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Someone I wanted to marry suddenly broke up with me. What do I do?
By Cait Robinson
Have a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.
Dear Miss Information,
I met this guy at the beginning of the year. We went out and almost instantly connected. We're both in our thirties, professionals, ready to settle down, etc. So we were pretty amazed that we happened to "stumble" on to this really great relationship with a significant amount of potential. We had a great, healthy, adult relationship, and for all practical purposes we seemed like we were marriage-bound.
A few months into dating, we traveled to the house he grew up in and spent the entire weekend with his parents, three siblings, spouses, and kids. Needless to say, it was a lot to take in. But, things went well and, as we drove home, I couldn't believe I had really found someone special again. (I am divorced.) Everything was falling into place.
Two days later, he broke up with me. I was in shock.
He explained that he wasn't ready and that he didn't want to date anyone right now. He said that I'm everything he wants in his life and that I'm what he's looking for, but that a few weeks before he had stopped falling "more" for me, so he wasn't sure if he could fall in love with me. He was very conflicted because I think on one hand, he didn't want to lose me and hurt me, but on the other, he knew it was the right thing to do.
From what I gathered, none of the women he had dated before had treated him very well, and I think he expected the same from me. He had also gone through a bad breakup a few months prior to meeting me. My perception is that, while short, this was the most adult relationship he had ever had. (I'm also the only divorced woman he's dated.) So the day he came to me and said he wasn't ready, I saw this wall go up. I could tell I wasn't going to change his mind.
I'm doing my best to move on, but I just can't. I know if he can ever find it in his heart to love me, he'll need this time to sort through his feelings, but I don't know what I should do in the interim. I know I'm supposed to take care of myself in this time, I get it, but I'm not sure where I'm supposed to put my heart right now.
He's a good man and, though he hurt me, he truly did what was in my best interest. I can't fault him for that. Do I still have a chance?
You say you don't know where to put your heart during this time, so I came up with a partial list for you. Get a plant! (It won't suffer when your heart has healed and you no longer need it, unlike a puppy or a rebound.) Make some terrible art! (Leotards highly recommended.) Volunteer! (Lord knows plenty of causes in the world need more hearts.) The take-home message is, don't keep trying to put your affection in the hands of someone who has explicitly told you he can't handle it.
I'm curious about this line: "[T]hough he hurt me, he truly did what was in my best interest." It's great you're not vilifying him post-breakup, but take care not to sanctify him, either. He was honest and emotionally aware and communicative, all of which is super — but a breakup is not the same thing as a favor. You're allowed to be angry and/or hurt. Just make sure that you're not so lovesick that you cast all of his actions in a rosy glow.
This sounds solidly like a case of "if you love something, let it go." Now really let it go — don't sit by the window waiting for it to fly back in.
Dear Miss Information,
I just realized my issue, like a bolt of lightning! I'm not as afraid of rejection from a crush as I thought I was. I can handle rejection. What I'm really afraid of is the awkwardness of asking someone out and possibly making them going through this process:
1. Shock (I wasn't expecting that)
2. Awkwardness (Ugh, how do I tell him I'm not interested?)
3. Avoidance (I'll just ignore him)
Because of this fantasy potential outcome, I simply avoid asking guys out (and lose out on the chance that the guy might actually like me — or say yes). It's stupid. So how could I recover from a situation like this (or avoid it in the first place)? Because if I can work out this problem, I could overcome my rejection/awkwardness fears.
On a side note (is this a side note or really the whole issue?), I'd like to see this go like this: I ask him out, and if he's shocked and/or not interested, I make it comfortable for him to say so, and we move on as friends. The problem is, I'm really attracted to "nice guys." "Nice guys" tend to avoid confrontation/awkwardness/disappointing others, so it's catch-22.
— Sorry, I Have to Wash My Hair
Dear Sorry, I Have to Wash My Hair,
A couple of months ago, through no fault of my own, I watched greater than zero episodes of an MTV show called Friendzone. The premise of Friendzone is that there are two best friends, one of whom is in love with the other. He or she plans to reveal their secret to their beloved. Enter MTV's camera crews, who selflessly facilitate the moment where Friend A reveals his or her love to Friend B. This show is the eye-stabbingly worst idea I have ever heard. I don't need to see twenty-year-olds looking crestfallen. Nobody does.
My point with this is, you set the tone for how your proposal is received. It will be way harder to bounce back from a rejection if you ask him out on bended knee with a marching band and a dozen carnations dropped from a low-flying plane. Keep it light. Keep it non-televised. He'll pick up on your energy and respond in kind.
To this end, "Hey, what are you doing on Friday? My friend is having an art opening and I'd love to go with you," leaves him room to back out. Pulling a Lloyd Dobler outside his window does not. A date is really just a few hours on one night. Keep that tone around the conversation. And if he says no? Handle it with the same sense of perspective. "No problem! See you around." If you don't act sulky or awkward, he should get over his guilt pretty quickly. It's hard to believe you've broken someone's heart if they're pointedly non-heartbroken.
Believe it or not, you've already done the hard part: by not living in fear of rejection, you've opened yourself up tremendously. Now just convey that reality to your (potential) dates, and you're golden.
Want to meet someone for the art opening on Friday? Meet them on Nerve.