Question:

I am a 44-year-old divorced single mother. I have been dating a man for six months who I thought was wonderful, kind, intelligent, well-educated, great with children. He's a bit introverted and not so great at communication, but these are minor difficulties.

However, he did something that has caused me to question his character, commitment and love - not just his love for me, but his capacity to love. I broke up with him over it, but now I find myself wanting to forgive him, wanting to understand, wanting to be wrong.

His daughters visited over spring break. His youngest, 15, has had difficulty accepting that her father is dating. "Joe" told me he wanted to spend as much time with her as possible, so I shouldn't expect to see him till after she leaves.

Well, that week my brakes went out. I called him for a garage recommendation (I worry about being taken advantage of by repairmen - which happens a lot simply because I am a woman and don't look knowledgeable about mechanics). He gave me the name of his mechanic.

Then I called to ask if he could help me drop my car off. He became cold but did not say "no." I pressed him for clear communication, and he finally said, "If you take the car to the garage, I can pick you up, but I have a shopping trip planned with my daughter so I'm spoken for later." He even suggested I ride a bike to get the car. I took the car to a garage within walking distance of my home.

I cannot imagine anything, other than a lack of character or love, that would cause a person to prioritize a shopping trip, no matter with whom, over an emergency. Why am I so eager to find a reason to forgive? If he takes stock, apologizes, makes amends, takes action to change this tendency - could it ever be forgivable?

Answer:

If you meant what you said about wanting to be wrong, then congratulations - you got your wish.

Your introvert managed to make himself clear on this: The week belonged to his daughters. Your refusal to accept that has me questioning

your

character, commitment and ability to love anyone but yourself.

If this man was your sole resource, then what would you have done if your brakes had quit seven months ago? Wept helplessly in your womanly tower until some man-stranger rushed to your aid?

For your "emergency,"

any

friend with a car would do - as would a taxi, a bus, or a book to read while you waited. That garage within walking distance would, and apparently did, suffice.

Meanwhile, for a 15-year-old daughter who needs time with Dad, no one but Dad will do.

Please skip the part about forgiving him, and head to the nearest mirror for a hard look at your motives, your drama, your need. Mates need your support as much as you need theirs. It's about partnership, not validation.

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