If Some Doomed Relationships Succeed, Couldn’t Mine?


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. 181

    @Sparking Emerald 171, oh, I should have been clear that the situations where that happened were not dates with strangers, but more like the scenario I mentioned where you know someone or go to school or work with someone and see them regularly but even if you interact, view it very neutrally.   Clearly, if you go out with someone on a date or two and don’t see anything there at all you won’t stick around.
    But the situation I described where women married their male roommates started as fully platonic situations, and I think that for an average woman and an “above average” man, getting to spend so much time getting to know someone can put them over the top for you even if they just seemed destined to stay in the friendzone.   One of my friends moved in with a member of her college friend circle (who she had known but never had interest in dating for the 4 years of college she knew him).   When everyone graduated, she wanted to move to a part of town that none of their other friends wanted to live in.   No one is quite sure when they became a couple(she was oddly secretive about it at first) but I think that had they not become roommates, it would not have happened.  
    If you work or go to school with someone you see them nearly every day.   You might sit next to them in class or at the office, go out to lunch, have coffee, socialize after work/class, all with zero romantic intentions/expectations.   A co-worker can treat you to lunch or buy you a coffee and you don’t think anything of it.   That is why it can suddenly hit you with the last person you expected.
    I also had a college classmate who ran into a b-school classmate (who had also been a college peer) at a baby shower.   They were both looking for a new church and decided to start visiting churches together.   After church, they’d go to brunch.   That turned into a romance, then moving in together, and I can’t remember if they married later that same year or the year after (I just remember it was in the summer and they’d started living together in the early spring).   They have been in close quarters/social circles at 3 different points in their lives but always been with other people and didn’t even see the first meeting as anything but casual.   As a woman, I tend to think he would NOT have agreed to explore churches with her if he didn’t find her cute, but it is highly likely that she did NOT see him as any potential romanic partner and may not have found him attractive in that way at all.   But spending a lot of time together talking led to them falling in love.
    I swear, most of my friends never had to look for love or relationships.   Not sure why that lightening never hit me too.

  2. 182
    Karmic Equation


    “I think in her heart of hearts she has him pegged as Mr. Right and will get confused if she keeps any kind of physical relationship with him.”

    I can buy that.


    “I advocate she start over with a bunch of NEW Mr. Right Nows!”

    …while I agree, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

    I’ll just speak from experience on this one.

    While I’m not “in love” with my ex, I love him despite all his faults…and he has many. We click. And we have an easy rapport when we’re together. He gets me, I get him.

    I’ve been online dating since mid-June and have met over 20 men. Had sex with two of them and want to keep them casual.

    However, I have a strong libido. It’s easier and less complicated to text my ex to help me take care of business than it is to text one of the casual guys to do it. Of course they’d be happy to, I’m sure, but these casual relationships are too casual ATM and calls and texts like that would make us all feel pretty icky pretty quickly. Even if they don’t feel weird, I would. It would feel way too much like chasing and those guys will disappear quickly because of that. I don’t want that.

    While I can have NSA sex, the sex is NSA only because I don’t require them to be sexclusive with me before having sex. Otherwise the process I go through to deem a man worthy of sex is the exact same as what all of you go through. I just do it a little quicker (by 3rd date) and I don’t require sexclusivity to have sex. Having NSA sex does NOT mean you have sex with every man you meet. It doesn’t work like that.

    What this means is that it takes time. Out of 20 men I only “wanted” three of them. Of the three, only one is truly viable for a continued sexual relationship ATM. And again, the relationship is too new for me to text him to take care of business. I have hopes that it will become that at some point, but it hasn’t reached that point yet.

    And I have obviously thought this through. How likely is the OP to pull this off without getting discouraged? If she doesn’t have her now-bf as an fwb, she’ll either have to control her libido or risk scaring some guy off and then FURTHER scarring herself and go back to her bf with more insecurities and less power than now.

    I wouldn’t recommend that. Keeping her current as an FWB is actually EASIER than creating NEW FWB relationships. Once she nurtures a few new FWB relationships THEN she can drop him (and she’ll probably naturally want to).

  3. 183

    Elisabeth does not say if they had the talk about exclusivity and commitment. May be she is innocently assuming they are having a relationship   because she is having sex with him.  
    May be all Elisabeth is unknowingly having is a friend with benefit who himself has other friends with benefits.
    The guy might   be an average guy who is having the life of a single guy dating around until he meets his wife.

