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Dear Wendy

Emotionally Unavailable

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  • #904051 Reply

    I’m feeling very alone right now and having a rough time. I’ve really enjoyed lurking here because everyone seems to be generally thoughtful and honest and I like the mix of perspectives. I’m struggling after a recent breakup and I don’t know if I need any specific advice but I just want to talk to real people about what I’m going through.

    Just over nine months ago I met a wonderful guy and we started dating. Nine months isn’t necessarily a long time, but it’s long enough to survive the honeymoon phase and see that there’s still something wonderful there. Unfortunately the story turns into the classic tale of, “He’s perfect, but…”

    But he has a weird friendship with his ex. At first I didn’t think much of it, but over time it became pretty clear that this was not an appropriate friendship and boundaries were being crossed. It’d be easy to assume he was cheating or still had feelings. He wasn’t, and he didn’t, but I’m not sure if it honestly matters because the level of deception and the stuff going on between them definitely was not what I signed up for in a relationship.

    For a while I gave him benefit of the doubt because I wasn’t aware of how deep the issues were. He did ultimately set a boundary and told me they’d gone no-contact afterwards. I was surprised that communication had ceased entirely, because at that point I was figuring she likely wasn’t malicious, maybe just being extra or clueless and needing to adjust some expectations in the friendship, it didn’t seem more serious than that. But she’d been enough of a nuisance that I didn’t question it too hard.

    But I had an odd feeling in my gut. I thought it was anxiety (which I guess technically it was) but that anxiety was trying to tell me there was more to the story, and I began to suspect they were really talking even though he’d told me otherwise. So a couple days ago, I asked him. It turns out that it was true he set a boundary, but other things also turned out to be true: such as, prior to setting the boundary, they’d *both* been pretty inappropriate (her more than him, but he was also at fault), and after the boundary was set, they did talk a little less for maybe a couple weeks but never fully stopped and soon resumed communicating as frequently as before. I asked him why he felt compelled to start up again, let alone lie to me about it. He told me he’d felt “boxed in” by the boundary and as if he had “ghosted” her (his words) by being less chatty and liking/commenting less on her Instagram (yes, really). He didn’t think it was important to let me know since they weren’t discussing anything of significance and were no longer being inappropriate. He apologized, fully admitted he’d made mistakes, and seemed genuinely open to making things right.

    I didn’t know if I was buying it, but I was tired and emotional and I didn’t think it would hurt to wait until I had a clear head before deciding whether to break up. The next morning he completely flipped the script and all but made the decision for me. I broke up with him, realizing that, sadly, the attentive caring man I’d thought I was dating was only an illusion.

    But it hurts. He really was “perfect but,” yet as is often the case in these stories, the “but” was unacceptable and the “perfect” wasn’t as real as advertised. It just seemed real. I’ve been cheated on in the past (actual physical/romantic cheating, not whatever this was) and dealt with far worse relationship issues and he was nothing like the usual suspects. In nine short months we were already seeing the world (before covid slowed us down) and making incredible memories and even the downtimes and isolating together managed to be fun. He was so smitten with me and always showing me that he cared and giving me non-verbal “I love you’s,” all the little signs of affection that make a real relationship so great. It hurts because he really sold me on the idea of someday building a future together when the reality is that he wasn’t emotionally available for something as serious as what he was asking for. The turnaround was so fast it makes my head spin and I feel like the whole last nine months was a lie.

    I’m sad, but I’ve been through enough therapy and have spent enough time working on myself to know that I deserve better, much better. I know that no matter how real or incredible the highs seemed at the time, even *if* they were genuine, it is not worth this kind of low. I know that as wonderful as he seemed, he ultimately showed his true colors and his real priorities. I know this in my head, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling so extremely sad. I really fell for him, and knowing the truth doesn’t make it easier, knowing that time will heal doesn’t make it easier. It just hurts.

