My Rocky "Almost-Relationship"

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    Hello wise Tiny Buddha posters! I have been trawling these forums for many months now, and I have read many insightful posts that have helped me in my journey to heal from a messy breakup. I’m looking for some advice, or maybe just to vent a little bit. Does anyone feel the same?

    This is my story, and it’s probably not so dissimilar to many others. I’m 28, never dated, never really had an urge in any big way to date, until about last year. I’ve often dreamt about it, and have wanted a partner but in an abstract way, never a particular person. I’m just a bit of a late bloomer.

    Last year around this time I started to fall for someone (29) who had for a few months been pursuing me. I had a funny feeling about it all but in the end I went for it (I’ve often not done things out of fear, and I wanted to embrace change. Probably should have listened to my gut instincts). He’d asked me to movies and other casual kinds of dates but never directly like, “Hey do you want to go out” which I perceived as cute shyness on his part. Anyway fast forward to an awkward “we should acknowledge what’s been happening” conversation (he really said that…) and I was like, O.K., let’s try this out.

    I was out of town for a few weeks and our texting was pretty frequent. Obviously this is a bad way to start things but, believing he was earnest I fell for a lot of the lines. He told me lots of things about his life, we shared childhood pictures, he made me laugh, seemed to take an interest in my life etc. At one point he even said something like “I just had an awkward conversation with my mom about you.” I was nervous returning to the city but excited also.
    Long story short, it didn’t last. Actually it lasted like 3 weeks, but they were 3 very confusing and painful weeks.
    He wanted to have sex right away (which to me wasn’t part of the ‘taking it slow’ we’d agreed to). I felt somewhat pressured and he was very rough and unpleasant in bed. I didn’t enjoy it at all, and he perceived my quietness as lack of interest. I felt very vulnerable and it hurt my feelings. I must admit I felt unhappy or unsure with him quite a lot, it was awkward and funny and since I had no frame of reference I wasn’t sure what to expect. Mostly his behaviour just confused me, I think he talked his way into a relationship with me (he is impulsive, and has/had addiction issues) and when he realized I was serious, it freaked him out. But he threw up different excuses like I never wanted to hang out (I did turn down a date to watch sports with his friends, because… well that’s not very romantic), or we didn’t like the same things (he likes doing things, I am shy and introverted—he said “I never dated anyone as introverted as you before.”) Essentially, I see now that if I pulled away it wasn’t because I was a bad partner and it’s actually all my fault, it’s that he was kind of brutish and mean and I was protecting myself.

    It was especially difficult since this was my first “relationship”—which I made sure to tell him, and ask for his patience. As I came to learn, I wouldn’t be able to expect that kind of sensitivity from him. He likes to talk the talk about feminism and “emotionally unavailable men” but when it came down to it he was a complete jerk.

    A few days later I got a “we should talk, I feel pressure” text overnight and met up with him that day. Basically he wanted out but didn’t know quite how to tell me. The conversation amounted to me feeling like I was not what he expected and I cried (very out of character). I was totally vulnerable, but I wanted to be in a relationship and although I thought he was an ass, against my better judgment I tried to be what he wanted. I forced myself to open up more and be more sexual (while he continued to refuse to just talk and hang out with me like we had before).

    A few weeks later after I mentioned something about feeling like he didn’t want me around, he spent the night at my place. He tossed and turned and acted really weird. The next morning he was up very early (unusual for him). He grabbed his keys and was about to leave until I asked him to stay so we could talk. Essentially he broke it off. It was all very confusing and hurtful.

    He said he still “[wanted] to go to movies with [me] and stuff” but I guess he really didn’t mean it. I had the sense that something like this had happened before. We go to the same school, same grad programme, and he made some off-hand remark about “not dating in the department again” because it is “too hard”. I took that as very insensitive. The icing on this cake was his comment, “I feel like I used you” to try out having a relationship, and that it was his mom’s fault because she’s “always asking me when I’m getting a girlfriend.”

