knowing *how* to move and what to do with his equipment. I once had a relationship with a guy with a very large penis, and sex was awful because he was so rough and insensitive. The men with whom I personally have had the best sex were the ones who listened to me, to my body, who paid attention to what I liked, regardless of penis size. So YAG’s view of the importance of size is a little overstated, at least in my experience, but then… that is not very surprising.

        6. Yet Another Guy

          @Clare

          So YAG’s view of the importance of size is a little overstated, at least in my experience, but then… that is not very surprising.

          I never said that size was everything.  What I said is that size is one those things where what a woman says she wants and what a woman actually wants are two different things. Size alone does not make for a good lover, but being smaller than a woman wants is a problem, regardless of ability. Women come in a continuum of sizes and so do men.

        7. Emily, the original

          Clare,

          *Shallow gasp*? This cracked me up. For some reason I was sitting here imagining you towering over some woman with a Machiavellian-type smirk on your face while she swooned and fainted, Mills-and-Boon style.

          That made me laugh, too. “Let me get my smelling salts before I faint. Please warn a lady before you take out your engorged member.”  🙂

          “I have once broken up with a guy because his penis was too small. I did not tell him this, of course, because the information would not have benefited him in any way, I told him it was because he was a workaholic, which was half-true.”

          People are taking the “tell the soon-to-be-ex the truth” statements as black and white by meaning you either lacerate someone or tell them a flim flam half-truth. There is a middle ground. For example, I dated a guy years ago who was pressing me to move in with him. I told him I wasn’t ready for a relationship. That was half true. I wasn’t ready for one with him, and I wasn’t going to change my mind. I should have been honest with him because he kept hoping things would be different in the future. One of the big issues was that he was not an attentive father and rarely saw his kids. That bothered me.

          “So YAG’s view of the importance of size is a little overstated, at least in my experience, but then… that is not very surprising.”

          Given the choice between a man with a large penis who has no idea how to use it and a man with an average sized to slightly smaller than average sized penis who knows how to move, I think most women would choose the latter.

        8. Clare

          Emily,

          “That made me laugh, too. “Let me get my smelling salts before I faint. Please warn a lady before you take out your engorged member.” “

          I laughed until tears ran down my cheeks when I read this!!! 😀 Thank you

          “People are taking the “tell the soon-to-be-ex the truth” statements as black and white by meaning you either lacerate someone or tell them a flim flam half-truth. There is a middle ground.”

          Quite so. This is the point that I have been painstakingly trying to make. You can tell someone the truth in such a way that it respects both you and the other person. You can be honest and direct in such a way that your meaning is clear, but you do not hurt the other person unnecessarily. And I agree – being clear often does spare the person the effort of trying to come back into your life. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to break up with a guy vaguely, only to find he doesn’t really consider the break up serious.

          You also really do not have to tell the whole truth in 100% of circumstances. Use your discretion, people. If there is some possible benefit to be gained from giving your reasons, then give them. I really don’t understand people like Jeremy and Theodora who say that being rude to the waitstaff is not something a person can possibly help, so there’s no point telling them that it put you off. Of course a person can help something like that. Of all the things one could change about oneself, that has got to be right up there with the very easiest.

          Anyway. I need to go and laugh at YAG’s comment again.

        9. Jeremy

          Clare, it’s not that I think a person can’t change something like being rude to a waiter.  Of course they could if they saw reason to.  Rather, my point was to assess the motivation of the person doing the breaking up – that person has made a decision to exit the relationship because they no longer want to be in it.  In the example I gave above, I felt that if I had to “teach” her to be nice, I really didn’t want to be with her.  I wanted to exit in the most stressless way possible for both of us.  Say something innocuous, something that can’t really be argued with or taken too personally, and get out of there.  Because if I had said that I was breaking up with her because of her rudeness to the waiters, I could envision several possible ways the conversation could unfold:

          1) She could thank me and take it as an opportunity to grow

          2) She could tell me that I’m an asshole and storm off

          3) She could tell me that she is willing to change, or that I caught her on a bad day, or some other thing to engage into a conversation that I didn’t want to have, to negotiate or prolong the whole affair.

           

          And while I do think that #1 is a possibility, I think that 2 or 3 are more likely.  What is the motivation of the person doing the breaking up to risk that?

           

          As a final aside, a few days ago there was an article on Yahoo about a woman who broke up with her BF.  She sent him a photo of herself and asked him if he thought she had gained weight. She told him she wanted him to be totally honest with her.  He responded that he thought she had gained a bit of a gut since they had started dating.  She dragged the conversation all over the internet and broke up with him publicly.  An extreme example, sure, but one that makes the point.  Often times, people who ask for honesty don’t want it.

        10. S.

          @Emily

          Given the choice between a man with a large penis who has no idea how to use it and a man with an average sized to slightly smaller than average sized penis who knows how to move, I think most women would choose the latter.

          Agree.

        11. Yet Another Guy

          @Clare

          Anyway. I need to go and laugh at YAG’s comment again.

          What would you do without me? You would be bored. Plus, you would start to believe that most men are not out for one thing. 🙂

        12. Mrs Happy

          Dear YAG,

          the “shallow gasp” thing is easily faked, I always did that during my 20’s to make the guy feel good.  It took till my 30’s to stop making sex all about the man in bed, and start acting naturally.

          I absolutely agree with you about penis size and have stated so previously.  In my experience, some are just too small.  So small the endeavor is pointless.  Atop that requirement, as others have said, skill is also a benefit.  No-one with manners is ever going to tell a guy his penis was too small for her to feel much, so of course there will be a discrepancy between the break-up narrative and the real reasons.

        13. Emily, the original

          Dear Mrs. Happy,
          the “shallow gasp” thing is easily faked, I always did that during my 20’s to make the guy feel good.  It took till my 30’s to stop making sex all about the man in bed, and start acting naturally.
          I think all women have done their fair share of acting, at any age, really. Sometimes you pretend certain things have happened … because you want to move the whole thing along.

        14. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          As a final aside, a few days ago there was an article on Yahoo about a woman who broke up with her BF.  She sent him a photo of herself and asked him if he thought she had gained weight. She told him she wanted him to be totally honest with her.  He responded that he thought she had gained a bit of a gut since they had started dating.  She dragged the conversation all over the internet and broke up with him publicly.  

          That’s an extreme example. More black and white thinking. She wanted to punish him and that says far more about her than it does about him.

        15. Emily, the original

          Clare,

           “Let me get my smelling salts before I faint. Please warn a lady before you take out your engorged member.” “

          You have to say it in your best Scarlett O’Hara voice. Remember the scene where she’s startled by Rhett Butler who, unbeknownst to her, was hiding in the library and overheard her confess her love to Ashely. “Why, sir, you should have made your presence known!”

          “Why, sir, you should have made your penis known!”   I mean, if it’s too small ….  🙂

        16. Emily, the original

          S.,

          Given the choice between a man with a large penis who has no idea how to use it and a man with an average sized to slightly smaller than average sized penis who knows how to move, I think most women would choose the latter.

          I mean, Ron Jeremy has a huge penis … but it’s attached to Ron Jeremy. I think most women would pick Ryan Gosling over Ron Jeremy, even if Ryan Gosling was pretty average or even slightly smaller than average.

        17. Clare

          Jeremy,

          Re: the woman who broke up with her boyfriend because he told her honestly that she had gained a bit of weight when she asked for honesty….

          “Often times, people who ask for honesty don’t want it.”

          Completely agree. Unfortunately, the truth is a bit like those brussell sprouts that your mother made you eat as a kid – good for you, but unpalatable.

          Someone who was averse to being very honest with someone in a relationship might take this story as further evidence of the negative consequences of telling someone the truth. Personally, I think this guy dodged a giant bullet, and it took his honesty to reveal this. Someone who asks for complete honesty about whether she has gained weight, a) already knows that she has gained a little bit of weight, and b) needs to put on her big girl panties and steel herself for the uncomfortable truth.

          The fact that she was not mature enough to handle an honest answer should not deter people from telling the truth when it is called for. How feeble are these people for God’s sakes? On both sides? Telling someone they are overweight is dubious, but if that person themselves opens that can of worms by asking for it, well….

          don’t go around being blunt with people. But if someone asks for my honesty, I will give it, in a kind way. People often confide in me and ask my opinion for that very reason. I never lacerate them with the truth, but I will give it to them straight.

          Many (I’m not sure about most) people cannot handle the truth, as you rightly pointed out. Sometimes they need to be spared from the truth, and sometimes they don’t. Being challenged once in a while is good for the soul.

        18. Jeremy

          I don’t know, Clare.  I think that you are right on the one hand that someone who asks her BF whether she has gained weight knows on some level that she has.  But you also know that the woman asking the question isn’t really asking the question her words are asking.  She is asking her BF whether he sees her differently.  Whether he has lost attraction to her.  The answer she wants to hear is that he doesn’t see any change in her weight, which she might know to be a white lie, but hears his unspoken communication that the way he sees her and feels about her hasn’t changed.  That he hears what she is asking, “gets it,” and responds in kind.  She doesn’t want to hear that he thinks she has gained weight but loves her anyway, because she won’t believe the second part of the statement.  He should only phrase it that way when he feels his attraction diminishing and wants to encourage her to lose weight at risk of her feelings.  Any man who is married and hasn’t learned this aspect of female communication won’t do well in the long-term.  It isn’t about lying, it’s about how best to communicate feelings with a person whose communication mode is covert.

        19. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          Any man who is married and hasn’t learned this aspect of female communication won’t do well in the long-term.  It isn’t about lying, it’s about how best to communicate feelings with a person whose communication mode is covert.

          I think we’ve established on this post that male communication mode is equally covert in the reasons they give for breakups.

        20. Clare

          Jeremy,

          “white lie”

          “isn’t really asking the question her words are asking”

          “the answer she wants to hear”….

          Feeble.

          I am a woman and I do not need someone to walk on eggshells around me in this way.

          If I ask the question, I should prepare myself for an honest answer. If I do not want an honest answer, perhaps I should not ask the question.

          If what I am really wanting to know is, are you still as attracted to me? Do you still find me beautiful? Do you still love me the same? Maybe I should ask the poor man these questions. He’s not a mind reader.

          And I agree with Emily. This is black and white thinking. And you’ve had to veer very far away from the original question just to make the point that people should sometimes be protected from the truth. It’s not even what I was saying. My point was that grown adults can (most of the time) handle a simple conversation about why you are breaking up with them.

        21. Nissa

          Jeremy, you say: But you also know that the woman asking the question isn’t really asking the question her words are asking. I find this insulting. Really? Someone else knows what I mean better than I do? That runs closely to “no doesn’t really mean no” and “she wanted it too” because ‘she really wants a white lie’.No. We don’t get to assume we “really” know what that person means. If the person hearing it is confused, they need to ask questions to clarify it.Yes, there are some people out there who can’t say what they mean to save their life. Yes, it’s easier to respond to their intention rather than their actual words. But this really doesn’t help them understand that they are being confusing. I have a friend that does this, and she recently had yet another friend refuse to do business with her (as I had done previously for that very reason) and she mentioned that “gee, this is the third person who has made a habit of repeating things back to me and insisting on putting things in writing, or not wanting to work with me….maybe it really is me”.Is it sensible to respond to their underlying intent in ADDITION to their words? Yes, because it many people either do have difficulty putting their feelings into words or are too fearful to speak it out loud. Such as, “Well, neither of us is as skinny as we used to be, but we are so lucky to be just as in love today as we used to be”, then giving her a big kiss and patting her tush with a leer. That’s still the truth – that you do love her and are attracted to her.Arguing “but she won’t hear I love her even if I say it” is really HER issue.  Asking for feedback and then getting angry just shows she has poor relationship skills and her partner is getting shortchanged.Then again maybe people are ok with relationships where leaving out information “isn’t really lying” and white lies are the norm.

        22. Jeremy

           

          Oy.  Nissa, your comparison of what I wrote to “no means yes” is highly offensive to me, since we are speaking of insulting things.  When someone asks me a question, I get to answer based on what I think best.  Not what they do.  If we advocate the opposite, we do indeed advocate coercion.

           

          As far as the rest of the comments, I guess we’ll agree to disagree.  I often talk about bad advice given to men by women.  Seriously, if a married man asks a group of his male friends, “My wife asked if her jeans made her ass look fat.  What should I say?”  They will wisely tell him to lie, regardless of what she might want.  Because if he says yes, she might thank him for his honesty or she might blow up.  But if he says no, the chances of her blowing up will be almost zero, and her ass won’t change one way or the other.  Because the jeans don’t make her ass look fat, her ass makes her ass look fat.

           

          While the person doing the asking might be motivated to hear the truth or to hear a validating statement, more important (to the person doing the answering) is what is motivating the person doing the answering.  HIS motivations (not hers) determine what he says.  If his motivation is to minimize drama, he will act one way.  If he ego-invests in the persona of the radically-honest person, he might do otherwise.  And if he hopes to be the great educator, he might do otherwise.

           

           

           

        23. Emily, the original

          Jeremy, 

          “My wife asked if her jeans made her ass look fat.  What should I say?”  

