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Love Letters

She's stuck in the dumps

Ex-boyfriend wasn’t perfect, but did she break up a good thing?

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / May 21, 2011

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Q.A month ago I broke things off with my boyfriend of six months. We are both in our mid-30s, never married, no kids. He is extremely easy to get along with. We never had any arguments, and got along wonderfully. He’s a great guy — considerate, extremely competent, good-natured, even tempered, fun, funny, successful, responsible, and helpful. We are both independent professional types, but whenever we had free time we would generally spend it together. He would often arrange weekend trips away for us, which I loved.

The issue was that he wasn’t expressive or very affectionate. Also, a month ago, while we were both away on business trips, I didn’t hear from him for a week. He was unreachable. This wasn’t the first time this happened. A month before this incident, he disappeared for two days when we were supposed to get together. I had a serious talk with him at that time. He said he was very sorry, that he screwed up — but as I mentioned above, it happened again. During that week, I won an award for a project that meant a lot to me, and it was dampened by the fact that my boyfriend had disappeared again and I couldn’t share this great news with him.

We talked when we both got home. He felt bad, had excuses, and apologized. I had made up my mind that it was over and I broke up with him. I told him that the combination of the disappearing and lack of affection was too hard on me. I told Joe that I can tell when a guy is crazy about me and I could tell he wasn’t, that he didn’t seem that curious about me (wouldn’t he want to know whether I won the award?). I told him he didn’t seem all that willing to be a part of my life or make me a part of his (I had never met his friends or family, and vice versa). He replied, “I know I’m not affectionate. I guess I show it in other ways.’’ When I asked him if he was “crazy about me’’ Joe replied, “I don’t know what that means. I think that comes with time. I know I like spending time with you.’’ That was about as expressive as he got.

Now, a month later, I’m still upset. I miss him terribly. I liked my life better with him in it. I’m wondering if in a rash moment I ended things too soon. I am still surprised and hurt that he walked away without talking me out of the breakup or making a grand gesture. Rational me knows grand gestures are not how an even-keeled man operates and that I knew what I was doing. Now I don’t know if I did the right thing. So much about him is very much what I want in a partner. Should I have given this another chance? Should I have tried to work with him on being more expressive and affectionate, or do people not really change? Should I just move forward, or should I go back and try to work things out with him? Thank you for your advice.

By the way, a week after our breakup he was already active on a dating website.

SEVERED TIES TOO SOON, Houston

A.My philosophy has always been that people should stay in relationships until they’re almost positive that they want out. There are exceptions to my rule, of course. Abusive relationships don’t count. And there are statutes of limitations for time. It shouldn’t take you years to decide whether you’re smitten with your significant other.

In your case, you’re not sure what you want and you were only with him for a few months. He disappeared on a business trip and didn’t bring you to meet mom and dad, but he surprised you with weekend trips and is apparently “considerate, extremely competent, good-natured, even-tempered, fun, funny, successful, responsible, and helpful.’’ You broke up with him and regretted your decision almost immediately. You’re kind of a mess.

My advice is to call him — because you want to. Tell him that you’re confused and that you miss him. Tell him that you have no idea what you’re doing. He’ll either tell you that he’s not interested in reuniting (and that means he isn’t crazy about you, so no big loss), or he’ll be open to a discussion.

If you do get back together, you’ll either learn to satisfy each other over time or you’ll break up again. It’s important to play these things out until questions are answered so that you don’t waste time with the what-ifs.

As for him joining the online dating site, who cares? He might have done that to distract himself from the pain. Some people believe that the best way to move on from a romantic loss is to start dating as soon as possible.

MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND:

Hahaha! Did I write this letter in my sleep? People express their emotions differently. Some people (especially males) are much more concrete and aren’t as good as being verbal with these feelings. They need time to feel comfortable discussing such private matters. Perhaps this person hasn’t really been in many relationships before and needs some time before he can really open up to you. It sounds like maybe you didn’t really give him a chance to work on it. Some people move slower than others. It can be hard to put yourself in a vulnerable position like that. I don’t know if you broke up too soon. I don’t know if he would take you back. Maybe he’s found someone else, but it’s important to make sure you aren’t expecting others to move at the same speed you are.

BOSTONGAL109

In general, people do not consider breaking up with someone they do not want to break up with. If his shortcomings bothered you enough to call it off, then you made the right decision. It seems to be that you followed your intuition, and now you’re panicking because you’re missing a life with someone who treated you “OK,’’ assuming it’s better than nothing. It’s very strange to disappear suddenly for days on end. I don’t care about a weekend away — people who care about you are there for the small ins-and-outs of daily life, not just for hot weekends away.

LAYDEEZ

If a woman asks me six months in if I am crazy about her, I will think she’s crazy. Play a little hard-to-get — it will help keep things real. REALADVICE

He disappeared for two days when you were supposed to get together? Really? That’s a huge red flag. I’m going to disagree with Mere on this one. I think your instincts leading to the break up were correct. Sounds like this guy is actually a real creep. Sounds to me like he’s juggling several women at once. And he’s already back online? Another red flag. He’s a playa. Good riddance!

2BAD4YOU

I don’t often think that Meredith is dead wrong, but this is one of those days. This guy is nothing but a waste of time and energy for you. However hard it may be, forget about him.

ARNTZVILLE

Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.