Why Can’t My Ex Let Me Go If They Don’t Love Me Anymore?

I had a brief but interesting chat with a gentleman who approached me after hearing me introduced as a Love Doctor.

“I wonder if you can help me with my situation” he said, drawing me aside. “It’s about a woman I’ve been seeing on and off for the last four years”.

For 20-or-so- minutes he told me about the woman he loves. The story began with how much he loves her… she is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, etc… midway she was the most manipulative B-word he’d ever met… and by the end of the story, I’d have sworn I’d just been introduced to the profile of she-devil incarnate.

“If you really think that of her, why do you still want her?” I interjected almost knowing the response. I’ve heard this same script over and over.

“What I want to know is why she can’t just let me go? I am tired of not knowing where I stand. If she doesn’t love me, I’ll be okay with that and will move on.”

“May be she has told you in her own way, but you don’t want to let her go”.

“Told me what?”

“Told you how she really feels about you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Her actions and the way she treats you is inconsistent with someone who loves you. Love is supposed to make you feel good about yourself – and life in general. You obviously aren’t feeling too good”.

“You’re right about the not feeling too good part. It’s been like this for years. Every time I decide to move on, she contacts me, asks me to come over and stirs my feelings, then disappears. She just won’t let me go.”

“So why don’t you let her go instead?”

You should have seen the look of anxiety, worry and fear on his face. You’d think I just asked him to kill himself!

It’s the same reaction I get from clients who tell me just how bad their ex treats them but have a real bad reaction to me telling them that they have a choice in the situation, they can leave. Some clients I talk to everyday and several times a day just disappear off the radar.

They’d rather think and pretend their ex loves them so much and will not let them go than face the fact that they are not as helpless in the situation as they think and claim they are.

“Do they or don’t they love me” is a mind game that both men and women use to keep the other person confused, uncertain, insecure and second-guessing themselves, and sadly it works sometimes.

But here is the thing, any time someone exerts pressure/force to get what they want from you or intentionally says or does things to generate anxiety or insecurity or worry, you’re not being loved, you’re being manipulated.

The little “tokens of love” or breadcrumbs of affection they throw your way once in a while may seem like expressions of love, but in reality they are tools of manipulation and control.

Knowing that you are being manipulated, used and abused but choosing to stay in the relationship for breadcrumbs of affection is enabling the manipulation and abuse. It’s like a physically abused woman saying “But he apologizes and treats me really wonderful afterwards”. In her mind, she’s made an unhealthy link between love and abuse, but worse, she’s enabling the abuse.

No wonder you feel like crap.

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  1. says: susan

    my ex offered me money to start over .. is it so he can walk away feeling better or so he can leave his options open see me ‘realise my dreams’ and meet in a better situation to work from ?.. i havent taken it or made a decision

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      Most people would be offended if their ex offered money to start over. Personally, I’d take it as an insult and punch the jerk in the face (and I am a pacifist).

      As a coach however, I can’t tell you whether or not to accept the offer. You are the only one who knows what you are ‘worth’….

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      No. I’m asking you to answer those questions for yourself. It’s more important that the answers come from YOU. That way it’s YOUR decision, not some coach’s decision.

      Making your OWN decisions is empowering.

  2. says: MarysX

    I understand what you are saying here but situations are different. You can want to move on with your life but what if the other person will not let you. My ex and I have been broken up for 2 months now but he will let me go. He is still holding onto a few of my things and I have repeatedly asked him to give them back to me but he will not give them to me.

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki Akiteng

      I agree with you that situations are different, I don’t however think that if someone really wanted to “move on” they can’t because the other person “won’t let them”. Even two people who have kids together (having children binds you to that person forever), can still move on with their lives but share the kids.

      My questions for you are: How important are the “things” he has to you? Are they more important to you than what you would benefit from letting him have them and move on with your life?

  3. says: Lamar McGarity

    Hi my name is Lamar I’ve read your blogs and its very encouraging to hear a lady speak on these issues. I’ve learned that you first have to love yourself to then know how to love another. I’m already happy now searching for someone to share my happiness with?. I’m not angry at my past relationships because they all were reflections on me, and have learn who I am as a professional entrepreneur, not to jump into relationships, but take it slow, and don’t be so quick to deliver your heart, find out her bottom line, and discern before I invest. Thank You Love Doctor

    1. says: Love Doctor, Yangki C. Akiteng

      I am not the “expert” on “searching for someone” (I work with people who thought they “found someone” but lost him/her), but I agree with almost everything you said.

