Good Prospect Suddenly Shut Her Out

Q: I was dating a man for a few months. Things were going really well, and we'd both often say things like "can you believe how well everything is working out for us? I never thought I'd be in this situation again." We're both divorced parents, have met each other's children and families, became very involved in each other's lives. He was dealing with constant pain for a physical injury, and was on pain meds. Suddenly things changed. Where we normally spoke several times a day, two days went by with no call. When I asked if we were okay, he said yes, it was just the stress of his upcoming (major) surgery. Two more days passed and I called him. He said he needed a time out, too many things going on in his life. I was hurt and confused, and his explanation was vague. A week later I received an email. He said that maybe things had gone too fast and he was not ready and that he was going to seek counseling and for the first time referenced his divorce. In both the email and our last phone conversation he was vague and said that he would call when he was emotionally able. The email was sent almost 3 weeks ago. He has since had his surgery, and it really bothered me to not be there with him. Was this a coward's way out of a relationship, or were his emotional issues truly too overwhelming for him? Why shut me out completely? -- Louise

Dr. Susan: It shouldn't come as news to you that people (not only cowards) sometimes don't tell the whole truth to someone they're getting to know. Although you and your boyfriend were getting along well for a few months, somewhere along the way he began to change his mind. Maybe the whole physical injury/surgery experience truly overwhelmed his ability to deal with another person. Perhaps the fact that you were unhappy and worried when he didn't call you for two days (only two days!) gave him cause to fear for his independence. Bottom line: When a guy says "too many things" are going on in his life, it means either that he's juggling more than one woman, or he actually is overloaded and your expectations of him are adding to the burden rather than alleviating it. The fact that he is seeking counseling is a positive thing. For him. His vagueness, though, would indicate that your relationship may have run its course. He shut you out because he wasn't feeling as close to you as you were to him, or it might mean he's not so good at intimacy. Let him be and if he contacts you, play it by ear at that time.

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