Getting Tony to step off the emotional curb.

Yesterday I wrote about Tony and how it feels foolish for me to go back into a relationship with him when he’s not willing to step off the emotional curb with me.

That, my friends, is the core of the issue.

I can talk about whether he loves me – I think he does, even thought he can’t articulate it.

I can discuss whether he will make progress in being more communicative. Yes, I’m sure over time this can happen, as I’ve had glimmers of hope.

I can hypothesize how much of his issue is the situation he’s in, and whether as he gets less overwhelmed, things will shift.

I can think about getting comfortable with his love languages (affection and quality time) and knowing it is how he shows he cares.

But at the end of the day, at the core of the issue, he’s simply not ready. He is not ready to emotionally go there with me. For a few reasons, which I’ve written about ad nauseam.

To sum up: primarily, he’s tortured and guilty at not regularly seeing his child. A part of him wonders whether getting back with his ex is the best way to solve it. He feels like he can’t possibly have found someone wonderful for him on his first date after his split. He worries he doesn’t yet know how to not have a relationship turn bad. He likes being alone and being able to retreat into his cave when he needs space and time.

These are all valid reasons. Some are things he needs to work through for things to work with us.

And just like I can’t force myself to be happy with him when us being together is amazing but the times apart I feel a keening desire for more, he can’t force himself to work through this quickly just because we have that great connection.

I’m over his emotional unavailability being both catnip and kryptonite. Fighting for someone’s attention is familiar to me, but I don’t like it. I have experienced what it can be like when someone is active, present, and constantly engaged (I have Johnny Id to first thank for that, and Fox is doing a damn good job as well) but not needy, which is a kiss of death with me.

In other words, it’s not that I like Tony because he’s emotionally available. Ironically, I love Tony at a very fundamental level, despite the behaviours that hurt. It’s hard for me to explain why. Perhaps part of it is the familiarity of emotionally unavailable, but I sure as hell didn’t know that on our first date and it was fucking magical.

I don’t love him more because of it, I love him despite it. I am occasionally romantic and spiritual but often my pragmatic and logical side wins out. If I was only a romantic, I would be writing about being soul mates and recognizing – oh, wait, I recall my heart may have done that already.

I love him because being with him is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced with another man. I hoped perhaps that feeling would fade when I took my two breaks from him, but it didn’t. I hoped I’d realize it was just me getting caught up in the moment and rationalizing my decision to stay for so long.

But that didn’t happen.

I know this is why so many of you are rooting for things to work out between he and I. That connection is damn rare. I read Marian’s story of the Australian again as she finished it recently, and the connection she describes is what I would say about Tony, if I could turn off my practical and logical side.

But here’s the real problem. The last man I felt remotely this way about was my ex, Will. We had a very strong, instant, physical and intellectual chemistry.

Now, I know Will and Tony are not the same man. They are in fact quite different. But what feels jarringly similar is when I start to rationalize why I could stay with Tony. It would go something like this:

I have never had a connection with a man like this before. Our physical and emotional chemistry is off the charts. I could spend days on end with him and never be bored. He’s interested in multiple things and will try anything with me, and it’s a very rare quality. Sure, there are issues – like him not being emotionally ready, and he can’t communicate the way I need, and his lack of action will probably make me crazy – but it’s worth it all to have that connection with someone. 

Want to hear how I justified staying with and ultimately marrying my ex?

I’ve never met a man before who I considered to be my intellectual equal. He’s interested in multiple things like me which is very rare. We can talk for hours. Sure, there are ups and downs [for the record, my Mother considered him to be verbally and mentally abusive] but I think it’s what naturally happens when someone is complicated and interesting like he is. I’ve been bored with “nice” guys so I have to take the good with the bad.

So, you see why this is a problem for me? How on earth do I know that I’m not doing the same thing with Tony? I KNEW my ex wasn’t the right man for me. I sat crying at my mother’s kitchen table weeks before we got married, talking through what I wrote above. I rationalized and convinced myself this was just what came with being with an intelligent and complicated man.

