Why Am I Attracted to Withdrawn Men?

The Allure of “Unpredictable Love”

Of the thousands of letters and emails I get from readers around the world asking for relationship advice, the most frequent center around someone in a relationship pushing away or running hot and cold. Here are a few examples:

  • My boyfriend and I have been together for a year. After we started living together, he hasn’t been as close as he was when we were dating. He doesn’t like to cuddle, touch, or be touched. He doesn’t like kissing or holding hands, especially in public. We don’t even have sex anymore—it’s been three months. Finally, he almost never says “I love you.” But I know he loves me, because he becomes anxious when we’re apart.
  • My boyfriend has closed off to me. I make all the effort to make sure he’s happy. But I feel I’m always walking on eggshells and constantly filtering what I say so as not to disappoint him. How do I ask him to put in more effort without sounding needy? I’m just too emotionally committed to be the one to leave.
  • I was in a relationship with a man for two years, and we only had sex twice. He claimed the issue was with him and didn’t want to talk about it. But he left me for another woman, and said our relationship was unhappy because we didn’t have sex. He now wants to come back to me. If he doesn’t want sex with me, why does he want to be in a relationship with me?

Remember the cartoon character Charlie Brown? He spent his childhood trying to be close to a girl named Lucy, who repeatedly rejected him. He yearned for someone he couldn’t have, who was fickle and let him down time after time. Carried into adulthood, many people—men and women—get themselves invested in an intimate partner who becomes detached, who turns hot and cold, who strings you along or who plays hard to get.

Part of this is the allure of “unpredictable love.” Unpredictable love offers us novelty, variety, and surprise—something we’re not expecting. It’s about playing the hard-to-get game and sometimes winning. There’s something addictive and exciting about unpredictable love. Many of the men described above thrive on the chase, the challenge of winning you. Once they have you, they may no longer want you, because they’re attached to the thrill of the hunt—the excitement of pursuing someone they want—not of actually having you.

My advice: instead of focusing on your man’s feelings, focus on your own needs and goals. Give him one warning that you’re running out of patience and that you require a change of behavior from him, and if he doesn’t respond appropriately, let him go and end the relationship—because you are worth more than this, and you can do better.

The man who is rejecting you may feel entirely differently when he is the one being rejected. If that happens, don’t reignite with him quickly if he decides to now be available. Make him prove that he’ll commit to you and give you the time, the effort, and the affection you long for. If you don’t do that, he’ll likely push away again when he is confident he has you back.

“I was dating a transvestite, and my mother said, ‘Marry him, you’ll double your wardrobe.’ ” —Joan Rivers

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