If Some Doomed Relationships Succeed, Couldn’t Mine?

couple in paradise at the beach

Hello, Evan:    

I loved your recent email about hanging onto a doomed relationship. Yes, I have been hanging on to a cheating casanova for FOUR YEARS!! (But Evan, he’s SO devastatingly handsome, and SO charming, and SO romantic, and SO attentive. He says ALL the sexy/sweet things every girl wants to hear. I practically swoon every time I get a text, a call or an email . . . . sigh.) Your emails have helped me enormously; with your no-holds-barred monthly reality checks, I am (gradually) extracting myself from his considerable pull on my heart (and libido :)).

Here’s my question: Do you think a compelling reason smart women hang on to guys who don’t put them first is because there are SOME instances — and, alas, we have all heard about them — where a guy DID reform, because he DID truly love his girlfriend, and when she gave him an ultimatum, or even just stopped giving in and started respecting herself and setting boundaries, he behaved better — because SHE took over the direction of the relationship in an assertive (but demure) way?


I must admit, this scenario is what keeps me hoping against hope that if I could only conduct my own behavior in a firm yet loving manner, I could change HIS behavior and guide him toward treating me right. It IS possible, no? Unfortunately, because it IS possible (though not probable, I “know,”) I keep on trying. Maybe today I won’t cave in and have sex with him. Maybe today I will tell him he didn’t call for a date early enough and I’m busy Saturday night. Maybe today I will say, “I don’t believe a word you just said. Call back when you can be respectful.” If I can only stand my ground and respect myself, he will respect me and we will live happily ever after — RIGHT??

I would dearly love it if you would address this strongly-held belief — a hope we women in love with cheating guys hold so dear to our broken hearts. Thank you!! You are amazingly insightful and wonderfully wise. I really look forward to your emails.



No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.


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  1. 1
    Some other guy

    Elizabeth: on behalf of men who are not devastatingly handsome and charming, but are faithful, loving, and care about your needs, thank you for telling us that we don’t matter.

  2. 2
    Alex Lanz

    I read your question and I have the urgent feeling to slap you out of it. Evan has said many times that men do what THEY want. IF they DON’T want to be faithful, then they won’t do it. IF they don’t want to respect, value and love you, then THEY won’t do it.  
    I say get out. Stop wasting your PRECIOUS time and leave! This guy has it sooo good with you. I mean he gets regular sex, company, affections and all the   positive qualities that come in having a significant other, but wait that’s not all, he also gets to have sex with other women when he so desires and get away with it, because he KNOWS you’ll still be around. How nice. What a life. I mean he is living the dream.  
    A Cheater is a Cheater is a Cheater. Will he change? Hmmmmm maybe…BUT maybe not. Do you really want to stick around 15, 20, 30, years to find out? Liz, can I call you Liz? Get the F#$% out! TRUST ME there are men out there who would LOVE to make you happy.  
    I was in a relationship for 3 years with a handsome, hot musician. He was European, tall, charismatic, spoke 4 languages fluently, serenaded me constantly, composed songs and poems for me (sigh…….) Life was wonderful. No. No it wasn’t. He proposed after 2 years. 3 weeks before the wedding he canceled it. one year later,   I am still discovering his lies. He was a cheater, a liar, and selfish. Oh but he was hot. SO……WHAT!
    I thought I would never find someone like him to love. BUT why would I want someone life him anyway. One year later, I am dating a man who is crazy about me. CRAZY….ABOUT…..ME, not other women. So honey, get out. Have some dignity and self respect and don’t waste another 4 years of your life, learn from them.  
    Lots of love

    1. 2.1

      Thank you Alex. I recently have found myself on the other side of what was blatantly professed to an exclusive relationship, only to find out he also was in another long term relationship with someone who lived in another city (supposed work travel took him out of town often). Talk about being selfish. Uncovering the string of lies repeatedly takes my breath away. And the thing that sucks is that she is blissfully unaware and he has taken the opportunity not to do the right thing, but to advance that relationship. Nice to read something and remember recovery is possible and that it is possible to find someone on the other side who is deserving of your trust 🙂

  3. 3

    Yes they can change. Maybe when his father dies. or he has a heart attack. Or his    last single friend gets married.   And then he looks for a woman he can commit to, to be the mother of his children even.  Unfortunately, that would be the kind of woman who wouldn’t put up with a cheater.  
    Yes it’s hypocrisy.

