If Some Doomed Relationships Succeed, Couldn’t Mine?

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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?

No.

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.

–Elizabeth

No.

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

No.

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Comments:

  1. 41
    Yuri

    This question depresses me to an unfathomable extent.
      
    You’re desperately clinging to this man and hoping that if you grow a spine or some self-respect, he’ll change.   Too late!   You already let him have his cake and eat it, too.   You gave him exactly what he wanted.   Take away the cake, and he’ll go elsewhere for it.   You don’t matter to him.   You never did.
      
    A woman who truly had an ounce of self-respect would have left him in the dust the moment she knew he was playing her like a guitar.   Guaranteed all that romantic crap he uses on you, he uses on the women he cheats on you with.   You are not a unique snowflake.   Are you really that blind???
      
    Women like you are the reason why men like that exist.   He’s a parasite, and he knows who the best hosts are.   You’re only teaching him that it’s okay to use and abuse female emotional relationships.

  2. 42
    judy

    Love the reply, Evan.   I’m still trying to figure out just WHY she says the guy is “charming, romantic and attentive”.
    Geez.
    But no is really a great answer.  
      
      
      

  3. 43
    Frimmel

    Marie in #39: I am going to be true to myself and find the woman who will appreciate me for who I am.   It may take longer but I don’t care because I’m worth a high quality woman.   “
      
    That’s been my attitude and while it hasn’t left me dateless it would be fair to say it isn’t entirely working out as I’d prefer.
      
    Julia in #36: I think I addressed your comment in #40 (assuming you made a typo and meant “this man’s behavior.”) If you did mean “this woman’s behavior” it seems to me I wouldn’t find it attractive. I suspect I’d cause Elizabeth a great deal of cognitive dissonance.
      
    Goldie in #37: Thanks. Don’t make it a habit. 🙂

  4. 44
    Goldie

    #40
      
    “What lesson should those guys take? Be nicer or learn how to better push her buttons?”
      
    Depends on what those guys want. If they want a woman (granted, a probably attractive woman), who admits she’s addicted to them, wants to break free of her addiction to them, but doesn’t know how, then by all means, learn how to better push her buttons. If they want a healthy functional relationship with a healthy, functional woman, then the lesson would be to ignore the dramatic couple, be yourself, and treat others with respect.
      
    I agreed with your #33 in the sense that Elizabeth enables her no-good on-and-off bf and gives him enough reasons to continue being a douche to her, since, in his mind, it works. In my opinion though, it only works in the sense that selling timeshares worked for that couple in the Queen Of Versailles documentary. On the surface, they’re crazy rich, have a giant house and are building another, even more gigantic one. But in reality, they’re up to their eyeballs in debt; their business has already tanked once and is likely to tank again any minute; and whatever wealth they do have, is built upon a foundation of misleading people and ripping them off, which couldn’t help but take a toll on their own character. One thing I haven’t seen in this documentary was an indication of these people having any friends.
      
    It’s like I said before – short-term vs long-term. Short-term, men like Elizabeth’s bf(?) win, in that they get more action with women who are more attractive and higher in status. I have not seen any of those guys win long-term though. I had a relative who was like that. Yes he went through dozens of attractive women in his life, but last I saw him, he was in his 50s and alone. My parents had a family friend who was also that type of man. One day his wife of 20 years told him she was going for a walk, got on a train, and called him two days later from all the way across the country to tell him she had left him. No sane woman would want to grow old next to a man like that.
      
    @ Marie 39, I agree. A lot of conflict-avoidant, passive-aggressive and otherwise messed-up men tend to think of themselves as nice guys, but they’re not. Whenever I say “nice guys” in this post, I mean the genuinely nice, confident men who treat themselves and others with respect. They do exist.

  5. 45
    Karl R

    Frimmel said: (#33)
    “This woman’s letter vindicates every ‘nice guy’ TM who ever said women just want jerks.”
      
    Those men may feel vindicated, but that doesn’t make them correct. Even Elizabeth’s letter makes it clear that she doesn’t want a jerk. She wants a scorchingly hot, smooth-talking, faithful, devoted, respectful husband. However, she’s willing to settle for a scorchingly hot, smooth-talking, cheating, player boyfriend.
      
    Frimmel said:  (#33)
    “This is the gal ‘ruining’ it for the rest of you.”
      
    How?
      
    The people pursuing unattainable fantasies aren’t ruining things any more than the people who are in happy long-term relationships. Neither group is available to date. Both groups serve as examples to the people who are searching (what to look for, and what not to look for).
      
    You can only ruin things for yourself. (And I would argue that Elizabeth is demonstrating one way to do that.)
      