          Why can’t you just tell her that the jeans are not flattering and she has other pants that look better on her (which I’m sure she does)?

        24. Nissa

          Yes Jeremy I can agree to disagree. After all, if we never consider each other’s viewpoints, we would stagnate instead of growing. 🙂

    4. 17.4
      Stacy

      @Mrs_Happy*standing ovation* You’re like, always on point with your comments.

  18. 18
    Suzanne

    If someone says they love you after only two months, that is a red flag. Nice to hear but likely not the real deal. People like that are flaky in other ways that negatively affect relationships. 

    1. 18.1
      Yet Another Guy

      @Suzanne

      If someone says they love you after only two months, that is a red flag.

      I can see it being a red flag after few weeks, but is there a time limit on professing one’s love?

      1. 18.1.1
        Suzanne

        Yes, and it’s more than two months. A lot more, for the real deal, anyway.

  19. 19
    Yet Another Guy

    @Suzanne

    How much more, six months, a year, two years, ten years?  I have a definite opinion on this one.  We can talk about love as a choice/commitment and love as a feeling.  More often than not, guys are “all in” on love as a feeling fairly early or they are never going to feel it.  If a guy takes more than six months to tell a woman that he loves her, he will never feel true romantic love for her.  Now, love as a choice/commitment takes significantly longer and overcoming challenges to develop. The second type of love is not coupled to desire, which is why many couples can end up in sexless/romantic loveless marriages that stand the test of time.

  20. 20
    SparklingEmerald

    Jeremy Said “Yes, I’m divorcing you because I no longer find you attractive and I’m not sure I ever did.  I really wanted someone to give me children and help me raise them, but now that that’s done and over with – I’ve had my kids, my support, and my status – the only motivation I have to remain married is companionship and sex, and I don’t really enjoy either of those things with you, and I no longer see the benefit of continuing to put up with your shit because I just don’t get enough in return.  So thanks and bye.”I know you intended this as a script wives give when leaving husbands, but this sounds a lot like YAG’s marriage/divorce as he describes it.  He pretty much admits that he wasn’t very attracted to his wife but just married her to have a family.  It’s not surprising that she was the one who wanted to stop having sex, because on some level she probably sensed that her husband really wasn’t all that into her.  OR, maybe she married him, not being very attracted either, but wanted a family also.Also your scenario somewhat described what my  ex husband told me when he pulled the rug out from under me after 23 years,  only slightly modified”Yes, I’m divorcing you because I only married you for your looks,  we had great sex, and I wanted children.  I really wanted someone to give me children and  raise them, while I came and went as I pleased, but now that that our boy is grown, I don’t need you and you bore me, because you aren’t “athletic” enough and I don’t really enjoy your company. I appreciate what a good mother you were to our son.  We’ve simply grown apart. I’ll always “love” you for giving me a child, but I am no longer “in love” with you.  So thanks for the baby, mama, good- bye.” I get the impression that you think only women leave long time marriages because their unconscious goals were now met and the hubby is now disposable but men don’t.  (Apparently they have different types of assholery, but not this)Not saying this to be argumentative, but I really don’t buy into the notion that most women’s primary motivation for marriage is kids, and most men’s primary motivation is sex, and here’s why.  Both of these might have been true in the 1950’s, when sex outside of marriage was really taboo, and unwed motherhood was very taboo and almost illegal.  These days, a man doesn’t have to marry to get sex.  The free nookie sampler platter has been going around for a few decades.  And women can and do have children out of wedlock all the time, with no stigma, and probably a lavish baby shower to boot.  And not always pregnant “by accident” but often by choice.  Sometimes through adoption or a sperm bank, and sometimes the old fashioned way.   So I think in these modern times, the motivations are flipped.  Since it is harder for a single man to become a single father (surrogacy and adoption are the only options, and that’s no easy feat)  if a man really wants to have children, marriage would be an easier and more effective way.  Women don’t need to get married to be mothers, so I think it is more likely that a man would marry primarily to have children than a woman.   JM2C.

  21. 21
    SparklingEmerald

    General Comment on telling someone WHY you are breaking up with them . . .  As Jeremy often says, people don’t know what their goals are for getting into a relationship (they haven’t analyzed their goals, their meta-goals, etc) then I think it stands to reason that people often don’t understand WHY they are breaking up with someone.    As far as going into a litany of the other person’s faults (we are all human, we ALL have faults) I think the “It’s not you, it’s me approach is better”, because one might think giving the WHY will be useful, but as Jeremy points out, when people don’t know the why “they make shit up”.  For a once or twice meet up/date, no sex, no promise of a relationship, I don’t think ANY explanation is required, and just disappearing at that phase, actually doesn’t phase me.  If I am pressed for a reason at that point I just say “We aren’t a match”, because while I definitely know that I am NOT attracted to someone, I have no idea WHY I am not attracted.  As for “making shit” up, I had a “boyfriend” abruptly break up with me after about 6 weeks, and he gave me some bullshit reasons including that he “didn’t like my decor, and that might cause problems down the road”.  Later, I found out that he had gotten back together with his ex-wife, and yes, they were divorced, not separated.  (at least that what he told me, and that’s what his match.com profile said)   So much for “honesty”.  Any way, I sure am glad that I didn’t run out and re-decorate my house based on his “honest” feed back. 

    1. 21.1
      Clare

      Sparkling Emerald,

      I would agree that when a person gives a very arbitrary reason like “I didn’t like your decor,” or another reason that has very much to do with one’s personal taste (such as “I don’t like blondes”), then I agree that the reason makes very little or no difference. If I received a reason like that, or any reason that indicated we just weren’t compatible, I would file it away under “experience” and move on without giving it too much thought.

      The same goes for reasons which you can do nothing about, such as, the person got back together with their ex, or the person moved to a different city or country because of work. In these cases, there is little to nothing to be learned.

      The reasons I am saying would be good to know about are reasons related to what kind of a partner you are in general. If the person says, “I’m breaking up with you because you are too controlling/insecure/jealous, etc.” this is the kind of feedback that can benefit you in any relationship, because this is the kind of behaviour that will poison any relationship. My previous point was that, if enough people give you this kind of feedback, it might give you a pause and make you stop and think that maybe you should work on that behaviour. This is certainly something I have seen in my own life and that of people I have known.

      I find it helpful to divide behaviour and characteristics into two categories when it comes to relationships: there are those behaviours and characteristics which some people will like and some won’t. These are more a matter of taste and compatibility. Some examples are introversion versus extroversion, or being sporty versus not being sporty.

      Then there are behaviours and characteristics which benefit pretty much every relationship and without which it is nearly impossible to have a good, happy relationship. Some examples of these include being a good communicator, being respectful and considerate, being secure and trusting.

      The first category, as I said, are very much a matter of taste and preference. Some will like these aspects, and some won’t. Nothing to be done about this, really.

      The second category are behaviours it would behoove anyone to develop, because they will ensure the maximum chance of relationship success. If a person is consistently falling down in one of these areas, this is something he or she might want to know about and work on.

      1. 21.1.1
        SparklingEmerald

        I dunno about that ” something he or she might want to know about and work on.”Due to my age, I really think you can’t teach an old dog, new tricks.  My re-bound relationship after my divorce was to a very sexy foreigner.  He was very interested in a real relationship with me, I was VERY attracted to him (perhaps to much so) but he was very flaky, and unreliable.  “I’ll be over at 10:30am”  meant he would call me at 11:15am to tell me he was running a bit late, but is now on his way and should be there in about 15 minutes.  Then at noon another phone call saying he saw a furniture store on the way to my house (true story) and decided to stop and look at couches, but it’s just up the street from me, and he will be there soon.  To showing up 30 minutes after that (when the store was really only 10 minutes away, with a bouquet of flowers and a big smile.  And him not understanding why I am peeved that it is now 2PM, our dinner guests are due at 4PM, and he said he would be over at 10:30 to help with the lawn.  (I was knee deep cooking a complex dinner, and deep cleaning the front room and dining room).  His response “Stop complaining, that was then, I am here NOW”.This was his TYPICAL behavior, he came and went which ever way the wind blew, frequently “re-scheduled” showed up late, would stop on the way to our outings, for whatever shiny thing was right in front of him.  He was like this with EVERYONE, not just me, according to his friends.  It was kind of a joke amoungst his friends, that he would show up or not “whenever”.I really put up with it much longer that I typically would because 1.)  I believed it might really be a cultural thing, in some cultures the concept of showing up “on time” is non-existant and 2.)  I was OVERLY attracted to him and put up with more BS that I would with someone I was attracted to, but could keep my feet on the ground.We argued about his flaky ways CONSTANTLY, and we broke up several times, and I told him the EXACT reason why.  He would blow up my phone, e-mail and text begging me to re-consider, promised to change, etc.  Twice, I foolishly gave him another chance, and despite his promises to change, he didn’t, and he thought I was being the unreasonable one.  He basically stalked me for 2 years trying to get me back, going back and forth between promising to change, and then trying to convince me that his flakiness and unreliability was no big deal and I should accept him.  The last time we got back together he stalked my on meet up.  He showed up at an event.  We slow danced together and I caved in again.  (that damn crazy physical attraction thing AGAIN) He swore he learned his lesson, but flaked out on our next scheduled date with a flimsy excuse.  That was the last time I took him back, and my text to him told him why.  He blew up my phone with text messages for another 6 months, saying he was sorry, promising to change.  I ignored them all.  The texts tapered off to about once every 6 months after that.  I ignored them.I honestly think it was IMPOSSIBLE for him to change.  However, I don’t think it’s IMPOSSIBLE for him to find someone, perhaps another flake, who will accept this characteristic.  I am perhaps to anal about punctuality and reliability, and he has no concept of keeping an appointment.  (I honestly don’t know how he held a job)

        1. S.

          Wow. Is there a handbook for this behavior? I haven’t experienced it for as long as you have because the behavior itself lessens the attraction for me. Well, eventually. 🙂

          But your story is a cautionary tale. I have a flake trying to get a date with me next week.  Nope!  I deleted that message.  I think the occasional give-ins or yes’s just whet their appetite and keep them trying. Only way is just to give them no response at all.   If only they spent the energy trying to get back in good graces, actually treating you well and showing up for you in the first place!

          Flakes generally stay flakes.  They aren’t bad people, just really disorganized and not willing to change that. And it’s a really difficult to change if your brain and upbringing didn’t quite lend itself to that.

          Wow, two flaky people dating? How would they ever get anything done? One would show up at 2:00 and the other at 4:00. For a noon date.

          I’m teasing. 😉 I guess the point is, they wouldn’t care and would find each other eventually.  Such a thing would slowly drive people like you and I mad.

        2. SparklingEmerald

          “Flakes generally stay flakes.  They aren’t bad people, just really disorganized and not willing to change that. And it’s a really difficult to change if your brain and upbringing didn’t quite lend itself to that.”     I really do think you are spot on about that.  No, they aren’t bad people, but definitely not a match for  me. 

          And I think flakiness is rampant.  I have many friendships that have dissolved due to extreme flakiness.  At first I thought “Well, I can take a hint, this woman obviously doesn’t want a friendship with me”, but then a chance meeting with mutual friends would result in her acting all butt-hurt and asking me  “Why don’t you call me anymore ?  Why didn’t you invite me to X.  Why did you and so and so go to such and such and not include me ?”     Right now, my circle of friends are people who show up !  Big hint – – if you have a flaky friend, don’t invite them to your pot luck and let them bring the paper plates or plastic ware.  You and your guests will end up eating with your hands  :).  Let them bring a dessert to your afternoon picnic, which will end up being a midnight snack, or breakfast anyway 🙂   

          Wow, two flaky people dating? How would they ever get anything done? One would show up at 2:00 and the other at 4:00. For a noon date. LOL.  I’ve thought about that also.  Their relationship would consist of chance encounters. One early tell tale sign that I’ve noticed for detecting flakiness is someone who describes themselves as “spontaneous” or “free spirited”.  Usually if I see those words in an online profile, I proceed with caution.  And if we set a 9AM “phone date”, and I get an 11:30AM text saying “My bike ran a bit long, may I call you when I get home ?”, then they get a brief, “Not available the rest of the day” and then ignore them after that.   

        3. S.

           The weird thing is that flaky people have emotions.  They could genuinely care about you.  But their lives don’t lend themselves to consistently showing up.  And if you, like me, need to see consistency to denote caring, they can not do that. I am surprised that they don’t understand about consistency, how important that is. Maybe because they have such difficulty with it?  I have two friends with ADHD.  It is really, really hard for and they try very hard. I don’t see them often.  It’s also difficult for me since if we do ever plan anything I don’t actually believe it’s going to happen until it’s over.  That takes a toll.  These two are my quota of folks like this.  Everyone else in my life has to show up, especially a life partner. 

      2. 21.1.2
        Selenaa

        Clare: The reasons I am saying would be good to know about are reasons related to what kind of a partner you are in general. If the person says, “I’m breaking up with you because you are too controlling/insecure/jealous, etc.” this is the kind of feedback that can benefit you in any relationship, because this is the kind of behaviour that will poison any relationship. 

