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Below is an Interactive Board sampler. A fuller listing is found in the "Stories" menu above.

4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

Push & Pull Me

Push Me Away, Pull Me In

"Fear is the father of courage and the mother of safety."
- Henry H. Tweedy

March 10, 2002

Dear Doc,

We met in November, became exclusive in Dec. Lots of chemistry; everyone noticed the way he looked at me. Brian called daily, dated intensely until he left town to visit family around the Holidays. I heard nothing for weeks - then he called apologizing for not calling, missed me, etc.  He came back and things were great for 2 weeks until his birthday. I could feel him withdraw, although I made a nice dinner. The next day, he called late. I left a message: something's wrong, not sure what but not going to stay to find out. We each left town for our respective destinations.  When I returned, he called, saying he'd been a jerk, he was sorry, missed me, wants to be together. Called every other day, saying I miss you, I'm lonely, etc.  You played it well.

He admits he's vain, likes attention from women but apparently doesn't act out. He didn't cheat on his ex or me. Assuming this is true, this is excellent. He recently saved a woman from a would-be carjacking. He lived in the sticks, married due to pregnancy. His ex was hospitalized for depression and gained 100 lbs. He felt trapped and unappreciated for 20 years. Ouchhh! He's sad over losing his nice house, separated 1 year (dated a lot), divorced for 2. One off/on relationship. She wanted more commitment; he didn't with her. Both women were a little older than he is. He works long hours, commutes long hours, has been with the same company a zillion years and dealt with his divorce grief by piling up credit card debt.  I think women pursue him; he had to pursue me.  He told me I could have any man I wanted and I sensed inadequacy?  Fear?  Not inadequate enough to keep from chasing you! And, fear, of course! Aren't you afraid too?

I'm the first younger woman he dated (by 6 years). I'm divorced, no kids, in good shape physically and financially, have an advanced degree while he doesn't. I have lots of friends and interests. We're both attractive, have high energy levels and enjoy lots of the same things; we have fun together. I'm ACOA; returned to AlAnon 6 months ago after I realized the man I was dating drank too much. I broke up with him.  He told me that before we met. Brian's drinking too was becoming a problem. Not good.  He told me I was good for him and that he was drinking less and wanted to be a better person(?). Sounds like he wasn't happy with where his drinking was going. Red flag, but don't toss him out yet.

For Xmas, he bought wine and a card that said he didn't know what to get me, I already have everything but he'd get something. NADA. He was away for Vday; sent flowers. His card said he missed me, wants it to last, sorry he's away, he'd make it up to me. He also said that each call, but DID nothing. I didn't spend much but got neat gifts he treasured.  He told me that he could really surprise me with how considerate and generous he could be.  I told him I was looking forward to that.  (I never saw it.)  Unlike most guys, he never bought little gifts; no postcards while away; no restaurants with reservations. Once, he called while shopping and asked what I'd like; he bought nothing for me and said nothing about it. Yuk. Another time he invited me over.  It was great that he wanted to see me, but it was dinner time.  He had no food (after vacation) and made no arrangements.  I'd been shopping so went to my car to get something; I knew it was a "rescue" but didn't know what else to do - didn't want to make waves, laughed it off.  He said he let me do too much, owes me, wants to pay me back for all I've done, and he should do more. (I said nothing, but silently agreed.) Good for you for being a lady and laughing it off, but  the spending stuff is a red flag.

I have a cat, so we're at my house more; I have good food and wine. We eat here too often; he brought food and wine over at first but stopped. I said nothing but was getting resentful lately. Is he cheap, tacky, can't afford, or I'm not a priority? A very good question. I said nothing about this as it's a new relationship and I was trying to let it flow.  Was I too passive, should I have spoken up sooner?  Yes. Certainly open your mouth, though I fully understand why you didn't. This is the kind of thing that may come up in a "chat" later on.

