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What is my role?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  February 19, 2013 08:28 AM

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In case you missed it, Humphrey Bogart is your favorite leading man. Ty Burr and I will celebrate by hosting a free screening of "Casablanca" on Monday (Feb. 25) at Theatre 1 at the Revere Hotel. If you want to join us, RSVP here. It'll be a great night. Bring a date.

Also, we had self-help reviews yesterday.


Q: Hi Meredith,

This is kind of a complicated question. I'm still trying to make sense of it myself.

I'm a graduate student and I dated "Keith" for about 2 months last semester. He's very smart, funny, nice, hard-working, and just generally a great guy. Honestly, he's the best guy I've ever dated. I felt a pretty strong connection to him from the beginning, but due to a number of circumstances (timing, schoolwork, etc.), things didn't end up working out. We broke up before the holidays, but still sporadically messaged each other. I was kind of holding out hope that we might re-kindle our relationship this semester if the timing was better.

Turns out this was wishful thinking. Keith lost his leg to cancer eight years ago, and found out days ago that his cancer had returned. He left yesterday to return to his hometown for treatment. I met up with him before he left and we've been texting and messaging a great deal since then.

Basically, I'm confused about my role in this ordeal. I still care about him and he still cares about me, but I'm trying to figure out how to transition what feels like an emotional relationship to being a friend, which is what he needs right now. Some questions that have been coming up for me are: Is this connection a result of dealing with the trauma that just happened? What happens if I meet and start dating someone else? Should I try to visit him?

It's hard to reconcile these feelings that I have about him with the fact that we really only dated for 2 months. At the same time, I don't want what might be the last time I see someone I care about to be over breakfast biscuits. Any advice from the readers would be much appreciated!

– Dazed & Confused, Austin


A: Your connection to Keith might have been amplified by this trauma, but it sounds like you were pretty into him before the cancer news. You hoped to get back together someday. You kept messaging him after the original breakup. You've wanted to keep him around.

After reading your letter, I had a few questions for you. Are you concerned that the intimacy created by the illness is blurring the lines in your head? Or are you concerned that he'll want more from you because of the cancer and that you're leading him on with these texts? Are the messages romantic? How would you describe the tone of your conversations?

Perhaps you can't answer these questions just yet. That would be understandable. All I can tell you is that you must remember what you are on paper -- people who dated for two months and continued to care for each other. You're not his girlfriend. If you were more than a friend, you'd be on a plane to see him. You'd be involved in decisions. Instead, you're just texting. That sounds about right.

My advice is to give this some time. He just found out about the cancer. So did you. Your role is going to evolve as he figures out what he needs to do. The texting might taper off as he gets busy with treatment. Or perhaps you'll feel compelled to see him after more communication. Maybe he'll say, "I need to see you," and then you can have an honest discussion about what that means.

I'm sorry things are so blurry, but that's what happens when our lives are altered by horrible news. For now, sit tight and remember how you defined this for us. You dated a great guy. It didn't work out, but you kept in touch. That's what's happening. That's OK for now.

Readers? Will her questions be answered in time? Would it be selfish to ask Keith how he feels about her? How can she stop herself from falling for him? Should they be texting? 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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