DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have a problem. My marriage was failing, and I fell in love with our Jiu Jitsu instructor (we’ll call him Ethan). The biggest problem was that I was still married and he was somewhat friendly with my husband (we will call him Rick). But Ethan and I clicked right away. I had an instant attraction to him, but I did my best to squash it.
As time went on, Ethan ended up being there for me during a rough time, emotionally when my husband wasn’t. Eventually, I told Ethan my feelings for him and he reciprocated. We ended up having a sexting relationship that was hot and heavy, but also filled with true emotion. However, he started getting pressure from another friend, who ended up causing a big scene and telling my husband what was going on before I could even process what was going on myself. My husband freaked out, and we’ve spent the last two and a half years trying to make it work. However, he’s ended up having his own infidelities numerous times while I did not.
We’ve decided to separate and then divorce. I recently reached out to Ethan to apologize for how everything went down, and he responded saying he had just been thinking about me that morning. It was a very sweet conversation. He told me that he thinks about me all the time and that we should get a drink soon. He was at work and I was about to take my son for a walk, so I suggested we carry on the conversation later. He agreed. Then I didn’t hear from him again until the next afternoon when I asked him a question about his gym. He apologized, and said he left his phone at work (hmmm).
We talked a bit more about everything that happened. He told me how he felt badly and that it was just recently that he got out of his funk from the situation between us. I respond with a few things and, after an hour or so, noticed that he saw the message and didn’t reply. I asked if I had said something wrong and then he disappeared again for 24 hours. He responded the next evening with “No you’re good, just super busy the past couple of days”. I ask him what he’s been up to not long after he sent that message, and now I haven’t heard from him again. He hasn’t even viewed the message. I haven’t contacted him since.
I spoke with a mutual friend of ours and he told me to be patient, that Ethan leaves him on “read” for days all the time. I asked him if he knew if Ethan was dating and he said he had heard nothing.
Here’s the thing, after doing some social media snooping, I see he’s been hiking with a girl these past days. Now, they don’t mention each other in their posts, she seems to go hiking a lot with other people. And it seems like he’s doing it for exercise based off of what he has said in the posts. It seems like they have been friends for while and work together. He liked a photo of our mutual friend and I today, but hasn’t responded. Is he trying to play it ultra cool, or if he doesn’t have the guts to say he’s dating someone else. I’m not glass, I wish he would just say as much. How long is an appropriate time to wait until I attempt to message him again? Should refriend him on social media? Should I just file this under it wasn’t meant to be?
What should I do? Thank you!!
Left On Read
DEAR LEFT ON READ: There’re few things that’re more frustrating than a relationship that seems to go cold for no reason. It would be one thing if you could point to some inciting action, some event or occurrence that would explain why someone — someone you had just had a fairly hot fling with — has started treating you like an afterthought. When there’s no real explanation, then you’re left to come up with the answer all on your own… which is a great way to take all of your brain weasels, feed them a coffee/meth slurry and just let them go to town on every anxiety and insecurity you have. Suddenly you’re left questioning everything and wondering what glaring flaw you have that you were unaware of that would make someone seemingly be night and day different in how they feel about you.
The truth is often a lot more prosaic… and not always helpful when it comes to getting any sort of closure. The pattern you describe with your jiu jitsu instructor is, unfortunately, fairly common and one I’ve seen more than a few times. Here you are, an attractive woman in a troubled marriage, having lots of feelings for someone who’s been there for you, who’s supported you during a rough time and generally been everything your husband isn’t. It’s understandable that you’re going to have fairly intense feelings.
The problem is that those feelings weren’t returned… not in the way that you thought they would be, and likely not to the level that he thought. That attraction you had for him was certainly flattering — who doesn’t like being the focus of an attractive woman’s fantasies? — and the relative intimacy of your friendship with him almost certainly didn’t hurt, especially as he was your source of support during those troubled times. It’s certainly not surprising that he was interested in having some naughty, flirty fun with you. He may even have been caught up in the excitement of the moment. But I strongly suspect that for him, the taboo nature of what you were doing, the secrecy and the necessary limitations were the draw; he may have rounded those feelings up to something more than just sexual attraction, but it seems like getting busted threw a bucket of cold water on the whole situation.
Now here you are, free and single and ready to mingle and able to do more than just sext with him… and he doesn’t seem to be interested. He’s saying all the right things, that he thinks about you, he wants to see you, but his actions are a different story. And the policy here at NerdLove Industries is very simple: deeds, not words. And his deeds are saying “not feeling it.”
And that, at the end of the day, is the problem. The rest of it — the woman he’s hiking with, his indeterminate relationship status — are all red herrings. They don’t factor into the equation. It’s his behavior that’s telling you how he feels and what to expect.
Case in point: I’m willing to bet that during the height of your hot and heavy text affair, he was Johnny-on-the-spot as soon as the notification pinged. Now, you’re getting replies on such a long time delay, it seems like you’re trying to text someone on Mars. That in and of itself isn’t the issue. I mean, the fact that he’s leaving you on read isn’t unique to you; he’s not avoiding you while still talking to his other friends. The issue is that he’s treating you like he treats everyone else.
Now if you were to ask me to speculate, I would guess the fact that you’re not forbidden fruit anymore makes things less exciting. I also imagine that getting caught and the time away didn’t help either. But honestly? The reasons don’t really matter as much as his feelings and the way he’s acting. And those, as I said, are telling you that he’s just not interested now.
I don’t think asking him for an explanation is going to be fruitful. There likely isn’t an answer he could give you that would satisfy you and, frankly, he may not be able to explain why himself. It’s difficult to tell someone why your feelings have changed or why you don’t feel a certain way beyond “They just did and I just don’t.” That’s only likely to frustrate you more and send those brain weasels back into overdrive.
I think in this case, the best option for you is to file this under “nice while it lasted, but not meant to be”. You have the memories of a fling that kept you going during a rough time in your life, and that’s where it’ll have to stay. Look at this as a relationship that lasted exactly as long as it could, and then it came to its natural end. It may not be the same sort of closure as “well, I’ve found someone else”… but closure that you give yourself is the most important.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org