Relationship Help Forum: End Of Perfect Relationship

This month's relationship help forum real life relationship crisis comes from Melanie (not her real name). It's describes her agony at having to end a perfect relationship. You can see our other stories from real women (edited to remove any identifiable facts) on the relationship help forum page.


Hi Anne,
Wow, you must be exhausted from those of us that have no clue of how to ‘get over it’! I have been reading through the earlier posts, trying to find someone who has gone through what I’m going through, to no avail other than the generic issues. I appreciate your work, and the advice I’m sure you’ll share with me. So here goes my story:

A perfect relationship

I started dating my boyfriend shortly after my divorce was final. I had worked with him for a while, so I knew him quite well, but we were both married and kept it professional. So I knew what I was getting into when we started dating. However, it turned out he was so much better than I could ever have thought. He is a wonderful father to his kids, a great partner, and just the sweetest, most generous person I have ever met. We had a GREAT relationship, had a lot in common, and were good to each other.
The only issue was his guilt over not spending time with his kids. He was consumed with guilt when he spent time with me and my kids. He’d be miserable because he felt as though he was not being fair to his children (although he sees them more than most men, and does everything for them). He couldn’t ‘love’ me with his whole heart because he was afraid to get too close (my words, not necessarily his) because I think he knew he’d never be able to get over his guilt. A relationship with me just would not work because of my situation.

Agreement to separate

We both agreed to go our separate ways after a while, and the split was definitely amicable. But now, I’m just feeling horrible. I think he was perfect for me (and he’s said the same about me) and we were a great match. I feel so lonely now because he was my life, my only real friend. I work extremely long hours, have kids, working on my Masters etc., so I don’t have time for ‘friends’.
I’m now forced to work through this alone. I just have a fear now of never dating again. I don’t want to deal with it anymore. I don’t want my kids to get attached again, just to have it end. I don’t even have the desire to even THINK about anyone else – not that I think now is the time to think about it. Anyway, I’m just terribly sad over the loss of this man who I cannot say anything bad about (it’d be so much easier if he were a jerk). I feel so alone because I have no friends or family to talk to. I feel I should just consume myself with work to not think about it, but is that really healthy? BTW, I am following your tips. I guess ultimately my question is: How do I get over the ‘perfect’ man?

Relationship help forum: end of perfect relationship - answer

Melanie, maybe for the first time in this column, I’m going to say that it may be a good idea to fight for this relationship. It’s okay for him to feel guilty about not spending time with his kids. The divorce was new and it’s natural for a good man to feel depressed about not seeing his kids as much as he used to.
You didn’t say much of what ‘your situation’ meant, except for the fact that you were divorced with children. You’re both in the same situation, even though it was hard at first, this was only because it was a new thing.
If you’re still friends, you probably still spend time with each other. Take it slowly this time, just being friends and work out how you both can spend enough time with your kids and still have a few minutes for each other.
At the week-ends you can plan to take your kids out to the same places, so while they’re having fun, you could be with them and each other at the same time.
I really don’t see why you say you’ve ‘lost’ this man. You said you had no time for friends, but isn’t he your friend? If you’re so perfect for each other, it would be a waste to throw this away, especially the friendship part of it.

Talking it through

I suggest – unless this has gone too far to repair – a serious talk with him to suggest ways in which you might be able to keep in touch. You’re both mature and have your own separate responsibilities, but there is no good reason (based on what you’ve told me) to let this just go. While you’re taken up with other things, ’staying in touch’ might be all you can offer, but it’s still something.
You shouldn’t have to pine for something you can have, if all it needs is a few tweaks here and there. Are you taking on so much because you’re hiding from something else? Shouldn’t you slow down a bit? It seems to me that you have no life at all. Not having time for friends is a pretty serious thing. Your last (married) relationship was obviously not a good one. Were you taking on all these things to get away from it? Do you still have to keep all these props?
Let me know if there’s something here I’m missing.

Melanie's feedback

Thank you, Anne. I want to fight for this, but I’m not sure if anything different will come from it until he deals with his guilt and fears.
We both know that you can’t make someone confront their issues. They do it in their own time and on their own terms. I guess maybe it does warrant a serious talk, as we both just decided it was just too hard and didn’t really talk it out. And he works as much, if not more than I, so there’s definitely a tremendous amount of stress.
And yes, we BOTH work a lot mostly because of our positions within our respective companies (I changed jobs a few months back), but I do think part of it is to keep from thinking about other things. I wouldn’t and don’t want to lose his friendship, but if we’re calling it quits, I need to distance myself from him to get over it - then maybe we could be friends.
I guess we’re both in the same boat with guilt and fear steering it, but neither of us knows how to get out and move on. I’ve talked to him about counselling (for himself, not for the relationship) but I think he feels safer keeping all the walls up and clinging to the guilt to keep everyone else out. Anyway, thank you for your insight – it definitely helps to have an unbiased 3rd party to bring a different outlook to the situation.

