Dear Neil: I don’t understand why a man who said he was searching for a love relationship rejected it when it was offered to him. He said I was his best friend, easy to get along with, comfortable to be around, responsive, warm, affectionate, hot, romantic and sexy. He said I was everything he was looking for in a woman, that he was looking to settle down and marry, and that he was deeply in love with me.
So why did he frequently start fights with me, get extremely angry and then storm off so often? He acted as if I assaulted or belittled him every time I disagreed with him, or said something different from what he didn’t want to hear. He led me to believe that we had a future together—and then he abruptly ditched me. Why?
Abandoned in Vancouver
Dear Abandoned: This could be fear of commitment, or it may be that he acted misleading and didn’t have the actual feelings that matched his words. But it also could be that he was inwardly insecure and had low self-esteem, and therefore didn’t feel worthy of a loving, affectionate and sexy woman.
If deep down I feel inadequate and fear that I don’t measure up, then sooner or later I’m going to be afraid that you’ll find out about me and agree that I’m no good enough. I fear that if you find out about me, you won’t want me anymore. So I distance myself from you in order to protect myself—so it won’t hurt so much when you tell me that you don’t want me in your life anymore. And one of the easiest ways for me to distance from you and protect myself is to pick a fight with you. That forces distance between us and it gives me a form of protection and safety—or so I think.
Many people crave intimacy, but can’t accept it when someone offers it to them. They keep their hearts held back. They become cautious observers in their relationships rather than full-bore active participants. It’s safer that way. Less threatening. And they feel less vulnerable as well.
Such half-hearted attempts at a love relationship work well for keeping you safe, but they don’t work well for keeping you intimate, connected and soulful with someone else. How close am I going allow myself to be when I’m secretly trying to be less emotionally invested because I fear you’re going to hurt or reject me? I will wind up feeling safe and protected, but not intimate. Or another way of saying that is I’m being safe at the expense of me being happy and fulfilled.
I’m afraid there is nothing you can do about this, other than to confront it with him, and invite him to enter therapy where he can look at his own behavior—and to explore how he can feel safe while remaining committed, connected and intimate.
“To love is not a passive thing. To love is active voice. When I love I do something, I function. I give. I do not love in order that I may be loved back again, but for the creative joy of loving. And every time I do so love I am freed, at least a little, by the outgoing of love, from enslavement to that most intolerable of masters, myself.” Bernard Bell