Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I’m struggling with a bit of a dilemma.
I’m a divorced 47 year old man and in the last two years since the divorce, I have another 10 month relationship and have been out on a number of other dates. I feel like I’m over my ex-wife and am ready for another relationship.
Recently I started seeing a woman about my age who just got out of a 3-year relationship with someone who cheated on her. She is still hurting from that relationship but she says that she wants to move on. We’ve had five dates very good in the last couple of months and had good sex twice. I feel a strong connection with her, we have a lot in common, can talk to each other easily. Frankly I feel like I’m falling in love for the first time in years.
Here’s the problem. It seems like we are on two different “schedules.” She says she wants to take it slow and I am ready to move quickly. She says she “really, really likes me” (and I believe her) but she also says that her friends tell her that she should she should be out there playing the field. She seems to agree with them because she told me she is attracted to another guy and wants to go out with him. She also said she doesn’t want to sleep with either of us until she figures things out.
Obviously I can only control my own actions, so my question boils down to this: How long do I wait before I pull the plug? I want to be reasonable and give her a bit of time to heal from her past relationship but I also don’t want to be waiting around for a long time only to find that I was just the rebound guy.
Thanks for your help!
Miserable in Minneapolis
The issue isn’t that you’re on different schedules MIM (although you are – everyone recovers from break-ups and divorces at their own pace) but that you’re at different places in your respective timelines. You’ve been single for a while now – more than a year – with another relationship under your belt. You’ve grieved the loss of the relationship, you’ve gotten yourself back into emotional shape and you’re ready to jump back into the game. That’s awesome! Your prospective girlfriend, on the other hand, is not as far removed from her relationship and the hurt it’s caused her. She wants to move on, but wanting to and doing so are two different things and unfortunately, the only thing that really helps a person heal is time.
And this is before we get into the other factors that are influencing her decisions right now.
To start with, she’s probably dealing with complicated feelings about relationships and monogamy. Having just gotten out of a long-term relationship, especially one that ended so badly, she may be a bit gun-shy over the topic. She may like you but she’s not ready to give you the level of commitment you’re looking for because the last time she did, she got hurt pretty damn badly. She may be second-guessing her own feelings and worrying that the way she feels for you (or for the other guy she likes) may be less about you being you and more about being not-her-ex – a valid fear. She may also be exploring the possibility of just not committing to anyone right now.
Then there’s the fears of being on the rebound – something that her friends are no doubt contributing to. I have problems with the idea of “rebound relationships” because those are almost always just what we call the relationships we get into after we break up with somebody else. We tend to assume that the cause of the problems in the “rebound” relationship is it’s proximity to a previous relationship, but correlation isn’t causation. All of those “rebound” relationships fail for the same reasons that every relationship fails; it has less to do with how soon it is after a break-up and everything to do with the standard array of relationship issues including getting into a relationship when you’re still in pain. Even if you gave her a couple years to recover, that’s no guarantee that you’re not going to break up with her anyway. Those are the risks you take when dating.
Now what should you do about it? Well, it depends ultimately on you. Everyone heals at their own pace and there’s no way to know how much time she’s going to need. Are you looking for something exclusive right now, or are you willing to be in a more casual relationship with her? Is she someone you specifically want to date so much so that you’re willing to accept that it may be months or even years before she’s ready as the price of entry? Are you willing to wait with the knowledge that she may well decide she wants to date both of you? Or that she may decide she wants to be with someone else entirely?
You’re the only person who can answer these questions. Any number I give you is going to be completely arbitrary; it all depends on how you feel about her and the potential relationship.l
I would say that I don’t think committing yourself to her exclusively while she’s recovering is a good idea. You should be willing to date around too. Not only will it get you to meet more people – ones who may well be in the same place you are and looking for the right 47-year old divorcee to settle down with – but it will help curb the potential resentment of “I waited for you X long and you stillchose someone else?”
But like I said: you’re the only person who can decide these things.