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Ask Ammanda: I'm dating a terminally ill man who's lost interested in me

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

I have been seeing a terminally ill man who has been in prison twice and has been married three times. I met him on a dating website five months ago and he was the first and only one on the site who regularly texted me and we agreed to meet up.

The first meeting he couldn't get to as he had a throat infection but the next one we met for a meal halfway between where we each live.

He seemed a bit put out that there was nowhere to park and seemed grumpy but then we settled down and the conversation flowed well and the meal was nice. He is an attractive, well-dressed man and I am attracted to him.

He mentioned a next time and seemed happy with the outcome. He seemed a bit addicted to money though and buying things!

We didn't arrange to meet in a restaurant again, so I went over to his house last summer. We had a meal and later on we didn't have sex but were intimate. I felt close to him afterwards, even love.

I texted him the next day and it was obvious I felt more emotional about the night before than him. He used words like dopey, missus, kid which I thought a bit odd but I still liked him. He didn't want to come to my house so I went over again. Nothing much sexually has happened again and chemotherapy has had an effect on his sex drive. We have argued a bit and he doesn't seem empathetic and his words hurt me sometimes.

I seem to make all the moves and still like to cuddle him even though we are platonic now. I last saw him last Saturday and he was in a grumpy mood, then he was in pain and feeling sick, so I realise that was adding to his bad mood. He fell asleep so I went home.

The next day he said his left elbow was painful and swollen and was told to go to hospital on Monday. They admitted him and today I left him a message through one of the nurses. He rang me back and seemed mad I had contacted the hospital. He called me nosey and said other hurtful things. I had been crying about him and this was all I got. I had sent him text messages but he said there was only one. He also said I was always trying to cuddle him.

All this was hard to hear and I thought now I should seriously think of ending this, but I hate being alone, especially on Saturday evenings. I just hope I can do this and get over him. He has a bacterial infection so will be in hospital for a while. I don't think I will contact him again. This has put me off dating again. I am down about it and feel I am taking a step back again. I’ve also lost interest in seeing friends and doing other things.

Any advice would be most helpful.

Ammanda says...

It sounds like you feel incredibly lonely. The man you’ve dated clearly has some horribly serious issues to deal with that perhaps make it difficult for him to connect with anyone currently. On top of that, whatever else he’s done or had to deal with probably all contributes to how he’s treating you now. His approach to you seems to be casual at best and I’m sure this makes your sense of wanting more from him and yet not getting it even more acute.

You mention stepping back for a while and perhaps not contacting him again. Well, I don’t know if you have now done so but I really think that maybe you deserve some ‘you’ time. Stepping back and taking some time for yourself could be a really helpful thing to do. You could use this time to look more closely at what you want and need from relationships and how you might get it.

I’m wondering whether you’ve ever thought about seeing a counsellor? So much of what you describe sounds like this would be a really positive next step. Spending some time with someone who could support you as you look through all sorts of things like family stuff, growing up and other adult relationships.

You say that being alone on a Saturday is especially painful and I wonder if this is because you have an expectation that you ought to be out there having a great time? Perhaps you imagine that everyone else is doing just that.

Sometimes we compare ourselves to others and end up believing that everyone else is having the time of their lives with a much loved and loving partner. Well, let me tell you that whilst that might be the case for some, the sense of loneliness you describe will be familiar to a lot of people – so you’re not alone in your sadness and worry about this.

Also, from some of what you describe, it sounds like you were the person doing all the work to get the relationship going. You accepted that he seemed less interested than you did in what happened between the two of you over the summer. However, because of the loneliness you feel, perhaps it was not an option to seriously consider whether he was someone who was able to offer you what you most want.

I’ve worked with many people over the years where because of how they saw themselves, or maybe because of stuff that had happened to them in the past, they were the ones always trying to keep the show on the road – despite all the evidence that the person they were with maybe wasn’t able to take part in a healthy and respectful relationship. As I’ve said, sometimes just taking the time out to talk with someone professionally can be the first step towards making changes and moving on from the past.

I’m wondering too if it's an idea to see your GP if you’re feeling so down and realising that you’re losing interest in everyday things. Friends can be a real source of support when life is not on our side so if you’ve got to the point of feeling you don’t have the energy or inclination to see them then it is time to get help.

All in all, I hope you’ve not been put off dating. I’m sure there is someone ‘out there’ who could be a better choice but perhaps at the moment it’s difficult to spot them. Please do consider getting some professional help to think all this through because it may really help you to find what you’re looking for.

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