This is where the issue comes up: he wants to keep hanging out, keep talking on the phone, keep being involved in my child’s life. He basically wants the best of both worlds — my companionship and love — without the responsibility of dating (and without the fighting). I told him several times that if we’re broken up, we actually have to be broken up — no going out to dinner, no phone calls at night, nothing. At least not for now. He doesn’t understand why I don’t want to see him anymore, and says he’s heartbroken. He says he loves me to death and that he wants to keep seeing me and hopes we get back together, but that we are officially broken up.
I just don’t know what to make of it. Do I try it his way — hanging out more casually — in the hopes that we’ll reconnect? Or do I just cut him off? He is a genuinely great guy whom I obviously want to be with, and no part of me thinks he’s using this as a chance to run off and meet someone else. But I have to think about myself; seeing the man I love, and getting only part of him when I want all of him, will destroy me, sooner rather than later. What do I do? — Part-time Lover
JAREK: You don’t only need to think about yourself; you need to think about your child as well. You can’t have men coming in and out of your kid’s life all the time. The more time s/he spends with this guy the more attached s/he will get. You need to explain to him that that is the reason you can’t see him if you two are broken up. He’s not dating just you, he’s dating you and your child. Everything you listed above regarding how he feels about you are all reasons he should want to be in a relationship, however. So ask him why, if he still feels that way, does he still want to be broken up? Don’t let him off easy with this one. Get a definite answer. What is he looking for in this “break up?” What does he hope the break accomplishes? Right now he’s using you. Even though you don’t think he is pursuing other people – which he very well may not be doing – that doesn’t mean another person won’t approach him. Right now he gets the consistency of seeing someone who cares for him while also being able to tell someone else he is single. Force him to take responsibility for his actions and make it clear that if he wants a breakup he will get a breakup, but you can’t have him in both you and your child’s life if he is not serious about it.
BITTER GAY MARK: Gee, maybe in the future you won’t say things you don’t truly mean. First, you blurt out in anger that the two of you “needed to take a step back”… Then, the very next day, when he understandably asks for clarification (which was a great/missed opportunity to tell him you were only saying something in the heat of the moment) you decide to play dumb by saying you aren’t sure. Smart move! Nothing turns men on more than their women being both bitchy and vague. Surprise, surprise, he got annoyed and called your bluff. Look, I hate game playing — and this entire situation reeks of drama queen overload on all sides. (His, too!) Yes, you both behaved childishly. But you alone seem determined to continue to do so. Whereas he is actually doing what counts in my book as “a step back” as my idea of “a step back” would be to not be exclusive, to just hang out with one another and see where it goes. You, however, seem determined to drive him away with your maudlin behavior. Grow the heck up. You’re not starring in Dawson’s Creek. If you want to see him, see him! But stop insisting on the label you want — which, ironically, was the very label you actually had but then decided to throw overboard simply because you got frustrated.
P.S. I am also a wee bit disturbed that you appear especially irked that he still really wants to see you but can do without the fighting. You’re actually annoyed with him because he doesn’t want to fight with you? Then again, maybe you do LOVE to fight… At least it sure seems that way as one reads your letter. Love isn’t always about getting what YOU want. Stop making it all about you and you may be pleasantly surprised by what happens.
DENNIS: My immediate inclination is to agree that you need to cut him off, but it may be worth asking for an explanation first. What I don’t get is why he insists that you’re broken up, but then hopes to get back together one day. I mean, that’s like me saying that I insist on living off pork rinds and pickle brine, but I hope to live to a ripe old age. Honestly, it sounds like he either: 1) wants to break up, but is still in the ball-growing stages of assertiveness; or, 2) is lashing out passive-aggressively because of what you said. So, I think you need to ask him, sincerely and in a non-accusatory way, what he hopes to accomplish with his decision. What does he envision happening over the next few months, as the two of you continue spending time together in a coupley non-couple way? Is he hoping that you’ll fight less and eventually learn to work out your differences? Or is he thinking that this will allow you to wean yourselves off each other, making this a “breakup preamble,” of sorts? If you ask him for his best-case and worst-case scenarios, that may give you a better idea for why he’s doing this.
At the same time, I’m confused by your “half-belief” that you two aren’t compatible, which you follow up with, “he is a genuinely great guy whom I obviously want to be with.” Could it be that you’re the one who’s waffling, and that’s why he’s being noncommittal in response? Maybe you should go through the best-case/worst-case scenarios yourself. What are the underlying issues that are causing your fights? Can see yourselves learning to compromise on these issues? If you can, then obviously, it’s worth staying together. If not, then MOA.
ART: DO NOT TRY IT HIS WAY. He is a genuinely great guy. Awesome, so am I. So are all the guys responding to this letter. So is Barack Obama and so is George Bush. Genuine greatness does not make him immune to Love Idiocy. Love is more about enjoying a person’s genuine greatness, and if you can’t enjoy it — for whatever reason — then you need to remove that person completely. It doesn’t have to be forever, but how will you know it’s his proximity to you that is the problem unless you send him totally and completely away? It’s like a boomerang: if he’s really a boomgerang, he’ll come back. If he’s just a stick, then he won’t… and why did you spend $35 in Australia for a plain ol’ stick anyway?
* If you’d like to ask the guys a question, simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “His Take” in the subject line and I’ll pass your question along to them.