Update: “Sick of the Pattern” Responds

updatesIt’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Sick of the Pattern” who wrote in after a vacation with a girlfriend of six months didn’t go very well and made them both question the relationship and whether they were a match.

He wrote: “This has been happening for the last twenty years and it’s the same old pattern. I date a woman for three to six months, anxiety sets in, relationship ends, and anxiety dissipates. I’m sick of it.

I’m even beginning to question myself as to whether I truly want a relationship and whether, perhaps, I secretly want to remain on my own and avoid the challenges that relationships bring. Can you help?”

It’s been nearly eight months since he first wrote in. Here’s his update:

I broke up with Louise mid-September 2017. I texted her at the end of October to say hi and she replied back. At the start of December, I rang her and met up for a meal. I got the impressio, and I’m almost sure, she wanted to give this relationship another go. She didn’t say she wanted to try again, but why else would she meet up with me? Anyway, I chickened out. I didn’t say anything to her about continuing.

Two weeks later, I sent a message to see if she wanted to see a movie. She replied back saying she was busy that week but the following week would be less busy. In other words, she would be available. I never texted her again.

It’s now the end of April 2018 and I still think about her. There have been several women that have shown interest in me but I find faults (not that I’m perfect). But the real reason is Louise. For example – when a woman has shown interest in me, I think to myself: What about Louise? I can’t do that to Louise. I feel bad for moving on. I feel sad for moving on. What about Louise? What’s to become of Louise?
My therapist thinks that maybe I haven’t met anyone that I really like or maybe Louise is unfinished business.

Maybe I didn’t get close enough to her when I was dating her. I mean I saw her twice a week but never met her family or friends. And then after six months, we went on a vacation and we were together 24/7. It’s the vacation that caused the split.

My therapist also thinks:

– I’m a commitment phobe. He thinks I want a woman but, in my mind, I don’t think I need one. And it doesn’t matter whom I date, I‘ll find a reason not to get close. I’ll find an excuse not to commit. I‘ll find defense mechanisms. I have trust issues.

– He thinks that the reasons why Louise wanted to stay as friends after the holiday was not because of my selfish, weird, and unromantic behavior, it’s because she thought that I didn’t like her enough. That I wasn’t into her enough. Her commenting about my selfish, weird, and unromantic behavior was just her way of getting back at me.

– He thinks that I should buy her a rose and that I’m keen on her. The reason is that I’m still talking about her five to six months later.

– He thinks I didn’t want to be compatible on the vacation.

– He thinks that I’m probably attached to her and I don’t even know it.

– He thinks I need to make a decision. Ring her or let it go.

Louise is still single. I’ve seen her on an online dating site. You could say that because I’m not with her, my decision has been made. But I still think about her six months later. I haven’t had sex with anyone since.

And assuming she was interested in giving it another go, how can I be sure that I won’t come up with defense mechanisms. Well, my therapist advised to breathe my anxiety out and to focus on the positives of being in a relationship. He thinks I focus on the negatives.

Let me reiterate, and my therapist has confirmed this, no matter who the woman is I’m dating, I’ll find an excuse not to commit. I just need to deal with it.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to make a decision. It feels like I haven’t moved on. It feels like I can’t move on. It’s like I can’t move on until Louise moves on or I can’t move on unless Louise tells me to move on (if I try to get back with her). How do I make a decision? And how do I know it’s the right decision. I’m very indecisive, aren’t I?

If you were in my position, would you move on or call Louise up (assuming she even wants to meet up)?


I’m not sure what you mean by “If you were in my position.” What, exactly, is your position? That you still like a woman who is single and has shown continued interest in you, but you don’t trust yourself not to mess things up if you reach out to her again because you’re a commitment phobe and you have multiple defense mechanisms you employ when you start getting too close to someone? I think unless you have reason to believe you’ve made serious progress in therapy and that you are less likely than ever to employ these defense mechanisms, and that you are more interested in commitment than ever, you should leave poor Louise the fuck alone.

