Carolyn Hax is away. The following is from July 11, 2003.
Dear Carolyn: Met “Guy” through mutual friend. He is 23, just graduated from college; I’m 20 and have two more years. Had one-night stand with Guy over two months ago, continued having one-night stands about twice a week. Spent two weekends with Guy at the beach, had a wonderful time. We’ve never been on a date, talked about feelings, commitment or anything concerning “us” at all. We tease, play, argue for fun and enjoy our time together. I have strong feelings for Guy, suspect vice-versa. It is known that Guy has had significant emotional trauma within past few years. We haven’t talked about that, either.
I want to stop being lovers in the bedroom and just-friends everywhere else. Tried to tell him this recently, couldn’t get it out. He told me I was acting weird. He has, however, told me from the beginning not to get attached because he doesn’t know what his next move in life is. Sounded like he was trying to convince himself, not me.
Frustrated: No, he was trying to convince you.
To no avail, apparently, since you’ve constructed an entirely new scenario out of things you’d prefer to hear: that he didn’t mean what he said about remaining unattached; that he has strong feelings for you, too; and that he’d express them if only he weren’t — one must raise one’s eyebrows into pity formation when one says this — traumatized by his past.
I’m not saying your scenario isn’t true. Unfortunately, though, that’s what he’s saying — and the facts are screaming pretty loudly for themselves, too. He’s a young, unsettled, post-collegiate, pre-white-picket-fence guy who’s having fun and getting [indelicate slang for sex] twice a week. Until you hear otherwise, from him, explicitly, please take his word for this.
In the meantime, if you have something to say to him, then say it. Just know there’s an excellent chance you won’t like his reply. And, from now on, arm yourself with this clip-’n’-save life wisdom: Don’t expect the moon from someone who says, “Don’t expect the moon.”
Dear Carolyn: I’ve been involved with someone for over a year now. One minute he’s sweet and romantic, and the next he’s cold and distant. Sometimes he’s pretty abusive verbally. I know, I know . . . but I’ve never felt this way before and it feels like I’ve known him forever.
What should I do?
— Pacific NW
Pacific NW: You know, you know . . . exactly what you should do. You just refuse to do it. But you asked, so, here: Do it anyway. Now.
Given that my success rate against I’ve-never-felt-this-way-before-itis hovers between 0 and .01 percent, I’ll throw in a defeatist Plan B. You choose how well someone treats you, or how poorly, because you choose your response to that person. So go ahead, choose to stay with a verbal abuser and thereby agree with his dim assessment of you.
Just don’t lie to yourself about him or your decision. You can’t fix the cold and keep the sweet, because there aren’t “sweet” times and “cold” times. There are controlling times, period. If he were always cold you’d leave; if he were always nice he wouldn’t feel in control. Abuse is a one-two punch. Why do you stand for it?