[Two Pronged] Stuck in a non-relationship

'Maybe I was overreacting about him not giving me any time and should have understood him more?' asks a young woman in an on-and-off relationship for 3 years

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes. Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives. Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer: 

I am 18 years old and I have been in an on-and-off relationship with this guy for 3 years. We ended our relationship 2 years ago, but we continue to have communication and treat each other all the same, just without the title. 

I guess I have to go a few years back so you could know the story. I was already friends with him since elementary and we liked each other since then. High school came and we went to different schools, but still maintained contact. He asked me to be his girlfriend. I loved him so I said yes. The first few months were great. I am not really a high maintenance girlfriend so the time he allocated to spend with me was more than enough.

But after some time, we were communicating less and less, and even became rare for us to do so. He went to a challenging and well-known high school, so I tried hard to understand that he was busy with schoolwork and so I was really understanding that no matter how much it hurts, and no matter how much I felt like I was being set aside, I kept my mouth shut and endured it. I tried telling myself that I deserved someone who’ll appreciate me, but every rare time he texts me, I just felt so happy. I realized that I did not want to lose him. 

I endured that for a year until Valentine’s Day. I received no greeting from him. I received flowers, chocolates and sweet nothings from others. But not even a text from him. A text would have been more than enough. I guess I just wasn’t able to take it. I knew he was not that busy cause it was their Sportsfest and they had it near our school. I didn’t need flowers or anything. I just wanted to know he actually still thought of me. I waited the whole day, but nothing. 

After a few days, I called him and told him I was breaking up with him. He asked me why and pleaded with me not to. But I had reached my breaking point.

After more than a year, we again regained communication. He asked me if we could try again, that he would make time for me this time. I, being a love drunk idiot, said yes again. And the cycle went on again: first few months were okay. Then barely communicating. He texted me, then disappeared again for a month or so. Then texted me again like it was nothing. (Yes, our relationship became limited to texts and a few calls).

We decided to break up. But what use is it when without the title, the cycle just keeps on repeating and I keep on accepting him with open arms?

I’m in love with this guy. I tried to be with other men, but after a while, I’d realize that I still loved him and I was being unfair to the guy I was with, and I would break it off with them.

Should I move on? But how? It has been two years but every time he texts me, it feels like it makes my whole day. I don’t even see any other guy I want to spend my future with but him. 

Was I the one wrong? Maybe I was overreacting about him not giving me any time and should have understood him more? I am really at a loss here. 


Dear Gwenn,

Thank you for your email.

I wonder whether your definition of love is actually the root of your problem. 

Your relationship with your boyfriend (let’s call him Lito) began 5 years ago when you were 13 and he asked you to be his girlfriend. You agreed because, you say, you were already in love with him. Why this was the case and what form this love took, you do not tell us.

After Lito slowly but surely disappeared from your life, you broke up because you had reached “your breaking point.” What actually constituted this point is not explained, but we can perhaps infer that it was Lito’s almost total absence and failure to communicate.

Then the cycle began again, only for him to disappear once more. Now you are broken up, but unable to move on because you still love him. 

Relationships are in some ways like careers. The vast majority of us have no real idea what we want to do in life at the age of 13. We gradually learn that our initial notions of what it means to be a firefighter or lawyer or vet (or other fancy that grabbed us as we grew up) are far from the gritty truth of what those jobs actually entail. 

We therefore want to gather information and experience, based on which we hope we will find the path that will lead us to a fulfilling working life. A small minority however know from very early on that they want to be a doctor (or whatever) and never suffer the majority’s uncertainties.

So it is in relationships. A tiny minority meet their future spouse early on and never deviate from their chosen path while the rest of us bounce from relationship to relationship, much like one of those steel balls in a pinball machine, acquiring experience gradually by trial and error, learning that love can take many forms and come round more than once. 

Consider the changes that take place in the lives of young people as they pass through their teens. They start as children and emerge as adults. Body shapes alter dramatically, their social skills develop as they gradually eschew teen activities and embrace adult activities, they rely less and less on support from adults and become more and more independent, taking ever greater responsibility for their own decisions.

Emotionally they move towards full maturity and want to be recognized as adults. They start making future plans, setting longer term goals and doing all this on their own.

And so it is with romantic relationships. In the early teen years these tend to develop within larger groups between people who share similar interests. Often interactions are limited to texting or phone calls.

As teens age, they become more familiar and comfortable with the opposite sex, mainly in social settings.

Companionship rather than intimacy is generally the focus but selection shifts from purely physical characteristics to include personality and character (girls make this shift earlier than boys, and some boys never make it). 

The next phase is that the larger groups break down into paired relationships and the focus changes from companionship to intimacy, and often sexual activity.

Intimate relationships often then lead to a committed relationship and ultimately to marriage (or something similar) eventually.

Against this background of constant change and based on the little that you have shared, it seems that your definition of love has not developed much since you were 13. Your definition of love is founded on shared interests from 5 years ago and limited social engagement via texts and phone calls.

The shift to intimacy and commitment has not taken place because Lito has not made himself available for it to happen, and based on your history together, he never will. Your relationship is thus in limbo, incapable of development while Lito persists in his policy of non-engagement.

You have a choice: wait for the leopard to change his spots or acknowledge that a real worthwhile relationship requires two people, both of whom are willing to commit themselves to an intimate and exclusive pairing. 

All the best,

JAF Baer


Dear Gwenn:

Thank you very much for your letter. I shall mention 3 factors which bear thinking about, and all can be expressed in memes/clichés, which thus make them seem (N.B. seem is the operative word –smile) mababaw (superficial) but so much easier to remember.

“If someone wants to be a part of your life, they’ll make an effort to be in it.  Don’t bother reserving a space in your heart for someone who doesn’t make an effort to stay.”  

You, after all, have made efforts for him — to understand his paucity of texts, to convince yourself that a mere Sports Fest is sufficient reason to ignore you on V-day, to not compare others who took the time and, yes, the effort to send flowers, chocolates and sweet nothings with your boyfriend, etc.—and he seems to have made none….except for the first few months.

But you know something, Gwenn, if merely keeping in touch becomes an effort so early on,  then “something is rotten (not only) in the State of Denmark” (Hamlet, Act I) but also in his heart.

Is the Screwing You’re Getting Worth the Screwing You’re Getting?  is the catchy title of a book which weights the pros of having sex and the cons connected with STDs, unwanted pregnancies, being left unceremoniously etc. Does it, in some itty bitty way, also remind you of your relationship vis a vis the joy of knowing he is your bf and yet the pain of realizing he doesn’t care enough to communicate regularly?

Look I am not saying he is a bad guy. He can be the greatest guy in the world and will make the lucky woman in his life very happy, given time. At the moment, however, only his mother knows that.

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and agree that he is terrific boyfriend material but is just not ready.  In other words, “right guy, wrong time.”

Is he worth suffering for then?  

I, personally, think not. When the right time comes along, I am almost certain he will pursue you, most probably the first girl/woman he ever loved, once more, no matter where you are and who you’re with. 

I say, don’t hate him, but seize every opportunity you can to be with other people (both men and women) and enjoy life as much as you can! If he’s there, terrific; if he isn’t, bummer, yes, but don’t let it stop you having a good time, even if you have to grin and bear it (smile). 

In time, not hearing from him will be less painful, being with others will be more fun, I almost 100%-ly promise you. I also promise to write a “Clinical Notes” column explaining why hopefully later this month.

The very best of luck to you, dearest Gwenn, an 18-year-old far more mature than many women of 40 are.  – Rappler.com

Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email twopronged@rappler.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.

When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Two Pronged asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments which appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed.

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.