Dear Breakup Girl,
I have been following Scone Boy’s predicament with interest, because his situation resembles mine. Except I’m pretty sure that I have in fact seen the letters “HELP ME” traced in the condensation on the window of the speeding car.
Background. Dated him for a year. Was absolutely nuts about him. He gave me some nice gifts, two of which were very personal and which he made for me. (These figure later in the story.) About a year and a half ago, he bolted. We’re talking disappeared for a month. I finally left him a message: “Haven’t heard from you, how have you been?” “I’ve been OK, just haven’t had much to say.” Smitten though I was, I knew this was a Very Bad Thing, and, despite his protests, I broke it off and returned all the gifts. A year and a half later, my life is mostly OK–friends, other men, recreation, work.
He never seemed to accept the break. Kept in touch, occasionally because of a “Haven’t seen you in awhile, how have you been?” from me, but mostly on his own initiative. More than once he has expressed hurt and resentment at my having returned the gifts. At one point he gave some of them back to me–not the most personal ones–but his subsequent behavior was so annoying that I gave them back again, much more rudely than the first time. I told him to just leave me alone. He went to my friends in an attempt to “explain” himself. More dialogue ensued. Right now he is in touch more than ever, and we’re closer than ever, partly because of his new willingness to really open up to me.
When we talk, one of his favorite topics is how I really should take the gifts back. (”Maybe sometime. Right now I like them just fine at your house.”) He has asked me to flirt with him more. (”I’m sorry, but I can’t. I love to flirt, and I do it often, but I cannot *just* flirt with you. Besides, you’re involved with someone now, and I’m no poacher.”)
This involvement is his other favorite topic. It began 10 months ago. Things are wonderful, they are getting serious, and she is perfect. Except that once in a while she has too much to drink, and embarrasses him in public. And he doesn’t really want to get married; he would prefer to have an understanding with her, that he never intends to marry. But things are moving so fast; they’re scaring him. (This is what he actually says. I’m omitting my perceptions and intuitions.)
So, tell me, Oh Wise One. Am I hallucinating, or am I really seeing the letters “HELP ME” in the condensation on the window of the speeding car? If those letters are there, how can I help him, and maybe help myself? I haven’t gotten over him, and I would give a lot to have him back. TGATEOFB’s suggestion of proposing marriage would be way premature. I certainly would have the guts to do it otherwise. But there is much unfinished business between us, and I at least want a chance to finish it. Failing that, I want to help him avoid this disaster he is contemplating. It would break my heart (again) to see him in the soup.
On the other hand, I realize I am looking here at a pattern: Get involved, bolt. Get involved, bolt. (He has absolutely no other symptoms of commitmentphobia, unless you count his difficulty letting go. I should talk.) I want to be very sure he won’t use me to get out of his new relationship, only to bolt once again. I don’t want to set myself up for another year and a half of getting back to OK. This is urgent. Please talk to me.
Actually, I think things would be more promising if Chachi’s pattern were Get involved, bolt; Get involved, bolt. (In the broadest sense, isn’t that everyone’s pattern, anyway?) Instead, it’s: Get involved; vanish mysteriously, rudely, immaturely, and irresponsibly; get huffy when the wounded party doesn’t want any souvenirs; get involved with someone else but continue to ask wounded party to flirt with you; do the powerless and overwhelmed act in the face of impending/implied commitment. Not at all promising for ANY parties. You, Joanie, are the one in the car. And I’m out here trying to help. Which is why I say: wipe the window clean, put on your blinker, and head on to the Next Big Thing.
This advice was originally published on November 16, 1998.