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Love Letters

She’s still wondering about him after a breakup

Q. I’m writing about a recent end to a complicated relationship that still has me wondering.

I’m in my late 40s and divorced. For a few months I have been experimenting with an online dating service. After exchanging e-mails with a guy who is in his 40s with two divorces (his last marriage ended because his wife had an affair) and three children, we met for dinner. It was spontaneous combustion in all dimensions: intellectually, emotionally, and physically, and we both knew it right away.

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The first time overnight at his home (weeks into dating), he vocalized his frustration in bed and said, “I haven’t done this in a while.”

As the dating evolved into once-a-week get-togethers, this same “problem” persisted when we were intimate. I did not react, nor did I contribute negatively in any way. One evening, while we were having dinner and watching sports in his living room, he proceeded to strip. He was initiating. My brain immediately knew what was going on: He could do it then. We went to his bedroom and sure enough, he was capable. The rest of our encounters (a few more) resulted in the problems surfacing again and again.

Somewhere nearing the end of the second month, his contact (e-mail, phone calls) was lessening, and it seemed as though he was keeping me at arm’s length.

When we talked about our relationship at a safe time without pressure, I requested that we spend more time together. He suddenly announced that there was no connection for him. And, of course, he wanted to be friends.

One thing I noted in our conversations: He had many women friends, all of whom he dated but it never worked out.

Although we are not in touch and he has not made contact with me, my thinking is that friendship is easier for him because it does not involve sex. He reacted emotionally to my dismissal of a friendship (I said absolutely not).

We are all entitled to our decisions. Sadly, my guess is that he is always occupied (kids, work, hobbies) as a shield from reality.

Do you think this relationship ended because of the sex issues? Men usually do not pursue additional dates after the first or perhaps the second if there is no connection. I thought it was selfish of him to continue to see me for almost over two months if he was slowly figuring out what he wanted.

Albany, N.Y.

A. You’re jumping to the right conclusions, ED. He has issues and doesn’t want to confront them, so he goes from relationship to relationship hoping that it’ll be easier the next time around.

Did he ever mention talking to a doctor about the problem? Was he capable of having honest conversations about what was happening (and not happening)? It doesn’t sound like he was very forthcoming. You can’t be with someone who’s going to run from honest discussions, especially when they’re about sex.

I’m happy to hear that you didn’t accept a friendship. That’s not why you pursued him, and he hasn’t been your friend throughout this process.

And please know that you’re right — he wouldn’t have pursued you if there hadn’t been a connection. Don’t let this experience mess with your self-esteem. Just accept that this was his issue and he just couldn’t deal with it.

It’s time to get back on that dating site and see what actually works.

READERS RESPOND:

My guess is that he ended it because he can’t/won’t deal with his bedroom issues. The “selfish after two months” thing? You are wrong on that. How is it selfish for him to “slowly be figuring things out”? That’s called the early stages of a dating relationship. He does seem to be hoping that sex will get better and he will be able to perform as time goes on, and he is probably bailing from relationships fast because he is looking for the woman who is the cure to his problem. He should be curing his problem, himself, because that’s what it is — his problem.

I feel bad for him. Age is taking its toll, and he can no longer do the things he used to do. I’m sure it’s hurting his self-esteem, and he doesn’t know what to do. You said you didn’t react, but maybe you could have offered understanding or support? Meredith is right and this is his issue. The fact that it didn’t work out is not a reflection on you. Just move on.

I have no idea if his troubles in bed led to the demise of the relationship and it doesn’t matter. Don’t concern yourself with “why” it ended, focus on “it’s over.” You only invested a handful of weeks so learn from it and move on. First lesson: Its often B.S. when people say after a first date “we both knew right away.” You’re only allowed to say that way down the line if it actually works out. . . . Otherwise, you didn’t know, you just thought. . . . Welcome back to the wonderful world of dating!!

I would also be wary of a guy that seemingly purposefully friend zones all of the women he’s dated. I understand that there are relationships that just don’t work out, and there is some mutual respect left over that can sustain a friendship (heck, my best friend is a girl that I dated in college, albeit ever so briefly), but there’s something about the “we can’t date but I’d like to keep you around as a friend” mantra that just throws up some red flags.

You are overanalyzing this, ED. If it is over, why are you dwelling on his performance? Relationships often don’t work and no one really knows why. For all you know, perhaps it was simply your reaction when his issue first occurred. Seems like a one-sided story here. Just curious what you said or did when this happened.

Either he has an actual medical problem or you just don’t turn him on. Either way, that’s how relationships work. . . . They go on until they don’t anymore. It could be a few weeks, a few months or a few years. The point is that he reached the point that it didn’t work .

Column and reader comments are edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.
com
. She chats online on Wednesdays at 1 p.m.
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