Q. Dear Michele,
I have kind of a complicated problem with a guy. He and I dated for a while about five years ago, off and on, for about half a year. He was plenty nice and the sex was the best I've ever had (before or since), but we had a few problems. He wouldn't always return my calls, he would cancel dates, and he was very unsure about what he wanted in a relationship. I think most of this has to do with the facts that he had just come out and just left college without graduating. After it not working for a while, I moved to the other side of the country and then to the other side of the world for four and a half years.
I recently moved back to town, and having grown so nostalgic over the years for sex with him, I called him. He was still in town and wanted to hook up, but once again, the same flaking out happened. Again and again. For the past several months I've had several cyber-sex sessions with him, traded sexual pictures with him, and gotten pretty mad that after all that effort, he can't make the twenty minute car drive to make things real again.
I've ignored him for about a month now, but we just talked again last night, so I called him when he said he'd be available today, but he didn't pick up the phone and still hasn't returned my message.... I don't need to be told that he's not relationship material, but I'd really like your opinion on how to get over him. I've had sex with and dated other guys since him, but I just can't get him out of my head.
Dear MicheleFollow omaram
A. Given that you're already aware that this is not relationship material, the question is, "Why do you continue to approach him as if you will get a different response?" You set yourself up for more hurt by believing, without a shred of evidence, that he'll be different than he has been for the last five years. For over five years you have been off and on, and he has consistently had difficulty doing what he says he'll do (not calling, canceling dates, waffling about the relationship), and yet you have great sex which seems to lure you back in.
My suggestion to "get over him" is to begin focusing 100% on reality. To do this you must accept him as he is, for who he is. Once you do this, you move from being a victim, to being an adult who is making informed choices about someone with whom you have a history, and from whom you've come to know what to expect.
For some reason (and the reason is the key to this answer here) your unconscious mind is convinced that you need to experience the pain of rejection and inconsistency over, and over again. I'm guessing that this is not a new pain in your life. If you go as far back as possible - I would imagine you might see in your history as a child that there were important adults that had trouble keeping their word, who could make you feel loved, but were not consistent enough to help you feel safe and secure. And I would take that a step further and suggest that you responded to their inconsistency much the same way you do this guy's. As a child, you likely tried more, and harder, to win the love and affection or approval of your parents, or primary care givers, with intermittent, or no, success.
Whenever we find ourselves, as adults, responding to relationships in ways that don't make sense, but we feel compelled to do it anyway, chances are we are trying to heal an old hurt from our childhood by using ineffective skills we learned as a young person.
If you wish to dig a little deeper, you could pick up the book "Getting the Love You Want" from Harville Hendrix and consider the notion that you are attracting this experience (and hurt) into your life so that you can begin to heal some unfinished business from your childhood. If you are unable to make progress with this personal inquiry on your own, then of course there's always therapy to give your introspective work a nudge in the right direction.
Consciously, it's apparent from your description of him that he has never been "available" or consistent with you. He shows up when it works for him, he disappears when it doesn't. It's no mystery to me why he continues to do this - because he can!