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cheryl lavin


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Is it Him or Is it Her?


The Great Wall of Daniel went up about three months into the relationship.

"A massive wall," says Ariel, who butted up against it.

Ariel is a schoolteacher. There're only two male teachers at her school, both married. The only other men she meets regularly are the divorced fathers of her students. And since she doesn't want any of her students as stepchildren, she relies on dating services and fix-ups.

She met Daniel, recently divorced, through a fix up. It was one of those blind dates where afterward both parties rush back to the mutual friend who fixed them up. "Ariel is fantastic. Thank you!" and "Daniel is so great! You were right!"

They dated for several weeks, and Daniel came on like gangbusters.

"We met, we went on dates, the sex was great, he called and texted often, I thought we really had something going on," says Ariel.

Daniel was always talking about plans for them. They'd visit his favorite cousins in California. He'd take her skiing. His parents always did a big Thanksgiving dinner. Ariel didn't say much, but she started believing that Daniel might be the one.


"Somewhere around the point where I really started relaxing into our relationship, it happened," Ariel says. "A massive wall suddenly, without the slightest warning, was erected."

One night Daniel was himself; the next night he started acting funny. Before, he was openly affectionate. He seemed to enjoy PDA. Then, he picked her up for their Friday night date and greeted her with a peck on the cheek.

They went to see a movie, and he didn't hold her hand or touch her back as they crossed the street. Definitely not his usual M.O.

When she confronted him after more of this cold treatment, Daniel said he didn't want to have a romantic relationship anymore. That they could do date-like things together, but not date, if you get the difference here.

Being so newly divorced, Daniel said that "he wanted to get out there and learn from women, that he married his childhood sweetheart and it's a whole strange new world for him and he wants to find out where women are today."

"What a crock," says Ariel. "He didn't want to 'learn from women,' he wanted to sleep with as a many as possible before he settled down. I could respect that if he had been upfront about it. But he never told me that was his agenda. It was a lie of omission."

Or was it her fault? There's a little part of Ariel that thinks maybe she allowed herself to get too comfortable in the relationship. Did she drive him away because she started being herself and not her "date" self? Was it because she stopped wearing makeup when they hung around the house on the weekends and sometimes told him she wasn't in the mood for sex? Was it because she didn't clean the bathroom every time he came over? She doesn't want to think she always has to be on, but she wonders.

"I relate it to my classroom. If I'm not up there tap-dancing everyday, they kids don't tune in. They're so used to being entertained. Are men like children?"

Do you always have to be "on" in a relationship? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to And check out my new ebook, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front."



15 Comments | Post Comment
Aerial, it was probably all of those things... Daniel wanting to have sex with other women; Daniel being a bit of a jerk; you not paying attention to your appearnace; you not taking it seriously enough to clean your bathroom before having him over.

Re: the last point, honestly, if I were dating someone and they had me over repeatedly to a dirty house, I'd take it as a sign that that's what their 'non-dating' self was like... kind of a slob. It gave him a glimpse of what life would be like if you were married.

Look at it this way -- you both made mistakes, you both were kind of jerky --- and funny as it sounds, you both could probably find someone better.
Comment: #1
Posted by: sarah morrow
Sat Sep 27, 2014 9:43 PM
Well, Sarah, I have to respectfully disagree with you here.

Likely the reason Daniel turned cold is exactly WHY he said.

Women like to read WAY more into communications than are really there, and it's not healthy for us and it makes life miserable for the men in our lives. We second guess things to death when EVERYONE would be happier if we simply just took people at face value.

When a man (or a woman, for that matter) says they want to cool things down, what you should do is cool it all the way down to COLD. No use hanging around, and there is NO use thinking and rethinking about WHY it cooled down. We drive ourselves CRAZY doing that.

I learned that lesson the hard way when my fiance and I broke things off (it was mutual). I dissected every aspect of the relationship, I wrote about it every day for several hours. But then I realized that the end of the relationship was hurting ME far more than it was him and that he was moving on. HE wasn't dissecting the relationship, he was out having fun moving on with his life! What a WASTE of my precious life to put so much focus on him!

I've had the same reaction after friendships break up, or a job goes sour, or after fights with family or whatever, and what I've had to learn the hard way is the following:

1. Life gives everyone and I mean EVERYONE good and bad. You won't always get what you want. It's the way it is for EVERYONE.

2. Sometimes you will not find out the reason WHY bad things happen, or you may have to wait years. It's better to accept it for what it is in the moment.

3. The best course of action is to STOP yourself whenever you start to overthink these things. What I have found works for me is a physical pinch/slap and then to think about something else. During a recent disappointment, I even made up a list of alternate things to think about it. By the end of a week, I was thinking less and less about it, and although I still do on occasion, I don't obsess over it.

4. Eventually the disappointment/issue will come back to you. For example, about a year after my fiance and I broke things off, he contacted me and asked for me to forgive him for certain things he said. I told him it wasn't for me to forgive him, but for him to forgive himself. I really meant that. We've since renewed our friendship (we were friends for over 20 years before becoming engaged, so we just went back to that) and while it's not entirely comfortable, I'm glad he's in my life again.

