Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dismaying Story #130: Why Doesn’t He Want Me?

Dear Andrew,

I am totally confused by this man. He is in his mid-40’s, is divorced after a ten-year marriage that he ended when he was 30, where they have joint custody of two teen-agers. He has been broken up from his last long-term girlfriend for a year and a half. She was an alcoholic, just like his Mother was. I am pretty sure he isn’t involved with anyone else. There was one other woman he dated casually because they both have worked at the same large corporation for years, but he said he wasn’t ever going to get sexual with her because her ex-husband is currently his boss at work. So technically he ought to be available, right?

I really like him. He is very intelligent and fun to talk to, well-read, charismatic, observant, physically healthy and active. He also has the added plus of being good-looking, has a smile that could light up a Christmas tree, and has a good job that he’s been at for twenty years.

I know he likes to drink, but it doesn’t appear to be excessive. The rest of his life is very clean cut. He doesn’t smoke, take drugs or gamble.

He verbally flirts with me, tells me that I have the most beautiful eyes, and an amazing body, that the chemistry between us is so thick it is palpable, and that he can’t keep his hands off of me. But the most he ever does is occasionally fondle me like a starving 15 year old. But we haven’t had sex! He acts like he wants me but then does not do anything about it but grab and squeeze my breasts and bottom.

He is obviously a heterosexual, because his two major relationships that I know about were with women. He is very visual and sensual. He even moaned once when he saw a lacy thong in my underwear drawer.

He literally can’t be around me for even thirty seconds without reaching out to touch me, but it stops there. He’ll rub me through my clothes, but not try to undress me, and then he runs out the door. He will e-mail me and tell me how much I arouse him, but then makes excuses and says that he is emotionally and sexually scared of me.

When I said I wouldn’t hurt him, he said that he knew that, but he'd hurt himself. I wondered if maybe he was impotent, but I have seen the very definite outline of a large erection through his pants as we were cuddling on the couch one time, so obviously his body works just fine.

He said that his former girlfriend said he was a lousy lover, and so he has no self-confidence. He has heard me moan with pleasure when he caressed me, and I told him that I loved him touching me, and that I have wanted him so much for so long that there was no way he could be anything but a success with me. He got mad at me and told me that he didn’t trust me. He said I am just an object to him, like any other beautiful woman he sees on the street. He said that he doesn’t want me, that I misread him, and he was just being friendly.

I’m really starting to question my desirability, both as a person and a woman because of this behavior. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Does it to you?

I shower every day, brush my teeth, am physically in good shape, dress conservatively but nicely, don’t have any s.t.d.’s, and enjoy making love.

I’ve never encountered a man who acted like this before. Please explain so I can stop being so baffled, and get on with my life!

Sexually Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

This guy is throwing conflicting signals at you. On the one hand he visits, spends time with you, flirts with you, and fondles you. These are generally considered to be indications of interest.

Then he says, “I don’t want you.” I looked up that phrase in the dictionary. It means, “I don’t want you.”

So there are two questions in this situation. The first is the one you asked: Why would a guy act in such a contradictory way? I’ll get back to this one.

To me, though, the more relevant question for you is this: Why would a terrific person like you spend your time chasing someone who says right to your face that he doesn’t want you?

You and I have never met but I will go out on a limb and suggest some likely answers to that question. You are at the point in your life where you are dating guys in their mid-40s. This is not your first rodeo, which means one or more relationships in your past didn’t work out. You want very much to have a relationship in your life, so you are willing to put up with the occasional bump in the road to try to make it work. When things don’t go smoothly, you question your desirability (okay, I cheated ’cause you fed me that one) and start to wonder if you could ever have a successful relationship. This adds to your anxiety, so you hold on a little harder to the faintest possibility that this one might work out. After all, he flirts with you, spends time with you, so there’s a chance ... right?

Wrong. On several counts.

First of all, you definitely can have a successful relationship. All it takes is two people who genuinely want to be with each other, and who can both figure out how to make the other person feel good about being there. You can do this. And yes, at the most basic level it really is that simple.

As with most things in life, though, the devil is in the details. How can I make my partner feel good about being with me? I could write a whole book on that subject. (And maybe I should, what do you think?) I can suggest one element that may apply to you. Your behavior changes when you worry about your own desirability. You start to predict that your partner will not be attracted to you and to expect failure. A natural reaction is to shy away from the failure, which can make you act in a number of counter-productive ways toward him, such as being distant or irritable. Many women in this situation have told me they will often end the relationship first just to “protect” themselves from the inevitable hurt that will come when he finally admits she is undesirable to him. In other words, the insecurity causes the very outcome she fears.