        I dated a man for a short time who demonstrated a jealous incident that I called him on at the time. He was also quite insecure for reasons he disclosed to me and he knew it. There were other behaviors during the time we dated that I found annoying though they were benign.  When I broke it off after 5 weeks I didn’t feel the need to *school* him on what perceived as his flaws. Why pour salt in a wound?

        Some of the comments on this thread, not just yours Clare, strike me as people want to tell the person they dated short term what they don’t like about them, not to help that person, but to justify why they don’t want to continue dating them. As in, “See, I’m not the bad guy here, don’t get mad at me. It’s you, not me!”

        From Mrs. Happy:

        I don’t tell complete strangers they are ugly.  I don’t tell acquaintances they are boring.  So why on earth would we expect anyone to suddenly tell us hurtful truths at the time of a break up?  It doesn’t happen, and all the ‘but it would help the other person improve themselves’ theories don’t matter, and possibly aren’t correct anyway.

        I see *constructive criticism* as a matter of knowing your audience. A good friend might appreciate it. A partner might need to hear it. To a person you haven’t known very long or very well? Maybe not. Especially if it might be more about you than it is about them.

         

         

        1. Clare

          Selena,

          I really I think I can just agree to disagree with you, and Sparkling Emerald and Mrs. Happy and the rest of them.

          If you personally feel there is nothing to be gained from offering reasons/constructive criticism to the person you are breaking up with, then by all means, don’t. For all I know, this approach has worked perfectly well for you and has avoided awkward moments which you were keen to avoid. If this is how you want to approach human relationships, then clearly, that is your prerogative.

          I am simply saying that I have, first hand and with my own eyes, seen the benefit of sometimes telling someone an uncomfortable truth. As I’ve mentioned numerous times now, if I am the one walking away, I really don’t have anything to lose. I don’t do it to assuage my guilt, I do it because I know that it can sometimes benefit people. What they choose to do with the information is none of my concern.

        2. Nissa

          I’m still with Clare on this one. If you like the other person enough to swap fluids with them, like them enough to not tell lies.

  22. 22
    Theodora

    These comments made me think a little bit about dealbreakers and red flags.

    We often accuse the opposite gender of being shallow for choosing their mates based on looks, chemistry (i.e. charm), sexy come-hither qualities or skills in bed. Shallow and childish, we say.

    But really, is it an improvement if they choose their mates solely based on moral and intellectual qualities? Would it be an improvement or the bar will be set even higher than it is?

    Let’s suppose a man tells me he left me because I’m not hot enough. Sure, it’s demoralizing, but at least I know what I can practically improve. I can improve my beauty regimen, hit the gym, in extremis I can use plastic surgery. Sure, I will never look as hot as Adriana Lima in her prime, but if I waste all my time, money and energy over looking good, in a few years probably I will see some tangible results.

    Would it be better if he told me “I don’t like your character, you are not kind enough, you are rude to the staff in the restaurant?”. Unlike your physical exterior, which you can tangibly improve by taking tangible steps every single day, improving your character (forever, not just for a few dates, because the real you will surface at some point) takes a tremendous effort, to the point of a radical, revolutionary transformation of your self. It might take years and decades of introspection to achieve the point of not seeing the people doing minimum-wage, menial jobs as beneath yourself, as an internal conviction, not as an external show. IME, I know some entitled, arrogant, born-with-a-silverspoon-in-their-mouth people that will never ever make that step.

    Equally, would it be better if someone told you are hot enough, but not intellectual or cultured enough for their taste? These days, when I read on gossip sites about the possible relationship between Brad Pitt and Neri Oxman, I remembered the “hotter than Angelina Jolie” thread. I realized that I would never be jealous of a a man telling me that Angelina is hotter than me, but I would definitely be jealous of my man being attracted to an exceptionally gifted women, intellectually speaking, like Neri Oxman.

  23. 23
    Marika

    I’m getting the sense that Clare, ScottH and some others are the types of people who genuinely want to know the real reasons as to why someone is breaking up with them. Fair enough. But IMO they are the minority. I think for most of us, it’s a bit like that Seinfeld episode where George tells the pretentious woman she’s pretentious (because she “really wants to know”) and she ends up in a mental health facility. Then Elaine asks George “how would you like to be told the truth?” and he freaks out! I think most of us don’t actually want to know the absolute truth, even if we say we do at the time. As the real truth can be painful and not always that helpful (it’s just the other person’s opinion/preference – the next man may have had no issue with Jeremy’s date’s attitude to waiters, for example).

    I’m going through a situation where a guy is sending mixed messages, his actions don’t seem to align with his stated values (and I suspect he is not entirely trustworthy). I try to remember, like I would encourage anyone else to, the wise words of a long time commenter (who’s name has escaped me atm, but I’ll credit him when I remember it!!) who made the point that whenever someone treated him badly/unfairly/inconsistently in dating he didn’t take it personally. Hard to do, but logically it makes sense. If someone is wishy-washy with you, it’s their issue/choice, not yours. It could be your issue in the sense that you may have done something that turned them off, but the way that handle the situation is on them. No point worrying about it endlessly or trying to morph yourself into what they want or pining over someone who doesn’t want you as you are. I’ve met people who are pretty incredibly nasty, narcissistic and, to me, highly objectionable who are in relationships. You don’t have to be a perfect, amazing person to be loved for who you are, so you don’t need to take break ups so personally, even if the person left you for legitimate reasons. Pretty extreme example, but my point is there’s always someone out there who will be right for you 🙂

    1. 23.1
      Emily, the original

      Marika,

      There’s a happy medium between lacerating someone and giving them a flim flam excuse. Everyone who is on the “I don’t want to know the truth” side of this argument is looking at this in a very black-and-white, all-or-nothing way. Years ago, I hooked up with a friend for about a month. He ended it and then reappeared in my life about a year later to tell me he had feelings for me. I sent him a pages-long letter telling him how I felt, and after reading the letter, despite its length, I don’t think he understood what I was trying to tell him. I should have been honest with him, but I didn’t have the guts. I was trying not to hurt his feelings but also taking the easy way out. All I needed to say was, “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel that way about you. I’d like us to stay friends.” By being “nice,” (flim flammy) I ended up confusing him. All it would have taken was a short phone call on my part.

    2. 23.2
      Nissa

      Marika, you make a good point that the degree of information provided should correlate to the length or intensity of the relationship. However, people see those things very differently. For example, if a man introduced me to meet his family, but we only dated two months, which criteria do we use for the breakup information? He might justify not telling me ‘because we only dated two months’. I might have misjudged his intensity because of that introduction, and this expected a higher level of information.It keeps boiling down to, let’s not assume we know what other people want or need or mean. Let’s go by what people actually say, and if we don’t understand, ask questions. If they say they want to know, let’s trust that they actually want to know. If they accept your generic reason of “I think you are a nice person but I want to explore other options”, that’s fine too. Most of us give the ‘real’ reason in couched terms, and that’s fine too, but I think most people would prefer other people not lie to them. If you can’t live with flaky behavior, pets, his phone calls to his ex girlfriend, his stinky feet or his love of ESPN, he’s not going to curl up and die over it. We are dating other adults, not timid children. Don’t they deserve to be treated like adults who can weather the truth? 

    3. 23.3
      ScottH

      All I was trying to say was that if you get to a point where a relationship has taken root, you’ve exchanged “I love you,” you’ve talked about the future, you’ve made it clear that you both care very much for each other, well, then you have the power to very much hurt the other person since they have made themselves vulnerable to you with their heart.  You now have a huge responsibility to be careful with their heart and if you do decide to break up, for whatever reason, you should live up to that responsibility and handle their heart with care during the breakup talk.

      This is exactly what happened with Gemma.  Her ex told her that he loved her and then went poof.  He should have sat down with her and had the painful discussion where he told her that he really liked her and wanted to be ready for a relationship but he just isn’t and he’s really sorry.  This gives her some closure that we all seem to need.  But don’t just fucking disappear or break up via text message (happened to me once and it sucks).  That’s really hurtful.

      It’s not like Liar Liar and you have to tell the unadulterated truth.  I was never saying that.  Have some tact and diplomacy.  If you didn’t like the size of his penis, say something vague like you just weren’t feeling it (which I guess would be true) and you didn’t seem to be a match.  You don’t need to tell him that he was too small for your liking.  He might find someone who does like his small unit.  But help him through it.  You once cared for him/her, and might still, right?

      When you have a strong connection, you have the ability to inflict a lot of pain on the other person.  Be responsible with that power.  But someone who freaks out and runs like Gemma’s ex probably doesn’t have the wherewithal to be responsible with his/her power and leaves Gemma stunned.  That’s not fun.

      1. 23.3.1
        Emily, the original

        Scott H,

        You now have a huge responsibility to be careful with their heart and if you do decide to break up, for whatever reason, you should live up to that responsibility and handle their heart with care during the breakup talk.

        I agree, and how someone leaves a situation really says a lot about who they are.

    4. 23.4
      S.

      Great response, Marika. 🙂

      I’m in the minority, I know.  In many ways, usually. I’m good with that.  I like to hear the truth because I grew up hearing it.  Yes, it hurts sometimes.  And not everyone is concerned with how they tell you, either.

      The only way I make breakups personal is when I think I should have chosen better.  But sometimes that person was the best for me at that time.  And then times change.

      I agree that there is someone (maybe a few someones) out there for everyone.  Somewhere.  Can take a long time to find, though.

      Heck, I’ve had breakups where we weren’t even officially going out. If they ask a reason, I give it as kindly as possible.  It’s usually something I’ve said to them several times before but they probably didn’t think I’d break up with them over it.  I usually break up with a guy when he doesn’t make me feel valued and that lack of feeling valued is or has already destroyed my attraction to him.

      To other readers, I’d say, don’t take not being valued personally, but don’t really take that from someone you’re dating at all.

    5. 23.5
      Adrian

      Hi Marika, You said, “I’m going through a situation where a guy is sending mixed messages, his actions don’t seem to align with his stated values” Could you give an example of this? I only ask because I was once accused of something similar from a girl and I had to think long and hard about it (I pride myself on my integrity and being consistency the same person privately as I am publicly). After a lot of thought I realized what the problem was… though I am curious to hear your thoughts before I give my opinion on why I seemed this way to her.

      1. 23.5.1
        Marika

        Hi Adrian

        Or should I say, g’day 😉

        It’s funny, before I read your message in its entirety I was going to say “don’t worry, it will never apply to you”. Haha. Okay, so maybe women just say it when they are hurt and lashing out. But in online dating in general I’ve noticed that people claim all sorts of things they want to be but aren’t. Sometimes they are the exact opposite.

        Maybe women do it too, but the more they go on and on about something, I’ve noticed they likely aren’t that thing. This guy claimed to be highly empathetic – he didn’t want to talk on the train unless it disturbed people, etc, but I often felt he wasn’t attuned to my feelings or those of his (wonderful) friends. I DK..some things just didn’t ring true. I have a pretty good BS meter and it went off when I heard some story or proclamation I didn’t quite believe or seemed like he was overstating. Like his parents being his heroes…but they left the country and for him to fend for himself at 18. Really??

        Maybe that was my stuff though…as he made the point that I accused several other people in my life of also doing the same thing. And, begrudgingly, he has a point.

        1. Adrian

          Hi Marika,[it’s not spacing so I am not sure how this comment will look when I post it] Your guy seems like a liar but my situation was different. Basically it was a mixture of her projecting my having values to mean that I was an angel and not a human with natural male desires and that because I had morals, integrity, and family values that I should desire a relationship with her because she also had those things. –Sorry it’s so short but I DON’T want it to turn out to be one long paragraph–

        2. Adrian

          G’day Marika (^_^)…Jeremy once called you an idealist when it comes to relationships but I don’t agree; I am currently talking to someone that is a pure idealist when it comes to relationships and sometimes their fantasy ideals about how relationships should be is very draining.However, with you I believe that if you consider the guy’s character to be inconsistent then I bet he is truly inconsistent and untrustworthy… Listen to your instincts… Is he doing it to impress you or is he doing it because he is a habitual liar?

        3. Jeremy

          Adrian, you and I are talking about different types of idealists.  When I use the term to refer to a personality type (or rather, a world-view and set of motivations), I refer to a person who tends to see the world in terms of how they internally believe the world “should” be.  A person oriented to the abstract, and to their own internal feelings and values.  But what are those feelings and values, how do they think the world “should” be?  Depends on the person.  Some idealist-type people have very realistic sets of values, others less so.  My mother believes the world is ready for a revival of Yiddish theatre, and that she will be the one to revive it in spite of any evidence to the contrary.  Some commenters on this site (particularly on Evan’s post about the MeToo movement) believe that all men “should” experience sex for love, and have the same values system as they do.  Not realistic.  Dysfunctional.  Setting them up for misery and frustration.  The problem isn’t with being an idealist, it’s with dysfunctional idealism – idealism without any realism to anchor it.  I get the sense you might know what I’m talking about, given your experience with the woman you describe.  It is one thing to hope for a man with the same set of values as she has.  It’s quite another to believe that you “should” have those values, and that if you don’t then there’s something wrong with you.