      Just one thing to add… don’t be “too careful” that no one is good enough and don’t take it “too slow” that you send the wrong message to the right person.

      I hope you find her.

      PS: I won’t take it personally that you called me a “lady”. Just don’t call me “girl” or “madam”. I am oversensitive like that… 🙂

  4. says: Ruth

    Wow, I just recently went through a breakup totally due to my own insecurities and self emotional sabotage and reading of these responses is like looking into a mirror. That comment on not becoming attached to mask the needy-clingy tendencies and subconsciously sourcing out people that are not unlike us .. Just wish i had realised it earlier so I was able to amend my behaviours before ruining what I had 🙁

  5. says: isaiah

    My wife of 7yrs decided to tell me she wants a women, leaves and comes back asking me to forgove her crying and what not. She left me 2 more times, the last time i kicked her out. She comes back on new years asking to work it out, i took her in but i knew she would just revert back to her old self and sure enough she. I called her on it and now im trying to decide what to do. I send her out and she just won’t leave me alone. She’ll keep saying i love you and i tell her she loves the things i do for her not me. Should i really hammer the nail in the coffin or just wait it out?

    1. If you really wanted her to leave you alone, you’d not take her back. It’s not like she comes back holding a gun to your head.

      What I think is going on here is that you genuinely love each other, but the relationship part just isn’t working out… because She WANTS women. As long as you are NOT a woman, she’ll keep leaving. The heart wants what the heart wants.

      Only YOU can make a decision as to what you should do. You can accept that your woman also “loves” women (some people have and are happy with their relationships), OR you can accept that although you love each other very much, you have differences that can’t be reconciled.

      OR… there is a third choice… you can keep doing the same thing over and over.

  6. says: Jason

    Thankyou for replying so promptly!!

    I think we both have strong insecurities and we fed on each other the whole time. It was all about lust, jelousy and other feelings that we could both swear are true love! (even though we started as a fling)
    Your right- she has affected my confidence and has made me feel guilty and made me question my decision for not accepting things. I have regret saying “I love you” even though I meant it as she has clung on to it and made me feel like I betrayed her because I did say it.
    Thanks again Doc. I will be reading your recommendations and will try to think logically as difficult and painful as it may be right now.

  7. says: Jason

    Hi Doc,

    This is the first time I post on one of these things but I was really impressed by your article.

    I was with a girl for 1.5 years and broke up about 5 weeks ago. I decided to break up because I felt things were getting too serious between us and there were alot of things I could not accept about her. Major trust issues, the fact she had two children, the way she would react to me and the way we would fight so much! We came from different worlds and our differences would get in the way.

    I have not replied to her since I told her and made it clear it would not work and she won’t stop texting me. She sends me very abusive messages highlighting my insecurities or anything that would hurt me, threatens to go out and have sex with people, then starts sending texts telling me how much she loved me and how I’m weak for thinking of the worst.
    I’m trying to do the right thing for us both and it’s been sooo hard ignoring her this whole time. I get so tempted to respond but if I do she will just keep sending and suck me back in.
    I think we love each other unless there’s more to it… Just don’t know what to do?? I wish i could just not care anymore and move on!!

    Thanks for listening.

    1. Sending you very abusive messages, harping on your insecurities, calling you “weak” to hurt you, and threatening to go out and have sex with other men isn’t love, Jason. You are being emotionally abused!

      You probably truly love her, I’m not questioning that, but the relationship dynamic between the two of you is toxic. The pull of toxic relationships can be very strong because they have that really mean and really sweet going on. It may even be that she has some serious Psychological problems but it takes two to have a toxic relationship. You have to do some inner work to find out why she drew you in the first place.

      If there is some way, cut off any access she has to you. Stop reading what she writes. If you continue allowing that kind of energy coming from her, it’ll damage your sense of self and your esteem as a man. It may even embitter you and make you afraid of women and relationships.

      Another post that might help: Is It Normal To Feel Guilt For Ending A Toxic Relationship?

