If He’s Getting Cold Feet, Proceed with a Generous Heart
A friendship between a single mom and a single dad veers toward romance, but he’s soon getting cold feet. Eve offers sage advice for embracing possibilities over fear.
I am a full-time single mother of three children who’s been divorced for five years. Until now, I really hadn’t met anybody I could give my all to. Then, I met a guy who is also a full-time single parent with three kids. Our boys are on the same team and are best friends. We became close friends. Then we ended up as chaperones on a weekend field trip and realized there was more potential to our relationship than friendship.
When we returned, we talked or saw each other over the next 15 days. Then suddenly, he became distant and it seemed like he was getting cold feet. I’m sure he’s worried about getting hurt. I’ve tried to reassure him that there are no expectations, that we don’t have to be headed to a destination, that we should just enjoy this for what it is. What else can I do to help him over this hurdle, calm his fears, and see where this goes?
He is very special and deserves all of the love that God has meant for him, and I hope it’s me he lets in. If not and it’s somebody else, I just want to help him open up again. (Who am I kidding, I want this to work more than anything else in my life.)
Thanks for your help.
Ultimately, there isn’t a lot you can do to make him open up except not put heavy pressure on him. Be honest, understanding, and consistent. Since it sounds like he’s afraid of getting hurt, assuring him that you are not going anywhere may help, but here’s the tricky part: Getting cold feet in a relationship is often a protective impulse because love and attachment can hurt. Even if the two of you ended up together for the rest of time, one of you is likely going to die before the other and it will hurt.
So, the question isn’t really, “Will I get hurt if I love again?” Because the answer is probably yes—not necessarily from betrayal or separation but simply through the reality of life and death (which of course can happen at any time). It is important to realize, however, that denying yourself love is painful too! Getting cold feet, passing up golden opportunities, and embracing your fear instead of your possibilities hurt too.
Of course, you aren’t the one who needs to hear this.
The important piece for you to reflect on is the part of your story where you say you want to help him get the love he deserves. I was glad to see you be honest with me—and more importantly with yourself—about what you really want. (It was beginning to sound like you were going to martyr yourself to heal him.)
I wasn’t hearing about the love that God has meant for you, or about what you deserve; it was all about wanting to help and heal him, which, while very thoughtful, was sounding on the brink of codependency. So, 10 points for the moment when you acknowledged this wasn’t all about him and that you do have hopeful expectations!
My sense is that your own fear of loss is what was causing you to focus on healing him. I share this so you can practice self-observation and become aware of how your own past may come into play here. With that awareness, you can see when you are being self-sacrificing and how that could sabotage you along the way.
As for this man—he does indeed sound like a gem and like your lifestyles are perfectly matched. I suggest you say (or write) to him something to the effect of, “I just want to let you know that I really enjoy the time we spend together and the closeness that we’ve developed. I’m guessing you are scared, and honestly, I’m scared too. But I would rather be scared with you, than scared without you. We can take this at any pace you are comfortable with, but one thing life has taught me is to recognize a good thing when I see it, and thus, you know where to find me when you’re ready.” Then, I’d just carry on with your life and let him make the next move.
I know you know this, but he has to heal himself. You can’t do anything for him except for show up consistently, lovingly, and honestly. A generous heart can certainly provide warmth to someone who’s getting cold feet in a relationship.
Intellectual Foreplay Question of the Week: What three things could you do immediately to open your heart to more love?
Love Tip of the Week: When trying to avoid pain, be sure that what you are choosing instead isn’t even more painful.
Extend the warmup: Read “Is Your Heart Chakra Open to Love?”