Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Divorce is Final But Now My Boyfriend is Ignoring Me”

I’ve been dating my boyfriend, “Dan,” for about nine months now. Things are ok, but not nearly as good as they were in the beginning of our relationship. When I met him, he had just started working at my company under a different manager in my division. It wasn’t until months later, when we were on a project together, that I really started to get to know him. I was married at the time, but things were very unstable and I would have left my husband regardless.

Dan and I met for drinks and hit it off instantly. He told me that was madly enamored since he met me but that he knew I was married. To say he was the reason I left my husband would be only half true, but he was the catalyst that started it all and he encouraged me to be happy. My husband and I were clearly separated long before any paperwork and before Dan and I started dating. I told Dan that he should keep dating other people until my divorce was finalized. But he didn’t want to wait, and we started dating shortly after my separation paperwork.

While my husband was mentally abusive, Dan made me feel safe, protected, and loved — things I’ve longed for for SO LONG! And the first six months were amazing! He even brought me home to meet his family, and I’m the only one he’s ever brought home even though he’s 37. He tells me I’m the best thing that ever happened to him, that I’m beautiful, that he’s so lucky, that he wants to marry me and have kids, etc…

Recently, my divorce was finalized (after an eight-month process). It took a lot out of me, on top of work and normal day-to-day stresses. I realize I’m still working out a lot of my issues, but I think something happened to Dan too. A few weeks following my divorce, he started to become distant and moody. He snaps at me. He tells me everything is fine, but I feel like he’s not telling me what’s really going on, and asking too much makes him angry at me or he’ll make a joke instead of addressing it. I’m worried we’re drifting apart. He still tells me I’m beautiful, he’s lucky, he wants to marry me, only now it feels… fake. I want more with him, but making a plan is so frustrating with his indecisiveness.

Lately, my mom has asked if she is going to meet Dan. She’s very excited, and I shared that with him. My mom and I have a very unbalanced relationship, so her taking an interest in him is, in my mind, a step in the right direction for me and her. Dan has been putting off meeting my family, which I figured was because I wasn’t yet divorced and it might be weird. Now that the divorce is finalized, I gave Dan another opportunity to meet my mom, which he agreed to weeks ago. I arranged to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom on Saturday so we could spend Sunday with Dan’s mom. But yesterday he decided to take his mom shopping on Saturday instead. I thought I was clear in letting him know this was important to me. I was so stunned that all I could muster at the time was, “Sure. Whatever.”

I know the last few months have been hard on us both, but since January all he wants to do is lie around the couch, watch movies, and sit in a dark home theatre. I have no interest in any of those things while it’s sunny out and not snowing! I’ve been out meeting new people, rock climbing, horseback riding, golfing, etc. I’ve tried inviting him, but he doesn’t want to go, makes excuses, and only wants to partake in his hobbies. I’ve met someone rock climbing. We’re friends. Only friends. But maybe something more?

I don’t want to walk away from Dan; I love him dearly. But maybe I’m not being clear enough with him. And with all the back and forth he’s putting me through combined with disregarding my interests and feelings, I am hurting more than ever. Maybe I didn’t give myself time after my divorce? Maybe I jumped from one bad relationship to another? Maybe I should be single for awhile? Maybe I should tell him I need a break? Maybe he only loved me when I was married and he couldn’t really have me? I am so lost. What do you think? — Looking for My Rock

You say you’ve been dating Dan for about nine months but that, since January, he hasn’t wanted to do anything but lie around his house in the dark watching movies, which doesn’t interest you. Apparently, the first six months of your relationship were “amazing,” despite you going through a divorce which you say took a lot out of you. And now you say you want to “make a plan” with Dan but it’s frustrating because of his indecisiveness, and I can’t help wondering what in the world makes you think you or your relationship is ready for a “plan.” You’re complaining about Dan being indecisive as if that’s the only reason you can’t move forward. As if YOU are ready, you are decisive, you know this man and this relationship is what you want. And to that I say: Really?!?!

