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Did I break up with him too soon?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  May 16, 2011 09:06 AM

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Q: Hi Meredith,

You column is not just a daily diversion, it's also a great resource. As I'm facing relationship uncertainty, I find myself wishing you were a friend, so I'm writing for your friendly advice.

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 previous to 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, 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 or not 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, 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 loved him and still do. 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 break up, or making a grand gesture. Rational me knows grand gestures are not how an even-keeled man operates and 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 break up 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, STTS. 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.

(And 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.)

Readers? Am I right or should she listen to the part of her gut that told her to break it off? Is the disappearing for a week thing a problem? Is she expecting too much? Should she call? Why didn't he introduce her to his friends? What do we think about him surfacing on a website? Discuss.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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