QUESTION: I’ve met a man, through work, who ticks all my boxes and says he feels the same way. We’ve had several nights out and the last time we ended up in bed and had amazing sex. Afterwards he started crying and said he has a girlfriend of a year, who has severe depression. He feels duty bound to stay with her, although he’s not in love, until she’s in a better place. He’s asked me to stay friends while he sees the relationship through, but I want a man I can love, not a pal. What should I do?
ANSWER: I would put a huge question mark over any man who did not confess to having a girlfriend before making moves on another woman. And why stop at confessing? A properly scrupulous man would have ended one relationship before thinking of jumping into bed with someone else.
Mind you, some of the kindest men I know are guilty of murky grey overlapping areas between one romance and another. Common wisdom has it that Mr Average would rather eat his own foot than tell his partner their fairy tale is over. Even so, the way your lover has played events smacks of rank cowardice. I can’t help wondering whether the version of events he’s given you is truthful.
I am sure his girlfriend is afflicted, but few people are enough like Dr Kildare to pledge unconditional support to a partner with severe depression, after barely a year together, if they don’t actively love them (it’s different when two people have spent decades together; then you’d be despicable if you didn’t see your partner through a bad patch). He might be a saint; but, if so, why wasn’t he upfront about this pre-existing relationship?
It would be a different case, of course, if your suitor’s girlfriend had threatened to self-harm if he ends the relationship. Many people who find themselves in such dynamics find it almost impossible to leave because of the guilt heaped on their shoulders.
There’s often a highly manipulative element to such behaviour, meaning the intervention of mental health professionals is necessary. If you discover that’s the case here, then it’s worth holding your man’s hand as he extricates himself from the relationship.
However, it sounds to me as if this man’s a chronic ditherer. I have no doubt he is genuinely attracted to you and would like to continue the romance, but he’s not certain. He wants time to ponder the pros and cons of his future path, while requiring you to put your love life on hold. Bear in mind that serious depression can last for years and some people never stop feeling fragile.
So, yes, I would advise you to take a giant step back. Who wants to swap amazing sex for coffee and chit-chat? The key question is what your strategy might be thereafter. Total radio silence is good for your sanity and leaves the ball firmly in his court.
A friend who was in a similar predicament advises restraining contact to occasional upbeat emails ‘just to remind him you’re fabulous’. She adds: ‘After six months you find an excuse for lunch. Arrive looking fabulous.
‘Tell him you’ve started seeing someone else, then look him in the eye and say you still think he’s the one and it’s the best sex you’ve ever had. He’s then got until the end of lunch to decide if he wants to leave a bad relationship and start a good one’. (The strategy worked for her - she got married six months ago.)
One thing’s for certain: if your man is still dithering six months down the line, he’ll be undecided six years from now. - Daily Mail