Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend Abandoned Me. Should I Move On?

I’m 31 and had been in a very loving, fun, and supportive relationship with my guy for almost two years and living together for a little over a year. He started talking about marriage and getting engaged about a year into our relationship, and I was so excited at the prospect of being his partner for life. But months passed by, and it became clear that he was homesick for his family. Even though they’re only a two-hour plane ride away, he had been depressed for the last six months about being away from home, and told me that if we married, it would mean he was choosing to never live in the same town as his family again. I told him I’d be happy as long as we were together, but he kept saying “I don’t think you’ll be happy there.” About a week ago when I came home from work, I found that he had moved out of the apartment we shared and had driven back to his home town to be with his family, and merely left a note! What kind of person does that sort of thing? To make matters worse, he called me once he arrived at his hometown and said (while sobbing uncontrollably) he wasn’t ready to break up and wanted a month to think about things. Part of me loves him so much that I want to give him the time he asked for. The rational side of me says, “This jerk abandoned you. Even if he wanted to work things out, are you really going to let him do this to you again?” I’m so torn. Should I just end it now and move on? — Shocked and Awed

Definitely this guy has Issues with a capital “l”, and is a big baby to boot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should immediately ditch the relationship. Two years, after all, is a long time to invest in something and if you don’t at least put a little effort into seeing whether this relationship is salvageable, you might always wonder “what if?” Better to give it an honest go now and get true closure if it doesn’t work out than to leave things as they are now, with you completely confused and torn and wondering what just happened.

So, what about if you made a list of what you’d need from your guy and your relationship in order to feel confident about your future? If it were me, I’d need a promise from him to go to therapy (either on his own, or the two of us together), a clear understanding of where we were going to live, and trust that he’d never pull something like what he pulled when he abruptly moved out in the middle of the day while you were at work. And so this wouldn’t drag on forever, I’d decide on a timetable by which I’d need to have these things — say, somewhere around three months (though, the therapy ought to start ASAP). And if, after three months, I wasn’t feeling much better about him and where things were between us, I’d end things and move the hell on. If you thought this was the man you were going to spend the rest of your life with, three months is just a drop in the bucket if it brings you some much-needed clarification. But life is short, too, and you don’t want to waste too much time on something that isn’t going anywhere, no matter how much you wish things could be different.

I’m an independent, driven woman who is completely self-sufficient, although I have willingly chosen a career path in which I’ve always known I would not make a lot of money. However, I’m proud of the fact that I do not rely on anyone to “take care of” me, and every relationship I’ve had has been nearly 50/50 in terms of what we contribute. For the past month or so, I’ve been dating a wonderful guy. He’s extremely down to earth, funny, and smart, but also … wealthy. He probably makes the equivalent of my annual salary in a matter of weeks. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company, but he is insistent on paying for everything whenever we go out (and although I always earnestly try to offer to pay, to be honest, I couldn’t afford the places we go to anyway). On the weeks before I get paid, my funds are usually quite low and I generally opt to stay in and not spend money, but if I decline an offer of his to go out, I feel he thinks I’m not interested. I was raised to think that discussing money is distasteful and awkward, so I don’t usually mention that I’m not going out due to being broke, partly so that I don’t come off as insinuating that he should pay for me.

Basically, although I know (all too well) that money isn’t everything, I fear that I won’t really be able to contribute much to the relationship. I’m nervous to suggest my own date ideas because I feel bad knowing that wherever we go, he will pick up the tab, and I don’t want to require him to spend a lot of money on me. But when I don’t offer much by way of suggestion, I’m afraid I come off as boring and without an opinion. I also don’t want to bring up the topic because although he is extremely modest, I don’t think he can truly grasp how much I depend on every dollar that I make. In other words, how do I either learn to accept him paying for everything for me, or bring up the issue of finances so that he understands where I am coming from? — Definitely Not a Gold-Digger

Whoa, sister, you’re making wayyy too big a deal out of this. I promise you that your new boyfriend not only realizes you aren’t wealthy and can’t financially contribute to the relationship like he can, he doesn’t care. I’m sure he enjoys treating you as much as he’s able to. But, look, if it’s really hurting your pride to not be able to pay for stuff or afford the places your guy takes you, why not suggest a date you can afford? You can make him a home-cooked dinner, take him bowling or to a trivia night or a movie or out for ice cream. Somehow you have it in your head that one’s income or financial status says something about his or her value and that if you aren’t “worth” as much as the person you’re dating, you’re undeserving. That’s so wrong!

Yes, money is important and it’s nice and it can make life comfortable and provide for some fun times, but it certainly isn’t the only thing people can offer each other. What about companionship? Good conversation? Compassion, and humor? What about that feeling you can give someone that he’s heard and he’s understood and he matters — not for the size of his bank account or the sorts of dates he can take you on, but for who he is and how he makes you feel? Do you think that isn’t worth more than money? If you don’t, you have a lot to learn and this man could help teach you, but you have to drop your guard a little, quit protecting your heart and pride so fiercely, and allow yourself to be vulnerable. It’s wonderful that you’re an independent, driven, self-sufficient woman, but you can be those things and allow yourself to be open and vulnerable, too.

What do you really think would happen if you said to your guy, “Hey, I’m so appreciative of all the nice places you’ve taken me since we met, but I’d love to treat you some time. My budget’s a bit smaller, so I was hoping you’d like to come over for dinner on Friday instead of going out.”? Do you really think he’s going to be shocked to hear your budget is smaller than his? Do you think he’s going to be turned off by the idea of a woman he likes making him a home-cooked meal? No! He’s going to respect that you want to treat him and that you’re taking some initiative in suggesting a date! He doesn’t care if you have money or not. He’s not dating you for that. He’s dating you because he likes you — because you have things to contribute beyond money. He’s got enough money, honey. He’s looking for things money can’t buy. Don’t you understand that that’s what you’re contributing? He enjoys you, so let yourself enjoy him — and your dates — and quit worrying so much.

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*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at {encode=”dearwendy@thefrisky.com” title=”dearwendy@thefrisky.com”}.

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