Dear Mary Beth: ‘Do I Stay Or Do I Go?’


Dear Mary Beth,

I am 48-years-old and divorced. About seven years ago I had a chance to run across a beautiful woman, whom I have admired for all this time, until 10 months ago, when we became a couple.

We had some growing pains and she was telling me I needed to relax and slow down. I heard her but I wasn’t listening. Last month she told me she doesn’t love me the way I love her and broke up our relationship.

However, she still wants to “hang out,” go to family functions together and speak almost every day. She told me that she did not want to see anyone else and was not going to, but that she does not want to be boyfriend and girlfriend. I recently had to have surgery that required me to be homebound. She was there the entire time, through the surgery and recovery.

My dilemma is: do I wait for her to decide? Even though I am trying, I can’t seem to live without her; she consumes my thoughts. I want to be loved for who I am and what I can be. I have prayed to God and the only thing that comes to my mind is the Father in the movie Rudy: We pray on our time, He answers in his. Do I move on and find someone new or do I wait?


Dear Frank,

I have a very simple philosophy when it comes to dating. When someone tells you what they want or what they’re going to do, you should take them at their word. She says she doesn’t want a dating relationship with you. As painful as that might be to accept, I think you should believe her.

I know that’s not easy to do when your feelings are strong and the messages you’re getting are very mixed. After all, she’s also telling you that she doesn’t want to date anyone else, and her actions are telling you that she still cares about you very much. But none of that changes the fact that she’s made it very clear she’s not ready for a dating relationship right now. And you have no way of knowing when – or if – she ever will be.

I wrote a long series earlier this year about commitment-phobia, and this is classic commitment-phobic behavior. As a relationship moves forward, the possibility of permanent commitment becomes more real – and terrifying. So the person with commitment issues “breaks up” to relieve the pressure.

But the problem with fear of commitment is that the person can’t commit to yes or no. So once the breakup has happened, she begins to fear that commitment and can’t let go. Of course, this just creates a never-ending cycle of breakups and reunions and lots of miserable time spent in the mushy middle. Which is no way to build a relationship.

Maybe that’s what’s going on with your erstwhile ex. Maybe not. Maybe she just cares about you as a friend, but doesn’t like to be alone so she’s sticking close to you until the next one comes along.

Benefits and obligations

Whatever the case, she wants all of the benefits of a relationship with you – hanging out, going to family functions, talking constantly – with none of the obligations. That isn’t fair to you, and it’s wreaking havoc on your emotional life.

You said you can’t live without her, and she consumes your thoughts.  Well, yeah. You see her constantly. How can you get over her if she won’t go away? The wound is ripped open again every time she calls “just to chat” or invites you to a family function.

Sometimes people break up, realize they’ve made a mistake, and get back together. More often, they don’t.

Either way, your only job is to heal and get on with your life. If she wants you back, let her come find you and tell you that. But that means saying, “I want you back,” not “hey, let’s go hang out at the mall.”

Until that happens, my advice to you would be to cut off contact with her. I know you want to hang on to the little scraps of attention she shows you and the hope those scraps give you that maybe you’ll still have a future together, but those little scraps of hope are eating you alive. They’re keeping you from grieving, healing and moving on.

You said you want to be loved for who you are.  I’m assuming that also means you want to be loved by someone who actually wants to be with you and is ready to explore a relationship with you. You demean yourself when you settle for this half-baked version of love in which you stand by and wait for someone who has made it clear she doesn’t want a relationship with you right now.

There is another issue here that I want to at least mention. You said that you are divorced, but didn’t say whether that marriage has been annulled. If not, then you are still presumed by the church to be validly married, and your ex may be doing you a favor in removing herself as your girlfriend, because you are even less free to move toward marriage than she is. Part of the healing you need is to start that process and to determine once and for all if you are free to move forward with a new relationship.

You don’t just need to heal from your surgery, my friend. You need to heal emotionally from the aftermath of this relationship and spiritually from your first attempt at marriage. That healing happens with time, with lots and lots of prayer, and in the case of your first marriage, with the help of your diocesan marriage tribunal.

Once you’ve healed in all of those ways, you will be so much stronger and ready to go out and find real love, in whatever form God may have in store for you!

–Mary Beth

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  1. Vivienne-926474 March 25, 2013 Reply

    Frank you have been given good advice I think. Try to engage in the annulment process if you have not already done so. You both want different things . Be good to yourself and date others going in the same direction as you are going. but get the healing that comes with an annulment. Blessings

  2. Andy-516957 October 24, 2011 Reply

    Sorry Frank, being in love with some one that doesn’t love you is no fun. Don’t listen to the GooGoo Dolls, Adele, or most music until you can stop thinking about her. Good luck brother.

  3. Maria-364683 November 24, 2010 Reply

    I think he shouldn’t continue with her because he is in love with her. He should go out with different girls and if she change her mind to try again but he has to keep a strong personality, to give himself the value that he has. Good luck, and God bless you.

  4. Dana-247603 November 22, 2010 Reply

    I had this dilemma too, with my best friend. He was always giving me mixed signals but whenever I’d ask him out, he would say I was too old for him (hes 21)…. after about a year and a half, i realised as hard as it was for me, as i loved (and still love him very much), i needed to let him be. I could still be his friend, though i had to give myself time to heal too.

  5. Mike-646924 November 18, 2010 Reply

    Mary Beth: Gave Frank good advice; If i may pu it my two sense (cent’s) Frank bro; Maybe date other ladies; Also if this lady call’s you; Say your busy wether you have a date or not. Sorry to hear this woman is sending you mixed singles bro. Might be time to date other ladies. take care Mike “peace”!!

  6. Patrick-341178 November 15, 2010 Reply

    I can certainly sympathize with Frank. Sometime it is easier to completely “strike out” with a woman rather than her wanting to be friends. Having said that, being friends with a woman can have its advantages and sometimes it can lead to something more down the road. It sounds like in this particular case Frank is better off cutting ties but sometimes opposite sex friendships can beneficial.

  7. Anastasia-498491 November 15, 2010 Reply

    One of my son’s has been going through a similiar situation and his heart has been broken – he is now focusing on school and making a career for himself and keeping his distance – though he does have a set back now and again – he knew it wasn’t healthy to keep opening the would… I know how hard that can be from personal experience as well… Good luck and God Bless

  8. Carlos-167015 November 14, 2010 Reply

    Looks like she is there to have you as a cushion, nothing more. I would say stay away from her. Not healthy.

  9. Jim-397948 November 14, 2010 Reply

    Run Frank Run!!!!…She wants to hang out with you and use you!!!! Let her find another best friend…Stop wasting your time with her…You deserve BETTER!!!!

  10. Mary-649272 November 14, 2010 Reply

    Mary Beth, I felt like I was reading an article about my last relationship. I guess I need to realize that I too have a fear of commitment. I fear of failure (again) and need to learn to let go and let God take over.

  11. Kathy-555815 November 13, 2010 Reply

    Mary Beth, i think you gave correct advice. He needs to stay away from her and move on and try to meet other people.

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