    Thank you for reading this. If you have any experiences of your own with something like this, I welcome you to share them with me too. It’s not my first or my worst breakup but it’s definitely my loneliest as covid is still raging where I live, and if you have any words of kindness or wisdom, I would be very grateful.

    #904137 Reply

    I think I can safely say (probably) everyone here understands exactly where you are coming from. We have all been there. And it sucks, but the suckiness is temporary. The amazing thing, though, is your ability to think logically and rationally, instead of letting the roller coaster of emotions take control of your life and wreak havoc. That, to me, seems to put you ahead of the game and I think your head is in the right place. You did the right thing, even though it hurts right now.

    #904177 Reply

    From FYI…

    I mean, this is a little too vague for us to give meaningful feedback. It’s a lot of words, but none of them get specific on what a “weird friendship” means, nor on what “pretty inappropriate (her more than him, but he was also at fault)” means. Why not just tell us what happened?

    You didn’t give us anything to go on, which makes it seem like you’re hiding facts that put you in a bad light. Maybe not, but we really can’t tell if you were being controlling / jealous or if he was being dishonest.

    You’re saying Oprah-esque things about what you deserve and his true colors and whatever, but the real challenge is to see if you had any part in this. I guess you are wanting people to tell you that you’re better off without him? or something?

    #904198 Reply

    Yeah, honestly. I can’t tell what is going on here. But the most damning thing you post here in rather innocuous chatting on instagram and liking one another’s posts.

    Eh, honestly? None of that would phase me in the least. But then I am NOT an insecure control freak.

    Are you one? I dunno. Maybe. But your letter is so deliberately obtuse and vague it’s impossible to tell.

    #904201 Reply

    Also the whole NO CONTACT thing always strikes me as petty and very high school so it makes my radar pin a good deal right out of the gate.

    #904653 Reply

    Regardless of what is “actually going on here,” which I don’t think really matters, this is one of those situations we’ve all been in where we build an illusion in our heads based on what we see as the potential of a new partner and new relationship, and then the reality clashes with that and it really really hurts when it ends, because you feel like the potential is still there, if only.

    #904740 Reply

    I don’t know, this could just be excessive jealousy and making each new guy pay the price for your past cheating bfs. “Pretty inappropriate” can mean almost anything for someone who seems to have her jealousy instincts set so high. You talk of no arrangements made to get together in person, not even any example that would qualify as an emotional affair. Perhaps your own anxieties sabotages this almost perfect new relationship. You do sound very controlling. It is kind of telling that your pushing about this ex moved him from very loving to him almost breaking up with you after your last confrontation. You can’t force somebody to drop friends, nor should you try.

    #904818 Reply

    I agree with the others. I’m not really sure what could qualify as inappropriate and boundary crossing while simultaneously not involving cheating and/or having continued feelings for his ex. Particularly since it sounds like he did the breaking up?

    If they were having sexual or flirtatious contact then it was time to ditch him. If he was speaking negatively about you to her then it was time to ditch him. I literally don’t know what else this could be- unless you were uncomfortable with the closeness of their friendship? In which case the problem here may be you.

    #905209 Reply

    Thank you for your replies.

    I never meant to leave out key details. What @Kate said describes my feelings exactly, exacerbated by the fact that I cannot distract myself in any of the usual ways such as work, travel, or socializing. My original post was pretty long and I didn’t want to get into the weeds. It was never my intention to obfuscate but I can see how some might view it that way.

    To be clear, I did not ask for no contact and did not think it was warranted. I agree that expecting someone to drop friends is wrong. I did ask for him to set some boundaries, but I was explicit that I never expected him to end the friendship. That’s pretty severe. Some chatting here and there and liking posts is absolutely normal (otherwise literally no one would have any friends) and this is actually what I was asking for, not what I had a problem with.