For most of your relationship, you were going through an exhausting divorce. For at least 1/3 of your relationship — the most recent 1/3 — Dan has been distant and moody. He doesn’t show any interest in meeting your family. He has no interest in pursuing activities you enjoy. It sounds like he doesn’t even want to leave the house with you, but would rather just spend all his time indoors. You, on the other hand, feel like you have a new lease on life now that you’re free of the ex-husband who dragged you down. You’re out there rock climbing, horseback riding, golfing, meeting new people–which is great! But you have this boyfriend who doesn’t want to do any of those things. So… why do you want to be with him? Why do you want to make a “plan” with someone who seems so ill-matched for you? Because he says you’re beautiful? Because he says he feels lucky to be with you? Honey, those are just meaningless words if there aren’t any actions to back them up.

I know it can feel lonely to be single, especially when you’re used to being in a relationship. But that’s not enough reason to stay with someone who doesn’t make you happy. And Dan? It doesn’t sound like he makes you happy. It sounds like he’s creating anxiety and anguish at time when you should be celebrating your freedom. You just got out of a bad marriage! Why not revel in that for a while? Enjoy dating around. Enjoy being single. Enjoy your independence!

This is not the time to let another man hurt you. This is the time to focus on yourself. Go to therapy. Get out all your anger over the way your ex-husband treated you. Do some soul-searching and think about what mistakes you were responsible for in your marriage and how you learn from them and do better going forward. Getting divorced sucks. It hurts, it’s painful, it’s lonely. You can’t avoid all that by jumping into a new relationship. All you do then is just sweep those feelings under a rug or shove them in a closet. But they’re still there. The mess will have to be dealt with eventually. So why not deal with it now so that you have a clean head space when you start your next relationship? Take at least six months for yourself and vow not to get serious with anyone. I promise you’ll be stronger for it and more likely to find a happy and lasting relationship.

***************

You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

56 comments… add one
  • avatar

    ktfran May 9, 2013, 9:20 am

    I haven’t read Wendy’s response yet, but it’s a probably WWS, as usual.

    LW, YES to all five of your questions. You didn’t give yourself ANY time after your divorce. You did jump right into an effed up relationship. You for sure should stay single for a while. You need to break up, not a break, and finally, yes, this 37 year old man who never brought a female home before you liked you because you were sort of unavailable and now that you are available, he’s rethinking his position.

    And for gosh sake, learn to be alone and happy by yourself for a while before you jump into yet another relationship with this “friend” you met while rock climbing. Or with anyone really.

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    • avatar

      ktfran May 9, 2013, 9:24 am

      Ok, I read Wendy’s advice. She was a lot more compassionate, and WWS!

      I still think the LW should take some time for herself and learn to love herself before jumping into her next relationship. That doesn’t mean I don’t think she should date. I just think she take her time.

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite May 9, 2013, 9:20 am

    The rebounding sounds about over. WWS, focus on you. It’ll make things much better in the long run. Maybe he’s joking about things because he doesn’t know what he wants, but you know that this lack of a decision isn’t working for you. Let something that’s broken be broken.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle May 9, 2013, 9:28 am

    Yeah, I think you should just let “Dan” be the person who propelled you out of a bad marriage, nothing more. I can’t quite understand or speculate what may be going on with him right now, but if this relationship is giving you grief—MOA. Like Wendy said, you JUST got divorced. Be free. (But don’t jump into another poorly thought-out relationship with your rock-climbing rando. Let yourself experience a bunch of casual relationships first, or just focus on yourself for a while & be single.)

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    • avatar

      SasaLinna May 9, 2013, 10:33 am

      Yep, don’t go for rock-climbing rando. This is your chance to stop the “overlapping” cycle. (I say this as a serial relationship overlapper. It happens. But now you have a great opportunity to stop).

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    • avatar

      MissDre May 9, 2013, 10:44 am

      I’m loving the term “rando” haha.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle May 9, 2013, 11:36 am

        Me too, I keep wanting to use it now (thanks to Wendy who dropped it into one of her replies recently, haha)

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      • Cassie

        CassieB May 9, 2013, 10:46 pm

        Fabelle, when I read your first comment, I thought to myself, “Haha, ‘rando’… My friend just used that word not too long ago!” Then I read your comment above and realized that it wasn’t a friend who said that at all, it was Wendy in one of her responses.

