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A relationship I am confused about

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FaSheezy: It is not so much a question of "stopping," like I am a smoker and want to quit, it is trying to find the best course of action. I could just never call or write to her again, but is that the best solution? I don't know. However, this isn't just meaningless "mental gymnastics," either; I have already decided that I will choose a course of action by the end of the year and then stick with it. I just need to decide what is right.

Ed from OC:

Scientist: it sounds to me like you aren't sure what you want. Don't be passive and just accept whatever relationship your ex gives. Determine what you want, and pursue it.
Having thought about it, I do know what I want; a relationship with another woman. And next time I see her there will be no fooling around. But I still have to decide if I should remain friends with her or not.

Have you discussed this with her? Why is she willing to put you in this position? Why is she sending you mixed messages? Ask her directly.
I have discussed this with her, but I have never directly asked her why she is giving me mixed messages. I will do so next time we talk.
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Have you discussed this with her? Why is she willing to put you in this position? Why is she sending you mixed messages? Ask her directly.

I have discussed this with her, but I have never directly asked her why she is giving me mixed messages. I will do so next time we talk.

You know, I read your entire message in response to my post, and I actually thought the light of awareness may be starting to dawn on you. Then you post this. Are you kidding? You're going to ask her why she's been giving you mixed messages? For what purpose? Didn't you agree that lack of integrity was the root culprit here? Didn't you agree that you've been letting this girl manipulate your feelings? What do you expect she'll say? What does it matter what she'll say?

What I'm worried about is that this woman is going to give you some cock-and-bull "explanation," you'll turn emotionally to silly putty for the 5,000th time, and we'll never hear from you again. All my typing will have been for naught. Face it, man: you're weak when it comes to a gorgeous girl. The only reason you're willing to embark on this ridiculous "talk" is to give her the chance to insist on her innocence, berate you for suspecting ill intentions, then turn the whole situation around on you. You'll apologize, saying you don't know how you ever thought anything bad of her (and you won't), and then you'll go right back to being wrapped around her pretty little finger, where you've been for the past 2 1/2 years.

She can manipulate you because she knows SHE CAN. SHE CAN because she knows YOU'RE WEAK. You're an intellectual guy with a good mind, and you really do know the right thing to do. But all it takes is one thought of her sexy self and your grey matter becomes instant oatmeal. You're like a guy on LSD — a Love Struck Doofus, as I often say.

(And don't try to tell me that love — or at least strong sexual attraction — isn't the operative factor here: you would never be acting like this over a MALE friend.)

Again, sorry to have to put it this way, but you REALLY need to hear it. That said, let me take a breath and a drink of water, and address some of the other, vastly more lucid points you raise. . . .

Do you think that just because she broke up with me it is impossible to have a friendship? Is the only relationship possible between people of different sexes romantic?

Damn near anything is possible in the realm of human relationships. After all, don't you have a "friendship" with this girl now? Granted it's an awkward, confusing, and miserable kind of friendship — one which has you bummed out, feeling worthless, and seeking the advice of strangers on the Internet. But that's what you asked, and there, I suppose, is your answer.

See, that's the problem with us men. We don't approach the issue in the right way. We ask the wrong questions. We theorize about abstract situations and hypothetical people when we most need to open our eyes and see the most obvious facts of reality staring us in the face. "Can a man and a woman have a friendship after a romantic breakup?" But we're not talking about about "a man" and "a woman" here: this is about you, your situation, your life and your emotional well-being. That some other guy at some point in history may have managed a halfway decent relationship with an ex who dumped him means nothing here. You need to focus on you: What do you see? What do you feel? Is this situation contributing to your life? Your self-esteem? Your happiness? Why, truthfully, have you stayed in it? Do you think that continuing the situation will make it easier or harder for you to move on and start a new relationship?

Again, don't look to outer space, to "morality," or to anyone else for the answers. Take a hard, honest, objective look at your life, your current emotional state, and what you hope for your future.

