Ask Dr. Gilda-Dating Mr. Hot-And-Cold

She’s dating a guy who’s crazy about her one day, wants to be just pals the next—what’s going on?

By Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D.

ear Dr. Gilda,
I have a man I love in my life again. His wife died six years ago, and I was divorced several years ago. We have wonderful conversation, a terrific physical relationship, and shared interests;
No man of substance hangs out with a woman just for the sake of having something to do.
our children get along well, too. He is always telling me how great a person I am, but in the same breath, he says that this is not going to go anywhere. One day he can’t wait to see me, but the next day, he wants to just be friends. I love this man but have not asked him for a commitment, though I don’t understand why he won’t let us move into a real relationship. This back and forth is killing me, but I keep thinking there is hope. What should I do?
– Frustrated Fern

Dear Frustrated Fern,
No wonder you’re “frustrated”! Each of you is sending the other mixed messages. You say, “I have not asked him for a commitment.” Yet, you tell me, “I don’t understand why he won’t let us move into a real relationship.” He says, “how great a person I am.” Yet, he also says, “this is not going to go anywhere” despite your “wonderful conversation, a terrific physical relationship, and shared interests.” Hello! What’s the real story here?

No man of substance hangs out with a woman just for the sake of having something to do. If this guy were not deriving joy from your relationship, he would leave skid marks! But the dude keeps returning for more of you, so obviously, he’s invested—even, perhaps, more than he wants to admit. The question is why this guy is protesting so loudly. Some widows and widowers are terrified of recreating new bonds because of an unconscious and irrational fear that “spouses just die.” They remain single to protect themselves from being hurt again by loss.

Your own game-playing is not helping the situation. He knows you want a commitment, yet he sees that you’re continuing to hang on despite not getting what you want. As my Gilda-Gram says, “What you accept, you teach.” Girl, you’re accepting — and thereby teaching — that this loose arrangement is fine with you—so this guy’s not apt to change it. The real question is why you continue on this relationship path when he insists it’s a dead end. Are you too tired to start anew with someone else? Are you scared you’ll be alone if you don’t accept whatever crumbs you have with this guy?

You say, “This back and forth is killing me…” If it’s really “killing” you, end the torture now. This is how:
  1. Give yourself, and then him, a time limit, with the understanding that if things don’t move in the direction of commitment by the date you’ve chosen, you’re out of there.
  2. Stick to your vow no matter what excuse he dreams up to try to get you to change your mind.
  3. Accept nothing short of his final admission that you’re the best partner for him and his plan to move toward a committed relationship.
This new structure officially moves you both onto a new address of honesty and openness. If your romance is to survive and grow, honest and open communication is vital. Of course, you run the chance that he might walk away. Or he might walk away for a while until he comes to his senses. Whatever the outcome may be, it’s time to take care of yourself now. If the relationship is to end, it’s better if that should happen now instead of extending the pain. But if it progresses from here, it will be strong and lasting.

Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D., gives Instant Advice throughout the world via Skype, email and phone. She is the 30-Second Therapist for Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince!, 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity and How to Win When Your Mate Cheats. Please visit her website at (
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