Does this relationship have post-pandemic potential?

Having thoughts about your relationship? Wondering what dating will be like after you're vaccinated? Send your own question to [email protected] or fill out the form.

We are taking this week off from chat because I have a meeting. :/ Sorry. I hope you get some sun.

Dear Meredith,

Now that post-vaccine life is within reach, what do we do with the relationships that we lost along the way? We’re both in our early 30s. Aside from core values, that's where our on-paper similarities end. While I live alone and have never been in a relationship, he got divorced about a year pre-pandemic. He's had several unavoidable COVID risks, including an in-person job interacting with the public and shared custody of a child (who's in daycare) with his ex (both she and her live-in boyfriend are also at work).

We met online in early April and immediately felt that easy comfort, like we'd known each other for ages. In those early pandemic days, he was the person I heard from most, with daily texts and weekly FaceTimes until we met in person in June. We made each other laugh and offered lightness and steady support. We had that same chemistry in person, though my higher level of COVID caution meant meeting outside/distanced and scheduling around thunderstorms/tornadoes. I so appreciate his respect for my boundaries and, eager as I was to DTR, tried to be similarly patient when he needed to take it slow post-divorce. It feels absurd but important to mention that we dated for five months without so much as a hug and spent a grand total of 15 minutes indoors together.

By October, the demands of work (me), work and parenting (him), and pandemic stress left us at an impasse. He didn’t see how we could keep things going through winter (we live somewhere colder than Boston) and asked to hit pause. He'd been withdrawing for weeks, so it wasn’t a surprise, but it was confusing. He said I'd set such a low bar, and he still couldn't meet it and needed it lowered. Meanwhile, he cared about me and wanted to stay in touch to know how I was doing. Then there was the cryptic comment where he said he'd only been looking to test the dating waters and hadn't been looking for a soulmate. Oh and also: he'd just told his ex he was dating someone who might meet their kid soon. Months later, I've worked through the mixed messages to finally accept that we gave an impossible situation our best shot. When he checked in after a few weeks, I said I wasn't in a place to be friends.

Living alone and celebrating my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and NYE solo in a 6-week stretch was rough. When we resumed texting, I felt like I was settling for breadcrumbs as he left conversations hanging. In January, I cut our social media ties and left his last text on read. Now that vaccines and spring are on the horizon, my confusion is resurfacing. I can't help but wonder if blaming the pandemic allowed us to sidestep bigger issues. In therapy, I've learned that I attach anxiously, and I see avoidant tendencies in his withdrawal in the second half of our time together. Was that the pandemic too, or are we not as well matched as we thought? At some point, we’d also have to work through different visions for the future. He grew up in the state I transplanted to, has a solid group of lifelong friends, and talks about his next house as the one he'll die in. I feel like I'm getting way ahead of myself, thinking about commitment with a guy I've never kissed. I’ve heard that relationships with unmet potential are the hardest to move on from? Are loneliness and isolation driving me back to a potentially unhealthy dynamic? Do I follow the dating advice that says not to revisit exes who hurt you and to accept breaks as breakups?

- Stuck in an Austen novel


The pandemic did cause a lot of people to spend time connecting (online, on walks, etc.) without going all in. You don't know what it's like to have this man in your house for 24 hours. You don't know if he ever wanted to be there for that kind of stretch of time.

You also can’t figure out whether the mixed signals and pulling away was about COVID-19 limitations or about something that just wasn't working. All you seem to know for sure is that you don't want to be his platonic friend.

I think it's OK to get questions answered, to see how you both view your relationship – the potential for a relationship – with vaccines on the horizon. If you're both desperate to make this happen somehow, if the "maybe later" has been on your minds and it's been frustrating to wonder what you might be missing, you'll make something happen as soon as possible. If not – or if that desire is one-sided – you are in the exact right place to recognize the limits and not waste any time. You'll move on. You're in therapy, you know your boundaries, and really, when the world opens, you’re going to want to aggressively carpe diem. If he can't join you, you'll know that the potential was always going to be unmet, and you can take your next steps without all of the wondering.

People here may tell you to leave him alone, but I think vaccines will shed light on what's there ... and what isn’t. Take a deep breath and know that if you ask what's up now, and he's still a big maybe, there's a world to explore and you're ready for it.

– Meredith

Readers? Seek this out? No?