Dear Melissa, My friend says his life is a mess after his high profile divorce. His divorce was finalized 9 months ago, and he has full custody of his kids.
He is an amazing father, brother, son, and friend. We care for each other and are definitely attracted to the other. We have even kissed a couple times. He considers me his best friend but I want more.
I have asked him for more but he says he can’t give me more right now. Now I have stepped back, and I’m thinking, “Should I just walk away or give him time and space?” Your thoughts? Advice?
Thanks so much for your question! Your question about “Should I just walk away or give him time and space?” is a very common dilemma. So you’re not alone in how you feel.
I have a couple of article related to this that may be helpful, including:
How Long Should You Wait for Him to Commit? (And How to Know When You’ve Waited Long Enough)
How Long Should I Wait for Him to Figure out What He Wants?
He’s Not Ready to Commit. Should I Wait?
Should You Wait for Him to Be Ready for a Relationship?
Should I Wait for Him to Finalize His Divorce or Move On?
Should I Tell Him I Want a Real Relationship?
The best recommendation I can give you is to give him time and space and don’t wait for him. Note: That’s different than completely walking away from the relationship. I’ll explain.
He’s Going Through a Huge Transition
If it was a very messy divorce, and he’s still grappling with the fallout from all that, he needs time to heal and get his life together before he can really be mentally and emotionally available to give the time and attention a new relationship deserves.
If he gets into a relationship while not having healed from the divorce, it’s going to put a strain on your relationship because he’s going to be mentally and emotionally occupied with all that comes from the dissolution of a marriage, as well as recovering from the mental, emotional, and economic consequences of that divorce.
Depending on how long they were married, the complexity of their estate, how messy and contentious their divorce is…it could take time to recover from all that, sometimes a lot of time.
And it’s not just mentally emotionally recovering from the divorce, but there are new challenges that come with being newly divorced like learning how to co-parent across two households, adjusting to being a single dad, helping his kids adjust to the new family structure, and perhaps contending with economic challenges as well.
Also, even though his divorce is final, he might not immediately know what’s next for him. His family life (and often his financial life) is undergoing such a huge transition that thinking about and growing a new romance is not top of mind for him.
The bottom line is: A man going through or recovering from a divorce is undergoing a lot of stress and transition. And, inevitably, all those stressors affect your relationship.
(This is why second marriages have such a high divorce rate…like 67% …because of all the stressors that affect a second marriage like merging households and families, dealing with the ex, co-parenting, financial pressures, the complexity of relationships, the lack of cultural support, the length of time since the divorce, etc. Similar stressors affect dating relationships that follow a divorce.)
Is He Ready for a Relationship?
It’s not the stressor that’s necessarily the problem. All relationships experience stress at one time or another. The thing to pay attention to is: the degree to which the stress negatively affects the relationship.
If you want to give a new romance the best chance to succeed, I recommend NOT getting romantically involved until you’re both ready for a relationship.
Being ready for a relationship means being ready and available to give the time and attention to new romance. In other words, it means not having any issues in one’s life that could interfere with the success of a relationship.
I want to note that “not having any issues in your life that could interfere with the success of a relationship” doesn’t mean one’s life has to be perfect before they get romantically involved with someone. No one’s life is perfect.
It just means their life has to be together enough and stable enough that they can be available for a romance and relationship.
For example, I have a friend who was between jobs and has very high rent to pay. She was searching in earnest for her next job opportunity and was on the phone with recruiters and potential employers and going to interviews all week.
However, she was still on Tinder and Bumble (dating apps) and chatting with guys. And she would go on dates for fun and to be social.
But when a guy was interested in more, she made it clear that she was on a serious job hunt at the moment, it was taking a lot of her time and energy, and that she wasn’t ready to get involved in a serious relationship right now.
She wanted more job/economic security (and to take care of that basic need) before she went on a more serious search for a boyfriend or got romantically involved with someone.
The problem is, not everyone is conscious of their own relationship readiness. And the drive to mate and relate is very strong. Romance and companionship feel good! So it’s natural that we gravitate toward that experience.
Our responsibility to ourselves is to be as objective as we can when we’re dating. That means: Be conscious of our relationship requirements, conscious of vision for the kind of life and relationship that we truly want, and conscious of our own relationship readiness so that we can spot red flags before we get hurt and make relationship decisions that support our relationship goals.
