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Article updated: 10/25/2013 3:22 PM

You need to find out why you're making bad relationship choices

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By Carolyn Hax

Q. I have been seeing someone very nice and we have a lot of fun together, but when it comes to intimacy, we are always fighting. He is not very loving, is not affectionate (will hold my hand on occasion, and say I look nice, and we will sit next to each other to watch a movie). He does not share any emotions, and if I ask for a feeling, he freaks out and says "no questions." When we are together, once a week maybe, it's more like a service without emotions. He never stays the night, must sleep in his own bed, will not even shower in my home, goes home and even locks the bathroom door.

He has never been married and takes care of his mother but she takes care of him, cooking, cleaning etc. It's always his way in the food we eat, what we do, etc. It's always about what makes him happy.

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I was married many years; I know how to compromise. I lived in an unhappy, uncaring marriage. I am very affectionate and have the attitude we only live once and want to enjoy what two people can share, love and companionship. He thinks it's wrong to act like teenagers. He has said we are not in a relationship, I'm not a girlfriend, and he hates when I call. He will not socialize with my family.

I know I should walk away, but he has my heart and I do not want to be alone. Will time make a difference?

Am I an Idiot?

A. IQ, no doubt pretty high. EQ ... (shifts awkwardly in seat).

You apparently have a soft spot for people who treat you like an idiot.

Given that you are a self-described affectionate person, and that the only two significant, romantic attachments you describe here are with men who are stingy with their affection and that's being too kind I'm going with: No, time won't make a difference.

Not because this guy will remain the same (he will), but because you will remain the same: guided by some force to choose cold men only to bemoan their lack of warmth.

Perfectly smart people do stuff like this all the time, that is when they are driven by needs they don't recognize or understand. We all think we're making rational choices. Exhibit A: your "very nice and we have a lot of fun together" but a lurking emotional need can drive the rational into rationalizing, and undercut what's actually good for us, if it doesn't come from a healthy place.

From your tone, it seems you didn't "know how to compromise" in your cold and unhappy marriage so much as you knew how to deny yourself. Where'd you learn that?

This is why therapy exists: to help us recognize, explain and pre-empt our self-defeating behavior. You don't need it to break up with this guy, necessarily, since I'm hoping you can just repeat "We are not in a relationship, I'm not a girlfriend, and HE HATES WHEN I CALL" (exasperation added) as a mantra when your courage wanes.

I expect you'll need it, though, to dig out why you're actively making choices that deny you the very thing you say you want out of this, your only shot at life.

• Email Carolyn at tellmewashpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

2013 The Washington Post

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