When I met him, Will was also self-centred and very cruel when he got angry. We had different love languages to an extreme. He didn’t make me feel better about myself; in contrast, I felt he was trying to “upgrade” me constantly so I’d be good enough for him and his family. He had an explosive temper and didn’t know how to argue constructively. While at first our sex life was good, he wasn’t affectionate. He had anxiety disorder, was prone to depression, and struggled with self-esteem. He had an addictive personality and alcohol was not his friend. He didn’t take good care of himself physically. He was generally anti-social but could fake it when he had to. He was not family oriented and had no interest in deepening relationships with my family and friends.

I ignored all of this because he was smart, funny, and interesting. I hadn’t met anyone like him before. I liked the good and ignored all the bad.

I’ve said before I don’t regret being with him for so long because I can’t imagine life without my son. But Liam aside, I know I would have been much happier and much more fulfilled at this point in my life, had I taken a different path.

Back to Tony.

When I have a clear head, I know I should not go down a path again where I justify a bunch of bad (or potentially bad) characteristics in a man because of a “connection”. I also know Tony isn’t my ex and he doesn’t have a laundry list of destructive characteristics. I don’t think he’s ever going to call me a “fucking stupid c*nt” in anger.

But he isn’t in a place where he can be the partner I need. I need someone to put equal effort into a relationship. I need someone to have put the baggage away from their previous relationships. We all have baggage, but his is (quite literally) laying open in his living room.

I need someone who will sometimes put me first. I need someone who wants to integrate me into their life.

But most of all, I need someone whose mind and heart are ready to fully open up to love and all its wonders.

50 thoughts on “Getting Tony to step off the emotional curb.

  1. Listen to your gut, don’t settle, as hy said, you might have to delete his contact info in order to move yourself along the path you want to walk. Sometimes life throws people in our path, who while we connect to, are just not good for us. *hugs* in the end, I want to see you in a happy place, exploring and experiencing life on your terms, without settling 🙂

  2. Yep, and you deserve it sister! I admire the fact that you are willing to give Fox a chance even if the “instant connection” thing didn’t happen. As you have mentioned, sometimes it takes time. But don’t settle. You do not have to make this an “either/or” scenario. If what you really want is someone with the chemistry and ease of Tony and the decisiveness and communication skills of Fox, then stay on the lookout. He is out there.

    • Thank you! He’s definitely worth a chance…Fox has a lot going for him and I know some people take time to warm up.

      I’m honestly not sure I will find anyone else who I have the same kind of chemistry with as I do with Tony… but that won’t mean I settle for something that doesn’t make me happy.

      • Excuse me? Did I read this right? I seem to remember you writing some comments on Madeline’s blog that seemed to encourage her to look further because the man for her is “out there”… what about the man for you? 😉

        • Dawn – I’m simply saying that with all the men I’ve met, there’s been only one with whom I have that kind of chemistry with. I could use flowery language and say he’s my soul mate and he and I just aren’t destined to be together right now and I feel nobody would challenge when I say I don’t think I will meet many others like him, if anyone, in my lifetime.

          That’s all I’m saying – I don’t expect to have that with someone else. But of course I wish for it. Of course there’s an amazing guy for me.

          And that’s a far cry from a friend who is dating a married man when she doesn’t have to and is miserable because of it.

          • You soul mate and you’re ready to let him go? Somehow it doesn’t compute for me…
            But I hear what you’re saying 🙂
            As for the friend… maybe she does need to, maybe it’s the only path that feels safe for her to take?

          • I don’t want to get into why Madeline is choosing that path. I’m simply encouraging her to make choices that are better for her in the long run.

            Yes. I don’t want to let him go but I can’t be the only one fighting for a relationship. He’s told me he’s not ready Dawn. Soul mate or not, why would I continue to cause myself pain? I have another post going up with my options as I see them and I’m curious what you think.

          • I agree, you can only encourage her to make choices where she hurts less. But one of the things I learnt (and maybe it’s the benefit of having older children?) is everyone needs to make their own experiences. And sometimes, you are further ahead (or on a different path) and you can see that your friends are not happy, and you would so much like for them to figure it out, and you try to offer alternatives… but at the end of the day, maybe that’s the experience they need to make for themselves, they can’t learn from you…
            It’s happened to me many times over the years, with my kids, with my mother or ex too… So I learnt to let it go and accept that it’s meant to be their path.
            I mean, look at me, it took me 25+ years to realise I was not on the right path and getting hurt in the process!

