Bruce needs to get his shit together.

I’ve been home from my trip for almost three weeks. In that time, I’ve seen Bruce for a grand total of one hour, on a day I rearranged my schedule to work from home in the morning so he could stop by my place between job sites. It wasn’t quality time; he’d eaten something that didn’t agree with him so was sick to his stomach. We had sex which lasted eight minutes.

That’s it.

One hour in three weeks. A grand total of three in-person meetings in the two months since I met him. One after-work drink, one dinner, and a morning quickie. 

Several comments in response to my last post suggested I should talk to Bruce about exclusivity – or more specifically, how I’m not ready to give it. But that’s like giving someone dessert when they haven’t even expressed a need for food. There’s been no “where are we going” conversations, no “I really like you, Ann” declarations, nothing at all that would imply a need for any clarifications on my part.

If things had been as I thought they’d be based on our interactions while I was away on vacation (a phone call almost every single day for over two weeks), there would be no debate whether to keep the long-term casual partners around.

But things aren’t that way at all.

First was the schedule flip that meant Bruce and I were on opposite week-on week-off schedules with our children. And no, I can’t just adjust mine to match – my ex and I have many months of immovable plans based on our schedule. Bruce knew it messed up our ability to see each other but sorting it out wasn’t a priority. He’s never had to take anyone else into account before. It doesn’t help we live an hour’s drive apart.

Then there was my honest-but-dumb mistake of leaving a voicemail on his ex-wife’s home number, thinking it was his. In the aftermath, I realized Bruce has not established the boundaries necessary for him to date. His ex wants him back, or at the very least doesn’t want anyone else to have him. His children haven’t been told their separation is permanent (perhaps because she didn’t want it to be). They haven’t written down their separation arrangements let alone started divorce proceedings. They live a few doors apart on the same street.

At that point, I was still doing alright. I told myself I had caused the issue with his ex. Since she’d settled down, I resigned myself that he’d be less keen to mess up his schedule but I figured it was just a matter of time. All I wanted was to see some progress, however slow.

I knew this past week would be a good measure of whether things could work in this context. He didn’t have his children. I gave him the rundown of my availability which included some times on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday that despite having Liam, could work for Bruce and me to see each other.

His job is physically taxing and he works long hours. He doesn’t always know where he’s going to be located. He isn’t the master of his schedule and he’s often at the mercy of others for getting things done when he expects. It is almost completely opposite of my world. So weeknights, even child-free, he can rarely plan in advance. I get it.

Then came the financial issues. The details are irrelevant, but Bruce had two major financial setbacks in the last couple of weeks. While he’s a skilled tradesman, he’s carrying his own mortgage on the house he shared with his ex (she’s the one who moved out) and providing support to his wife and children. He doesn’t have any extra money, so this is a big hit.

Suddenly he’s found himself not knowing how he is going to make ends meet. He is facing having to sell his house but doesn’t know that he can afford a place in the town they live in.

These are big things for anyone to deal with, but also having anxiety makes it all the worse.

So did we see each other? Nope.

Bruce was too tired to come visit after work on Thursday, despite his job site being close to my house.

We talked on the phone a few times that night as he filled me in on some of the issues he was facing and how badly it messed him up. He reassured me none of what I was experiencing with him was personal. He said he still wanted to see me and talk to me, but he needs to first focus on sorting out his financial situation.

Friday I invited him to come over after work and join me at a friend’s party. He was welcome to stay overnight. He canceled on that as well. He agreed to drive a colleague to their job site which meant he had to drive him home, a thirty minute drive away from my place. He told me he also wasn’t “good company” and didn’t feel like being around people, so the party was out. He dropped his colleague off and went home.

But we talked for an hour that evening. He wasn’t avoiding me. He reiterated some of what he’d said the night before. I told him the only red flag I had was whether he was able to create those boundaries and be able to actually date. He said he agreed and he thought he was ready when he started online dating, or he never would have, but he knows there are things he needs to deal with.

He told me he really needed to get his head in order. He didn’t expect me to wait around for him (from a dating perspective) because he knows he can’t promise anything at this point because he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing.

He told me he’d never wanted to throw anything in her face about him moving on, dating, or being happy. But ever the joker, he said he supposed he would need to find a way to let her know that the reason they don’t live together anymore wasn’t just because he needed more space.

I asked him point blank what he wanted – whether he preferred if we weren’t in contact, or if I should stop making suggestions for when to see each other, etcetera. He said he wanted to talk to me and wanted to see me but didn’t know how to make it work. He also said it’s just not feasible for me to come to his place. His ex lives really close, she’s still being snarky about me, and he’s trying to avoid that drama while dealing with his financial drama.

