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Dear John: He Wants His Space… After Three Years

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected].

Dear John,
I'm a single mom and I've been dating this guy for three years. We've known each other for six years and were friends way before the relationship progressed to dating. We share a very strong bond and love each other very much. His family adores me and my child, and we've been included in every family holiday/get together over the last three years. Our relationship has been - for the most part - give and take. We talk at least once a day and try to see each other as often as our busy schedules allow. He's always been there for me, and I for him. We are best friends.
Now, here's the current issue -- the day after my birthday (after he took me shopping, made me dinner and baked me a cake), he "needed his space" and disappeared. After 11 days of barely speaking and not seeing each other, he came to my house and informed me that I love him so much and do all these wonderful things for him, and he feels like he can't return the kindness equally because he has a lot going on in his life (new job, trying to buy a house, etc.).

He said he didn't think it was fair to me to only see me once a week, and he added that we should "press pause" on things while he figures things out. Then he said the time apart would make him appreciate me more. Is this guy covering up for something else, or should I take his words at face value? He's always told me that he wasn't going anywhere and that he'd always come home to me. I know he's not ready for marriage (but neither am I, and I never bring it up). His actions tell me that he still loves me and cares about me, but I don't know how to deal with someone that I could always talk to and always treated me so well just up and "pausing" things. Should I move on or try to work things out? My heart is telling me to try to work things out, but if he's done, then I feel even more betrayed and lied to – and my daughter got caught in the middle. Thoughts?

Dear Confused,
I don’t know what’s going on in your guy’s life, but whatever it is, his way of handling it is unacceptable. He obviously has some reservations about your relationship, and he’s not telling you what they are. “I’m going to disappear for a while because you deserve someone better” is a coward’s way of saying, “I may have a better option, but I’d like to keep you in reserve just in case things don’t work out the way I hope.” Whatever is going on, he owes you an honest explanation, however painful it might be. Simply disappearing on you is cruel, manipulative, and utterly self-centered. If you resume your old relationship (when and if he’s ready, of course), prepare yourself for a life regularly disrupted by this man’s selfishness.
You are absolutely right to consider the effect of this man’s unpredictability on your daughter. It’s not a complete loss, however. You still have a chance to show her what self-respecting women do when they’re treated poorly by men. The ironic thing is he’s absolutely right: you do deserve someone better.
Dear John,
I am in my late 30s and I’ve been dating a sweet guy for a few months. It’s going great except for one thing: he’s one of those guys that dresses in a way that makes you wonder if he owns a mirror. I’m talking about a nice, thoughtful, successful middle-aged guy in high-top sneakers, cut-off jeans, clothes that are too baggy and ill-fitting, and the one I simply can’t overlook, sports team jerseys. He dresses like a 40-year-old kid. I know you’re not supposed to go into a relationship trying to “fix” your partner, so what should I do?

Dear Clothes-Minded,
You’re right: you’re not supposed to try to fix your partner. Generally, you should accept him as he is or find someone else. Fortunately, though, the one exception to this rule is when your man really needs your guidance in how to dress. Why is this the exception? I have no idea, but it is.
Most men don’t know anything about what to wear. They don’t know what fits properly, they don’t know what looks good on them, and clothes are to be thrown out only when the years have rendered them indistinguishable from the contents of the rag drawer in the basement. And I’m not suggesting I’m any different: years of coaching by my elegant and stylish wife have finally inculcated in me the ability to at least get dressed without doing harm to myself or others.
Your guy sounds like he’s pretty easygoing. Tell him that it’s not that he’s dressing poorly; it’s just that he has to match the choice to the occasion. For example, a team jersey is fine for the three hours he’s watching the team play. (Men like to do this. Accept it.) But even though it will be his idea of hell, you want to take him shopping for clothes that will allow him to cut the dashing figure he’s obscuring under ratty concert t-shirts from college.
Dear John,
My son is starting college next month. My wife and I have always told all our kids they could do whatever they want with their lives, and we meant it. My son wants to pursue an acting career and is going to major in theatre. He is a talented, level-headed kid, and he has a realistic attitude towards making it as an actor. We support him wholeheartedly. The problem is, I am surprised at how many people, friends and acquaintances alike, greet this news with either: 1) concern for his future, or 2) a lame joke about community theater. I have a pretty long fuse, but I am beginning to get irritated. Advice?
Stage Dad

Your kids are very lucky to have such supportive parents. You, on the other hand, are not so lucky to have such oblivious friends.
I would try my best to ignore people’s comments, but when you simply can’t, remind them that today’s troubled world needs entertainers more than it needs paper-pushing desk jockeys, and should he fail to break into the theatrical world, the insatiable corporate maw will still be there waiting for him.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected].

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