Dear Neil: Last year things began to change drastically in my three and a half year relationship. We had made plans to get married when suddenly he stopped treating me with the respect he always had, he was angry, blamed me for things, told me he needed time to himself to sort things out, rented a place of his own and wouldn’t tell me where his apartment was (I still don’t know), he begin lying to me about where he was and what he was doing, and he virtually had no time for me at all. It was almost like he was intentionally doing things that would destroy our relationship.
After four months of this, I asked him to leave. But after a couple of weeks he was back. This “leave-come back” scenario (keeps being) played out. We still are having sex, and he continues to give me hope that we will work things out.
We have been on a serious emotional roller coaster ride. It goes something like this: he threatens to leave or does leave; I cry, then resolve to move on with my life; I no longer let myself be available at will for him; as soon as he feels that he is losing me, he comes back, apologizes and starts acting nice again; once he feels secure in the situation, the cycle starts all over again.
How do you get off the roller coaster?
C from Aurora, Colorado
This story is known by several names: the “I want you/I don’t want you” scenario, the “break up/make up/break up” relationship, the “leave/come back/leave” syndrome, or the “I can’t be with you but I can’t be without you” theme.
What is really happening?
- One person is really trying to break it off and find another partner, but doesn’t want to have to say it’s over, because then they won’t have anyone while they’re looking for another. They’re hoping to maintain one relationship while shopping for another.
- One person has already found another, but doesn’t wish to hurt the other person’s feelings by breaking the relationship off. They figure if they just don’t offer you much, you’ll eventually get fed up and leave on your own.
- Some people are commitment phobic, unable or unwilling to make a commitment to an intimate partner. Regardless of what you do, or of how loving or giving you are, they don’t want a committed relationship with you.
- Some people lack integrity. They intentionally mislead others into believing in and hoping for a wonderful future, but have no real intention of following through.
- They’re users: they use people who let them. One person is trying to have and keep two relationships at the same time.
- Safety. It’s safer to sit on the fence and not commit to anyone, than it is to subject yourself to possible rejection, failure, vulnerability and all the work that ongoing intimate relationships demand.
It sounds to me that you’ve been unwilling to get the message that for whatever reason, he has lost interest in you. He no longer wants you, and he is no longer trying. Get the message already.