    Frimmel said:  (#33)
    “This woman’s letter vindicates ‘game.'”
      
    Heck, I’ll vindicate the concept of “game”. I couldn’t become devastatingly handsome, but I could  act like I had more game. As you said, it’s even easy for Joe Average.
      
    But you can have “game” without being a jerk.
      
    Frimmel asked:  (#33)
    “Elizabeth is probably attractive. A player like this guy appears to be wouldn’t keep her ‘in rotation’ if she weren’t. She probably has plenty of orbiters she’s oblivious to in favor of a guy who is playing her because he knows better how to press her buttons. What lesson should those guys take? Be nicer or learn how to better push her buttons?”
      
    The orbiters should learn to stop waiting for women who are oblivious to them. Orbiting is a losing strategy.
      
    They can also learn to push the woman’s buttons (if they can do so  without being a jerk), but that has a low percentage chance of working if you’re orbiting.
      
    When I met my wife, she had a few men who were orbiting her. (She was aware of some of them, but wasn’t interested in them.) She was also getting strung along in a casual relationship by a HJNTIY man whom she was very interested in. (He would ask her out about once per month.)
      
    I started pushing her buttons six months before we started dating. During that time, I dated two or three other women.
      
    Even when we started dating, it was clear that she still was more interested in the HJNTIY man than anyone else. I didn’t see that as something to get frustrated or bitter about. Instead, we started dating as a “fun for now” fling … and I kept my eyes open for potential relationships with women who were more available.
      
    When my wife finely got fed up with getting strung along, who do you think was in a better position for a serious relationship?
    a) The half-dozen orbiters.
    b) The man she was already having sex with.
      
    I didn’t commit to any kind of exclusive relationship until I knew she was willing to do the same. I was fully aware that I might move on long before she gave up on the HJNTIY man.
      
    Opinions may differ, but I don’t think I was a jerk to my wife. She knew where things stood. We both made conscious decisions about what kind of relationship we were going to have along the way.
      
    I got into a serious relationship because I had more game than the men who were orbiting her. But my wife had many previous serious relationships with other men who had a similar amount of game. We’re married because I’m a nicer guy than any of them.

  6. 46
    marymary

    Goldie, 44
    I consider my brothers to be nice. With women they are respectful and kind, as they are to most people.   When I am with them I feel happy and protected.   Maybe it’s cos they have two older sisters, and daughters and nieces.  Their wives adore them.  
    As for the OP, she may be a victim of the bait and switch where they seem so into you, you fall in love, there’s this oxytocin effect that people bang on about. And then you realise there’s trouble in paradise. Underneath this bravado I expect is a very hurt and confused person. Of course that doesn’t mean she should stay but neither should she be scorned or made to feel it’s her fault that everyone else has had crap experiences. We all have. If she should own hers, we should own ours.
      

  7. 47
    Frimmel

    Goldie in #44: “Depends on what those guys want. If they want a woman (granted, a probably attractive woman), who admits she’s addicted to them, wants to break free of her addiction to them, but doesn’t know how, then by all means, learn how to better push her buttons. If they want a healthy functional relationship with a healthy, functional woman, then the lesson would be to ignore the dramatic couple, be yourself, and treat others with respect.”
      
    But my guess is she isn’t even noticing the guys who want a healthy functional relationship and she’ll continue to not notice them until they’re a bit more “jerk” err… better at pushing her buttons.
      
    If she wanted respect she wouldn’t be with this guy at all and she sure wouldn’t be sending this letter in. She knows she’s supposed to want respect and knows she doesn’t want disrespect but I think genuine respect is probably pretty far down her list of concerns behind swoon inducing texts and the preferences of her libido.  

  8. 48
    Joe

    Jeez Evan, I think your answer could have been a little more concise! 😉

  9. 49
    Ruby

    I’m not seeing how ONE woman’s relationship can “vindicate” all nice guys who think men want jerks, or all jerks, for that matter. I don’t know any women of any age who want a relationship like hers, and the fact that she’s writing in for advice indicates that she’s not satisfied with the situation either. She’s just in denial about the outcome.
      
    I’m also curious about her age. I’m guessing she’s younger. She wouldn’t be the first young woman to think that a jerk is going to change. I would also go one step further and say that often when women – or men – get into less than satisfying relationships, it says something about their own readiness to commit. If you are truly ready for a committed relationship, you’d kick someone like this to the curb quickly. But i don’t see her concerns as being about “vindicating” anybody.