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  • avatar

    Sasa May 9, 2013, 9:29 am

    LW, you’ve been through a lot recently. Divorces are hard. Maybe this guy helped you through that time, by giving you motivation to end a failing marriage, and emotionally supporting you after your separation. But that doesn’t mean he’s right for you. He probably was a rebound. And as Wendy said, this relationship hasn’t really seen a “normal” phase yet and things are already worsening.

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  • Alena

    Alena May 9, 2013, 9:36 am

    WWS.

    How well do you know you now? You know what the “you” in a mentally abusive relationship was like, you might vaguely remember the younger you, but have you taken any time to get to know yourself, your new hopes, goals,and dreams? Dan might not be mentally abusive like your ex-husband, but he definitely seems to be holding you back from the awesome person you could become.

    Maybe Dan is depressed for some reason, but it doesn’t seem like you’re at a point where you should be signing yourself up for taking care of someone else’s issues. You should probably be learning to properly address and deal with your own issues right now. Maybe he’s just more of a couch potato than you. Either way, it doesn’t sound like it will be fulfilling to you in the future. You don’t owe him somehow for being there as you went through a divorce. Make sure you’re not holding onto the relationship for the wrong reasons.

    You don’t sound fulfilled. There are so many ways you could find fulfillment, other than staying with this guy that you don’t seem to have that much in common with.

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  • Copa

    Copa May 9, 2013, 9:36 am

    “Maybe I didn’t give myself time after my divorce?”

    Is this a question? You jumped into a relationship while still married and you’re asking if you didn’t give yourself time after your divorce? Yes, you didn’t give yourself time.

    That aside, WWS. Why would you want to go from a “mentally abusive” marriage & exhausting divorce, to an unfulfilling relationship? Ditch Dan for good and go out and enjoy the hobbies you like to do! You’ll start enjoying your life more without the anxiety of a ‘meh’ relationship hanging over you.

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  • avatar

    TECH May 9, 2013, 9:37 am

    Good lord. Why is it so hard for people to be single? Like Wendy said, wait at least six months after your divorce to get in a relationship with anyone. Pretty straightforward.

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    • avatar

      bethany May 9, 2013, 10:06 am

      My thoughts exactly!

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  • avatar

    lets_be_honest May 9, 2013, 9:45 am

    Beautiful and perfect response by Wendy!

    Someone on here once said that some people are only supposed to be in your life for a certain period, and that that’s ok. I’ve dragged out friendships before just because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. It’s ok not to. My partying buddy from high school no longer served a “purpose” and I realized we really had no real friendship, or at least one that was supposed to last. That’s life. Different stages call for different people.
    Dan has served his purpose in your life, and no longer is needed. I know that sounds kinda harsh, but it appears to be true.

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    • avatar

      eljay May 9, 2013, 1:00 pm

      A reason, a season or a lifetime. Sounds like Dan was in her life for a reason. To help her get through this divorce with some semblance of sanity. Doesn’t sound like either of them really want/need to be in this anymore.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest May 9, 2013, 1:02 pm

        How are you eljay? You haven’t been around much!

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      • avatar

        eljay May 9, 2013, 1:12 pm

        Aaawww, I’m well. I’ve been here, mostly lurking. I haven’t been myself lately, just one nightmare after another in my world. I haven’t felt that I’ve had much to contribute, so I’ve just been lurking in the shadows & trying to stay afloat. Thanks for the love tho! You were always so kind & supportive. Thanks for that. 🙂

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest May 9, 2013, 1:17 pm

        Oof, sorry to hear that! Keep your chin up 🙂

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      • avatar

        eljay May 9, 2013, 1:20 pm

        Thanks!

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      • avatar

        tbrucemom May 9, 2013, 6:10 pm

        “A reason, a season or a lifetime.”

        I love this!

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  • Heather

    Heather May 9, 2013, 10:00 am

    LW, I absolutely don’t want to criticize you for jumping into a relationship before you were divorced. But I will tell you, as an objective third party with no personal stake in the matter, this Dan seems an awful lot like a rebound. If I had to guess, the first few months were great for a few reasons.

    1. The first few months of ANY relationship are great.
    2. You were feeling something that had long since died with your husband. Passion, intimacy, etc.

