Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
30

Ask Polly: I Moved To A New City To Be With An Emotional Vampire

Hi Polly,

I am stuck on my recent ex of about 15 months.

We began online and with distance. He was in a live-in relationship at that time. I told him that I was not interested in an online, long-distance relationship and that I definitely was not interested in an attached man but he assured me that these things were temporary—and I believed him. She was/is his boss (she got him the job) and he claimed he was fearful of repercussions and also that he feared she would kill herself or quit her job if he left her. He also said that he hated the city where he lives and was looking to relocate within 12 months and began to make tentative plans to move to where I was.

We had that 'instant connection' that happens sometimes and he love-bombed me with attention and spent hours and hours every day talking to me and really trying to get to know the 'real me'—or so it seemed. I had been single in every sense of the word until we collided (and we did collide) and I had long given up hope of ever again meeting a man who I was interested in, let alone one who returned my affections—which this man did in spades.

There were red flags (other than those I have mentioned) in that he played the victim: He told me about his severe anxiety issues, his history of hospital confinement due to a nervous breakdown and the biggest, that I ignored, is that he would test my (sexual) boundaries and emotional boundaries. He told me he did not 'believe' in relationships, even that he did not feel 'love' and had never been in love, although he behaved like he and I were definitely in a relationship by being incredibly emotionally intimate and spending ALL of his free time with me—AND he told me he loved me.

We met a few months into our relationship. I insisted that the live-in girlfriend be aware of this and he did tell her about me (although he lied and made up a story as to who I was) after we met in person the first time. I flew across the country and spent 4 weeks in his city, and the meeting just deepened the love I felt for him, even though there were problems—niggling doubts about his intentions, his honesty, etc. I was completely hooked however and ignored my doubt and insecurities. It seemed as though this man was completely into me.

Shortly after I flew back home, the trouble really began. First of all, he moved into the spare room in the house he shared with his ex. This didn't take, however (for obvious reasons) and he moved out completely, much to my joy, and things with us became even more intense. We would talk, SMS, and Skype for hours and hours all day every day. A few times he was 'unavailable' but I didn't think much of these incidents.

A BIG flag—and point of contention for me—was that he had a dating profile on a dating website. He showed me this, he was open about it and insisted that he just liked to talk to people. I actually tried to end things a couple of times in this period because he was still no further along making arrangements to move to where I was. This was about 9 or so months into things at this point. Whenever I withdrew at all, he would bombard me and beg me not to leave or turn away from him. He kept assuring me that I was the most alluring woman he had met in 10 years and that he had a bottomless desire for me as a person and as a woman.

Eventually, I found out that he had been talking to and sleeping with a woman he met online, for about a month. She contacted me to let me know that he had told her that he loved her (within weeks) and had given her a large sum of money. When I confronted him, he apologized and told me it would never happen again.

I put this 'affair' down to me not being around physically. I was convinced that if we could just be together, we could find out if he and I had a chance.

Not long after, I got a job interview in his city and decided to attend. He offered to pay my fare and told me that I could stay with him and if I needed to, his parents (he was in a share house, so staying with him long-term was not going to be okay). I came over and the first weekend things were lovely. Then, that first week he was a bit distant and our usually incredibly good sex vanished into thin air. He began to have massive panic attacks and things were just… strange. (Oh, I forgot to mention that his anxiety attacks are medicated daily with large doses of Xanax).

I got the job I applied for, but he was weird about this, and things were not looking good. On the Saturday and Sunday, my second weekend here, we had a lovely, romantic weekend and we had sex a couple of times. Then, on the Monday morning, he dumped me—telling me that his emotions for me had been 'burnt out' due to his anxiety attacks. He claimed this had happened before. I remembered then that he had stopped wanting sexual contact with the woman I 'replaced' just three months into their three-year relationship

I was devastated. I had left everything behind to come and try to spend time with this man to see if he and I had a chance. To make matters worse, he left me sitting alone, shattered, in his sharehouse that very night and went on a first date with a woman he had met online a week or so earlier. Turns out that he had a 'new' me to talk to in the early hours of the night while I slept in his bed.