Saturday I’d offered for him to come over after Liam went to bed, so we could have some alone time. Even if just to watch a movie, it would have been nice to see him. He knew it was the last chance for us to see each other for several days. He needed the money so took a job which started at 7 am on Saturday. In the early evening, he called and said he was too tired and didn’t feel like doing the drive to my place.

So, any conversation with him about moving forward a relationship is off the table. He simply can’t deal with anything else at this point, and dating – and me – are simply not anywhere in his top priorities. I’m thinking about how to proceed but need to give it some thought.

64 thoughts on “Bruce needs to get his shit together.

  1. “I’m thinking about how to proceed but need to give it some thought.”

    Why?!! WHYYYYY?!

    No thought required: That whole thing is a big fat ‘nope’.

    “Okay Bruce, well when you get your shit sorted, give me a call. Good luck with that. Bye now :)”



    • I’m very flexible and I’m with Ferns. We work blue collar jobs in this house. My bf was working 70 hours a week. He made time for us. It’s early, but asking for one day a week isn’t too much. Also he sounds sort of like a pansy where his ex is concerned. He gave her plenty of time, she found out and knows, who he has over is his business. That’s not respecting her, it’s letting her run him, and by proxy, you and giving her something to hold onto, even if it’s just control. You can’t avoid shit be a use you have anxiety. Women are different than men, I have bipolar disorder, prolonging stuff seems to prolong the anxiety. Just pull it off like a bandaid. It’s a lot if anxiety but it goes away and there is peace sooner.

      I’d tell him why you haven’t just moved on, but tell him you deserve to be a priority not in case he’s not too tired or busy. Tell him to get back with you when he gets it all straight, but you won’t be waiting, but maybe he will get lucky.

      • I agree with you on the dynamics of their relationship. He’s been avoiding conflict but this is the outcome and it’s not in his best interest.

        I will be interested to see what, if anything, he’s able to do to pull himself out of this. I know the type unfortunately.

        And yes, I’m not cutting off ties but have to figure out how to reduce effort and expectations, and see whether we can make anything work.

  2. You’re trying too hard. If you’re not done, pull way back and let him pick up the slack. You’re being too accommodating. I would throw this one back. Maybe he can call you when he gets his shit together. You deserve better than this – he is not able to prioritize you.

    • Yes, I do need to cut back on the effort, in a major way. I don’t expect him to pick up the slack, given everything he’s told me, but I do think at least it will reduce my frustration.

  3. I’m sorry it’s come to this but I agree with comments above. I would tell him bye and when he gets his head, financial problems and ex in order to call you again but that you’re not getting what you need. Good luck and maybe just enjoy your time alone or call one of your fbuddies.

    • Thanks Pam. Yes, there’s definitely a consensus here πŸ™‚
      I don’t want to get back to online dating just yet. I’ve got other plans for my time. We’ll see how long I can last!

  4. Well, I really sympathise with Bruce. It’s hard getting away from a narcissist. And the more I read you, the more I feel I’m right on this count. She needs control over him even though they’re separated.
    Not wanting to upset a narcissist becomes second nature. You do it without even realising. Because either you want to avoid the backlash, the way you used to when you were still together (I used to agree to his demands even if it didn’t really suit me simply because he made me feel guilty for not doing it, and so there wouldn’t be big drama for my children), or because you’re trying to protect something/someone you don’t want to be sullied by this person (you in this case, The Dancer for me).

    This said, you don’t have to wait around. You can tell him gently that this isn’t satisfying for you. You understand there is a lot going on in his life and you don’t want to make him feel more anxious, or you can be more straight forward and explain you need to feel like a priority, that you come before an ex.
    So he can call back when he is less stressed, or more ready to be open about a relationship to his ex and kids.

    Doing so, you also show him what it’s like to set healthy boundaries; that may be helpful for him to deal with his divorce, because it seems like he hasn’t learnt how to do it during his marriage.

    Good luck whatever you decide. If I am right, he’ll need a lot of time and patience to get out. But I’m not sure he’s aware yet that his marriage was probably abusive. It’s hard to heal when you don’t know you/your relationship is sick. The first step is always to become aware.

    • I’m definitely not sure about the narcissist thing but I don’t know that it makes a difference in what I need to do.