    But, the rose colored glasses have worn off from that, and your divorce is final. After going through what you went through with your ex-husband, you don’t deserve the way this guy is treating you, provided everything you’re saying is true. You have no reason to waste your time and I honestly don’t see, from the outside, what about this relationship with this man is worth holding on to.

    You say you’ve been doing activities, and I say keep that up. For the first time in however many years since you’ve been married, just spend some time on YOU. I would argue that, when people have been in relationships for so long, they get to the point where they don’t even know who they are anymore without someone else. Figure it out! I bet you’ll like the result. And after you’ve done you, then actively search for someone else with whom you can have a great, meaningful relationship. Good luck LW!

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  • avatar

    bethany May 9, 2013, 10:05 am

    WWS.

    Be single for a while. Enjoy all your new hobbies. Create a full life for yourself, and when you’re ready, then start dating.

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray May 9, 2013, 10:09 am

      LW, you should take up Bikram and veganism! You will be so busy and fulfilled! But then no one will want to spend time with you because you will be stinking all the time, so don’t overdo it.

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      • avatar

        bethany May 9, 2013, 10:48 am

        AP- I almost died in class last night. I literally almost died. My standing bow was OFF THE HOOK, and then Balancing Stick after it was just too much and I felt like my heart was exploding for the rest of class. It was not good. Somehow I managed to knock out a killer floor bow though. Probably the best I’ve ever done. I’m going to a posture clinic next weekend!! I’m so excited!

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray May 9, 2013, 10:59 am

        Clear ^ is karma for the evil thing you did to me below.

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      • avatar

        bethany May 9, 2013, 10:52 am

        Oh, and about your Veganism… You might want to check how the wine you drink is made. Many are not-Vegan
        http://www.wisegeek.com/contest/is-your-wine-fined.htm
        TLDR- Animal products are commonly used for the filtration of wine.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray May 9, 2013, 10:58 am

        Why do you insist on being EVIL today? Evil.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray May 9, 2013, 11:00 am

        Besides, I’ve reduced my wine consumption by a LOT. Mostly because I just can’t keep it down. I haven’t had wine since…since…. last two Tuesdays ago.

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      • avatar

        bethany May 9, 2013, 11:07 am

        omg. I don’t even know who you are anymore.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray May 9, 2013, 11:16 am

        I know, I’m getting healthy!

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      • TaraMonster

        TaraMonster May 9, 2013, 12:28 pm

        I just signed up for an intro month of Bikram! I have class at 9:30 tomorrow. And I’m scared because last time I thought I was going to faint. But after I felt SO AWESOME.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray May 9, 2013, 12:41 pm

        awesome! let us know how the month goes! i feel like going 3 times a week is the perfect amount. i’ve done the every day thing and the once a week (or less frequent) thing, and i think somewhere in the middle (3-4 times a week) is ideal! Ideal for me, anyway. take coconut water with you. when i feel like i’m about to pass out i take a swig of that and it’s an instant pick-me-up.

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      • Lindsay

        Lindsay May 9, 2013, 3:17 pm

        I really want to like Bikram. I went once and also felt like I was going to pass out, so I spent most of the time lying on the floor. For real. The teacher told us that if we left the room, she’d follow us out (presumably to make sure we weren’t going off to die somewhere) and that it’d interrupt class, so I felt like the appropriate solution was to just lie there until it was over. I know the passing-out feeling is normal, but I have a bad track record of actually fainting in the heat (while on a Segway), so I’m wary…

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray May 9, 2013, 6:58 pm

        It is definitely not for everyone so don’t sweat it! (haha, sweat it.)

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  • avatar

    Scooze May 9, 2013, 10:07 am

    I agree with Wendy. The LW was unhappy in her marriage and transferred her feelings for her husband to a new guy she didn’t really know. Now you know him – and its not a good match. Move on.

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  • avatar

    Addie Pray May 9, 2013, 10:11 am

    WWS. Now is ME time, LW. Not ME ME but YOU ME. I’d take this time to find out what you like to do, get involved, meet new friends, etc. … The right go will show up at the right time. <— So easy for me to say that stuff, much harder to believe it. But you can do it!