            I agree, you can’t keep suffering pain. I have little advice on how you need to go about trying to prevent it, I think (as I said above) we all need to go about it in our own ways…
            I can only offer my support and friendship through this. And possibly another angle to approach it all 😉

  3. Your writing in beautiful and thank you for sharing your life and inner most feelings with us. You are an amazing person and will end up with the person you are supposed to be with – we will have to wait to see who he is 🙂

    • Patti, thank you so much for your touching words. I’m honored to have people rooting for me! I do believe it will work out the way it’s supposed to, and also know that could take some time.

  4. “But most of all, I need someone whose mind and heart are ready to fully open up to love and all its wonders.”
    You sure do, Ann.

    Well put – as always.

  5. You can try to keep him at arm’s length and not get too emotionally involved with him and hope that he will eventually come to his senses. The other alternative is to dump him but where would that leave you? I’d suggest that you see if you can keep him around like he is now and try and wait him out but emotionally that may be too tough. If you finally decide that he’s not going to come over then you need to let him go and try and get over him. You are between a rock and a hard place and it’s probably going to hurt no matter which decision you make but you have to hope that eventually everything will work out. I’m pulling for you and would never call you stupid, maybe a c*nt but with a smile on my face. 🙂

    • Already being in love with the man, it’s impossible for me to not be emotionally involved with him. All that trying to survive a relationship in his current form will do is see me close off my heart and put up protection measures to keep from getting hurt. I did that before with my ex and I am very careful to not go down a similar path.

      I know what I need to do. My post tomorrow outlines my three options as I see them – which are really different ways of getting there. None of this will be easy, unfortunately. But it’s risk-reward, as I see it. If I don’t risk loving someone, I won’t get the potential amazing reward of a loving relationship.

  6. I find it harder and harder by the day to find someone who doesn’t have some kind of alterior motive or emotional baggage that has them so trapped up and unable to move forward.

    Am I willing to open up again? Sure. It depends on the person though, I’m not going to invest in just anyone.

    • And you’re a lot younger…that’s a sad statement. I don’t know about ulterior motives… do you mean women who are looking to get married / have children – that kind of thing?

      By 40, anyone who has been married (or sure, maybe other long term relationships) definitely has baggage. We all have things that have impacted us one way or another. But yes, there are many people who can’t figure out how to move forward from that in a positive way.

  7. I’m not gonna defend Tony but I want to say something about emotional availability: People and men in particular are only going to be as available as they can be and not always the way you want and need them to be. I read about so many women “complaining” about this and, without offense, do you not know anything about men and that we are trained to not show much in the way of emotions? Ann, you want this dude to step into an emotional place with you that he may not be able to do and from what you’ve shared, his emotions are screwed up to begin with so how can you expect him to give more than what he has available?

    The moment you commit yourself to being with someone, you have to be able to work with what’s on hand, which is the trick of any kind of relationship. Sure, you want what you want and the way you want it… but that can be a mistake given how men are in general, i.e., even as emotionally available as I can be, when something’s messing with me, I become unavailable until I get things squared away again and no matter how long it takes.

    You just learn to work with stuff like this; we just aren’t all emotionally wide open and available at all times; sometimes we can appear to lack any emotion other than anger or lust because just like women, we learn not to wear our hearts on our sleeves so some woman can shred it to pieces; we go through stuff that requires us to put our deeper emotions on hold for the duration, leaving us open to having our woman start questioning our dedication to her and the relationship.

    I will say that if you can’t deal with how a man is or isn’t emotional, why bother at all? It’s not like we don’t know what a woman wants in this but if there’s a reason we can’t deliver, then we turn into the bad guy who can’t step off the curb with her.

    What are you gonna do when Fox has one of these moments? Dump him for being unavailable? Think you made a mistake? Everyone wants you to dump Tony but the fact that you’ve yet to eradicate him from your life should tell you something and if anything, you should be paying more attention to the good he brings to the table more than paying attention to something he can’t do the way you want him to.

    Do what you gotta do and handle your business but stop making decisions with your emotions and use your intelligence to analyze things with Tony…

    • Alright my dear. I’m using both my heart and my intelligence to sort this out.