    Since then I’ve learned that he has done similar things in the past with at least two women in our department. Typing all this out now makes it sound really sad, and I can see much more clearly how much he is not worth my sadness. Yet, when you are inside the storm it’s really hard to see any reason. I texted him on and off in the months after the break, and at one point said something like “I don’t think we can be friends”. Kind of embarrassing now but I wanted some kind of reaction. He really didn’t care.

    When school started back up I saw him once or twice and he ignored me. I ended up sending a message, like, can we talk, I feel awkward, etc. I guess I wanted closure, or an apology, or an explanation, or maybe in a small way I hoped for some romantic reconciliation. It never came. He kept putting it off, claiming he was busy. We work in the same common room and saw each other frequently so it was increasingly difficult. I was terribly hurt, and slowly realized that if I had mattered to him in any small way, he would have made the time.

    There were a few brief conversations, always initiated by me. He did very well know that I was hurt, and in a way I think his previous girlfriends probably communicated the same things to him. Once I said “Hi” briefly and his only response was “SUP?” Ugh.

    What’s causing me pain is having seen him, apparently newly infatuated, with an attractive woman in his classes. It is very similar to how it was when he was pursuing me. I know deep down that my being upset or seeming to pine after him all those months really just added fuel to his narcissist fire (he’s probably on that spectrum). But it really stabs me deep inside to see that, it just hurts a lot. Despite his having turned out to be an awful match for me, back when we were just starting to hang out, he was lovely and sweet (rose coloured glasses?) I know also that I miss having his attention—which is one thing I am worried about. It made me feel good, powerful, desirable, sexy… to be pursued by him, is that wrong? I suppose I over fantasized about how everything would play out. This was a rude awakening.

    Anyway, I guess I just wanted to lay this all out with my current state of clarity on the whole thing. I’m still processing and that’s O.K., I know it takes me a little longer than some to get over stuff, because I have a bad habit of ruminating and a lot of self-esteem issues. I’m not exactly looking for specific advice on this, although if you can relate let me know!


    Dear lannawannabe:

    A year ago, when you were 27 (never having dated before, never had a sexual experience with a man), a 29 year old man from your graduate program in school pursued you for a few months. Over time, you started to fall in love with him. His attention made you “feel good, powerful, desirable, sexy”.

    You agreed to hang out with him, he was “lovely and sweet” at the time. You told him that it was your first relationship, asked him to be patient with you. But he wasn’t patient with you, instead, “he wanted to have, and you gave in. He “was very rough and unpleasant in bed”, and you didn’t enjoy it at all.

    Sometime after he told you that he never dated someone as introverted as you, and he expressed his dissatisfaction with you otherwise. You cried and although you thought he was “brutish and mean… a complete jerk.. an ass”,  you “tried to be what he wanted”, and forced yourself “to open up more and be more sexual” while he “continued to refuse to just talk and hang out” with you like before.

    Some time later, after spending the night at your place, he “broke it off”, commenting “I feel like I used you”, and that it is his mother’s fault because she pressured him to have a girlfriend.

    Since then he at times ignored you, and the few brief conversations you had with him, were always initiated by you. Recently, you’ve “seen him, apparently newly infatuated, with an attractive woman in his classes”, and it hurts you a lot.

    You wrote: “I’m not exactly looking for specific advice on this, although if you can relate let me know!”- yes, I can relate. Like you I had a low self esteem, and like you, I ended up as a very young woman with a man who was  “brutish and mean.. a complete jerk.. an ass”, and then another… Those were painful experiences.

    If you want to communicate with me, please do. When you  post, I will reply.



    Hello Anita,
    I hope you are well today.

    I have been coping fairly well these past few weeks since I have been away from home (staying with parents during quarantine), he’s in a different city. I must admit I have intense fear when I go to school because I may run into him.

    At this point, I am close to making peace with this person not being in my life.

    What concerns me now is honestly a fear that I don’t know how to have a relationship. That it’s been so many years of hoping to meet someone, and to have it blow up in my face.

    Was I trying to measure up to societal expectations by rushing into something with someone who showed a lot of red flags? Maybe. Am I trying to cure a loneliness inside me (living away from my family) by seeking a relationship? Likely.