  4. 4

    It must be some sort of psychosis where a woman thinks that her stuff is better than every other girl’s, and somehow magically, he’s going to change for her.   He’ll change if and when he’s good and ready.   Lots of these lotharios never change, and her having sex with him while he’s knowingly lying and cheating certainly isn’t going to get him to change.   He has no respect for her, and without respect, there is no love.

  5. 5

    Ha ha! EMK, that was an easy one for you!
    <<he’s SO devastatingly handsome, and SO charming, and SO romantic, and SO attentive. He says ALL the sexy/sweet things every girl wants to hear.>>
    How do you think he gets away with all the crap behaviors that go along with being so fabulous?

  6. 6

    That is kind of an ambivalent answer… So that would be a “no”?   🙂  

  7. 7

    Elizabeth, stop using all kinds of needle in a hay stack scenarios to justify the answer you want to hear.   No he’s not going to change and even if a boulder falls on him and he has an epiphany, he’s not going to change for YOU.   It will be the next woman with whom he can start over and who will see a reinvented guy.   It won’t be you, whom he clearly doesn’t respect and who will be just baggage he has to get rid of so he can move on to the next stage of his life. I feel bad for you but you are just making things worse on yourself.

  8. 8

    I’d also like to add that clearly your common sense is telling you this is hopeless but you can’t seem to break free.   Are you limerant on this guy?   If so it’s like an addiction and you should really develop a very clear plan of attack to break away, like any addiction.   Is he fulfilling some kind of emotional hole in your life?   Do you need the fake boost of self-esteem?   Is it the rush of danger?   Do you feel like he’s what you really deserve and can’t do better?   Because really there are plenty of other men you could fall for.   He’s not the last guy on earth!!!

  9. 9

    #1 Some other guy, where did you get THAT message from???? SHE DID NOT SAY ONCE THAT OTHER MEN DON’T MATTER! WHERE DID SHE SAY THAT????
    Sorry for ranting but I am so fed up with the increase of men whining on this and other blogs. Grow up! Life has not only been unfair towards you. Life is unfair to everyone, constantly. Many men prefer youth and beauty in women. Am I complaining? NO! Because I know there is somebody out there for everyone. We ALL have it hard, not just you. Stop shifting the blame and stop seeking attention like that. Seriously, enough is enough.
    I am beautiful, not pretty… beautiful! I have always received loads of attention from men. But I can tell you one thing, sometimes I wish I was born less attractive because I keep attracting men who only look for a trophy. I am not happy with my relationship life. So see, we all have our issues. And yes, I am not a victim and I can weed out the superficial guys. I know this, this is why I usually don’t complain.

  10. 10

    He’s cheated on you multiple times and always gotten away with it. You eagerly come back for more. What’s his incentive to change?
    You are his “good for now” girl. Someday, he may meet the woman of his dreams and not want to stray again (don’t bet on it), but you aren’t it. Sorry if that sounds harsh, I don’t mean it to; it’s just a fact.
    When a man says (either with his words or actions), “I can’t be faithful,” what he’s really saying is, “I can’t be faithful… to you.” Evan’s right, the other posters are right, you won’t change him, end of story. We can’t change other people, we can only change ourselves. If you were able to break things off with him and start cultivating some self-esteem into your dating life, you might just find someone worthy of you, because your own behavior would then be that of a woman who values herself. You clearly don’t now, because you’re allowing Mr. Suave to hurt you, over and over. Like the old saying goes, “We teach people how to treat us.”
    I’m not just preaching; I once stayed with a man for seven years who cheated on me for five of those years… with men *and* women. Guess he wasn’t to choosy, and obviously, neither was I! Consider yourself lucky to’ve only wasted four, and proceed to the nearest exit.