      And yes, I do agree that often women complain that men are not emotive enough for their liking. This is not one of those cases. Sure, it would be great if Tony told me he loved me and all that blah-blah. It would be terrific if he was more communicative. But I am pretty content in how he feels about me.

      But his communication skills and that kind of emotional availability is not the real problem here. The real problem is he can’t even say that he knows for sure he’s not going back to his wife, as a solution for the guilt and sadness he feels not seeing his son all the time. He’s not ready for a relationship – he has told me this – and he knows he needs to sort some of his own business out before he’s ready.

      That’s what I mean when I say he’s not ready to step off the curb – he’s got some basic shit to sort out before he can actually even be willing to have me as his girlfriend. It’s not a matter of me sticking with him and us sorting out our emotional differences. If I stick with him now, it means I’m not getting any real commitment from him…and we are far past a point where things can realistically be casual.

    • oh and one other thing… I don’t think people want me to dump Tony. He has a fan club here. But people can see he’s not ready and I’m hurt by his not being all in with me. But I know there are many people who would love it to work between us…because of the connection we have.

  8. Ann,
    I was going to make this comment on your part one post:
    Step off the proverbial curb and keep walking. If he’s willing to follow he will eventually catch up.

    You’ve given him every reason (and in my humble opinion, too many opportunities) to walk with you. As I’m sure you are aware, there are some people that will never change, regardless of what you do, say, act, etc.

    If you wait around and convince him to step off the curb, its more than likely that he will revert back at some point down the street and go back to that comfortable curb of his.

    I’m sorry…

    All the best!
    Coop

    • Thanks Coop. I do think you are right. Fundamentally, I fear if I keep walking he’ll never catch up. But I know if he doesn’t then there’s no true bond between us anyway and it wouldn’t have worked.

      I suppose it has to be of his own volition, ultimately. As you say, I’ve given him all the reasons to come with me. Perhaps he doesn’t want to, or can’t, or just won’t. It will make me sad and I’m sure I will always wonder “what if”… but I can’t be in a relationship that’s so unbalanced.

      I appreciate your support 🙂

      • Trust me, if he’s smart, he’ll find a way to catch up!
        On a lighter note, how’s the tan lines coming along? 😉
        Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

        • As much as it hurts to know he may never move forward, I also know it means we can never really have a serious relationship if that’s the case.

          Tan lines are coming along!! My vacation has been great. It’s been awesome to have some time and space to think through some things without interruptions.

  9. Your post was well written and shines a real light into your thinking on this whole Tony/Fox thing.

    We only know your side of the story, and what you tell us of that side. Clearly you are in love with Tony, and can’t let him go. You don’t seem to have anywhere near the enthusiasm for Fox.

    Could you be falling into a “trap” like with your ex? We all have a “type” that we are most comfortable with or fall for, even if that type isn’t the best thing for us. We are who we are, and like what we like.

    I think you have good insight into the things that keep Tony unavailable or unwilling to jump in with both feet. Either he’s not that guy, or he isn’t ready yet. He’s conflicted, and if he’s anything like me (and he seems to be a bit) then the pressure from you won’t actually make things better. He’ll feel more conflicted, and have a even harder time making a decision.

    It isn’t ideal at all, but my lover Amy and I have a familiar sounding connection like you and Tony. Not totally the same, but the chemistry certainly is. I remain with my wife for some of the same reasons that Tony can’t let go of his. Amy is very much aware that I don’t plan to leave my family, and we have an understanding between the two of us. My point being, maybe you need to keep doing what you are doing, seeing guys and having fun, but keep an open relationship with Tony. Know that you love him and enjoy him, but that he has complications that keep him in limbo, and you keep enjoying your sexual adventures…up until either he becomes more available, or you meet someone you like better.

    • My concern with continuing with Tony as an every few weeks kind of thing are twofold. The first is that Fox has asked that we revisit our exclusivity conversation – and I want to be respectful of him and honest if I do choose to keep going with Tony.

      The second is I’m not sure I really give him any reason to change if I give him exactly what he wants – me, on his schedule, without demands or complications. I would be left deeply in love with a man who can’t give me what I want from him. It’s wholly unsatisfying and probably not good for me.