    At one point he suggested he felt pressure from me “because you’ve never been in a relationship before.” This stuck with me, because while I saw his behaviours as odd/unkind I really did take on his blame.

    It’s worth noting that I am someone who tends to speak her mind, and I do assert myself (not rudely, but I tend to speak up). Anyway, he is someone with, I think, some self-esteem issues. This probably knocked his confidence and the reaction was to cast blame on me.

    Is this making sense? It’s so difficult to relate many months of agonizing and ruminating, plus a whole lifetime’s experience of feeling like I don’t quite fit in (again, slow bloomer) in a text post.


    Dear lannawannabe:

    “he is someone with, I think, some self-esteem issues”- but self esteem issues don’t have to result in being rude and cruel, and he was rude and cruel for pressuring you to have sex with him, especially after you told him it was your first relationship, and after asking him to be patient.

    I will write you some more later, maybe in a couple of hours, but in no  longer than 12 hours from now. Feel free to post more, as many times as you wish. I will read all when I am back to the computer, and reply to you then.



    Good morning!

    I am hoping to move past thinking about him and the relationship and begin to focus on my own hurts, what this experience brought out in me…feelings of unlovableness—I feel like I have been passed up for other more sparkling, outgoing, “experienced” women before. What kills me is that it brings up this weird competitiveness feeling when I see these women (especially the one he has taken to now, and the ones he has been with in the past). They’re perfectly nice people, that he has a way to play us off one another really stinks.

    Anyway, I am seeking some peace from the past, hoping to not let this experience make me shy from dating forever. My first first “sexual” experience (more like fooling around) was pretty horrible, aggressive, unpleasant. I have been worried that maybe I was doing something wrong, not enjoying myself because I don’t like sex, whatever. Then what I realized was, Hey, maybe it’s not me. Maybe my partners in both cases haven’t been attentive to my needs, not caring or truly “making love” (corny, I know) but just satisfying their own needs.

    Agh, this is opening up a can of worms, eh?

    I function pretty well these days (given the circumstances!) but in my quiet moments these thoughts are still with me (many months on).


    I should add that, as we attend the same school (small programme) we essentially work together. The lack of closure has made this very difficult. He would occasionally smile and say hi, other times ignore me outright (when we pass in the hall or are both waiting for the elevator, say). When we last spoke he apologized for not setting aside time to chat because he was very busy (for 3 months?). In any case, it was probably better not to chat but I still can’t quite get over that I was very easily tossed aside. He was back on Tinder very soon after we broke it off.

    How can some people move on so easily while others are left reeling? I don’t think I enter into relationships easily, but he seems to do so. He probably made more promises than he knew how to keep. Maybe he said all that lovey-dovey stuff as a way to couch his real intention of a quick hook-up because he lacks the ability to be forthright, because he lacks confidence? Not an excuse, but a reason, maybe, which can help me heal from essentially a plummet-to-zero in my self confidence.


    Dear lannawannabe:

    I apologize: I forgot that I was to return to your thread in about 12 hours (now 18 hours later, or so). I read your recent posts. It is quite clear to me that the man is not a decent man, not a man of character. This is the no-brainer part of your story.

    Why would an intelligent, thoughtful, woman of character such as yourself  (I assume these things) end up with him, for a short duration, and then ruminate about him for such a long time- this is the part that requires the use of my brain and yours.

    If you want, do tell me about your most significant relationships so far: your relationship with any one of your parents, or both. I suggest that you do because often, understanding our adult romantic relationships requires understanding of those early-life relationships.



    Dear anita,

    Thank you for your reply.

    What can I say? I liked him, or rather I liked the fantasy of him I had built in my head (my mistake). I only learned about his past, messy relationships very recently.

    I always say that my relationship with my parents is very good. We are close, quite similar in personality and they are important in my life. That said, I am beginning to see now that that level of closeness might have been detrimental? I think I’ve struggled a lot with asserting independence, or feeling confident to do so, to strike out on my own, you know? I have often needed the support of someone else, or to have someone lead the way. I can see how this has probably affected my romantic relationships to date. I get needy, or suffer from anxious attachment with these men. I would hope that I don’t actually have an anxious attachment style in general ( I know my worth pretty well in general ), but there’s just something about romantic rejection that destroys me.

