He's Nice, He's Not Nice
Q: I've been seeing a man on and off for the past three years. I'm 19 and he's much older. He has the ability to make me feel like a woman, in every sense of the word, but at other times he can make me feel as though I'm just a piece of ass to him. At times he tells me that he loves me, and when I'm with him I can feel it. But whenever he has some task to accomplish, he brushes me off, paying no attention to me whatsoever. He is a caring, loving man, but he can also be selfish. What should I do? -- India
Dr. Susan: Are you mainly complaining that your lover isn't at your beck and call, that he has other things he wants to do besides be with you? Or is your beef that he exploits you? Sounds like he might be using you for sex but isn't very boyfriend-like outside the bedroom.
I'm not so impressed by the fact that he makes you feel "like a woman." That's actually pretty easy for any guy to do. Unless you're remarkably insecure, in which case you need to believe in yourself and not give him so much power to define you. The fact that he tells you he loves you also doesn't mean a great deal. Words are cheap. True love shouldn't mean he dates you "off and on" for three years and still leaves you wondering if he honestly cares for you or not.
By this point, your fellow is unlikely to change his stripes. When he wants you, he's nice to you, and when he has something else to do, you don't exist. You've stood for this behavior for a long time. It's entirely up to you now: can you go on this way for another three years? For ten? If the thought makes your stomach lurch, you need to let him know you're ready for a more equal and intimate relationship. Talk about a possible future. Tell him what's going on for you, and don't accept feeble excuses like, "I'm just busy." If he doesn't take you seriously enough, then you might have to walk away -- and not go back, as you apparently have before.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.