Dear Neil: My boyfriend and I haven’t been together for very long. We fell in love very fast, and have suffered a miscarriage. Since then he has become more obsessed with his autonomy and having space, and he has been emotionally distant. He is yet to be divorced (he’s taking his time), and I found out recently that he has been in email contact with his wife, which he lied to me about. I’m getting increasingly depressed and obsessed, and I’m snooping through his stuff. I think I’m still hurt about the miscarriage, and how he changed his mind so fast about living together and wanting a baby with me. Can you help me?
Feeling Rejected in Canada
Dear Canada: At least three things are happening. First, he is withdrawing from you. He is not ready to commit to you or to have a baby with you. Second, he may not be emotionally finished with his marriage. Third, he can’t bring himself to say these things to you, so he’s acting them out instead—and this is generating great feelings of mistrust and insecurity for you. And you snooping through his stuff will further erode trust if and when he discovers what you’ve been doing.
The bottom line is that he is just not ready for the relationship you are offering him. You apparently chose him too soon after his separation, and he is not yet ready to jump right back into a full-time committed relationship, let alone have a baby with you.
You could tell him of your hurt and confusion about his change of heart, and about his insensitivity regarding the miscarriage and how you feel about it, but I doubt that this will change his commitment to you.
Dear Neil: I have been in an online relationship for over two years. We live on opposite sides of the planet (Australia and the UK). Throughout the two years of getting to know each other via conversations on the phone and instant messaging, we planned to meet up, but life threw various obstacles at us, namely significant illness, a death, loss of work and therefore loss of income. At the two-year mark, his personality changed in what seemed an instant, and he started to withdraw communication. He had been very articulate and responsive up to this point. I thought he had lost interest in me, but after a two month lull in our communication, he reconnected with me and said he still wants me in his life. But in the past 2 to 3 months, we’ve fallen into the same non-communication mode yet again. I believe he is depressed. Is there a way to approach this issue with him without being confrontational?
Not Knowing Where I Stand in Australia
Dear Australia: This is one of the pitfalls of having an online relationship long distance. You have no idea what the truth is, and you have no real way of knowing how this gentleman actually feels about you. What we know is that he has withdrawn from you, and we don’t really know why. So unless you want this virtual relationship dragging on indefinitely (which isn’t very fulfilling, as you no doubt have noticed), you have no other healthy choice but to assume that, for whatever reason, he is no longer available to you.
It would be a major mistake for you to get your heart invested in what used to be called a pen-pal, because you can’t have an actual relationship with him—where you can do things together and touch each other and be together. And the way someone presents himself in writing can be radically different from the way he actually is. That’s why I don’t recommend that people carry on an extended relationship online or by phone before they actually meet and can be in each other’s presence.
Very likely, your internet relationship will never become an up close and personal relationship. You’re too far away from each other, it’s too hard to get together, he has withdrawn himself, it’s very difficult to sustain connection over time without seeing each other and you never get to consummate the relationship. Why don’t you find someone near you in Australia? It seems as if it would be a great deal more fulfilling. Then you can stay pen-pals with this man in the UK, but without harboring illusions that your online relationship has romantic possibilities.