Dating, Decoded
my situationship broke up with me out of nowhere

My Situationship Broke Up With Me Unexpectedly. What Went Wrong?

I know he has feelings for me, but I guess his fears are bigger.

GETTY IMAGES/HANNAH ORENSTEIN

Q: Hello, Hannah, I have just been in a “situationship” with a guy who has never been in a relationship before. Initially, I wondered what that meant for us, but when I asked him, he said we could take things as they come. So I decided to give it a shot. He took me on dates, would text me at midnight asking what I was up to, and would spontaneously take me out for drinks. We would hold hands, and sometimes he would randomly kiss me while watching a movie. I loved that he showed how much he wanted me.

He introduced me to his cousin and his dad, and the cousin told me he had never introduced anyone to family before. His dad loved me, and I was so happy he was trying new things with me.

He didn’t ask me to be his girlfriend, but I didn’t want to force him because he had opened up previously about having commitment issues stemming from when he grew up. I wanted to give him time to do it on his own. But then we had one misunderstanding, and he totally freaked out. He said everything was overwhelming, he couldn’t understand his feelings, and he needed time to himself.

I was shocked and hurt. I wrote him a paragraph explaining how sad I was because I knew he was scared of feeling real feelings. He said I was right about a lot of things but didn’t get into details as he didn’t like confronting emotions. He obviously feels strongly about me, but I guess his fears are bigger. Any advice on what I should do? Of course, I am going no contact, but it would help to have an explanation as to why someone wouldn’t fight for this beautiful thing. — Sandra

A: Hi Sandra! I’m sorry you’re going through this. This sucks. There’s a lot to discuss here. For starters, let’s talk about this guy’s dating history. He hasn’t been in a relationship before, but you have. So what? His past love life doesn’t necessarily dictate how he’s going to act now and in the future. If someone hasn’t worn the “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” label yet, it could mean they have commitment issues… or it could mean they simply haven’t met the right person, or the timing hasn’t worked out, or they’re shy about putting themselves out there.

It’s true that being in a relationship can teach you all sorts of useful skills — big things like respectfully navigating an argument and small things like sending your partner a pitch-perfect stream of memes. But romantic relationships aren’t the only way to gain these kinds of experiences.

All that said, I’m glad you had a frank talk with him about how ready he is for a relationship. You honestly shared your concerns, and he (hopefully also honestly) explained where he stood. It sounds like you both gave your connection a genuine shot: You texted, hung out, went on dates, kissed… and then he bailed. It’s upsetting, especially since you already feared something like this might happen.

The thing is, though, even if he reassured you he was interested, he also told you he wanted to “take things as they come.” It sounds like that’s exactly what happened. Things came and went. He left. It’d be ideal, of course, if he hadn’t given you mixed messages, but people aren’t perfect — even when they mean well.

And that’s not the only mixed message going on here. If you two wanted a casual situationship, amazing. But meeting the family is often associated with more serious or long-term connections, and it can put pressure on an undefined relationship. It’s totally understandable that you’d feel more confident knowing his dad loved meeting you, but I also think that big milestone might have freaked this guy out. Once the relationship got bigger than just the two of you, he got scared.

You can’t have a satisfying relationship with someone who doesn’t want to feel their feelings.

Writing him a note about how he hurt you was a smart move. Not only does the act of putting feelings into words help you untangle and clarify your swirl of emotions, but it also gives him something concrete to look at. In this case, unfortunately, he copped out of giving you a real response because he “didn’t like confronting emotions.” In his own way, he’s saying he isn’t willing to be introspective or vulnerable enough to show up for you. It’s frustrating and sad, but you’re looking for someone who can be real with you. Now, you know that’s not him. At least you have clarity.

For the record, you are far from alone in this. The same thing happened to me the first time I ever met a partner’s family. I flew halfway across the country to meet them, hit it off with his parents, and three weeks later, I got dumped. I was upset, yes, but also confused. Like, dude, why haul me out to a Milwaukee suburb if a breakup is on the tip of your tongue?

Here’s what I wish I knew then: It doesn’t really matter why he did it. Chalk it up to commitment issues, a lack of introspection, a fear of intimacy, stress under pressure, low self-esteem, run-of-the-mill toxic masculinity that discourages men from showing their emotions… I’m sure I’m leaving out a few plausible explanations. (Your group chat has probably analyzed this, too, and pitched some alternate theories.) We can sit around all day and try to understand what happened, but the bottom line is that you can’t have a satisfying relationship with someone who doesn’t want to feel their feelings.

Hopefully, he’s going to learn something from this experience. Maybe he’ll eventually ask you to get back together, but it’s not your job to sit around waiting for him. If going no-contact makes you feel best, do it.

Most importantly, you’ve learned something, too. Here’s proof that you can open yourself up to the possibility of love and the risk of heartbreak. You can talk about your feelings and hopes, and you know how to communicate when someone lets you down. Best of all, you know you have the strength to protect your heart by walking away from disappointment. Treasure that.

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