THE “TOO LITTLE TIME” BREAKUP
DEAR MIDLIFE BACHELOR: I'm a 38 year old woman who recently broke up with a 41 year old man that I was dating for the last nine months. In most ways, our relationship was wonderful - he was sweet to me and my child, funny, … we had fun together, sex was great, and we loved each other. But we did have one problem which I thought could be solved easily. I wanted him to spend more time with me - like most couples do. We saw each other consistently two times a week for nine months - however, we never spent an entire weekend together, nor an entire day together … he would always leave shortly after waking up and eating in the morning. And he frequently hangs out with friends. For example, he hung out with the guys Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon - and only saw me Saturday night. This was most weekends. I never minded him hanging with his friends, I just never thought it would be all the time. He said I was always welcome, but he knew I couldn't go because of my child. We discussed it several times - and he told me he loved me and wanted things to work out and asked me to be patient with him … that he was trying to work on some issues. He was unhappy with his job, and at times seemed depressed. He never told me what his issues were, and after a while it just sounded like an excuse so I told him that if he couldn't give me more time I would have to move on. He said we should move on for the time being, and that we should keep in contact. I think he would have been content seeing me just twice a week forever. I really didn't want to breakup. Did I handle it wrong, or was I right in thinking something just wasn't right. I do not suspect that he was cheating. I'm trying to understand him - did he just not care about me? Is he depressed? Would I be wasting my time trying to talk to him again? It has been one week since we broke up. I don't really understand it. Any thoughts? ND, age 38, VA
MLB ANSWER: Based on what you’ve told me, I cannot say with any degree of certainty why he did not want to see you more than twice a week. Some people are just that way – meaning it is normal for them to only see the person they are dating some specific amount of time (like twice a week) … just like it is normal for you to want to see him much more. In other words, “his normal” was different than “your normal”. If he was like that for the entire nine months you were dating him, then it doesn’t seem likely that he would change – especially when you spoke to him about it, and he agreed that moving on was best. I can tell you really like or love the guy – and are thinking about calling him. The key question you have to ask yourself is – if you go back with him, and the same issue exists, will you be happy? If you can live with his low time commitment, then definitely pursue him. If not – then by calling him all you would be doing is starting a cycle of getting back together, only to later break up again … which usually isn’t healthy for either party. Now here is one other thing to think about – how did you approach him to discuss the time commitment problem? If you approach it in the form of giving feedback, and not present it as criticism – you might have a better chance at modifying his behavior. You might check out the Short Midlife Article here called Difference between Criticism and Feedback in a Relationship for some ideas. Good luck – let us know what happens!
MLB ANSWER: Hi Liz – thanks for writing in. From what I can tell, the two-hour distance thing is definitely a factor as to why you don’t see him more often – because that is two hours each way, right? Plus since he is out of a job, and trying to start his own company – I can guess that his budget might be a bit squeezed. And the fact that he has kids, and needs to spend time with them … that plus plowing time into starting his business … my guess is that he has a lot to do, and little spare time. Now you said that he communicates with you daily – so that is a good sign … because if he didn’t really like you, he wouldn’t take the time to call you.
It does seem disappointing that he has not seen you since New Year’s when you had sex with him. How was the sex? You didn’t say in your message, but I assume it was at least okay. [If it has been a mindshattering/lifechanging rush then I assume you would have stated that ;o)] You said that you have not made any plans to see one another since then – and you are wondering if it is appropriate to invite him to your turf to go to an event with you? I assume this “event” requires you to have a date … and since you haven’t seen him in a while, you could still invite him but make sure you tell him how important this event is. I would also suggest you line up a male friend as a “backup date” for your event – just in case he cannot come.
What would happen if you drove the two hours to see him? That would make it a lot easier for him with respect to his time management issues, right? If you really like the guy, and want to get a better feel for whether this could be a good relationship, then try to do a couple of things to remove the barriers or challenges that he is facing. For example, see if he will entertain you driving out to see him. If he is strapped financially, you could take him to dinner, right? As for his kids, try to do this on a weekend when he doesn’t have his kids … else you might have to do it on a weeknight. By removing the barriers, and seeing how he responds – I think that will tell you what you need to know … whether he is truly into you, or scared of a relationship, or challenged by circumstance, etc. By the way, you do sound like a very nice and well-grounded divorcee. I usually like to suggest that people read certain parts of the Midlife Dating Advice section here – but the only one that might apply to you is the section entitled Develop a Strategy for Midlife Bachelor Success. I know you are a midlife bachelorette – but what I state there can definitely apply to both sexes, as everyone needs a strategy! You also might consider tossing some questions or comments out on our new Midlife Discussion Forum sometime to see what others think. Good luck – let us know what happens!