How to End an Inappropriate Relationship?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I developed an emotional attachment to a man at my gym after he showed a lot of interest in me and I eventually decided to return the interest. We became extremely attached to each other, he was very intense emotionally. We did not get to know each other slowly, the emotions drove our relationship. Over the weeks and months, as I saw him more often at the gym and interacted with him I noted that he was not making any move to take our relationship furthur in spite of our growing attachment and that he seemed very emotional to me, kind of up and down. We looked for each other all the time and I was wondering when he would take the next step. When he didn’t I realized he must be married, which was a shocker to me as he became very attached to me and displayed intense emotions of all sorts. I could not handle the not going forward and the growing sense that he was partly toying with me. Sometimes he would get angry with me if I tried to pull away from him, other times he would get angry if I tried to get too close. His emotions and behaviour seemed genuine, but quite intense. He displayed changeable,sometimes strange facial expressions it seemed to me, at times. The times he would distance himself from me he would have a strange look in his eyes of what seemed to be hatred or loathing, as if I had done something wrong. It became a toxic dance & my self-esteem suffered. I broke contact and he was very angry and hurt the last time I saw him at the gym because he knew I was ending our contact for good. Hindsight tells me he was abusive to me emotionally & I deserved to be treated honestly & with respect. I have avoided him these past months while trying to recover emotionally, and will continue to avoid him. What is your advice on what I should do if I ever come face to face with him at the gym again? Ignore him and leave? I have done some research and think this man may have Borderline Personality Disorder. All his behaviours fit,the push/pull dynamic. On top of this I do believe he’s married! Do you think him seeing me may cause him great emotional distress? I myself have suffered emotionally and certainly do not want to run into him. Thanks for any tips.

A: You’ve done well to pull yourself out of an intense but inappropriate relationship. As you know, it doesn’t matter what diagnosis he might carry. Your entanglement with him was a mutually toxic dance. My advice? You live in a large city with a gym probably on almost every block. Join a different gym! Yes. I know. You shouldn’t have to give up a place where you’re comfortable because he’s there. But your letter indicates to me that you don’t trust yourself to remain neutral when you see him. Leaving the gym you like isn’t about letting him win. It’s about saving your own emotional life. Learn what you can from the experience and move out to move on.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Feb 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). How to End an Inappropriate Relationship?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/02/10/how-to-end-an-inappropriate-relationship/