She Prefers a Loser
Q: Try this out: I'm 27 and I've met a woman (21), who, in my opinion, is in a bad relationship. She's living in substandard housing with a man (boy) who's insecure, easily jealous, financially unstable, and recently spent time in jail (classic loser, bad boy characteristics). However, she remains with him, because in my opinion, this is her first "love" (very emotionally attached), and she would feel guilty if she left him. Three months ago, I invited her for lunch (not as a date) and we hit it off great: we laughed, flirted, and shared personal stories; I really fell for her and believe she felt similarly interested. Afterwards, I left her a note asking for a second meeting-- no reply. Then two weeks later, I run into her and she says that she meant to call but hadn't, also her boyfriend was 'upset' about our lunch and that she would call soon. Again, nothing. Finally, I leave a letter complimenting her qualities to raise her self-esteem, detail my concerns, and a promise that I'll help her out. Again, no reply. I'd like, at a minimum, some feedback. A "thanks, but no thanks" is better than no reply at all. It breaks my heart thinking about the conditions that she's living in and the potential destruction of her life by this relationship. Is he keeping her mum physically/emotionally?? Should I confront her and be more forthcoming about my emotional interest in her?? Should I help her out (at least financially) even though she hasn't asked for help or left him?? How should I proceed?? -- Sam
Dr. Susan: Oh, Sam, you're in way over your head on this one. This woman has given you all the reply she needs to, which is that she's not interested in changing her current life situation. Whether she's involved in a destructive relationship or not is not your responsibility. Unless she's confided to you that he's abusing her (beyond being jealous and being a "classic loser"), you really can't run in there and take charge of her life for her. I can see you want to rescue her, that you feel she deserves better (i.e., you), and that you're frustrated at how she's conducting herself. But it seems to me that you're doing a lot of guessing about why she stays with him. You've made at least three attempts to develop your own relationship with her, and she's blown you off. She may have decided she won't fool around while she's with this guy (a good choice!). You've reached out, she's an adult (more or less), and you needn't confront her any more directly than you have. Offering her money at this point seems way off base. She knows you're available. I'd find someone more available to get involved with. Now.
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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.