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Wake Up & Smell the Absence of Roses: See Your Guy For What He Really Is

Updated on February 17, 2010

Dear Veronica,

Love your discussion going here. I'm struggling with a perspective issue. I went through an "amiable" divorce 2 years ago, and have since focused my life on loving and mothering my son, investing energy in a thriving career, putting more time into nurturing relationships with friends and extended family, and exploring some personal interests. Met and started dating a wonderful man 7 months ago who also has a very busy and thriving life -- he runs a division of a company and has to travel 50-70% of the time, has close friendships and interests, and invests time in caring for his aging parents. He had a long term relationship that saw his partner through her passing from cancer, and has not been in a serious relationship since in a decade. We are both 40, and we both seem to be in a place in our lives, from our discussions, where we view relationships as a blessing. My question comes in as follows... I am split in my trust of my own discernment in his interest level in a love relationship. When he travels, we have some contact in the form of texts every other day and a phone call approximately every third day or so. When he is in town, he strives to be with me, but often has to work late nights after his employees go home, and our time often consists of him driving over around 9PM on an evening, and he basically collapses with me in his arms on the couch... we will talk and reconnect, or just listen to music and savor being together. A times, if my schedule permits, I cook him a home-cooked meal and just shower him with affection. The schedule does not result in a lot of "date" time. Lately over the past couple of months, I have noted him carving out more time for us to slip away for a few romantic weekends together, and he leaves his cell phone and laptop in the car so he is not tempted to interrupt our time together for clients. This Valentine's weekend, I arranged for us to enjoy a mountain cabin together, which was wonderful, and I loved showering him with little Valentines notes about all the aspects unique to him that I love, with little cute gifts. He did not do anything for me for Valentines, and he stated verbally and body language-wise that he was furious with himself for not putting more thought and action into Valentine's weekend; he actually took my face in his hands and whispered to please please hold on, that he was trying to get used to having someone so special in his life and how to balance that with the demands of his management career. And he told me for the first time that he loved me and so wanted me in his life. I love and respect this guy, want to be with him, am quite well positioned in my life to be comfortable with his travel schedule... However, I miss occasionally getting wined and dined and flowered, and showered with some reciprocal nurturing and thoughtfulness, even if it needs to take unique means in a busy schedule. So in one moment, I want to continue to build a relationship with this man I love, and in another moment, I feel like a smart-woman-turned-idiot because perhaps I am nothing more to him than just a dependable cozy female presence that is an easy place to rest his weary head and body. Don't know in such a situation, when do I wake up and smell the absence-of-roses for what it could mean... or do I hold on and stand by my man like my heart wants to?


Dear Llhan,

Your phrasing - time to wake up and smell the absence of roses - is brilliant.

One of the harsh facts of romance is, guys will behave exactly as you allow them to. It's not always a conscious decision. Sometimes it's more like patterning. By being that dependable cozy female presence you mentioned no matter what he does or in your case doesn't do, you're reinforcing for him over and over that his behavior is acceptable.

Here's an additional romance fact: you can remind a guy, communicate with a guy, let the guy know what you need and remove yourself from the guy if he isn't what you want, but you can't make a guy think about your romantically if he just doesn't feel it.

Let's look at that moment you described. He's away with you for Valentine's weekend. He knew going in that it was V Day. You bought lots of romantic things like notes and gifts. He reacted, claiming he was furious with himself for not thinking to do something for you, took your face in his hands, and asked you to hold on and told you how special you are.

What did his reaction really represent?

He could have been sincere, thinking and believing that he should have done more. But I mean that in the way a teenager feels when he gets his report card with a "D" in History and has a meeting with his teacher. He owns it and feels bad for getting the shitty grade. He says he should have turned in more homework, should have participated more in class. But then he leaves the meeting and that's that. He doesn't really care about History. And the D was passing. It's enough. He's not going to try harder next semester, and everyone involved knows that. He knows it, and the teacher sure as hell knows it too.

It could have been guilt. He could have seen how you'd been so into the whole Valentine's Day thing, and felt embarrassed that he hadn't thought to do the same.It could have been a little pity. He might have felt sorry for you that you were so into the romance of the day and he wasn't.

He could have reacted and said what he thought he needed to say to preserve the easy cozy thing he has. He knows he doesn't have to behave differently. He just has to be in the moment, and that seems to work.

He could have been thinking alot of different things. But one thing I can tell you for sure: at 40 years old, he knows what Valentine's Day is about. It's not something he just didn't "think" about. He knows. He knows what it means when a woman makes Valentine's Day plans for him, he knows what's expected. He knows what the day means and what he should have done.

Let's also look at the wording you're choosing. For example, you said you've noticed his carving more time for romantic weekends with you. You chose the word "romantic." But it sounds like the romance is what's missing here. Are they really romantic weekend? He's putting thought and effort into romancing you on these weekends? Flowers, poems, burning you a CD of songs that make him think of you... what are the romantic things he's doing on these romantic weekends?

Collapsing on the couch, and having sex, are not romantic weekends. They may be fun and comfortable. But the term romance means something fairly specific.

Is it possible he's not carving out romantic weekends? Is it possible he's carving out casual sexual weekends, or down-time weekends? If so, why are you calling them romantic? Is it a way to convince yourself you're getting what you need here?

The truth is, if you were getting what you need, you wouldn't have written.

Your comment sounds like you're making a lot of excuses for him. He lost a former partner to cancer. I'm sorry to hear about that, but you've been through alot too with your divorce. He's busy? Yeah, well so are you, and you had time to do little notes and gifts for Valentines. It's just like I said in the hub you originally read. When it's the right person, you make the time.

I think I'm talking your way through exactly what you already know, which is why you came up with that fantastic quote: When do I wake up and smell the absence-of-roses...