  11. 11
    Karl R

    Elizabeth asked: (original letter)
    “He says ALL the sexy/sweet things every girl wants to hear.”
    “If I can only stand my ground and respect myself, he will respect me and we will live happily ever after – RIGHT??”
    If you stand your ground and respect yourself, he will say all the sweet/sexy things you want to hear … and he’ll keep doing all the cheating (and whatever else) until you catch him again.
    Elizabeth asked:  (original letter)
    “I must admit, this scenario is what keeps me hoping against hope that if I could only conduct my own behavior in a firm yet loving manner, I could change HIS behavior and guide him toward treating me right. It IS possible, no?”
    Let’s say he conducted his behavior in a firm manner. Could he change your behavior and guide you into allowing him to have all the women on the side that he possibly wants? It IS possible, no?
    I think he has a better chance of changing you than you have of changing him. You seem to love him a lot more than he loves you.
    Elizabeth said:  (original letter)
    “there are SOME instances – and, alas, we have all heard about them – where a guy DID reform, because he DID truly love his girlfriend,”
    I’ve heard of those instances, but they were all fictional.
    In addition, I don’t see any evidence that he truly loves you. You truly love him. He’s good at saying the sexy/sweet things you want to hear (so he may have convinced you that he truly loves you). But actions speak louder than words. He has cheated on you repeatedly for four years. That’s hardly an example of true love.
    Elizabeth asked:  (original letter)
    “If I can only stand my ground and respect myself, he will respect me and we will live happily ever after – RIGHT??”
    I had a girlfriend who wanted something very different than me. She wanted lots of kids, and she knew I wanted none. She respected herself. She stood her ground. I completely respected her choice and her decision.
    I’m now marred to a different woman (who doesn’t want kids). That ex-girlfriend pursuing relationships with men who want children. I expect she’ll eventually find one whom she’ll happily marry.
    So if you respect yourself and stand up for yourself, you may eventually get your happily ever after … with a different man.

  12. 12

    What the hell are you thinking girl?   Get it together.

  13. 13

    Yes, Elizabeth, there  is the rare example of the selfish guy changing and growing up, but the ONLY way a woman can see that sort of change in a man is if she really does mature as a woman and truly does recover her self esteem.   It cannot be faked, it has to be a real internal change that has to be clearly communicated and the cassanova man must be ready to finally put his immature ways behind him and value her enough to change.   Unfortunately, that can only happen if you completely cut him off, break the addiction (yes, it is an addiction) and work on loving yourself.   He could possibly be man enough and miss you enough to grow up.   Not bloody likely though.   And of course, you cannot make a change in yourself hoping that then he will change.   You have to exorcise him completely from your system and then if he shows back up properly, it is a pleasant unexpected surprise.   And if handled correctly, you probably won’t even want him back.

  14. 14

    Elizabeth, are you serious? 4 years with a cheater and a real man who doesn’t love you – 4 YEARS!!!!
    You think you can change him? Good luck with that because you will still be beating your head up against that brick wall for another 4 years or more. He’s got the best of all worlds, lots of women like you who let him get away with everything, why should he ever change?
    You’re living in a fantasyland.  

  15. 15

    Thank you for your question elizabeth. I can completely relate. Being a loyal and hopeful chump sucks royal. I only wish EMK would have elaborated with some sound logic for us fellow chumps to chew on; to help displace our compulsive diet of denial. That’s what we come here for.  

  16. 16
    Some other guy

    Technically it’s possible that Elizabeth may get her way, to mold her fella into the man she wants.
    Likewise, she could win $250M in the lottery.

