I really thought we were in a relationship

Today's letter is also a bit of an update.

Send your own questions about dating, not dating, partnership, and hopes for 2021 to [email protected] or fill out this form. Get your 2020 problems out of your system.

I'm also still taking updates from former letter writers. What happened after you wrote in? Was the advice any good? Send your update to [email protected] with "update" in the subject line, please.

Hi Meredith,

I am sort of following up from a previous letter where I was horribly infatuated with a friend in grad school. Thankfully that debilitating crush has waned into pure platonic affection. In fact, I met someone on a dating app and it transformed from weekly phone calls to social-distance-summer-dating to regularly seeing each other (indoors, no mask) as we became part of each other's spheres. Things were going so so well and we were really into each other, or so I thought. I decided it wouldn't be shocking to bring up that I had real feelings for him, saw him as a priority, and wanted to affirm we were on the same page.

He was completely taken aback. The guy who had been so charming and dependable informed me he was surprised to hear this and couldn't imagine "anything romantic happening between us." He never made it clear that he thought we were on some kind of friends-with-benefits plan. Frazzled, he told me he had a lot on his plate and couldn't reciprocate what I was putting on the table. Given the past near seven months of how we spent time together, I am completely perplexed. I wasn't asking him to marry me; I could understand wanting to formalize dating but asking to keep it casual. But the dissonance blows my mind, as I only brought it up with confidence he felt the same. What could I have missed? How could I have miscalculated that badly? Is this a fluke of COVID, or should there have been signs or things to pay attention to that would have signaled he wasn't that interested?

- Great Miscalculations


"How could I have miscalculated that badly?"

You could ask him that question. I'm not sure he can give you a satisfactory answer, but maybe it would help to understand why he was so surprised by your feelings. It sounds like you were both shocked – him by your commitment, you by his boundaries. You could try another conversation about what happened here and let him know it's for processing purposes. I hope that after six months he can be kind about helping you make sense of things.

Of course, the outcome will remain the same. If you have a conversation for more information, it's not meant to change his mind. You've learned his limits and that he might not be the communicator you need. I have no details about how much time you spent together or how the two of you shared physical and emotional intimacy, but if I bubbled with someone during COVID and saw them for half a year, I might assume there was something to it. I can't say whether he gave you signs that you missed, but I'm so glad you asked about the status of the relationship. Remember that you can ask questions, even before you think you know the answers.

Please remember that a new year is coming. You got over one crush and you can get over this. The weather will get better (I don't know where you live, but I'm pretending Boston). Dating will happen. You had some good company, but he wasn't offering enough – and now you can think about more.

– Meredith

Readers? What signs might the letter writer have missed? Should there have been more checking in along the way? When and how do you define a relationship?