    When I said it was a weird friendship, what I meant was that he had a complex relationship with not only her, but also her parents, and he struggled with saying no to them due to feelings of guilt and obligation and feared retaliation if he stood up for himself. I have too many examples of this to list. It goes pretty far down the rabbit hole. After a while it became clear that she was constantly seeking his attention and needing validation from him, and I was also uncomfortable that she’d admitted to having feelings for him years after their breakup, while in her current, long term relationship.

    I don’t think I’m an insecure control freak, but I do like to have firm boundaries. It seemed like he was being stepped on quite a lot and it was starting to impact our relationship. What I told him was, certain aspects of this were outside of my comfort zone. I was worried there were unhealthy dynamics at play even if he personally wasn’t doing anything wrong, and it was only escalating as time went on. I asked if he’d be willing to set some reasonable boundaries and suggested scaling back if he wasn’t comfortable being direct about it, no need to be rude or hurtful. I didn’t see her behavior as intentionally malicious or threatening so if anything I felt that maybe a soft reminder to chill for a second was in order, but that was up to him to say based on his comfort level, not mine.

    At first he said he ghosted her, but then later it turned out they’d been talking the whole time it just “felt” like ghosting to him because he felt badly for not liking all her posts. I don’t know why he decided to stop liking her posts, nor why that’s something to guilt over. Either way, ghosting was not my idea, it’s just what I had been told, and I was fine with normal chatting or liking or what have you because that’s the whole point of a boundary.

    It also turned out that previously, her neediness was not as one-sided as I’d been led to believe. He made it out like he wasn’t always responsive when she was reaching out. In reality, he admitted that he encouraged and reciprocated her flirtations and other attention-seeking behaviors; he just hadn’t seen it for what it was at the time. He seemed embarrassed and told me that after so many years of talking to her a certain way, he’d taken it for granted and hadn’t known it was wrong. He said that his behavior towards her was not appropriate for someone in a relationship. He said this was a mistake and that this was why he set the boundary going forward.

    I felt like “I’m worried that putting my foot down will have repercussions,” is significantly different than, “I actively went along with it because I didn’t know any better.” I was iffy on the constantly shifting version of events but I honestly couldn’t tell if I was just nitpicking at this point which is why I wanted to come back to things with a clear head instead of thinking with emotions. If nothing else, it seemed he was willing to own his behavior and show remorse. We all mess up sometimes. We ended the conversation on a high note, were affectionate with one another and had some good laughs over other matters.

    The next morning, he was already different person. He seemed cold and distant but I thought he was just tired. I think it’s safe to assume we probably both wanted time to think about things. I know I did, and he later said he did too. But instead of expressing this, he became angry and frustrated with me, and said a lot of hurtful things that contradicted with the more constructive things we’d discussed. I tried to deescalate but he dug in his heels and kept arguing in circles, which is a pattern I have noticed with him before but I thought we were past it. That’s why I broke up with him. I’m not asking if I was right or wrong, or if I’m better off without him. I just wish it had gone differently. I want to make amends, but whether you judge me as jealous or not, I think it’s safe to say we’d only end up in another fight like this down the road, even if it isn’t about his friend.

    #905231 Reply

    If you tried again, you would definitely find yourselves back in this same place.

    It sounds like he not only still has some feelings for her, but has issues with letting himself be controlled and manipulated by women (maybe by everyone?) and doesn’t know how to be direct and open /honest.

    #905496 Reply

    I admit that I am still not clear on what he did wrong? He did favors for her parents and was kind of a people-pleaser? That’s it?

    It’s weird how in another loooong post, we get no specifics on this “attention-seeking behavior” of hers that he was going along with. And he was “inappropriate?”

    :: shrug ::
    I don’t get it.

    #905508 Reply

    He’s not the right guy for you. That’s clear. It’s sad it did not work out.

    I know you need a distraction. There’s no way to escape right now, so maybe pick up a good book? Or a movie? You’ll feel better about this sooner than you might think. Don’t worry, overanalyze, doomscroll, etc. Just try to move forward.

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