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Seductive Withholders


San Francisco Bay Area
Jan 11, 2020
Even in church you find all kinds of people. Despite the mandate to marry, there are still many men and women who are afraid of emotional intimacy which occurs once you commit and get to know one other. Emotional intimacy is revealing yourself to a non-judgmental person who has your best interests at heart.

People who are afraid of emotional intimacy are ambivalent about love and commitment. Often they tend to be what I call seductive withholders. Until I learned about what to look for in a healthy relationship, I always ended up with men such as this.

Seductive Withholders (SW’s) are people who can act very seductive one moment (implying they are available), and then very withholding the next. The shift is dramatic and comes at unexpected times.

Every SW has his or her own style of seduction, but it usually quite persuasive and tied into your personal needs which you revealed early on while dating. The withholding can be anything from holding back affection, not returning phone calls, or seeing other people—in general it means being unavailable.

There are various explanations for why people withhold. With some it is a matter of control. This is ego-driven. They like power over people and they do this by keeping them on the edge of their seats all the time. More common is the person who withholds because they are frightened. When they are feeling needy and safe they get seductive. When they get too close and feel claustrophobic they withhold.

I met my first seductive withholder in 1983. I had been in recovery for about a year and I knew I was ready to settle down and get married to a nice guy. I met John, and on our third date I told him all about my dreams of living happily ever after. He said that is also what he wanted and was really happy we had met.

After about five dates, John said he had to cancel. I felt fine about that at the time, but a few days later we got together and he said he needed some space but that he was falling in love with me. I was confused but I believed him.

A week later we had a wonderful weekend together and I started looking for a great future together. The next day he called and said he wanted to break up.

I was heartbroken and asked him why. He said he was not sure he wanted a relationship after all. I, of course, blamed myself for telling him that I wanted to settle down and stayed home every night waiting for him to call.

In he past, I would have chased after John, but even now I waited hoping he would change his mind because I was in love.

Three weeks later, John called and said he wanted to see me. I got all dressed up and met him at a restaurant where he told me he had changed his mind and wanted me back. I was thrilled.

We started dating again for about a month when once again he became elusive and quiet. Then he became unavailable. I called and asked about it, and he said he wanted out of the relationship.

This time I got angry and decided I would not wait for him. I told him this. A week later he called and begged me to take him back. I said “no way” and he proposed. I thought to myself that he must have finally gotten over his fear of commitment and it was safe to take him back.

Three months later I asked John if we could set the date. He refused and said he did not think he was ready after all to settle down.

You would think this would end things between us, but hope springs eternal and when he called a month later with new promises I took him back. This lasted about three months until he once again became unavailable.

Eventually, I did get out of the relationship but only when I realized that he was not going to change. Each time he came back he tempted me with something I wanted. He said he would marry me, move in with me, get into therapy, spend more time with me, never stand me up, and stop seeing other women. He announced he was just confused and given enough time he would change.

Eventually, I ended up with Frank who I met in church. He was available all the time. He didn’t move in and out of the relationship. He did not lie. He was just there. [I use the past tense because he passed on in 2019.

If you want to avoid a seductive withholder . . .

1. Don’t fall in love before you have gotten to know someone.
2. Watch them closely and look for patterns of seduction and withholding.
3. If a pattern persists get out of the relationship quickly.
4. Do not tell yourself this is your imagination.
5. Don’t second guess yourself.
6. Don’t give this person and third and fourth chance.
7. Don’t believe his or her lies.
8. Believe that you can do better.
9. Try to determine if this is a pattern in your life and why. You might be choosing these guys because you have your own fears about love and commitment.