Q. I’m going through an extremely confusing situation and would love some clarity. Been dating a man for two-plus months and all has been going great. We have a wonderful time together, I’ve met his family and friends (including his children), we took a little getaway together, and we talk about the future.
Then from one day to the next he starts becoming distant, and when I confront him he says he’s going through a lot right now and wants to take space. Mind you, this is the week of my birthday. Needless to say, my birthday was ruined. I was miserable and thoroughly embarrassed that this wonderful man I had bragged about to all my friends was a no-show. I received a “happy birthday” text from him on my special day and that was it.
The morning after my birthday, however, I am bombarded by texts and an e-mail asking if I want to meet for coffee, and that he doesn’t know what happened because I’m so “beautiful and amazing” (???????). The whole thing feels intentional and borderline cruel. Did he sabotage my special time on purpose?
A. Is it possible he was nervous about meeting your friends?
That’s my most generous take — that he understood he’d been bragged about and wasn’t sure if he could show up as your perfect, committed significant other. Yes, you’d already met his loved ones (rather quickly, I might add), but perhaps that seemed easier to him than having to please the people in your community.
Of course, if that theory is true, it means he did a very bad job of communicating his concerns, even after the fact. The “beautiful and amazing” line isn’t an apology; it doesn’t suggest he’s self-aware about his motives or how he made you feel.
My guess is that he might not be ready for a serious relationship, even though he jumped in with great enthusiasm.
But really, I don’t know.
Agree to coffee and find out what he wants, because he’s the only one who can explain. Please know that the birthday is the least important part of this. You sound like someone who loves birthdays (which is great), but had he disappeared on a random Tuesday, telling you he wanted space, it would have been just as terrible and confusing.
Leave the birthday out of this when you see him. Ask why he needed space, what was on his mind the week he pulled away, and why he decided to reach out again. Then decide whether it’s worth a second chance — if he’s offering.
In high school I played guitar in a band where the lead singer used to break up with his girlfriend before Christmas so he wouldn’t have to buy her a present. Then he would get back with her so he would have a date on New Year’s Eve. Letter writer, this guy acts like he is still in high school. Is that what you want?
He told you he needed space, so I wouldn’t consider that a no-show. And besides, unless you just turned 10, stop referring to your birthday as “my special day.” He didn’t ruin it. Your expectations that he’d show when he said he wouldn’t is what ruined it.
You didn’t mention ages. You guys have done a LOT in two to three months — met the family, met his kids (wow). I think after the initial “love bombing” reality caught up with the guy, he started pumping the brakes. It’s not that he doesn’t care or is deliberately being cruel — but meeting your friends, knowing he was going to be inspected, probably felt too real to him. I bet if you had planned a quiet 1:1 dinner for your birthday instead he would have shown.
If you need him to meet your friends, introduce them one at a time, and not in a large crowd. Some people cannot handle that.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this form. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.