Must Have Dating Skill – Emotional Maturity

Name: Amy
Age: 30
Question: I wrote in several months ago about a guy I was dating who’d invited me to Thanksgiving with his family, but didn’t want to be in a relationship.  We were only dating and sleeping with each other, we said we loved each other, we did everything a couple does except calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend.

He said he wanted to lose weight, he wanted to get a job he was happy with, he wanted to be completely over his ex and other hard stuff from the past, that he had a lot to work on before he could be in a relationship.  He said he had too much to deal with in his world to take on somebody else’s world.  (I should note here that I’ve know him for thirteen years, though we only really got to know each other last year.  His sister and I are old high school friends.  His dad and I get along wonderfully.  This isn’t just some random guy.)  Anyways, all those things made sense to me.  He told his dad he loved me, but wasn’t ready for a relationship; he told his friends, too.  Believing I understood the situation, I asked for space, so he could get his stuff together and so I wouldn’t feel like I was being strung along.

He called drunk one night, saying he was a loser and missed me.  I tried to be comforting and understanding.  He called me drunk again on New Years and talked for an hour, literally an hour, about how he was talking about me all night, how he missed and loved me, how I was so thoughtful, and then started crying about the sweetness of the Christmas gift I gave him.  It pulled on my heart so much that, like a dope, I went over his place.  During sex, he did something that I’d already told him I didn’t like; I got upset.  I didn’t get angry, I got sad.  I just started crying and told him I didn’t like that and he knew it.  I asked him to please talk with me so we could both be on the same page, so maybe he could understand, really, why I didn’t like that, and so I could stop hurting.  He refused.  He said he didn’t care.  I was incredibly confused and hurt and broke the Christmas gift I got him (anger/violence is really out of character for me).  He then kicked me out.

A month later (a day or two after I’d contacted a therapist to help sort out all my confusion and hurt), I got a three minute long voicemail from him, saying he was sorry, that it didn’t take him a month to realize he was wrong, but his ego was in the way, that I deserved better than that, that he didn’t want me to think he was a jerk who didn’t care, that he didn’t expect this to fix anything, but just really wanted to say he was sorry.  I didn’t respond.  He sent an email a few days later, saying he hoped I got his voicemail and that he hoped all was well with me and that he had a job interview soon.

I didn’t want to call or email, but I didn’t want to leave him hanging, either, because I know that that hurts.  I wrote him a letter, snail mail, and thanked him for apologizing, told him he still meant a lot to me, that his apology meant a lot to me and that it gave me what I needed to heal.  I told him I just needed space, to process everything, to feel okay about it all.  He emailed me right away after he got the letter.  In his email he made a joke about the thing he did during sex; I don’t want to say what he did, but the joke went something like: I’m sorry I did that to you.  It felt amazing and that’s why I did it.  If you weren’t so much fun to have sex with, maybe I wouldn’t have done it and maybe you wouldn’t be so mad at me.

He also said he didn’t want us to rehash/discuss what happened anymore, that he was tired of dissecting stuff like that . . . then he explained his side.  I realize he sounds like an ass, and definitely screwed with my head, but I’m still hurt.  He was the first guy I ever had sex with.  I’m 30 and I realize that’s not common, but because of past sexual and verbal abuse, it was incredibly hard for me to let men get close.

Anyways, after his email, I wrote back, saying I didn’t think his joke was funny, and that he explained his side after saying he didn’t want to discuss it anymore.  I wrote: people have the want/need to be understood, but they also have the need/want to not have to deal with hard things; maybe you needed both.  I told him I still cared about him, but was very hurt and to please not write back anymore.  He wrote back right away, saying he was sorry, and he included a link to a cute animal picture (I love cute animals).  I didn’t write back.  Several days later, he sent another email with another cute animal link. At this point, I was having panic attacks when I saw his name in my inbox.  A few days later, I finally wrote back telling him all this was very hard, that he needed to be fair in terms of communication, to be all in or all out, to either have a long, hard discussion with me about everything or leave me alone completely.  This was in February.  I haven’t heard from him since.

Five or six weeks after I sent him that email, on April 1st, he got into a relationship with a girl he was already friends with, who, about a month or two prior, separated from her husband (a guy she dated for years and was married to for not even a year).  After a week of them being boyfriend and girlfriend, he took her to Easter dinner with his family.  I’ve deleted him from Facebook and have deleted my account all together, but the last I saw was that he was working out and was much “healthier and happier”; his girlfriend liked it and commented that she would “love it” if she could.