When you know your vision for the kind of life and relationship you want and you know your relationship requirements, you can use those as a powerful screening tool in your dating experiences to be objective, balance your heart with your head, and see just how compatible you and your date are.
The best thing you can do for you and for your relationship is to let him take the time that he needs to heal.
You’re doing the right thing by stepping back.
You can certainly maintain your friendship and stay connected to him if you want to and if it feels good to you, but I highly recommend that you avoid getting into an exclusive romantic relationship with him (in other words: don’t be his girlfriend if he can’t/is unavailable/is not ready to be a boyfriend to you) because he’s not ready to offer you the kind of relationship that you want right now.
Trying to force a romance at this time will be hard on the both of you — but especially YOU because it will build resentment when you’re not getting your needs met.
And that resentment will poison your relationship because you’re not having the experience that you want.
Should You Wait for Him to Be Ready?
Giving him time and space doesn’t mean you need to wait around for him.
You actually have a lot more options than “being patient” and “giving him time.”
In fact, I strongly advise NOT waiting for him (like waiting around, being his girlfriend, committing to him in your heart, being in an exclusive relationship with him…until he’s ready for a relationship with you).
But you don’t have to “leave him” or end your connection or friendship to him if you don’t want to. You can stay warm, open, and friendly to him.
But I highly recommend that you avoid going into deeper levels of romantic involvement with him at this time because pinning all your hopes on someone who isn’t ready will just make you feel anxious, stuck, and it will build resentment. It won’t feel good to you!
What I recommend instead of waiting is:
Deeply connect with your feelings and your feminine power – remember YOU’RE the catch, you have power in this relationship, too. Never put your life on hold for any man. Step into being the chooser in your life and relationships.
Date yourself or date other men – take yourself out on “dates” and lean into activities that bring you joy and fill your soul. Have you ever watched a musician or performing artist so engrossed in playing her music or lost in dancing…that it’s absolutely mesmerizing to watch? When you are “in your element” and completely connected to your Source and creative energy, when you are living life, it’s very attractive. It’s magnetic! It feels good. It’s good for your Soul. It raises your self-esteem. And the bonus is, he (and other men!) will notice.
Learn to speak from your heart, including articulating what you want and don’t want. It’s one of the most valuable relationship skills you can have because being able to clearly talk about your needs and desires, and in a way that doesn’t attack or pressure your man, will help you get your needs met because you’re more likely to be heard, understood, and inspire action.
So instead of “waiting,” turn your attention to activities that really feel FEEL GOOD to you, activities that feed your soul and put you in your Goddess element…maybe that’s yoga, dance class, friends, etc. Instead of turning your attention to him, turn that energy toward YOU, and nurturing YOU.
And, if he has expectations that you keep seeing him exclusively, I recommend being clear with him that you’re looking to be in a relationship with someone who’s ready and knows what they want, and until that special someone comes along, you can’t commit to him.
It’s not being pushy. It’s no pressure. It’s being real and honoring your needs. It’s warmly yet powerfully sending the message that you don’t do “waiting” and that you have power in this relationship, too. You’re not waiting for him to “pick you” or “choose you.”
And if he’s paying attention, he’ll realize that if he doesn’t move things along and figures out what he wants, he’s going to lose you.
So How Do You Know Whether to Stay or Go?
It really comes down to knowing what you want — knowing your vision for the kind of life and relationship that you want, knowing your relationship requirements and needs — and whether what he’s offering fits into your vision and meets your requirements. You have to ask yourself: How aligned is he with what you want in a relationship right now? How available is he to meet your needs right now?
You have the power to choose your path. Which also means you have the power to choose whether to put your life on hold and “wait” for him for as long as HE wants you to wait, or take charge of your life and date him for as long as YOU want to date him.
It’s a completely different mindset.
When we “wait” for a man and put our life on hold for him, we’re letting HIM make the choice for us about our options and our love life; we making a choice to give up our choices.
But when we step into being the chooser in our life, we’re no longer at the mercy of one man.
When we step into being the chooser, we step into being in charge of our love life.
We open our hearts to possibility, instead of pinning our hopes on him figuring his life out and waiting for him to choose us.
Not waiting tells the world that your time and heart are valuable.
Not waiting tells the world that you don’t need to wait for a man, you can have your choice of men.
Not waiting tells the world (and him!) that you are a high value woman.
I hope this helps provide some guidance!
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