           

          In the case of the man Marika is discussing, it sounds like (and I could be wrong) one of two problems.  Either he simply has a different set of values than she does (leading to a difference in perspective of whether or not he is ethical, whether or not his parents are heroes, etc), or he simply has conflict between who he thinks he “should” be versus who he actually is.  This is common.  I love my grandmother – she is almost 102 and lives about a 5 minute drive from me, but I hardly ever see her.  I always tell myself that I’m going to go, and almost never do.  So who am I?  Am I the person I believe myself to be, the grandson who loves his grandmother, or am I the person who ignores his elderly grandmother by hardly ever visiting her?  I am both.  But as far as anyone other than myself is concerned, I’m the latter.  Because they are not privy to my internal thoughts, only to my actions.  There is conflict between my internal feelings and my sense of values.  The person I am and the person I believe I should be.

           

          Some people get so wrapped up in the person they should be that they are totally unable to see the person that they are.

  24. 24
    Marika

    Jeremy & Mrs Happy

    With respect, Mrs Happy and not to speak for Jeremy, but I think you are telling him how to suck eggs with your statement about girlfriends. He’s a smart guy, I’m pretty sure he knows all those maaaany things you listed are not possible on a day to day basis in a marriage. I’m very sure he doesn’t expect his wife to come to bed each night in fancy lingerie, for instance.

    I completely understand what he means. He’s saying as a woman if you change, you can’t expect that the husband/dynamics of the relationship won’t change too. Some women expect their men to be doting, chivalrous husbands until death while they don’t act in ways that inspire them to be like that. For instance, a couple I know on the weekend – I obviously don’t know the ins and outs of their marriage – but I do know that the husband is kind, committed, works full time, also helps out with the kids, and this past weekend drove around 70 kms to IKEA as his wife wanted to buy furniture. Did she show gratitude for this – no. She complained (in front of him) about how he used to ‘woo’ her and doesn’t ‘woo’ her anymore. Also bemoaned that unlike other husbands she knows, he doesn’t enjoy shopping. So she expects him to act like a boyfriend, while very clearly treating him like a wife. I was thinking: this poor guy has to drive to the ends of the earth to buy a couple of items of furniture they could easily afford to buy closer to home. Poor guy!

    I’m not sure Jeremy’s advice is really aimed at you, Mrs Happy. You seem like you chose well and you also seem to have a realistic view of marriage. You’ve even said that you’d be able to get past cheating for the good of the relationship and kids (if it came to that). I think Jeremy is trying to help out those of us still looking for marriage, who’ve chosen badly in the past, and also those of us who are very introspective and are searching for the ‘whys’. Also people who want a really amazing relationship and have high expectations. People like me 🙂

    1. 24.1
      Jeremy

      Yes Marika, as usual you get it.  Welcome back, btw.  Your perspective was missed.  Sorry to hear that your BF is acting inconsistently.  I wrote you a long response to your comment from yesterday and then deleted it.  You already know what I would have said 🙂

    2. 24.2
      Nissa

      There are men that enjoy shopping? I’ve never dated one. Heck, I don’t even like shopping, except for Ikea, and I have to do that one alone, so no one bugs me to stop wandering around looking at stuff. I don’t buy much…I just like to look. It’s like a museum of decorating that lets you buy the artifacts.I do think that men in general equate sex with intimacy. Not because I think that there is a lack of intimacy in their relationships – quite the opposite – but that it is subtle, and that a lot of men are oblivious to the subtle. For example, a wife might give love to her husband by buying the foods that he likes and always having some in the cupboard, just in case he wants some. She might express intimacy by telling him her secrets or fantasies, thanking him for doing a task for her, by picking out clothes for him (say, if he’s colorblind & wants help) or just being present with him at home. She might nurture him by covering him with the blanket when she gets out of bed first, or turning off her alarm quickly so he doesn’t get disturbed if he doesn’t need to get up.All of these things are a wonderful part of a loving relationship. Love, intimacy, nurturing. Acceptance, validation.  Can those be packaged with sex too? Of course! But if a person is not recognizing those behaviors as intimacy, as love, as nurturing – and only sees those things in sex – they would be much more likely to feel deprived without sex, because that is the “only” source of those things.Similarly, if a woman insists that her husband is not loving unless he does specific behaviors in a very defined way, is likely missing out on the very thing she wants by not seeing what is hidden in plain sight.

  25. 25
    Jeremy

    I get your concern, Emily.  I wanted to address it.  You wrote above that you wanted to see the perspective of happily married people, and you listed some of the married commenters on this website.  People who are married and have not reported serious conflict with their spouses.  I think that feedback from such people is valuable…..but I think that feedback from people who have had conflict and overcome it – people who NOW have loving and great relationships but perhaps once did not – is perhaps even more valuable in some ways.  I married a very special woman, a woman with so many excellent qualities.  But I did not marry a unicorn.  Nor did my wife.  My relationship advice is directed toward people married to humans.

     

    For the past number of years, I have enjoyed a very happy married life.  I look forward to going home each day, to the love in my home.  I don’t worry about power, don’t worry about sex, don’t worry about love, don’t worry about happiness.  I have all those things in abundance.  Now.  Because when conflict arose, I learned how to resolve it, and because I chose a partner with whom it could be resolved (armed with the right knowledge). I try to convey that knowledge to offer hope that things need not end badly, and that one need not fear investing too much of one’s self into a relationship…..as long as that relationship is approached intelligently.

     

    You don’t like relying on other people.  Neither do I.  I was born anxious, but raised avoidant.  I understand avoidant tendencies very well.  I was raised to give help, not to receive it.  That receiving help makes me weak, worthless.  That notion was toxic.  Love is less in the giving than in allowing ourselves to receive.  Because when we let others give to us, it cultivates their love for us and allows us to experience love without the need for power.  It allows us to grow.  It opens us up to some risk, yes.  So approach it intelligently.

    1. 25.1
      Emily, the original

      Jeremy,

      Love is less in the giving than in allowing ourselves to receive.  Because when we let others give to us, it cultivates their love for us and allows us to experience love without the need for power.  It allows us to grow.  It opens us up to some risk, yes.  So approach it intelligently.

      Well, I have found over and over again (and I mean “love” in the general sense with family, friends and romantic relationships) that people disappoint me. I have never been able to rely on my family, what little I have, and friends … well, real friends are few and far between. Most end up (even if I think differently at some point) becoming friendly acquaintances, and people don’t value real friendship (and don’t have time for it) once they marry and have children. So it’s me. I’m expecting too much, obviously. Better to expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised.

      1. 25.1.1
        Jeremy

        No.

         

        I grew up unable to count on my parents for much of anything in terms of emotional needs.  I always found it better not to rely on anyone.  In high school, when I was assigned a group project, I would do it all myself to avoid having to rely on others, whose work would probably be less through than mine.  Most of my friends from high school drifted off, and I could not rely on them for anything.  I cultivated your attitude – better to expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised.  That attitude led me to unhappiness.  It led me to seek solace from books and movies rather than real life, and the more I withdrew, the less likely I found it that I would be pleasantly surprised by people.  My grandfather was a hermit who lived his entire 97 years that way.

         

        My life started improving when I tried the George Costanza method of doing the opposite of what I’d normally do.  Developed friendships, relationships.  Some disappointed me (badly).  But they paved the way for something better.  It does not hurt to hope and try.  But it requires us to overcome the avoidance we learned as children.  That is difficult.  It was for me.  Still is.  But worth it.

        1. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          My life started improving when I tried the George Costanza method of doing the opposite of what I’d normally do.  Developed friendships, relationships.  Some disappointed me (badly).  But they paved the way for something better.  It does not hurt to hope and try.  But it requires us to overcome the avoidance we learned as children.  That is difficult.  It was for me.  Still is.  But worth it.

          I did recently try to cultivate friends (like you, family was never an option for anything involving emotional support; in fact, going to them for anything made me feel worse). I thought I had landed the mother lode. A group of female friends. “Don’t worry. You’ll never be alone.” Well, where are they now? I moved recently, and you know who offered to help? Men. Not the men I was hoping for (two of the most socially awkward men I know and a married one), but maybe my energies should go to … your people. 🙂   Isn’t that what most people value? Not one female friend even offered to help me pack up boxes for an hour. They drifted away and I let them. I don’t have the energy to chase people down.

      2. 25.1.2
        Marika

        Oh Emily, I so want to give you a hug right now. I can guarantee from what I know of you already and if you opened up to me with that level of vulnerability, we’d be fast friends for sure! (if we lived anywhere near each other). I’m surprised people aren’t responding to you more positively in general and it’s their loss – but helping with moving house is not, IMO, a good litmus test. Everyone hates moving. I have a very supportive family & bunch of friends but the only ones I would even ask are my parents (and I bribed my brother in law with the promise of buying him lunch) for help.

        I’m so sorry you and Jeremy had shitty childhoods. Mine was far from perfect but I always had a general sense of being loved, and certainly supported/protected. I am grateful for my family and friends. Still haven’t cracked the guy code though, yet. But I do accept that with any relationship, opening up involves risk and the (strong) possibility of being hurt. It’s just the way it is. My heart was pulled through the wringer this week and the only thing that got me through it was being vulnerable. I had a friend hunting me down to talk to me, another texting me several times to make sure I was okay, and the guy himself ended up making me feel better once I was openly and heartfeltedly (is that a word) vulnerable about how bad I was feeling. I used to think it was a sign of weakness to show that you’re struggling, but it’s not, and it warms people to you as they can relate and you feel real to them. And if you’re not being honest about your feelings you either end up walking around with a hard shell that pushes people away or some other BS coping mechanism.

        1. Emily, the original

          Marika,

          we’d be fast friends for sure! (if we lived anywhere near each other). I’m surprised people aren’t responding to you more positively in general and it’s their loss

          That’s very sweet. Thank you. I know people like me and think I’m funny. I just exist on the periphery.

          – but helping with moving house is not, IMO, a good litmus test. Everyone hates moving.

          I guess. I certainly didn’t expect them to move large pieces of furniture. But it wasn’t so much not offering to help as it was just not being particularly supportive.

          Still haven’t cracked the guy code though, yet.

          Ah, men. The final frontier … 🙂

          My heart was pulled through the wringer this week and the only thing that got me through it was being vulnerable. I had a friend hunting me down to talk to me, another texting me several times to make sure I was okay, 

          I’m sorry to hear that. It’s good you had you had some support.

        2. Adrian

          Hi Emily,Marika said, “Oh Emily, I so want to give you a hug right now.”Yeah add me to that list….   …   …As far as the friendship conversation; I am wondering if it is like SparklingEmerald said, are they just flakey people or if it is just that people say nice, sweet things like your group’s “Don’t worry. You’ll never be alone” because they want to be seen as kind-even if they aren’t sincere?I just recently ran into a group of my old co-workers at a conference and they all were going on and on about how much they missed me and how we NEED to get together so I just smiled and said sure, sure… but the whole time I was thinking “for months none of you made an effort to contact me unless I called first and when I did text, you would text back a day later.” I think people’s attitudes about friendships are like their attitudes with relationships; people go on and on bemoaning about how they want a boyfriend or girlfriend but don’t see their own lack of effort in getting one. People want the great friendships (just look at our tv shows, movies, and songs) but they don’t want to consider that they themselves need to learn what being a good friend means.

        3. Jeremy

          You know, I wrote and erased about 5 different replies here, trying to offer some wisdom or insight on the matter of friendship.  But I erased them all because they all rang hollow.  Making friends is hard for some of us.  And it gets harder when we are no longer in school or in a work environment surrounded by people with similar lifestyles.  There should be an online friends site, similar to online dating site.  It would be hilarious to see the difference between one individual’s dating profile vs their friendship profile.  Certainly less talk of walks along beaches and travelling, and hopefully fewer dick pics.

           

          Sorry to hear about your friendships fizzling.  I know how that feels too.  The feeling of disappointment and loneliness, the resignation that you were right all along that you can’t rely on anyone but yourself, though you hoped otherwise.  In my life, I have one good friend who I can rely on.  And I only met him recently – my friendship with him made me realize that I never really had a close friend before.  I remember after I had a minor surgery, he showed up at my house with a mountain of food and videos and I thought – no one other than family has ever done something like this for me before.  I had always been the one to give in order to get friendship, and now I was receiving without needing to ask.  Rare.

           

          All I can say is don’t lose hope – not for the friendship thing nor for the relationship thing.  It’s good to be able to rely on ourselves in a pinch, but life is better when others want to give to us.  Evan once wrote a post called (something like) “Want the man who wants you.”  I think this is good advice, both for friendship and love.

        4. Emily, the original

          Adrian,

          I just recently ran into a group of my old co-workers at a conference and they all were going on and on about how much they missed me and how we NEED to get together so I just smiled and said sure, sure… but the whole time I was thinking “for months none of you made an effort to contact me unless I called first and when I did text, you would text back a day later.”

