Dear Prudence

The Case(s) of the Disappearing Boyfriend

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Dear Prudence,
My boyfriend and I have been together on and off for almost three years. Now I need some advice. We have a son together, but while I was pregnant, he was totally unsupportive. From one day to the next, he’d change his mind about whether he wanted to be with me or have anything to do with his child. In the end he left the country without telling me and let me go through the last months of pregnancy and the birth by myself. He did eventually come back when our son was only a few weeks old, and after seeing each other a few times, he asked to try again and promised this is what he wanted, etc., etc. After six months, I did, in fact, move in with him—leaving my city to go to his. I have been here several months now, and the other night we had a huge argument, and he said he’s not in love with me and he didn’t think it was working and I should move back to my hometown. He said that he cares about me a lot, but he’s just not in love, and he thinks there should be sparks for a relationship to work. I’m not in love with him, either, but I don’t think you need to be in love for it to work. What do you think? Do you think a couple can make it without being “in love”?


Dear Won,
Yes, a couple can make it work without being “in love,” but a couple is two people, and you are, alas, the only one willing to continue in the situation you describe. You sound much more mature than he and more likable. There is real irresponsibility to this guy, so cheer yourself up with the knowledge that you can’t help but do better next time. And by all means, arrange for child support from him, even if you need the court’s help to do it. Good luck.

—Prudie, warily

Dear Prudence,
I’m 20 and in college, and I’m having problems with my boyfriend. We’ve been together for about six months, and things have been going great. He’s attentive, does thoughtful things for me, never forgets to call, and is always willing to listen. But he smokes a lot of pot and sometimes does other drugs, which really bothers me. (I haven’t ever done drugs or even gotten into drinking.) He’s going to be a senior at an Ivy League school next year, is getting great grades, does lots of extracurriculars, and has a group of very close, longtime friends. He’s motivated, has plans for the future, and has had several challenging summer jobs. He’s also the smartest guy I’ve ever met and never forgets ANY DETAIL, no matter how small. But still, I can’t get past the pot. He knows it bothers me, so he’s almost never high around me—but when I find out he’s been smoking, it gets my dander up. He says it’s something he’s done since he was 15, something he enjoys and doesn’t see a reason to stop since he’s succeeding at everything he wants to do—and considering my wishes, doesn’t do it around me. I worry about his health and his brain, but I’m afraid he thinks I’m being silly and worrying about nothing. It’s beginning to cause unspoken tension between us. What should I do?


Dear Jen,
The tension doesn’t sound so unspoken to Prudie, but she knows what you mean. If your beau were deep into the sauce, he would be considered a high-functioning alcoholic. Everything doesn’t immediately go to hell as a result of overusing a substance. Actually, drugs, like alcohol, have a cumulative effect. The way you describe things, the pot and the other stuff are having no adverse effects on his personality or performance—yet. As for his never forgetting ANY DETAILS, if he sticks with his regimen, in time he will forget a whole lot of them. This young man’s achievements and his relationship with you sound quite wonderful—now—but the fact is that what he’s doing has the potential for lousing up his life. Like booze, however, you cannot get a pot smoker to stop just because you ask him to. He will have to make this decision. And then the decision you will have to make is whether, if he doesn’t stop, you are able to tolerate a behavior you justifiably have fears about.

—Prudie, pensively

Dear Prudie,
I’ve been dating a guy off and on for about a year. We’re both 45 (not teen-agers obviously). I told him six months ago that I was in love with him. I do not fall in love easily, and I put a lot of thought into telling him. He says he cares deeply for me, but that he’s slow moving in relationships and slow to love because he is very careful about throwing his heart out there. Our “time outs” have occurred when I’ve gotten tired of waiting for him to be more emotionally available. We click on every other level but the emotional. I feel I have been incredibly patient. My question to you is: Do you feel that there is a period of time after which you have to admit the love thing for the other person is just not going to happen? I’m not a young woman anymore and don’t feel I have years to spend with potentially the wrong person. Should I wait longer to see if he develops love for me, or do you believe that if it was going to be there for him, he would have known it by now and would have shown it?


Dear Love,
These withholding, emotionally unavailable men give Prudie a pain. They are damaged in some fundamental way, and once she’s figured this out, a woman who sticks around for this is flirting with masochism. Interesting that he can bring himself to tell you he “cares deeply for you” but can’t quite cross over into using the “L” word. When you say you click on every level but the emotional, there aren’t that many more to click on, cupcake. Prudie can only think of the sexual/physical and intellectual. So the choice is yours. And maybe, for you, two out of three ain’t bad.

—Prudie, decisively

Dear Prudence,
About a month ago, my boyfriend broke up with me out of the blue. We had not had a fight. Things seemed perfect. He has a stressful job, however, and may be having some financial problems. He said it was not me … just that he needed to be alone for a while. The crazy thing is that all his friends think he is nuts for breaking up with me and say he will be back. Do men sometimes simply have no more to give and therefore dump someone they really care about just so they don’t get dumped first?


Dear Broke,
Sometimes people do feel the need to be alone for a while, especially if they’re depressed. There’s a possibility, because of the stress and financial uncertainty you mention, that he may think he’s sparing you from some hard times. Certain people like company when they’re in a rough patch … others like to go it alone. And it is possible that the relationship just played itself out, and he’s not even sure why. This chap is obviously not able to tell you more, so you have no real choice but to ride it out—his way. Nowhere is it written, however, that you must sit on your hands until he figures things out.

—Prudie, proactively