Yesterday, I claimed confidently that it’s common for people to remain indifferently in pleasant-but-directionless relationships for years, only to break up and marry the next person they meet. And as substantiation, I offered…..When Harry Met Sally and 500 Days of Summer. Solid examples, I’d maintain, but fictional ones. So, how convenient that this morning, Carolyn Hax’s column provides a real life scenario!
Please help me come to terms with the fact that, less than one year after breaking up with me because I wanted to get married and he didn’t, my ex is now engaged to someone else. He had spent four years telling me how firmly anti-marriage he was. The worst part is that the fiancee is really insufferable.
Really? That sounds like the best part.
Think of the possibilities the fiancee’s awfulness allows:
It could mean your ex was looking for someone (presumably) very different from you — which would mean your personality wasn’t the problem, his taste in women was.
Or, maybe he’s just as anti-marriage as always, but she is a bully, and she has his principles in a jar somewhere in the back of her medicine cabinet.
It could be, too, that his anti-marriage stance was a test to gauge how much of a pushover you were. Now, I don’t necessarily believe he did that consciously; that would make him a monster. But I do believe that immature people — i.e., those looking to get away with something (vs. be good for the sake of it) — do push their companions to see how compliant they’ll be.
Think about it. Your ex just spent four years enjoying your company while making sure you stayed outside the velvet ropes. He saw that he could, and then did, push you around.
And maybe his now-fiancee, when he tried his no-marriage line on her, said, “Suit yourself, but don’t bother calling me anymore.” Assertiveness could explain why you find her “insufferable” and he finds her attractive.
I am not, I repeat, not endorsing anything like playing hard to get — or “playing” anything — nor do I believe there was anything you should have done differently to snag a proposal: You want a guy who wants you, so your ex wasn’t the guy.
Coming to terms with that hinges on the difference between regretting a mistake, and learning from it. You have nothing to regret here. You did your best with the information you had. The right guy would have loved you for it, and the wrong guy never would (though a decent one wouldn’t have taken advantage, as this one seems to have).
And that’s the lesson to take away here, I think: Don’t try to get close to people who persistently, openly keep you at arm’s length. His present engagement didn’t break the bad news; his past disengagement did.
In short, Sally (of When Harry Met) still says it best: “All this time he said he didn’t want to get married. But the truth was, he didn’t want to get married to me.”
(And do read Carolyn’s second letter for a happy counterexample from someone feeling pretty good about what’s he’s found)