  17. 17

    Yes, he will change. When he dies. Period. Get out, girlfriend, and do not waste another minute on this a**clown who doesn’t deserve you, or any of the other women he is disrespecting with his behavior. He is a classic narcissist and will destroy you if you continue feeding his neediness for adoration. He doesn’t care about you, nor will he ever, because the only person your “cheating casanova” cares about is himself.
    You might want to get some therapy to try to understand why you allowed yourself to be treated so poorly for so long, before you go back out and try to find another man. If you don’t get to the heart of that problem, you will repeat the same scenario with a “different” guy.

  18. 18

    Being a loyal and hopeful chump sucks royal. I only wish EMK would have elaborated with some sound logic for us fellow chumps to chew on; to help displace our compulsive diet of denial. That’s what we come here for.  
    Uh, what kind of logic do you need. If a man treats you bad, LEAVE HIM. That’s it, you don’t want to hear it and that’s your problem.

  19. 19

    Karl R – great commentary again! I love reading them…
    Elizabeth – seriously – have you re-read what you wrote? You know the truth deep down and you don’t need to have it affirmed by us. Most likely you’ll stay with him for the time being because you hold some hope that he may change. He won’t…not for you because you don’t have any boundaries..or at least you don’t stick up for your ones.
    The sad truth is that when you do pluck up the courage to leave him, he will respect you for it (and will miss the free sex and companionship that came along with it until he meets someone else). He knows how to charm you and you offer it to him on a platter…it’s that easy. You’re not real gf material because he couldn’t lose you if he tried…you’re always there no matter how badly he treats you. That’s not love, that convenience for him.
    Start treating yourself with the dignity and respect you deserve and walk away…I’m sure he’ll cope without you. There are so many wonderful guys out there who would make fantastic boyfriends…maybe it’s time you took the blinkers off and allowed the good guys to come into focus. 😉

  20. 20

    These men always find wives, and have women fighting over themselves to gain  their affections.  OP Liz  knows that, she can’t bear for it to be some one else.   I see tons of gorgeous women, not many hot men, they  are rare indeed. Sh!t, its true 🙁  Not many Charlie Hunnam  types  walking around. She probably waited a LONG time to find him, and the replacement will  not be easy.   So, based on that boyfriend shopping  logic, (rare good looks/tons of options)  these guys  fall in love with themselves pretty early. Combine that with “men do what they want, when they want” mentality  Even tells us about- and it is self love squared! Human nature– for men.    Think  of the  trajectory of known male cheaters  in relationships.   The narcissist- supremely (UNCONSCIOUSLY) selfish and constantly ignoring your needs.    Or   worse still,  the sociopath (chronic DELIBERATE cheater/liar) who will wreak havoc on your life. Both find wives that stay in emotionally abusive situations, confusing  LONGING for love.   The psychological roots can go all the way back to her childhood- she may have had semi toxic parents or not quite ideal conditional  love, so she thinks she has to OVERCOME something, and FIGHT to prove her worth, (disapproving or critical parents).   She now believes that  straightforward, easy love is   BORING and BLOODLESS  and that she needs passion- of unhealthy measures: drama/rejection/wins over other women for wife status.   Social class aside, marrying a cheater is a really tough road ahead- e.g. Sandra Bullock, Betty Brodrick, Elizabeth Edwards, Mary Jo Buttafucco, Elin Nordagren, Tea Leoni, decades-long  lists  of Warren Beatty girlfriends? I’m only using famous people because we both know them, as a reference point.   The only woman who came out  APEARRING to be  unscathed, was perhaps Jackie Kennedy who had an enviable reputation and seemingly happy life. Her marriage t-chart & cost benefit analysis was different from most women, as she got to be First Lady, access to glamorous top tier lifestyle and protection of a big, arrogant family. Doubt OPs man can provide the same said  assets to offset huge (emotional/sexual/financial/self esteem)  liability.

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