“He’s Still In Love With His Ex-Wife”


About two months ago I met this guy online and we really hit it off. I have never felt about anyone else the way I feel for him, which is saying something, considering I have been in long-term relationships before. He wasn’t ready to be official, which I understood considering he was divorced less than a year ago and he had not wanted to get divorced. We had so much fun together, and we had about 15+ dates lined up. Sometimes he would just hold me in his arms, look at me, and smile. In moments like that, we didn’t need to talk. It was magical.

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

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 woman 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.”

Almost three years ago our 24-year-old son lost all his worldly possessions, including his beloved car, in a terrible flood. He spiraled, then received some counseling, and finally, we thought, got back on his feet. He’s been living on his own for two years, but he just asked if he could move home after the end of a five-year relationship with his girlfriend and the loss of his job, to which we replied, “Of course…until you get back on your feet.”

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.


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


  1. My first thought when reading the first letter is that the guy is probably not divorced at all and was looking for a side piece. Regardless, the “magic” is dead so move on, girl.

    1. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

      I didn’t feel the search for a side piece vibe from the letter. What I felt was the LW was ready to rush headlong into a rom-com type relationship. Seriously, what woman over the age of..I don’t know, 12, thinks that she has a ‘magical’ feeling with a guy she met two months ago. Girl, stop it! I have bras older than this faux-lationship.
      I think LW just had a case of hot pants but the guy wasn’t feeling the direction she was trying to move in. Whenever my friends do stuff like this, I tell them..”In the immortal words of Eddie Murphy, ‘it’s not love it just feels good!'”

      1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        I have milk in my fridge older than this relationships… which reminds me — I should probably throw it out now.

      2. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

        Ha ha, I have bras on the brain.
        I’m currently learning how to make my own bras because well…a good bra can can be quite pricey (in my area), and I totally hate cheap bras that give me uni-boob or don’t support.
        /TMI about my undergarments. 🙂

  2. dinoceros says:

    A lot of people try to describe the “magical” moments they have with someone, without realizing that those things like holding each other, smiling, and enjoying each other’s company are pretty standard for all relationships. It’s not a sign that you are meant to be. It’s normal behavior for people who are romantic with each other. You can’t base all your dating decisions on that. You base it on whether the person wants to be with you and whether they are in a place where a relationship is on the table. The answer is no to both of these things. He’s not going to suddenly realize he’s not in love with his ex, and even if he did, I think that it would be super sketchy. Don’t wait around for him.

    1. THANK YOU. It’s frustrating to hear various LWs swooning over behavior that really should be the bare minimum for a healthy relationship (“He makes time for me/calls when he says he will/does the dishes/helps with the kids/cuddles with me while gazing deep into my soul”). Doing these things does NOT excuse huge, awful red flags (still in love with ex-wife/has a relationship with a sugar mama/is a violent alcoholic/says he wants to break up with me).

  3. LW2, agree with Wendy. My brother can’t completely function on his own, but over the years through struggle and insistence, they’ve gotten him to the point where he’s held the same job (min wage) for many years now. He gives his paycheck to my dad each week and they pay my brother’s bills online and figure out what he has left for the week. It’s not good for any of them for him to live WITH them, so several years ago (he’s in his 40s now) they bought a studio apt and that’s where he lives. He owes them “rent” meaning the property taxes since they own it outright. So, like Wendy said, they’ve enforced financial responsibility and they give him help. Throwing him out would have been disastrous.

    1. I meant to say, *my dad and brother pay his bills together, as an educational and experiential process.

  4. Sorry LW2, but you are your son’s enabler. Yes he’s had it rough and I totally get the instinct to give him a soft place to land, but I think the landing has been a little too soft until now. I don’t consider it tough love to make your adult son take care of himself (assuming he’s not disabled in a way that prevents him from taking care of himself). That’s just life.
    Charge him rent, make him pay his own bills, and make him commit to a timeline for moving out. And if he’s really having panic attacks, he needs to see a doctor to learn how to deal with them and be able to function and hold down a job.

  5. Cinnamonwhisk says:

    It’s not just 12 year olds who believe in the rom-com ending. I have two separate friends who got engaged or married within a 6 week period to their partners, and no one was “allowed” to tell them how crazy that was. I love coming here and hearing that people agree with me, making that decision should take time! LW, it’s fine to develop feelings quickly, but it sounds like he wasn’t ready for that.

  6. Stillrunning says:

    My pet peeve is “he/ she, is the love of my life.” Maybe I’m not romantical, popeye, but I just don’t think that all love hinges on one person.

    Don’t get me started on soul mate.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      My husband is the love of my life, meaning he is the one I fell in love with but I have no doubt that there are men pretty much everywhere that I could have fallen in love with and who could have been the love of my life.

      1. RedRoverRedRover says:

        That’s how I think of it too. And “the one” is the one who was there when you were ready, when he was ready, who fell in love with you as much as you fell in love with him, and that you decided to build a life with. My husband is the person it happened with. But if I’d never met him, there could have been another “the one” waiting down the line.

      2. Jessibel5 says:

        This comment made me smile, Skyblossom. I agree. I’ve always kind of used “love of my life so far” as in, this guy has been the greatest love in my life, but I’m allowing for the possibility that there’s someone in the future I’ll love just as much, if not more”.

        And in my opinion, soul mates are just folks who came from the same star stuff we do. The whole concept of Carl Sagan’s that on a basic quantum level, all the matter in the universe is essentially made up of stardust, and we’re all just star stuff , how all the molecules we’re made up of is the detritus of exploded stars. The people who are our soul mates (friends, family, loves) are just those people whose stuff came from the same star ours did. We have many soul mates, and we may never find them all. I think having only one would be kind of sad.

