Is He Toying With Her?

Q: When I left a 20-year-long relationship, I met a wonderful man. He told me, though, that I wanted more of a commitment than he could give, that I was too intense, and he preferred to be alone and that he never made anyone happy. So naturally I cut off all contact. But he kept writing, and now we're back in touch nearly daily for the two years I've known him, though not in person. We live far away from each other.

I am still getting over the ex and dealing with the impact of it in my life, in therapy, etc. But this new man has definitely touched me. He likes to know what is going on in my life while professing no interest, yet recently said for the tenth time that "there is nothing about me he would ever change." He's my age, very handsome, yet his professed shyness and choice to be alone are daunting. He constantly flirts and makes flattering remarks that I have to say make me feel good.

It certainly looks like he wants to be involved with me but does his fake commentary mean he's afraid? Does the fear have him frozen, or is it even true? Why is he taking small actions each day to stay connected to me?

I feel so comfortable with him after so much relating, at least I feel a depth of love growing and respect for one another that I want and welcome but I don't want to be fooled and foolish. Am I being tricked? I would cut off contact in a heartbeat if I were, as I don't want to be hurt again. — May, 57

Dr. Susan: You can only be tricked as far as you let yourself be. This fellow has told you about himself and his limits. Though you want to believe his keeping in contact with you means "something," it doesn't mean what you hope. In a way, he's playing with you. You want commitment, he wants chit-chat. You want love and intensity, he wants to keep it light and on his terms. He flirts, acts like he cares about your life — up to a point. He makes you feel good, and you come back for more, but nothing deeper or more lasting is likely to result.

Believe what he tells you about himself and don't waste time trying to figure out his deeper psychological impulses. You're working much harder at this pseudo-relationship than he is or is willing to. The fact that you live far apart should make it easier to just STOP.

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