Q. I’m very much in love with an elusive man and it’s making me miserable. He says he loves me, and when we’re together, it’s magic. The problem is, he won’t let me into his life. I’ve never met his friends, he cancels dates at the last moment so I can’t count on him, he refuses to make a commitment, and the very few times I telephoned him, he was furious. I’ve already told him—several times—that his rejecting behavior is too painful, that we should stop seeing each other. Then he calls, says he needs me, and our love story starts all over again. What should I do?

A: Are you certain this is a love story? If I’m reading things correctly, you’re miserable when you’re in the relationship, and you’re miserable when you aren’t. In other words, you’ve allowed yourself to be emotionally dependent on someone who hurts you. Now ask yourself why. Why accept rejection? Do you really want to continue with someone who makes you unhappy? Is that what love means to you? You know, sometimes a rejecting person becomes a desirable love object … simply because we can’t have them.

You can, of course, confront this man, give him the choice of either letting you into his life or making a complete break. But this time you’ll have to mean it — and that means not taking him back again when he calls. However, if you do decide to continue with the relationship, don’t imagine that, one day, he’ll miraculously change. He won’t.

Whatever your decision, perhaps now is the time to start doing something positive for yourself. Think of a project, one you’ve wanted to do for years. Something that will broaden your social circle and rebuild the confidence undermined by an unhappy relationship. Why not take painting classes? Or learn how to draw cartoons? Or learn to play a musical instrument until you’re good enough to play in a local band? You can also reconnect with old friends or join an amateur theater society, a book club. How about starting a romance reading group through your library? Perhaps after discussing what love really is, you’ll be able to redefine your expectations. And then discover a lovely, happily-ever-after story of your own.

~ J. Arlene Culiner, author of All About Charming Alice