The Vine: September 21, 2011
I broke up with my boyfriend of about 5 months a little while ago. We had met on a blind date set up by an acquaintance, so we were pretty much starting from scratch. The relationship was good, and we got close in that short while, although not to the point of meeting family members or anything like that. A few friends met, and that's about it.
It ended amicably, caused somewhat by his ridiculous work schedule, but mostly by the fact that one of his parents was terminally ill. I'd known about the parent when we started dating, but that situation went from bad to worse recently, and it was causing him a ton of extra stress on top of the aforementioned work schedule. He ended the relationship because he didn't feel that he could devote enough time and emotional energy to it when he was such a mess.
We hadn't been together long enough for either of us to know where this was going, so it was understandable. I respect him for realizing that, and we agreed to stay friends. I want to be there for him however he wants me to, even if it's just at a friendship level. We traded probably two or three emails in the week or two following the breakup, trying to feel out this new friendship thing. They were sufficiently chatty, asking questions of each other and sustaining decent discussions about work, mutual interests, etc.
So that was all well and good, but then about two weeks ago I sent an email and got…nothing. No response. No anything. Under normal relationship circumstances, I'd chalk this silence up to a case of a guy not wanting to be friends after all, but not wanting to say it. However, this is not like him at all. He seemed genuinely happy when I said I wanted to stay friends even if we did break up, and was equally chatty and inquisitive in the e-mails that followed. Also, he's always been a good communicator, and he knows how it bothers me when people don't respond to emails. So, fearing the worst…I checked the obituaries in his hometown paper. And lo and behold, the sick parent died about a week and a half ago. I feel terrible for him and his family, both for the loss itself, and also for the quickness with which it came. Last we'd discussed it, they were counting time left in months, not weeks or days. I know they weren't expecting this so soon.
So, my question — what do I do now? I feel like I should do something — I haven't met the rest of the family, and it's been long enough since it happened, so flowers or anything like that are out. I'd like to express my condolences to him somehow, but given that I learned the news from the internet, not from a person, I feel really strange saying that. I've thought of sending a card or email just stating that I was worried when he didn't respond, but I hate to make him feel guilty, or worse, weirded out that I automatically assumed the worst and Google-stalked his family. Alternatively, I was thinking I could just send a quick email saying I was worried because I hadn't heard from him, and it wasn't like him not to respond and I hoped everything is all right, thus giving him an email to respond to that wasn't the rambling one I sent a few weeks ago (which was full of frivolous work and vacation stories I'm sure he has no use for right now).
What do you think? I mean, I hate to lie and pretend I don't know what happened, but I also can't think of a good way to say how I discovered the information. And I could just send the hope-all-is-well email, but I also hate to sound like I'm fishing for a response. Or, I could do nothing, and figure he'll tell me when his life gets a bit more normal again.
And to make things even more difficult, friends that I've surveyed are split pretty equally between the three choices, or some combination thereof. Which leads me to you and your loyal Nation — help!
I Really Wish I Just Had A Question About A Book
You're overthinking this. Ex understands that the internet exists; he can probably deduce that you didn't hear from him for a little while, did a quick Google, and found that Parent had passed away — provided Ex cares in the first place, which he doesn't, because Parent passed away and he has a couple of other things on his mind.
The only thing that would weird him out here is you delivering a two-paragraph explanation of your thought processes leading up to the act of condolence. Don't make it all about you by over-explaining your rationale. You don't need a rationale; Ex is your friend, and his parent died.
Don't lie; don't write a novel. Send a card, or attach it to a small donation to a charity he or Parent admires (that information is often in the obituary). Tell him how sorry you are, you hope he'll reach out if he needs anything, take good care, that's it. Yes, the circumstances are a bit awkward, maybe — for you. Making him deal with that kind of thing right now is bad form. If he asks, later, you can explain, but for now? "I'm sorry to hear about Parent's death, I hope you're managing all right, call if you need anything," and get out of the way for a couple of weeks.
Tags: boys (and girls) etiquette