30 second therapist

Help! My ex says she loves me -- but she is in a new relationship

Feb. 28, 2014 at 11:05 AM ET

This week, one reader asks about an ex who has been leading him on, while another wants to know how to deal with her husband who suffered deaths in the family. Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle cuts through the fluff with her love advice in TODAY.com's "30-second therapist" series.

Q: My ex-girlfriend of three years broke up with me almost two years ago. She claimed she never loved anyone the way she loved me. Last summer she contacted me — at the time she was in a relationship — but she expected to cheat on him with me almost every day. We did things like we were still a couple. I recently realized that I am falling for her again. She claimed I'm the one she wants to be with, but she doesn't want to hurt the other guy. On the other hand, she is having me while she is having the other dude. Every time I try to cut her loose, she won't stop calling me, telling me she loves me. Is it possible that she might still love me, or is she just playing with me? —Still in Love

Dear Still in Love,

You ask whether it’s “possible” girlfriend might still love you, or whether she’s “just playing” you for a fool. Really, dude, what’s the difference? You’re involved in a love triangle with a cheater. While it may feel enticing to try to “rescue” this damsel, would you ever trust her if she again became yours?

Before deciding what to do, determine your payoff in this charade. My Gilda-Gram explains, “A behavior only continues when there’s a payoff.” Do you get thrills from sneaking around? Is it a male competition between knights? Discover your motive, and substitute a more healthful one. For example, if you want thrills, find an amusement park. If you want competition, engage in a sport. When you fill your void, girlfriend may not seem so appealing.  —Dr. Gilda

Q: My husband of 20 years recently suffered the death of both his mother and younger brother, with whom he had a very close relationship. He has now told me he is not sure he loves me. He is cold and distant, only makes small talk with me. He says he does not want a divorce. But what does he want? I feel very rejected and lonely but I am afraid to talk to him. He does not seem to want to deal with our relationship at all. He has a lot of stressors right now and I know he has to deal with them. But, I am so lonely! What should I do? Should I leave him? Or, should I just be patient and wait (but for how long)? Neither of those options is very appealing. —Suffering

Dear Suffering,

Your husband is going through the grieving process. It’s not unusual for people to distance themselves from their spouses after such a shock, subconsciously fearing that loving presents the possibility of losing. By telling you he’s “not sure” he loves you, your husband frees himself from intense emotion that might prove disappointing, should anything happen to you, too.

Sometimes such fissures can tear a relationship apart; other times, they can create a closer bond, depending on the state of the marriage before the loss. You don’t deserve to feel “Invisible,” as Hunter Hayes sings. Hang in there for a while, and as the song says, maybe “someday you’ll look back on all these days, and all this pain is gonna be invisible.” But if you don’t see progress, you’ll know when you’ve had enough. —Dr. Gilda  

Want Dr. Gilda to answer your relationship questions? Send them in!

Dr. Gilda Carle is the relationship expert to the stars. She is a professor emerita, has written 15 books, and her latest is “Don’t Bet on the Prince!”—Second Edition. She provides advice and coaching via Skype, email and phone.

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