My reply

Hi Melanie,
Thanks for replying. No one ever gives me any feedback (except for one other person) so it’s nice when it happens.
You’re right about distancing yourself from him first, if breaking up is what you really have to do. You wouldn’t be able to get over the relationship without this much needed space.
I’m still sorry that this is ending. It seems like such a waste. You both know that one cannot sustain a marriage (or a workable relationship) while working all those hours. It’s been tried, tested and failed – so no surprises there.
I once wrote about being able to separate grief from guilt. Many people feel that they have to hold on to the guilt if they’re grieving (as you both are for your marriages). Letting go of guilt does not mean that you’re letting go of good memories. They will always be with you.
I really do hope that you can sort this out, as it’s not a relationship that should go to waste if it was so good.
Many times, (not all the time) people feel that it’s wrong to stay with the person you were with at the time of your divorce. It’s a mind thing. My father’s first wife’s condition to signing the divorce papers was that he did not stay with my mother. This was not because she broke up their marriage, because they met years after the break-up, but because my mother gave him a child, something she could not do.
I hope that this is all resolved peacefully. Try the tips in the article above, if breaking up is your only option. They do work. In your case, concentrate on your kids. The LAST THING you want to do is do more than you’re doing right now. You are in danger of giving your kids the impression you’re too busy to love them. Our kids grow up so soon. Before you know it, they won’t need you anymore. You want to be there for them when they do. In adulthood, we remember the things our parents DIDN’T do with us. I know.

Please share your views if you've read this far. How does one go about ending a perfect relationship - one that could be salvaged without any fundamental changes from either side. 


Harleena Singh January 21, 2013 at 1:49 PM  

I enjoyed reading this one Anne!

Yes, I am with you here that when she got it all with a perfect man, a few tweaks here and there were all that were needed to make things work. It is really hard to find someone who loves you and your kids after a divorce, so for me she is just giving it all away.

I would say that give him time and your full support during his tough and trying time. Help him overcome his guilt or grief, which he will, but you need to be patient and stand with him. He too would appreciate your support. Perhaps after a while there might come a time when he would learn to cope with his feelings and manage things where his kids are concerned. (I wonder if he's allowed custody of his kids or they are to stay with their mother)

Thanks for sharing this with us. :)

Anne Lyken-Garner January 21, 2013 at 2:04 PM  

HI Harleena, thanks for your input. I think it sounds like they have shared custody. When things are new people find it hard to cope. Sadly, people do get used to the idea that they now share their kids with the other parent/at the other parent's house. It must be difficult to come to terms with the fact that you no longer have access to your kids when you want to - to hug them and kiss them whenever you feel like it.

Yes, I think a few tweaks would sort this relationship out. As you said, it's already too hard to find someone to love you unconditionally, especially when you have kids.

Sarah Park January 21, 2013 at 2:43 PM  

Hi Melanie,

I agree with Anne's advice. If you think he is just perfect for you, why not fight for him? Just take things slowly and try to reach out with his kids also as much as he did to you. You could spend some time with his kids together with yours. Don't rush into things and just enjoy the moment with him. Don't push him hard also since he is also adjusting with the new setup with his kids.

Anne Lyken-Garner January 21, 2013 at 3:04 PM  

Hi Sarah,

That's one factor that's crucially important within a relationship where both parties have kids.
As you said, reaching out to the kids (and even inviting them to spend time with you when your're together) will go a long way towards allaying some of his guilt. Of course, he has to work on his issues as well.

Queen of the Rant January 21, 2013 at 6:08 PM  

Great to see a fellow blogger helping out in relationships-check my blog out if you have time ;)

Anonymous January 22, 2013 at 5:02 AM  

Hello there! This post could not be written much better! Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this. I will send this article to him. Fairly certain he's going to have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!

Chad March 13, 2013 at 4:22 PM  

Great article. I agree with you especially "Talking it through". Mostly, serious talk can change the situation and create a new ending.

Anne Lyken-Garner is a published author, editor and freelance writer. Her specialities include relationships and confidence building. You can find her inspirational memoir here.
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