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(Editor's Note, this letter was written before Doc's death in August, 2020 but still relevant as Doc's principles are timeless).
I always read your articles and like the way you tell it. I have a unique problem and can’t find a similar situation among my friends or in your literature. I went through a very hard time with my marriage, and stuck out 10 years before realizing it was going to kill me if I stayed. I am a doctor, and have never considered having an affair. At the end of my marriage I became good friends with a nurse, Mona, who was also getting a divorce. We were supportive of each other, and agreed to keep it on a platonic level. But when I made the decision to proceed with my divorce, she confessed she loved me, and I also had to admit I had very strong feelings toward her, and we looked forward to the day when we could have a romantic relationship.
During the final stages of the divorce, we began dating and did some couple-type behavior -- hugging, kissing, and holding hands. Then, all of a sudden, she stopped returning calls. The few times I was able to talk to her she was vague and distant and finally said that she wanted space. She let me know that she felt like she was “the other woman” and that she didn’t want to feel that my divorce was because of her. I know that this was very distressing to her because her husband had cheated on her constantly, and for her to feel the stigma of being the other woman really affected her.
I did what most men mistakenly do -- gave presents, begged her to talk, sent her long love letters. I even fooled myself into thinking that she just wanted to keep a distance until the ink was dry on the divorce papers.
But then I found out that she started seeing someone else. She claimed she still loved me, though. Initially I reacted with anger, but after several days I cooled down enough to let her know that we had meant a lot
to each other and if she wanted to try and salvage our friendship I would be willing to talk to her.
I didn’t hear from her for two months, and since I needed some sort of closure I e-mailed her to tell her to stay away from me and not contact me anymore. Well, she answered me, and we started talking again and then became friends again.
We talk on the phone for a couple hours every day now, and when we’re together we hold hands and cuddle. She will not kiss or have any intimacy beyond this and still says that she only wants friendship. I am getting very mixed signals, and have never heard of a woman doing these things but only wanting to be friends. She’s not interested in seeing anyone else, and I am the only “man” in her life right now.
Doc, I don’t know whether to hang in and hope that things will change or take the approach of acting disinterested to see if this will perk up her Interest Level and make her realize that I am a good catch.
I really love this woman, but don’t like what I have now and am very frustrated. I certainly don’t want to ruin any chance of a relationship with Mona if I can help it. I know that as of right now I do not have that relationship, but Mona is clearly showing interest and getting something from the coziness we have now. I am very confused and feel powerless. Your advice would be helpful.
Drew - who needs to break the impasse
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First of all, I want to commend you for staying in your marriage for as long as you did. When it was all over you wanted to say, “I was going for ‘forever’ like I promised at the altar. I did my best to make the long haul, and I didn’t just say ‘I do’ to fool around with this girl for 10 years.” But like my cousin Doctor Love says, “Some diseases have no cure.”
When you hooked up with Mona, you should have realized right off the bat that you were dealing with two people who were seriously on the rebound and not really available. You had all the ingredients for disaster. What the heck were you thinking, man?
Why were you getting all heavy with a woman who was still married? I tell you guys not to talk serious when they’re available. Mona’s still legally hitched and you’re blabbing about the future? You should have been putting on a clown show, not a “psychology today” seminar. You would been better off disappearing instead of yakking about how you’re going to get re-hitched the minute you’re free of your wife.
But you went ahead and engaged in “couple-type” behavior anyway. Like 90% of the men out there, you had to go rushing in like a bull in a china shop. The problem is that you, like everybody else, think only in the short term. Nobody thinks long term. And that’s what “The System” is all about.
Mona stopped returning your calls? Drew, I’m positively shocked! Women never do that! They’re not known for inconsistent behavior! We got one for the Guinness Book of Records here! Are you sure this really happened?
She was vague and distant and wanted her space? Boy, you got all the luck. One drove you nuts, and you already have another one trying to do the same thing. Any normal human being would throw in the towel.
So, Mona doesn’t want to feel like the other woman, huh? Like I’ve told you guys before, they always give you the SECOND reason why they’re cutting you loose.
Know what’s great about most women? They love to concoct a darned good back-up story instead of the real deal. They always come up with wonderful, inventive whoppers that don’t have anything to do with you.
Drew, if you knew that giving presents and sending mushy letters was wrong, why in the world did you do it? That was your fault. It was Mona’s fault that she didn’t tell you she was waiting for the ink to dry on your divorce papers. What does that say about her?
Now, can you believe Mona started seeing someone else? I can’t. Again, I’m totally shocked. But Drew, seriously, how much more of a beating do you have to take, how much more screwing around with your head do you have to endure, how many more lies do you have to hear before you get past your ego and see reality?
But, you insist -- despite all evidence to the contrary – that Mona still loves you. Like my cousin Fast Eddie Love would say, “Dude, she’s lying through her teeth.” The sad part is that you want to believe her. And you’re a doctor? I hope I never find myself in your emergency room -- I’ll probably end up with a scalpel in my stomach when I come out of the anesthesia.
Why are you checking in with this woman? You’re married, she’s married, and she’s seeing another man. When you were talking to her on the phone, were you on your knees or were you just lying on your stomach?
You weren’t really after closure, Drew. Closure is when you walk away and never look back. But at least you grew a teeny bit of a backbone – until you and Mona became friends again. What you really mean is that you caved in, you weakling.
Now you two are chatting on the phone a couple of hours every day. Is that all? Gee, you should talk longer than that. You know why Mona doesn’t want more intimacy with you? Because she has to save it for her other boyfriend. Actually, you should ask her if she still kisses her husband. So there it is, buddy – after all your groveling and begging she’s kissing two other guys and not you. That’s just great.
Mona doesn’t want friendship either. You know what she really wants? She wants a divorce and she wants to be wrapped in her new boyfriend’s arms. This woman is a user and a drama queen. Gosh, Drew, did you actually believe her when she said she didn’t want to see anyone else? And that you’re the only man in her life? What about her boyfriend and her husband? That sure sounds like a couple of others to me.
What do I think you should do now? I think you should throw more gold on the sinking ship, ugh.
Ruining a relationship between the two of you is not even a possibility because Mona’s Interest Level is south of 50%. The reason she returned your call after two months is because she probably had a little argument with her boyfriend or maybe she dropped him.
But it’s your own fault that you’re in this fix. Guys, until you have the paperwork in your hands, you shouldn’t go starting anything.
You call holding hands “coziness?” Coziness is kissing, and you’re not doing that.
Remember, guys: if you don’t memorize my “System,” you are doomed to repeat your mistakes.
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