      I also have a number of articles on my website on toxic relationships

  8. says: Gloria

    Yangki, thank you for all your articles. I’ve read just about all of them and I must say I’m touched and moved. There is way too much selfishnes¬s in today’s relationships and a lot of very selfishness people giving relationship advice. This is actually one of the very few blogs that I’ve read that puts focus and emphasis on love rather than “I” and “Me” mentality that abounds.

    You’re truly a LOVE doctor.

  9. says: thamboot

    One of my buddies is seeing a woman who has been playing this guessing game with him for 7 years!!! Everyone has told him this woman is just messing with him and does not love him but he just can’t seem to accept it. She treats him like he’s trash, ignores him at times, yells at him like he is her child, does not want him to hang out with his buddies and has told him she does not love him but just using him. But when she calls or texts him, and acts nice which usually is when she wants a favor or it is her birthday or some other holiday and she wants gifts, he acts like a teen in love. I told him what she’s doing to him and for close to a week now he and I have not spoken. He says I should be more supportive but I just can’t see him be treated like that. May be I should just mind my own damn business.

    1. I have the feeling your buddy knows exactly what she is doing to him but in his mind has somehow made it okay. May he feels his life is better with her in it even with the way she treats him. This is the power of psychological abuse. Even when a person knows what’s happening isn’t right or is unhealthy, they feel it’s better than nothing. It’s almost like an addiction. The addict knows the drug isn’t good for him/her and might even kill him/her but he/she just keeps taking it. And sometimes, as you’ve found out, the person who tries to intervene is the “enemy”. Until your buddy decides he wants to end this psychological abuse, I’m afraid there is very little you can do for him besides being his friend.

  10. says: mrcadillac

    I had a gf when I was in my late 20s. We were together 5 years but I had several other gfs on the side. I basically led her on for 5 years, never told her I love her and avoided any questions on commitment or even just having a regular relationship. She met another guy and left me. I’ve been seeing another woman for 2 years. At first I was very crazy about her but she started playing mind games with me. I never know when she’ll return my text call or email or even when I’ll see her again. I told her I love her 3 times but she has not said she loves me. It’s driving me nuts and making me act needy and clingy. I’m at a point where I’m ready to walk away. Do you think this is karma?

    1. I’m not an “expert” on karma and how it works. I do however know that the people we have a relationship with are not a “random” choice. We sub-consciously single them out because they mirror us and help us face our own “issues” in order to grow in love. I have also worked with men and women who have needy-clingy tendencies but act in the way you acted with your first gf or the way your current gf is acting as away to “control” and counteract the needy-clingy tendencies. Their MO is: if you don’t get “attached” then you don’t act needy-clingy. Once they get “attached” or fall in love, they can’t help it but be needy-clingy.

      On the surface it looks like you went from one extreme to the other but in reality the needy-clinginess was there all along but just manifested in two opposite ways.

      May be you were drawn to this woman so you can deal with the needy-clinginess and learn to “attach” in a healthy way…

  11. says: mayflower

    I don’t know if you know that many other coaches advice women to keep a man guessing as a way of making things interesting and exciting. If he is unsure then he’ll be interested but as soon as he knows you love him, he’ll lose interest.

    1. I’m aware that other coaches advice women to play this guessing mind game. The problem with that advice is:

      1) If playing a mind game is the only way a woman can keep a man interested and things exciting, then that woman must be really boring, lacks self-esteem/worth or is emotionally dysfunctional (and the coach giving advice does not know any other way to help her BE exciting just by being herself). There are better ways to make that man-woman dynamic very interesting, exciting, fun, loving and truly fulfilling for both parties involved!

      2) A woman playing this mind game will only attract a man who is interested in the excitement of game playing – not in love or a relationship. That’s why he loses interest once the game stops. For him, it wasn’t about love or even the woman, it was about the guessing game.

      3) A man who loves a woman wants to invest his feelings and emotions in her (and loving her) not in some game. Such men will walk away as soon as they sense what is going on. They’re real, emotionally mature, independent/non-clingy-needy, confident and going somewhere with their lives (the type of men most women want!) and they want a woman with the same qualities. If he gets that woman, he won’t let her go because that kind of woman is rare and stands apart because she does not believe in playing mind games.

      In general, mind games feed into the dysfunctional dating and relationship patterns prevalent in our North American society. And we wonder why dating/relationships are so messy and the divorce rate so high.