And judging from your behavior — reaching out to Louise multiple times but failing to ask for another shot — and your inability to make a decision, and your therapists’ suggestion that you will find fault in whomever you date and that you’re a commitment phobe who just needs to “deal with it,” I don’t think you’re ready for a serious relationship. And you may not ever be ready. Maybe THAT is what you need to “deal with,” instead of dragging someone else into your issues in hopes that maybe this time will be different or maybe that, once she tells you it’s really over and she’s moving on, you will be cured of your longing for her. Please, unless you feel really sure you want to be with her, leave her alone. Single women on dating sites have enough to deal with without some guy they dated for six months a year ago lingering and hoping she’ll be the fix to all the problems he and his therapist(s) haven’t been able to solve over the course of 20+ years of dating.


If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at [email protected] with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

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  1. LisforLeslie says:

    In 6 months you didn’t meet her friends or family – because you didn’t want that or she didn’t want that?

    To me it sounds like you are commitment phobic – that you can’t conceive of a life where someone can or should rely on you emotionally, financially, physically. That’s OK – as long as from the outset you make it clear that you are absolutely not looking for a long term partner, you have no intention of marrying and if it gets too intense, you’ll need to walk away.

    As someone who has no desire to marry or partner up – I get it. But if you’re saying to yourself or a girlfriend “One day, I want to get married and have children” – I don’t see how that’s going to happen if you can’t deal with someone for one week, let alone 30 years. Maybe you need a new therapist who is going to hand you the proverbial step stool so you’ll get over your damn issues.

    And stop torturing Louise. Please.

    1. Totally is torturing Louise. Imagine her end of this “a guy I dated called me up again out of the blue and asked me on a date, then disappeared again. What happened?!” I’d tell her to MOA!

  2. Northern Star says:

    Leave Louise alone. She doesn’t deserve to be jerked around because you don’t know what you want in life. Don’t use her like that.

    If you care about Louise, you don’t want to hurt her, right? So… don’t.

  3. GAH. Get a hobby. Quit spending so much time in your own head and focus on helping others. Maybe just maybe, when you are around people with real problems you’ll quit spending so much time in this. There is not anything wrong if you want to be alone. Embrace it. Be the fun uncle. Be the eccentric neighbor who has really expensive loner hobbies like orchid growing or ice climbing. I can’t help but think sometimes that people create these problems that will never be solved to give their life some sort of meaning or drama. Oh, leave Louise alone.

    1. I agree with Ashley, you sound incredibly self-centred and exhausting. Leave Louise alone and focus on the world and people around you instead of going in circles in your own head.

  4. It sounds to me like you’re trying to have a “traditional” relationship because you think you’re supposed to have that and want that. Commitment, marriage, etc.

    How about if next time, you just try…companionship? Having a friend of the opposite sex. If you encounter a woman you want to be friends with who also wants to be friends with you, that is, I’m not saying to go hunting for a female friend. Just somebody to go to movies and dinner with, or other outings that appeal to you both.

    Not every relationships is meant to be romantic, and not every single woman is looking for a boyfriend/intimate partner. Don’t put the pressure on yourself to get into a romantic relationship, and have it play out according to some sort of societal expectation.

    What I’m trying to get at here is, lose the expectations. Make friends. Enjoy their company. Don’t force yourself into a relationship style that doesn’t work for you. As long as you’re up-front and honest with the woman about what you are and aren’t looking for, you’re not doing anything wrong .

    It’s entirely possible that you’ll come across a woman who’s also not big on commitment, and is looking for something more casual. There are as many ways of conducting a relationship as there are people. Find the one that works for you, and maybe you’ll find a partner who’s looking for the same thing.

    1. I totally agree with this. Do you actually want a relationship or do you feel like your should want one. Those are very different.

      Also, your therapist has given you insight but what are you going to do with that? I would think about the dream of your life. What is the perfect relationship type for you then start to build it. Do you want to live with someone full time? Do you need a woman that is fiercely independent?

      One other thing. My husband and I used to joke about the 5 day fight. We can handle 5 days of 24/7 togetherness before we pick a fight together. Vacations can be very intense. Once we had a kid or started meeting people on vacation or doing some things separately, we stopped. So for vacations, maybe carve out alone time or send her for a spa day. Or meet friends on Vacation so you have people to have dinner with and someone else to speak to.

