Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I’m struggling with a bit of a dilemma.
I’m a divorced 47 year old man and in the last two years since the divorce, I have another 10 month relationship and have been out on a number of other dates. I feel like I’m over my ex-wife and am ready for another relationship.
Recently I started seeing a woman about my age who just got out of a 3-year relationship with someone who cheated on her. She is still hurting from that relationship but she says that she wants to move on. We’ve had five dates very good in the last couple of months and had good sex twice. I feel a strong connection with her, we have a lot in common, can talk to each other easily. Frankly I feel like I’m falling in love for the first time in years.
Here’s the problem. It seems like we are on two different “schedules.” She says she wants to take it slow and I am ready to move quickly. She says she “really, really likes me” (and I believe her) but she also says that her friends tell her that she should she should be out there playing the field. She seems to agree with them because she told me she is attracted to another guy and wants to go out with him. She also said she doesn’t want to sleep with either of us until she figures things out.
Obviously I can only control my own actions, so my question boils down to this: How long do I wait before I pull the plug? I want to be reasonable and give her a bit of time to heal from her past relationship but I also don’t want to be waiting around for a long time only to find that I was just the rebound guy.
Thanks for your help!
Miserable in Minneapolis
The issue isn’t that you’re on different schedules MIM (although you are – everyone recovers from break-ups and divorces at their own pace) but that you’re at different places in your respective timelines. You’ve been single for a while now – more than a year – with another relationship under your belt. You’ve grieved the loss of the relationship, you’ve gotten yourself back into emotional shape and you’re ready to jump back into the game. That’s awesome! Your prospective girlfriend, on the other hand, is not as far removed from her relationship and the hurt it’s caused her. She wants to move on, but wanting to and doing so are two different things and unfortunately, the only thing that really helps a person heal is time.
And this is before we get into the other factors that are influencing her decisions right now.
To start with, she’s probably dealing with complicated feelings about relationships and monogamy. Having just gotten out of a long-term relationship, especially one that ended so badly, she may be a bit gun-shy over the topic. She may like you but she’s not ready to give you the level of commitment you’re looking for because the last time she did, she got hurt pretty damn badly. She may be second-guessing her own feelings and worrying that the way she feels for you (or for the other guy she likes) may be less about you being you and more about being not-her-ex – a valid fear. She may also be exploring the possibility of just not committing to anyone right now.
Then there’s the fears of being on the rebound – something that her friends are no doubt contributing to. I have problems with the idea of “rebound relationships” because those are almost always just what we call the relationships we get into after we break up with somebody else. We tend to assume that the cause of the problems in the “rebound” relationship is it’s proximity to a previous relationship, but correlation isn’t causation. All of those “rebound” relationships fail for the same reasons that every relationship fails; it has less to do with how soon it is after a break-up and everything to do with the standard array of relationship issues including getting into a relationship when you’re still in pain. Even if you gave her a couple years to recover, that’s no guarantee that you’re not going to break up with her anyway. Those are the risks you take when dating.
Now what should you do about it? Well, it depends ultimately on you. Everyone heals at their own pace and there’s no way to know how much time she’s going to need. Are you looking for something exclusive right now, or are you willing to be in a more casual relationship with her? Is she someone you specifically want to date so much so that you’re willing to accept that it may be months or even years before she’s ready as the price of entry? Are you willing to wait with the knowledge that she may well decide she wants to date both of you? Or that she may decide she wants to be with someone else entirely?
You’re the only person who can answer these questions. Any number I give you is going to be completely arbitrary; it all depends on how you feel about her and the potential relationship.l
I would say that I don’t think committing yourself to her exclusively while she’s recovering is a good idea. You should be willing to date around too. Not only will it get you to meet more people – ones who may well be in the same place you are and looking for the right 47-year old divorcee to settle down with – but it will help curb the potential resentment of “I waited for you X long and you still chose someone else?”
But like I said: you’re the only person who can decide these things.
Dear Doctor NerdLove,
Firstly, congratulations on your blog. I have been following you for a few months, and I really like your advice.
As for my question, I realize that you know exactly nothing about me, but to put it bluntly, I feel I need to turn to an “impartial third-party know-it-all”. I am wondering how to cope with the feeling that I am basically the Forever Alone guy in my social circle. Several months ago, I got out of a very toxic relationship of many years, and I was quite happy that this relationship came to an end. I am genuinely ready to start a new relationship, but I feel like I am at a dead end. I don’t know of any single women in my social circle, none of my friends or relatives (who are all in long term relationships) are willing to introduce me to anyone, and nothing I tried has led to anything. What’s worse, this is the exact same situation as before the toxic relationship.
