Is She Naive?
Q: For three weeks, I dated a guy who wasn't divorced yet. From the first few conversations, we had instant chemistry, a deeper connection than I have felt with a man in many years. Then he found out his ex was seeing someone, and he got very upset and said he wasn't sure he was ready for a relationship. He said he held onto me because he also feels a connection to me. Then when the divorce was creeping up, he started acting distant, and just a couple days after the divorce, he said he's been a mess and can't even get himself to come out and have fun with me. He asked if I was ok with being friends, and I said okay.
It was my birthday a few days ago and he sent me a gift, something we saw together when we were dating. It instantly made me sob! I can't imagine never having a day like that again. I thanked him for the gift, but he didn't respond. The next day he wished me happy birthday and said he was glad I liked it. Very brief conversation.
It's obvious he's pushed himself away from me but I question if it's me or his pain from the divorce. My question is, do I keep in touch with him or just forget about it? He might be confused as well. A part of me feels like this in temporary and we will be together again but I'm not sure if I'm being dense or naive. Maybe he just doesn't like me anymore but sent the gift out of guilt and that's why the conversation was brief? — Monica, 37
Dr. Susan: It's never a good sign when you have to exert so much effort and use so many words to try to figure out what's going on in your would-be partner's head. Sure, your ex-date is confused. He didn't realize how much his divorce wasn't settled in his mind until his ex-wife found someone new. He needs time to get used to all that. It's impossible to know if he might come back to you when he's gotten over his divorce. Pressing him or reaching out again and again is not likely to endear you to him.
You're clearly mad about him and can't imagine finding someone equally wonderful to spend time with, but that feeling will pass. As for being "friends," more often that's a way of letting someone down more easily. So if he asks you out "as friends," feel free to try it one time. It's likely to get you quite stirred up. You'll just have to keep trying to read his signals. But do take him at his word. If he says again that he's not ready, move on.
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.