Anyway, Pete started taking a course in September that was to last nine weeks and take up nearly all of his time. We made a date every Sunday though because we weren’t ready to end our relationship. It was frustrating not being able to spend as much time with each other, and I wanted some security. I got the courage to ask him to be my boyfriend and then he ended things. He said he felt like he wasn’t able to give me the attention I deserved, that he felt selfish for holding on to me so long, and that he wants to be friends. That night I sent him an email:
You asked me why I wanted you to be my boyfriend (at least I think that’s what you said, I was a bit overwhelmed at the time) and the reason wasn’t just because I liked you or actually enjoyed hearing about your day. If I was being honest, I was kind of crazy about you, you made me feel sexy and beautiful, you inspired me to be better – (not last night, that was just awkward, like something you would write in a yearbook – ‘you’ll do great things’) – and you actually seemed to value my opinion (you might not know how rare this is).
We rocked out to Elton John for hours and we discovered how uncool theater is. I accidentally said, “You’re so soft,” in bed, you dropped me at the Deltron 3030 concert, the entire MGMT concert! I did have fun; I hope you did too. You said you felt like you were always talking about yourself, but I felt the same about me. I have never been so mentally or physically attracted to someone. When I had said that sometimes you made me nervous, it was more of a butterflies-in-my-stomach kind of thing. I was afraid at how much I was starting to like you so quickly. I was surprised that I was okay with your new schedule and even more shocked that I was willing to wait it out.
I thought it was unfair when you said, ‘Sorry we couldn’t make this work,’ because I honestly tried to make it work. I was aware that things were a bit one-sided (although I had hoped it was just because you were shy and awkward – which I loved about you) and that this ‘relationship,’ or whatever it was, was probably not just bad timing.
When I asked you if you wanted to be my boyfriend, I wasn’t asking for more commitment or more of your time; I was just asking for security and to not feel like a booty call whenever we ran into your roommates. I was hoping I meant more to you.
You were right about one thing last night, I did deserve better (for one, you were pretty selfish in bed – might want to work on that one. Also, the only time you told me that I was beautiful, to my face, was last night and you couldn’t even look me in the eye when you said it).
Your text last night was weird, ‘Sorry. You are a beautiful and caring woman. I’m not sure you fully appreciate it. Thanks for sharing your time with me.’ Thanking me for sharing my time sounds transactional.
I don’t want to be friends. I’m sorry. We didn’t start as friends.
‘Friends’ means that you don’t mind seeing the other person dating other people.
I know one of your start-up ideas will work out and hope that it’s everything you wanted.
I hope you learn to open up to people – maybe start with your friends.
P.S. It felt demeaning when you said that you thought I was special. I’m definitely not feeling special now.
P.P.S. It was sad how little it seemed to affect you yesterday. I didn’t feel comfortable to show you how I actually felt because it seemed like a routine for you.
P.P.P.S. One night, about a month ago, I think you accidentally said that you loved me and I pretended that I didn’t hear it because I wasn’t sure you meant it that way especially since you said that you have never been. I always wondered. It feels good to finally mention it.
He replied, thanking me for my email and apologizing again. He also wrote:
I guess I was simply afraid of growing dependent on someone other than myself. Also, the thought of continuing our relationship, and increasing the risk of hurting you more, made me feel incredibly guilty and selfish. Lastly, I don’t exactly recall the moment that I dropped the ‘L’ word, though there are many things about you that I do love. Perhaps it was a Freudian slip ;). Take good care of yourself.
Then he texted me the next day, saying I deserved a better explanation and asked if he could buy me coffee over the weekend. So, I met with him and we had a heart-to-heart, talking for three hours straight. He said that, after he read my email, he realized that no one has ever felt for him so deeply. He then told me that he didn’t see the relationship becoming long-term. He also mentioned that he had wanted to take me to visit his friends and family in New Zealand, which confuses me because he said he didn’t see a future. Right before we parted he said, “I feel like things may have ended prematurely.”
I don’t want to give up on this. As sad as this may seem, this was the most real relationship I have ever been in. Even though he has trouble speaking from the heart, he has always been honest with me. All I wanted to do was kiss him and have him tell me everything was going to be okay. I don’t want to give up, but if you think it’s time to move on, I will try my hardest. — Not Feeling Special
You sound to me like someone who has been through a lot of struggle and just wants to feel good again (or feel good finally). And I can understand the temptation to cling to a relationship that in many ways feels “real” or like the best thing you’ve had in your life in a long time, but you also have to look at the large picture and consider everything before you decide this is something worth fighting for or pursuing. First of all, and certainly not the least important factor, “Pete” told you he doesn’t see a future with you. That was a really honest and even kind thing to tell you. He feels like you DO see a future with him and, realizing how hard you’re falling, he wanted to spare you the hurt of investing so much energy and time into something he feels has an eventual end point.
Now, maybe, that end point is a long way off. Maybe Pete could happily date you for several years even before deciding he was at a stage in his life where he was ready to “settle down,” and that would mean finding the relationship that would be very long-term and not just temporary. And it’s even possible than in the next few years, if you two dated that long, he might have a change of heart. Maybe he would fall in love with you in a way you want him to — in a way that would have him wanting to commit to you forever. But considering that he already told you that he doesn’t see that happening, there’s a pretty good chance he would leave you eventually, and I think it would be much harder to be left later than to be left now.
So, yes, Pete thinks maybe he broke up with you prematurely, and yes, that does seem to indicate that he would enjoy spending more time with you. Maybe he’d take you to meet his family in New Zealand. Maybe you two could enjoy other trips together and holidays and weekends hanging out while he progressed in his career. Maybe for a while, you could be his companion — not quite a girlfriend, but certainly a step above a booty call. But that doesn’t mean you have the security you crave. In fact, knowing what you know now — that Pete doesn’t see a future with you — that he sees your relationship ending eventually — would, I think, create the exact opposite of security. Wouldn’t you always be wondering when the end was coming? Wouldn’t you always be worried about him growing bored and finally being done with you? And isn’t that a pretty horrible way to feel? Especially in relation to someone you have such strong feelings for yourself? It throws the whole power dynamic off, and as someone who already has an emotionally abusive marriage under her belt, you don’t need to be in another relationship where your own power is so limited.
And speaking of that emotionally abusive marriage: you say the divorce was finalized in May. And then you started dating Pete in June? You know, you could probably benefit from a stretch of time with NO relationship drama. You could probably benefit from being alone for a while and finding the security you crave from a life outside of a relationship — from yourself and your support system and a life that you are an active participant in. Fill your days with things that bring you joy and that’s where security comes from — knowing that YOU have control and power in creating a happy existence and that you don’t have to rely on a boyfriend to do that for you. That’s where you get power. And once you have it, you’ll never again settle for a relationship that so greatly diminishes that power.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.