The next day he was quite cruel to me. I did not get angry with him about what he had done or the date, I was just devastated and completely bewildered because he had promised, just a few weeks before, that he would never, ever turn away from me and here he was saying that he didn't even really 'know me' and suggesting that for all he knew, I could have been lying about who I was all this time. It was like the world had been flipped upside down.

I stayed in the sharehouse, renting a spare room that came up—mainly because I had no money to find anywhere else and I was due to start my new job.

Over the next eight weeks or so, he continued to 'date' this woman, but to act as though he and I were still in a relationship. He constantly wanted to hang out and talk, watch movies, etc., and many nights we slept together—no sex, mainly because I kept hoping that this 'bad dream' would end and he would tell me that he had made a huge mistake. He would wander around naked in front of me and wrap himself around me in bed but he never tried to touch me or made any sexual overtures.

We had a few brief discussions about what happened, the last being that he apologized for what had occurred and then told me that after I flew here, he and I made love (his words) a few times and then he realized that he "no longer found me physically attractive." Yes, he said that.

I finally lost my temper after he said that and told him to fuck off and walked away. But even then he came into my room the next day (when I was due to move out) and again kept trying so, so hard to be my "friend." Our friendship in the house only existed because he chased me for it. Every film we watched was his idea, he constantly came into my room looking for me. He bought food and cooked for me all the time. I did not chase him or his company for one second.

I am still reeling from all of this. I have only been away from that house and in my new digs for two weeks but this has affected me more than I can say. Initially he kept up contact by calling, etc., but that has eased off and it has now been eight days without any contact from him. He is on the dating site for up to 12 hours a day. It's the one thing I keep an eye on and really, that is to reassure myself that he is doing to my replacement what he did to me. He seems to NEED the subterfuge of these internet dalliances.

I don't think that it is serious between him and my replacement. In fact, I think it might be all but over (I could be wrong). But that is by-the-by. What I cannot seem to do is reconcile the facts that this man who worshipped me for 12 months, who swore I was the most amazing woman he had ever met, who was planning to relocate, who left his previous relationship for me—that this same man just callously discarded me like I was nothing.

He wants to be friends and claims that he still really likes me as a person and wants to be in my life. I am humiliated by what happened and just can't seem to get past it, thoughts of what I had with him, how he made me feel. They haunt me all day and night. I just can't seem to accept that someone can just change their mind like he claims he did.

I need help to make sense of this.

Reeling





Dear Reeling,

Please read your letter from beginning to end and imagine that someone else wrote it. Then, tell me what advice you would give to that person. People who read your letter are not going to be the least bit curious about this guy you fell in love with. He's an emotional leech. He spends every second of every day sucking love out of women—you, the ex, the new you, the NEW new you—all without feeling it. He's trying to feel, and failing. First he told you about how he lost all sexual attraction and love for the ex very early in their relationship. Then he told you he doesn't "feel" love and doesn't believe in love and doesn't know what love is. That wasn't a way of testing emotional boundaries—that was him telling you the truth about his issues. Then you found out he was looking for other women online. Then he told you, milliseconds after you arrived in town, that he wasn't attracted to you anymore. Then he found a new you. Then he followed you around the house, kept hanging out, kept talking to you, kept trying to milk you for more, more, more, all the while searching for even more women who might give him love, online, anywhere.

There is no mystery here. This man can't feel anything. The love he finds doesn't do enough for him, because he can't really show up. So he looks for more, constantly, compulsively. He has no idea how to have a real intimate relationship with a real human being. When you arrived in town, you created a problem for him. He would've been happy to leech attention and affection from you, long distance, indefinitely. You should assume there are dozens more of you out there, slowly being prodded to give themselves to him—virtually, always at arm's length.

So he's not that interesting, at least not to people who aren’t into human quicksand. He has big, big problems, and his life is pretty confusing for him, too. He's struggling to get something he needs, but it never works and it's never enough. Give him your sympathy and get the fuck away from him and never look back.

Here's what IS interesting: HOW THE FUCK YOU GOT HERE. He was supposed to move to your city. He never did that. So YOU picked up and moved. He acted like a crazy person immediately. Instead of bailing and going home, you stayed. He broke up with you. Instead of bailing and going home, YOU MOVED INTO A HOUSE WITH HIM AND A BUNCH OF FUCKING ROOMMATES.

