Question: Dear Luise: I’d really like some advice, please. I’ll try to make this story as short as I can. 1st of all, I’m 30, my partner (former?) is also in his 30’s. I’m very much hurt, angry and confused right now. Last night I was having dinner with a friend (yes, a male friend) we get together once every few months. In the middle of dinner my boyfriend calls, I tell him where I am, he hangs up on me. I’m lost here, but ok. I’ll call later. About an hour later I get a cell phone text message saying he hopes I’m enjoying my “new man” and to never contact him again. I reply with “WHAT?” And tell him I’m heading over, we need to talk. We live a good 50 miles apart so to do this I’m cutting dinner short and driving like a mad woman to straighten this out. No go, does not want to talk to me. Now, again, I have to say we are not kids here. We are both 30ish and professionals. We have been together for some time and I am in love with him. As far as I knew yesterday morning when I left for work he loved me too. I realize this sounds nuts…it feels nuts! I don’t know what else to do. I’ve never “cheated” on anyone in my life and to have a relationship end like this on a baseless accusation is tearing me up. So, being as emotional as I was last night I did leave several messages. The only other thing I can think is to call, leave a message saying something like “Hi, look, I never cheated on you, I love you, if you do want to talk to me you know where I am. I miss you” and leave it at that. Good idea? Bad? Any hope here? Michele
Answer: Dear Michele: You are in charge of yourself but you have little to say about the actions and reactions of your partner. He has his ideas about how you should be and you have your ideas about his conduct, as well. Often they don’t match…especially in the early stages of a relationship.
It sounds like he is unable to accept your having an adult relationship with a single male. Since you have been together for some time, have you discussed it with him and tried to work through his insecurities? That’s what’s running the show, as you know.
Once you get past the shock of his behavior, you may want to look more closely at his reaction. Do you even want a serious relationship with a grown man who is so immature? He didn’t give you any “I” statements…like “I’m uncomfortable with this and I feel the need to talk with you about it.” He made three instant “you” judgments: you cheated on him, you ended it and it’s all your fault. A “you’re toast and I’m outta here” position.
Couples work on issues. I am 80 and my husband is 95 and we are still addressing and working on those occasional impasses that threaten to impair our interaction and mutuality. Condemnation and distancing simply don’t work and learning to “not go there” is just part of life.
If your partner has never heard of your male friend, or if he has voiced fears about your continued friendship then it is discussion time. Communication is the only effective tool that I know of. It may also be time to ask yourself why you chose to continue to see the other guy, even rarely, with the issue unresolved? Conversely, if your partner never even heard about the friendship, why didn’t he? So, while you’re waiting for him to cool off, it’s time to take a closer look at your part in this.
Right now all you can do is leave the message you suggested and wait. Since he took the stance he did, the ball is in his court. Be prepared…it may be over. That may be the way he handles overt fear. It’s called the “cut and run method” of conflict resolution…or the “attack and hide” mode. Its goal is to be right by leaving no room for a response. But/and there is also the possibility that he may cool off, remember his deeper feelings for you and be willing to negotiate. Don’t give up, yet.
Certainly he knows by your reaction to his reaction that you weren’t planning to break up with him and didn’t go out to dinner with your male friend to set that in motion. Relationships promote growth if we are up for it…but if we’re not, they can promote some pretty rocky experiences for all concerned. Blessings, Luise