      1. LisforLeslie says:

        THIS. I’m not married so I’m not coming from a truly informed point – but I don’t know many who can spent 24/7 endlessly and not turn around and say “I love you but you must leave the space I am in and go elsewhere because I’m sick of your stupid face. ” I mean, I’m talking folks married a few years and relatives married over 50 have all told me this.

        Maybe you have this weird idealized view of what relationships should be instead of what they actually are.

      2. Haha I’m glad you posted this. As you probably know from other forums I am soon moving to be with my partner. The second time I visited him, I spent 3 weeks with him. And at the end of it I was starting to get really annoyed with him. I was worried that something was wrong. But then I realized that we had just spent 21 days together non-stop. Of course, I needed alone time!

  5. LW, STOP being so self centered and stop torturing Louise. Leave her alone. Face it that you are messed up and maybe it is best for you to be single. Keep seeing a therapist. Do you think you have a lot of anxiety? Talk to the therapist and your doctor about this.

  6. Leave Louise alone, and all other woman for that matter until you get yourself sorted out. Let her move on. I dated a man like you. We dated for six or so months and then all of the sudden “poof” he was not sure if he wanted to be together, for seemingly no reason. Then he did, then he did not and this went on for a year or so before I finally said forget this and started dating someone else. He was relentless. It has been four years since this ended and I finally had to block him on the last potential way he could contact me, linked in. I am engaged. He is blocked from my phone, and all of my emails as well as social media, but yes he found me on linked in and kept emailing. He would not take no for an answer, it was super annoying.

  7. dinoceros says:

    I think the reason she met up with you was because you asked her to. I think it’s odd to invite someone to dinner and then say, “Why in the world would she have met up with me if she didn’t want to get back together?” You’re the one who made the plans and reached out, so even if she did want to, you sort of conveyed to her that it wasn’t why you reached out.

    The commitment phobe theory makes sense to me. You tell yourself you can’t move on to anyone else because of Louise, but you also don’t ever follow through with her. So, it puts you in this perpetual singleness.

    Don’t contact Louise again though. Your therapist seems to think that Louise is your object to use to learn from. She is not. She is a person. Address your issues before getting someone else involved, especially someone you’ve already hurt once. Or at least just meet people who aren’t interested in relationships so that they aren’t assuming that things are going somewhere when you’re about to bail.

    1. Haha yeah, I laughed out loud at that part. Why in the world would she go to dinner with me? Uhh… You asked her to. Maybe she thought you wanted to catch up or be friends or apologize.

      1. The LW here…You’re wrong Norabb and Dinoceros and why would you laugh Norabb?… Sure, she had dinner with me because i asked her to . But what i was saying is that if a woman rocks up to a date 3 months after you’ve broken up, she’s still interested. If she keeps rocking up 6 months later, she’s still interested. And if she keeps rocking up, she’s still interested…

      2. No, they’re not wrong. There are a lot of reasons for her to say yes to dinner other than her still being interested in your wishy-washy act. Maybe she just wanted to remind herself of the bullet she dodged. Pro tip: when you’re the one asking for advice about a woman, maybe don’t mansplain “how women think” as if you’re an expert.

  8. Louise is just your excuse to not move on and to continue feeling sorry for yourself. You don’t love her, shes not your soul mate, it’s not a sign that you’re meant to be. It’s your way of avoiding the real issue which is working on yourself.

    Also I noticed “my therapist said…”. Okay well… What do YOU think? Have you taken time to consider what your therapist says? Are you looking within to see what this information can help with?
    Or are you just hearing their words and taking it as fact? Are you taking their advice? Have you done the breath exercises? Have they given you any advice on how to deal with being a commitment phobe (idk maybe you’re just non manogamous. I am, and I know that forcing myself to be with only one person made me feel stifled and I sabotaged a lot of relationships that way)

    Therapy is a two way street. You need to do the work, you need to go within and really analyze yourself. Make your own decisions and let Louise go. She’s just your scapegoat for not moving on with your life and growing

    1. Thanks for your advice Norabb. Perhaps you’re right.

      Lucy, why would a woman turn up to date to remind herself of the bullet she dodged ??? Lol. She was still interested! Plain and simple . I never said i was expert but i know when something is obvious.. But you’re definitely not an expert.

