I was cruel and I lost her -- but I did it on purpose!

I'm not ready to get married, so I sabotaged things with the best woman I've ever met.


Cary Tennis
May 3, 2005 10:36PM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I was so mean to this girl that she finally broke up with me, and that's what I wanted. But now I want her back.

We both work for a newspaper in a small town. She loves it here. She's 32, tucked in with her house and a large network of friends. I basically blew in for the work six months ago.

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I'm 29, and I've never been in a serious, long-term relationship. Never wanted one. I always broke up with woman after a few months. And not because I got scared. I just got sick of them.

Until I met her, my genius plan was to just date different woman for the rest of my life. Marriage, children, mortgages and day care -- the hell with that! That action was for the breeders. Not me. I'm a writer, a musician, an "artist." My career is the only thing that matters. My only true love.

Whoops.

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This girl had me considering all manner of domestic responsibility in less than a month. I told her I loved her the third time we had sex. She said she loved me back. I offered to pay half her mortgage, so she wouldn't have to get a roommate. She asked me to move in.

And that's when I got weird. I decided I had to get out of the relationship, but I couldn't imagine life without her. I didn't know who I was anymore. I'd think about her while I was driving, and start crying.

I started to tell her how much I hated the town. She cried and told me she couldn't be with me if I was just going to leave. I felt miserable, and told her I'd expect her to come with me (which was true). She said she couldn't leave yet, but she knew we would work it out.

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Next I started in with The Career. "My career comes first," I told her. She told me she was done with me. Once again, I couldn't follow through. I told her, "Maybe it's our career that matters. I'd move somewhere for you, if you found a better job" (which was also true). She said she knew we'd work it out. "We'll be together forever," she said.

But I did the job right the third time. We were at a restaurant, and got into a goofy debate about politics. I'm looking at her, thinking, "I can't marry this girl! What am I doing?" I called her ignorant.

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"You want to say that again?" she said. I repeated myself, then walked out of the restaurant and waited for her on the curb.

Bravo! Well done, asshole!

Naturally she pronounced the relationship dead on the scene. "You just kept chipping away at what we had. Someday you'll realize what you've lost," she told me.

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And she was right.

Now that she's gone, I'm certain that I want to be with her for the rest of my life. I haven't eaten in days. I can't sleep. When I do drift off, I wake up in a panic.

Of course, she won't talk to me anymore. She even has a date with some guy this weekend. "I've moved on," she told me.

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What am I supposed to do? Should I try and get her back? Is it too late? What if she does come back, and I start to freak again? Does this mean I have some sort of problem that requires therapy? And why did I freak in the first place? Is something wrong with me?

Dumbass

Dear Dumbass,

You dumbass! Why'd you do that?

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Well, you did it because you don't want to get married. In spite of how much you were attracted to this woman, you wanted your freedom more. So you made a rational choice. It was exercised in a clumsy, dishonest way, and it had a high cost. This is an exceptional woman you've lost, and you've hurt her unnecessarily.

But the cost might have been even higher had you kept your mouth shut, hidden your ambivalence and done what was necessary to keep her. I can see you at the altar thinking, "What the fuck have I done now?" raising kids thinking, "Who are these monsters and how can I get rid of them?" and it would eat away at you for years and you'd be mean to those around you and make everyone's lives miserable until one day you finally walk out and never come back.

And then you really would be an asshole. You'd leave this beautiful wife and these three little kids, and they'd be hating you and loving you and wondering where you went. You'd try to pick up where you left off as a single guy, but there would be this aura of sadness and anger around you, and women would pick up on it and steer clear of you (you'd have what they call "baggage"). You'd have lost the gleam of youth, and you'd have given up the music and the art while you were married so you wouldn't have much of a scene going. Life would be a little tawdry and you'd find yourself lonely on many nights and in the clubs where you used to play there'd be a whole new younger crowd and the music would sound different and the bartenders wouldn't recognize you and whole vibe would be wrong and so you'd just stay home night after night, wondering how your kids are doing.

So you probably did the right thing, because you're not ready yet.

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So how do you become ready? Does the right woman come along and change you? Or do you change on your own? It's probably a little of both. I figure that as we age the argument for getting married grows stronger as the argument for staying single weakens. The novelty of being single wears off as security becomes more attractive. The freedom to stay out all night is less seldom exercised, while the deprivation of being alone is more acutely felt. The thrill of being out with the guys diminishes; being with a new woman gets old. The pleasures of home seem greater (Just when did I start really enjoying gardening?). Eventually you reach a tipping point. Suddenly life would be better if you had a wife. Around the same time, maybe before or after the tipping point, you meet a woman. Suddenly out of nowhere you're ready for marriage. Maybe it seems like she changed you. But you've evolved personally, and you've met the right person.

You're not there yet, cowboy genius.

So face it: Being where you are, you did the right thing, albeit in a clumsy and hurtful way. To her, you're just a guy who could have worked out but didn't. She's moved on. I suggest you do the same. Keep working toward the dream. You'll know when you're ready. Until then, try not to give the wrong impression: If you're not ready for commitment, give fair, ample, loud, frequent warnings -- and don't move into somebody's house.

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