Dating as a Widow: Man Pulls Away to “Slow Things Down”

Dear Ronnie,

I’m 62 and have been a widow for five years. Finally I felt ready to try my luck at dating, and at the beginning of December, I met a new guy at a dance. I took an instant liking to Fred and he felt the same way about me. Our relationship escalated quickly after that night. He called me several times a day and we saw each other frequently – four or more times per week, spending the entire weekend together. I was totally enjoying the experience.

Then, just before the holidays, he retreated. Basically disappeared, Stopped calling.  I wracked my brain trying to figure out what I did wrong. I just couldn’t take it anymore not knowing, so I called him and asked him directly,  “What’s going on?” Fred was slow to reply but after some teeth-pulling he told me that it was all too fast for him. Even though he’s been divorced more than 6 years, he was questioning his readiness for such an intense relationship.

This made me crazy because the speed and intensity were totally his doing! I would have been fine with a slower approach, but he seemed to be high gear – I just went with it. I must admit it was very romantic.

Fred explained that he’d like to see me again, but  wants to take things slower. I agreed because  I’m not seeing anyone else and I like him. I did tell him that I planned to keep up with my dating activity, although I haven’t met anyone of interest at all.

I’m  confused about where we’re going. We see each other once or twice a week and he calls me regularly – maybe 5 times a week. What do you think is going on? I’d appreciate any insight. My goal is to find a man who will be in a committed, life-long relationship. I’m afraid to bring this up and was thinking I should wait to see what happens until maybe June.

— Louisiana Lady

Dear LL,

Fred wanted to slow things down because he didn’t want the intensity of your relationship? Yet,  he talks to you almost daily and sees you consistently. Don’t ask yourself what YOU did wrong! To me, it looks like Fred wants the benefits of  a relationship without the commitment.

John Gray of Venus and Mars fame, talks about this pulling away as “retreating into the cave.” Not all men are cave dwellers, but when they do retreat, the time away and reasons why vary. It seems to me that  Fred freaked himself out which makes me think he has some intimacy issues.

However, here’s what I say to all my over 40 dating coaching clients: So much depends on how you feel about this situation. If you are happy and feel you don’t need more definition, that’s OK. And let’s keep in mind that it’s only been three months. But if you want more, you might as well bring it up.

I don’t advise waiting until June – by then you will be very attached to Fred. If you want to understand what’s going on – just ask him. His reaction will say it all:

– If he’s angry – then you have an answer – he doesn’t want more and he doesn’t want to deal with it
– If  he’s happy with things the way they are, you can decide if this meets your needs of not
– If he has an open conversation where you explore what you both want and he agrees to move forward – that would be good news!

All three are possibilities and you will have an answer, eliminating worry or feeling like you’re in the dark.

Regarding looking for other prospects while dating Fred, I doubt you can honestly say you are open and available. Fred is taking up space in your life and heart which reduces your chances of meeting anyone else. Please don’t fool yourself, thinking that because you haven’t met anyone else, there isn’t anyone better out there.

Summing Things Up
I don’t often tell my dating coaching clients to walk away. It depends on what you want and how you feel about the relationship. If you’re OK with things, keep going, but if you want more, then ask for what you want and be willing to accept the consequences. Not asking is like sticking your head in the sand and will lead to far more heartache later.

photo credit: pixie_bebe

6 thoughts on “Dating as a Widow: Man Pulls Away to “Slow Things Down””

    • Hi Marie,

      You can contact him one time only. Just say something pleasant but don’t ask why you haven’t heard from him. If he responds, great! If not let it go and move on. Otherwise you would be chasing him which is not a strategy that works.

  1. Hi Doug,

    You are facing one of the hardest romantic decisions anyone has to make. It’s hard to walk away from someone you love, but you deserve to be treated fairly and have what you want. Summon up your courage and get back out there – you are a hot commodity! A widower is often one of the best “catches” a woman can find since you are relationship ready and have had prior success. My bet is – you won’t have to look around for very long. All the best – Ronnie

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  2. I’m a widower dating a widow and looking for answers because i’m going though a very simalar situation. I resently felt I had to walk away. I’m going though a lot of self dought about why I can’t just be fine with the casual relaitionship thing. And it just comes down to the point that I want more because I have fallen so hard for this woman who I know cares but defenetly pulls hard one moment then pulls away after. I hate this because I know we have a deap conection and have gone though a lot with lots of joy. I can’t help wondering what if. Seeing your comments is reassuring and i apreciate them. Its been very hard to move on!

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  3. Cathy – You totally get it. Sorry this has been your path as well – but you are wise to keep that advice in mind. “Sooner rather than later.” That’s the way to keep your heart open to men who are available and relationship ready.

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  4. Wow – my heart goes out to LL. I too have been through this and thought that the lack of commitment and intimacy issues were okay. That time would tell and he could come to trust me to really open up…..

    Ronnie, I love your advice. Yes, I kept thinking he is in his cave and I knew he was into me.

    But I agree with you and whilst working on and praying that I could walk away so if there is someone else for me that I am available and if it turns out to be the same one later down the track, then that’s great too. But it is so hard when you have become best friends and really love each other as people… I say do it sooner rather than later. Then time will tell.

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