Dear Emotionally Ambivalent Man.

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I could have loved you. A few years ago, I probably would have.

I would have willingly gotten on the roller-coaster that is you and rode it until it flew off the rails.

I would have believed that somehow, someday, it would be worth it.

I would have hummed the lyrics to Offspring, “The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care.”

I would have justified your behavior with custom made excuses and pretended that it didn’t cut me when you ignored me.

I would have convinced myself that with time, you would come closer, let your guard down and let me in for good.

But now, it’s different. Now, I know better. Because I’ve dated you before. Hell, I even married you once.  This is not the first time I’ve been offered a ticket to a free emotional roller-coaster ride, but now I see clearly that the ride is never worth the fall. Now, I realize that your ambivalence is not about me, and because I am not the cause, I can never be the cure.

I recognize that this is about some demon you’ve yet to integrate, and that you’re still living by a script someone else wrote for you.

Your hot and cold behavior mixes in my mouth and leaves me with a lukewarm sensation. And like tepid room water, I just want to spit it out.

I am a woman who deserves a man whose response to my invitation is “f*ck yeah,” and this time, I won’t accept a sip from the cup you extend half-heartedly.

We both deserve better than that.

You have a story, a history and a pain journey just like me. That pain and that journey still live in you, and in many ways, are controlling your decisions. You see, if you didn’t want this to some extent, you would not have opened the door. You wouldn’t have walked through it.

I knew what I was getting into and I don’t blame you for that. I offered you a chance to surprise me, because I knew if I didn’t, I would always wonder what might have been, if I had only been brave enough to take a risk. I’m glad I did and I would do it again.

I don’t regret knowing you, taking a chance on you and letting you into my world.

The worst feeling is wondering what might have been, and as a part of my commitment to live fully and ride the waves as they come, I am embracing any opportunity that opens my heart. And your presence did open my heart—now, my heart aches a bit, but it was stretched and has a larger capacity than it did before. For that I am grateful.

So thank you—for opening me, challenging me and even for hurting me.

Your presence in my life showed me some areas that still ache in me, but mostly, it helped me to remember who I really am, what I really need and what I deserve. With my newly expanded heart and awareness I have the capacity to receive the crazy-passionate love that’s coming my way.

I hope you find the same.

With gratitude,

The one who got away

Relephant bonus:


Relephant Read:

He Was Everything I Needed in that Moment.


Author: Lisa Vallejos

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Deviant Art

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About lisa


48 Responses to “Dear Emotionally Ambivalent Man.”

  1. Jessica says:

    Beautiful article but that song isn't by Green Day. It's by Offspring, self esteem..

  2. AaronFuzz says:

    Um..'the more you suffer, the more it shows you really care' is from 'Self-Esteem' by The Offspring… Not Green Day.

  3. Vega says:

    He just not that into you. Simple as that. Realize it and move on

    • lisavallejos says:


      While I certainly agree that this is a great way to get over a guy, ambivalent attachment is actually not quite so simple. People who have ambivalent attachment styles may actually be very much "into" the person they are dating but have some real difficulties in healthy attachment. Attachment theory suggests that the way we attach to our early caregivers influences how we relate to others and if our parents did not create the proper conditions for healthy attachment, we may grow to have attachment patterns that are harmful to us and others.

      The thing with ambivalent attachment is that the person very much craves intimacy, closeness and love. Yet, the very thing they want is the thing that terrifies them which is where the ambivalence comes in. When they are attentive, and open, they are amazing. But when that fear kicks in, they can withdraw and leave their partner wondering what the heck just happened.

      Now, I agree with you–when you're with someone like this, it's best to recognize it and move on. If they are to change those patterns, it is up to them to seek out someone who can help them.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! <3

      • Carly Anne says:

        i’ve read this article more than 5x already and will keep rereading it. such good one! it’s like my life well-put into words. thank you.

  4. Allan says:

    I feel i am this guy, and reading this triggers feelings of sadness and powerlessness.
    I want closeness and intimacy but at the same time i am scared to death of it. I just cant help sometimes being what you describe as an ambivalent man.

    If you were to give such a man advice, what would you say Lisa?

