I am in a “sliding” not “deciding” relationship

I am a single, 33-year-old women, I am sort of dating a man 17 years older than me. So the problem I have is not knowing where to go or what to do. We have been seeing each other for a little over 9 months. When we first met we both agreed neither of us were looking for a relationship, just looking to meet new people, kinda like a hook up.

As time went on things just took on a life of its own, so to speak. All though we are not a couple but we still get to gather for sex and hanging out. I feel like he does have feeling for me he is just holding back from either fear or something. I have had hook up’s before so I know when the guy is just in it for sex. I also have been in past relationships with much older men and know that they are so much different than men closer to my age. He text messages me every morning (good morning) and every night (sweet dreams). We have developed a great friendship. He is always concerned about me, and remembers different events in my life and asks about them.

He says he misses me and I am an amazing woman. Three months after we met he took a job 4 hours away to the next state. After he relocated there I would go and visit him there and he has come here a couple of times to see me. Matter of fact he is planning to drive out this way in 2 weeks to see me.

So here is a little background on him. About 6 to 7 years ago his wife left him from a 21-year marriage. After his divorce he met a woman who he fell in love with, but after 2 years he had to walk away from her. She kinda went crazy and the relationship was not healthy and could have gotten dangerous. The way he talks about it, to me it sounds like he feels guilty for leaving her.

He also says he is still trying to figure out who he is. He has moved far from family, new job, new friends, new state. I completely understand all of that!!! I have never pushed anything on him or tried to manipulate anything to go in any direction. He does know how I feel but we don’t talk about it very often.

We have never had a conversation on if we were to become a couple what that would entail. I don’t want to freak him out and loose what’s going on now. I also am afraid he is just with me till his life makes since again then he will meet someone else. I am looking to relocate closer to him and he never said anything about it. I have also not met any of his friends or family. Matter of fact I think he only has one friend that knows about me and I don’t think he knows my name, just that I am a women friend that comes down a couple times a month to see him.

I have fallen completely in love with him!!! I have never been so close to anyone in my life. We tell each other everything there is no judgment on either side, totally honesty and respect. Something he said to me a long time ago is that he thinks everything is so amazing between the two of us because we are not together, cause if we were then life stuff would get involved and it would mess up the perfect thing we have going.

This is why I think he is scared. His girlfriend after his wife really did a number on him I think. Some days he says things to me that just make my heart melt and other days he says things that make think he will never want to be in a real relationship.

I also have no problem with keeping things just as they are giving him all the time he needs to heal. But the longer we are together the more I fall in love, and the harder it would be for me to walk way.

Should I keep waiting? Or should I walk always now before it’s too late? I am so confused so many mixed up signals sent my way!!!! Any advice would really help me out, thanks for your time.


This is a common problem. People with attachment issues often “slide” into an ill-defined relationship rather than “decide” to be together. “Sliding” relationships are common for people with insecure styles of attachment because by keeping things ambiguous both individuals can define the “relationship” in different ways (see truth about attachment).

From the sound of your question, it sounds like your “boyfriend” has a dismissing style of attachment (see attachment styles). He wasn’t looking for a relationship, it feels like he is holding back, he is ok with “distance”, he uses text messages (non-intimate forms of communication) to keep in touch, he doesn’t know who he is (not in touch with his feelings), he has a history of failed relationships, he doesn’t discuss what he wants out of the relationship, he doesn’t introduce you to his friends, and he thinks things are great between the two of you even though you are really “not together.”

In short, it sounds like you satisfy his minimal needs for intimacy and closeness and he is comfortable with that.

On the other hand, it sounds like you have an anxious style of attachment (see attachment styles). You are falling in love, you are afraid that things might not work out, you don’t want him to leave you (even though he isn’t really with you), you want to help him (understand him and give him the space he needs), and you are investing a lot in this “relationship” (thinking about relocating and writing us about it).

If the above is true, this has disaster written all over it. He has complete control over the relationship because his needs are being met and he probably does not want more from you. He may tell you things you want to hear (talk is cheap), but when it comes to giving you what you want – a more serious relationship – it will not happen.

Luckily, there is an easy way to test this hypothesis. Tell him exactly what you want out of the relationship. Tell him exactly how you feel. Tell him he needs to meet your needs. This is how secure individuals act in a relationship. Secure individuals explicitly discuss their expectations and “decide” to be together. “Sliding” relationships do not work because people are not on the same page.

If he has a dismissing style of attachment, your talk should freak him out. That will give you the answer you are looking for – things will not work out between the two of you in the long run. You cannot change him. Anxious people think that if they understand and try to help the other person out – if they provide just the right “caregiving” – things will work out. This type of thinking gets anxious people stuck in these “relationships” that go nowhere and have no future.

If this resonates with you, seeing a counselor is in your best interest. A good counselor, trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help you adjust your attachment style, which will go a long way to helping you find a loving, healthy, supportive relationship.

Hope this helps.

 anxious attachment | dismissing attachment

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