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    • Lindsay

      Lindsay May 9, 2013, 11:06 am

      I think it’s definitely YOU time. As in AP time.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray May 9, 2013, 11:19 am

        “Break it down. Stop, AP time.”

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest May 9, 2013, 11:39 am

        Addie, one of the attorneys in my firm billed 27 hours in a day. Thought you’d enjoy that nonsense.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray May 9, 2013, 12:04 pm

        haha. but i dunno, in the last 3 days i’ve been… 24×3 (not quite but it feels like it).

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  • avatar

    csp May 9, 2013, 10:45 am

    LW, Just because Dan treats you better than your Ex Husband, doesn’t mean he is a good match for you overall. Everyone has dated a “great” guy who just wasn’t the right guy for you on other levels. He might be the guy that saved you from a bad marriage but I think he is just a transition guy.

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  • Lindsay

    Lindsay May 9, 2013, 10:45 am

    Consider that Dan has served his purpose, which was to help show you what you were missing in your marriage and help you decide that it was time to leave. But now he’s run his course. It’s not really about him, though my first thought was that things got a little too “real” for Dan once you left your husband. Even though it wasn’t really about him, I wonder if he assumes that now that you’re single, things have to get serious instead of just being casual and carefree. Who knows.

    Like Wendy and everyone else has said, you need time to be single. If you go straight from an unhappy relationship (or any other relationship) into another, all you’re going to do is choose people as a reaction to your old relationship, not because of who they are as a whole. Suddenly, you’re trying to fill everything you didn’t have with your husband instead of looking for someone who simply is a good fit for you. Being in a marriage also changes you, so it’s time to find yourself as an individual again before you become yourself in a relationship.

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  • avatar

    Jess May 9, 2013, 10:51 am

    LW, it doesn’t sound like there’s enough here to “save.” It sounds like both of you have checked out of the relationship in your own way. 3 in 4 couples who marry after one has left a prior marriage for the new partner get divorced. Don’t count on being the outlier.

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  • avatar

    painted_lady May 9, 2013, 11:13 am

    Oh, LW. Please step back and look at this objectively. Your ex-husband made you feel like shit. I can only assume, since you didn’t go into a lot of detail, that your husband very likely made you feel like shit, like you had to tiptoe around him, like you were responsible for his feelings, and like you weren’t safe, physically or emotionally, or both. That sucks, and though you’ve done the big, overwhelming work of getting out, I doubt that you have any idea exactly the damage your husband did. And you’re back with a man who makes you feel like shit, you’re having to tiptoe around him, he’s either making you responsible for his feelings or you’re just repeating old patterns, and generally it sounds like you feel, if not unsafe, then at the very least like you’re balanced on the edge of a knife and your behavior could send you flying at any moment. Just because Dan isn’t as bad as your ex doesn’t make him good. If your ex was a 1, and the best relationship for you is a 10, Dan’s like a 3, if I’m being really generous. You’re so messed up right now you probably couldn’t even recognize a 10. You need to aim for the 10. It’s going to take time alone – probably more time than you’re comfortable with – to figure out what that 10 means for you. So hold out for the 10. And till that happens, work on being your own 10. Counseling, activities you love, time with friends who make you feel safe and happy, make YOU happy before working on making someone else happy.

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  • avatar

    applescruffs May 9, 2013, 11:37 am

    It sounds like Dan is depressed.

    But to echo what everyone else said, give yourself some time and space after your divorce. Just because Dan is a great guy, doesn’t mean he’s a great guy for you.

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  • avatar

    j2 May 9, 2013, 11:53 am

    I have seen others behave like LW. That is, deliberately create a relationship before another one is just about terminated, and then hang onto it even if it’s not that good.

    This whole sort of thing came up in a lunch group conversation not long ago. One engineer friend called it “make before break” behavior. His view was that some folk either need the support they get in a romantic relationship or fear being alone so much that they need an overlap of relationships.

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  • kare

    kare May 9, 2013, 12:05 pm

    The lesser of two evils does not equate to a saint.

