DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I wanted to write to you because my partner (now ex) introduced me to your page. Your advice is realistic and when we would read your threads, we knew you knew what you were on about. No BS.
I don’t want to bore you too much with the finer details, however, I met my (now ex) partner when I had a car crash over five years ago(can I say that he was a cop?). We instantly hit it off, but when we went on a few dates, I realised that he was far too immature (he agrees). Skip ahead a few years and something… changed. We grew even closer and actually begun something casual for a few months, and we realised we worked…better than expected actually…and on one lovely night (when I wasn’t feeling very well) he asked me whilst watching a movie to become his girlfriend. I was over the overjoyed because I had already fallen for this guy and knew I wanted us to be official.
A year into our relationship, he moved in with the girl he lost his virginity to (in high school) and her (now husband) partner and another friend. It was difficult to say the least. I tried everything to appease this woman and she despised me.
Regardless, my ex moved out and back with his parents. Can I just say that throughout the first year, whilst things were tough at times, we still managed to grow as a couple and as individuals. Unfortunately, during our second year of ‘bliss’, we each had our own work issues and we stuck by one another. During our third and subsequently final year of dating, my parents had a terrible break up and it did affect me (how could it not?) and communication wasn’t great.
A month ago, he randomly turned up to my place and broke it off with me stating that “he didn’t know if he was doing the right thing because he still loved me and I was still his best friend, however, for the last two weeks, he wasn’t sure if he was in love with me.” To say that I was absolutely heartbroken is an understatement. We had been through so much, and had so many great memories together, that this wasn’t expected.
At first, he came up with a few excuses and then he said several more later on when we caught up. He said such things like “you need to be more selfish”, “it isn’t our time”, “I’m going a different direction in work” and the final blow: “we need to grow as individuals.”
Now, I completely understand and will be the first to admit that we became complacent in our relationship, me especially, because of my parents’ break up. But the plethora of excuses he used makes me think “what else actually happened with us, with you?”
Its now been just on a month and he’s on dating sites (my friend who is a friend for the dating apps randomly came across him) and I’m more than confused because we had dated for 3.5 years and had spoken about marriage, kids and all the trimmings. He even stopped me at a jewelry store to look engagement rings.
I don’t know if I was I complete and utter denial about us or if I’ve misread everything… but I’m still in love with this man even though I have no clue what actually happened.
Care to shed some light?
Blindsided or Just Blind
DEAR BLINDSIDED OR JUST BLIND: I’d say that you were blindsided, BoJB, but with some caveats. It seems pretty clear that this was a long-simmering issue; if I were to guess, I’d say that the problems started during your second year together, when you were both dealing with issues at work.
One of the things that determines the relative long-term success of a relationship is how the people involved treat adversity. Stress from outside of a relationship can cause issues within the relationship, and how you handle it can affect the overall health of your partnership. When the going gets tough, do the two of you come together like a team or does it cause fissures that make it harder for you to deal with your partner’s s
t? Do you treat it as something that brings you closer together, or a storm that you only barely weathered? Do you have each other’s back, or are you getting so caught up in your own drama that you don’t have the bandwidth to deal with theirs?
It sounds like in this case, the answer was the latter. You mention that when your parents split, you and your ex weren’t great at communicating. This, I suspect, was something akin to the straw that broke the camel’s back. While it’s clear he cared — and likely still cares — about you, the relationship had come to a point where he just couldn’t be in a relationship with you.
Which is where we come back to the caveats about being blindsided. I’m wondering whether your ex hadn’t been communicating that he was having these concerns… or whether he had, and you didn’t pick up on them. It could be that he was trying to make bids for your attention during these times and you missed them, didn’t recognize them for what they were or turned away from him. It’s also certainly possible that he wasn’t as clear about expressing his needs as he could have been; as I’ve said before, men are taught to be disconnected from our emotions, which makes it harder for us to express how we’re feeling. It can feel uncomfortable and awkward and if our partners don’t catch what we’re trying to say, we may drop it out of embarrassment.
Or it could be that he didn’t say anything. He might have been gritting his teeth and hoping that he could white-knuckle his way through to things being good again. Except he couldn’t.
Regardless, I don’t think that he suddenly fell out of love with you. The biggest clue here is that he’s already on dating apps again. Occasionally it seems like our partners have gotten over the relationship incredibly quickly. In reality, it’s often the case that they were getting over the relationship while they were still in it. For them, the relationship had already ended, they just hadn’t made it official yet. I think he meant it sincerely when he was talking about marriage, kids and a future together. But I strongly suspect that little issues metastasized over the course of the relationship together and ultimately lead to the point where he just couldn’t stay in it any longer.
Ultimately, the only person who can tell you is your ex, and he may not be in a place where he’s ready to process or do a post-mortem on the break-up. If you two can get to a place where you’re on good terms, you can possibly talk things through. But ultimately, the best thing you can do is give yourself closure. Every relationship has its natural lifespan and this one came to its end. Take time to mourn it — because this is something to mourn — then forgive yourself for being imperfect, like we all are.
There will be love again in the future. This isn’t the end. It’s not the beginning of the end. It’s just the end of the beginning.
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