Dear Ellie: I’m a guy, 25, whose been told by women friends that I’m decent-looking, and assured by colleagues that I have a successful future ahead.
I have a tight group of close friends, have had some very positive dating experiences, and some emotionally-difficult break-ups, through my early-20s.
But recently, I broke up with someone and I’m not sure why.
She’s a very nice person, easygoing and fun. We were relaxed together, with no negative issues between us during the six-months-plus that we dated, though my work can be intense and I sometimes go to great lengths to explain it to friends.
She was always interested and had the capacity to discuss it with me.
Why did I break it off? I can’t answer, and it worries me.
She was taken by surprise and perplexed, but she didn’t overreact, and just accepted my decision. But even though I initiated it, I was left confused.
Do I go back and humbly apologize, saying I don’t know why I pulled away from the relationship? Am I scared of commitment?
My parents still have a good, happy marriage and my brother and I have always felt secure and loved, so there’s no answer to my problem there.
I need your help to understand what I’ve done and why.
Break-up By Mistake?
There’s rarely a true “mistake” when we step back from a positive relationship.
Instead, there’s usually an emotionally-based fear of getting it wrong… i.e., thinking that the woman you were dating doesn’t have the same level of feelings for you.
And projecting that she will soon be the one to break up, so you get there first to protect your pride.
You’ve previously experienced break-up pain and undoubtedly didn’t like it! But that’s part of eventually knowing who’s the right fit for you.
Talk online or in person with a therapist about your inner confusion, to prevent creating a pattern of insecurity. At 25, with a promising future ahead, you need clarity regarding your self-knowledge and social-emotional skills.
Therapy can help you discover if your recent relationship was about pleasant, uncomplicated compatibility, or an important step in your understanding of love, and passion (which you didn’t mention).
Dear Ellie: After too many crummy experiences with online dating on different sites, I’ve realized that many men just use the sites to meet women for very selfish reasons.
One man who seemed nice online, actually invited me to a very decent restaurant for our first date. When the bill came, he suddenly announced, “Oh. I forgot my credit card and didn’t get any cash today!” When I looked skeptical, he acted outraged and left abruptly. I paid the bill. Then I blocked all further contact!
Another guy dated me three times, which I thought showed real interest. But he was totally unavailable when I told him I was alone and sad because my ten-year-old cat had died.
Is there a better way to meet someone decent?
Fed Up Online
There are regular reports from people who’ve met on dating apps of being in successful lasting unions. But it’s well-known that both men and women online daters have run scams, some costing victims thousands of dollars, with the perpetrator and their false stories impossible to trace.
The old-fashioned introduction by a trusted friend is a much likelier bet, as is following your own interests — e.g., theatre, music, outdoor activities — with the advantage of regular venues to meet people and/or organized groups.
Dear Ellie: My daughter’s 15, my son seven. I work one job part-time, another at home. At 13, I taught my daughter to use the laundry machines, but not my son yet.
This year, my daughter started claiming she’s “too busy” and complains when her clothes aren’t laundered.
I tell her to do it herself, or wear them unwashed, that’s her choice. What do you think about my solution?
Busy Working Mom
If it isn’t working out, it’s not a solution. She considers it a punishment, though you’re attempting to teach self-sufficiency.
Point out that home laundry takes little time, and will help her develop the independence she’ll need when she goes to college and travels, within just a few years.
Meanwhile, if affordable, make sure she has enough practical appropriate school-use and sports items to wear to last for a week’s use, after which she must wash them.
Ellie’s tip of the day
When a relationship feels like it’s missing something, or you are, therapy can address insecurity on your part or a better understanding of love.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.