QUESTION: Hi Guys,
I've been dating an interesting and complex man for the past year, and I am at a crossroads at this point.
This relationship began at a time when he was on the rebound from a previous relationship which had left him bitter and sad, and then the passing of his 91 year old father with whom he was very close. Both of these events had left him with a profound sense of loss.
We met in a dance class and he invited me out for dinner. We definitely hit it off- we have much in common in terms of our world view, but distinct differences in our life experiences; he, a travelling musician, I, a working mom, he, age 58 and never married, I, age 52, married 23 years until my divorce 8 years ago.
We began seeing each other almost daily, we were both in that beginning stage of complete infatuation. He would say he loved me, but soon into the relationship he let me know that he really wasn't sure HOW he felt since he'd been through an emotional ringer.
My thoughts at the time were, ok- he is on the rebound from the last relationship and I am the rebound girl, so I should proceed here with caution since this otherwise feels so right and so good after having weathered some relationship disasters. . So I thought, I will give this a year. If I keep getting mixed signals, if I don't feel totally loved and cared for, I'm not sticking around. I let him know that what I really envisioned for myself is a loving, stable, mature relationship. He told me he wanted that also, and wanted to give that a chance with us.
In this past year we have had a great time together despite a rocky start. Movies, travel, we love to share the politics of the day being both news junkies. We like the same food even though he is vegetarian, I am happy to eat veggies with him. Great sex, fabulous for a man of 58, yahoo! I'm happy.
I am a very giving kind of person, and I know I have been a source of support for him during a difficult time in his life. BUT at the same time, I have at times become really angry with him for taking my feelings for granted, or being completly insensitive altogether. He is a fairly self-involved person, but a reasonable and good person in spite of that. However, I just don't know if he's as 'into' me as I am 'into' him. Sometimes he takes my feelings totally for granted. Here's an example;
Last night, we were invited to a party by a girlfriend of mine. I show up at his place wearing a dress that (I thought) looked great on me; pretty jewelry, flower in my hair- I know I looked really pretty! But, he never said a word about how I looked, we just had a bite to eat and off we went. So, ok, whatever. This dress was not skanky by any stretch, but definatley sexy looking in a tasteful way, and I was getting a fair share of attention from other guys....so what? I was there with my man. That's who I was intersted in.
It was a mixed group, with some single women there, one Brazillian hottie in particular named Lola who we met. Just before we left, we were comenting on a very sexy and provacative painting of a pair of women's legs in garters and heels, under which is seated Lola. My date remarks loudly "Is that painting of you, Lola? heh heh"...I guess he was trying to be amusing, but it sort of fell flat as a ridiculous attempt at flirting with the hottie. I mean, if you could have seen the painting, you would have an idea why I did a slow burn on the way home.
Now, just to be clear, I don't have much of an issue with my self image. When I make an effort I clean up pretty good- very nicely actually. (I sometimes think my boyfriend is a bit insecure and tries to undermine my self confidence in some passive-aggressive way like this). More importantly though, I am a good hearted person! Honest, intellegent, not a drama queen. I am fairly easy-going, but I have my limits.
Since I've been wondering about his intentions lately, I figured I would ignore the hottie incident and just focus on the larger issue for me of "where are we going with this?" I need to know. He basically tells me that he loves me but he can't give more than he's got- he's been depressed for some time now.
I can understand this- his life has been something of a rollercoaster- but I'm trying to read between the lines to understand what's really going on. I know he doesn't want this to end, but he's not ready for more, either. He also mentions that he did not like the dress I wore after I mentioned how confused I feel sometimes when he doesn't respond to my efforts to looks nice. What's up with that?? I really pinned him down -'You didn't like the way I looked last night??" I thought- you bonehead.You are really blowing it here.
I would say this relationship has been mostly great, but uncertain to this point. This man doesn't have much of a track record in terms of longevity in previous relationships- is he capable? If I leave now will I have given this a fair chance? He says he loves me but I think he's really just afraid to be alone. Then again I don't want to drag this out if it's not going anywhere. I've been totally honest with him, but I don't think he been totally honest with himself.
