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My lockdown FaceTime romance ended when we slept together

Ask Roe: I told her I really liked her. She didn’t reciprocate. Did I come on too strong?

Dear Roe,

I’m a 34-year-old man, and two years ago I ended a five-year relationship. We were engaged, and she and our families took the break-up hard. I felt a huge amount of guilt over the whole situation, particularly because I had serious doubts even when I proposed. I felt like my ex and I worked well on paper, but something was missing. I felt like she wasn’t actually in love with me, but she was in love with the idea of being married.

I’ve been very casually dating but haven’t felt ready to commit to anyone, and have been very clear to women that I’ve slept with that I haven’t been looking for anything remotely serious.

I have been working with a therapist who has been helpful in letting me work through my feelings of guilt and my fears of getting into a new relationship, and this year I have felt more ready to try look for a relationship.


Then of course Covid-19 happened, and I was isolating alone. That was hard, but I did have a lot of FaceTime dates and started chatting to a woman I really like. We texted nearly every day for a couple of weeks, had several long FaceTime calls and I found myself really falling for her.

We ended up meeting up last week, slept together, and I was really honest about the fact that I really liked her and thought this could go somewhere. She smiled, but she didn’t say the same back. And then she slowly stopped responding to my texts, and put off meeting up again, and I feel like an idiot. She’s the first woman I’ve liked in so long, the first woman I thought could be a real relationship. Did I mess it up by coming on too strong?

I find your description of your previous relationship so interesting. You say that your fiancée was more in love with the idea of getting married than she was in love with you. But you also proposed, which indicates that you were also perhaps more in love with the idea of getting married or keeping her happy or keeping the peace, than respecting your own feelings, your own doubts, your own sense that something was wrong.

I’m not blaming you – on the contrary, ending an engagement when you know the relationship isn’t right is incredibly difficult, and incredibly brave. You did the right thing. I hope that in therapy you are working on reframing your role in this: by ending your engagement, you didn’t do something to hurt your ex-fiancée – you did something to save both of you from more intense heartache down the road.

It's beautiful and brave and admirable that you used this difficult, isolating time to reach out to the world, to get to know someone

But it’s important to look at why you stayed in a dynamic that felt indifferent to you as a person for so long, and to examine what was keeping you from respecting your feelings. What were you projecting on to your fiancée, and yourself? Did you assume she understood your relationship better than you did? Did you project an ideal of what a “good” fiancé/future son-in-law would do, and stay more loyal to that than what felt right for you?

And the idea of working well on paper – what were you projecting onto that piece of paper? What checklist were you measuring your relationship against, and what unmet needs were you ignoring in real life that seemed less important than that checklist?

It’s important to keep this idea of projection and reality in mind as you date generally, and in this situation regarding your FaceTime romance. It’s beautiful and brave and admirable that you used this difficult, isolating time to reach out to the world, to get to know someone.

But it is possible that you may have started projecting onto this woman slightly. It sounds as though throughout your weeks of talking, while you were falling for this woman and imagining a relationship with her, that you never discussed what you both were looking for. You started imagining a relationship without asking if that’s what she wanted. You started imagining a relationship instead of focusing on the next step: meeting each other in person and taking it from there.

This is completely understandable and natural. It’s called hope. And I’m so proud of you for getting to this point where you are hoping for a loving relationship. But don’t get stuck in the idea that because you feel ready for a relationship again, you have to have one with the first person who expresses any interest in you, no matter how non-committal. Don’t repeat a pattern of investing in someone when you’re not sure that they’re as invested in you.

And the next time someone seems indifferent or uninterested in you, you will listen to your feelings, respect them, and walk away. You'll walk towards your future

You’ve done staying in a long-term relationship when you were unhappy and felt unloved, and you’ve done keeping everyone at an emotional distance. Both of these approaches are rooted in the fear of the future: of causing hurt, or of being hurt. Now comes the tricky part: existing in the now. Letting your walls down but maintaining boundaries. Learning to notice how other people really make you feel and how they treat you – and not settling for a projection over the real person.

I don’t know what happened with this woman; maybe she wanted something casual, maybe she wanted some distraction and validation during lockdown but wasn’t ready for more, maybe she didn’t feel the chemistry in person. It doesn’t really matter. I want you to really internalise this. It doesn’t matter. People who are indifferent to you, or do not want the same things as you, are not your problem. They do not define you.

You are no longer hitching your wagon to indifference. You are never again going to start imagining grand futures with someone when they don’t make it abundantly clear that they want to build that with you. You are going to listen to your feelings and respect them. You’re going to practise saying, “I’m happy to take this at a pace we’re both comfortable with, but ultimately I’m looking for a relationship. Is that what you’re looking for?” If you sense indifference, you’re going to listen to that feeling and say, “I like you, but you seem more ambivalent, so I want to check in about how you’re feeling.” And if they can’t meet you where you are, and have no intention of trying, you’re going to walk away.

Consider this experience with this woman a beautiful learning experience, and a sign of progress. You connected with someone! You’re back thinking about relationships after being terrified of the prospect by so long! You think you could be a good partner to someone! This is progress, this is bravery, this is beautiful. She just wasn’t the right person. So you move on, with a clearer idea of what you want.

And the next time someone seems indifferent or uninterested in you, you will listen to your feelings, respect them, and walk away. You’ll walk towards your future. Spoiler: there is no room for indifference there.

Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright scholar with an MA in sexuality studies from San Francisco State University. She is researching a PhD in gendered and sexual citizenship at the Open University and Oxford

If you have a problem or query you would like her to answer, you can submit it anonymously at