'I'm In Love With Someone Who Says He Loves Someone Else'

Is it ever worth waiting for someone whose heart is elsewhere? An expert weighs in.
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Being in love is an indescribable feeling – like this person was made for you and you for them. But when you find yourself falling for someone who’s in love with someone else, it can shatter your whole world. Am I not good enough for this person? Will they ever love me the way they love this person? Was it never really meant to be?

These are the questions this week’s reader Mandy is asking herself. “I’m in love with a man who has a virtual relationship with a woman in a foreign country,” she writes in. “They both have family and jobs in the country where they reside so he says he knows they will never be together. He says he loves her but isn’t in love with her.”

While they have only met once in person and he says it didn’t go well, the other woman was there for him during Covid isolation – and a health issue, Mandy adds. “He wants to date me and I’ve tried, but this situation is causing me to be less affectionate towards him, cautious, and frankly it’s breaking my heart! Do I keep dating him to build a relationship?” she asks.

What would you say to this reader?

Blackman asks Mandy why she is drawn towards this man? “He has made it clear that he is emotionally unavailable: his emotions are invested in an online relationship with a woman he has only ever met once (and it didn’t go well),” she says.

“This is the interesting bit,” she adds “In real life, he and the other woman did not connect – which means that he is not only invested in a relationship that is exclusively online, he is invested in a fantasy. Online, this woman can fulfil his needs: she is available, she is listening, he is visible to her and she can take care of him.”

Blackman wonders why Mandy is ignoring the red flags. “The man is ‘splitting’ the fantasy away from reality, and is prepared to accept the caregiving from her (so accepting the ‘idealised mother’ elements of her) but not the rest of her. I wonder what draws our reader towards someone who is both emotionally unavailable and who is invested in a fantasy that looks quite Oedipal?”

Can you love two people at the same time?

Yes, it is possible to love more than one person at the same time, Blackman says. “There are many cultures in this world whereby polyamory is the norm, and it is accepted for what it is,” she adds.

“But this kind of relationship has to have strong boundaries from the outset, and a lot of trust and communication in order for it to succeed. Our reader has made it clear that this situation is hurting her, and that she is more cautious and less affectionate as a result – and that she doesn’t want to feel this way.”

What practical advice would you give her?

To Blackman, it’s clear that Mandy’s needs are not being met and that she feels secondary to the online woman and her ability to nurture him.

“This man’s behaviour is confusing for her as it is a mixed message. He wants to date her, but is unwilling to give up on his fantasy relationship,” she says. “When a person is drawn to someone emotionally unavailable, it usually says something about their own attachment patterns.”

She says there are a number of reasons why this situation can develop:

  • The thrill of the chase
  • Being drawn to the mysterious
  • A lack of self-belief or self-respect that can cause a person to settle for less
  • The desire to fix the other to make them right for that person

“Somewhere in her unconscious mind, she feels connected to him, even though he is offering no connection to her.”

Could Mandy be happy and fulfilled with this man as he is. “It would be helpful to explore her attachment pattern through psychodynamic and attachment-based psychotherapy,” Blackman says, “so that she is able to understand why her past, and the impact of her own early relationships, should leave her drawn to someone so unavailable, and with whom there are so many red flags.”

Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.

Rebecca Zisser/HuffPost UK