      1. madeupusernameiguess says:

        Lol woman here to set the record straight! Rick, I don’t mean to be rude but showing up doesn’t necessarily mean they’re still interested. I say this as someone that’s shown up to dinner invites from exes post-breakup and known many ladies that did the same. A lot of times we show up out of pity or out of feelings of obligation, as we women are conditioned since birth to be “nice” and accommodate the emotional needs of men (even ones that wronged us yes). I’ve also met with exes that did me wrong just to get the last laugh when they begged me to take them back (I kindly declined). Sometimes it’s just out of plain nonsexual curiosity!

        Last but not least, who can say no to free food? I sure can’t. I’d eat with any non-serial killer that’s paying!

      2. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

        I would also like to add myself as someone who has met up for dinner with an ex but did’t want to get back together with him. For me, it was because I had fond memories of our relationship and genuinely liked him as a person. That was all though.

  9. well, if the way you just spoke to Norab is the way you speak to Louise, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she agreed to see you again just to remind herself of exactly why she should give you a body swerve in future, but wanted to be charitable, and maybe felt sorry for you, thinking you may be lonely. Good luck with assuming that any woman who agrees to spend any time with you at all is “interested, plain and simple”

  10. The way you spoke to Lucy, I should have said. But you’ve been pretty dismissive of many people so far. . Agree with everyone, leave Loiuse out of it, and maybe try a different therapist, group therapy might be a good move.

    1. Sorry, but Lucy made the first snide remark : “maybe don’t mansplain “how women think” as if you’re an expert…

      You’ve met up with exes not to get back to together, but for other reasons – you felt sorry for them, out of curiousity etc. I accept that.

      But that doesn’t mean Louise did the same thing.

      Here’s the thing ladies- you weren’t there. I saw the body language, I saw her in front of me. And she was disappointed that I didn’t, at least, discuss the possibility of getting back together.
      In fact, she was probably confused why I even wanted to meet up.

      And another thing. I texted her 2 weeks later to see a movie and she was open to that too. So, what does that say? Did she feel sorry for me twice? Gimme a break.

  11. Why are you so invested in believing that Louise is madly keen on you? It seems as if you just love the idea of someone being (in your opinion) so much more into you than you are into them. That’s not kind or nice, in fact it is rather disrespectful- stop using this woman as a prop for your ego. Other people are not mere objects orbiting around your sense of yourself.

  12. No, i don’t love the idea. No, its not disrespectful. No, I don’t have an ego. In fact, i still care about this woman.. They’re your thoughts not mine. I’m just debating. I’ll say it again. You ladies were not there and you’re coming up theories. I was there and i know when someone is still interested. I was there. Did you read my previous message how i asked her out to see a movie 2 weeks later and she was open to that??
    My therapist thought Louise was still interested. Wendy’s answer tells me she was still interested. And then i read the ladies comments telling me otherwise. Please… It’s like you telling me that you’ve been to Rome and its great city. And i would tell you Rome stinks and i haven’t even been there.

  13. Okay, if you care about her as you claim to, and you are so certain that she really really wants to be with you (and obviously you are not being AT ALL egotistical) , instead of stringing her along for no reason other than to work out your own problems, the answer is clear- just leave her the hell alone.

  14. What does it even matter? Why are you so hung up on her wanting to be with you? You’re ultimately not interested – that’s why we’re telling you to leave her alone.
    I mean the way you’re reacting to these comments about details says a lot about you: you need to let things GO.

  15. Did you read my previous comments? I say nothing about giving her a call. I was taking about something else . Anyway, even if i was to call her, i don’t think it’s anyone’s business.. It is not unsual for an ex boyfriend to call an ex girlfriend and vice versa.

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