Neil Rosenthal
Relationships

Relationships: ‘I was loving. Why would my boyfriend leave me?’

Dear Neil,

My boyfriend was blessed with very good looks, and he knew how to be charming, and I was falling in love. He confessed to me that he has been fickle in his previous relationships and that he invests as little of himself as possible. But he also told me that if I did not do him wrong, he would stay with me and love me.

Eventually, he confessed his emotions for me were growing stronger, that he couldn’t be without me and he feared that I would leave him. He even started interpreting things I said to him as evidence that I was going to break up with him, and his behavior grew unpredictable. He would tell me that he loved me, and then would act completely uninvolved. The next thing that happened is that he accused me of planning to dump him, and he cut me off completely.

A month later, he was in a full-blown relationship with someone else, and I’m sure he is doing the same thing with her. I know I should have heeded the warning signs, but I got drawn in completely.

Jilted Woman

Dear Jilted,

The gentleman you described felt so insecure and afraid of being abandoned, that at the first sign that you may not be willing to lay down your life to be with him, he bolted for the door. Likely, this is only marginally related to anything you said or did. These were his fears, born from his own past or his own poor self-esteem or lack of self-worth, and they controlled his behavior. He needed massive amounts of reassurance all the time, or he assumed you would dump him.

But if that is the case, how would he ever be able to work through the challenges, the spats, the hurt feelings or the disagreements every intimate relationship experiences? The likely answer? He can’t, and he is therefore destined to repeat this scenario over and over again with different women. No one can be reassuring all the time, and that’s what it sounds like he was requiring.

Of course, it could be that he deceived you, and that his emotions for you were not genuine or real, and that you were duped. But giving him the benefit of doubt, why someone would do what he did?

He was trying to protect himself from being vulnerable, so he approached a relationship with you on-guard, armored and defensive. People who are emotionally armored create a lot of distance — by not putting a lot of effort into the relationship, by being disconnected or distracted, by not giving a relationship a lot of time or making it a high priority, by getting angry a lot (anger pushes people away), by indulging an addiction (the addiction will become more important than you), by being highly judgmental, critical or controlling — or by fostering other romantic relationships on the side, to name a few.

Staying Emotionally Removed

In other words, your ex-boyfriend was keeping himself emotionally removed so he didn’t risk getting hurt. But there is no joy or satisfaction in being so held back, so in the end, he sacrificed being in a happy, loving relationship in order to feel safe. And until he fixes himself, he won’t let himself get terribly close to anyone he enters a relationship with.

Lick your wounds and grieve out the loss of this relationship. And then go out and try again. But the next time, look very carefully at the warning signs that will inevitably be presented to you. The warning signs need not stop you from falling for someone, but it would be wise to remember the saying: “Let the buyer beware.”

Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 23rd year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777 or email him through his website at www.heartrelationships.com. He is not able to respond individually to queries.

Your ex-boyfriend was keeping himself emotionally removed so he didn’t risk getting hurt. But there is no joy or satisfaction in being so held back, so in the end, he sacrificed being in a happy, loving relationship in order to feel safe.


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The VailDaily Updated May 3, 2014 09:39PM Published May 3, 2014 09:39PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.