What irks me is that everyone around me keeps saying I have a lot of good qualities, that I’m quite conventionally good looking and that I should have no problem getting dates, yet as I mentioned, they won’t introduce me to anyone, and they don’t give me any specific reason why. I tried online dating, and I sent messages to women I liked and/or who repeatedly checked my profile, but I never even got one reply, let alone a first date. (As far as I can tell, my messages were courteous and expressed genuine interest. I doubt they came off as creepy, but obviously, that’s not for me to judge.) I go out to bars and clubs when my schedule allows, and I have no problem approaching women I would like to get to know, but they never show any interest in talking to me. And so on, and so forth…
It’s obvious that the problem is me. I wish I could pinpoint what’s wrong with me, but I’m at a stage where the only answer I can think of is “everything”. I would like my friends to be honest enough to tell me what’s wrong with me, but then again, they seem to genuinely think I’m a good, and even desirable, person. I don’t want to end up as an MGTOW, I have read enough about PUA to be thoroughly disgusted by it, and I don’t blame women for my situation. I know this is all my fault, but I don’t know why. As I mentioned above, this is the same pattern I was in before my bad relationship, and I would like nothing so much as to break the old patterns, but they keep repeating themselves despite my best intentions.
I really enjoy taking women out on dates, making sure that they enjoy themselves and that they feel special, but I fear that for the foreseeable future, this will not be possible anymore. Is it time for me to give up and accept that I’m Forever Alone? If so, how do I cope with this? If not, what would you suggest I do to get rid of this feeling?
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope to read from you soon,
– Heading Nowhere
You’re in a tricky situation, HN, and I feel for you. You’re right: you’re the only common denominator in all of your relationships and sometimes that means you have to accept that you’re the problem. But it’s a damned pain in the ass when you understand that things need to improve but you have no idea where.
The first thing that sets off my Spidey-sense is the fact that your friends and family won’t introduce you to people. Are they refusing to, or just don’t have anyone It’s one thing to be unable to – their immediate friends may not be compatible with you or they may not know anyone who’s single and looking – but another entirely to flat-out refuse. If they won’t say why, I’m inclined to believe it’s the latter… usually when our friends don’t want to give a specific reason, it’s because they’re trying to avoid causing offense or hurting our feelings.
Now the big thing to keep in mind is that people’s dating problems usually come down to one of two categories. The first is a matter of skill – their hearts are in the right place but they’re not good at talking to women or presenting themselves in an attractive way. The other is a matter of attitude and personality – they may have entitlement issues or be excessively negative, or too needy or any number of issues. If your friends and family are refusing to introduce you to other people, I’d suspect that the answer is more internal than skill based. But without actually watching you in action, I can’t really say. I will say that a scarcity mentality and a fear of being Forever Alone will translate into your day to day actions and behaviors and can be off-putting to people. Trust me: people are not nearly as good at hiding issues like that as they like to think they are.
What I’m going to recommend is that you start off doing some yoga and mindfulness meditation. These will help you with your anxiety; mindfulness meditation is like being handed Root access for your brain, so you can be more aware of the underlying processes and emotions that are affecting you. Meanwhile the yoga will help relax you and ease your depression, allowing you to think clearer and be calmer.
Next, what I would do is sit down with a couple of trusted friends or family members and ask them to be honest with you about just why they’re not willing to introduce you to someone else. Reassure them that you want them to be honest: you recognize you need to change things, but you’re not sure what. And then… well, brace yourself. If it’s something you’re doing, then they may demure, but they may also tell you exactly what they think, and that probably won’t be pretty. You’re going to have to force yourself to not get defensive or – worse – start castigating yourself for not recognizing that you do X. The whole point of this is to figure out what you’re doing wrong, and you can’t improve if you let yourself fall into a spiral of self-blame. As uncomfortable – even painful – as it might be, it also means you now have something to work towards. Think of it like lancing a boil or cleaning an infection – it’s going to hurt, but it’s the kind of hurt that helps you heal as long as you can white-knuckle your way through it.
I’d also recommend working your way through the archives of the blog, especially focusing on articles relating to skills and online dating. It might not be a bad idea to have a friend look over your dating profile and the messages you’ve been sending out; sometimes an outside opinion can be helpful. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point out that my ebook might help you as well.
And while you’re at it: keep a journal. Write down everything about your interactions with people, as objectively and dispassionately as possible, with as much detail as you can manage. Sometimes we’re too close to see the patterns in our lives; writing it down and going over several entries at once can help provide some perspective and identify recurring issues you may not otherwise notice.
You’re not hopeless, HN, you’re just in a tricky situation. But you’re going to get out of it.