The good news is that the opposite is also true. You can dramatically increase the chances of your relationships working out if you convince yourself that you are a dynamic person with plenty to offer. I’m sure this is true of you. You are in good shape, like being with people, enjoy sharing intimacy, and of course there is much more to you that you didn’t mention. A guy would be lucky to have you in his life. Start believing that and acting that way and you are a long way toward making it happen.

The first step is getting past Mr. I-Don’t-Want-You. Here is the good news on that front. He has problems with your relationship ... BUT HIS PROBLEMS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.

He exhibited a mass of insecurities, which clearly existed long before he met you. I don’t know whether they were caused by an overbearing mother or a previous lover who laughed at him or an over-active imagination that spawned fear of rejection deep in the dark recesses of his soul. I don’t know what’s behind his ambivalent behavior and in terms of solving your problem I don’t care. I can state most unequivocally that his behavior is not caused by any failing on your part. He told you so, that his lack of confidence existed before he met you.

Not only is he insecure, he is also rude, self-serving, and incredibly insensitive to your needs and feelings. His actions and words indicate that he doesn’t care how you are affected. In other words he is using you to take what he needs, no more, no less, and to heck with what that means for you. He told you this as well, when he used the word “object.” Any guy who will grab your breasts and then treat you with such callousness is a jerk in my book.

For heaven’s sake, Frustrated, drop this guy like a hot potato. Today. There is zero chance of a future here for you. Every day you stick around will just add to the pain. Hold your head up high and walk away.

Then run, don’t walk, to the nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of He’s Just Not Into You. I guarantee you will find the same question in there: Should I stay with a guy who tells me he doesn’t want to be with me? I also guarantee you’ll find the same answer.

All the best,


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  2. I've actually thumbed through the book Andrew recommended and I've been happily married for many years. All I could think while I was reading was, "Where was this message when I was single?" I certainly could have used it.

    I realize it's not my heart on the line here so it's easy enough for me to say this, but, woman to woman-- You need to accept that he doesn't care about you the way you deserve to be cared about. You owe it to yourself to quit trying to plumb the depths of his complicated problems, whatever they are. You want to help him? Stop letting him treating you this way. Cut him off and tell him why you're doing it. Then help yourself to someone who doesn't need therapy and/or a slap upside the head. You so deserve it.

  3. Sounds like you are right on both counts, Andrew.

    The first and most important thing is for both people to want each-other and to make it obvious.

    If she has this much going for her, and that isn't what he wants, that is his loss and some other man's gain.

    This man's self-serving head games are a red flag she should run from.

    Conflicting signals and ambiguity aren't worth wasting time over.

  4. Andrew is so right on as usual. This guy is giving all the signals of having some serious problems and even if he said he did want you, I would still suggest that you run - in the opposite direction!

  5. I need to run right out and buy a copy of "he's just not that into you".

    For my daughter. She'll hate me for it now, but love me for it later, I think.

    Andrew's comments were right on target...this guy has problems and they have nothing to do with "Normal, and Yet Not".

    I think this lady needs to fish a little deeper in the dating pool, before she allows this guy to crash her self-esteem totally. Regardless of how attractive he is and enjoyable to spend time with!

  6. Long time no see Andrew.
    I like your breakdown on this and agree with you.
    I think the guy gets his rocks off by getting her going then backing off like its some kind of power trip.
    I know there are people out there thrive on this type of control and I bet it would only get worse if they hook up.

    Welcome back

  7. For me, as soon as the guy said anything remotely close to "I don't want you", I would have dropped him. I think it is really important for this lady to develop her own sense of self worth. It sounds to me like perhaps she is looking to this man to validate her? In any case, I completely agree with what you have said Doc. This is no way to treat anyone and this lady certainly does not deserve it.

  8. Andrew,
    Left you awards and a link on my blog today. Please come visit and get it :)

  9. AMEN, good doctor! There is no need to hang on to this callous jerk.

    There are far, far too many good guys out there who would WANT and APPRECIATE a fantastic woman like this.

    And take it from me. I was married to a man who continually told me that I'm not what he wants. But when I'd show him the door, he just wouldn't leave. Why? Well, let's just get back to what the good doctor says. The real question is, WHY didn't I leave? Well I did. Finally. After 18 years.