Two weekends ago, we had a great time, laughing, playing, went to a party with his friends, danced, talked.  He introduced me as his gf and was attentive. When he left, he was not sure about plans, would call later. I was very sick. No call. I returned his call late the next day; didn't say much. He made plans to skate and wanted to visit; I declined. Sure, you're upset because you don't know where you stand. I went to a movie  with friends near his place. He left a message (after a few beers): "Give me a call and stop over. Wish you would. It would be nice to see you and snuggle again. I guess I've been a pain in the ass. I don't know. I'm afraid. As far as being serious and a commitment, I don't know if I'm ready yet. I love being with you, I love all the things we've done. Everything. Everything I love about you. But I don't know. I'm afraid. It's scary. Maybe it's bullshit, maybe it's true. But I just can't explain it. You're fun and it's challenging and it's fun and what can I say? It's everything, it's everything I'm looking for. I don't want it to end, I want to continue on, and I love being with you."  Wow! A couple of beers and look what comes out...

I went; he was friendly. I was aloof because he'd gotten up to answer the buzzer but went back to the TV and let me open the door myself (first time) and was very casual, watching TV - it felt like disrespectful body language and I was still sick; after I was aloof, he tried to be friendly.   Because of all the broken promises, I didn't feel that I could trust him. The last call was nice, but it also sounded a bit like a "booty call."  He watched TV instead of talking as he'd promised.  I'm sure your being aloof didn't help him talk. You really needed to talk about stuff! He was tired and prepared for bed.  I sat on the bed  "I came because you wanted to talk but you watched TV and now are tired; I'm leaving." He asked what I want. I told him I'm not sure and asked what he wanted. He said he didn't know. I said I don't want to be on a roller coaster; I want a nice, easy, fun relationship. Why no concern when I was ill? He said he needed a night off after an intense weekend; the weekend was great but he needed time. No problem; take all the time in the world, but if you care about someone, it's strange when they're sick to not call; it didn't work for me. (He said he knew it was inconsiderate not to call when I was ill.)  I said "You keep promising to make things up to me, I don't know why. You don't *have* to promise anything; I hadn't asked for anything. Words are great, but don't say 'em if you don't intend to act. It's gonna take a whole lot more than words for me to stay."  Well, you sure told him! Was there anything he could have said at this point, or were you bent on slapping him in the face no matter what?

He said he really wasn't ready to settle down. I said "I don't recall having asked that of you. I don't know where this is going, I don't know you well enough. It takes more time to figure that out. I'm willing to see where it goes but I'm not going to be jerked around." He repeated he wasn't ready to settle down.  (I wish I'd asked what he meant, I read into it that "I'll never be ready for you.") You jumped the gun again. I said, "fine, we need to start dating other people; I will not stay here again." Ever! He said he didn't want to see anyone else. I said "I don't understand, you don't want to be with anyone else but you don't want to be involved with me.   That doesn't make sense." He said he's just not ready. I said fine, call me sometime; maybe I'll be available, maybe not. I wonder if he thought you meant either you want to marry me in 6 months or leave me alone! He asked me to stay again; I asked why.  He said to get some sleep; I said "I can do that better at home. See you around." He was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, asking me not to go several times, but I couldn't stay.  You want him to make a statement - some sort of commitment. You want him to risk it and be the first to say the good stuff or to demonstrate his feelings by being more attentive and consistent. He's trying to but you're too mad to let him.

Is it worth salvaging, or is he showing early signs of being abusive? We really had a lot of fun together when it was good, but the withdrawing was awful.  I miss him but don't like the imbalance (my fault) or the push/pull or broken promises.  His work hours are bad; we never set up a schedule which may have helped structure the relationship so we wouldn't be wondering or have expectations of the other.  On the other hand, he may have too many problems. You may both be terrified. Plus, any or all of the above.

I really felt/feel badly about it the way our "discussion" ended - don't think I'd ever speak to anyone if they left the way I did; I didn't mean for it to get that bad.  We'd never argued so had no experience resolving differences. Did you tell him?

