Lots of unrequited love this week.
I met "Brad" 10 years ago at work. We worked together for two years. After that, he and I remained friends and then became more. We had a very close romantic relationship for a couple of years, then broke up because he couldn't/wouldn't move forward (live together, become engaged, etc.). After a couple of months, he wanted me back and promised to work at his commitment issues because he couldn't imagine a future without me. Then, after about a 6 months together, he stopped being physical with me. His reason for this was "physical/emotional issues." He didn't want to break up but refused to get any help or even to discuss it with me. So after almost a year of this, I felt I had no choice but to end the relationship. It broke my heart.
We've now been apart for three years (and are now in our 40s) but because there is so much love there, we managed to remain close friends. I have dated other people, but "Brad" has not had a girlfriend since me. We've truly been best friends. We hang out and talk for hours. It's like we're together except for the physical part. I've always been in love with him, it never stopped, and finally told him about a year ago that I wanted to try us again. He said he had to think about it. Then finally said that he was too afraid of losing me forever if we tried a relationship again and it didn't work, and that he's got too many "issues" to chance it. He's not happy with himself or his professional/financial situation to be with anyone. He said he couldn't bear to lose me, and I couldn't imagine my life without him in it after all these years. But it became too difficult for me to remain his friend while hoping it would turn into more. I kept thinking that he'd change his mind and realize how crazy it is that we're not together. He didn't. So I told him I had to stay away from him for a while so I can get over the romantic feelings I have.
How can one get over someone if they see him and talk to him all the time? He says I'm his best friend and he can't live without me ... but I don't know what to do. I'm not sure I believe the reasons he's given me for not wanting to try us again, which makes me angry to think he may not be being honest with me. "Brad" does have some issues. He's 44 and has never married, engaged, or even lived with anyone. And again, hasn't dated since he and I broke up …
I'd love to know your thoughts on this. Should I try to stay away completely? Should I hang in there with hopes he'll come around? We were friends first, and then it changed ... Couldn't it again?
– Not Sure What To Think, Massachusetts
I can't read Brad's mind, NSWTT. I wish I could. But I can read your mind, thanks to your letter. You want a real romantic partner, not a best friend. You've told us that you can't be Brad's friend without wanting more. You've told us that it's too painful to maintain the status quo.
I think you know the answer to your question. You just don't like it.
My advice is to tell Brad that even though he can't live without you, you can't live with him like this. If at 44 he has no plans to fix himself -- even if ignoring his physical/emotional/financial issues means losing you -- well, you're better off moving on.
I'm sorry, though. And I do wish I could read his mind. But let's just focus on your mind for now. Brad has given you a decade of questions. You're allowed to give yourself a final answer. And Brad needs to know that what's happening now is not sustainable.
Readers? Unlike yesterday's letter, this love seems … requited in some ways ... but not the most important ones. Should she hold out? What's wrong with Brad? Is his age relevant? Discuss.