Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My now ex-boyfriend can't get past his divorce. We had been dating for a year and I came to the realization that I can't be with him anymore to help boost his ego. We spent three to four nights together a week; the other nights he has his daughters or I was busy with work. In that year, he mentioned numerous times that perhaps I'd get to meet his parents, brother and his two daughters. It never happened. I'm sure he is still grappling with the realization that he is now divorced.
The divorce was finalized just a year ago. His ex had an affair while they were unhappily married and is getting married this summer. His girls are seeming to be fine and happy with their mom and her new fiancé. They even told him last summer that they wanted him to be happy and "get a girlfriend." The girls know about me. They've asked when they get to meet me and he told me that his response was that he didn't know if I was the right one. And he told me that he said that to them.
I baked casseroles and bread for his parents and himself when they were visiting. His mother had some health concerns and I thought it would be a nice thing to help out. She wrote a thank-you note. I've met one of his best friends from high school. We've gone out on double dates a couple of times. I was invited to spend time with him and his brother in Portland at New Year's Eve. We got tickets and a week later he uninvited me. He gets close and then shuts off and says he's confused. He said he wanted to get couples counseling. I told him that I'd let him find the counselor and nothing ever happened.
Just last month he mentioned that he knows that he needs to see a counselor but he will once he gets his licensing completed in May. (He is also a counselor.) I was patient. I gave him space but I am so angry with him and myself right now. He's got issues with commitment — he agrees and his ex-wife and I talked about it at the end of last year. She didn't know how committed he was even though they were married for 12 years. They both have told me that he valued the family over the marriage. He celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with his ex, her fiancé and his daughters this year. I wasn't included.
We broke up two weeks ago and I'm trying to keep busy. I've been busy with work thankfully. I have deleted and blocked him on my phone. I have unfriended him on Facebook. I'm talking and meeting other men but I'm angry and sad that I fell for a man who can't and won't commit. Or maybe it's that he won't commit to me and that I was his rebound.
The worst thing about this is that I've lost trust in myself.
Oh girlfriend. There are so many things to say here, but I'll start with talking about time. It's become a cliché that time heals all wounds, but there's something to that. We humans run on different schedules and process emotions at different paces. We all need time to move through the phases of our lives, time to become ready for the next big steps and commitments, time to process the failures and disappointments of our pasts, and time to manage those massive waves of emotions that at times seem to slay us but will ultimately – as cliché as it is – make us stronger.
So, on the topic of time, I note that you say you've been dating this man for a year … and that he got divorced a year ago. Not a lot of room to breathe detected in that rapid transition, and it's a surefire recipe for relationship implosion. The simplest way to put it, is he's likely so internally busy struggling through his own complex feelings about the transition, not to mention trying to maintain peace with his ex as he shepherds his children through this new territory, that he simply doesn't have space for someone new amid all that chaos and noise.
I once fell for a guy who was going through a divorce. As much as every alarm bell within screamed "too soon" and "don't do it," I started dating him anyway. He was so nice! Turns out, as much as he professed to be glad to be done with the toxic marriage, he was also in turmoil. The divorce had him questioning his core identity, his values, his future, his relationship with his children – and as much as I thought if I just supported him better, harder, deeper, I could be an asset to him and help, in truth I was just one more thing for him to worry about, and the relationship fell apart.
It hurt at the time but in hindsight, his departure was a gift. A relationship should be a balance. No one should be forced into the role of a fixer, or made to beg for emotional scraps or little evidentiary shreds of commitment.
You invested a lot in this man, but it's time to shift gears and open your future up to someone who will meet you on your level. And speaking of time, again, take some for yourself. You mentioned you're already talking to new dudes; you just went through a break up! Take time to mourn and repair before you launch again into the dating sphere.
And it sounds like you also need some time to care for all those bruises that came from beating yourself up. Don't be so hard on yourself — you fell in love, you worked as hard as you could at the relationship, you held on tight during the roller coaster and you didn't quit until it was clear that the ride wasn't going to end. That's admirable, not unacceptable. That's also human.
So why be mad at yourself? Why can't you trust yourself? Of course, we all look back at our love and life mistakes and think, "What if …" But you can rest easy knowing you made the right call — you ended a relationship that was hurting you and going nowhere. Sounds pretty rational to me.
Instead, how about giving yourself some credit? You are strong and brave to walk away from something you want badly but know isn't going to work out. You are wise to believe that you deserve someone who is going to provide the love and balance you need and have to offer.
There are enough mean people running around who are going to stress you out, beat you up emotionally and even break your heart. Don't join them. Be kind to yourself, during this breakup and always.
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