Thanks for your guy wisdom!
GARLAND: WOW! Thanks for your question. Even after four years, long questions still unravel me a bit because they usually have so many points that I want to address that I tend to forget half of them before I start typing. Let me see if I can hit what I want.
READING BETWEEN THE LINES:
You said you wanted to read between the lines with his thought process, because you knew that he didn't want things to end between you. This is a fairly dangerous thing to do. Generally, I think most guys play their cards face up with a lot of women. Sadly, many women want to do like you did and read between the [non-existant] lines - you want to understand what he really means. Well, he means just what he's showing you: he likes going out with you sometimes and he probably thinks you're a nice person, but he's not trying to make a major commitment to you. That is probably the long and short of it. If you try to fill in blanks that aren't really there, you may probably end up with a bad result.
GIVING A FAIR CHANCE:
Have you given this relationship a fair chance? You have to answer this one yourself. But I will ask YOU - "FAIR" to whom? Fair to You or fair to Him? For me, personally, I think a year is a very reasonable amount of time to figure out if a person is worth you time, for me I honestly think that a few months or even a few weeks is reasonable, but that is ME.
Are you trying to keep giving of yourself and giving of yourself until he's decided to leave you high and dry and end things or are you waiting for him, another year from now, to force you, yet again, to ask yourself have you given this a "fair chance." One tip I can give you though is this, A man is hard to wait out. A man that just wants to drive 35MPH on the highway, is only going to go 35MPH regardless of how long you honk your horn and how many times you flash your lights. A man that wants to give a moderate amount of dedication in a relationship, is only going to give a moderate amount of dedication, no matter how much you want and plead for more from him.
I'm a big advocate of looking at a persons past-performance. In business, a company's past performance is vital when forming partmerships and awarding contracts. I think it is equally important in relationships. If your man has a poor track record for relationships, you should reasonably expect his pattern to stay the same. You should not expect that he will suddenly see some bright light from the wonderful love that you have to offer and suddenly become this impressive, faithful, and dependable partner that you have waited your whole life for. It just doesn't usually work that way. If his record with women and relationships is pathetic, chances are he'll be pathetic with you too.
I think this guy probably enjoys hanging out with you, he probably thinks that you are a nice and attractive woman, but he is not ready to make a major and life changing commitment to. If you told him that you wanted to start seeing someone else, he would probably wish you well and tell you to take care. He is probably giving you all that he wants to or is able to in the dedication department. But, to be on the safe side, sit him down and ask him about his feelings. Let him talk, don't interrupt, and see what he says. Don't make your talk a big emotional display even if it hurts a bit, we tend to want to clam up when we think heavy emotions are about to come into play. Thanks you for your question and I certainly wish you the very best.
CHUCK: While I sympathize with you completely, I have to say that you have created your own problem here. This man has told you, from the beginning, just what he is looking for in a relationship, and how far he is willing to go. And while Has offered to try to change, I don't think that it has worked. You've stayed with him because you have felt that he could change, or you could wear him down. But it hasn't happened, and you're starting to get frustrated.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that a man absolutely cannot change in his points of view, or what he wants from a woman. But usually, if those changes occur, they are likely to happen when those first urges to settle down hit a man, about in his thirties. Your boyfriend is fifty-eight. He has either spent years ignoring those feelings, or he pushed them down an elevator shaft. At his age, he is too set in his ways for you to have a realistic expectation of changing him.
So he views you in a certain way, and he takes you for granted. Why? Because you have let him do it. There is no way that I could get away with not complimenting my wife, and then drop some mediocre rap on the first Brazilian sexpot that I encountered that evening. That's showing a distinct lack of respect. And I know that I need to respect my wife because, for one thing, our relationship is clearly defined. Yours, sadly, is not.
I think you have given this relationship more than a fair chance. I don't know that he has put forth the same effort that you have, though. But it's all right. There should be no hard feelings. After a year, "where do we go from here?" is a question that should be asked. He should probably hear from you that you're not willing to go on with him unless your realatioship will change. And if he's not willing to make those changes, he should be prepared to watch you leave him.