Could that be right? I have to keep checking the details of your letter, because there are so many bizarre, nonsensical twists that it's challenging to keep track of the chronology of it all. It's a suspenseful story, too, because once you realize there's no rhyme or reason involved, you start to wonder what fresh disaster will strike next. Not only that, but you write about yourself as if you have no free will and no mind of your own. After he dumped you and was dating someone else, he kept wanting to hang out, and talk, and be naked in front of you, so… THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED, OF COURSE. WHY THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN AGAIN?! I mean, seriously. Are you a throw pillow, or can you use your feet to walk the fuck out the door, and use your mouth to say GET AWAY FROM ME YOU CREEPY FUCKING ASS CLOWN?

Just as you took his straight statement of truth—"I can't feel love"—as an emotional manipulation, you take his wanting to hang out with you as proof that he still loves you. Everything he does feels personal to you.

So here's what you need to know: NOTHING HE DOES IS PERSONAL OR SPECIFIC TO YOU AT ALL.

When he wants to see you, that has nothing whatsoever to do with his feelings for you. He's trying to escape his desperation and loneliness and anxiety. Remember when he said he couldn't feel things? Remember when he said he wasn't attracted to you? Remember when he said he suffers from panic attacks? He's running scared and hoping for some magic to save him from himself. There is no magic. When he says, "YOU ARE THE MOST AMAZING WOMAN I'VE EVER MET" that's his way of saying "MAYBE IF I SAY SOMETHING REALLY DRAMATIC ABOUT YOU IT'LL COME TRUE OR AT LEAST I'LL BE SAFE FROM THE TERROR OF BEING ALONE FOR A WHILE."

He is an emotional black hole that will never be filled. He will follow any woman around like a puppy. Once that stops working, he will start drinking, or using drugs, or chasing some other fix. It has absolutely nothing to do with who you are.

But even now, despite all of the evidence you have that he's a human sinkhole, some part of you still believes that he has special feelings for you, that he's just confused, that he's dating the wrong girl now but he'll come back around and realize that he just got mixed up and lost sight of how great you are.

He didn't get mixed up. He's always been this way. You're the one who got mixed up. Your free will, your ideas about yourself, your existence as a person who acts (instead of simply being acted upon), your ambitions, your friendships, your family, your hopes and dreams—it's no coincidence that all of these things are missing from your letter.

So here's what you need to do:

1. Get a therapist.

2: Call every one of your friends and explain what happened to you, and ask them for their support as you move forward during a very difficult time.

3: Call your family and tell them you're having trouble.

Now: Should you quit your job and move back to your city? Maybe. I don't like you in the same town with this guy. You could waste at least another year or two staying hung up on him, getting pulled back into some half-assed relationship with him, supporting him through his various break-ups while hoping he takes you back, and on and on and on from there. Hanging out, occasionally sleeping together, wondering if it might eventually add up to something, wondering if he'll start "loving" you again, and showering you with all of that "affection" and "adoration" that he seems to be very good at generating in a vacuum of real contact or knowledge or understanding or feeling. Listen closely here: Even if you win him back, he will ALWAYS be chasing down other women (among many, many other problems). Every second you spend thinking about him or contemplating trying to get him back is a second spent wasting your time and hurting yourself and making yourself smaller and more powerless and needy.

You might need to flee. If you can't trust yourself not to follow him around or obsess about him or monitor his online movements, then you should probably move back to your old town.

But I hate even giving him that much power in your story, because he's irrelevant. Right now all that matters is you. How many friends did you leave behind to be with this guy? Do you have female friends? Do you confide in them? Are you close to your family? Do you have any activities outside of your job that you enjoy? Do you exercise regularly? Do you explore on your own, go to new restaurants, read new books, look for friendships (rather than love) online?

What kind of a life do you WANT?

Based on what you've described here, I think you need to take a solid six months off from dating of any kind. It's not safe to go back in the water in your current state. You need to go to therapy and build yourself from the ground up. Because this man became your savior very, very quickly. Now, it's true that almost any woman can understand the temptation to let that happen. It's true that some people really do fall in love, move to a new city, and then live semi-happily ever after, or at least for a while.