    • Karen says:

      Hey Allen, I don't know what Lisa would say. I have some experience with emotionally ambivalent men, so I would like to share my thoughts. I would say that if you really want closeness, you should write out what you think you want out of a relationship, what it looks like to you, and what kind of person you think you would be receptive to. When you meet someone who seems to have those qualities, really give spending time with them a chance. Try to get to know them and slowly share aspects of your life with them. Then see if those feelings change over time. I would also give the advice that when or if a union doesn't work for you, or when you are emotionally ambivalent even after physical intimacy, that you be as forthright and honest as possible.

      • lisavallejos says:

        Hi Karen! I think this is a great way to get started. It's incredibly helpful to know what we are looking for in a partner. 🙂

        Thanks for reading & commenting! <3

      • Allan says:

        Hi Karen. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with me. I have been trying to find good information on emotional ambivalence but have not had much luck, so you sharing that with me is something i am very grateful for.

    • lisavallejos says:

      Hi Allan! Thanks for the response and question!

      It really depends on what you're afraid of–some are afraid of losing themselves in relationship, some are afraid that their partner will strip them of their freedom and others are afraid that if they really let themselves love another person, they will be hurt beyond repair.

      This type of behavior is generally rooted in childhood attachment patterns i.e. how your parents or primary caregivers interacted with you. To resolve these concerns, I recommend getting into counseling/coaching with someone who is skilled. If you'd like to connect with me, I'd be happy to help guide you in the right direction. 🙂

      • Allan says:

        Lisa, you have already pointed me in the right direction simply by writing this article, thank you very much!

        As a man i needed to hear the words in this article. Even after 1,5 years in counselling i did not realize i had this problem. After i read your article and posted my comment, i decided to do some regression therapy on my own. I discovered something and it took me some hours to resolve it and as a result i feel significantly more confident being "close" to people. I cant wait to experience more of life being close to people and not feeling scared! You have made a difference for me just by writing your article, again thank you very much!

    • Ashley says:

      I agree with Karen. Especially when it comes to being in (what is turning out to be) a toxic relationship, speak up! I was with someone who did not communicate what he wanted from me, did not even say he wanted to date me (we were on-off because of him), and he would pick fights all of the time. Eventually, I felt so disrespected that I stopped talking to him for 2 weeks. I eventually forgave him but, by then, he wanted to make me feel shame for avoiding him for 2 weeks (as if we were committed, despite never stating his intentions). Meanwhile, he had already been dating someone else for a month (or more?). He's possibly even dated other people, because he feels that each relationship is between those two people and should therefore not be shared (even when it affects someone else). I've been told that this is manipulative behavior and this sort of behavior can definitely spring up from emotional ambivalence if one allows it.I suppose it is the ugly side of emotional ambivalence, because I do not think everyone acts this way (but they might if they were to panic).

      Spare a few hearts, tell them the truth. Otherwise, people get hurt.

  5. JW says:

    Beautiful… and accurate for anyone who has taken this ride. It is inspiring that you been able to successfully embrace this lesson and move beyond it.

  6. Deb says:

    I seriously want to send this to "my one that got away"! You said it all perfectly and beautifully….

  7. Kyle says:

    What is your email address? I have a question about my relationship that I don’t feel comfortable asking here! Great article by the way!

    • lisavallejos says:

      Kyle, you can reach me through the links above to my website, twitter or facebook. If I post my email here, it can likely get picked up by spammers. Looking forward to supporting you!

  8. Allan says:

    For any men reading this, i can recommend the book "Fear of intimacy" by Robert. W. Firestone

  9. Tammy Padgett says:

    Wow — I have NEVER been able to put into words EXACTLY what I am feeling. Should I ever decide to end my relationship, THIS will be my “goodbye” letter… Thank you for putting into words, what I have struggled for so long to do…

  10. Kristin Llewellyn says:

    I can relate to the first half, but unfortunately not the last. :_(Because I can't understand his behavior at all, (and therefore don't understand what happened between us) the whole thing is just a very painful, confusing memory and a huge exposed nerve. It has been for the last seven years. I was trying to counter my very deeply rooted sense of inherent worthlessness by dating someone who I knew had treated his partners very well in the past and had made no secret of his affections (Never a good idea to guage your worth by others' reactions to you, btw. I know that now.). I hoped he would do as much for me, and I think he might have really cared for me. (Maybe? A little? I hope?) I'm not really sure though, because whenever those feelings accidentally started to surface he would violently push them away for some reason.) Whenever that would start to surface he would run for the hills for some reason, which cut me to my core because it only re-affirmed my deepest, darkest fear – that I really was inherently unlovable and worthless. As a result, I just regret the whole thing and I wish I'd never met him. :_( I used to believe 100% that there was always a silver lining to every bad situation and something good comes from every bad thing that happens. Now I see that as much as I'd like to believe otherwise, sometimes things are just bad and there's not always a resolution, let alone one that ties things up in a pretty little bow. :_( Can you help me? I just want to be happy again.

