Dear Carolyn: My former fiance, “John,” prefers staying home to going out unless it’s for work or family. I’m easygoing and never had a problem until a few weeks ago when he didn’t come to an awards ceremony where I was being honored. This was a big deal for me and I had to beg him to come.
Then he blew it off. Instead he binged some Netflix show before it expired. No apology.
I told him I needed to think and packed some things and went to my sister’s. After thinking things over, I told him I wanted to break up.
John is suddenly apologetic and promising to go wherever I want. He says it’s stupid to break up over an awards ceremony. He says he never messed up before and everyone deserves a second chance.
But I’m really, really happy. I didn’t feel sad when we were together, but the thought of marrying him makes me want to cry. Is John right about getting a second chance? And how could I not see how unhappy I was?
— Feeling Free
Feeling Free: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
No, you do not go back to someone just because he thinks he “deserves” a second chance.
What does that even mean? That your company is his entitlement, or a possession of his that you took away?
Your need to consider your next step ended with “I’m really, really happy.” You owe yourself that and you owe him — besides honesty and clarity — nothing. Not in a mean way, just in a you’re-a-free-person-with-agency-and-you-don’t-want-to-be-with-him way. Done.
In fact, this need to consider what you owe him got pretty twisted when you realized “the thought of marrying him makes me want to cry” and yet you still managed to keep the question open about whether John was “right” that he has any say in your rejection of him.
What? No! Not right! Why are you even considering it?
Especially when he called your reasons, your epiphany about what you need from a partner, your decisiveness in taking the first step toward getting what you need, “stupid.”
This isn’t just a matter of remarkable disrespect — from the Netflixing no-show through the persistence in treating you like a commodity he deserves to obtain. He thinks he gets to decide things for you, and you think he might be right. This is a problem you will carry with you into your life after John if you don’t take a hard look at it now. Counseling with someone good can open your eyes, as can my favorite boundary primer, “Lifeskills for Adult Children,” by Janet Woititz and Alan Garner. Good luck.
Re: Second Chance: John says it’s stupid to break up over an awards ceremony? Remind him that this isn’t about the awards ceremony itself, it’s about him making Netflix a higher priority. I’m sure this is not the first time he’s done that, so you can also say that you’ve already given him his “second chance” and he blew it.
Anonymous: I do like this, but hesitate at validating the idea that a second chance is an entitlement he ever had standing to claim.
Plus, there’s nothing here to explain: “I’m happier now. I’m not coming back.”