    As a sex partner he is efficient according to Elisabeth herself.   He tells her what she wants to hear, sends her the exact words that make her swoon, he gives her the emotions she wants to feel, etc…
    The problem would be that Elizabeth’s innocent expectations are not in alignment with a friend with benefit situation.
    Her expectations belong to a romantic relationship. She is in an imaginary relationship. And her imagination feels painful to her because it is not in alignment with reality.  
    The guy is not hurting her. Her own expectations are hurting her. He does what serves him. Her   job is to do what serves her. Right now her job would be to forget about her expectations with this guy and to get out of a situation that feels painful.   4 years of pain is a long time and tells me she is addicted to pain.   She is using the guy to punish herself.

    May be her coming here to ask if the situation can change is the sign she is ready to let go off pain.
    What is she asking?
    Can she turn the sex affair into a romantic relationship?  
    Can it be done by withdrawing sex from the “affair”?
    Can she teach a sex partner to plan dates ahead of time?
    Can she teach a sex partner to respect her?
    Can she teach a sex   partner to not desire any other friend’s body?
    Can she teach a man to love her?

    I don’t know and it would not be my focus.
    What I know is that she can teach herself to love herself more than she loves any man.  
    She can be the change she wants to see in the world.
    She can change her own perspective and find her own self respect. It is her own changes that will bring her peace, rather than the man’s responses to her changes.
      If Elizabeth is so addicted that she can’t break up with him, then the good news is that, since he is not   her boy-friend, she does not have to break up with him. She can simply stop calling him to give herself a chance to focus on herself and on the world out there, outside of this guy. It would help her find peace and forget her expectations about this guy. And find her self respect back. Calling (=chasing) a guy who sleeps with others has got to kill her self esteem and to make her feel powerless.
    When he calls her, she can pick up the phone and answer warmly, to honour her feelings for him.   To honour her truth by sharing it with respect.   Calling a man a liar and a cheating Casanova is disrespectful to herself and can not create love.
    No need to force herself   to ignore his call, it would be like stabbing her own heart. Baby step to building her self esteem back. . She could use the experience to learn to say “no” to a man while keeping warm and open. No drama, just the humble truth when he suggests a meeting:
      “I don’t feel comfortable meeting you. I have romantic feelings for you and a friendship feels too painful.   I don’t reject you, I have romantic feelings for you and I miss you but I did not mean to be in a friend with benefit situation. It feels sad and I feel devastated. I was keeping the space for a romantic exclusive committed relationship and I feel like it was high jacked.   I don’t want to feel high jacked anymore.”
    She would feel some of her power back after she shares her true feelings while voting for herself.
    He might never call again or he might call again from time to time. And she can keep saying the same thing until he gets tired of trying or until she resents his calls as boring in contrast with her new life with new people.
    What Elisabeth wants to know, I guess, is if missing her could wake his heart towards her and he would stop dating the others and would do anything to prove he has become 100% into Elisabeth.
    Well, the only way to know is to stop calling him, and to drop her romantic expectations about him, and to consider him like just a date she can’t meet, and to keep telling him when he calls that she misses him but will not meet him as a “friend”. And to move on with her life, meeting new people. No waiting for him to fall in love with her, it may never happen.  
    She will see by herself if he disappears after a few calls or if he sticks around.
    She has got nothing to lose. Right now,   she does not have him anyway.
    She has everything to win: either he drops off the planet and thus leaves the space for her heart to recover quicker. Or he sticks to her and will do anything to prove his heart changed.   In both cases she gets her self esteem back.

  4. 184
    Kendra Rios

    This was so ironic I read this post tonight, I am currently reading Why Love Succeeds or Fails. It’s a great resource on this exact subject. Wendy Brown is the author, her site is whylovesucceeds.com you can find info on the book there. I also love these comments, they are really insightful!

  5. 185

    The old adages are true, ” treat them like shit and they will love you forever.”   ” Once a cheater, always a cheater”.   I know an older, married couple where the husband has cheated on the wife the entire marriage.   She stayed with him making   her merry   trip through hell early.   He finally quit cheating, because he got too damned old to get it up and that is the only reason he quit! She survived it and got what she wanted, I guess.   It’s all about what you can stomach.

  6. 186

    i have been dating a narsictic man on and off for 6 years. he sure knows how to real them in. A game for him. Our first few years were good I think because I never took him seriously, could call him if i needed something and walk away. everything changed when my heart got in it. He became a total control freak outbursts of anger never taking responsibilty every time i called him out somehow i was crazy? my self esteem suffered greatly. Healing is slow. The major change for me is im taking care of me eating healthy extersize and cut the alcohol out!   

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