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He said "I love you" for the first time during the break up.
Was there anything better that I could have done?
Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly beg people to either stop dating someone or to ask their crush out. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency.
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A SWEETIE PIE:
I (23F) broke up with someone (27M) for the first time yesterday, and I feel like a Ripley’s World Record-sized piece of shit. We had been seeing each other since March, and it was casual. Around mid-April, I conveyed to him that I wanted to be in capital ‘R‘ relationship with him only for him to tell me that I was “so nice” and that he just isn’t ready for that but would still like to keep seeing me. He told me that he was working through issues relevant to that with a therapist as well.
Due to the fact that I am a fool and apparently “so nice,” I still kept seeing him. Things were generally fine, but I felt like I wasn’t getting the things I wanted (emotional connection, sleeping next to each other, etc). Again, I communicated to him that it made me feel extremely icky that he would be fine if I was seeing other people. Again, he said things along the lines of “you’re too good for me” and “I’m just a normal guy, you deserve better.” He said the last date he went on that wasn’t with me was in May (which was just a week or so prior to this conversation), and he said he wasn’t trying to actively meet new people anymore. He still said that he wanted to keep seeing me and was working on through his own feelings.
For the last three-ish weeks, I had barely seen him. He would call me in the evenings, assuming I’m free, and then get a bit passive aggressive when I had made plans or was too tired to go meet him at his apartment. He hadn’t really asked me any questions and his messages were pretty short overall. I didn’t like feeling foolish for wanting an idea of a relationship with someone who would likely never give it to me so I decided I needed to end things.
Yesterday night, I met up with him to go forward with the break up. I laid out my reasoning as I didn’t like feeling bad for what I wanted and that I also didn’t want to push him or make him feel like he had to work through things on my timeline. It kept going in a bit of a circle for nearly two hours, and I finally said that I don’t think we should see each other anymore. Mind you, the last TWO HOURS, he has not given me any indication that he wants a real relationship with me or that he cares about me on that level. It’s after I confirm that I want to end things that he kisses me, and I don’t immediately stop because I was a sad + emotionally vulnerable which is partly my own fault.
We had been sitting on his floor and as he’s kissing me, he’s like leaning over and laying on top of me. I stopped and said I didn’t want to have sex or keep kissing him or anything. He looks me in the eyes and says “I love you.” I! Could! Not! Breathe! I was anxious and this tall man was on top of me and I had just dumped all of my feelings on the floor. After over a full minute of silence, I said that I couldn’t say it back to him. Immediately, he starts to cry. He goes into the other room, and I can just hear him crying. I didn’t know what to do. Minutes later, he comes out and asks me to leave which I immediately did. He had blocked me on social accounts that night, and I’m assuming he blocked my number (thought I haven’t tried reaching out).
I am a person who loves and cherishes Love so much, and I feel like a monster for not being able to return that feeling and making him cry. But it was way out of the blue after essentially breaking up for two straight hours for him to say “I love you” to me like that. Was there anything better that I could have done?
I have some fabulous news for you! 🎉 You did not turn down love! Nor were you unable to return it!
What that man gave you was as close to love as a bug zapper is. I mean, I truly do not know what on earth gave that man even the idea that the words “I love you” should come out of his mouth. I cannot think of a context less appropriate to say “I love you” to someone. Ok, yes, I can, but that’s because I’m a sick fucko and NOT because there are a lot of contexts in which “I love you” would be worse to say.
Not only was his outburst wildly untimely and frankly cruel, it wasn’t true! There is a saying that is about as corny to type out as it is true, and I’m trying to avoid it but saying “I love you” suggests that his love is an action, or even a series of actions and that simply is not and has not ever been the case. He cannot just say that he has been demonstrating love and thus make it true any more than I can say that I’ve been venmo’ing you $7,000 every week for the last year and have that be true. Your words do not decide how you treat people. Short of abusers and narcissists, it’s difficult to imagine someone giving a more false account of their actions than this man. I mean, his admission is just so untethered from…well…anything!
In what way did he love you? In what way did he ever demonstrate that? It’s bullshit! He’s doing a biiiiiig old trick on you!
But it wasn’t actually his first trick. No, for his first trick, he decided to keep dating you while convincing you that you deserved more than him (because you’re “so nice”) while never once considering or suggesting providing said things. Please allow me to spell out that I don’t think he owed you a relationship—capitalized or lowercase—at any point. I don’t think that he is wrong to not want a relationship, not be ready for one or even just not feel like you two were a good fit. That’s all human and fine (if a little painful to be on the other end of). The shit-ass part is that he didn’t have the decency to end his little assignation with you when he realized this and he instead tried to keep dating you while lamenting that you were ??? too nice ??? for him to put more effort into?? He very easily could have said the words, “I am clearly not ready for the kind of relationship that you’re looking for, which sucks because I’ve had a lot of fun with you, but I just don’t know when or if I’ll get to that point and I don’t want to keep you waiting on an answer from me. I really did enjoy our time together and I’m sorry that we aren’t looking for the same things.” That is soooooooo much kinder (maybe even easier) to say than weeks of hard conversations about how he’s willing to but not actively trying to fuck someone else.
Now, I want to be clear that this part in the beginning is not entirely on him. You did consent to staying with someone who was if not very clearly then at least somewhat clearly not going to ever be in the type of relationship with you that you wanted. That is not damning of you! Most if not all of us have “settled” for relationships that do not serve us, that will never become what we want. Again, even if that does make you a “fool” to stay with someone who made you feel “icky,” we are all fools in relationships. That’s like 42% of the fun! Being a fool is not evil!
But I do think you should look into why you didn’t pack up and leave immediately upon hearing that this man had no interest in the relationship level that you were looking for. I do get the idea of hoping that he would change/grow into something you wanted him to be—although I hold out some hope that this experience will teach you that that is a fool’s errand 99.9% of the time. But let us not forget that you felt, in your own words, ICKY about the relationship!!!!! Icky is NEVER a good word to feel about your relationship with someone, especially someone whom you’re dating casually.
In general, I don’t think relationships should be super hard. I think they should be work, but I don’t think that work should be bad. But casual relationships and especially the BEGINNING of a relationship (anything before about 18 months in) SHOULD BE VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY easy. They should be like getting pizza by the slice: effortless and satisfying. When the beginning of a relationship is really hard that is a crimson flag, my friend.
This dude, outside of all the reindeer games he played with you before the breakup—WHO GETS PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE ABOUT THEIR CASUAL HOOKUP BUDDY NOT BEING FREE? ESPECIALLY THEIR CASUAL HOOKUP BUDDY WHOM THEY WON’T DATE EXCLUSIVELY?—decided to just drop a final emotional bomb on you and then block you. I mean, that is truly wild! That’s cruel behavior! He was a jackanape. A dipshit. A brat. There is nothing you can do or could have done to counteract that.
There is virtually no recourse for you here other than to buy a big box of donuts to enjoy, take a nice long walk around the park and see what lessons you can learn from this non-relationship, if any. You are not to blame for someone not treating you well, all you can do is try to learn what made that harm appealing or at least worth ignoring. And then you can try to set yourself up better in the future so that you avoid dating anyone like him. Someone should be so lucky to get to love you and express that through words and actions. I guarantee that if someone actually loves you, you will know well before they say it out loud for the first time because they will have shown you.
You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Were you unsure about me at the top of this letter but you loved my advice so much that you are FREAKING OUT? And now you need to order my book? Immediatley? OK!!! Order it here!!