I don’t think Polly is at all wrong in her answer to this letter-writer, but… well, I kind of feel like I might have something to add?
So, I don’t have a lot of dating experience (for reasons that will become readily apparent as you read on), but I can think of at least one other scenario in which a guy might say this that Polly didn’t mention. It may require some tedious unpacking.
Every relationship that I’ve ever been in started with the following thought: “Wow, she’s great. Aaaand, she’s probably going to dump me eventually.” Keep that in mind, while we string the next bead onto this thread of low self-esteem and muddied thinking.
A lot of my female friends had at least one story about a boyfriend who said something along the lines of, “If you left me, I… I don’t know what I’d do! I’d probably harm myself pretty badly! I might possibly kill myself, you never know!”
Also, when they did eventually dump their boyfriends, they would actually feel guilty about it. Even though the guy really, really needed dumping.
So, wanting to be a good boyfriend to someone I cared about, and knowing that they would eventually have to leave me, I really wanted to make it clear that they should feel free to do so without the slightest twinge of regret or concern for my feelings. That’s what good boyfriends do, RIGHT???? I mean, I never said, “Oh, by the way, if you have to drop me like a hot papaya, don’t feel guilty ’bout that, okay?” but you know, that’s what I meant.
It turns out that’s a weird thing for your partner to think! Oh, you’re great, but we are definitely, definitely going to break up some day, and you’re going to have to do all the work when it happens! Yeah — not good.
Which is part of the reason I decided I’m never going to be in another relationship for as long as I live. Also, I used to avoid initiating contact with my partners because I didn’t want to be clingy, and I also never told them what I was feeling because I didn’t think they wanted to hear me whining about my problems, which didn’t help matters. Being a non-communicative emotional cipher constantly broadcasting subconscious “this relationship is doomed” vibes makes a person a bad boyfriend, whatever their good intentions might be. But I guess those are stories for another time.