Still, you have some issues that you need to sort out. You need to drastically reexamine your notions of what love will look like when you find it. Dudes who immediately decide you're perfect, who want to be in constant contact, who have "psychochick" types in their lives that just won't go away, who describe losing sexual interest in this or that woman (instead of describing, say, what kinds of conflicts or missed connections eroded their ability to communicate or listen or give to each other generously), who put love in magical, fated terms instead of ACTUALLY WANTING TO SPEND TIME WITH YOU, FACE TO FACE, AND SEE HOW THINGS DEVELOP? These dudes need to be avoided like the plague. They are looking for a fix. They will say whatever they need to say to get that fix.

You need to build love out of friendship from now on—slowly building trust, slowly getting to know someone, meeting his friends, getting a sense of him in the world. When a guy describes panic attacks, hospitalization, suicidal girlfriends, go-nowhere jobs, lost chances, destroyed friendships, you really have to ask yourself: Is this the landscape I want to inhabit? DON'T I LOVE MYSELF MORE THAN THAT?

How much DO you love yourself? Why did you think this was your last chance to find love? Why did his intensity appeal to you so much, compared to the relatively mundane statements made by people who aren't desperate for immediate salvation?

You need to radically reexamine your notions about yourself and others, and radically redefine your views of romantic love.

But first, you need to take care of yourself. Find a therapist immediately, and talk about this guy to the therapist. Call your friends and talk to them. Otherwise, though, push him out of the picture. You know enough about him now to never consider him for another second. Do not check out what he's doing online. HE WILL ALWAYS BE DOING THE SAME SHIT. It has nothing to do with you. You need to focus on taking care of yourself. Right now, you are broken, confused, and sad. You need to work very hard to love this broken girl, right now. She is lovable. She deserves YOUR love. She deserves a leading role in this story for once.

Buy her some flowers. Make her a cup of tea. Tell her to pick up the phone and call her mother, or her aunt, or her old friend from school. Tell her things will get better.

Things WILL get better. Right now, you have to love-bomb YOURSELF with attention. Spend hours and hours every day talking to friends, to yourself, to your therapist, trying to get to know the real you. Who is she? What does she want? When you find her, it will feel so good, and you'll never surrender your entire life for someone else again. You will feel stronger, and happier, and more alive. That power is already inside of you.

If you dare to look closely at this situation, and see it for the wake-up call that it is, if you dare to stop asking why HE did what he did, and start asking why YOU did what you did, if you dare to examine what you think you do and don't deserve in this life, you'll emerge from this terrible time with a whole different feeling about yourself and your life. This crisis could change you, if you stop fixating on him, step away from your anger and longing, and allow yourself to be vulnerable about how you got here, who you are, and who you really want to be.

If you're vulnerable and you look very closely at yourself—how you run away from friends and family who need you, and run towards strangers who seem intense and mixed up and damaged and who NEED YOU TO SAVE THEM—then you can break this pattern before it becomes a pattern.

Maybe you DON'T think this is about you, though. If my response makes you angry and defensive, and you just want to insist that this ISN'T about you, it's about someone who really DID love you so so so much but he's just confused and he needs you, he just doesn't realize it? Well, I can tell you right now, you will keep bumping into this guy. He will keep finding you. He is everywhere. And he will fucking find your ass.

My strong suggestion to you is that you dig very, very deep with a therapist and admit that you're mixed up about love. If you work very hard, you'll come out of this a much happier person, and you'll start to attract strong, happy people who aren't needy vampires.

In the meantime, go on a long walk and listen to "Hestia" by Katell Keineg:

"I've been laying low, breathing for a while,
With my arms wrapped around my heartbroken child
But I woke up one day with a song in my heart
And the words of the song said you are witnessing a start today."

Forget him completely. This is about you. You were in a weakened state. He showed you his fangs and you showed him your bare neck. Next time, you'll be stronger, and the sad vampire will only elicit your sympathy.

Polly




Do you have a thing for vampires (or zombies)? Write to Polly and tell her about it!

Heather Havrilesky (aka Polly Esther) is The Awl's existential advice columnist. She's also a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and is the author of the memoir Disaster Preparedness (Riverhead 2011). She blogs here about scratchy pants, personality disorders, and aged cheeses. Bela Lugosi still from Mark of the Vampire.