I am in therapy to help me deal with all the confusion, which is helping, but I’m writing to get as many points of view as possible; I’m still confused about it all.  It’s May and I’m better, but I still get really sad sometimes.  Here’s my questions: is it normal to still get so hurt/sad by stuff that happened three months ago?  From the outside, his new relationship looks like a rebound, or a confidence booster for both parties, but could it be real?  That blows my mind and makes me feel like he was lying to me the whole time about not being ready, which means he was using me, which makes me feel awful inside, because I believed him and believed in him.

I think this would be a lot easier if I wasn’t friends with his sister and dad.  I’m going to her wedding later this year and am so scared to see him there, to maybe see him with this girlfriend who he got with so soon after me.


I’m 30 and I realize that’s not common, but because of past sexual and verbal abuse, it was incredibly hard for me to let men get close.

Okay, but you let this guy get close. That negates the “I was abused and it’s hard for me to let a guy in” reasoning. It’s not hard for you to let a guy in. It’s hard for you to let the right guys in and reject the wrong ones. This is similar to the excuses you read in the dating blogosphere. The women in their thirties and forties whining about how hard it is for them to trust men and that’s why they keep dating unavailable men or none of their relationships work out. The relationships don’t work out because the women are limited or damaged in some way and refuse to change. They like being the wounded bird. It’s a comfortable and convenient excuse to explain why they can’t keep a guy around. You can’t keep falling back on the abuse excuse to justify your behavior. It’s not an excuse. It’s a contributing factor, but not an excuse. I say that as someone who has been through a similar experience. We don’t get to play that card after a certain point. We just don’t. You just don’t go breaking items in people’s homes and then say, “But..but..I was abused!” It’s great that you’re in therapy, but if your sessions revolve around examining his behavior and relationship, you’re wasting your money.

I don’t want to say what he did,

Trust me. Most of us have figured it out. I get that you set a boundary and he crossed it and you felt violated. You are absolutely justified in being upset at that. Someone who does that doesn’t respect you. He then made it worse by trying to downplay it. This guy is a mess in numerous ways.

Here’s my questions: is it normal to still get so hurt/sad by stuff that happened three months ago?

Nobody gets to dictate when or how you process something. Normal is subjective. Is it destructive to stew in this situation? Yes. It’s not healthy. But you’ll get through it when you get through it. You have no experience with this, which is why it’s taking so long to heal. Like anything else, it’s a learning process. Trust me. You’ll eventually get to a point where you look at his Facebook page and laugh at him. Once you stop caring what he thinks, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to see him for who he really is.

From the outside, his new relationship looks like a rebound, or a confidence booster for both parties, but could it be real?

Sure. He could even marry her. I highly doubt it’s any more healthy than his relationship with you, though. He just managed to find someone who accepts and embraces his immaturity and stupidity. They aren’t compatible in spite of his issues. They are compatible because of them.

That blows my mind and makes me feel like he was lying to me the whole time about not being ready, which means he was using me, which makes me feel awful inside, because I believed him and believed in him.

Yup. That sucks. But I don’t think he was lying about being ready. I don’t think he is ready for a truly mature and adult relationship. Like I said, he just found someone who is accepting of his very obvious limitations. Someone who will fawn over him on Facebook and write cutesy replies to his lame commentary. Men like this don’t wake up one day and become self-actualized and mature human beings. They just find someone who doesn’t know any better and then hopes for the best.

You’re both emotionally immature. That’s why you engaged each other. That’s why you believed him. He will never truly understand why you were hurt. There is no point in trying to get him to see your side of things. He’s not capable of doing that.

Use this experience to propel you to the next level.

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9 Responses to “Must Have Dating Skill – Emotional Maturity”

  1. Selena Says:

    Thumbs up Moxie. Every point.

  2. Eliza Says:

    Very well written reply. I fully agree. I guess one wounded bird, attracts another. Lesson learned. I guess one huge red flag to note is whether a man you meet is recently coming out of a relationship.

  3. Erine Says:

    My dear, dont analyze anything any longer. Case clised. When a man falls for a woman. All reservations and obstacles go out the window and he commits. Just remember it for the future. If a man tells you he really likes you and misses you but its just not the right moment for him, it means you havent touchrd his core and made him fall for you, you are just a temporary dating or sex partner until there is a wom adn he falls for.

    Concenrate on your health and counseling now , and nothing else. Nothing else. Dont think you are “odd,” either because of your past, etc. we are all odd and with baggage and sime emotional issues.

  4. nathan Says:

    Seriously, Amy, you have to focus on letting him go. Completely. Forget about who he’s dating. It’s irrelevant. Stop beating yourself up for getting hooked and misreading him, and start building the confidence and self esteem necessary to say no to the next guy who acts like he did. If your therapist isn’t working on this with you, stop wasting your money and get another one who will.