  10. 50
    Fusee

    @Frimmel #47:
      
    I see your point, but the problem is that you’re looking at the Letter Writer‘s issue as if she was chosing it rationally. Problem is: she is addicted. You can’t expect logic from an addict. If she had written about weight issues and her inability to resist fast food restaurants, and how she would hope they would make the same food with no calories or toxic ingredients in it, we would be replying in the same way. That she is deluded, that she must quit junk and chose health over immediate gratification if she wants to lose weight and feel better. Same issue here. The Letter Writer is addicted, and she is still in denial about what’s going on. Like a good addict, she is still trying to rationalize the addiction.
      
    Regarding “playing the jerk”, “game”, etc. that you talk about @40: I also see the temptation you could feel if you have been struggling in your dating while being “nice”. The thing is, those women are not attracted to “jerks”, they are attracted to all the positive qualities that those jerks display in spite of them being jerks. Basically, those positive qualities are so powerful that they make those women tolerate absolutely terrible behaviors. It’s because the bad behaviors come up progressively, in between layers of “good stuff”. First they accept a little bad, and progressively a little more, until it looks crazy from the outside and until they completely lose their ability to see what’s going on. That’s why some women stay in abusive relationships by the way. It does not happen overnight.
      
    Anyway, I’m not making excuses, and I’m not one of those women. I’m actually repulsed by smooth talkers and people who “always say the right thing”. I’m attracted to authenticity, vulnerability, and reality. But I’m just trying to explain to you why such situation is happening and why the solution is not to become a jerk!
      
    As Karl R wrote, if you can integrate some productive “game” techniques into your dating methods – such as more confidence and sex appeal – you will become much more successful without having to become a “jerk”, without losing your self-respect, and without attracting that kind of women who fall for smooth talkers. It would be a win-win because you would become more appealing than those narcissist men (since there would be no jerk-ness), while having the benefit of an actual chance at a real loving relationship. Something that narcissists can’t have.

  11. 51
    Frimmel

    Karl R in #45: “I got into a serious relationship because I had more game than the men who were orbiting her. But my wife had many previous serious relationships with other men who had a similar amount of game. We’re married because I’m a nicer guy than any of them.”
      
    So what you’re saying is that without game your wife wouldn’t have noticed or cared you were a nice guy.
      
      

  12. 52
    Karmic Equation

    Let’s flip the genders on what Karl R @ 45 wrote, shall we?

    “I started pushing his buttons six months before we started dating. During that time, I dated two or three other men.
      
    Even when we started dating, it was clear that he still was more interested in the HJNTIY woman than anyone else. I didn’t see that as something to get frustrated or bitter about. Instead, we started dating as a “fun for now” fling … and I kept my eyes open for potential relationships with men who were more available.
      
    <snip>
      
    I didn’t commit to any kind of exclusive relationship until I knew he was willing to do the same. I was fully aware that I might move on long before he gave up on the HJNTIY woman.

    This strategy can be effective for women too. So why don’t most women do this I wonder.

    It’s the way I’m dating now. Instead of dating “two or three men” because setting up the dates aren’t always up to me, I have to date 6-12 men (basically a different man for every date Karl had with those three woman). Presumably Karl R was having sex with those women he was dating. As a woman, you could be rounding the bases only if you can’t have NSA sex.

    If you can, you’re not wasting your time on one guy who may not work out and keeping your own options open, like Karl R did.

    It’s pretty interesting that all the women here are quick to label the guy a cheater without the full story. As Frimmel mentioned, he’s probably told her all along he wasn’t interested in anything serious, so he wasn’t cheating. However, if he introduced her to friends and family as his GF and cheated, then yes, he’s cheater. But even the OP doesn’t refer to him as her bf, but rather as a “cheating casanova”. So is he cheating? Or did she assume a relationship that doesn’t truly exist? Unclear.

    That being the case, OP does have some options.

    1) Accept being his occasional booty call. We know she’s at least this to her guy. OP loves the sex and companionship of this man. There is nothing wrong with that. That cultural indoctrination of women to think that sex isn’t worthwhile unless shared in a loving monogamous relationship is culturally and environmentally driven, not biologically (read Sex at Dawn, and you’ll understand why I say this).

    2) Stop hoping that the sexual relationship will into an loving, monogamous relationhip. He may love her, but not enough and not in the way that makes him want to give up variety. The only thing “wrong” that OP is doing is hoping for a traditional monogamous relationship with this guy. If she’s looking to get married and raise a family, he’s not the guy for her. If she’s divorced with children of her own already, then there’s no reason for her to not be in “his rotation” if it doesn’t cause her any real pain. A bruised ego is not the same as a broken heart.