          This exact thing happened to me with my old job. Went back to visit. They were SO happy to see me … as long as I did all the work. I’ve texted a few people since and they respond but they never initiate, so I stopped. I am running out of steam with this stuff.

        5. Emily, the original

          Jeremy, 
          In my life, I have one good friend who I can rely on.  And I only met him recently – my friendship with him made me realize that I never really had a close friend before.
          Me, too. One, and she passed away. She was like a mother to me.
          Evan once wrote a post called (something like) “Want the man who wants you.”  I think this is good advice, both for friendship and love.
          I just don’t think friendship is that big of a priority for most people. It’s after the spouse, the kids, the extended family, the job, the dog … and you can’t really blame people. They have other things going on. I just don’t know how much energy I want to put into relationships that are so low priority.

          As for love … I have stopped chasing after people or nudging things along. I won’t do that anymore, but NO NO NO do I want the people who want me. Right now that consists of an autistic, severely socially awkward man who lived with his mother all his life until she passed away. He is 45. I don’t know why these types attach themselves to me. I’m really not that nice. 🙂  I guess I have to get off my middle-aged butt and meet other people. I just hate having to hunt it down like wild boar.

        6. Adrian

          Hi Emily… You said, “I just don’t think friendship is that big of a priority for most people.” I don’t believe that. I think what really happens is that most people enter into relationships and they place all that burden on their partners to be their lover and their best friends. They NEVER LEARN to be a real friend or a good friend. They go from high school friendships to their partner inheriting those responsibilities. However for us that are single and living away from friends and family it is easier for us to notice that the majority of adults don’t know how to be good friends or how to make friends.  I do think they want friendships but with old high school/ college friends and their partners they don’t’ see the point in putting forth the effort of working on new friends as an adult. 

        7. S.

          @Emily

          What Adrian said.  We are putting so much burden on this one relationship when that used to be spread among friends, aunties, grandpas, cousins, neighbors, etc.  A whole community to draw on and get support from.  And this culture narrows that to just spouses and children. Society evolving to where there doesn’t seem to be enough time. Not even for that! I don’t blame the single women in the other post going it alone with having kids.  We are all juggling so many hats.

          As for liking who likes you  . . . gotta have a bigger pool of folks who like you.  And breaks are good.  I’m on one where I feel like GPS. I’m recalibrating or recalculating or whatever that lady says when she is trying to get you back on track. I’m recalibrating my picker.  And I’m improving myself so I attract different men.  That’s what I can do.  And remain open so more people see the real me. I think sometimes we shut off the real us and only feel comfortable showing it to people we think for sure can’t hurt us.  So sure, they are attracted.  And we wonder, why them? Cause we are different around them.

          Now let’s see if I can take my own advice this weekend. And I will give you some virtual hugs, Emily.  The original. 🙂  :hugs:

        8. Emily, the original

          Jeremy, 

          Evan once wrote a post called (something like) “Want the man who wants you.” 

          I was thinking more about this during a long, somewhat tedious day at work and I do take a bit of issue with this. It makes it sound like men get to pick who they want and women must just accept it.

        9. Emily, the original

          Hi Adrian, 

          I do think they want friendships but with old high school/ college friends and their partners they don’t’ see the point in putting forth the effort of working on new friends as an adult. 

          Ok, but that’s kind of a variation of what I was saying. I think that, in order for someone to go out looking for friendship, there has to be space in his/her life, there has to be a need. With most middle-aged adults (and you’re still young yet, you’ll really see this once you hit your late 30s and into your 40s), they don’t have that need. I call it the circle of people in their lives. Almost like rings around them. Their circles are full. And, fwiw, I’ve had plenty of single friends make comments like “my friends are my family,” but I just don’t find that to be the case. Even if they complain about their families, their families are always the priority. Friends are people to go to dinner with.

        10. Emily, the original

          S.,
          . I think sometimes we shut off the real us and only feel comfortable showing it to people we think for sure can’t hurt us.  So sure, they are attracted.  And we wonder, why them? Cause we are different around them.
          I agree with you. I have a tendency to attract men I like but don’t see as romantic partners because I’m relaxed and myself around them. I don’t care if they like me. Now, if only I could do that around men I was interested in instead of getting that “deer in the headlights,” I’m-practically-drooling-on-myself look.
          Now let’s see if I can take my own advice this weekend. And I will give you some virtual hugs, Emily.  The original.   :hugs:
          You, too, Miss S.

        11. Adrian

          Hi Emily… You said, “I think that, in order for someone to [work on developing a new] friendship, there has to be space in his/her life, there has to be a need. With most middle-aged adults they don’t have that need.” … Do you think people look negatively at others who are sincerely trying to hangout to become “real” friends at a certain age like people look at certain people who are single at a certain age or who have never been married at a certain age? You know like something is wrong with them or it’s a red flag? I notice that when I tell people that I am new in town it’s accepted but what happens with people who are a certain age, they have lived somewhere all their life and they ask to go out to get to know you?

        12. Adrian

          Hi Emily… You said, ” I do take a bit of issue with this. It makes it sound like men get to pick who they want and women must just accept it.” I am not understanding the issue with this… You can easily interchange the words men and women so that it says “men want the women who want you.” Also remember it’s women as a whole not men as a whole who don’t like the idea of women approaching men and asking them out. I know you said you ask men out and no matter how many times other male commenters tell you that you are an exception you don’t believe us (^_^). Women don’t have to choose being picked they want to, sure they feel uncomfortable always having to tell guys they aren’t attracted to “no” but they still very rarely go up to the guys they are attracted to and directly ask them out. Eye contact, walking past him, are not the same as directly asking him out; I don’t even think women smile at guys they are attracted to whom they want to approach anymore.

        13. Yet Another Guy

          @Adrian

          they still very rarely go up to the guys they are attracted to and directly ask them out. Eye contact, walking past him, are not the same as directly asking him out

          I do not know if it was here or another site, but a female commenter attempted to equate passive rejection with active rejection.  The two types of rejection are not remotely comparable.  Active rejection is part of playing the game for guys because passive rejection is the default outcome in most situations; therefore, a woman complaining about being passively rejected is almost a joke.  I am willing to bet that most of the guys any given woman accuses of passively rejecting her would accept a date if she asked, that is, after the guy finished picking himself up off of the floor. As you pointed out, men get to choose because they are required to initiate (a.k.a. pursue, plan, and pay). Furthermore, most men are only going to initiate when a woman is worth the risk of rejection, which means that men are going to attempt to optimize when asking a woman out. Women tend to optimize as well when they initiate on dating sites, so it is not just a man thing. It is an initiator thing.

        14. Adrian

          Hi Yet Another Guy… You said, “most men are only going to initiate when a woman is worth the risk of rejection” DING! DING! DING! And this is what most women DON’T understand! If a man knows that there is a high chance of rejection then of course he is going to manly focus on above average looking women. I only say that because the moment any guy brings up all the data and research about women rejecting the majority of men (even if she is at the same or even a lower SMV level) women will quickly say but “the same data also shows that most men only contact the hottest women”… well yeah. Since there is a high chance of repeated rejection I may as well make the reward worth the risk.

        15. Adrian

          Hi Yet Another Guy… You said, “I do not know if it was here or another site, but a female commenter attempted to equate passive rejection with active rejection.”It was this site I believe that Emily first brought this up – “The two types of rejection are not remotely comparable.” – I’m not sure that I agree with this, have you ever been to a function with a lot of people who all knew each other and you were the only stranger so you were constantly ignored? And when you tried to engage people they talked to you but you could sense that they really didn’t want to include you in their group? I believe this is kind of what Emily is talking about; wanting to be noticed and desired but constantly receiving the subtle vibe that you aren’t attractive enough to be approached. – “Active rejection is part of playing the game for guys because passive rejection is the default outcome in most situations; therefore, a woman complaining about being passively rejected is almost a joke. ” – I wouldn’t call it a joke, when I honestly thought about it then I can see that I as a man need to try harder to understand what women meant and why they felt this way. Again being surrounded by people who are close friends and you don’t know anyone at the party and every time you try to interact they are friendly but subtly you can feel their vibe that they don’t want you around is rejection. It is not direct but you are still being rejected by people you desire to accept you and want your companionship. I think this is what the women are saying it feels like to have a guy they want intentionally ignore them. 

        16. Emily, the original

          Hi Adrian,

           Do you think people look negatively at others who are sincerely trying to hangout to become “real” friends at a certain age like people look at certain people who are single at a certain age or who have never been married at a certain age? You know like something is wrong with them or it’s a red flag?

          I don’t know if they see it as a red flag. Most people are so involved in their own lives, they probably don’t notice. I have noticed that for people who seem to be overly available (they want to amoeba themselves to you), there’s usually a reason. (cray, cray)

        17. Emily, the original

          Adrian, 

          I know you said you ask men out and no matter how many times other male commenters tell you that you are an exception you don’t believe us (^_^). Women don’t have to choose being picked they want to, sure they feel uncomfortable always having to tell guys they aren’t attracted to “no” but they still very rarely go up to the guys they are attracted to and directly ask them out. 

          I’ve done it but I haven’t done it often and I have to work up to it, particularly if i’m very interested. What usually happens is I just get disgusted with myself and being shy and push through it. However, I’m of the mindset now that once a woman would do the initial approach/ask out/hand her number to the guy, that’s all she should do. What I mean is … I  won’t continue to nudge things along (I think it sets up an unhealthy dynamic of the women chasing the relationship), and, to be honest, the sex, in my (granted) limited experience, is so much hotter if the man makes the first physical move that leads to sex, though I have done that, too.

        18. Emily, the original

          Adrian,

          One more thing: These were guys I watched closely to determine their response to me. I did not approach a rando who wasn’t paying the slightest attention to me.

        19. Emily, the original

          Adrian,

          You said, “most men are only going to initiate when a woman is worth the risk of rejection” DING! DING! DING! And this is what most women DON’T understand! If a man knows that there is a high chance of rejection then of course he is going to manly focus on above average looking women.

          I read another dating site in which both men and women wrote in that they only approached people on the “B team” because people on the “A team” (people they really wanted) made them nervous.

        20. Emily, the original

          Adrian,

           “I believe this is kind of what Emily is talking about; wanting to be noticed and desired but constantly receiving the subtle vibe that you aren’t attractive enough to be approached.”

          Obviously, it takes more guts to actively approach someone. No one is denying that, but I was talking about watching someone you really wanted approach other women. That really hurts, and there isn’t a woman on the planet who hasn’t experienced that. Or had some guy flirt outrageously with her, only to watch him move on to someone else. Or if you are approached, it’s not by men you are interested in. Over time, it’s demoralizing.

          “– “Active rejection is part of playing the game for guys because passive rejection is the default outcome in most situations; therefore, a woman complaining about being passively rejected is almost a joke. ” – I wouldn’t call it a joke, when I honestly thought about it then I can see that I as a man need to try harder to understand what women meant and why they felt this way”

          Yes. But if some posters want to see it as a joke, so be it.

        21. ScottH

          “most men are only going to initiate when a woman is worth the risk of rejection,”

          Huh?  what is the risk of rejection?

          How does that saying go, “every time you don’t try, you lose”?  who cares about getting rejected?  only those with a delicate ego.  YAG. by your (our) age, do you really care about being rejected, again, especially when it’s the norm in online/mid-life dating?  Every time YOU don’t try, you’ve been rejected.  How does that feel?

           

        22. Emily, the original

          YAG,

          “You said, “most men are only going to initiate when a woman is worth the risk of rejection” 

          The times I have approached someone are varied. A few years ago I, frankly, needed the practice. So I started with someone I thought was ok and who I was fairly certain liked me. Then I worked my way up. Do not men do this? The rejection was only as acute as my interest level. I find it hard to believe that every time you’ve approached a woman, you’ve been completely besotted with her.

        23. Nissa

          This is so funny. While I don’t enjoy moving myself, I think it’s fun to help others move. You get to see what they think is important. They will often open up about old pictures, clothing or furniture. (I’ve also snagged many pieces of furniture for myself this way). You get to see if they are organized at all. It’s like a party, but better, because everyone is doing something instead of sitting around, getting drunk and arguing over things.It’s exciting too! Bringing new things into a space, making a new life, exploring options – it’s like getting to see that person in the very act of becoming who they want to be. For me, that’s so much more interesting than a party where everyone repeats what you’ve heard them say before, or empty platitudes. One just seems to have so much more meaning than the other.

    2. 25.2
      Adrian

      Hi Jeremy,You said, ” I was born anxious, but raised avoidant.”What does that mean?

      1. 25.2.1
        Jeremy

        It means that my natural temperament tends toward anxious attachments, but because I was raised without much emotional connection or calming, I learned to compensate by being avoidant to self-protect.  Things like distancing myself from emotion by over-thinking.  Developing the belief that I am better off being self-sufficient, that it is bad to rely on others for anything, to need anyone for anything, because needing anyone will result in pain and disappointment.  When you see that world-view being reinforced by the behavior of others over and over, it’s hard to overcome it.  Emily knows what I’m talking about.