      3. LisforLeslie says:

        I have an aunt and uncle who have been married close to 50 years. They are a perfect match, weird in their own ways plus shared weirdness (like wearing the same outfit on occasion). When discussing them the family always says something along the line of “For every pot, there’s a lid”. Still, if you buy a set of pots, you’ll notice that some of those lids fit multiple pots.

      4. Jessibel5 says:

        I’ve always considered my best friend the pot to my lid, or the lid to my pot, or whatever. But my lid/pot definitely fits others. I don’t think soul mates necessarily have to be a romantic relationship, and I think that’s where a lot of LW’s get tripped up because they buy into the romantic relationship being the most important one in your life and the end all be all. It’s a nice thought, for your soul mate to be your romance partner, but life just sometimes doesn’t work that way.

      5. I agree with this. All of it. I believe my best friend is my soul mate or lid to my pot. Whenever I start dating someone on dates one or two I let them know how important she is to me and that she will always be in my life so you better learn to like her or at least tolerate her (she isn’t a mean person or hard to get a long with, just letting them know she’s an extension of me).

    2. Stillrunning says:

      “Love of my life, so far,” is nice.
      It crops up a lot in the letters. Maybe I’m just tired of seeing it applied after a LW’s week of dating or as a reason to stay in an abusive relationship.

  7. LW 2 do you live in Calgary Alberta ?

    1. Because of the job market?? Haha

  8. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW1 I’m guessing that having 15+ dates already planned wasn’t magical to the guy you were seeing. It was probably overwhelming. Too much pressure too fast. Did he help in the planning or were they you ideas? Was he looking at date after date doing things he didn’t want to do and feeling trapped? I suggest that in the future you takes things one date at a time.

    1. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

      I’m not even sure how OR why a person manages to plan 15+ dates with a guy she just met. That sounds a.b.s.o.l.u.t.e.l.y crazy to me. Like did she block off time on her calendar for these dates? How does anyone remember what’s planned for date #8? How does she know that he’ll like the dates that she planned? Did he help in the planning or did the LW just ‘plan’ all of the dates?
      If LW ‘planned’ all of those dates…well, she’s not really looking to build a real life with someone. She’s looking to fill-in the male/Prince Charming/whisk-me-away-from-my-life-of drudgery part in all of her romantic fairy tale fantasies.

  9. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW2 I’d make sure you son has a thorough evaluation with a doctor and gets into counseling before you make any decisions. Mental illness often shows up in the late teens to early twenties and you see a young adult who has trouble holding a job and who has troubled relationships. Maybe he needs tough love. Maybe he needs support with some financial discipline and guidance from you. Maybe he needs mental health care. At the very least he needs to see someone about his anxiety. If he is having severe anxiety at work he won’t be able to work a job in public. No matter how hard you push he won’t be able to function well enough to keep a job. You can’t push or threaten or reason anxiety away. Your son’s path begins with a doctor.

  10. “In love with my ex wife” is his get the hell out of Dodge card. There is no point in waiting. He left because he wanted to and he isn’t coming back. Or texting you back for your answers that you want. You have the only answer you need. For the future – there is no question and answer period at the close of dating. There is just the end. If someone breaks up with you – it doesn’t matter what their reason is. There is no “but why” in the world that will matter. Because the only thing that matters is they don’t want you – and that should be enough for you to not want THEM.

  11. Honestly, I went on a date with somebody once, a person I had known all of my life, abut hadn’t seen in maybe 5 years, and after the day I got a text saying “I saw stars tonight, did you?” Now I had a really good time on the date, and knew I wanted to see this person again, but when I go that text it freaked me the fuck out, and almost ruined it there. I decided to keep dating her though after that for like a month, but eventually called it quits, because she had a really crazy sister that lived near me, that I would see at local bars, and would harass me every time she saw me because she didn’t not get a long with her sister, it was hard to do because the girl was a really cool girl, but after only a month I wasn’t invested in it enough to have to put up with crazy family members.

  12. bittergaymark says:

    LW1) Um, yeah. He fled because you are batshit crazy! Dates planned out THAT far in advance? Yikes… Horrifying… Also, chiming in with all the yeah, I am so tire of people thinking that just because their partner does ABSOLUTELY MOST NORMAL FUCKING THINGS EVER that they have some uber special connection. WHATEVER. I keep waiting for somebody to say… “And when I call him! He picks up! We are SOOOOOOO meant to be together forever! Also, he hasn’t stolen my credit cards yet! SWOON!”
    LW2) Wendy NAILED it.

  13. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

    LW1, if in a 6ish week “relationship” you both are already saying that the timing is bad, then that is a red flag slapping you across the face to run away. Also, you dont “find out” that you are still in love with your ex-wife. Maybe in some weird rom-com, but not in real life. Girl, SLOW DOWN. I also do not understand how you had so many dates planned before he dropped the hammer on you. That is not normal, and not cute- stop it. The right guy for you is when YOU think it is right and so does HE as well- none of this chasing or waiting around crap.
    LW2- Im not really clear about the timeline here, but it sounds like all this stuff is pretty new, like within the last couple of months. If so, then yeah, lay down more rules- but dont toss out your son bc he quit a part-time job due to panic attacks. You sound like you are more worried about what other ppl may think than about actually wanting to help your son, but maybe Im just reading into it.

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