    • lisavallejos says:

      Hi Kristin: I'm so sorry to hear you're hurting. I would love to support you in whatever way I can. Please use the links above in the bio for information on how to connect with me privately.

  11. Sophie says:

    Absolutely loved this article, thank you.

  12. JohnH says:

    I concur with your remarks about how our ambivalence is indicative of our early childhood attachment bonds. Bowlby’s attachment theory states we develop our style of social attachment in early childhood depending on our relationship with our primary caretakers – secure, ambivalent or anxious-hostile. Research indicates it is very difficult to change these behaviors in adults, which brings up another psychological concept called the ‘fantasy bond’, where we fall in love with the fantasy of our partner rather than the rather unpleasant reality. As your article states, the secure adult thing to do is cut your loses and get on with your life, but to do so requires grieving the loss of the hope and fantasy which can be quite painful. Many of us, particularly ambivalent ones, will play the field to avoid the pain ad infinitum. As with any good, practical advice it requires fortitude to put into action. Thank you for your sane advice.

  13. Marcy says:

    I have read this article about 20 times today. My male best friend and I started a relationship 4 months ago. He pulled away a month in, but we talked and worked it out. Or so I thought. I have not heard from him in 2 weeks now. This is us to a tee. I’m sad and hurt, but we both deserve more. I sent this to him with my reassurance that, this would be the last time he would hear from me. Thank you for writing it.

    • lisavallejos says:

      Hi Marcy: Sorry you're going through that. If there's anything I can do to support you, please feel free to reach out. I hope that you can stick to your guns and wait for the more you deserve.

  14. Anne-Marie S says:

    I can SO relate to this article and loved reading it. Thank you!

  15. Dany says:

    Absolutely love it. Accurate down to a t, I lived in one of this emotional roller coasters for two years. If I had to describe how it felt like, this article would be more than perfect.

  16. Yasmin says:

    Thank you… for being open and for verbalizing what I feel but not eloquent enough to express…

  17. Shawn says:

    Great timing. I am unable to sleep, reliving a relationship like the one you described. It ended 8 months ago and was brief and intense for 5months. He has been working with a counselor on just these issues (and others). I’ve moved on in many good ways, but the experience remains haunting and tough to resolve. Roller coaster ride that left me utterly depleted at the end. When we met I felt energetic, confident and ready to openly love. At the end I was alone, anxious, and lost. This article helps me have compassion toward him which will help in my desire to forgive him and truly let go.

    The silver lining for me is as you said. I know myself better. I am sensitive, empathic, and live to love. I have also spent good work in stabilizing and integrating my emotional self. I am nurtured when with a man who appreciates attention and my loving ways (and gosh I’m seeing one now!) But, gee, what a crazy, frightening trip!

  18. Gayle says:

    I know this man..for two yrs I’ve waited. the hot and cold kills but excites me. he’s 48 never been married and the longest relationship he’s had is with himself. I think I’m finally over it, as of right now he is in the cold phase. It happens every single time we have a great night of fun and passion, he disappears on me. I dont know whether to let him know I’m done or give him his own medicine and just disappear? we are both way too old to be playing these games we are both 48. *sigh*

    • jayne says:

      Grow up.
      Why are you still waiting?? If he hasn't committed after two years and that's what you want, you need to move on, because he's most likely never going to commit and he's not the one for your. Unless you want to live like this the rest of your life.

  19. Thesis says:

    He wouldn’t commit. Must be something wrong with him. Lolz. Life is full of scales of gray, and no one is passionate about anything all the time. I don’t understand why, as a species, we seem to ridicule people for being loyal to the only one who is guaranteed to be by their side every minute of every day, regardless of whether things are going well or poorly- their self. Perhaps instead of being put off by those types of people, you could learn something from them.

    • lisavallejos says:

      Thanks Thesis. I believe that is what this article is all about–learning from our experiences and making the necessary changes.

      Thanks for commenting!

