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‘He spent a year saying he wasn’t ready for commitment – now he’s in a relationship with someone else’

Ask Roe: They’re already posting pictures together and I feel like an idiot

Dear Roe,

I’m turning 30 next month and I’m about to lose all faith in dating. Three months ago, I ended a year-long “situationship” with a man who has strung me along and (I’m starting to realise) used me for sex and entertainment without ever committing to me. He spent the year telling me I was “the coolest girl he knew” and “the type of woman he could see himself with” but claimed he had baggage from his last relationship and needed to work through it so he could fully commit to his next partner – who he repeatedly indicated could be me. But he never did commit. He would call me on weekends or evenings and we spent a lot of time together, but never doing anything like a relationship, like meeting his family or planning dates in the future. I finally got sick of this and said he shouldn’t call me again unless he wanted a relationship, and he texted a few times but only to “hang out”.

Not seeing him again was so difficult but now I see from social media that he’s in a new relationship. They’re already taking pictures together and being public and I feel like an idiot. This isn’t the first time I’ve spent months and months in these types of situations, where I work so hard to be accommodating and understanding to men who end up just stringing me along. I’m turning 30 and I can’t do this again. My friends are all in serious relationships and getting engaged and while I don’t need that immediately, I do want a real relationship and commitment. I want to build a life with someone and I’m never going to get there if I spend more time getting messed around. What do I do?

This birthday is going to be so important for you. Not simply because you’re turning 30 but because this is the year that you start taking your power back. What milestone birthdays are good for is thinking about where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we want to be. Transitional moments are opportunities to take stock and feel motivated to make change, and it sounds like you are already feeling that emotional pull towards transformation. You feel like you’re at breaking point, you feel the awareness and urgency that comes with knowing that a pattern has to change. This is a great place to start. All you need now are some steps to follow so you can start forging a new path for yourself – one that actually leads you where you want to go.


I’m going to give you some of the cheat-codes for now and in the future, but it’s really important to find yourself a good therapist who will be able to help you explore your past, so that it doesn’t keep defining your future. Patterns are formed by repetition, and it’s important to figure out when and why you started forming attachments to emotionally unavailable men and kept chasing them and shrinking yourself down to please them – even as they offered you nothing in return. It will be important for you to figure out how your self-esteem and sense of self-worth is tied into the attention of men, instead of believing that you are wonderful and worthy and deserve better than lies, placations and confusion. A good therapist will help you figure out what negative self-beliefs you are unconsciously perpetuating as you return again and again to men who make you believe that you don’t deserve respect, love or commitment.

As for now? First of all, stop looking at this man on social media. All you are going to do is go on a downward spiral of comparison between yourself and his girlfriend, and you’re going to spend even more time obsessing about him without any reward. If you find yourself even tempted to look at his page, literally say aloud what you are about to do, what emotional space you are currently in, and how you will likely feel afterwards. It could sound like: “I am about to look at his Instagram for the third time this week. I feel lonely and tired. After I look, I will probably feel lonelier, still tired, and I will feel insecure and jealous.” It’s much harder to engage in self-destructive behaviour once you have outlined exactly what you’re doing. After speaking the words aloud, instead do something to tackle the emotion you’re feeling in a healthier way – if you’re lonely, text a friend, call a family member or tune into a podcast or song that makes you feel good.

Becoming aware of your emotions and tackling them in ways that will actually help you is going to be a huge lesson for you – and it will go beyond curbing your social media cravings. You have spent years ignoring your emotions, suppressing them, and turning to the exact thing that will amplify your negative feelings while offering you nothing sustaining or nourishing. You have spent years trying to be “the Cool Girl” – ie, the girl without needs, who never says what she really wants, never sets boundaries, never does anything to inconvenience men or make them feel pressured. Instead of naming your emotions and expressing your needs, you settled for things that would maybe give you some small brief hits of attention and validation but would ultimately leave you feeling the exact opposite of how you wanted to feel: insecure, uncertain, unappreciated, unwanted, unstable and unworthy.

You need to start naming what you want, and moving towards that. This means no longer pretending to be someone you’re not, no longer working hard for people who give you nothing in return, and – most importantly – becoming really turned off by the behaviour you’ve been drawn to for years. You want reliable communication, respectful interactions, mutual care and effort, clear commitment, and a shared vision for the future. You want someone who cherishes you, prioritises you, and is willing to work on a relationship and build it into something strong and solid. Start naming these desires out loud to yourself – and start turning away from behaviour that brings you the opposite direction. If a person is being inconsistent, not acting enthusiastic about you, doesn’t seem ready for a relationship or commitment, or doesn’t make you feel like you can express your needs, teach yourself to walk away from them. Remind yourself that if someone doesn’t treat you well or want what you want, working harder is not going to bring them closer to you, it’s simply going to move you further away from what you want.

Learning how to walk away from people who aren’t good for you is difficult – and necessary. It’s important for your self-esteem, but it’s also important for your overall goal of finding a loving relationship. The reality is that spending all your time with emotionally unavailable men makes you emotionally unavailable to more suitable people. And you’re not wasting your own time any more.

Speak your desires out loud, repeatedly. Turn away from people who can’t offer you what you want, and towards those who can. Don’t shrink yourself down to fit an unworthy man’s needs – show up as you are and wait for someone who wants to fit beside you.

It’s gong to be a good birthday, because this year, you’re walking towards the future you want.