I know I can’t love him

Meredith,

I'm a divorced single parent. It was a very cliché sort of story (husband leaves wife and kids for younger woman), but shockingly painful. I didn't date for several years; I suddenly had to become mother, father, homemaker, and breadwinner for my children. And I did it somehow, quite successfully. I have a good career, and my children are doing really well. I spend all my energy on the children and my job. Everyone wanted me to start dating again, said it was "time." Time is probably the thing I have least of, but I decided to give it a shot.

I started dating "Joe" a couple of years ago. We've taken it very slowly, and he is an amazing guy – generous, kind, and patient. But I'm not in love with him. I want to be, but I feel like I can't ever really "love" again. As if that part of me is just ... irreparably broken. I don't think I'd love anyone else either, so it's not a case of not finding the right guy. I know I trust him, but that's as far as I seem to be able to go. I care for him enough that I want more for him. He deserves someone who can love as much as he does in return.

He says he will always be there for me, and will take things as quickly or slowly as I need. But he never seems to care about his own needs. I care about his needs more than he seems to. It feels selfish to hold onto him like this. I know I would miss him if we broke up, but I feel like he would be better off with someone whole. I know he would never break up with me. It would have to be me. Should I let him go?

– Loveless


Joe is a grownup. He doesn't sound incapable of making choices for himself. Don't assume you know what he wants from a partner. He might appreciate your independence and enjoy your pace. Instead of thinking about what he needs, focus on your own choices – which you're making for yourself.

I'm not going to tell you that you are capable of loving again, or that with a different man you might fall into a closer, easier partnership. I have no idea. I will say that love – however you want to define it – might present itself differently now that you're older and busier. You might never orbit a romantic partner again, but it's possible you'll care about them deeply and want have more and more of their company. That might be love.

With Joe, it just sounds like you're looking for an excuse to end it, but that you want to be able to say you'll be doing him a service if you leave. It's OK to be done with it, and to admit you want to try life without him a partner. It's also very much OK – and honest – to say you have no idea what you might find and be capable of next.

– Meredith

Readers? Time to end it with Joe – or is this love?