She's Still Stuck
Q: After going out with a man for three years, we got engaged, until I found out he was lying and cheating on me. When I asked him about it, the first thing out of his mouth was, "I don't lie and I don't cheat." Of course I said, "Forget it, we're done," and I stopped all communication with him. But a week later he emailed me. I told him exactly how I felt about him and what he had done, and the funny thing is that he never got mad at me. He told me that he broke up with her to try and make things right with me, but I found out that he's still dating her. I haven't emailed him back or answered his phone calls for about a month now, but he keeps emailing me and telling me his latest sob story. I want to tell him exactly what I think of him, but then that would be giving him the attention he wants. One minute he's nice, but then he turns right around and starts blaming everything on me again. Obviously he needs help! He's the type of person who, when he's angry, you never know what he's going to do. Not answering his emails was a huge step for me. I want him to leave me alone, but I'm afraid that he might do something really stupid if I do. He says he's going to counseling, but who knows if that's true. When something's going bad for him he wants me, but as soon as things start going good for him he treats me like crap. The first two years I knew him he wasn't like that. I'm not sure where the man I fell in love with went. It kills me not to be able to help him. So basically I just want to know what I can do to get him to leave me alone for good. I want to help him, but he's made it quite clear that I can't. -- Sally, 23
Dr. Susan: Props to you for not answering his emails. I know how hard that can be! You're definitely on the right track by not responding to his continuous attempts to snare you in his trap. Remember, and this is VERY important, intermittent reinforcement is the strongest motivator in the world. So if you weaken and talk to him or write to him, even once, then it will take months and months (or years!) before he'll really believe you've lost interest. Your problem is not him, but yourself. You still care about the bum, and you have to make yourself stop caring. Or at least behave as if you don't care, and before long, you really won't care. He lies, he cheats, and then he lies and cheats some more, and on top of that, he blames you for his faults. Whether he goes to counseling or not is no longer your business. What worries me is that you're even tempted to try to help him due to your fear of his anger and "what he might do." Steer clear! The man you fell in love with was probably never quite the man you thought he was. If you look back, you'll probably find some hints of his unpredictable behavior. All besides the point now. It's sweet that you're a generous person and want to help those who need it, but he's not your responsibility. All you can do is save yourself, and that means cutting off ALL contact. Change your email and put your energy somewhere more deserving.
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.