I've been divorced for six years with no kids. Dating after my marriage was tough for me, but I finally met a great guy a year ago. We matched on two different dating sites. One said he was looking for a relationship, the other said his status was separated. I was cautious at first, but we went on dates and built a solid foundation. Over the year of dating, the only thing I ever asked for was for us to be exclusive, and he agreed. I followed his lead when it came to how often we talked or hung out. The routine became that if he didn't have his kids, I was at his place for the night or the weekend. His divorce was extremely hard on his kids but they were making progress. He even started talking to his kids' therapist about how to prepare them for Mom and Dad having new significant others, and how and when to introduce them to me. This was his choice; I never pushed to meet his kids.
A few months ago, our routine changed slightly and he asked for a night to himself on the weekends, which was fine by me. His divorce was final a month ago, and we had our one-year anniversary. He seemed a little off but I knew he had been through a lot. Then, a week ago, he told me he was feeling overwhelmed and needed some space. I said I understood and suggested we do our own thing that night. He still wanted to see me, so we got drinks with his friend but he didn't want me to spend the night at his place. A few days later, while with his kids, he texts me that he's not ready for a serious relationship, and that being together for a year freaked him out. I was shocked and crushed. I told him it wasn't something I wanted to discuss by text, especially while he was with his kids. He said he couldn't say it out loud because he was a mess and sad over it. I told him I wanted to give him space to think.
We had a night away planned the following week and to my surprise, he didn't want to cancel. We went and had a great time. This week, though, he sent me a text saying he wanted to be just friends, and that he hoped I understood. I replied that I didn't understand. This is where I need help. I know he has been through a lot, and that the divorce and fighting for joint custody took its toll on him. But I was there with him through it all because he wanted me to be. I was OK with taking a break, but I am not OK with being just friends (I told him that by text). The only time we actually talked was on our way home from our night away. And really, I did all the talking and he just looked tense and uncomfortable and told me he was shutting down. So what do I do? I don't want to lose him, but I don't want to beg him to continue dating me. I really hope he will come around and change his mind, but do I cut all communication? Be friends so we stay in touch and see what happens? At what point do I give up?
– The end?
"So what do I do?"
You move on.
Begging won't change his mind, at least not for the right reasons. You know you're not looking for friendship (good boundary, by the way); there's no reason to pretend you'd be happy with less when all you really want is more.
He told you how he feels – that he enjoys your company, but felt uncomfortable celebrating a divorce and a one-year anniversary at the same time. Now that he's had time to think, he realizes you're in different places. He wants to develop his new life on his own.
For you, I think it's less about giving up and more about accepting his answer. If we're talking stages of grief, you seem to be in bargaining. You want to approach this from all angles to try to get a different result. But he's given you a final answer. What he's offering is not enough.
This breakup is miserable, and there's no way around that. It's also frustrating because you were a great, supportive partner during a difficult time, and then when his divorce was over, he wanted to move on from you, too. How disappointing.
But you can and will move on from this. There are other people out there who have a better sense of what they want. Give yourself time to let go, and when you're ready, you can start looking again.
Readers? How do you move on from this kind of breakup?