Dear Ziva,

I've been with Bryan for almost a year. From the moment we met, the mutual attraction was overwhelming. He asked me to move in with him before even a month had passed, and we’ve been sharing an apartment ever since. He introduced me to his best friends, parents, siblings, cousins, even his boss! He talked constantly about our future together, as if marriage were a given.

I’ll be 35 next week and until Bryan, I never thought I’d move in with a man unless we were engaged. But with Bryan, everything felt different. I can’t explain it but being with him felt like so much like “home” to me that living with him felt as natural as breathing.

But a few days ago, I was totally blindsided when he bought me a beautiful necklace and told me how special I am to him. He said I have so many great qualities and a huge heart and the man who marries me will be so lucky. I thought he was going to propose.

My mind is telling me it’s time to propose but my heart just isn’t feeling it. Somehow I just don’t see you as my wife. I am so sorry.

But instead he went on: “You know how much I care for you and respect you. I want you to have a good life and I know you want to get married. So I need to share my true feelings with you. For a long time I’ve been struggling. My mind is telling me it’s time to propose but my heart just isn’t feeling it. I don’t know why, but somehow I just don’t see you as my wife. I am so sorry. I will always have the highest regard for you and I will always care about you, but I need you to know that I don’t feel you’re ‘the one’.”

I can’t describe the shock of hearing this. It was absolutely devastating. I feel heartbroken, used, rejected, discarded and wildly humiliated.

I just don’t understand how he could have such a drastic change of heart. Why did he introduce me to all his close family members and friends? Why did he ask me to live with him? Why did he buy me the necklace?

Does it make sense to you that after all of this, he can say he doesn’t have feelings for me? Does this sound to you like a fear of commitment? Or could it have been something I said or did? How can I figure out what happened?

The most pressing question is what I should do now. Whenever I think about trying to find a new place of my own, moving back into an apartment for one, and starting all over again at 35, I feel like I’m having a panic attack.

Aside from all that, I’ve never loved anyone the way I love Bryan, and I still want to be with him more than anything in the world. We share so many of the same values and we have always gotten along so well. Do you think if I give him time and understanding, there’s any chance that he could change his mind?

Please give me your perspective on this!

Samantha

Dear Samantha,

My heart goes out to you. I am so sorry you had this terrible experience. No wonder you feel blindsided, with all the mixed messages in this picture. I’m afraid there’s no way for me to guess why he has arrived at this decision. Maybe he has issues with commitment or suffers from anxiety. Maybe he doesn’t know himself well enough to even understand why he feels as he does. I can only imagine how painful it must be to hear that he doesn’t think you’re the right “one” for him.

But here’s the thing: as hard as it might be for you to believe right now, he is not the right one for you either.

There’s something that my grandmother, of blessed memory, used to say about situations like this: if it were your train, it would have stopped. I have no doubt that you are a lovely and alluring young woman – after all, as you said, you held a powerful attraction for Bryan and you will certainly have that effect on other men as well. And your letter makes it clear to me that you’re an intelligent, well-spoken, caring person as well, with – as Bryan said himself – many great qualities and a huge heart.

You deserve a man who wants nothing more than to marry you and make you happy for the rest of your lives together.

You deserve a man who wants nothing more than to marry you and make you happy for the rest of your lives together. If Bryan doesn’t appreciate all you have to offer enough to want your partnership, then he isn’t the one for you either.

As hard as it can be to accept, there are countless reasons a man might remain in a relationship with a woman he doesn’t intend to marry. When you agree to move in with a man who hasn’t committed to you, what you are essentially offering him is companionship, intimacy, shared expenses and shared chores and home-cooked meals – a whole range of benefits traditionally provided by a wife. But in your case, it’s all free; he need commit to nothing in return. If he can enjoy all these benefits without a commitment of any kind, then where is his incentive to propose?

If you hadn’t agreed to move in with Bryan -- or for that matter, if you hadn’t offered him physical intimacy in the absence of any commitment – perhaps his desire for that intimacy and for companionship would have spurred him to find clarity around his feelings much sooner, and one of two things would have happened. If he wanted you to live with him badly enough, he would have proposed. And if instead he felt at the outset that you were not “the one” and would never be, he would have ended the relationship immediately in the absence of other benefits. This would surely be hurtful and disappointing. But you would not be blindsided, you would not have been misled, and you would not feel used or discarded or abandoned. You would not have lost a year of your life to the wrong man. You would not need to find a new place to live at the age of 35. And you would not be as attached as you are now, after a full year of sharing everything with him.

The good news is that this need never happen to you again. I wholeheartedly believe that your man is out there. He’s waiting for you. And when you find him, you’ll let him know that there are certain aspects of a relationship that are so special, you only want to share them with a life partner. No well-intentioned man will be put off by your self-respect, your clear boundaries and emotional integrity. With this filter in place, you’ll have no trouble discerning – in relatively short order -- whether or not a man is “the one” for you and vice versa. So please, protect yourself going forward and let a man’s true intentions become clear before you share your precious heart with him in ways he has not earned.

May you soon find your beshert and receive blessings on every step of your path.

Much love,
Ziva