    3) Consider an open relationship. It seems that OP is not deeply affected by his cheating (she doesn’t sound broken-hearted, more like exasperated, or even naive, but definitely not sad or depressed) — In some cultures, and Sex at Dawn theorizes that for our ancestors, it was natural for both men AND women to have multiple partners. If OP is one of those women, then she ought to consider an open relationship. Then he is not cheating; she gets to keep her options open, while continuing to see him. But she has to be able to separate sex and “in-love-ness” in her mind to be able to pull this off.

    4) If she can’t see herself doing any of the above, then yes, dumping him and cutting him off cold turkey is her only choice.

  13. 53
    starthrower68

    As wise Mrs. Patmore (on Downton Abbey) said, “You can spend too long on one-sided love”.

  14. 54
    Marie

    @Frimmel – you know I do get what you are saying.   I have male relatives who bemoan the fact that they don’t seem to have that edge that seems to attract women.   But I think people get mixed up between having an edge due to a little cocky self confidence mixed with humor and being a real user jerk.   The jerk may have some of those confident qualities but he has a lot of negative ones.   And if women are falling for these real jerks then I think those women have way more issues than you have time to deal.   Go with the woman who has done her research and can tell the difference.   
      
    Personally, when I was single I had a lot of men who tried to smooth talk me.   I went with my fiancé   because he was a straight shooter and genuine and down to earth.   The men who had so called game went with other girls who we all knew were insecure needy basket cases.   so imo these guys really didn’t gain much other than a big headache!!    

  15. 55
    Karl R

    Frimmel said: (#51)
    “So what you’re saying is that without game your wife wouldn’t have noticed or cared you were a nice guy.”
      
    My wife’s first impression was that I was a nice guy, and she certainly appreciates the nice guys she interacts with. However, my wife knows at least a couple hundred nice guys. She’s never dated most of them.
      
    If I didn’t have game, we probably wouldn’t have ended up in the short-term fling that led to a long-term relationship.
      
    Karmic Equation said: (#52)
    “Presumably Karl R was having sex with those women he was dating. As a woman, you could be rounding the bases only if you can’t have NSA sex.”
      
    In general I wasn’t having sex with the women I casually dated. I rounded some bases with some of them. But I’d recommend people do what works for them (and their partners) in that regard.
      
    At best, casual sex will provide short-term fun without long-term consequences. At worst, casual sex creates long-term consequences with less short-term fun than you hoped for.
      
    The long-term benefit of casual dating isn’t the casual sex. It’s keeping your options open instead of getting hung up on someone who isn’t a keeper.
      
    Karmic Equation said:  (#52)
    “It’s pretty interesting that all the women here are quick to label the guy a cheater without the full story.”
      
    Well, we’re unlikely to get his side of the story. I’m willing to run with whatever definition of “cheating” Elizabeth is using.
      
    Karmic Equation said:  (#52)
    “So is he cheating? Or did she assume a relationship that doesn’t truly exist?”
      
    That’s an interesting question, but it doesn’t really change my advice.
      
    Elizabeth can either accept a situation where she shares the man with other women, or she can leave and find someone else. She can’t change him.

  16. 56
    J

    Karmic- I don’t think what you suggest to he OP will work because she is too far down the road. She cares to much about him ( and wants too many things from him) to just casually sleep with him. She cant just switch that off, not without a serious break. She’ll have to start over with someone new.
      

  17. 57
    Girl in the Midwest

    i feel like this is an example of the dangers of putting too much emphasis on chemistry and not enough on everything else.   It’s hard to get it all, I think you might have to choose something to compromise on.
      
    Also, to the OP: incentives matter.   He’s not going to change unless his world changes.   And most of the time, people don’t change when they’re in a relationship.   If they change at all, it’s during times when they are alone and have a lot of time for introspection.  
      
      
      

  18. 58
    Lia

    @Sparkling Emerald #31
      
    Thanks!   I have started dating again and I have joined Evan’s FOCUS coaching so I am doing posting there.   If you are ever so inclined to try the FOCUS group you would be an fabulous asset.   I have always loved your wisdom and humor!  

  19. 59
    Barbi Girl

    Elizabeth, you have NO IDEA what kind of STD’s that a$&h#%e is exposing you to! If anything, love and respect yourself enough to not put your  health at risk – seriously!   

  20. 60
    Lia

    @ Frimmel #33
      
    This letter vindicates every “nice guy” TM who ever said women just want jerks.”
      
    How so?   A woman who is obviously addicted to a man who treats her like trash writes a letter and somehow it validates the idea that women just want jerks????   I am a woman (yup I double checked and sure enough I am) and I can tell you that I like the nice guys.    I like men who are gentlemen and who treat me with respect.   I have friends who are women too and the like nice guys too.   So how does this letter prove that women want jerks?
      

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