      Without me he may realize what he’s lost. Or he may not. I can’t control that but at the very least, if he comes back for me I’ll know it’s meant to be.

      • I hear what you’re saying. At least I think I do. But…
        I don’t think Tony has you on his schedule. without demands or complications. It’s more he’s willing to take what you are willing to give him on your schedule.
        Because I remember reading a few times that he doesn’t dare contact you and both time he slept with you since the beginning of the summer, it’s because you contacted him… so you’ve got to stop seeing this as “He’s got what he wants when he wants” and more as “He takes what I offer him gladly, on my schedule”.
        I’m not sure it changes things in how your decision going forwards is affected, but I just needed to put this out there.
        Also… is Tony the only thing that prevents you from having an exclusivity conversation with Fox? Because as I understand it, going to sex clubs isn’t exactly being exclusive either. Are you willing to stop exploring that side of you? If so… may I ask why?

        Sorry, I am not sure I’m using the proper tone in this reply. You know I’m rooting for you and want the best for you 🙂

        • I have told him multiple times he can contact me whenever he wants. He knows this and yet he doesn’t. The reality is when we were together I had to cajole him to spend time with me and communicate with me. He couldn’t get himself coordinated with work in order to make time for me (or his son – and he finally admitted to me that part of his issue is his not being effective with his work stuff).

          I’m not willing to stop my other exploration and I won’t have to, for the most part. I will be getting to Fox and the conversations we’ve been having.

          • I know you have told Tony multiple times and he never used that opportunity you gave him. To me, it could hint at the fact that he doesn’t believe he’s worth it and doesn’t dare contact you because he feels he doesn’t deserve you, doesn’t want to bother you… It has to do with his low self esteem, with the fact he hates seeing how unable to deal with his schedule he is, and knows you to be highly efficient and thinks he is less worthy than you in that aspect.

            When you write about him, about his shortcomings, you always seem to come from a place of “I don’t want to be the convenient woman for him to come back to”, “I need to be a priority in his life”, “I need him to up his game”. I agree with kdaddy. Maybe it’s not that you don’t count for him, maybe it’s not that he doesn’t care one way or another whether you’re going to be in his life. Maybe it’s just that he’s stuck, depressed and unable to move forward in *any* direction. I’ve been there often enough, I know what it feels like. I don’t know the relationship he had in his marriage, but what I’m saying is, women can abuse men emotionally too. If he was in that sort of relationship I was in, with someone telling me how worthless he was every chance she got, then he would feel stuck. And what he needs is not dead lines, because he is in no position to rise up to that challenge. And indeed, just stepping off the curb can be scary. Because you forgot you can walk.

            I’m not sure I make sense. But I’m just writing what my heart is saying. It may not apply to Tony at all, it’s just another way to possibly look at the situation…

            As for Fox… looking forward to reading about it, though I must say… if Tony truly is your soulmate, do you really believe you’re being fair to him (Fox)? Actually, being fair to either of you three?

          • Even if all that was true Dawn, should I stay in a relationship that frustrates me and makes me sad and doesn’t provide what I need? I spent many months with Tony staying with him based on his good intentions, not his actions. I’m not angry with him because I do understand it could be many of the things you are saying.

            And since you are pressing me… I lean towards believing in reincarnation. Which would mean I believe we each have things to learn in each of our lives and sometimes we meet someone our soul recognizes but it’s not meant to be in this lifetime. But with Tony, I’m hoping if it’s meant to be it will happen later in our lives. But he’s not ready and I can’t force the timeline.

          • This comment speaks volumes to me. You are doing the heavy lifting with Tony and he only reacts. Tony doesn’t initiate, doesn’t make a consistent effort to incorporate you into his life. I think you need to step off the curb and keep walking. Tony isn’t ready and I’m not sure he ever will be. Sorry 😢

      • That is quite the conundrum. I can certainly understand your position, and you have to do what is right for you and your life. Amy, my lover, has never put demands on me, or forced me into anything that I haven’t wanted, and I love and respect her for that. I personally don’t like ultimatums, and they aren’t effective for me…tell me I can’t do something and it becomes EXACTLY what I want. Force me in a corner and I’ll fight like a caged animal to get out. Tony is more free than I am, but he clearly is conflicted, and indecisive or torn. Giving him the “I’m going to leave” ultimatum hasn’t worked so far, and likely won’t. He may or may not be tortured by your departure, but his inner calculus would seem to say that if push comes to shove, that he has to stick where he’s at, at least for now. I love Amy, but if she said it’s me 100% or I’m gone, I’d end up having to let her go, because I feel my duty is to stay where I’m at. I guess my best advice, fwiw is to focus on enjoying him when you can, but also to focus on becoming as emotionally close to him as you can. By knowing that he can trust you and rely on you, it may allow you to understand where he is at, and to know what is him, and what is his situation.

