Love Letters

She’s feeling like the bad guy

Q.Six months ago, I met a wonderful, attentive man through online dating. By the end of our second, (24-hour!) date, there had been intimacy and intensity, which scared me and enchanted me in equal measure.

He was already planning our third date and talking about me meeting his friends and staying over at his place in the coming weeks. He was good looking, generous, behaved like a gentleman, and was incredibly attentive. So much so that I buried my gut feeling that this was too intense, convincing myself that I was just scared at the prospect of a committed relationship with someone who I was afraid of losing.

As the weeks rolled on, so too did the first lot of arguments. I’m very relaxed and open-minded, but I realized we clashed on several topics such as having children. Six weeks in, whilst already an official couple, he reacted badly to me declining his offer of a lift back home from an event with my friends. He found me declining on the basis that I’d already made plans to get there and back “weird,” and this escalated into a big row.


Other matters, such as me receiving a message from someone who’d previously messaged me online, and my responding with general patter and eventually “I’m sorry I have a boyfriend,” was met with hostility. He asked why I didn’t just ignore it, etc.

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Fast forward and we’re spending time with my friends. They pick up that he has strong, fixed opinions on politics, relationships, and other matters, and I find myself becoming increasingly quiet because I predict “blow ups.” They concede that he is lovely, but they noticed how I was withdrawing from being myself.

We spent Valentine’s weekend half enamored, half in hostility. Fast forward a couple of weeks and he makes a comment about women staying in abusive relationships being “pathetic,” amongst other topics, and I try and say “Let’s change the subject,” but this culminates in an ugly row; he says I’m angry, emotionless, never grateful for him taking me places, etc. He threatens to leave my house because he can’t see how to make it work (which later becomes a recurring theme).

Finally we’re due to go away to see my parents. During the trip, we barely speak. I burst into tears at the hotel, I tell him how much I love him but that the pieces don’t fit, and neither of us make the other happy.

He’s sad. I’m sad. He asks me what I want and I tell him earnestly that I wanted more than anything to be with him, but it doesn’t fit. He’s more invested, he wants marriage, I want travel. He’s 27, I’m 23. The painful thing is, apart from both of our crying, he concedes, “This happens to me a lot in my life.” He feels I’ve strung him along. He tells me never to contact him because it hurts so much. He leaves.


I feel empty. I’m also heartbroken myself but more so because I worry that he was right. Should I have asserted myself in the beginning? I don’t feel complete, like I hurt someone unnecessarily who I care deeply about. I’ve never tried to make something work so much in my life.

Empty, UK

A.You both made mistakes during the relationship. You didn’t assert yourself and kept things going when it was clear that you had different goals. He moved too fast, didn’t pay attention to the signs, and got angry instead of getting honest. You both tried to make it work, but it shouldn’t be so difficult during the first six months of a relationship.

You must accept that you’re going to feel like the bad guy for a while. That’s what happens after a break up — people feel bad. But feeling like the bad guy doesn’t mean that you’re actually a bad guy. The fact that you feel terrible means that you’re not so bad at all.

You’ve learned from this. Hopefully he has too. If this happens to him a lot, he has to know that it’s not just you. He played a part in this breakup and needs to accept some accountability. Forgive yourself and move on.




You’re discussing having children weeks into a relationship? That does seem a little rushed. It seems like you were at different places in life.


Your ex sounds really controlling to me. Having to constantly keep your mouth shut or carefully edit what you say to avoid a blow up is no way to live. You don’t see it now, but you are well rid of him.


Should you have asserted yourself? Yes, you shouldn’t majorly change who you are in a relationship, especially out of fear. But you’re young and this is exactly how you learn. I predict that his anger and controlling tendencies would have only gotten worse, so good for you for putting your foot down now. Yes, it hurts and you can be sad that it didn’t fit, but be reassured you definitely did the right thing. And know you will be better prepared for the next one.


These 4 words say it all: I don’t feel complete. Look within and examine your own soul. You are complete — just your thoughts are mixed up.


You can’t force a puzzle to fit together. I mean, you can, but the picture it makes is pretty funky. To put it shortly, this relationship just wasn’t going to work, no matter how hard you tried. Consider the breakup a stroke of good luck, as he clearly did not bring out the best in you, and his true colors made you into a submissive. It’s good that you walked away.


This man just wants you to fill a role and a need. He doesn’t actually want you in particular. In fact, he’s frustrated that you dare be different than his plan. Don’t worry about accountability, fault, etc. Just move on.


You were honest, and you knew it wasn’t going to work out. If he’s a volatile mess afterwards, that isn’t your fault. At six months in, you were already trying to head off his temper tantrums, and already starting to question yourself. This man is not for you. I think you’ve avoided lots of heartache by moving on now. Stay strong!


How does the song from “Frozen” translate into British?


Column and comments are edited and reprinted from Letters can be sent to Meredith. or