  20. Sean says:

    Dear Lisa,

    I am going to do my best to hear what you were feeling and trying to communicate with your letter. I hope you can understand that I might get it wrong. I might get it wrong not just because it can be hard to empathize with someone in the written word, but also because it can generally be hard to empathize with someone, even in person. I hope you can appreciate that I am making an effort to understand and I request that you do not focus on whether I picked up the feelings correctly.

    I get the sense that you feel disappointed that the relationship between us did not work out. This is not a reflection on any weakness in your character. You simply had hope that this relationship would work out because you liked me and it would have brought you happiness to be in a healthy relationship with someone you like, and hopefully someday would love.

    I get the sense that you are angry with me because I did not give you the love you needed from a man in a healthy relationship. I get the sense that you were scared that I would be like other men you have dated, and married, and you felt a need to protect yourself before you were hurt again. I get the sense that you were disappointed when I didn’t respond to your invitations with “F#$k yeah” because you needed security or the knowledge that I would not get bored with you.

    I get the sense that you are hurt because I did not show you the openness that you needed for a healthy relationship. I get the sense that you feel hurt whenever you felt like I was ignoring you because it did not meet your need to be heard or seen. I get the sense that you felt hurt by any behavior of mine that was “cold.”

    I get the sense that you feel sad because you will always wonder what might have been with our relationship and that does not meet your need for closure.

    Last, but certainly not least, I get the sense that you are appreciative of the time you spent with me. You feel appreciative because it met your need for personal growth, your need for self-sufficiency, and your need to learn.

    I will tell you what I was feeling and how it related to my needs.

    First, let me say, that I feel disappointed that I was not able to meet your needs because it did not meet my needs of being a good man, boyfriend or person. I wish I had had the ability to meet your needs, because I liked you and it would have made me happy to be in a healthy relationship with someone I liked, and hopefully someday would love.

    I feel angry when you labeled me as a “roller coaster” because it did not meet my need to be treated as a human being. I feel angry when you compared me or categorized me as the same as the men you have dated, or married, because it did not meet my need to be treated as an individual. I feel angry when you labeled me as “an emotionally ambivalent man” because it did not meet my need for empathy and understanding.

    I feel insulted when you said “that pain and that journey still live in you, and in many ways, are controlling your decisions” because that suggests that I am not in control of my decisions, and that does not meet my need for respect. I feel insulted when you said “I recognize that this is about some demon you’ve yet to integrate, and that you’re still living by a script someone else wrote for you” because it suggests that I am not in control of my decisions, and that does not meet my need for respect.

    I feel sad when you say “I am a woman who deserves a man who’s response to my invitation is ‘F#$k yeah'” because it does not meet my need for love. I felt scared because your love was so conditional and that did not meet my need for security or the knowledge that you would not get bored with me. I felt scared that you would be like the other women I have dated, and I felt a need to protect myself before I was hurt again.

    I feel sad because I will always wonder what might have been with our relationship and that does not meet my need for closure.

    Last, but certainly not least, I am appreciative of the time I spent with you. I feel appreciative because it met my need for personal growth, my need for self-sufficiency, and my need to learn.

    Your presence in my life showed me some areas that still ache in me, but mostly, it helped me to remember who I really am, what I really need and what I deserve. With my newly expanded heart and awareness I have the capacity to receive the crazy-passionate love that’s coming my way.

    I hope you find the same.

    With gratitude,

    The one who got away.

    • C.L. Sweatt says:

      Sean…. you are an excellent communicator… you created a perfect and needed balance….it is beautiful. It would be only self serving to limit this article to a one way interaction with no accountability for both parties involved… These and many other kinds of relationships are a dance of sorts….. between two individuals. Who in their right mind wants a partner who lacks empathy… or simply will not dance with you.

    • lisavallejos says:


      This is an interesting response and I'm glad you took the time to write it. However, with all due respect, your response is based on your experiences, not mine. To respond to this personally addressed to me as if you know the nuances of the situation is categorically unfair. While I get what you're saying, I think it's important to remember that not every situation is the same and while you may have been on the other side of a similar experience, it wasn't the same.

      You are not the person/people to whom this was written and while I accept and honor your experience, I think it would be far more appropriate that you didn't write this as a personal response addressed to me. It could have been "a response from an emotionally ambivalent man" which would have been awesome. In fact, you may even want to consider submitting that exact piece to elephant for publication!

      Thank you!

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