    I must admit feeling ashamed for letting this first break-up affect me so terribly for so many months. I am trying to be patient with myself but it is embarrassing. All I can say is that while he was absolutely horrible to me when we were “together”, before he was sweet and I figured any awkwardness on his part was nerves. Turns out he probably just didn’t like me much at all.

    Ruminate, yes. I was fine after a few months of no contact but when classes started up again and I would see him very regularly (a few days a week) it became very difficult. I still had feelings for the fantasy version of him, and figured our breakup was due to bad timing or something. So I thought why can’t we try this again, if we still like each other?

    So I think he probably wanted to spare my feelings (maybe?) or just avoid the issue by largely ignoring me. That he seemed to show no pain about it was the tipping point for me and I became very depressed.

    I hope this makes some sense. Writing it out several months on helps me to see ways to forgive myself. I wish I could go back in time and give that version of me a good hug!



    Dear lannawannabe:

    “I must admit feeling ashamed for letting this first break-up affect me so terribly for so many months”- I wish you didn’t feel shame at all regarding this matter: you can’t help feeling what you feel regarding this man, the breakup, not then and not months  after, no  more than any person can help feeling whatever one feels about anything, at any time.

    There is a reason why you are so affected by what happened (and what didn’t happen) with this man. Once you find out the reason, or reasons, you will see that your feelings are understandable, and that they are not at all an indication that there is something wrong with you, or that you are abnormal.

    I am re-reading/ retelling your story, with my comments (and numbered questions to you): at 28, you “never dated, never really had an urge in any big way to date”- this is unusual, strikes me as very unusual, to not date and to not have a strong urge to date as a teenager into your twenties and all the way to 28.

    Last year, about spring 2019, “I started to fall for someone.. I had a funny feeling about it all but in the end I went for it”- I read hesitancy due to fear, hesitance that is congruent with all the years of avoiding boys/ men as far as a romantic/ physical relationship is concerned.

    “I’ve often  not done things out of fear”- that “funny feeling” and what you also referred to as “gut instincts” may very well be this long-term fear.

    After being out of town for a few weeks, following lots of texting with him, you were “nervous returning to the city but excited also”- fearful but hopeful for something good to happen.

    He pressured you to have sex with him, you gave in to his pressure, he was “very rough and unpleasant in bed”, you “didn’t enjoy it at all”, you felt “hurt.. unhappy or unsure with him quite a lot, it was awkward and funny

    1)  I don’t think it was funny for you at the time, this experience, unless you were able at the time to disassociate from your circumstances: to watch it all from a distance, as if it was happening to someone else, finding it .. funny. Is that what happened?

    2) “he likes doing things, I am shy and introverted- he said ‘I never dated anyone as introverted as you before'”- I wonder what introverted behaviors on your part he was referring to, besides turning down the invitation to watch sports with him and his friends?

    “A few days later I got a ‘we should talk, I feel pressure‘ text”-

    3)  Did he tell you the nature of the pressure he was referring to?

    “I cried (very out of character)”-

    4) Do you remember when you no longer cried, as a child, or when it  happened that it was a point of pride, to not cry?

    You wrote regarding this man: “It made me feel good, powerful, desirable, sexy… to be pursued by him”, and in your recent post, you wrote: “I have often needed.. to have someone lead the way“-

    5) Is it that when he pursued you, you felt that you were leading the way (a new experience), and leading the way made you feel powerful?

    You wrote regarding your parents: “We are close, quite similar in personality”-

    6) Can you tell me the similarities in personality between you and your parents?

    “there’s just something about romantic rejection that destroys me”-

    7) What about rejections that are not romantic, what is your experience with those?





