He just got out of a relationship

Dear Meredith,

I am dating a guy I met about a year ago. We started casually chatting and found we had much in common. Although he said he was single, I felt he was holding back from asking me out and then I learned from him that he was in a long-term relationship and lived with his girlfriend of 10 years. He didn't cross any lines with me, but I pulled back from flirting because I had no interest in getting involved with someone who was already in a relationship. He was upset that I shied away from him, told me he was very unhappy, that he and his partner were not well suited and had a distant relationship, and that he needed to make a change.

Shortly after that, he broke up with his girlfriend, and over a period of months, they worked out the details of separating their commonly owned property and finally moved out. This was very stressful for him, but he said he didn't regret his decision.

After he initially told his girlfriend that he wanted to split up, our relationship took a new form. He said he had fallen in love with me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. We tried to hold off but started becoming romantically involved while he was still splitting up and dealing with the "divorce." Some days were wonderful; others were unhappy because he was very stressed out about all the changes in his life. I forced myself to be patient and had very limited contact with him.

He and his ex are in their early 40s. They did not have children. I am 31. Basically, I want to have a close relationship that leads to marriage and a family, and originally he seemed open to the idea of doing things differently than he did with this other woman. We are both successful professionals and having children is what I want but not a "deal-breaker" if he can't overcome his reluctance to make the sacrifices necessary to raise children. The most important thing to me is that I share my life and be married to someone who really cares about me. Now that I am over 30, I see that many of the best guys are already in committed relationships or married. I am really ready to find the perfect someone, and I thought it had happened.

It has now been months since my boyfriend's relationship ended. We had decided to take things slowly and create some distance between one relationship and another. But I must admit that this is extremely frustrating for me. I am really ready to get close, but now he's hot and cold. He has avoided meeting my family, sometimes goes several days without contacting me, and does not say the warm, intimate things he said earlier in our relationship. He has asked me to be patient. When we start to get close, he acts distant and it feels like he is turning our relationship into one similar to the one he left behind. If we do proceed with our relationship, will he eventually refuse to get married and then tire of me down the road?

Everything is so good when we are together -- we get along quite well and seem very well suited. But when we are apart he doesn't check in with me. How long should I wait to sort things out, and how much should I expect of him? I feel like I should break up with him because he has cold feet and doesn't have his heart in the relationship, but I hate to give up on a good thing. What should I do?

– Help, Somerville

I keep re-reading your third sentence, the one that says he told you he was single when you first met. What a weird lie. He was in a 10-year relationship and kept that to himself? I can't get over that.
There are many reasons why this relationship just isn't what you need right now. Mainly, the timing is off, you want more than he does, and he is rebuilding his life. These issues could be overcome if he was a great communicator, but clarity isn't his thing. It certainly wasn't when he told you he was single. And now he talks about patience without telling you what that means. Are you just supposed to wait around until he's in the mood to see you?

If you're looking for the kind of guy who doesn't pull away and wants to meet your family, you have to move on. Your guy has a lot to process, and as you put it, his heart is just not in this. Don't stay in this relationship because you fear that all the other 31-year-olds are taken. They're not, I promise.
Readers? What's happening here? Should she be patient? Is this all about the timing or is there something else going on with him? Is she asking for too much? What should she do? Help.

– Meredith