        With that belief system, the hope becomes that there might be one special person out there who can be relied upon, who is different from the others.  For example, someone who was raised in a family where no one takes care of business might believe that salvation will come from a partner who takes care of business, who steps in and mans up and acts different than all others….and then sticks around.  And that belief sounds nice, but it externalizes responsibility for relationships – the onus is on the partner, not the self….in a personality that internalizes responsibility for everything else.  Dysfunctional.

        That’s what I meant.

        1. Adrian

          Thank you Jeremy. I guess what I was struggling with is when you said that your were born one way/have a “natural” temperament towards… Because I always believed that the two extremes of the attachment styles were learn from how we were raised… I just found this new psychology book which I found to be very interesting… Apparently a person can be anxious in romantic relationships but avoidant overall towards everyone else: friends, co-workers, etc… I just still find it hard to believe one person can possess both extremes which are complete opposites at the same time.

        2. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          It means that my natural temperament tends toward anxious attachments, but because I was raised without much emotional connection or calming …  Emily knows what I’m talking about.

          I know exactly what you are talking about, but that type of upbringing made me more avoidant, not anxious. I’m wondering why it didn’t make you more avoidant.

        3. Jeremy

          Emily, it DID make me more avoidant.  I was born with an anxious temperament, but my upbringing gave me avoidant tendencies that are not natural to me.  In a very, very weird way, they sort of balance out into what most people would observe to be a secure attachment style, but what is actually an anxious-avoidant style.  I understand anxious people and avoidant people very well, having a good sense of what it is like to be both.  I struggle with the difficulties of both.

        4. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          With that belief system, the hope becomes that there might be one special person out there who can be relied upon, who is different from the others.  For example, someone who was raised in a family where no one takes care of business might believe that salvation will come from a partner who takes care of business, who steps in and mans up and acts different than all others….and then sticks around.  And that belief sounds nice, but it externalizes responsibility for relationships – the onus is on the partner, not the self….in a personality that internalizes responsibility for everything else.  Dysfunctional.

          I don’t understand what you mean by this. Wouldn’t someone who was raised with irresponsibility and was thus avoidant become more secure if he/she found a responsible partner?

        5. Jeremy

          Emily, you asked, “wouldn’t someone raised avoidant become more secure if she found a responsible partner?”  No.  More likely she would just find reason to find fault with him over time.  She would wonder what must be wrong with him that he could love her, having spent so long searching after men whose quality depended on their outcome independence.  The dysfunction that I mentioned exists because overcoming our avoidant tendencies can not depend on finding the one magical partner.  It must come by painstakingly overcoming our own tendencies.  Wanting the man who wants you doesn’t mean wanting every awkward geek who expresses an interest in you.  Rather, it means to stop considering quality to mean how little interest he has and how independent he is.  It’s not in accepting a Stage-5 clinger, but rather realizing that what you thought was a Stage 1-2 clinger is actually a normal person expressing interest in you – and that is the person to want.  This is obvious to all but us avoidant people, who seek out challenges as measures of quality.

        6. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          but rather realizing that what you thought was a Stage 1-2 clinger is actually a normal person expressing interest in you – and that is the person to want.  This is obvious to all but us avoidant people, who seek out challenges as measures of quality.

          Yes, as an avoidant you have to readjust what your think of as “normal” in terms of amount of contact and need from the other person. Stage-five clingers are easy to spot and so are other avoidants, but it’s still hard to tell for me what is a “usual and customary” … because what I received as a child was so anemic.

  26. 26
    Marika

    Adrian & Jeremy 

    Spot on with the idealist thing. I get very caught up in how things should be – not overly dysfunctional, but certainly often inaccurate –  in terms of a person who says x should do y, or treat me like z, or think f….even when those things never actually happen with that person!

    So the guy is right when he says I do it a lot to both him and other people. He said I use the word selfish a lot to describe people. And I absolutely do. Because I think they are being selfish, based on my moral code.

    He’s not so much a liar, he only actually lied about one thing I know of, but he’s not an idealist. He accepts the world as it is and chooses his own path and beliefs regardless. He doesn’t mind if others disagree with him or act differently. He will still argue a point or debate his views, but not get upset if they want to do their own thing. It’s a good way to be. It’s just hard for me to get my head around it. He’s also much more morally relativistic and can hold two opposing viewpoints at once.

    It’s my judgement call about whether any of that is right or wrong…I just need to figure out if I can deal with it.

    1. 26.1
      Adrian

      Hi Marika and Jeremy…I wish you two could meet this girl that I am talking to; she is a really good person so it’s not like I can just cut her off but at the same time she reminds me of Jeremy’s decision about people who believe that love and romance is ALL you need! Money, and any kind of planning for the future isn’t important because love IS happiness…  Jeremy how do you deal with a person who you can see things about their personality that they just refuse to see? I mean no where (except maybe on this sites comments section) is believing ALL you need is romance and love talked about like it is a bad thing; so no matter what I say about planning, working, schooling, investing, etc it is just looked upon as if I am the one who lacks romance…

      1. 26.1.1
        Jeremy

        Adrian, you asked, “Jeremy how do you deal with a person who you can see things about their personality that they just refuse to see?”  🙂 🙂 🙂  Love the question.  Spent almost a decade contemplating it.  Could write a book about the answer.  Or spend an evening discussing over some fine scotch.  Hard to answer in this medium, but I’ll try.

         

        Before you decide how, decide WHETHER.  Sounds to me like this woman is a dysfunctional idealist (I mean, OMG, love and romance is all you need until you have to eat, find shelter, support the kids that your love results in, etc).  Be GROUNDED in reality.  A woman who has no grounding will not likely make a good partner for a man who does.  All the responsibility will be on you, and you’ll take the blame when things go bad, even if she likes you.  I personally wouldn’t get involved, but then (as I’ve repeatedly written), ungrounded idealists piss me off.

        Why don’t they piss you off?  Likely because you have a bit of idealist in you too.  Maybe you have some conflict between how you see the world and how you think the world should be?  I know what that’s like.  I feel like I’m over-sharing about myself, but what the hell.  My primary personality is an idealist (surprise, Marika, how else would I understand idealists so well?).  But I grew up surrounded by idealist dysfunction and came to abandon that aspect of myself and rely on my secondary traits – rational.  Rational and Idealist don’t co-exist well in the same person.  They always fight, because their underlying assumptions are in direct opposition to each other.  The one sees the world as it is and adapts.  The other sees the world as it should be and judges.  The one strives to be it’s authentic self.  The other thinks the concept of authentic selves is nonsense.

         

        Why should you care about any of this?  You shouldn’t, except to understand that I get very well why a person would take it very personally when judged by a romantic person of not showing integrity.  The world (and I) are not how we should be!  Yet be in conflict, because we also know that that judgment is wrong – that world-view makes no sense.

         

        How do you deal with it?  Deal with your own internal conflict until you understand yourself.  Then the judgments of others will bother you much less.  And you will be less tempted to remain with partners whose judgment and values you find ridiculous, having already dispelled ridiculous notions from your own mind

        1. Nissa

           OMG, love and romance is all you need until you have to eat, find shelter, support the kids that your love results in.This made me laugh. I’m an idealist, salted liberally with pragmatism. While I’d like things to be a certain way, like you, I very often find that the thoughts of others are so different from my own, that I have to spend time mulling them over before I can really understand.I second your (Jeremy’s) recommendation of ‘deal with your own internal conflict until you understand yourself’. I know that I wasn’t objective about my relationships with others until I understood more about what was important to me, which caused me to understand that those things weren’t important to others.I also recommend experience. Women such as Adrian describes might be fine joining the Peace Corp and living in an electricity-&-plumbing free hut, but she might not either. If there’s something particular that she thinks would be fine and you don’t, introduce her to someone who is already doing it and let her personally experience that. I’d find it more likely to believe that if I see them actually ‘doing’ versus just talking about it.

    2. 26.2
      Adrian

      Hi Marika. My situation dealing with “appearing” inconsistent was because my actions did not match that girls views of what values meant, but I was to ignorant and too inexperienced to not take it personally-I believed I was not showing integrity… I like that you are considering this guys opinions but I think it may be more realist to take to heart what Jeremy said earlier about two people being normal but different. I just DON’T want you to think you are not normal or that you are too idealist or too sensitive, etc when in reality you two may just not be compatible..

      1. 26.2.1
        Marika

        Thanks Adrian

        I don’t think I’m not normal, I just know other people’s behaviour and opinions bother me more than I would like. I also find the internal struggle which Jeremy describes exhausting. It’s possibly why Emily is worried about dating, it can be an emotional roller-coaster for people like us! (Although for me, the good outweighs the bad).

        It’s best if I just accept that in dating when things are unclear or inconsistencies arise or it doesn’t work out, I will take it hard.

        I don’t do this with friends though. So reading the above exchange, in that way I feel lucky. I never get jealous if I’m not invited to something or keep track of who contacted who or worry when I’ll see them again. I understand people have busy lives and we get together when we can. It would be good to be so relaxed with romantic relationships. I would encourage anyone struggling with friends to stop over-thinking. People mean it when they say they missed you and “we should catch up”, but then they walk off and their sick mother calls or their kids get into trouble or etc etc…they may be busy or even struggling. It’s no personal insult if you don’t see them soon or the catch up never happens.

        Jeremy, would a good description of an Artisan be that they see the world as it is but follow their own path regardless? (Following on from the examples of Rational and Idealists?).

        1. Jeremy

          A person who falls into the artisan/explorer category is one who focuses on the concrete rather than the abstract, and is pragmatic rather than cooperative.  What I mean by concrete is that they focus on what, where, when and how rather than why.  What I mean by “pragmatic” is that they will tend to do what they like because they like it, and not do things they don’t like because they don’t like them.  They are not at all interested in reasons they “should” like something, except insofar as to feel guilty about not doing them because their Guardian and Idealist relatives make them feel bad by guilting them.  But guilt is almost never enough to motivate them to do things they don’t want to do in the long run, because unlike Guardians (who are primarily cooperative and do things in order to fit into a social hierarchy), Artisan/explorers don’t much care about hierarchies except insofar as they can exploit them or use them for their benefit.  They tend to be clever, crafty, very witty and of all the types, the most exciting and with the best tactical intelligence and ability to succeed on the fly.  They will be the most exciting type for people attracted to exciting people.  But they will lack the moral scruples that the idealist needs, unless she gives them a reason to find those scruples enjoyable in the long-run.

           

          As I so often say, these categories don’t really exist.  People aren’t defined by them – rather, they help us remember motivations of people we observe.  It’s not that there is a thing called an artisan and your BF is one.  Rather, a man might exhibit the motivations I described above, and we can say he is behaving like the artisan stereotype as a short hand to help us communicate.  Whether or not we believe in any of this stuff, if a man acts the way I described, we can make some assumptions about his behavior and compatibility with others.  YMMV.

        2. S.

          People mean it when they say they missed you and “we should catch up”, but then they walk off and their sick mother calls or their kids get into trouble or etc etc…they may be busy or even struggling. It’s no personal insult if you don’t see them soon or the catch up never happens.

          I have been thinking about this comment for a few days.  I feel in society we have certain rules for some relationships and certain for others. We pin so much on romantic partnerships.  Motherhood is idealized.

          I had oral surgery four months ago. I was able to handle it by myself but at one point after a scary journey home on foot while the pain meds wore off, I wondered if I should.  Was nothing for it, it was an emergency and I did what I had to do.

          Later on I reached out and felt let down when the four people I reached out to didn’t show up for me.  One of them was my mother.  When I told a friend this she was like, ‘The rest I can understand but mothers! Mothers should always be there.”

          Why? I’m in my mid-40s.  My mother doesn’t have to always be there. I’m not an infant anymore.  She’s got shit to do too.   So do spouses.  So do friends.  So does everyone.

          So do we just go with what society now says? Do we cultivate some friends as ‘found family’? If they want that too, of course.

          I want to think more creatively about relationships. People need people.  And unfortunately, a spouse or a parent or family member, no one relationship can do it all and wasn’t ever meant to.  We live in communities.  There is a wealth of possibility for relationship. Sometimes a chat on the bus ride with a neighbor can be more uplifting than talking with a sister or brother.

          I’m going to think more about this.  The difficulty is I often feel I’m the only one thinking out of the box.  But I know if I pin all my relationship needs on my husband of the future, it will be too much.  Other relationships need time, care, and thoughtfulness too.

          My mom did come to visit after I asked her too. She’s a good mom.  I’m still thinking creatively, though. 🙂

        3. Adrian

          Hi S,

          I can’t speak for Marika or Emily but for me the point isn’t about a person being required to be there for you the point is having people around who want to be there for you even if it is inconvenient for them because to them you are worth it-that is the kind of friendship I am talking about.

          With all that being said I do have core friend and a close family relationship. But I moved to a new city February of last year to accept a promotion with my company. So the context of my conversation with Emily was mainly focusing on the difficulties of making new “real” friends as an adult past a certain age. Many people say and do things as if they want to be your friend but what Emily and I think Jeremy were saying is that when it comes time to actually be there for you they show their true colors.