        • Here’s the thing – I already got incredibly emotionally close to him. He knows he can trust me. He says nobody understands him like I do and he’s never been as comfortable as he is with me. He’s told me things he’s not told anyone else.

          All that to say, I did what you recommended and he still can’t move forward. He needs time to sort things out. Perhaps he will get there and perhaps he won’t. But how long should I wait in an unbalanced relationship where I’ve spent all kinds of emotional energy making it okay for him, and he’s not doing the same?

          • That’s a very fair point. I opened up to Amy like I had opened up to no one before, and I trusted her like no one I had trusted, but that took some time. And through trial and error, I have learned that she often knows me, and councils me better than I do myself, which is huge because I am very guarded and independent with the world and other people. It’s an unfortunately slow process.

            Forgive me for being foggy on the details, but Tony is already split from his wife, correct? He (or she depending on whose idea the split was) already made that decision. He has to realize that the decision was already made, and now its up to him to pave the best path forward based on what has already happened. If I’m correct (a big IF) he is holding on to the reality that he THINKS should be, or maybe he subconsciously wants (meaning his ex), but is already gone. I tend to be an optimist and believe that things can work out and will. Usually that works in my benefit, but sometimes with the hardest calls it keeps me stuck to a reality that I can’t have. Through really examining the situation and talking through it Amy helps me to realize that sometimes. Perhaps you could help Tony to understand what his choices are and to make those choices so you can both move forward in whatever direction that is.

            How long do you wait? Only you can decide that. You love the man, that’s clear. You’ve made it ok for him because you love him. I don’t get the sense at all that you feel that he is taking advantage of you, only that he is bad at follow through and communication. That makes him a bad lover for sure. It is puzzling because in a new romance feelings are usually all consuming, and all you can do is think about your lover, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with Tony. So either he’s super conflicted about your relationship, or he’s a little autistic and doesn’t get that you love him a lot, and that you’re super hot and fun. I hope this helped somehow…

          • Tony has been split for a year. He harbors no desire to get back with her specifically; returning to his marriage is a way for him to repair the hurt he feels not seeing his son regularly.

            He was friends with her before they got together at age 22. So he’s not really known any other kind of relationship.

          • I can relate to the lack of relationship experience… I married my wife, who I started dating at 15 and married at 23, never having any other meaningful experience with anyone else. I was a kid, and an emotionally stunted one at that thanks to my upbringing. The result was that I really didn’t know what I was getting in, and I learned what relationships are from my experience. It’s hard learning something new when it’s all you’ve ever known.

            Does Tony see a counselor of his own? It seems like he could use one. I totally understand the guilt angle, but again, the choice was already made and the pony is out of the barn already. There definitely are some issues that he needs to work through. If you two are both as happy when you’re together as you say, then the hold up really is his baggage. Now the question is are you willing/able to hang with him and help him work through it (if he’s willing) or do you need to move on?

          • I have suggested he could benefit from one and he agrees, but – shocker – he hasn’t booked any appointments.

            If it was only an issue of getting sorted with regard to his child, that would be one thing. But the list of things that are keeping him held up in a previous post are quite real.

            I’ve given him seven months. Feels like enough time to see some real progress or at the very least be able to say the words “I’m not going back to my ex”. No?

          • It’s tough. Very tough. Seven months feels like an eternity to you, and it is a long time to at least not get that commitment from him. But again, IF he’s anything like me, the behavior and thinking are deeply ingrained, and the struggle is very real in his head. 7 months in that case is not long at all. Discouraging I know. Based on your most recent post about Fox, it sounds like you’ve made your decision. And of course ultimately only you can decide what is best for you.

What do you think?