It has always been my assumption that when I start a new relationship any feelings I have for the girl we are talking about will go away and then there will be no problem being friends.

I think you need to check your assumption. "Getting over" a person doesn't mean reaching a state of total sexual indifference toward them. It does mean that you've attained a certain level of clarity and objectivity about the relationship — what it meant to you, why you broke up, why you need to move on. It means that you accept that it's over, have had time to get your heart back together again, and are now rested, rehabilitated, and ready to begin the process with someone much better.

Will my feelings go away if I never talk to her again?

To the extent that your feelings for someone were serious, you can never make them "go away." You were, after all, attracted to this person for real reasons; your feelings are rooted in real values, which you still hold and will likely continue to do so. Such feelings tend to diminish and become less of an issue, however, the longer you're out of the relationship — provided you stay focused on your values, your goals and your life. (Keeping away from situations that you know will only exacerbate the pain and feed the demons of false hope would probably also not be a bad idea.) It can be a tough process, but you just have to be strong and get through it.

A word of caution: Although you may understandably be tempted to, don't ever repress your feelings. If you start to feel something you wish you weren't, just focus on it and become aware of it. Feel not only the feeling, but also how you feel about the feeling: I hate myself for feeling this way . . . I wish the feeling would go away . . . I feel like I want to call her right now . . . I'm scared I'm not going to make it on my own without her . . . She makes me so angry . . . etc. Whatever you're feeling, just own it. Don't even try to talk yourself out of it. Write it down. Talk into a tape recorder. The funny thing is, when you own your feelings, you stay in control of them, and they don't end up owning you. It's only the emotion that's driven underground that becomes unmanageable.

Do you really think that women really want a more aggressive man? It seems logical, but it goes against everything I have been taught (though I can's say my education in this area has been of high quality) and epically against everything women say they want.

Generally, I would say yes — though what's meant by "aggressive" would have to be very carefully defined and elaborated on. But certainly no woman wants a wimp or a wishy-washy guy; as I said earlier, women want a hero whom they can admire and look up to. For a good example of this kind of man, see Howard Roark from The Fountainhead. (For an example of the opposite kind of guy, see Ross from TV's Friends.)

As for this going against what women say they want — well, a lot of women don't know what they want, or have a hard time putting it into words. Different women hold different romantic values, based on their level of self-esteem and other factors. Mostly, though, I'd love to know which particular women you've been talking to. One of them wouldn't happen to be the above-mentioned ex, would it?

There is a learned skill to the entire process, from selecting people you are interested in to getting them on a date. I haven't learned this skill yet, so I always strike out.

I hear you, brother. We all do. Dating can be a tough game, especially when you have no idea what you're doing. Fortunately, it's not rocket science. Any man can learn the basics — the "technique" of dating, if you will — in under twenty minutes. (What you bring to the experience, i.e., who you are as a person, is a considerably bigger issue, and takes a little longer.)

Most men learn this skill when they are a lot younger, and by the time they are my age it is so ingrained they don't even think there is a skill involved. . . . For whatever reason I didn't pick up this skill and I am paying for it now.

I have news for you: You think you're alone. Every man does. But you're not. The sad truth is, most men's romantic lives are a pathetic shambles. Look at the divorce statistics — and realize those are just the people who paid for the wedding and made the vow to be together forever!

The average man's love life is a series of periods of lonely despair, false hope, occasional elation over good fortune he has no idea how he's lucked into, and bitter pain and disappointment when it ends. (Did I mention divorce?) The most common statement from men, if and when you actually get them to open up, is that they don't understand women, and that their romantic relationships are a constant source of pain and humiliation. The most common comment from women is that men are utterly, absolutely and totally clueless about romance; if men would only grow up, take charge, and learn to be men, everyone's lives would be much happier.