        4. S.

          I’m in agreement with you, Adrian. You could know a person for years but you don’t really know them until something happens where you need them or they need you.

          I was speaking more about how my friend had such a higher standard for moms. And how Marika was saying she finds situations harder in dating scenarios than with friends.

          It’s harder to make friends a one gets older because people get really set in how they are and when you’re young you’re not set about anything.  What I hope is that people can think creatively about relationships, all of them.  Even relationship with community.  I was reading an article recently where a little girl used to ride the bus with her mom and her mom passed and now the driver does the little girl’s hair in the morning.

          That’s what I mean. That bus driver is mothering this little girl.  No reason for her to.  It takes trust and a leap of faith.  The little girl looks forward each day to what sort of style the driver might make.

          Yeah, this works because it’s a female driver and she knew this family well.  I use it as an example where community can help ease pain sometimes. Not always, but sometimes.

          Sometimes people die.  Sometime spouses divorce.  It doesn’t mean needs can’t be fulfilled, it just may not always look as one imagined.

        5. Emily, the original

          Adrian and S.,

          So the context of my conversation with Emily was mainly focusing on the difficulties of making new “real” friends as an adult past a certain age. Many people say and do things as if they want to be your friend but what Emily and I think Jeremy were saying is that when it comes time to actually be there for you they show their true colors.

          I realized that with these “friends” I had made … would I call them if my car broke down? Would they call me if something similar happened? If I needed a ride to a doctor’s appointment (and a ride as in drop off; I wouldn’t expect them to stay), would I feel comfortable asking? Would they ask me to do the same thing? The answer was no to all four questions. I wouldn’t expect help weekly or even monthly. I am very independent, but I can’t count on these people and they don’t count on me. Those aren’t real friends. I am not really a part of their lives. They are friendly acquaintances to go to a movie with. So when they say the “want to catch up” and the “miss me,” it doesn’t mean all that much.

        6. S.

          One has to be self-sufficient.  You just have to be if you can.  But there are times when one can’t. Illness is one of those times, but not the only time.

          It reminds me a bit of dating. How without connection you are meeting these people, but do you really know all of them? Not always.  I think that’s why Evan gets letters about what to do when the letter writer already knows what to do. If they are asking they know and a few even say they have broken up by the time Evan publishes the letter.

          But they feel they have a connection with this person and it’s so rare that they want to hang on to it.  Even if the connection on the other side has long faded or was never there or the person isn’t treating them well.  There was a connection!  And it was real.  Key word: was. Or it still is but part of them is unhappy or confused enough to write a letter.  That says something.  Doubt.  Gotta listen to that.

          I’m about discernment lately. There are people who would really be there for you, Emily. Maybe only in an emergency.  Maybe not who you’d choose. Maybe you have to ask.  And if there truly are not there is always the possibility of meeting someone!

          It’s tiring and exhausting and dispiriting when it doesn’t work out. But I have to believe it’s worth it–romance and friends–when it does work.

        7. Emily, the original

          S.,

          But they feel they have a connection with this person and it’s so rare that they want to hang on to it.  Even if the connection on the other side has long faded or was never there or the person isn’t treating them well.  There was a connection!  And it was real.  Key word: was. 

          I know what you mean. It’s kind of like: What have you done for me lately? Or another thing that happpens … what if it is a long-time friendship but you no longer have anything in common? You still care for the person but you don’t have much to say to each other.
          It’s tiring and exhausting and dispiriting when it doesn’t work out. But I have to believe it’s worth it–romance and friends–when it does work.
          It’s quite tiring. You have to ask yourself — is the prize worth the value of the effort to get it? Idk

        8. S.

          @ Emily

          It’s a real thing. You’re giving up a possible connection with this person for maybe nothing.  Seriously.  But it’s not just nothing.  It’s also that the person, usually the letter writer, is unhappy.  So they have to accept that being alone is better than this possible connection with this person, especially if the person isn’t making them happy.

          The thing I don’t hear addressed often is the dating fatigue.  Or the fact that there may not be another connection right after.  (Though letter writers sometimes report finding a better match months later.)  There may be. Or there might not.  It could be a while.  That doesn’t get addressed.  These connections, even the problematic ones, are rare.

          When one gets tired, take a break, and rejuvenate.  But dating is dating and no one has figured out a way to get through the sorting other than to just do it with as much kindness, integrity, and sheer grit as possible.

          Is it worth it? Happily married people will say yes.  But I’m not sure how many of them spent decades and decades alone and slogging tiredly through dating before marriage.  Most were were probably pretty resilient before marriage. So I don’t know.  I can only hope it’s worth it.

        9. Emily, the original

          S.,

          Is it worth it? Happily married people will say yes.  But I’m not sure how many of them spent decades and decades alone and slogging tiredly through dating before marriage.  Most were were probably pretty resilient before marriage. So I don’t know.  I can only hope it’s worth it.

          I meant making the effort in general. Friends and relationships. I have decided, at least in my case, that family thing is most definitely not worth the effort. I’ll get bored eventually and start being more social … and continue my lifelong search for cool, rebellious “cruising chicks.”   🙂

  27. 27
    ezamused

    @Mrs Happy given your response to Jermey’s comment about a girlfriend/spouse. Why would any emotionally health and rational man want to get married?

    1. 27.1
      Marika

      Why buy a house when you can just keep staying in different B&B’s? Why try to find a job rather than just temping for money? Why establish friendships when they can sometimes be difficult or boring..there are benefits of a marriage that go well beyond the new & exciting. It’s an entity where the sum is greater than its parts. But you know that, or have at least some interest in learning it, or you wouldn’t be here.

      1. 27.1.1
        Adrian

        Hi Marika… Knowing what you know now about marriage and the struggles of the dating market, would you date/marry a cute guy who you were lukewarm about sexually but you had great fun and energetic conversations with, similar goals and values, and most importantly they were willing to put in lots of effort for you-you found him attractive but he just didn’t ignite any strong lust in you. Or would you prefer to remain single and keep searching for the guy who had all those characteristics but you felt a stronger desire for?

        1. Nissa

          Only speaking for myself, I would put more value in the fun, the conversations, the similar goals and values. It’s funny, people used to tell me my husband was handsome, but I didn’t really think he was that great looking. When my sister met him, she pulled me aside and said, ‘he looks like Sheldon from the Big Bang series!’. Which I had never seen and just about fell over laughing when I did, because she was right. I remember looking at him the night we met, thinking ‘He’s not really good looking…he’s just…ordinary”.I also spent a lot of time with my Dad later in life, when he was trying to date in his late 60’s. He used to say, that he just wanted someone to have dinner with, to see a movie and to be at home with him. In some ways, I was so sad for him that his standards were so low – nothing about loving him for himself or appreciating what he offered. But in a way I think he was very right – he knew exactly what it looked like, the life he wanted with someone. Walking slowly together, holding hands. Supporting each other, come what may. A shared life that might not include sex, but did include mutual dependency.

      2. 27.1.2
        ezamused

        @marika, Nobody would buy a house if they knew that house was going to fall apart and be worthless in a few years. No one would start a job if they knew the company was going to treat them like shit in a few years. No one would establish a friendship if they knew that friend would betray them and take all their money in the future.

        My question is not why would a man ever get married. It is why would he get married if he knew his wife was going to stop acting like his girlfriend.

        It was my response to Mrs Happy and Emily’s dismissal of Jeremy advice (very good advice IMO) that if wife still acted like GIRLFRIENDS in their marriages it would make for much better marriages.

        1. Marika

          Ezamused

          Not all women act exactly the same in all marriages. And as I said to you in another response down the page, the fate of a marriage doesn’t lie only in the woman’s hands. Jeremy is a unique example of a man who did everything he possibly could to make his wife happy, including going out of his way to fix things when he was unhappy. Most men aren’t like that. Including (my guess is from the way you write), you. In most marriages which aren’t working out, both parties aren’t giving the relationship their all.

          So maybe take a look at yourself first.

        2. ezamused

          @Marika

          People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones

    2. 27.2
      Mrs Happy

      Dear ezamused,

      I’m not a man so I don’t know the answer, so I just asked a man, and he said he got married because:

      1. he met someone with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life, and

      2. he wanted children, and believed children were best created and raised by a married couple, and

      3. his society deems marriage the most serious commitment and he was raised to agree with this model.

      In my opinion a girlfriend-boyfriend situation is great partly because there are fewer expectations and responsibilities.  All you have to do, is concentrate on each other.   So easy while you’re in love, and sooo enjoyable.

      I suspect if you are a man or a woman and mainly want the fun stuff, the intermittent excitement, and don’t want to be with someone long term or raise a family together or combine households, boyfriend-girlfriend is the way to go.  For a good chunk of my adult life that’s what I wanted.  I am firmly of the opinion that people should do what suits them best at their different stages of life (as long as it doesn’t harm others).

      1. 27.2.1
        Adrian

        Hi Mrs Happy… Eazmused’s comment actually made me seek out what you wrote and I loved it. Your post explained so much about why many couples enjoy dating more than marriage-more attention and effort. Your explanation explained why we are able to give more because dating is part time whereas marriage is full time. .I would be curious to hear your opinion on: (1) moving in before marriage? Evan wrote about this and the opinions in the comments section were pretty split; do you think a couple should be required to live together before getting married? If so how long? (2) what are some ways you think a married couple with busy schedules that see each other everyday, have access to sex with each other everyday can bring back that “DESIRE” to invest more attention and effort into a person who they already have?

        1. Mrs Happy

          Dear Adrian,

          your questions made me smile.  Though I’m euphoric in general at the moment.

          Q1. I can’t give a very balanced opinion on living together before marriage, because my own personal preference pre-kids, was to love living alone so much, there was no way I was giving that up for “just” a boyfriend. A husband, yes, I’d live with him.

          Q2. Your question about “DESIRE” (capitalised desire at that!) is probably equivalent to me asking you something like the following.  Adrian, what are the ways that you, with your busy schedule, who has access to serviettes every day, can become really interested in what colour the serviettes are at the next high-end restaurant you visit, and what embroidery pattern is on the edges, and where they were made?  What ways can you think, to become more interested in the linen origins of the serviette, and the emotions around using the serviette, and to get really into interacting with the serviette?

          All joking aside, (and I’m a bit elevated because I have just survived a snakebite and am feeling pretty damn good, me versus snake no contest I won), it seems to me that men cannot come anywhere near conceptualising how or why or to what extent, sexual desire drops for women, after middle age/kids/childbirth/a period of marriage/near menopause.  You’re in your twenties, you won’t understand it for years.  I never had a hint of it (low desire) in my 20’s, I heard people talk about it,  but barely understood.

          I was reading Jeremy’s referenced article – shockingly it was about power (not capitalised power though) and reflecting on how, if you don’t care about the serviette any more, other people might perceive there are power struggles about the serviette, it’s really important to them, but in fact you hardly clock the serviette is on the table until reminded of its presence.  The article’s fish analogy probably holds somewhat true though.

        2. Jeremy

          LOL.  Not only is the article about fish true, but it speaks to why you would even consider using your serviette analogy.  Consider the power (capitalised or not) involved in the seeing sex (or any love language of one’s partner) as a napkin – irrelevant and fungible.  How could one possibly view a partner’s priorities as such unless one is accustomed to getting what one wants regardless?  I have found that, in my life, what made me more empathetic to the desires of others was the lack of getting what I wanted, or at least the difficulty in doing so.  But I have observed that particular trick of empathy to be more difficult for my friends who were born winning the double genetic lottery of looks and intelligence.  What did they ever lack for?  Their biggest challenge was the onerous task of choosing from a plethora of options and then growing bored of them.  Needing increasing quantities of dopamine to excite them.  We don’t have many poisonous snakes here, though.

        3. Mrs Happy

          Jeremy,

          you have BEARS!

      2. 27.2.2
        Jeremy

        3 good reasons, Mrs. Happy.  I’ll add one more.  As a man, love, companionship, and relationships are the primary factor that will lead to long-term happiness.  Far more so than sex or status, which is what our male brains are hardwired to seek out.  Marriage provides an incentive for us to seek out the things that will ultimately make us happy, and the disincentive to tank the relationship when things get difficult.  Which is why men who are happily – or even satisfactorily – married are happier, healthier, and live longer than ones who are not.  Men would be wise to seek out marriage, regardless of whether or not the sex remains as frequent as it once did.

         

        That, BTW, is my only point of contention with Nissa and Clare’s most recent comment above.  I agree with them about personal responsibility and the decision to leave.  The question is whether leaving will necessarily result in the most happiness.  If a man has a marriage that is perfect except he wishes greater sexual frequency, would he be wise to leave?  I think not.  He’d be far wiser to try to remedy the situation.  Leaving is a last resort.  Which is the point of marriage.

        1. Adrian

          Hi Jeremy,

          Is your advice for him to stay based on the fact that you don’t believe that he will find a woman who will give him the level of sex he desires? A bird in hand is better than two in the bush?

