When Dr Jekyl Becomes Mr. Hyde

Dear Toni--

Why would a man tell me (over and over again) that we are soul mates, that he's been waiting his whole life for me and that he wants to have a baby with me--and then suddenly tell me we are not right for each other and end it with no explanation? We dated for over 10 months and had a (I thought) great relationship. We never fought and no problems ever came up between us. I don't understand. I was expecting a proposal, not a break-up! I am devastated. What happened? --Talk is Cheap

Dear Talk is Cheap--

It's easy to understand why you are confused and devastated by this sudden change in his feelings and behavior. You apparently never saw it coming and maybe he didn't either.

There are many possible explanations for a scenario like this one and I will touch on these. However, let me emphasize up front that you will never be sure of what went wrong or what was never quite right, unless he is willing/able to share his true feelings with you.

Relationships go through stages. There are no set time frames for these, but the first stage usually lasts 3-9 months, depending on the couple, their frequency of contact and how quickly they become intimate (physically and emotionally). It sounds as though the two of you were in an extended first stage. I base this on what you wrote--that "we never fought and no problems ever came up between us." This sounds like you never reached genuine intimacy. This is when two people can be truly themselves with one another--warts and all. It is when it feels safe to express frustration, disagreement, hurt, anger and any of those real-life emotions that are part of the fabric of all real relationships.

You two were still in that first stage (haze) of intense feelings wrapped up in a romanticized view of one another. It's possible that HE took a step towards stage two and realized that this relationship was not a keeper for him. Yes, it can and does happen that suddenly.

Other possibilities? He may have a history of intense, short lived, romanticized relationships, in which he never moves past the first stage, due to a fear of commitment and/or other issues he has not dealt with. A last possibility is that SOMETHING happened between the two of you that was significant for him, but may have gone unnoticed by you. This THING may have sent a jolt through him or a red flag, or some other signal that this or you are not what he wants/needs for the long haul.

Whatever the reasons, he has told you it is over. It would have been mature and caring of him to share his feelings with you in order to help you to know what the real problem was. Instead, you are left wondering and searching for answers and perhaps beating yourself up for some imagined deficit on your part.

You would have been devastated regardless, however really KNOWING what happened would help you to begin the process of letting go, healing and moving on.

This is where you need to begin now. Take some time to heal. Reach out to those who love you for support and nurturing. Set new goals and focus on YOU and where you want your life to go. When Mr. Right comes along you will be in a better position to recognize him and be more truly ready for creating and sustaining a healthy relationship.

(from May 2005)

Want to read other columns on this subject?

"New Relationship Communication"
List of more
"Problems with communication"

"The Reluctant Boyfriend"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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