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Parallax - Advice

April 23, 2001

He's a Houdini

Dear Conversely,

Ask us a Question!I'm a little stumped on my current situation and realize I could used some unbiased input. I'm twenty-six and for the past ten months I've dated a thirty-six year old man. I care a lot about him and we're great friends. We rely on each other for advice and support, are attracted to one another and have a great time sexually. He has a hard time (or so he says) expressing his feelings, and has only once said that he loves me. As a result I hold back with him. He says he isn't happy enough with himself (and his place in life) to be able to fully love another person. He's been struggling in his career so I can understand mentally where he's coming from. On the other hand I've been in love before and feel that if you are in love you can't turn it off-and-on. I guess our main difference is that my heart leads me while his head leads him. Every other month or so he stops calling for two to four days. We've fought about it in the past, but he likes being on his own a lot and usually 'goes away' after we've gotten too close. This past weekend we spent a few days together being very close and laughing nonstop. At one point, when we were lying on the couch, he was stroking my hair and staring at me with this wonderful look on his face. Now he's gone again... Email to a Friend

Her view:

Dear Off-and-On,

This is your classic back and forth. Sometimes guys do this when they know they have you and you can't get out. You love him...he knows...ergot, he takes advantage. He says ridiculous things like 'I'd like some days off every once in a while'. Maybe you would like some days off. Maybe you'd like to smooch with other guys every now and then. Why don't you go a couple of weeks without calling and say, 'Yeah, I just needed some time roving around. You know I need some space.' Somehow I think this should show up as part of your relationship rules.

The question is, 'Will you put up with it?' The answer is not as obvious as it seems. When asked objectively about a hypothetical situation of your own, you would (of course) answer, 'No.' (Most people would - after all, it's crazy doormat behavior!) However, here you have yourself and a nice little imbroglio. You're stuck. You already love him, so you'll accept whatever affection he plops in your lap and savor him as the best thing going.

Girlie, this is an infinite spiral. He is simply taking advantage of you and your affection - plain and simple, no fancy analysis. He'll take whatever you give him and then some more. Are you willing? Is this what you want? Because your continued style of relationship will only get you more of the same.

You have a choice but it's a risk, and it depends on how willing you are to lose him. You can go and have a real life with a person who wants to have a real relationship on mutual terms (the preferred option, in my mind). Or, you can leave and hope this jolts him into realizing his undying love for you. Either way, some leaving is involved. By the way, after you leave you might find you're happier without him. Just make sure you give it a solid couple of weeks - at the least.

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His view:

Dear Off-and-On,

If you are having problems with his on-again, off-again interest, I don't think you should stick around for the miraculous recovery. I often warn people about listening to my female colleague's junior-high advice, and this is surely a deserving occasion for it. She will probably suggest you break out the guitar, start singing 'Kum ba yah' and help him overcome his issues...

Let's be realistic. He's thirty-six, which is old enough to be a father with five kids. He's reaching his mid-life crisis before he's mid-life and he can't even handle spending time with a twenty-something woman who should be the non plus ultra of his day (I know many a thirty-something guy who would love to be dating someone your age). This guy has to help himself.

Unless you are happy with the current pattern of behavior, I suggest you open up the shutters and let in a few new customers. That way you don't have to close for business every time Mr. Crisis gets the blues.

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