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Question: I have been dating this widower, Bob, for about three months now. He has had a woman at work, Deborah, hitting on him. In fact, she pretty much has asked Bob to marry her. I told him he needs to tell her about me, but he said his personal life is none of her business. I began feeling insecure and pushed the issue of marriage, feeling that if she can ask and is not in a relationship with him than I should be at the top of the list for a proposal.
Bob has told me has plans for me and he knows what it takes to get lucky. He even brings marriage up every time we are in a restaurant if the person has on a wedding band. I am not ready to get married at this point and explained this to him. He sent me a text message saying we are on pause for now and will not answer my calls. I have decided to give him his space at this moment. Should I just move on? And I'm not sure if this makes a difference, but he is white, I'm black and this is the first interracial relationship for us both. Deborah is white. We also both have children. Mine know about him, however he has not told his about me. I would like your opinion of where you think he is and if this relationship is truly over. ...Lisa
Answer: Here's my take on your situation: Because you had been dating for such a short time, your interest in marriage has caused Bob to stop and re-evaluate your relationship. And while initially you may have brought up marriage merely as a way of "rightfully staking your claim," your push in that direction has given Bob pause. First, he is probably scared that things are moving faster than he is comfortable with. Second, your pushing the marriage issue may cause him to perceive you as someone with an agenda. He may now view you as a woman less interested in him and more interested in achieving your goal, which is, in this case, to get him to the alter. Third, while his mentioning marriage may be within his comfort zone, your doing so may cause him to feel ill-at-ease. Yes, it's a double standard, but nonetheless it still may be how he actually feels. Also, he may feel like he's being played or manipulated – something else which moves you from the category of appealing partner, to someone he needs to keep his guard up around. Fourth, he may still have unresolved issues with his late wife. He may feel like now that you've made this relationship seem "more important" than the more casual one he thought he was initially pursuing, he had better take a step back and reassess whether or not he's ready to actually "move on" from his late wife and invest his whole heart in someone new.
Understand that I do not fault you for reacting to the perceived threat to your relationship that Deborah represented. The truth is you were just trying to not get left behind standing passively by while some other woman swooped in and grabbed your guy. That is totally understandable. That said, however, your reaction obviously pushed some buttons in Bob – buttons that probably can't be "un-pressed" right away.
The good news is that he obviously cares for you, and you for him. The not-so-good-news is that he feels compelled to pull away in order to sort things out. Unreasonable as it may be, saying the "M-word" to any man early in a relationship can cause him to run screaming into the night. But using it in close proximity with some version of the term "breaking-up" is even more alarming, because regardless of your intention, he will likely perceive that he has been given an ultimatum of sorts – a kind of all-or-nothing scenario. And though it is obvious to me, removed as I am, that that was certainly not your intent, to him it probably sounded like you were, on some level, pressuring him to "fish or cut bait."
To be clear, however, for now, your romantic relationship is over. When a man says that he wants to put the relationship "on pause," he means that, at least temporarily, the romance is over. It is possible that down the road he may want to revisit a relationship with you, and if you are interested and available the two of you may be able to rebuild your relationship. And as frustrating as it may be, "giving things time" is probably your only solution. No amount of pushing, pressure, or promises to keep things light and casual will cause him to move back in your direction any faster.
As to whether race plays a part in any of this, all I can say is that I believe if those involved were all of the same race or if the racial mixture was slightly different, it would have little impact on the way this particular scenario played out. That doesn't mean it is totally irrelevant – just that there is no evidence to show it is a significant factor. And whether your respective children knowing about the relationship so early on is meaningful really depends upon their ages, proximity, and how much about your personal life you normally share with them. And since parent's feeling on when to involve their children in their romantic lives vary enormously from one individual to the next. I wouldn't spend much time or effort speculating on the significance of this.
My advice is that you move on, knowing that reconciliation at some point in the future is a possibility. Do not dwell on tomorrow and what might be, concentrate on today and what is reasonably in your grasp. Right now he is not available. If you're interested in romance, find someone who is. And whatever you do, don't use the "M-word" till you're certain that a permanent relationship is what you both have in mind.
If you have any questions about men, relationships, dating or a related topic, please feel free to email them to me at: david@EveryManSeesYouNaked.com. I will try to answer as many as I possibly can here in my column. If you are interested in a more comprehensive compendium of musings on the male mind, check out David's Every Man Sees You Naked: An Insider's Guide to How Men Think.
(C) 2009 David M. Matthews. All Rights Reserved.