Relationship on autopilot crashes

Joey Garcia

My girlfriend and I were so deeply involved that I went into relationship autopilot and took her for granted. We broke up, and she moved out. I know I messed up. After dating others, I felt she was the one for me. I treated her accordingly, while also exercising restraint. She called daily but wouldn’t be exclusive with me again. This hurt. I felt used when she hung out with me all day and then went to bars with her girlfriends at night. She had sex with other men (strangers), but would not have sex with me. I refuse to see her anymore and have told her to leave me alone, for good. I need help with this: Why would a woman keep an ex-boyfriend around if she had no intention of having anything more than a friendship with him, when the boyfriend makes it clear that he can’t handle anything less than a love affair?

Why would the boyfriend stick around, when he knows that he only wants an intimate, committed relationship and that his ex-girlfriend only wants a platonic one? He may have hoped he could convince her to change her mind. She may have believed he would accept her ultimatum eventually. Either way, they’re probably stuck in the same communication abyss that plagued their relationship before the breakup. Then, there’s the emotional challenge of letting go of someone who has seen you at your sweetest and at your most dysfunctional. The ego abhors such things.

The ego also hates rejection. So, there you are, trying to sell your ex-girlfriend on how wonderfully different you are now, and she doesn’t buy it. Instead of understanding that the relationship is what it is and not what you want it to be, you think her refusal to get back together is a rejection of you. It’s not. It’s just a sign that she has changed. Nothing personal. If she rejected you, she would not have been so committed to remaining friends. Although some distance is a good thing right now, remember that if you really loved her, you always will be friendly toward her and be able to wish her well. So, now that you have this extra time, use it to review other relationships in which you opted for autopilot. Then, make amends as necessary.

Here’s one last comment on why it’s so hard for singles to meet people with whom they are compatible. As a married, mid-40s male who has learned a lot from his wife, I think women who complain that there aren’t any good men available are right. Men rarely have been taught (yes, taught) how to relate to women. They don’t know how to reach a woman’s heart. They don’t understand how to shut up and listen when she wants to connect in an emotional or romantic way. Men don’t understand that it takes patience (in amounts that they don’t naturally possess) to turn a woman on sexually. The problem begins in childhood. Mothers and fathers do not teach their male children how to develop and maintain positive relationships with the females they meet and befriend. The public-school system fails, as well. A class such as “Listening to Women 101” would have served me well.

I agree we need education to learn how to be in healthy, committed, romantic relationships. I strongly believe that counseling is necessary, too. And, when women complain about men, I’ll join you in reminding women that they are partially responsible for the way men are educated and raised.

Meditation of the week
Elspeth Probyn, a professor at the University of Sydney, said, “In terms of mainstream popular culture, it seems that food is now overtaking sex as a social site of concern and negotiation around identity.” That explains the celebrity chefs and articles on super-sized kids. What gluttonous activity is your identity attached to?

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