30 Comments / Post A Comment

HelloTheFuture (#259,085)

The hardest part of this is that long decade where it seems like every guy is this guy. Like, if you want a relationship of any kind, you have to pick this guy because he's the only guy out there. He is the factory-farmed meat of dudes; if you think about it too closely, you know he's bad for you, but you need to eat.

@HelloTheFuture But there just ARE normal, non-vampiric men out there. There are! They aren't *quite* as obvious or as available as the predators – who are always looking, and always single – but they exist all around you!

I further postulate that if the vampires are the only men one seems to be finding (I know I've been there) then one might want to stay single for a while. Because once one values oneself, it's SO much harder to put up with garbage-y treatment, whether from lovers, coworkers, family members, etc.

Knitty Witty (#246,339)

@Sharilyn Neidhardt This is true, and as you mention, those normal, non-vampire are harder to find. They are especially harder to find, as Polly aptly points out, if you don't have a strong sense of who you are, what you're doing, what the value of that is, that you are the protagonist in your own life. These dudes who offer immediate, intense affirmation parading as love or even amorous feelings of any kind are a welcome distraction if you don't have all of those questions figured out or if you dislike who you are a little bit but too tired to do the work to change that.

Somewhat recently, actually, I met someone who instantly wanted to exchange a zillion texts a day and spend all his free time talking to me and told me how great I was and how intense the connection he'd felt when we met was. And he was smart and good looking, and we actually had a lot to say to each other, and I was mired in a several-months-long job hunt that left my self-esteem, my sense of purpose in life, and my sense that I was really writing my own story, totally ravaged. I had been in therapy before, and it had taken 2 years of solid work to build this sense of self (my issues before were pretty different), and then some weird stuff happened, and I fell into a vortex of questioning every positive conclusion I'd managed to come to about myself. Was I *really* that smart, or had I simply been fooling everyone and myself for a quarter century? Was I *actually* interesting, or were the people who loved me just humoring me and then secretly rolling their eyes when I left the room? Was my family *actually* supportive of my newfound career ambitions, or were they just smiling politely while desperately hoping I'd come around to something more 'respectable'–and, if the latter, were they right that my new aims and goals were stupid, even though I was passionate about them? Etc. I had a lot of work to do on myself, but I just hoped that I'd find work and it would magically fix everything.

And then I met this dude who was really gorgeous and interesting and chivalrous, and we spent hours one magical evening looking into each other's eyes and talking about I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT because I'd been drinking for hours, but man, that was INTENSE. And he seemed to think I was the bees knees, and since I wasn't entirely sure he was right, I got really invested in him because I felt that he probably saw something beautiful and worthy about me, and that if I stuck with him he could help me relocate what had been lost. So for several weeks we talked constantly (he did not live in my same city, but near enough so that visiting was easy), and then when I saw him again, the magic was gone. Because the person he'd felt so intensely about was entirely a projection: it wasn't me–even if I had been at my best, this ideal woman he'd imagined I was would STILL not have been me, because it turns out, blech, I have almost nothing in common with this man. And in addition to being my projection, the person I'd gotten so wrapped up in was sort of an affirmation of what I wanted to believe about myself but for which the realities of my life were no longer serving as evidence. This is actually humorous to me now because we were so completely incompatible in a way that would have been glaringly obvious if we had spent more than an evening talking in person.

So then he disappeared and I was confused and hurt, and since I was not thinking about myself as the person whose feelings and happiness and emotional safety should be my first priority at that time, I spent a while trying to get a hold of him and figure out what went wrong. He'd given me this artificial and temporary sense of stability and a feeling that, if he found me valuable, I must be, so then when that was gone, I felt worse than I had before I met him, because it seemed to confirm that, I'd been right before, I'm just not that great or valuable.

I don't think this dude was a vampire, but there were red flags. I do think he was lonely and hadn't had a relationship in a while. And it only hit me when, as we finally had a conversation (which, had I been more grounded and sure of myself I would not have needed so desperately to have with him before moving forward), he said that things had just stopped being "magical" and that he didn't feel a connection with me after all, that I realized, HM, maybe this man has some underdeveloped understandings about love and how you treat even someone you've decided you're no longer interested in (i.e., not by disappearing off the face of the planet and forgetting that that person is a person with feelings). So best of luck to him, but I've not spoken to him since and do not regret that for a second.