And I have more news: No matter how sensitive and skilled you become, dating is still hard. Most of the women you'll be attracted to are simply not available — they're married, have boyfriends, etc. Of the very few who aren't, you have to find a woman who is also interested in you. (This, by the way, is the one thing most men completely forget.) Then you have to judge her personality, intelligence, values, etc. — not just in the abstract sense, but in terms of her personal, emotional value to you. You have to get to know a person over time, in many kinds of situations, before you can really say you're deeply in love with them. And again, she has to be feeling the same thing, at approximately the same time, in order for a relationship to happen.

The good news is that romantic happiness — indeed, romantic perfection — is possible. It can be attained. And, given the right conditions and enough time, you will attain it. And when you do, it's the greatest experience in the world. Not only that, but once you really start to figure things out, the journey itself actually becomes a lot of fun. You soon learn that it's just as much about discovering yourself as is a quest to find the ideal partner. You gain a sense of perspective, and even a sense of humor, as you progress: suddenly those horrible experiences from the past seem like the wisest and most benevolent teachers. You look upon "rejection" as a kind of friend; you even welcome it for the lessons it brings, and for carrying you one step closer to success every time.

[J]ust yesterday I tried and failed, though at least she said that she was "flattered" I asked.

What exactly happened? What did you ask her? What did she say? Be as specific as possible — maybe some of the ladies on this forum would like to critique your approach. Just realize that you could have been Howard Roark himself (after reading my book, of course) and still have "failed" for any number of reasons. You didn't really fail, of course: you succeeded because you put yourself out there and went for it. Corny, perhaps, but very true.

When is your book coming out? I think I could really use it!

Now you're talking some sense! The book won't be available for a while — though I'm working on some audio materials right now which you may find interesting and helpful. Send me an email or PM if you want to be kept updated.

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An excellent source of advice on romantic relationships (and problems that arise in them) is Dr. Ellen Kenner, who is an Objectivist psychologist who has a weekly radio show you can listen to over the internet. Her web site (www.drkenner.com) has information on how to listen.

Dr. Kenner answers questions called in live, as well as questions sent to her via email. She gets questions relating to many problems, but probably the largest category is romantic relationships. I've listened to her for several years now: she's a good speaker, knows her field, and treats other people with benevolence. I particularly like how she is able to name the essential issue when somebody asks her advice.

If I wanted professional psychological advice, particularly relating to romantic relationships, she's the person I'd ask.

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Are you kidding? You're going to ask her why she's been giving you mixed messages? For what purpose? Didn't you agree that lack of integrity was the root culprit here? Didn't you agree that you've been letting this girl manipulate your feelings? What do you expect she'll say? What does it matter what she'll say?

I've found that hearing the cold, hard truth directly from the object of one's affection helps make it easier to get over her. It's one thing to know intellectually that things will not work out. It's another thing to accept it emotionally, to push aside self-doubt or wishful thinking.

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Hey Scientist,

Too much info to quote from so I'm going to narrow it down to a personal experience of my own that was similar to yours. I was in a relationship where I was really in love with this girl that did not have the same feelings for me. After a while, it became evident that she wouldn't feel the same for me so we both agreed to end the relationship. After that, she wanted to be friends and keep in touch and talk and blah, blah, blah. I told her no, that I was going to be out of the picture for a while so I could get on with my life. She didn't understand it but that was because she didn't feel the same way about me as I did about her. I needed to ice the relationship over and it sounds like you need to also. Put some distance between you and her so you can cut your "romantic" emotional ties. You're only feeding your fire for her and getting it confused with saving your "friendship" with her. Dude, don't kid yourself: of coarse you can share things with her that you can't with anyone else because you still have your romantic tie in tact. Call her up, tell her you need to get on with your life and call it quits; for now. You will get over her because you won't be feeding the fire anymore. I now occasionally run in to the girl I had my relationship with and I'm completely comfortable with it now. She's gotten on with her life and I've gotten on with mine. If you don't, sooner or later, she's going to meet a romantic partner and then call it quits completely with you and that's going to devastate you. Don't wait for that day to come.

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