If I love him, set him free?

We chat at 1:30. Note the time change.

Hello Meredith,

I recently had a breakup with a guy I was dating for about six months. It was a pretty intense relationship, and we spent almost every weekend together. We barely had any fights, and when we did have misunderstandings we would talk about them and resolve them. Overall it was a pretty healthy relationship and we were happy to be around each other.

On a recent Friday evening, I went over to his place to stay over after a good dinner. I was just sitting in his room, playing with his cat, when he said there was something he needed to tell me and pulled out a letter from his bag and gave it to me. It was a breakup letter. It was handwritten and said that at this point in his life, he feels like he needs to be alone and wasn't looking for a serious relationship.

The letter went on to say that he thinks I'm a really nice person and doesn't want to lead me on any longer. After reading this letter, I broke down and started to pack my bag to leave. I started asking why he hadn't brought this up sooner and whether he was telling me the truth about why he was ending it. He just kept apologizing and said he felt bad. Then I said, “I will let you figure things out,” and just left.

After I drove home, he sent me a text saying, "I'm sorry. If you love someone let them go, and if it was meant to be they will come back." That made me even more confused. I didn't see any red flags or see this coming. It was really a surprise, and this whole thing feels like a dream now. Can you explain what happened?

- Confused


All I can tell you is that at some point – maybe while you were enjoying his company or playing with his cat – he figured out that he couldn't promise you a long-term commitment. Instead of communicating his needs or pulling away in stages, he made a decision to end it all at once. I'm not sure which is worse – the breakup that ends over time or the one you don't see coming. The second kind certainly leaves you with more questions.

He did you no favors by sending you that text after you left. "If you love someone, set them free" is a nice line, especially when sung by Sting, but it's not the kind of advice you give to a romantic partner you just dismissed. I assume he's telling you that if you love him and set him free, you'll be able to find out whether he's capable of returning on his own someday. But the line suggests that he might return, and that's not a hope you can cling to right now.

It's better to think about that letter and assume it's the truth. He thinks you're nice, but the relationship was not what he was looking for. It's disappointing, for sure. You have every reason to feel hurt.

Just know that in breaking up with you, he showed you that he's not your best match. You want someone who will communicate with you as you fall for them. He's the kind of guy who kept his feelings to himself and had to write his breakup on paper. That's not the kind of partner you need.

– Meredith

Readers? Set him free?