      I know I won’t be prioritized right now so it’s futile to ask for it or make him feel bad / guilty for not being able to be there for me. However I do need to give myself some more space because I don’t want to be disappointed either. I’m not ready to cut him off yet, but that could quickly change.

  5. I agree with Dawn. I kind of feel badly for Bruce. In some ways, he’s doing all the right things. He’s in contact with you. He’s telling you the truths in his life. He’s transparent. It sounds like he has a LOT of stuff he’s trying to manage, and it’s all new to him. He’s trying to problem-solve as best he can, but right now, he’s doing it as it happens rather than proactively. I don’t think he “needs to get his shit together” in the sense that he’s letting all of this happen. He’s trying to deal with it the only ways he knows how, and I think he’s learning what works and what doesn’t. You aren’t his priority now. And, quite frankly, you shouldn’t be. His finances take precedence, as do his children. He won’t be the partner you want until he believes he’s on a more solid financial footing.

    So you have to decide if you will wait for him or not. If you aren’t ready for exclusivity, perhaps it’s okay to let him know you’re thinking about him but realize he needs time to sort through the messes in his life. He sounds like a good man, though. A good man stuck in a terrible situation.

  6. He thinks he’s ready, but he’s not. Too many excuses, reasons, drama with the Ex. Ann, you deserve someone who adores you. Someone eager to see you as much as possible . You have only seen him 3 times period and that does not a relationship make. You are not a priority for him. He is still only an acquaintance. All those phone calls and texts are breadcrumbs on his part to keep you around. I’m so sorry for sounding harsh – that’s not my intention.

    I suggest you don’t initiate contact and consider some boundaries such as he doesn’t get to chitchat with you unless you two get together. This lack of face time is ridiculous if he is truly interested. And if he does agree to see you, no sex. He needs to earn his way into your bed by spending quality time with you.

  7. OMG Dawn^^^. Your comment made ME realize I’m not wanting to let my narcissit husband (who sadly has MS but it’s been 27 yrs of his disease getting worse and I’m having to become and do everything and it’s affected my health) become upset and is second nature like you said. And not realizing I’m doing it all the time. I always learn things from comments from other people. I hope Ann can let him go as he’s not ready yet.

  8. Whether this dude realizes it or not, he’s not ready. Just because he doesn’t see it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Just let him know you think he’s a great guy, but it’s obvious he’s not ready (personally or financially) to be in any sort of committed relationship and that you’re going to move on.

    I feel bad for the guy because I can relate so much to his situation, which is one big reason why I’m not interested in dating.

    • I feel bad for him too. It’s hard to not want to stick around to try to help… not that he’s asking for help at all. But I do wonder if he’ll withdraw again because he realizes he’s not ready.

        • Oh, don’t get me wrong. He doesn’t want my help. I’ve offered to be a sounding board relating to some of his financial stuff, because I have expertise and am a really good problem solver. But he told me he isn’t the type to ask for help.
          That will be one of the things I need to see if I can handle… knowing that someone has problems, I have solutions or at the very least opinions… and watching them maybe not move forward. That, like Tony, will drive me bat shit crazy.

          • Yeah, but if someone can’t, or won’t, help himself he can’t be an equal partner in a relationship. I just don’t think he can give you what you want right now. Sticking around is probably just going to hurt both of you in the end.

  9. Oh mannnn, how heartbreaking (for both). What Dawn and Vox Libris wrote resonates with my thoughts as well. There’s no malice in Bruce, shit hit the fan on high speed, he is cornered. Ex troubles, kids troubles, working his ass off troubles and financial troubles. I understand his “I’m not good company” statement because I do the same when I feel cornered- I need solace to think and deal. I have a 28-yr old son with Asperger and familiar with avoiding meltdowns. It’s exhausting. My heart goes out to him. He’s surrounded by people and yet he’s alone. I think what he needs now is a friend (or a Muse) to listen and tell him everything is going to be ok, that what he’s going through is transition and things will change for the better. I was under the impression that there was a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of making schedules work, but the financial thing alone and the stress of knowing what he’s doing is not enough has got to be on his mind 24/7. Oh Ann I’m so sorryXO

    • Well I’m not heartbroken, thank goodness. In some ways I’m glad some of this happened at the beginning instead of after many months. And I do think he’s mentally and physically exhausted. I don’t want to cut him off just yet… there may be some light at the end of the tunnel but I’m sure it will take a few weeks for me to see if there is any progress he can make. Thank you!! xo

  10. I agree with Ferns and Maggie.
    You are putting way more effort into this and it’s time to stop in my opinion. If he is truly interested he needs to show it with action.