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  • avatar

    Sue Jones May 9, 2013, 12:10 pm

    I think Dan was the rebound relationship and the bloom is off the rose. Take some time for yourself away from any relationship and wait 1 year or so and then slowly start dating again. But not yet.

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  • iwannatalktosampson

    iwannatalktosampson May 9, 2013, 1:08 pm

    Just leave this rebound as a rebound. Rebouding doesn’t make you a bad person – but you don’t “win” by turning the rebound into a long term relationship. You actually lose, because he sucks and you sound like you want to be free and awesome and go rock climbing. So do that. Solo.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest May 9, 2013, 1:17 pm

      …or Yolo.

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    • avatar

      Boosker May 9, 2013, 7:01 pm

      Yeah, any time you drag out a relationship past its expiration date, everyone loses. With some of my friends, they were reluctant to throw in the towel because of the amount of time they’d invested in their relationships. But by hanging on, you are taking time away from yourself to find someone you do have a future with.

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  • AKchic_

    AKchic_ May 9, 2013, 12:53 pm

    Honey… sit down and read this very carefully.

    While you were still legally married and in the throws of lust, it was easy for Dan to tell you that he loves you, wants to marry you and have children with you. However, he’s 37 and you are the first woman he’s introduced to his family? Is he super picky, unlucky with women, or lying to you? I’m going to say that he’s been lying to you on that front. He wanted you to feel special, so you’d continue having sex with him.

    Your divorce decree is still new. However, you are expecting him to follow through with the empty pillow-talk promises he’s given you over the last 9 months.
    All relationships have a fun, whirlwind feel at the beginning. More so if it seems illicit. You were legally married, so there was no chance of getting married until after the decree was signed. The newness has worn off and he’s become the king of the sofa and remote control. You are “free” and want to get out and enjoy things you were unable to while married.

    This relationship was not only a rebound, but a convenient catalyst to your divorce. Because you jumped right into a relationship (which Dan didn’t want to wait for), you have not taken any time for yourself to rediscover yourself. You have changed in part because of the divorce. It is inevitable. Dan has gotten comfortable and is now showing you his true side. The thrill is no longer there for him because you are legally free to marry him, and he’s probably realizing that he doesn’t want to rush, with anyone. He prefers a relationship that can never really fully bloom.

    Stop kidding yourself and walk away from this “relationship”. Go to therapy so you can help yourself move on (from your divorce and Dan) and recognize your poor choices in men. I recommend being single for at least a year. Serial monogamy is not good, for anyone involved. You need time to process your life and it’s changes. Being in a relationship and trying to nag someone into keeping the after-sex empty promises isn’t going to help you.

    If you two were meant to be, he’ll still be there when you’re done rediscovering himself. I highly doubt that he’ll be interested until you’re in another relationship. He prefers the thrill of the chase of the “unattainable”, the ones who are already in relationships/married. This type isn’t good boyfriend material.

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  • avatar

    tbrucemom May 9, 2013, 6:16 pm

    No one should be in an emotionally abusive relationship or an unfulfilling one, but the LW started the relationship with Dan while she was still married, is still involved with Dan and has met someone she may or may not be interested in. She needs to just date for a while and maybe find out why she feels the need to always be in a relationship.

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  • avatar

    Boosker May 9, 2013, 5:33 pm

    I think you could see this whole situation as a positive thing. Dan was the catalyst for you finally buckling down and ending a marriage that hadn’t been working for a long time. But it seems like it’s time for the Dan chapter of your life to close, just like it was time for your marriage chapter to end. You’re moving on, trying new things, meeting new people. Leave yourself some blank pages for the next chapters rather than letting Dan’s chapter ramble on and on.

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  • findingtheearth

    findingtheearth May 9, 2013, 7:27 pm

    Is Dan maybe just not interested because you have all these new hobbies and aren’t dependent on him? You left your husband, were pouring your insecurities about your failed marriage into him. Now, you are out having fun and trying to enjoy life. For that, you should have a partner who wants to do the same. I would rather be with someone out doing activities with me than at home watching movies in the dark, making me feel guilty for wanting to go enjoy life.

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  • avatar

    Shandra May 9, 2013, 9:18 pm

    Your signature says it all. “Looking for my rock.” Be your own rock for a while, sweetie.

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