He acts very boyish, not always responsible and I am concerned about his drinking; I may be the first younger woman but am very responsible and wondered if he's looking to be taken care of. A reasonable concern.

You don't pass 30 without amassing baggage. He felt burned by his marriage. He is scared. You are not happy with his seeming lack of interest or follow though with promises, even though he essentially tells you he needs time off to re-center. I can't tell whether or not he has big issues yet; just not enough information. But I am getting that you are afraid of him. Terrified is actually a better word. You are behaving as though it is not safe to proceed unless he demonstrates his concern. Don't expect a newly divorced guy with credit card bills to have much money to spend, and a guy living in the sticks is unlikely to spend what you may consider "normal" amounts of money on women. Also, not all men are the type that will cook for you, do  special little things for you. This does not make him a bad guy. This guy apparently likes you but is uninterested in fawning over you, which your insecurities seem to crave.

I'm really concerned about the push/pull stuff. But, you're doing it too! (e.g.: "Stay... stay..."  "No, I can sleep better at home.)  I know John Gray (Mars/Venus) says that men need to withdraw and "rubber band." So do women. Normal stuff, especially early on. Especially once you've been burned once or twice. At what point is that normal, and at what point does it become abusive? You haven't given me any evidence of abuse yet. This stuff is more about insecurity and fear on your part and his.  How do you tell?  This was a very brief relationship and I don't know whether he ever could have been the right guy anyhow, but I may have to deal with this issue again, whether it's with him or someone else. New relationships are funny things. There is almost always a power struggle somewhere between the 2nd and 6th month or so. That's where you guys are now. If you two can't find a way to resolve the power struggle, the relationship will end. If you can, the relationship begins.

When I was on the rebound from a great relationship, I got "broad sided" by what I now call my psycho ex-boyfriend, a Jeckyl/Hyde narcissist.  I thought my discomfort with him was because I wasn't ready for a relationship; he's bright, active, a high flying government official.  It cost me a lot of time, aggravation and money to get rid of him.  Brian is not like him, I think there's a good guy in there somewhere. Does seem that way.  He just didn't show enough of it to me. Anne.

Perhaps. And perhaps you don't give him a chance to... I can see why a guy like him would be intimidated by a gal like you. He's unable to compete with your socioeconomic status and you are probably also more sophisticated than he is.

There is no way to know for sure whether or not somebody is a jerk until you find out they are a jerk. Jerks especially don't appear to be jerks early on, and narcissistic jerks often appear purrrfectly yummy at first. You usually won't find out until you risk a little and give a little piece of your heart. Both of you seem too frightened to risk much. He told you so much, and who can blame him after what he's been through. Same goes for you: who can blame you after your recent "broad sided" experience? But you've got to give a guy a chance instead of punish him by turning away every time he messes up! You won't even let him "explain," and it's not even become "same ol' same ol' " yet.

But, all is not lost! You've got nothing to lose, and since you seem to genuinely like the guy. What would happen if you were to call him and apologize for how badly you feel about how you ended it. If he's willing to have a little chat about all this: liking each other, his fears, your fears, what he did/ didn't do that upset you... What if you two decided to take it slow, become friends; get to know one another - as people? Worse comes to worse, you'll have apologized for being hard on him.

Keep an eye out for your own fears and insecurities. And don't be afraid to tactfully open your mouth (before you get too angry to be able to listen).

Oh, and, should you guys ah, continue, keep an eye out for that passive, almost irresponsible quality - so common in the alcoholic. A sweetheart who woulda shoula coulda, but really wishes you would. ACOA, huh?

One more thing: It's OK to have tendencies towards insecurity, fear, irresponsibility, over-responsibility, anger, alcohol, etc. We all have tendencies, especially when we're stressed. It's what we do with them.

Gang, any comments for Anne?


I want to read the posts.