Of course there is a chance that he really is into you, he's just an idiot. But you'll never flush that possible truth out of him if you keep reinforcing that what he's doing is fine. You have to reclaim your mystery and make some distance. You can start by breaking plans you have coming up by telling him, "I have a date." If you've had the exclusive-discussion, then you need to tell him, in an up and pleasant voice, "Hey you know what, this just isn't working out for me. I want to date other people."

You have got to NOT be available the next time he wants to cruise over for a booty call. 9pm after work collapse on the couch no time for dates - whatever you want to call that. The next time he wants to do it, the answer is no. And not a mopey self pitying "No I just want to be alone," thing. Because really, how attractive is that? You have to say "No thanks." and leave it at that. Or, "No, I'm heading out for coffee with a friend." Or "Someone just stopped by. But I'll call ya."

You have to be ready to walk away. You have to admit clearly to yourself that you want more than this, you deserve more than this. I'm not saying he's an ass. He's doing exactly what you've proven to him he can do. He's having the relationship with you that you've created. Hey it happens. It was easy, comfortable. Whatever. But now you realize you want to feel something. You want some romance. You want the love he's not giving. The love you want to give and get in return. You can try to change this relationship, giving him the opportunity to man up and get in touch with his emotions. If he doesn't feel like you do, you'll be able to flush that out in no time and move on.

This hub

was written by Veronica for Hubpages. If you are reading it elsewhere, it has been stolen. All text is original content by Veronica. All photos are used with permission. All videos are courtesy of

Email me your relationship dilemmas. I'd love to try to help.


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  • profile image

    Cow girl 

    8 years ago

    I have been dating a 36 year old man and I am 32. We both have been married before he has a 12 yr old and I have a 7 yr old boys I have been divorced for 3 yes and

    he has been divorced for 10 Everything was great at the beginning and after 6 months I found out I had cervical cancer. The dr. Said there is a small chance after surergy that I cools have children Thank God my surgery was a success and my dr put me on a lo dose of birthcontrol pills. I became pregnant With in the first month. At first he was happy and then started making excuses why he couldn't come over call or text. Or take any of my calls. Sometimes goes to the dr with me and sometmes not. He never pays for an appt or wants to talk about future plans. We use to talk about getting married and he even asked my father for my hand in marriage( this was befor cancer and baby). Now there is one excuse after another why he doesn't want to commit. Here are a few my son said he would go live with his mother, I don't want to move from his house which is out of my county ( 10 miles over) . I need advise on what to do try to be patient or take the advise to let him go and raise this new baby without him

    thank you for all the information at your site

  • Sandyspider profile image

    Sandy Mertens 

    8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

    Great hub.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY


    You didn't do anything wrong. You tried a relationship that didn't work out, that's all. You should absolutely be yourself. Absolutely. The only thing is, you need to reveal yourself in layers. Just like with any relationship.

    Imagine you have a new neighbor. She stops over and introduces herself and asks how are you doing. You probably don't answer, "Well I have my period, and I'm cranky, and I tend to fall in love with every guy I sleep with, and I have alot of unresolved father issues."

    These may all be true. And you probably do have some really tight friendships that you can talk about your deepest truths. You just don't do it right away.

    That's all this is, doll. It's just a lesson in taking things a step at a time. And I'll tell ya something else: when it's right, you don't even have to think about tempering. The flow is right. The momentum just builds correctly. You take a step, and so does he. He takes a step and you feel invited to as well. It's mutual. It's natural.

    You should always be yourself, just use some logic and patience, and don't settle for one sided passion. And when you try something that doesn't work out, that's not a poo poo on you, that's just a life lesson. No reason here to feel down. Lots of reasons to feel empowered. You're insightful, articulate, passionate and deep. A new door usually can't open until an old door closes, love.


  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Veronica - Thanks for your response today. Just wanted to say "blessings to you", girl... just for being the one offering the canvas for us to paint our own answers. I already knew the answer when I was writing, but I was struggling with thinking I was being selfish. Which is a big deal I think for many of us re-entering the dating scene after a long relationship that ended (I was married for 15 years). You have to always look for a balance between being open to a relationship where you are engaged in reciprocal consideration, while being watchful that you are not inadvertently creating a pushover situation. I am typically a vivacious person, but tonight this is just dang exhausting down to my soul. I have to admit at being a bit discouraged tonight; not because of this hub thread, but just because I feel clueless now about how to be authentically "me" and draw in the right kind of man. My natural uncensored ways of expressing interest, romance, affection, and intimacy do include deeply nurturing, cozy, affectionate, sensual (not necessarily sexual, but beautiful graceful feminine) aspects (yes, I'm a Cancer)... and now I feel like I need to just table these as I move back into new dating scenarios. But how to be then??? I won't be myself. Do I somehow have to become unnaturally distant, stiff, and aloof to draw a man who would love what I have to bring to the Love Mate Banquet, and who would love to bring his gifts to the table? Is that really how it is done? Truly, I am asking this Thread here for ideas, because I am obviously clueless here. I own that I helped create this situation. So I acknowledge that I need to change some belief within me and the resulting actions regarding my approach to bringing a new man in my life... and I sense the golden key is at the beginning -- being more selective. But you cannot know a man without going through some time with him. So... practically, getting down to the brass tacks... in a new dating scenario... What am I going to present of myself if my natural, authentic feminine style tends to draw men who love to languish but do not feel inspired to reciprocate and actively engage? And... in wrapping up this writing, I just got an intuition that my mind is trying to frame this like I did something wrong or I AM something wrong... or he was wrong... and that perhaps those judgments may be off-target and those perspectives may be part of the issue that I need to grow out of. -- All the best Veronica and you folks out there... This love thing, it is a journey, is it not?


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