Six days after our last date, he told me he found out he was still in love with his ex-wife and couldn’t see me anymore. He said that he has a lot of “emotional baggage” to deal with and that he needs to spend time alone. Since we broke up, we have barely talked (we used to text all day, everyday). Last week I texted him and asked if he could meet for coffee because I needed some answers, and he never responded. We always said that we really liked each other but the timing was bad. We were the right couple at the wrong time.
I am giving him space in the hopes that we might get back together while I look for other fish in the sea, but I don’t want to get my hopes up and I want to know if he still sees us ever getting back together. What do I do? — He’s The Fish I Want
You met this guy two months ago, broke up like two weeks ago — so had about six weeks together, total — and are describing your “relationship” as “magical” and saying you’ve never felt this way about anyone else and need “answers” about what happened?! Really? Here’s what happened: The guy didn’t suddenly “find out” that he was still in love with his ex-wife; he realized that this chick he’d been hanging with for a few weeks was imagining spending her life with him — or at least 15+ more dates — and it freaked him out because he’s been divorced for about five minutes and hasn’t even fully processed losing his wife yet.
Don’t give him space in hopes that you might get back together, because there’s a name for that space and it’s called Fantasyland. MOA, and in the future avoid men who are recently divorced or otherwise have “a lot of emotional baggage to deal with.”
When he moved back in, we insisted that he work, but the economy where we live is in the toilet and jobs are limited, so he’s working two nights as a bouncer and had a job three days a week at a local grocery store. Well, yesterday he quit the grocery store due to panic attacks. (In the last three years he has held many jobs — some for eleven months, some for three months, etc.) We had informed him earlier that if he chose to quit, we would ask him to leave our home. He has bills to pay which we have covered for him over and over. Since he’s moved home, we haven’t insisted on his paying rent or for groceries or anything — it’s totally been a free ride. My husband and I both work hard, and we are upset that the guidance and direction and work ethic and everything else that we tried to instill as parents has all missed the mark.
Is it time for tough love? We love our son deeply but can’t continue on this emotional and financial roller coaster. — Tired of the Parenting Roller-Coaster
If by tough love you mean you stop paying your 24-year-old’s bills for him, then, yes, it was time for tough love a while ago. If by tough love, you mean kicking out your son who has a recent history of panic attacks and “spiraling” on the heels of a breakup, after which he sought refuge with you, then the answer is no. Between turning your back on him and giving him a totally free ride is a happy medium, like charging him rent while he stays with you as he gets on his feet, making him pay his own bills with the money he makes working (if he were responsible for his bills, he wouldn’t be so quick to quit a job), and requiring him to continue counseling to address the panic attacks and his inability to hold down a job. And, honestly, I wouldn’t even call this “tough” love, necessarily; it’s really move like “love,” period.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.