Q: Hi Meredith,
For 8 months I dated a man in the military. Due to his job, he was away more often than not, but every time he came back, I was the one he wanted to be with.
I fell hard for him. He was so considerate and always could leave me smiling. I thought I had finally found the one.
The problem was: He never committed to me. He never called me his girlfriend or said those three little words. Yet he always told me how awesome I was and how he cared about me. When he went away on tour for 2 months, we constantly emailed and he called any chance he could get. So I stayed. I thought we had a future.
The day he returned from tour, he told me the bad news. He was re-locating more than 10 hours away. He told me that he couldn't do a long-distance relationship. That he didn't think he felt strongly enough about me.
I was crushed but I accepted it and let him go. Once the distance started we spoke fairly often and even sent each other birthday gifts. But eventually, communication from his side waned and I felt like he didn't care anymore.
Less than a year after he left, thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I noticed he was in a relationship. A long-distance one. It ended fairly quickly, but it still made me feel like our whole relationship was a lie. That I was just a convenience for him.
Now I no longer initiate any contact. But occasionally he'll message me and we'll talk. Sometimes he suggests my visiting, which never comes to fruition. I always feel empty and confused after our conversations.
What does he want from me? Should I leave him alone entirely? It's been a while but I still love him. I just don't know how much more emotional turmoil I can handle.
– Never Felt Like Enough, Boston
A: I know you love him, but you have to leave him alone, NFLE.
He still likes you a lot and occasionally wants your attention. That would be cool if you could be casual about him. But you're the opposite of casual when it comes to his affection. You want meaning and direction and hope. He can't give you any of those things.
Relationships don't have to be all or nothing. He wasn't lying when he said he cared for you back in the day. He cared quite a bit and he obviously enjoyed your company. He just didn't want you to be his serious girlfriend.
He still seeks you out because, well, it's easy (thank you, Facebook/email), and because he wants to see if you're open to joining him somewhere between nothing and something. But you're not. It doesn't work that way for you.
If you're going to have turmoil, please have it locally. This guy gave you his answer a long time ago. No matter how much he muddles your brain with these messages, let it be. He cares. Just not enough.
You're allowed to be the one who says no.
Readers? Is there any hope here? Why is she having so much trouble getting over this? Is his subsequent long-distance relationship a big deal? What happened here? Is the military part of this relevant? Help.
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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 new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.