However, this experience was really a wakeup call in that it compelled me to address, somewhat painfully, how I got there. I started therapy again. I confronted the stuff in my life that was daunting to me that I had been procrastinating addressing, and that was making me feel horrible and dumb and worthless. And I took a good long break from dating, because who was I, even? Like, how would I present myself to the world, if I didn't even like myself that much? My friends didn't really seem to grasp this but I knew it was the right move. I 'relapsed' a couple of times, if you will, hooking up on a few occasions with a (different, local) dude who actually probably IS a vampire and makes me feel like shit and like I don't matter, and who still occasionally contacts me late at night (even though we haven't actually seen each other in several months) when presumably he feels lonely and is reaching out for anything, but preferably a warm body with nice boobs who put up with his shitty treatment. Eff that noise. A lady with a fragile, newfound sense of self doesn't need any of that shit in her life. She needs her friends, her cat, some lemon zinger, and some mind-expanding reading. I found exciting work, I moved, I leaned into my passion and applied to graduate school. But I'm still dating only lightly, because right now I'm busy doing me, and if I get invested in anyone I'll mess up the progress I've made.

TL;DR: Great advice Polly. Found myself in a comparable situation recently, sort of stumbled my way through the actions you recommend taking, and feel like I wish I'd had this column 9 months ago. Also even non-vampires can be vampiric. And some dudes are just vampires. And the ones who aren't are hard to spot if you're not emotionally healthy.

B Monkey (#259,084)

Heather, if you read these comments: have you ever considered a line of work in licensed mental-health care? I usually hate "advice" columns, but yours are consistently spot-on, blunt yet supportive, and helpful even if the specific problem doesn't apply to the reader. Every time I read one of these columns, I'm blown away at how well you interpret people's issues. (Of course, if you did pursue a healthcare career, it would mean that we would get to read less of your work, so maybe don't!)

Joy&Light (#258,177)

@B Monkey

I second that scary excellent advise consistently. Although as a professional is more about guiding than advising

Bunburying (#81,872)

Can we get an Awl "SET HIM ON FIRE" tag?

GingerAle (#259,089)

I'm sure this is not what the letter writer was expecting when she wrote in, but this is absolutely perfect advice and I really hope she follows it.

Well played, Polly. Excellent advice.

RobotsNeedLove (#236,743)

Polly is spot on.

But LW I want to give you a big hug and be a big gentler than Polly, because what I saw in your letter is someone who believed herself to be unlovable before this vampire. I've been that person, and it makes you so vulnerable. It's totally understandable that, when you believed a false fantasy like being unlovable, that someone like this guy could have a lot of power over you.

It's ok. It's ok it's ok it's ok. You did not do right by yourself but I think you did the best you could. Feeling loved is wonderful and very very powerful. LW I used to believe I was unlovable but through hard work I've proved myself wrong, and I would bet all my measly dollars the same is true for you. You have to start with yourself, like Polly says. It's not easy, but it's the only thing to do. But forgive yourself. Please. Forgive yourself. That person who made a bunch of mistakes is worthy of love too.

felonius_crunk (#259,105)

Hey LW – I married this exact damn guy. And I'm in the process of getting a divorce from this guy after he cheated on me and sponged off me over and over again, finally ditching me after over 10 years of relationship and marriage with a text message. To move in with a girl 10 years younger than me. All the while continuing to email, text, write letters… that I ignored. Your description of him is my now ex-husband to a T. Please, please run the hell away from this guy as fast as you can. Polly is right – it's not at all about you, it's about him. You won't fix him. You can only fix yourself through friends and good counseling. It doesn't feel great, but believe me, everything is better without him, once you figure out that you were who you were before him, and you will be who you are after him. Even though you're a total Internet stranger, I will tell you: you deserve true love, and believe me girl, this ain't it. Polly's advice is spot-on. Follow it.

Danzig! (#5,318)

Polly's right on here (natch). Maybe the biggest step in developing a sense of self-worth is setting a threshold for emotional pain, beyond which it becomes possible to think "I don't deserve this" and believe it. There has to be a point at which sunk costs don't matter and ending a relationship isn't a failure in any way, shape or form. When you despise yourself it's exceedingly difficult to even think that way. You can't consider wildly dysfunctional (understatement) relationships as evidence of fucked-upness or natural outputs of your putting work into them. They're not the weather, they don't just happen. You can't punish yourself for being in a shitty relationship by clinging to it.

