Dear Wendy: “I Got Dumped. Should I MOA?”

My boyfriend of seven months broke up with me last week. He made it clear that no part of the breakup was my fault, that he still loved me, but did not think he was capable of being in a relationship. He is in the process of getting divorced. His wife of one year, whom he had dated for nearly a decade, left him for a man 10 years her junior during a rough period of my guy’s life. He had just lost two people very close to him. We started dating fairly early in his separation and he thinks he didn’t have time to properly heal. When breaking up, he told me he sees a real chance for us in the future and isn’t planning on dating anyone else right now, though he knows it’s unfair to expect the same from me. He said the pressure of a relationship is holding him back from getting past certain problems in his life and completely healing from the divorce. (Also, there is no chance he is having second thoughts about his divorce.) He insists he wants to remain close and since the breakup, we still talk daily and have made plans to hang out tomorrow (I refuse to be intimate with him while broken up). I want to believe him but the people around me (who haven’t met him) seem to think this is just a thing guys say when they want out or to date other people but still keep a woman in tow. A part of me feels like if I was really worth it to him, he would have fought more. Am I being too naive? Is this a MOA situation? — Cautiously Optimistic

I don’t think you’re necessarily being naive, but I also don’t think your friends are too far off in their assessment either. Clearly, your boyfriend did want out of your relationship, as evidenced by him breaking up with you, and clearly he wants to “keep you in tow,” as evidenced by him insisting that you remain close. His reasoning sounds understandable though, and makes sense. Of course he would want to process his emotions after the ending of a decade-long relationship before becoming too seriously invested in a new one. But that doesn’t mean there’s any guarantee you’re the person he’s still going to want when he does finally feel ready to date seriously. And there’s no promise that that day is going to come any time soon. And there’s no guarantee he’s not going to date other women while he “heals.”

The one guarantee you probably can count on is feeling hella confused if you continue seeing him, even without being intimate, during this period of his soul-searching. People need space and time between being in a relationship to being “just friends,” otherwise things get murky real fast. You aren’t a machine, after all. You can’t just flip a switch and change your settings. You’re a person with feelings and those don’t change overnight. If you really want to give this relationship a fighting chance, give yourselves both some space. Let your boyfriend clear his head and figure things out without the distraction of you in his immediate life. Let him know you care about him and very much want a future, but your heart is too invested to step back and be just friends right now. It’s got to be all or nothing, so until he’s really ready to be in it, you have to live your life. Trust me, you’re going to feel very resentful if you put things on hold for him and you don’t get the outcome you desire. He broke up with you, so move on. Why should he still get to enjoy your company after he dumped you? He’s much more likely to “properly heal” and fight for you if he thinks there’s a chance he’s going to lose you.

I have a really close friend, Anne, who was my best friend in college, and whom I still love dearly, but whose behavior is starting to get on my nerves. All through college and immediately following (we’re now in our early 30s) we were very close and she is great at supporting me when it comes to the usual problems with boys and/or my bitchy boss, etc. However, since college, most of the women in my group of college friends — except Anne — have gone on to be independent and focus on our careers, often times working two jobs, taking on extra hours or making extremely tough decisions to make ends meet while we slowly climb the corporate ladder.

Anne, however, has gone directly from undergrad to a master’s program — during which time her folks paid entirely for her apartment and almost all her needs — to a Ph.D. program where she lives at her folks’ house and has basically no financial responsibilities. This year for her birthday she wanted a bunch of us to go on a lavish trip and insisted we stay in the most lavish luxury hotel, which her parents paid for, and that we celebrate her birthday at a restaurant I consider to be extremely out of my price range. When another friend and I picked up the tab for Anne’s food on her birthday (over $200) — in addition to the money we spent going on the trip and getting her gifts — she didn’t even give so much as an acknowledgment of thanks. I can’t remember the last time that I got a birthday present from Anne, and she didn’t even give me so much as a phone call for my birthday this year. To make matters worse, it seems like Anne expects people to do things for her that I fully feel everyone should be able to do themselves. On our ski trip, for instance, she insisted that someone carry all her ski gear around for her. When no one did, she complained the entire time that she needed to get a boyfriend to carry her stuff. I’ve always done things for myself so that statement sounds utterly insane to me.

I actually dearly love this friend, but this is really putting a strain on our relationship. I’ve been hoping that this will just be a phase she will grow out of when she’s out on her own, but that’s still a year away and I’m not sure how much more I can take. I often find myself resenting her because I feel she’s never had to make the sacrifices I’ve made. I know we all have our own struggles and people’s lives aren’t always as perfect as they may seem, but compared to where I’m standing she’s coming off like a spoiled brat. She’s a good person, but it’s getting absurd. What do I do? — Too Independent

Wow, your friend sounds like a real dream; I can totally see why you enjoy having her in your life. But, seriously, as selfish and clueless as Anne sounds, you’re actually being a little unfair toward her. If you were questioning your friendship simply because she’s a bad friend, that would be one thing. But it sounds like the strain on your friendship isn’t so much Anne’s bratty behavior as it is your resentment that “she’s never had to make the sacrifices you’ve made.” I understand where your resentment comes from, but it’s hardly fair to hold someone’s privilege against them. And it’s even more absurd to hold the choices you’ve made against someone who’s chosen a different path.

If the real root of your issue with Anne is that she hasn’t had to struggle the way you and maybe some of your other “independent” friends have, that’s your problem and you need to deal with it. One way to do that is to make list of all the ways your struggles have enriched your life and built your character. If you can begin to see the benefits you’re reaped that maybe Anne has not, that might ease some of your resentment. If, though, the real root of your issue with Anne is that she’s a selfish brat, you have some choices. You can move on totally, ending the relationship because you no longer get anything from it. You can scale way, way down on your interaction with Anne. You can actually communicate with her and explain what a financial strain ski trips and extravagant birthday parties are for someone like you and that you were hurt that you were never thanked for your sacrifice and participation. You can accept Anne for who she is, realize you can’t change her behavior but you can change your own and in the future abstain from activities you can’t comfortably afford. And if Anne has a problem with it? Tough sh**. She can find someone else to pay her $200 birthday dinner tab.

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