For Ariel, my additional advice would be this. First of all, you are not going to be a friend with benefits. Stop sleeping with him entirely, and don't take his calls, texts, etc. Stop all contact. Date other guys. When the friend who sets you up wants to talk about the relationship, tell her/him that it just didn't work out. That's it. Don't overtalk it, don't fall into the girl trap of tearing it apart.

BTW, the only thing I can think of to overthink is YOURSELF and your own needs and behavior. During the time right after the breakup, that was something I started to do. I did dissect my life and found out WHY I was willing to accept some of the exes behavior. That is HEALTHY reflection. And ultimately, it sets me up to have a better relationship in the future when I'm ready.
Comment: #2
Posted by: nanchan
Sun Sep 28, 2014 7:19 AM
@ nanchan -- good point about communication, the problem there is people don't usually make it clear exactly what they are saying because they use "codes."

Your #1 -- I've found in life you always get what you want when you don't want it anymore.

#2 -- Its hard to wait to find out reasons why things happen, myself, I have a habit of blaming my values, beliefs, what I was taught - and many times the higher power which I no longer believe in.

#3 -- positive thinking always works, but you have to train your mind in order to do that.

#4 -- Sometimes it's hard/impossible to forgive, I got on my son years ago which still haunts me, the only thing I can do is make sure that never happens again. I asked him a few years later about that incident and told him I shouldn't have done that -- he said dad I don't even hardly remember that.

As far as Aerial -- they shouldn't have been having sex after only dating for two weeks. A dating Singles coach, I went to for five week ends, said/suggested that if you were looking for a long term relationship then no sex for the first 300 hours of dating.
Comment: #3
Posted by: J
Sun Sep 28, 2014 9:09 AM
J, the point is that just take the communication at face value.

You have some serious issues with women, and this whole "code" thing is a good example of how screwed up you are. You do EXACTLY what I am talking about here.

Just believe people for what they say, don't read codes into anything. Sheesh. No wonder you can't have a relationship!
Comment: #4
Posted by: nanchan
Sun Sep 28, 2014 10:55 AM
recently divorced, rebound relationships, what can you say? He may have been really into her and then suddenly realized he was heading right to a long term relationship and realized he wanted to fool around and not make a commitment. He may well have suddenly met someone exciting that he decided to pursue. A lot of people are also 'promisers' they start thinking of all the cool things you can do together and suggest this and that but they don't put a lot of thought into what they are saying. Then you bring it up later and they are like, huh? They don't realize that you might really want to do what they suggested but suddenly they feel pressured.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Laurie
Sun Sep 28, 2014 10:56 AM
He liked her at first and then he changed his mind. I asked a guy about this once. He says if a guy likes a woman at first, it's because of her appearance. If he stops liking her, it's because of something she does.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Samantha
Sun Sep 28, 2014 2:26 PM
@ nanchan -- If I'm screwed up women did it and as far as the code thing several columns back there was a big discussion on codes. Before that I always took what someone said as what it was until everyone put posts and convinced me otherwise. - I think there were over 100 posts.

I gave up on the relationship searching sometime back; I couldn't handle anymore women cheating.
Comment: #7
Posted by: J
Sun Sep 28, 2014 4:36 PM
Yeah yeah, J, it's all EVERYONE ELSE'S FAULT, not you, not your neurosis and certainly not your responsibility!

That poor poor pitiful J refrain is getting old. Learn a new song and you'll be a lot happier.
Comment: #8
Posted by: nanchan
Mon Sep 29, 2014 8:37 AM
This is the rubber band behavior that John Gray talks about in his Mars/Venus books. It tends to occur at the 3 month point in a budding relationship. John Gray says that men, generally, need to pull back and go into their man-caves. The woman at that point should give him his space and he may snap back. If she instead chooses to go into the man-cave, she may find a growly bear in there. Ariel should leave Daniel completely alone, move on, and date others. Daniel may come back around. If he does not, then someone better will be along. Next!
Comment: #9
Posted by: PuaHone
Mon Sep 29, 2014 11:35 AM
@ nanchan -- Core values/morals can't be changed. Thanks for your analysis, but really don't need it. I guess I should have said I allowed the women I was with to screw me up. My fault lies in not having a switch to turn on and off. I haven't put any new songs on my MP3 player I use at the fitness center every morning - I need to find some new ones.
Comment: #10
Posted by: J
Mon Sep 29, 2014 12:33 PM
I don't think you necessarily always have to be "on" in a relationship. No one can sustain that indefinitely. Everyone's going to have their off days. I think, though, that 3 months is still pretty early in the relationship to be acting like you don't care anymore. You don't necessarily always have to look perfect or make the house look like a team of Adrian Monks in maid uniforms cleaned it, but most people like to know their SO is still at least putting in some effort for them. At three months, it's probably still a good idea to put on some makeup and clean the bathroom when he's coming over. I'm not by any means saying Ariel was entirely to blame here, or that her getting comfortable too early was what caused Daniel to suddenly just freeze her out. Just saying that while you don't have to be "on" all the time, she may have gotten too comfortable too fast.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Cheryl
Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:33 PM
Hi, Nanchan, that's a good point (in your reply to my post). We do that :)

I just meant, all those little things can add up. It can be good sometimes to assess, okay, what did I do wrong in this relationship and what did I do right. I don't mean to agonize about it forever, or go into out deepest doubts at any opportunity, but, that it can be helpful at least sporadically to figure out what mistakes we might have made that we might be able to avoid in the future.

