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Love or Familiarity?

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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.

Love or Familiarity?

Answered by on -


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

Love or Familiarity?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

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

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Love or Familiarity?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 26 Dec 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.