Maybe it shouldn't surprise me that this dude is so successful at manipulating people while being so glib. Was it Polly who once wrote that when people tell you revealing things about themselves they're not being self-effacing but in fact are forewarning you? Because that is the case. There's a point in this story at which the things that dude says and does cease to be red flags and become overt attempts to drive the LW away.

It seems to me that fucked up needy people are not fond of seeing themselves in their partners. When you're not right with yourself and you start something with someone who's desperate to be with you, you develop contempt for that person in short order. When you lay bare your deepest dysfunctions (which are not just things that you deal with but things that define you and the way you experience life) and your partners are undeterred, how can you possibly respect them? Their love for you belies their fundamentally deficient character. It makes them weak, and people like that detest weakness.

I've definitely been on the receiving end of that, for what it's worth, though it wasn't really romantic per se. Eventually one of the woman's attempts to pry me off of her hull took. http://the-toast.net/2013/07/19/the-fabulist/

Myrtle (#9,838)

@Danzig! Enjoyed your insights as much as Polly's own.

PistolPackinMama (#231,054)

@Danzig! setting a threshold for emotional pain, beyond which it becomes possible to think "I don't deserve this" and believe it.

These here are words to live by. Some highs, or even okay times, are just not worth these really low, low, lows.

francypants (#259,109)

'Hours and hours every day'? Who has time for that?

Carol Joy@facebook (#241,952)

Almost this entire scenario was on television last night, in a movie called "X and Y and Zee." The big difference being that if the woman letter writer had been in that movie, she would be going to wild parties that occurred in the actual Sixties/Seventies Time of Kuhlness, instead of now. And in the end, (Spoiler Alert) she would get hit on by Elizabeth Taylor! Anyway this woman has my sympathy. I don't think too many women out there haven't done time with such an emotional vampire. The culture seems to breed them, and Buffy is never round when she is needed to slay them the most.

commanderbanana (#167,624)

I just finished reading J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, and it has two characters in it that are basically the LW and her vampire. LW, if you're reading these comments, I'd highly recommend you checking it out.

Xenu01 (#244,135)

The best thing I ever did for my mental health and relationships was to say "I would rather be single and have no friends" to myself over and over again until I believed it. It's funny how when you value your own company you start cutting out friends/lovers who treat you badly and with whom you cannot be yourself. I got so happy being alone and planning solo vacations and daytrips and taking myself to the movies whenever I wanted that I went through a weird phase of occasional resentment (I could go to grad school anywhere I wanted if I didn't have to worry about you, etc) when I began to readjust my life toward being one of two. I'm happy now, but taking care of yourself for once can be quite rewarding and wonderful.

Myrtle (#9,838)

LW tattles, "and he was taking Xanax!" as if that was a bad thing. I don't agree. He had to have had enough self-awareness to go for help, endure the diagnosis, and found the ability to stay on the medication. In a person this profoundly disordered, I find myself admiring his ability to do that. That isn't something LW needs to mock; she may instead think of emulating it.
I recently read a description of "Borderline Personality Disorder" which the LW's vampire seems to fit, as well. Recent advances have said this disorder responds to DBT therapy, and motivated people can recover, additionally most see symptoms recede with age.

vunder (#219,744)

@Myrtle Isn't Xanax intended as a temporary solution to situational anxiety? I'd say "daily large doses" is a red flag to me.

Danzig! (#5,318)

@Myrtle I thought that was disconcerting too, but then if someone really takes psychiatric medicating as a reason to bolt on partners, well, those partners are probably better off without them. And the odds aren't bad that they'll end up with someone who self-medicates in ways that are blissfully overlooked.

