What It Means When an Older Man Tells You He Loves You… and Then Disappears

QUESTION: I met an older man online a cou­ple of months ago; I’m 28 and mar­ried, and he’s 43 with a girl­friend. It was an instant con­nec­tion. We talked online every day, which led to even­tu­ally talk­ing over the phone. He told me he was in love with me and I told him I was in love with him. My hus­band found out about our phone con­ver­sa­tions, and shortly after­wards, my online guy devel­oped odd behavior—like keep­ing con­ver­sa­tions short, say­ing he was busy—after I told him that my hus­band had found out. After a few weeks, out of the blue, I stopped hear­ing from him. I’m begin­ning to think some­thing hap­pened to him, because it’s unlike him to not call or text. Could some­thing have hap­pened to him, or is he pur­posely ignor­ing me because he has no more feel­ings for me whatsoever?

CHELSEA SAYS: You sort of answered your own ques­tion here. I’m not rul­ing out the very remote pos­si­bil­ity that some­thing hap­pened, but based on what you said about his behav­ior chang­ing, I’m will­ing to bet this man just wanted out. And it was eas­ier to just dis­ap­pear than to tell you the truth and have to deal with the “breakup.”

I’ve found that for a lot of peo­ple, talk­ing to some­one online and over the phone is dif­fer­ent from hav­ing a real-life affair—yes, it’s an emo­tional affair, but it’s not the same as hav­ing sex with some­one else. I’m guess­ing that’s why your rela­tion­ship with the older man never pro­gressed to any­thing phys­i­cal. There’s some­thing thrilling about con­nect­ing with some­one new, but he was prob­a­bly never seri­ous about a rela­tion­ship with you, even though he said he loved you.

When your hus­band found out about your pri­vate phone calls, it all of a sud­den became real for this older man. He prob­a­bly just decided that it wasn’t worth it for him to mess around with a mar­ried woman, espe­cially once her hus­band caught wind of the rela­tion­ship. Plus, he’s got his own rela­tion­ship to worry about.

So, long story short, I think he just moved on, and you should prob­a­bly do the same, espe­cially if you’re try­ing to work on your marriage.

TRENT SAYS: I’d like to say he stopped con­tact­ing you because he’s a secret agent and has been in the field try­ing to save the world, but I think the rea­son for his silence may be a lit­tle more pedestrian.

There are a lot of unknowns in this scenario—like if you and your hus­band are still together, or if your older man lives nearby—but it sounds to me like he either got cold feet, the thrill of the hunt lost its lus­tre, the online fan­tasy became too real for him, or his girl­friend found out.

Maybe he liked the idea of hav­ing an emo­tional affair—it’s safe and isn’t really going to go any­where. An online emo­tional affair also means he can present him­self in the most pos­i­tive, per­fect light pos­si­ble. The idea that you told your hus­band about him might have made the notion of you two even­tu­ally meet­ing a real­ity, one he couldn’t live up to.

Maybe he’s an online ser­ial dater who thrives off the idea of being liked and needed.  Noth­ing mat­ters except his so-called emo­tional needs being met. Or per­haps, like many rela­tion­ships, he just decided it wasn’t worth work­ing on and some­thing bet­ter came along. After all, you were the bet­ter thing that came along when he had a girl­friend; what’s to say the same thing didn’t hap­pen with you?

My expe­ri­ence is that when a woman wants to move on, it’s because the rela­tion­ship is dead, but for most men, mov­ing on to greener pas­tures is a short-term phys­i­cal event—and we hope our part­ner will take us back should they ever find out. Online rela­tion­ships can end in the blink of an eye with the click of a mouse.  And I think, unfor­tu­nately, that’s what this older man did to you.