Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: Friends, Lovers, and Friends Again. And After That?

Dear Stavroula,

We were friends for three years, in the same circle of friends, always together. One night he kissed me and since then we started to go out separately from the rest of our friends, sleeping together every night, and generally having a good time. The only thing that bothered me was that every time he returned to his parents’ house in Athens (we were students in another city at the time) he cut off communication with me. When I asked him why this was happening, he explained to me that he behaves strangely because he has no feeling for what is happening between us. I asked to break up with him, but after a few days he came back and wanted us to try again.

However, he avoided me when we went out with the same group of friends. When I started avoiding him, he asked me to break up with the excuse that he did not like my behavior. Of course, during the next three months that we stayed apart for the summer holidays, he did not stop communicating with me. At one point, I spoke to him and he clarified that he sees me as a friend. I accepted it and tried to be friendly to him even though it is very difficult for me, because I am in love with him. Two months have passed since then. Now, when we are with the same group of friends, he insults me for the slightest thing and tries to appear indifferent towards me. I should add that at first he told me that he liked me very much, that he thought of me even when he was with his ex-girlfriend and that he was always trying to get my attention. So how, after all this, can he tell me that he has no feelings? How can I manage his insults without affecting the rest of our circle of friends?


Dear Amanda,

You are friends, he likes you, he starts a relationship with you that seems ideal and when he feels that he has you, he distances himself. You break up with him and yet he claims you again. And when you agree to try to be with him again, he distances himself again. But not so much that you would leave him.

Unfortunately, this pattern is repeated in many relationships, usually on the part of the man. It is similar to what we call a Scottish shower, where hot water alternates with cold water. So in the case of the relationship, the tender and intimate behavior, the romantic words and the interest, alternate with the distance, the interruption of communication, the coldness, or even aggressive behavior.

Many times, all this seems to be a game of power that can be played consciously or not. One of the two individuals is the one who determines whether there will be a relationship or not, while the other is often driven to insecurity, embarrassment, guilt (it's my fault, I did something wrong) or frustration.

A need to control emotions, so as to avoid the emotional pain of abandonment or rejection, is often hidden behind this behavior. The need for constant approval may also be hidden behind it.

So the question is not whether or not your ex-boyfriend has feelings for you. After all, even if he tells you that he loves you, what does it mean if he perceives love in such a different way?

So the question you may need to answer is how much you are willing to keep playing this game.

The first thing you can do is acknowledge your share of responsibility. What is your behavior that allowed him to leave and come back as a lover or friend? What need does this game fulfill for you, so that you feel in love with him even when he insults you? How do you react when he insults you?

Then you can pursue an honest discussion with him, without criticizing him, letting him know that whatever your relationship is afterwards, you consider it very important that it be based on mutual respect. Give him space to talk to you about what concerns him, ask him what is it in your behavior that causes him such strong emotions that he becomes aggressive.

Let him know that for better or worse you are in the same circle of friends and it is not fair for either of you to feel uncomfortable in a friendly environment. You could also talk to someone you both trust and appreciate and ask them for their help.


Dear Stavroula, I am 28 years old and in a relationship for three years with a woman a little older than me.

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