        2. Jeremy

          No Adrian, that isn’t it.  Rather, my advice is to consider what one has rather than what one doesn’t.  To cultivate gratitude.  When I was having marital troubles it was my tendency to focus on what I wasn’t getting – sex and my language of receiving love and appreciation.  Not to diminish that, but I was getting lots of other things.  A family life, children, a social life, love and support from my wife (in the other love languages of words and acts of service), companionship, and lots of other things.  Tanking all of that just for what I lacked would not have made me happier. It’s not that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. It is realizing that the bird you have is the one you want, you just need to nurture it in a different way.  But, of course, that depends on whether the bird you have is, in fact, the one you want.

        3. Clare

          Jeremy,

          I think you may have misinterpreted what I, for one, was saying.

          I’m not advocating leaving a marriage just because one need is not met, while many others are. I am talking about a marriage/relationship that makes you miserable, that drains the life out of you, that causes you pain regularly. One where you have tried, and failed, to get your partner to acknowledge the depth of your unhappiness and to change something in response, or work with you to co-create a solution. This, I believe, is what Nissa was talking about. She had tried with her husband. He had refused to do anything in response. She was hurting and very unhappy.

          I’m not suggesting chucking a situation which is mostly good because one or two things are not ideal. In any situation we find ourselves in, we will have to tolerate the odd thing which might not be as we would wish it. This is life. The question is to what extent is it impacting on your happiness and well-being, and can it be improved. If these latter aspects are unfavorable, I believe you do have to exercise your power and leave.

      3. 27.2.3
        ezamuzed

        But the problem is that he wants to get married and stay with the person based on the love and affection he feels during the girlfriend/boyfriend phase. I doubt that men who are of sound mind and emotion would get married if they were certain that the love, affection and sex they felt as a boyfriend would slowly disappear once they got married.

        To me it sounds devious and manipulative for women to do this. To consciously act one way before marriage and then another after marriage. It sounds like she was investing in him before marriage not because she liked him as a person but because she wanted to lock him down as a provider. And now that she succeeded in that with marriage she doesn’t have to invest in that anymore.

        1. Emily, the original

          Ezamused,

           I doubt that men who are of sound mind and emotion would get married if they were certain that the love, affection and sex they felt as a boyfriend would slowly disappear once they got married.

          It doesn’t disappear. It just changes, particularly once you move into together. Things are much different if you see each other twice a week and are focused on each other because that is the time you have to do it. But if you see each other every day … uh… you can’t have that level of hyper-focus or that would be all you did. People have to go to work. They have to eat. To sleep. To pay bills. And children adds another layer of responsibility.

        2. ezamuzed

          @emily, exactly it changes because she allowed it to change. Either because she got lazy, it was an act and she really care in the first place or more likely there is something unconscious going on that allows the change happen.

          Just because they move in together it does not mean she cannot spend a few hours a week focusing on him and the relationship. It really should be easier because he is right there. How much time does it take to shower, slip on some lingerie and go down stairs and pretend to be a Russian seductress out to get all his secrets. 30 minutes max? If there are kids then do it after they go to bed.

        3. Emily, the original

          ezamused,

          As Judge Judy says, “You’re not receiving.”

        4. Mrs Happy

          Dear ezamused @ 27.2.3,

          everyone – men and women – changes after marriage.  Nobody can stay the person they were on the wedding day, because humans alter over time.  Love for one another changes.  Effort expended towards the other alters, on the part of both men and women.  I cannot explain this any better than Gary Chapman does in his book The 5 Love Languages: love buckets get filled during dating, and start emptying after marriage.  It’s not a trick, it’s not deceptive, it’s not manipulative, it’s not intentional, and it happens to everyone, it is part of the normal human experience.

          Marriage involves a thousand disappointments in your partner but the determination to stay together.  Your wife will not get all her wants and needs met by you.  You will not get all your needs and wants met by her. You will be less than perfect for one another.

        5. Jeremy

          Ezamused, the problem with all advice, my own included, is that the perspective of the giver may differ too much from that of the taker.  And this is especially true when it comes to the subject of sex.  Because people with a certain sexual meta-goal (the subconscious reason why they want to have sex) usually assume that others should share their meta-goal.  As an example, a person’s sexual meta-goal might be novelty – ie. they crave sex as a dopamine-generating activity and lose desire for it subconsciously when it no longer is novel – love or no love, emotional connection or none.  Such a person usually assumes that others share that goal and would act the same way.  So when someone asks that person “why would a spouse lose interest in sex after marriage?” – the person might reply, “Well who wouldn’t lose interest in sex when you have access to that partner every day?  Such a loss isn’t abnormal, it is totally expected.” Which, of course, it wasn’t.

           

          A person whose meta-goal is marriage and children would think it is totally normal to lose interest after having marriage and children, though they would pay lip service to “making an effort.”  A person whose meta-goal is emotional connection will tell you that the only reason your spouse lost interest is because she must have lost emotional connection with you, whether or not that is true.

           

          So if you, as an advice seeker, are worried about losing love, affection, and sex after marriage, my first question to you (as the advice giver) is, “what is YOUR sexual meta-goal?”  What are your base assumptions?  Do you believe that sex equals love, and that having a partner withdraw sex means withdrawing of love (as far as you are concerned)?  Do you need sex for validation because you believe that a partner withdrawing sexually means that your value to them (and to yourself) is less?  Is your goal physical pleasure and you feel your wife owes you pleasure in exchange for what you do for her?  Do you need sex because it equals emotional connection to you, and without it you feel alone?  Why do you need the sex, and what does its withdrawal mean to you?  Now, what does it mean to your wife?

           

          No woman gets married with the nefarious goal of losing affection and desire after the ceremony.  They aren’t out to entrap Beta Bux while seeking out affairs with Alphas.  If a woman loses interest in sex, it’s because she has lost her meta-goal.  She feels there isn’t anything in it for her that’s worth the effort.  Her spouse hasn’t lost interest because he hasn’t lost his meta-goal.  But if he wants her to regain hers, he has to make sure that she gets her goal when she gives him his….and that she does not get her goal when she does not give him his.  Because when she gets all her goals met without having to reciprocate, she ends up happy, and believes he should be too.  Read the article I referenced above.

           

           

        6. ezamused

          @jeremy I’m not seeking advice here. I’m only here loitering around because I became very interested in dating and intersexual dynamics a few years ago. It was part of my self-improvement journey after my divorce. Also I think this would be a bad place for a guy to go for dating advice.

          I do agree with perspectives but I think it is important to try to understand and empathize with other peoples perspectives. And that is what is frustrating here. You gave some pretty sound advice about being girlfriend and a large contingent of woman here dismissed it by rationalizing it away.

          It is the same advice that Dr Laura has been giving woman in relationships with good men for decades. She even wrote a book about it called “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands”

           

  28. 28
    Marika

    Thanks Jeremy.

    That very much sums it up. I know these categories aren’t ‘real’ in that sense, but they help me understand people who act in ways that otherwise I would perceive as deliberately hurtful.

    1. 28.1
      Jeremy

      Yes.  That’s the only reason I’m interested in them.  Growing up with people whose motivations I could not understand – because they were so very difficult from my own – made me want to understand people very much.  It is CBT in its most perfect sense – adjusting our feelings by adjusting our thoughts.  Adjusting our thoughts by understanding that the motivations of the people with whom we interact are not necessarily what we perceive them to be.

       

      So much of what you’d find on “personality” websites is total bullshit.  I know Helen Fisher spends a lot of time in her book “why him, why her” discussing optimal pairings of types, but I find that laughable.  It’s not that some pairings necessarily work better, but rather that each pairing will have predictable challenges.  Someone who is very much an idealist has one of two choices IMHO – either seek out another idealist with similar ideology, or moderate her idealism to examine what she needs and what she only wants.  The latter will increase her choices, and ultimately her happiness, though it is the more difficult road – because it requires a conversion of thinking from assuming a behavior is selfish to assuming a behavior is normal.  That is the internal struggle I mentioned above.  Sounds like you know what I was talking about.

  29. 29
    Adrian

    Hi Jeremy,

    As much as many of the male posters (not you) belittle my supposed lacking of masculinity because I agree with so many of the points many of the female commenter make; in honesty with the exception of you, Evan and Karl R I learn almost 95% of the things I think are worth knowing about dating, relationships, and love from the women here.

    One such commenter (believe it was GoWithTheFlow or Marika) once said something that gave me a really great “AHA!” moment. She basically said that you can be with a person who is perfect for you in 99 ways but if that 1 thing that is missing is that important to you then it doesn’t matter if you are receiving 99 other benefits, the relationship isn’t worth forcing yourself to stay in; I agree with that.

    I know what you are trying to say and I agree but with conditions. To a man who highly values sex and having a woman show him that she desires him, all the other benefits won’t make him happy.

    Jeremy said, “Rather, my advice is to consider what one has rather than what one doesn’t.  To cultivate gratitude.  When I was having marital troubles it was my tendency to focus on what I wasn’t getting – sex and my language of receiving love and appreciation.”  

    I agree with Emily in that it is great that you fought so hard for your wife, but honestly I don’t think I personally would have seen her as being worth the effort because it violates one of Evan’s golden rules about a relationship shouldn’t be hard or require a lot of work to make happy.

    1. 29.1
      Jeremy

      That is for dating, Adrian, not marriage after kids.  It should be easy most of the time, but all marriages that last long enough go through times of stress.  If everyone followed that advice, 95% of marriages would fail the first year after kids.  If you get into a marriage thinking you married a unicorn, you’ll be shocked the first time she exhibits humanity – just as you are worried she’ll be shocked when you exhibit yours.  She is human.  So are you.  There will be tough times.  Choose the best partner you can, learn how to argue constructively, and realize that the factor that makes the best relationship partner is one’s ability to not always get one’s way.  If you learn nothing else from me, let the one thing be that sentence.  But that’s for marriage and children.  Not for dating.

      1. 29.1.1
        Marika

        Jeremy

        I agree with everything you say, except for the ‘not for dating’ bit. I know you have very good reasons to believe that and we likely won’t agree (which is okay! – I’m trying ☺). But I think that applies when people are very young and/or haven’t gone through many negative experiences or are very easy going. It shouldn’t be hard , but I don’t think I’ve had one online dating experience that I would call easy. Same applies to all my friends. Maybe that says something about us or about us not finding the right person yet, but dealing with other people in a romantic sense when you’re both being vulnerable and you’ve been hurt before (or have kids, money worries etc) can be hard.

        The latest guy I was with, let’s call him Jason, coincidentally knew another guy I briefly dated, let’s call him Jake. I thought Jake was fine but he was just a bit low key and interest seemed to dry up on both sides. It was only two dates and nothing bad happened. He ‘warned’ Jason that I’m a bit cold and don’t show enough interest in other people. Jason told me he almost laughed, began I’m the exact opposite of that. Things like that happen often. I’ve been abused by guys for not wanting a second date, I’ve been ghosted, my friends have been with guys who have family stuff that makes them need space, slept with them under false pretences, etc etc.

        Either it’s our own stuff making dating a bit tricky or it’s their stuff or just dating in general. Look at all the commenters and their struggles. Personally I think searching for ‘easy’ may rule everyone out! Again, unless you’re super easy going. Though then, it’s unlikely you’d be on this blog. Maybe we should call it ‘easier’.

  30. 30
    Marika

    Or PS, Jeremy, maybe this doesn’t apply to everyone. I’ve noticed commenters who very self-sufficient and quite tough/ no-nonsense in their approach to finding a partner seemed to find dating quite easy, no matter their age or history. For them it easy probably is a good marker.

    I got dissillusioned with the comments for a while because I felt like this ‘easy’ thing was getting pushed too much and I was trying to live up to being this uber relaxed and ‘nothing bothers me’ dater who can cooly call things off when it’s not working and move swiftly on with no regrets. Which I’m not and will never be. So I’ve just accepted that for me I will continue to experience pain and confusion as long as I continue to open my heart. The marker for me (and my guess, many others) will need to be something other than easy: probably them showing up consistently and being okay with me being an emotional over-thinker, as once they get past that, I’m a generous, kind, thoughtful and fiercely loyal partner.

    1. 30.1
      Jeremy

      I don’t think “easy” means being uber-relaxed or adopting a “nothing bothers me” attitude.  Given your psychology, that wouldn’t be easy, it’d be an impossible self-denial.  To me, easy means that you don’t need to force yourself or your partner to be something they are not in order to like them or to envision a future with them.  If something is important to you, easy could mean finding a partner who also finds it important, or who finds you important enough to care.  Not one who is apathetic to something you find important.

       

      There are many razors that I used over the years to pare down potential partners, but the best one I ever came up with was this:  Is this the person I want to be the mother of my future children?  Keeping in mind that children are likely to be like their parent.  Do I want kids who act like this person?  Who are raised with the values of this person?  Who look like this person?

       

      This razor pares down a lot of bullshit.  Because we might find a partner we really like.  Who is a lot of fun to be around.  Who likes a lot of the things we do.  Who is interesting or challenging.  But when you apply the razor, you find immediately that the person is wrong.  And when the answer is yes, it doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing or conflict-free.  But it does mean that you are with a person with whom you might legitimately have a future.

       

      That was my razor.  Might not be yours.  But good to develop one.

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