    Hello! I will attempt to clarify…

    I certainly had sexual desires, from a young age too (imagined scenarios, usually with characters from tv shows, musicians, etc.). But I really rarely shared them with my peers because it just felt awkward. I was really socially anxious for many years. I feel much more comfortable talking about sex now. And I did get sexual urges (attracted to guys IRL) from time to time, just, I always thought, less than the people around me. This comes from usually figuring I was the odd one out, but I doubt this is so unusual.

    Part of me did really want a boyfriend back in high school, but again I was so shy that thinking back I probably turned down a bunch of offers because it was easier to just hide away and do my own thing.

    1. I think I mean funny as in, odd or weird. Not funny hah hah. I never dissociated but did feel just unease, as it was all somewhat surreal (first time etc.).

    2. I think it was probably poor word  choice on his part, because I always insisted I was very introverted. He is an extrovert and a pleasure-seeker (likes parties, loud concerts, things I don’t find all that enjoyable but I would be willing to give a try), and there was a lot anxiety blown up about compatibility on this point.

    3. I think it was pressure to “be a boyfriend” which, I guess I didn’t realize I was doing? I just wanted to spend time with him, but we usually would end up at his house and we’d have sex. After the first time I actually did come to enjoy it, I liked to make him feel good. But there was no reciprocity there… aka I never finished and usually just felt like a sex doll…

    4. I don’t have any hang-ups about crying, and i do it frequently since it’s so cathartic. There was never any shame about it in my house, and I know it’s healthy. What was uncharacteristic was that we were in public, and I was just so frazzled that I lost my head and instead of standing up for myself (which I knew I should be doing), I broke down and became very weepy, almost begging with him to be kinder. He was criticizing me about having too many walls up, which made me think “Oh no, I’ve done something to piss him off and he’s disappointed with me.”

    5. Maybe so. Although I also felt that since he’s actually had girlfriends in the past that he was showing me how. So when he seemed suddenly so uncomfortable with me (again, I really don’t know why. I guess I was awkward? I think this must be due to the pressure I felt from him, to go so fast from “I like you” to “When we start having sex I wanna stay in bed for like a week.”

    6. My parents are both pretty shy and also introverted. This meant that we really stuck together a lot when I was a kid, and even a teen. My rebellious “ugh my parents are so lame” phase came a bit later than most peoples’.

    7. Non-romantic rejections aren’t too bad. I can usually forget about them. This was especially bad because I sought validation from the relationship (a guy likes me!) and because it seemed to me to be the start of “real grown-up life” because I had thought having a romantic/sexual relationship was going to be the real start of adulthood. But, I’ve been an adult for years! I moved to a new city for school, live on my own, have taken care of myself now for many years as an independent woman. I have to cut myself some slack..

    He didn’t view me as a potential girlfriend, or someone he cared for, he saw me as a plaything. This hurts a lot.

    I really do see now that obviously there was something off and this was not a relationship destined to go anywhere. Yes I was shy in bed the first time, but that’s totally understandable. For him, someone who thinks sex is paramount and whose ego I think rests quite heavily on it, this was no doubt a blow.



    Dear lannawannabe:

    “My parents are both pretty shy and also introverted. This means that we really stuck together a lot when I was a kid, and even a teen”- most preteens and teenagers no longer spend the majority of their social time with their parents alone, but with their own peers. Because your parents were shy and introverted, they didn’t have many friends coming over with their own children with whom you could have socialized. When other teens spent their time outside their home, with peers, you spent your time inside your home, with your parents, just the three of you.

    Your parents did a good job preparing you for an independent, adult life as far as living on your own (“I’ve been an adult for years! I moved to a new city for school, I live on my own, have taken care of myself for many years as an independent woman”). But of course, they couldn’t possibly prepare you for a romantic relationship because.. well, they weren’t your peers. Not having adequate exposure to your peers, you were what you termed yourself, “a late bloomer”.

    And so, at 27, the idea of a romantic, sexual relationship with this 29 year old guy, seemed to you “to be the start of ‘real grown-up life'”- because unlike having the experience of living on your own, you did not yet have the experience of a  romantic, sexual relationship.