    • Andthatswhyyouresingle Says:

      If your therapist isn’t working on this with you, stop wasting your money and get another one who will.

      A therapist can’t force a patient to re-direct their focus. The primary issue here isn’t her self-esteem. It’s her emotional immaturity. The emotional immaturity is what led her to break something in his home. She’s developmentally delayed. Whether that’s a conscious action or not, I don’t know. But her problem is her immaturity.

    • Crotch Rocket Says:

      If your therapist isn’t working on this with you, stop wasting your money and get another one who will.
      I agree that she should stop wasting her money, but it’s not the therapist’s fault. My therapist works with me on whatever issues I want to work on; she can’t make me work on issues I want to avoid–though at least I’m self-aware enough to admit when I’m avoiding something. (Un?)fortunately, I have plenty of other issues to work on, so it’s always productive.

  5. nathan Says:

    Self esteem and emotional immaturity are intimately tied together.

    And I never said anything about therapists forcing a shift, although some therapy frameworks are all about attempts to force or create thinking and behavioral shifts.

    Maybe she has an excellent therapist. My point was to suggest that sometimes people choose therapists who aren’t a good match for their needs, and then spend months and years stuck running in circles. In fact, she could be working with an excellent therapist who also isn’t a good match with her needs.

    I think this piece of Amy’s letter is critical here. “He was the first guy I ever had sex with. I’m 30 and I realize that’s not common, but because of past sexual and verbal abuse, it was incredibly hard for me to let men get close.” I used to work with sexual abuse survivors. My mother and two of my close friends also have spent years working with sexual abuse survivors. It takes a certain set of skills and empathy to really support someone healing from that kind of trauma.

    Also, I actually think that in this case, the “abuse excuse” is actually a legitimate issue, and not just a crutch she’s using. She made it 30 without having sex, and it wasn’t – from what we know in the letter – about having a chastity until marriage pledge or something like that. There is a block around sexuality and I’m guessing that she has held men at a distance because of it. Furthermore, most people have emotional attachments to their first sexual partners. Sexual abuse victims often have emotional attachments to their abusers. If there’s trauma, it makes it that much harder to let go.

    “We don’t get to play that card after a certain point. ” I totally agree, but she’s not at that point yet. She’s only recently been in therapy. She’s only recently let a man close enough to her to have sex. In fact, I don’t get the sense she’s had many (if any) significantly long relationships.

    None of this changes the fact that she’s got to stop obsessing about this guy, and stick to working on herself. But she doesn’t sound to me to be someone who has been in numerous relationships with men where she’s played the abuse victim card as an excuse for why things didn’t work out.

  6. susan Says:

    So wounded birds of a feather flock together?

  7. LostSailor Says:

    While I agree that Amy needs to develop more emotional maturity, that usually comes from experience in relationships. Getting over a heartbreak often provides the perspective that leads to being more emotionally mature. It sounds like she simply doesn’t have enough experience in the ups and downs of romance.

    But I have a little different take on the guy in question. Sure, he may be a jerk and immature, but, as harsh as it is to face, my read is that he was playing her. Maybe not in a Machiavellian. calculated way, but playing nonetheless.

    There are several tells here, I think. They “did everything a couple does, except call each other boyfriend and girlfriend.” His litany of issues he had to “work on” before he could be in a relationship. The difference here is the long-term association Amy has with his family. Did he love her? Perhaps. But I’ll guarantee not as much as she loved him. He had to deal with this “relationship” rather delicately because any blowback would involve the ire of his family for hurting a family friend. Unfortunately, the fight New Year’s Eve gave him a plausible exit when Amy lashed out.

    I could be wrong. Weepy, drunken, late-night phone calls could be a sign that he did care and wasn’t mature enough to commit. But, people can get irrationally emotional and do odd things when they’re drunk. Getting back in touch in February seems to me like testing the waters to see if there was some more sex available.

    I do agree with Nathan that Amy needs to stop obsessing about the guy. This may be difficult. My read is that she fell hard for the guy. And it’s understandable. First sexual relationship with a man she’s known for a long time and is comfortable with would be a powerful bonding experience. In addition to dealing with the heartache, she now sees him with a new woman and wonders why she wasn’t “good enough” for a relationship. But in this case, it sounds like it’s more about him than Amy.

    She needs to take some time and heal. Maybe therapy will help, though I’m not much of a believer it can be good to talk out issues with a neutral party. But also, she needs to get back out there. Have some dates. Wait on the sex until there’s some real commitment. But get some experience that will lead to emotional maturity and allow her to spot the red flags and make more appropriate choices.

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