  11. I feel your frustration being in this holding pattern! If you are anything like me, you have a hard time making decisions until you feel you have enough information to do so. You are also considerate and don’t want to push anyone. The net result is that it puts the ball in the other person’s court, and in the end of the day, we let go of some of our power to take initiative on finding our own satisfaction while we earnestly try to collect this data. Data collecting is time-consuming, and requires that we take the time to study individual and relational behaviors since so often, the things we say and promise to ourselves and to each other match up with our best intentions, and not with reality. Maybe you can add some new experiments to your lab bench… in addition to observation how the Mammalis Brucius behaves naturally, in the wild, you can ask yourself, “what am I holding back on doing for myself when saving space for Bruce?” and maybe try on some of those activities for size… whether its initiating a casual connection with one of your FWBs, or conversing with someone new on a dating app, or really putting your time first, see how it feels.

    • It’s a very good point you raise. Yes, I do like to get lots of info, yes I’m empathetic, and a problem-solver. So it’s not the best combination for extricating myself from situations like this! You made me laugh with “mammalis Brucius”.. thank you! And it’s exactly what I was thinking about… how to save less space for him. I’m okay with keeping some space, just to see how it goes, but I need to change the ratio.

  12. Um….really? What’s there to say? I’m sure he has some good qualities but are they worth this? Unless you just want someone to talk to for an hour a day where is this going. He’s not ready and the other parts of his life take up all the room. He doesn’t know how to have a new relationship because he hasn’t closed the previous one properly. Sorry Bruce but bye bye.

  13. It seems to me the “Magic” only goes so far. Time to re-open the profiles and keep looking! I know you’ll handle whatever you do with the same care befitting the Karma Queen we know you are. Keep filling the bank!

  14. That all just sounds too stressful, just my opinion but it seems like such early days and does not sound like you have invested a lot into a relationship with Bruce so maybe it’s time to cut loose. Just curious, what made or makes Bruce different to others you are dating?

    • Well, I wouldn’t say I’ve invested a lot. Just time talking and texting, which has allowed me to get to know him pretty well. It is early days still. I’m not dating anyone else at the moment… I don’t consider the casual fuck buddies I have to be dating. Bruce is intelligent and witty. He makes me laugh. He’s inherently kind. He’s a dedicated father. He’s sexy and sensual.
      There’s a lot I like. He’s been worth the time.

  15. He is not ready to be in any type of relationship right now. Men move mountains to be with the ones they desire. But right now, he simply has too many other distractions going on in his life. I think this is a case of wrong timing. Maybe end things and once he is divorced, try dating then.

    • Agree the timing isn’t right, but I’m willing to see what he can do in the next couple of weeks. If nothing, then I need to make some additional changes.
      But to be clear, I don’t need to wait for a divorce, but I need more than what he’s done right now.

  16. I was rooting for Bruce for you because he sounded like a nice guy, but I think it’s time to throw in the towel on this one. Two times you mentioned that he said he was too tired to see you. Unless I’m in a coma, I’d never be too tired to see a woman that was into me. Hell, even if I was in a coma I’d give it a shot.

  17. I agree with all the comments above. I understand the second nature thing Dawn mentioned – it’s spot on. In some ways, I think I’m still doing it after 6 years divorced and 5 years remarried. I’m still avoiding confrontation with my ex (in fact, just 2 days ago). Bruce really does need time to get sorted – as you mentioned previously, you’re the first person he’s actually dated and he thought he was ready. Clearly he didn’t think “everything” out. The issues with the ex wife – that shit should’ve been over a long time ago. It brings to mind a simple little piece of advice a mutual friend gave my current husband when he was frustrated with me and my issues with my ex – the comment was that I “haven’t had enough yet.” I still think he sounds like a great guy, but clearly he hasn’t “had enough.”

    • Yes… and maybe this is the trigger for him to have enough, but I don’t want to wait around if not. I think it’s natural for us to avoid conflict with our ex’s, but there’s a line between picking our issues and not letting ourselves move forward.

    • Yes. I’m not sure what needs to be said, if anything. He’s not around, he’s not asking, and he already said he doesn’t want me to wait around for him. I told him I liked him, which is why I’m continuing to talk to him. But perhaps depending how the next couple of weeks go, a conversation will be necessary.

  18. It seems to me there is no clear timeline for things to improve. (i will give my man a few weeks because he has said a few times there should be a quiet period at work very soon). So I also think you should make it clear to Bruce that he can contact you when he is in a better place to date.

What do you think?