Love or Familiarity?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I apologize if this query seems a little childish, or unimportant, but it’s something that is getting me down beyond belief and I felt it was worth asking to see if I can get a little advice. I started a new job two months ago and have befriended every member of staff at the bar – but one. He’s my age, a very argumentative and stubborn guy who just will not ‘let me in.’ What’s worse is that I’ve fallen for him, and not only does he not seem to like me back, he seems to plain dislike me. He is friendly and chatty, even lighthearted, with everyone but me. I try to make a joke or a little light conversation, and his responses are weak and half-hearted, he avoids me physically as though he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me, and his overall attitude is standoffish and cold. Yet, I’ve never in my life felt such intense chemistry with someone before. I felt it the second I met him, and had a feeling we would clash, like there might be something significant there, and it seems I was right. In fact, the tension between us feels so palpable I sometimes wonder if others at work have noticed, or gossip about it. I’ve tried both backing off, and making an effort, but he won’t budge. I can’t tell if he hates me, or perhaps likes me and is afraid of his feelings. I don’t know him well enough to understand him yet, as he keeps me at a distance. He is a loud, opinionated guy who I think deep down isn’t quite as confident as he likes people to believe, he has done things that have led me to believe he might be quite insecure. (If it helps at all, I’m a chatty, confident girl.) I truly like this guy – and it’s very rare that I want to get to close to someone this way. To think that he hates me, or disrespects me or something, is quite painful. I just can’t figure him out. He seems desperate to keep me at bay. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. This is really dragging me down.

A: I believe you need to look at this with a wide-angle lens and some perspective. My guess is that the emotional distance is the attraction. In other words, the fact that he is so unavailable is likely to be at the core of what’s activating your feelings, which you are likely misinterpreting as love. In the vast majority of cases this isn’t love but rather familiarity. People who grew up in families where the feeling of connection to one or both parents or their siblings is distanced, or where members of their family were emotionally unavailable because they struggled with a drug or alcohol problem, often have a GPS unit for finding people that create the same vibe in them.

Your coworker sounds more like he would be a project rather than a good partner in a relationship. Don’t confuse love with familiarity.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Dec 2013

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2013). Love or Familiarity?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/12/26/love-or-familiarity/