Dear Ms Peirano,
I (architectural assistant, 45) was single for four years after going through some very complicated and intense love triangles. Two months ago a friend talked me into creating a Tinder profile and that's where I met Laurent. We wrote to each other daily, video chatted and sent each other audios and films. He's very sexy and intense, so we quickly became close and developed an intimacy without ever meeting.
He lives in France, where his mother is from and where his six year old son's mother lives, but also in Tokyo and he has an apartment in Berlin (where I live). I find his life incredibly exciting and would like to travel the world more myself. I would also like to live abroad, but have never done so. But then I always have thoughts as to whether I would see him enough if it grew more between us. He's always on the go, hasn't sorted out a lot of things properly for himself, and that sometimes seems very chaotic to me.
Then there is the issue of exclusivity. My love triangle made me a burned child and I once asked him how he saw the exclusivity. He's a pretty good talker, and it kind of sounded like "depends on how things go" and "be too committed to him" and "it depends on how honest you are with each other". So no clear statement. That irritated me. I don't want to be one of several women again.
But I also noticed that although I'm afraid of being hurt and I already see a few "red flags" with him, I just can't keep my distance or look at it in peace. I'm like under a magic spell and can't get rid of it. My friends are also rather skeptical and advise me against it.
We met for the first time a week ago. After the two months, he couldn't tell me in advance whether he'd make it that evening. He was so busy and hadn't booked a train yet. It was all spontaneous and with question marks until the last moment. That made me nervous and a little disappointed after the whole story. But with him something always comes up or something burns. Then, late in the evening, he came, still in his travel clothes, a little sweaty, but we quickly warmed to each other. And as I had guessed, we ended up in bed and spent the whole weekend together. It was very close and everything fit perfectly.
Then he had to go back to France and it's not clear when we'll see each other again. It still feels quite good because I got so close. But I have to say that the doubts are now ramping up in full force. Who does he meet? Will he get his life in order so that we see each other more often? Do I get priority with him?
We still text and chat a lot, but I imagine it's a little less than it used to be. And I know very well that I can't cling to a man like him. That drives him to flee. But somehow I feel a bit inferior, and I've experienced that in previous relationships. I just waited but had nothing to say. I definitely don't want that again. But I don't want to or can't end it all, I encourage myself.
I'm actually completely confused and would like to have your point of view.
Dear Silja T,
I can empathize with your fear and confusion! On the one hand there is the fascination and the strong attraction: After a few injuries you were single for a long time and now you have met a man who interests you again for the first time. He embodies some things you don't have: independence, freedom, maybe a pinch of ruthlessness. There's a pinch of Marlboro Man in your description.
And on the other hand, your own life doesn't seem so free: you live in a city (albeit an exciting one), have a permanent job and long for a stable, exclusive relationship (otherwise you wouldn't have asked him about it).
I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. In my PhD, I researched the relationship between relationship personality and happiness in love, and then wrote two books about love.
Information about my therapeutic work can be found at www.julia-peirano.info.
Do you have questions, problems or lovesickness? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on stern.de.
Here could be a modern version of the ancient and sorrowful tale of the sailor and the sailor's bride: he is constantly at sea and has a love interest in every town while she waits for him in the home port. The woman has to ask herself what she gets out of it and carefully balance whether she sometimes feels used as a donor of closeness, security and reliability in the life of the unsteady traveller.
From my point of view, a red flag was already the topic of the first meeting, which definitely took place under the script "That's the love of sailors". Despite the intense backstory, he didn't give you priority and made sure you would meet. He made you flounder, and he alone was the one who might or might not come. Then he didn't put much effort into the first meeting either (arriving late at night sweaty is not appreciation!). This is a classic power play, and it doesn't feel good for the losing party (namely you).
And what's more, he's already made it clear that you shouldn't pressurize him with expectations. This is also a power play (and again against you). It wouldn't be a power play if he says what he wants (non-binding) and asks you what you want (non-binding) and then says it doesn't fit. It would not be a power game if he were willing to make agreements and compromises. For example, he could commit to an exclusive relationship and set dates with you when you meet.
That's exactly what he doesn't do. It sounds like he wants to get closer when he's far away (for example, abroad), but when he's close, he's drawn to the distance. It could also be because of his casual lifestyle in three countries and his still young child that he has an attachment disorder. The Trier psychotherapist Stefanie Stahl describes the phenomenon of the anxious-ambivalent attachment disorder in her book: "Yeah. Recognize and overcome attachment fears. Help for those affected and their partners." I would highly recommend this book to you so that you can at least see what game is possibly being played.
What worries me the most is your self-declaration that despite the "red flags" you are unable to keep your distance or decide whether and under what conditions you want to continue. It seems to me that you consider yourself defenseless. Where does this assessment come from? Is that an old theme from your childhood? Can you deal with this therapeutically?
The story with Laurent would be really well suited for this: you get temptingly disturbing ambivalent behaviors from him and you can learn to stay with yourself and set boundaries.
However, this will not be easy. After all, it's not easy to learn to drive on the freeway in icy conditions and fog... You're already very involved emotionally, and it can be very painful when Laurent, for example, withdraws or distances himself. This is a main symptom of the anxious-ambivalent attachment disorder and is very disturbing for the partner. This often creates a kind of addictive behavior on the part of the other person (i.e. you): you long for the close, intimate moments (the "drug") and accept a lot of suffering for it.
In short: Find out what is happening, let yourself be accompanied therapeutically and be vigilant! Do everything you can to stay with yourself (job, friends, hobbies, sleep, food, etc.) and keep looking at everything from the observation level.
Kind regards and all the best to you
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