For example, I once liked a guy but was way too needy, and kept telling him I wanted to be together forever -- this was decades ago -- it didn't last long :) What I thought of as being open and affectionate he thought of as getting swallowed up alive in someone's neediness. It all worked out fine... we broke up, we both moved on... there was no way would we have been good for each other in the long terms. But it was helpful to do an assessment, not out of heartbreak or assigning blame, but to wrap things up and move on.

I do agree with your main point, women as a group tend to doubt ourselves to an extreme, and examine our behaviors to a fault, especially when we had seen a relationship moving somewhere we wanted and then it suddenly wasn't anymore. The endless agonizing is silly, as you say, and does no one any good.
Comment: #12
Posted by: sarah morrow
Mon Sep 29, 2014 7:44 PM
Re: Samantha #6
What your friend says is only applicable if the man was genuinely interested in the first place, and not just out for sex.

This happened to me one time only, but I once had a man grow suddenly cold on me. In the beginning, he was full of plans about things we would be doing together, I really thought we had a future, at least an immediate future. He liked everything about my appearance, my hair, my make-up, my wardrobe... Then all of sudden he hated my hair colour, my make-up, my perfume, and had nothing but criticism and sarcasm for everything I wore... which was the exact same stuff I had worn when he was goo-goo-ga-ga. Nothing had changed.

The truth was that he had stopped being horny on me.

One of the things he mentioned offhandedly (in one of these countless profound conversations we had during he googoo-gaga phase) was about his immediately previous relationship, about which he said his great mistake had been to "pretend to himself that there was a relationship when there really wasn't". In other words, he had pretended to himself that it was going somewhere serious, when it was only sex.

I had no idea at the time that this was also applicable to me, and that I was dealing with a man who lied to himself and had a habit of clothing his petty appetites in noble motives. Isn't it amazing the number of things you learn about a man, just listening to him run off at the mouth and filing the information away for future reference?

So yeah, as your friend says, when a man is first attracted, it is because of appearance, and when he is soon repelled, it is because of behaviour or attitude... when he is looking at the woman seriously, that is. Then there are the others, who are just playing and pretending they are not, because they want to view themselves as "good, decent men", not shallow, promiscuous jerks. Ah, the cruelty of the weak...

Comment: #13
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Mon Sep 29, 2014 10:16 PM
Re: sarah morrow (12)

Well, you can see from even the posts here that people just want a REASON all the time, and that reason isn't always obvious.

I've learned not to obsess about it because it's SO unhealthy. Just last night, I was talking to an old friend of mine: she had called me last week and I was pretty depressed when she called because I had to cut a close friend out of my life. Why? Because this woman is VERY negative about men and every conversation turns into a diatribe about her ex and how evil he was (sounds like a poster I know here!).

I finally had enough last week and told this woman, you know I love you, but I can't have you in my life anymore. When my REAL friend called, I had been crying, it's TOUGH to let go of a friendship of over 10 years.

But what C (my friend) told me was exactly what I needed to hear: she reminded me that this friend was sucking the life out of everyone around her. She never had a positive word to say about men and hanging out with her was making ME sad.

I came down pretty hard on J here, because in many ways, he reminds me a lot of many women that I know. The constant complaining about "All women are evil" (change the sex and it's another poster), the complete LACK of any RESPONSIBILITY for what his part is in all his life's drama... it's unhealthy and toxic to the people around them.

I've learned that these are people to be pitied, but not to be coddled and certainly not to be around much.

PS: As for the little things building up, well, it's possible it's true. But learn from it and move on. Don't obsess about it.
Comment: #14
Posted by: nanchan
Tue Sep 30, 2014 9:24 AM
I don't think Daniel went out with Ariel just for sex, he was recently divorced and wanted to spend some time with a woman. Daniel didn't know what he was doing in the "dating" world; he married his childhood sweetheart. He came on like "gangbusters" because he didn't know. And yes after three months it occurred to him he wanted to "learn from women" which was yes code for "dating" other women which is code for sleep with other women. I don't think he wanted to "he wanted to sleep with as a many as possible before he settled down," Daniel just wanted to experience new and different things. At least Daniel didn't date another woman before he told. I'm curious as to why him and his childhood sweetheart are divorced. Going on a blind date and several dates after is the time to be finding out things. One of the women I dated, and ended up in a relationship with, I should have done just that. The woman that cuts my hair at the time tried to tell me, but I didn't listen. Maybe Daniel found out something about Ariel and didn't want to confront her about it.
Comment: #15
Posted by: J
Tue Sep 30, 2014 5:55 PM
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