Joy&Light (#258,177)

Even therapist treat very few personality disordered individuals at a time. Imagine, these are 1 or 2x sessions! He sounds more antisococial than BPD. LW does not need to concern herself with treatment choices that he isn't using because he is abusing Xanax. Take meds as prescribed is one thing, this is something different.

r&rkd (#1,719)

This reads like the plot of a movie I would enjoy watching.

veryseriousq (#259,179)

I have a very serious question–HOW do you avoid raising children that grow up to be emotional vampires?! The idea that I could accidentally give birth to such an awful human being is truly terrifying.

doraleigh (#239,253)

Great advice, as usual, Heather. One more word, though, about how at some point in your life (and I think it's usually your 20s, although leaked into my 30s for me), all guys seem like some variation of this guy. That may feel true — but it's not. There are normal, nice guys (and women) all around but they are often not as charismatic or intense as this guy. They will not tell you they love you after meeting you, they will not heap adoration upon you, you may not get swept off your feet. And the reason why is that those things — those things that feel so good — are usually markers of crazy. Every single time I got swept off my feet, I got dumped on my head. When you get back into the dating pool, LW, look for slow and steady, girl.

irenejoy (#259,197)

lovely advice, as usual.

reading this poor woman's story, recoiling from the character of this terrible man person, and then remembering all the awful men i used to date who were exactly the same… geeze. i can't believe it took me so long to figure it out.

and i wish we didn't live in a world where from the time we are born we're encouraged to look for a prince to sweep us off our feet, and not to care about ourselves first and then, if inclined, look for someone who will care about us, too.

GailPink (#9,712)

I "dated" this very same guy (my version lives in a suburb of Atlanta). He was the worst thing that ever happened to me but I got myself free and it only cost me a few thousand dollars in "loans" that I'll never get back. He just married a woman exactly half my (his) age. I wish her luck.

becature (#259,286)

Wow – I dated one of these. And the therapist I saw briefly commented that his collection of behaviors were sociopathic. Which prompted the question – why was I mark? How did I get to that state where it seemed like a good idea to be in his company? Heather' response is spot on.

Hi all .. OP here.

I wanted to say thank you to all who responded with support and who shared their stories and insights – it is greatly appreciated.

I did want to clarify my comment about his use of Xanax. This was interpreted by some as a criticism on my part – I can assure you this is not the case. I mentioned the Xanax to illustrate that his panic attacks are severe enough to warrant medication.

However, he has been on Xanax for 15 years without getting any psych support – he uses the medication as a means to quell his emotions so, whenever emotional stuff comes up, he just increases his dose and sleeps it all away. Of that, yes, I am critical.

Polly. I cannot thank you enough for the time and insight you have provided here. I wrote to you because you gave such wonderful advice to other posters and I am grateful to be on the receiving end of that advice.

I am seeing a therapist. I have just started but I hope that it will be beneficial. I DID lose myself, I DO need help with this. I did not see this man coming and that is a problem.

I don't have family/friends. No parents or aunts or anything like that. My only childhood friend married my long-term ex and promptly cut all communication with me – that was over 10 years ago. We moved every year when I was at school so I did not have many friends who lasted … I am very socially isolated and that is one of the things that made me so ripe for this man – he even admitted this to me once; that he is "attracted to women, such as yourself, who are isolated and alone".

Thank you again.

pookiesmom (#248,639)

@The Shanshu Prophecy: Girl, the best advice anyone could ever give you right now is to SPEND SOME TIME ALONE AND FIND YOURSELF SOME FEMALE FRIENDS. Work at your relationships with yourself and your friends harder than you've worked at anything in your life (with the help of your therapist). It will be terrifying and difficult and painful and awkward allowing yourself to unfold with others who will not provide you a quick distraction from your loneliness and your aimlessness, but it is the only way you will ever have a satisfying life (let alone relationship). I am going through an unfolding process and it is unbelievably difficult, but building a solid foundation for a life always is.

I wish you luck.

jennatar (#260,208)

I totally dated this guy. I would not even be surprised if he were *actually, literally* the same person. Mine found me online right after both my parents died, we started talking on the phone, we decided to date long-distance. He broke up with me right around the time I parked my car and got to the front door of his apartment. Cute. For a little while I'd say I actually felt destroyed: I'd trusted him, he'd made every nice-sounding promise, and for what? By now I find the entire thing humiliating. Just humiliating.
Whatever that person's issues are, I won't fix them and I don't have time for them. I kind of feel bad for him, except not, because I am not an emotional punching bag for some sociopath to experiment on.
Great advice as always, Heather. I wish I'd had this in front of me a year ago.

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