    You used to imagine having sex with “characters from tv shows, musicians, etc.”, and of course, that did not prepare you to a real life romantic,  sexual relationship. You then had some in real life sexual experience with one guy, “more like fooling around” which was “pretty horrible, unpleasant”, and then, at 27, you experienced an “Almost-Relationship” with this guy.

    Unfortunately for you, the guy wasn’t of any help in making it a good experience for you. It was bad at first, and then, when you did feel some sexual pleasure, and “liked to make him feel good”, he did  not reciprocate (“there was no reciprocity there.. felt like a sex doll… he saw me like a plaything. This hurts a lot”)-

    – you, in non-sexual contexts, had experience with reciprocating affection and attention, and you extended it to the sexual context with this guy. He, on the other hand, had sexual experience before meeting you, but he didn’t have much experience of reciprocating emotionally or sexually.

    He was good at texting while you were out of town those few weeks,  but once you were back, he wanted to have sex right away, and for the duration of the few weeks he had sex with you, he didn’t reciprocate,  but used you like a sex doll, a plaything. It is hurtful to be used that way, because a person needs to be treated like a person, not a thing.

    There are lots and lots of people, particularly young men in certain cultures, who are experienced sexually, but not in an emotionally intimate, mutual way. Instead of treating the woman  as a person with feelings, a person who matters, they use the woman as a thing, to satisfy themselves. And if they buy the woman dinner before sex, they feel like.. good people, I imagine.

    So what  is next for you, in this adult world of love and sex?




    Anita—thank you for your very kind words. Throughout I have sought out spaces to talk and vent, and it has helped to a large extent. Being stuck around at home (despite practically everyone else in the world being under the same circumstances), and at my parents’ house to boot, I feel like I’m losing that hard-fought independence. It’s a shaky, uncertain time and I am sure many of us are experiencing such “where are we going” concerns.

    I have tried dating apps but found them more stress and anxiety than they’re worth. If one good thing came from my experience, it showed me not to rest on my laurels or shy away from getting out and doing things, so I’m dipping my toe into being more social outside of school, so I meet different types of people and I have expanded my social circle. This is a big plus!

    I think I have learned some very valuable lessons about not letting your heart go too easily. I tend to be pretty guarded in general but I think I went too far the other way with this guy—probably pretty naive of me but again, I think he’s well-practiced in dealing with women this way. And, unfortunately, I don’t think he sees that behaviour as inherently wrong… In fact, he would probably self-identify as a feminist!

    My hope is that after this extended period of isolation, I will be re-energized toward my life, feel a bit happier being me and find more joy in the small things that make up my typical day-to-day.


    Dear lannawannabe:

    You are welcome! Yes, these are very difficult times for most of  us (some people have been enjoying the lockdown, it being an opportunity to exit the rat race, to relax and do nothing much). You are welcome to post here anytime you need an online outing from your home.

    The plan to me “more social outside of school.. meet different types of people” is a good plan, but being cautious while meeting different types of people is necessary. It does seem to me too that you “went too far the other way with this guy”, the other way from being guarded.

    You wrote that this guy identifies as a feminist- there are all kinds of definitions to feminism, an evolution that feminism went through the years, or a devolution. There are women who define themselves as feminists in a similar way to how he defines it, which  is to use others or be used by others sexually.

    I think that after the isolation, you  will be, like you hope, re-energized toward your life, and happier being you. You do have all that it takes to make a  good life for yourself!



    Indeed! I am really hoping that my high functioning anxiety doesn’t interfere with future relationships. All I can hope is my future partners will be more serious about me. I feel really embarrassed by how desperate and crazy I must have seemed to him… but, there was a reason for this anxiety. I wasn’t being treated entirely fairly.

    – lw


    Dear lannawannabe:

    “All I can hope is my future partners will be more serious about me”- they won’t be your partners unless they are serious about you: a man will have to be serious first, and for some time, before he gets the privilege of being intimate with you, I say!

    “I feel really embarrassed by how desperate and crazy I must have seemed to him”- does it really matter how he saw or sees you? There are so many other people in the world, so many people you will meet;  why worry about what one person thinks about you.

    I understand that it feels to you that it matters, but it doesn’t really matter, does it?


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