The Tricky Situation: Marcy asks, I was recently dumped by a guy. We dated exclusively for four months and he ended it because he wasn’t “ready for a relationship” yet, though he had “thought he could be” with me. He claimed he wasn’t over what happened with his ex, who he had been with for four years, despite the fact that he doesn’t want to be with her and broke up with her. He says he still has guilt about how they broke up (over the phone cause they were long-distance) and that she didn’t get any closure. I can’t help but wonder if he is just making an excuse — can he really be hung up simply on how they broke up? They broke up less than a year ago when we had met and he had already dated one other girl between her and me. I believe that he stopped dating the other girl because she wanted to be “too serious too soon,” but since we made it to four months, I thought we were going to work out. I guess that was a sign, but I just feel completely duped. Am I crazy?


You’re definitely not crazy Marcy but I do think that you have fallen into the trap of ignoring your intuition and yes, even an element of trying to be the exception. When you said that you had “made it to four months”, all I could see was a situation where you were dating this guy and on some level knowing that he had issues and then pushing down anxiety and almost praying that you can get past what you might think was the rocky mark in his previous involvement. This sounds like a challenge not a relationship.

I can’t tell you whether he is or isn’t over his ex but what I can tell you is that he doesn’t seem to know his arse from his elbow, with all of his contrary, flip-flapping, “I’m not ready for a relationship” but then carrying on as if you were supposed to be a commitment sorceress who was going to make him available and able to forget his issues.

What also cannot be denied is that if he was in a relationship for four years and some or all of it was long-distance and things ended over the phone nearly a year ago and he feels guilty over the lack of closure, why hasn’t he done something about it? As Oleta Adams sang in her hit, ‘Get Here’:

“You can reach me by railway

You can reach me by trailway
You can reach me on an airplane

……I don’t care how you get here
Just get here if you can”

His kind of guilt is of the procrastinating, not really as guilty as he makes himself out to be kind. It’s a way of avoiding showing up in the present and when he fails to deliver in his new relationships, he can play the guilt card. He could have made this right a thousand times over in the time since he broke up with her, especially because surely the ending of the relationship he had directly after that breakup was the call to action? He doesn’t want to be with his ex and yet she’s his go-to excuse; I don’t blame you for feeling confused and suspicious. Not being over your ex isn’t always about still being in love; he’s not over the relationship. Even if he’s bullsh-tting to a degree, he’s not over his past relationship(s) because it is impacting his current behaviour.
He may very well be hung up on how they broke up because he is avoiding thinking about the content of those four years. That requires introspection and recognising who he is, what he needs, and what that relationship reflected about his emotional state or what he was truly available for relationship wise. 
Us humans are funny ‘ole creatures. Even when we can be logical, we’re not, but even when we are being logical, we can often be derailed by emotional reasoning. His position makes sense to him but of course it doesn’t make sense to you. The fact that you think him being hung up on how they broke up is odd, doesn’t mean that it’s not real. His lack of self-awareness means that he doesn’t understand what is motivating him to reach for that excuse, but his position is his position.

He is distracting himself from taking action on that guilt and/or facing himself by avoiding the issue by trying out new involvements. He bolts because getting serious with somebody means that he would have to be done with his ex. It means no more excuses. For all he knows, she’s had the good sense to parlay her lessons from her experience with him into a more fulfilling, available relationship with someone else. It’s him that needs to sort out his own closure.
Of course–you focusing on what you feel is or isn’t legit about his position, is also a form distraction.
It’s time for you to have a very honest conversation with yourself about what this relationship represents for you. Why did you feel that you would or ‘should’ be different to the previous woman he dated? What were you being and doing during your four months with him that you on some level felt would assure you of a ‘better’ result? What was it that made you think that you were going to work out? Making it to four months in and of itself, isn’t enough of a basis for your belief. Disappointment when a relationship doesn’t work out is understandable but maybe it’s time to question why you feel duped.
Dating and progressing into a relationship isn’t a contract. The fact that someone expresses interest in you or says that they want a relationship or even that they love you, doesn’t mean that they’re locked in for life or that they owe you if they don’t come through. They are allowed to change their mind, as are you. You have to take a level of risk–it’s the sunk cost (the cost of being involved) and you don’t get it back and there are no guarantees. It would be wonderful if everyone entered into dating and relationships with a high level of self-awareness but that’s crack pipe dreams. We begin dating based on an impression, we progress into relationships with [hopefully] at least a surface level idea of values and the relationship itself shows not just how values stack up in real life but also whether or not we’re cut out for what we intimated we were or whether we’re cut out for a real relationship.

I think what you really have to ask yourself Marcy is, What have I duped myself about?

That’s not to say that he hasn’t got his own side of the street to deal with but I suspect that focusing on him is shielding you from looking at where you’ve denied, rationalised, minimised and excused. You and your intuition are your friend. If you’re not already, please make that friendship the utmost priority because there’s no way that you should be duping you for some guy who you’ve known for a hot minute. You have to be careful of making assumptions and replace these with facts. Make sure you do your homework because he just did to you what he did to the last woman and he gave you some intel on this that if you’re ever in a situation like this again, you’ll ask more questions about it or flag it at a minimum, as an amber warning to stay grounded and pay attention. Be careful of tasking you with with the job of trying to be The Best Woman Possible TM that will ‘make’ him be different to how he was with all the other women. I always say that the moment, and I do literally mean the moment, you find out that they’re not over their ex, get out.

It is only through compassionately investigating why you were with him, that you can, in recognising what this was about for you, accept the outcome so that you can make it right with you by being more boundaried in future involvements. You’re not crazy at all but you do need to accept what you know at this time, wholly and fully, so that you stop melting your brain with his shenanigans and you instead can begin to make peace with you and move forward.

Each Wednesday, I help a reader to solve a dilemma. To submit a question, please email natalie AT with ‘Advice Wednesday’ in the subject line. If you would prefer your question to be featured on the podcast, drop a line to podcast AT Keep questions below 200 words. If you want detailed one-to-one support, please use my consultation service.

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