UK Relationships/Making sense of a relationship that never happened
I'll try and keep this brief even though it's a bit complicated - am feeling awful though and could really do with some advice.
I'm 33 and have been single for almost two years after a series of pretty bad relationships. It's been made easier to stay single by the fact that I am "picky" (to quote my friends) and never seem to meet men I feel attracted to. At the beginning of December, I suddenly met a guy, also 33, who I was incredibly attracted to. All the signs were that he felt the same and after a lot of persuasion from friends, I decided to ask him out on a date just before Christmas - but he beat me to it and I was over the moon. He told me upfront that he had two children from a previous relationship but had been split up from their mother for over eight years and it was acrimonious.
Over the next six weeks, we set up dates that he cancelled three times, each time saying he was unwell or had a problem with his children. Each time I questioned whether he really wanted to see me and whether he had time for a relationship when he has his children five days a week, but he kept reassuring me he was interested, really liked me and was just going through a rough patch and was looking forward to seeing me. Over that time we talked or texted nearly every day, about absolutely everything, and I felt we knew each other really well and the more I found out, the more attracted to him I felt. I had a lot of reservations over the fact we weren't actually seeing each other, but every time I gave him the option of just leaving things between us, he said he was keen and wanted to carry on talking and trying to make a date. I was always gracious when he cancelled a date, saying I understood the demands of small children (I'm not a mother but I am an aunty) but was clear that we needed to see each other at some point and he agreed and kept thanking me for being so understanding.
Then suddenly and out of the blue, I received a text from him to tell me that the mother of his kids had asked him to move back in with her and build a family home for their children, and he had said yes. He told me he was "devastated" that nothing had ever happened between us because he felt we had a strong connection and I was the most attractive girl he'd ever met, but he'd had to make a choice between me and his ex and he'd chosen her for the children's sake. I was dignified and polite in response and told him I was disappointed but hoped he'd be happy with his choice. He said that me being so nice about it had made him regret his decision as he didn't think he'd be able to stop thinking about me, and I said he needed to let me know if anything changed as my feelings hadn't changed. He replied "I know" and that was the last conversation we had. I'm determined not to contact him as I think I'm currently riding high in his estimation after my reaction to his news and I don't want to appear needy or sad, but it is upsetting that we don't seem to be speaking after weeks of almost daily contact, and I miss him.
I think I have now accepted that nothing is likely to happen between us, and I suppose I'm grateful that this happened now rather than months down the line as I suppose he would always have gone back to his ex if she'd asked. However, I'm finding it so difficult to make sense of the whole situation - did he ever truly like me? Was he always planning on a reconciliation with his ex and if so, why keep me hanging for weeks? Is it likely he will ever contact me again and if so, what should I do? I had such high hopes as I fell for him really hard, and even though nothing ever really happened between us, I am more upset about this than I have been with some of my long-term relationships have ended. I just can't see how I'm going to make sense of it and move on.
I can really hear your pain and fear. I totally understand how you are feeling - your anguish, loneliness and confusion. I can answer all of your questions and more. I am happy to keep answering them until you feel much better and you get to see clearly the situation you are in.
One of the things you don't mention in your question is the word 'love' - yet what I am about to explain to you is that this is actually all about love. The answer for you lies in understanding about a type of love you might never of even heard about before. So be prepared to open you mind and learn something completely new. Annie, if you learn this, you will never have a bad relationship again. You can be picky, but you will be picky for the kind of guy who is guaranteed to make you blissfully happy.
There are actually only two types of love - one that brings us a feeling of sheer joy and bliss and one that just brings us continual pain and heartache. The kind of love that brings us joy is called 'unconditional love'. This is pure love, real love, the only sort of love you should ever be interested in. The wrong sort of love is conditional love, imitation love, or something I refer to as Hollywood / fairy tale love - this kind of love brings nothing but pain. Unfortunately, the whole world has been sold a lie about what love really is. Almost the entire population of the planet, when they talk about love, talk about conditional love. Conditional love stinks. Conditional love causes bad relationships. Conditional love is at the root cause of everything you have described in your question. And it hurts. To learn to have great relationships you need to know the difference.
So what is the difference. Unconditional Love is where somebody cares for you without wanting anything in return.
Conditional love is where people say they love you but in reality they only say this when you are giving them what they want. Because if you stop giving them what they want, then all of sudden they stop being in love with you, which proves it wasn't the real thing in the first place.
The problem is that most of us actually only ever want something in return, so we have no idea how to be unconditionally loving - but you can learn how.
You should have been given your first taste of unconditional love when you were a little girl. You see, for parents to completely unconditionally love their children they must accept them for exactly who they are even when they are making mistakes and being flawed or stupid. Did your parents ever shout at you or get cross? Did they get you to do things you really didn't want to do, for their benefit not yours? You see, as very young children we learn the message from our parents "if you are good and do what I want, I love you - if you are bad, I don't love you". And this message creates the most intolerable pain and emptiness inside us that we often carry with us for our entire lives. We believe we have to be a certain way in order to be loved. No, Sweetie - you are completely loveable exactly as you are.
This goes exactly the same for your "married" man. From what you have told me I can tell that he does not understand what real Love is - because if he did, he wouldn't be having a relationship with someone other than the mother of his children. But this is the thing - when we don't have real Love in our lives, there is the most intolerable feeling of fear and emptiness - and it is so intolerable that we will do anything to relieve the pain. We will do almost anything to relieve this pain even if it would bring shame and condemnation from others - we have to get rid of the pain.
People who don't have unconditional love in their lives find all sorts of ways to relieve the pain - they use drink, drugs, sex, gambling, making money - in fact pretty much any addiction is driven by the need to get rid of the emotional pain that is with us since childhood. These can all be collectively called Imitation Love and fall into one of four categories - Power, Pleasure, Praise and Safety.
The circumstances you have described in your question can be translated into lots of forms of imitation love. This guy, likes the fact that you were interested in him (Pleasure), he would have felt great that you were attracted to him (Power) and you no doubt expressed some of that in your words and texts to him (Praise). He will have been rolling around (metaphorically) liked a tickled puppy dog. It feels great and intoxicating. However, he also clearly has a massive need for safety and is afraid to move on from his relationship with this other women. His need for safety is stronger than his need for the potential supply of praise and pleasure you could have given him. So he chooses the one that he is most afraid of - we always do.
Sweetie - I never tell people what to do - it is always only ever your choice. But because of my experience of counselling and coaching many hundreds of people who are in your exact same position, I have come to realise what works and what doesn't. What you need in your life is REAL unconditional love. You have to learn what this is because no-one has ever shown you or told you about it before. When you learn what unconditional love really is, you can then go and find your own man (not someone else's) who will learn to love you for exactly who you are. As you learn what real love actually is, you can learn to be truly loving to others and they will feel it so much more clearly that the rubbishy imitation version that most of us were given as children.
Once you have real love in your life, your whole world can change and you can learn to find relationships that are wholesome and joyous, not secretive, lonely and full of bitter disappointment.
I would suggest that you break off all contact with this man immediately. He is incapable of giving you the real love you need - he has proved this many times over.
Then I suggest you buy a book. It is called "Real Love in Dating - The Truth about Finding the Perfect Partner" You can buy it from this website here.
Once you start to read the book you can come back to me here and I will help you make sense of what you are learning and gradually you will grow your own self belief in finding a man who will genuinely love you - with the REAL thing - not fake conditional love.