The Dallas Morning News

She goes all in, but loses interest

- WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP CAROLYN HAX tellme@washpost.com

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I’m 24 and in my third serious relationsh­ip, and I recently asked my boyfriend for a break.

Basically all three relationsh­ips seem to have followed the same pattern: me being very affectiona­te and loving toward my boyfriend; his being less affectiona­te, interested, or loving toward me; then over time, after issues and arguments, my feelings dwindling while his seemed to increase.

It’s not like I don’t communicat­e issues, either. I always discuss things after a disagreeme­nt, so they’re truly understood and put to rest.

I always tell my boyfriends I want them to be more affectiona­te, but usually it doesn’t happen until way too late and I’ve slowly gotten over the relationsh­ip.

My first two were worse in the sense that their greater affection later on only hurt me, because it felt like, “I would have been way happier had this happened months ago.”

It ends after I’m fed up and my boyfriend is more in love, more affectiona­te with me and I can’t return it anymore. What’s wrong with me and why is this a pattern?

Want to Break the Cycle Dear Want to Break the Cycle: This is not intended as a substitute for the advice I’m going to steer you to afterward.

But: It sounds to me that you go all in right away with your affection, before you know these men well, while they’re following a slower getto-know-you trajectory — and so they’re naturally less affectiona­te at first and more so later.

They’re enjoying your company, sure, but they don’t really know you yet, haven’t fallen for you yet, so the intensity you want from them upfront is something they’re not capable of giving you sincerely until later.

If this is true, then you haven’t had three serious relationsh­ips with three men. Instead, you’ve had one intense on-and-off relationsh­ip with romantic novelty. You’re “on” when someone is new, and you switch “off ” when familiarit­y creeps in.

Whether that’s a good guess or a terrible one, your problem is begging for some sessions with a therapist. It hits the top three qualificat­ions: 1. You have a pattern; 2. You don’t understand it; 3. You’re unhappy with it.

A couple of things to consider. I routinely advise writers in this space to be wary of people who have their big feelings upfront instead of building up to them. That’s the problem I’m talking about above, where you’re more excited about the idea of something serious than about really knowing the person you’re with.

But I also routinely warn writers of people who are only invested in a relationsh­ip when you lose interest in them.

Let’s say the pace of your attachment to them was healthy all along, in all three relationsh­ips — but you became desirable to them only when, to put it in material terms, you acquired more value through the sudden scarcity of your interest in them. That would say the problem is instead with the type of men you’re drawn to.

Either way, some time out of relationsh­ips and in the business of finding pleasure in your own company, with or without therapy, can help you get your sense of self on straight. Better connection­s with others always start with ourselves.

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