Under the cover of nightclub
I met an amazing guy — the kind I swore didn't exist: thoughtful, caring and incredibly secure. He seemed to love me. We were together exactly nine months when he called and suggested we go dancing. Ten minutes after I arrived at the club, he broke up with me. He claimed he didn't know what had happened, but he just couldn't be with me anymore. I left, heartbroken — a complete wreck. Two weeks later, he called to see how I was and said, "Everything about you is what I want, but for some reason, I just don't want you." I've had a history of going for men who treated me like crap, but he treated me incredibly well. The lesson I've gleaned? Even if a guy's really good to you, you can't trust him. Help! I don't want to become some bitter, jaded old woman. — Devastated
Sometimes, treating a woman like crap comes with a substantial grace period. Sure, breakups happen, but a truly "thoughtful, caring" guy prepares you for what's to come with "We've gotta talk" — not "Hey, Babe, put on your strappiest dress and meet me under the disco balls." (Considerate guy that he is, surely he told you how beautiful you looked when the colored lights reflected off the mascara streaking down your cheeks.)
What changed for him? Without drilling a hole into his brain and watching all the worker ants running around the factory, it's hard to say. Maybe his feelings just fizzled, or maybe he was only up for romancing you into a relationship and not the relationship itself. Whatever his reason for leaving, he sure didn't need to pop up again to reiterate that he doesn't want you — just in case you missed that when he was teaching you his cool new dance move: twirl the girlfriend around and kick her to the curb.
Ask yourself whether it's actually out of character for Mr. Wonderful to rather cruelly and abruptly transform into Mr. I'll Be Wandering Off Now. Getting impatient in your search for a great guy can lead you to stick a bag over the head of a sorta-great guy or even a not-so-great guy and insist you've got your man. Your therapeutic professional would call this "confirmation bias" — favoring information that confirms some belief you hold and shoving away any information that doesn't. So, maybe you tell yourself that a man's treated you really well when he just treated you to some romantic dinners and did some of those nice boyfriend things like bringing you flowers and repairing your garden hose.
Any guy can learn to do that sort of stuff by reading "10 Ways to Make a Woman Cross-Eyed With Lust for You" in any number of men's magazines. To figure out whether a man is more than the sum of his smooth moves, look at whether he's compassionate, whether he shows empathy — for you and others — and especially when he doesn't think anybody's looking. Of course, getting to the truth takes being OK with the truth — even if it ends up setting you a lot freer than you wanted to be. Since it's always possible the candles and moonlight are a prelude to the track shoes, it's best to live with the hope that love will last but without the expectation that it will. That's probably the single best way to avoid becoming that "bitter, jaded old woman." Then again, somebody's got to take care of all the neighborhood's stray cats.
Bus case scenario
My best friend is a man for whom my feelings continue to grow. He's been stuck chasing his ex-girlfriend who lives four hours away. She sees him once a month for a booty call. I fall asleep thinking about him and daydream about him while on dates with other men. He's acknowledged that if his ex weren't in the picture, he'd explore a relationship with me. Please help. — Longing
"IF his ex weren't in the picture ... !" You can always find your way to an "if." It's fun to vacation in if-land for a moment or two — like, if I had a TV show, I'd have a cook and a driver and a monkey to massage my feet under my desk. But, I don't have a TV show, and monkeys throw feces. And this guy doesn't want to explore a relationship with you, or he'd be doing it instead of driving eight hours in hopes of servicing his ex back into a relationship with him.
You can either live your life or sit around if-ing about what could be ... his truck gets repossessed, and no bus lines go to Ex-girlfriendville, so he looks deep into your general direction and says the words you've been waiting so long to hear: "Can I borrow your car for a coupla days?"
Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (advicegoddess.com). Alkon is the author of I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle To Beat Some Manners Into Impolite Society.