Q. Dear Meredith,
We’re both in our early 30s. We met online in April 2020 and immediately felt that easy comfort. I live alone and have never been in a relationship; he got divorced about a year pre-pandemic. He’s had unavoidable COVID risks, including a job interacting with the public and shared custody of a child.
In those early pandemic days, he was the person I heard from most, with daily texts and weekly FaceTimes until we met safely in person in June. We had that same chemistry in person, though my COVID caution meant meeting outside. It feels absurd, but we dated for five months without so much as a hug and spent a grand total of 15 minutes indoors together.
By October, the demands of work (me), and work and parenting (him), left us at an impasse. He didn’t see how we could keep things going through winter (we live somewhere colder than Boston) and asked to hit pause. Meanwhile, he wanted to stay in touch. There was the cryptic comment when he said he’d only been looking to test the dating waters and hadn’t been looking for a soul mate.
In therapy, I’ve learned I attach anxiously, and I see avoidant tendencies in his withdrawal. I’ve heard relationships with unmet potential are the hardest to move on from. Do I follow the dating advice that says not to revisit exes who hurt you and to accept breaks as breakups?
— Stuck in an Austen novel
A. You don’t know what it’s like to have this man in your house. You don’t know if he ever wanted to be there.
You also can’t figure out whether the mixed signals and pulling away was about COVID-19 or about something that just wasn’t working. All you seem to know for sure is that you don’t want to stay in touch as if he were a friend.
I think it’s OK to get questions answered, to see how you both view your relationship — the potential for a relationship — with vaccines in the mix. If you’re both desperate to make this happen somehow, if the “maybe later” has been on your minds and it’s been frustrating to wonder what you might be missing, you’ll make something happen as soon as possible. If not — or if that desire is one-sided — you are in the exact right place to recognize the limits and not waste any time. You’ll move on. When the world opens, you’re going to want to aggressively carpe diem, with or without him.
People here may tell you to leave him alone, but I think vaccines will shed light on what’s there . . . and what isn’t. Take a deep breath and know that if you ask what’s up now, and he’s still a big maybe, there’s a world to explore and you’re ready for it.
Stay in therapy and make friends by doing things you enjoy. If this guy reaches out and wants to go on a real date, then you can start to see if it will work. The time you are spending agonizing over this is time you could spend making friends and doing things you love. THENURSE
You were pen pals for five months, that’s it. That’s not dating. JONRUNSGRAFTON
I think their countless texts gave her a false sense of intimacy with someone she barely knew. BKLYNMOM
Catch Season 5 of Meredith Goldstein’s Love Letters podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen.