To many people, the term “Seductive Withholder” is self-explanatory. SW’s are men and women who vacillate between being available and unavailable. One moment they are romantic, alluring, in pursuit and then suddenly (often without warning) they pull back and withhold affection, sex, and/or companionship. SW’s can drive you nuts.

I place SW’s into two categories. First you have the Narcissistic SW’s who enjoy toying with others because it gives them a “high.” Some narcissists feel remorse and continue doing this anyway, but most lack any kind of compassion for those they seduce and then abandon. An analysis of the narcissistic personality is beyond my area of expertise, but I do know it is a personality disorder rooted in childhood trauma. Unfortunately, treatment for this disorder is very ineffective. Narcissists don’t get better because they don’t get treatment. They have illusions of grandeur and don’t think they need help. If they do get into therapy they drop out quickly because their grandiosity is all that keeps them from falling apart. It is best to just stay away from narcissists, especially narcissistic SW’s.

The second kind of SW is the man or woman whose ambivalence is fear based. These people feel safe when they are alone and uncommitted. Then they get lonely and start dreaming about being in a relationship. Next they start looking around for companionship (and sex) and go into seductive mode when they meet someone they are attracted to. As the relationship progresses, they become frightened and pull back. Anything can trigger their anxiety. Intimacy and commitment are the two most common triggers.

There is hope for this kind of SW. With therapy and a few good books about relationships, they can carefully choose the right person (someone who is independent and self-sufficient) and then stick with the relationship even if their fear comes up. SW’s cannot do this alone. They have to first get treatment for being attracted to the “wrong” type of person (a common problem for SW’s). Then, when they learn who they should be looking for (and they find this person), they need a lot of help bolstering their resolve to stay committed.

Some SW only seduce and withhold once; then they move on. Others engage in this dance with the same person over and over again. The more codependent the victim of a SW, the longer this will go on because codependents are have a high tolerance for suffering in relationships and tend to hold on despite all obstacles. See my book Addiction to Love for more about codependency.

What do you do if you are a SW? Get help and CHANGE. If you are attracted to SW’S, or have a history of getting involved with them (by accident) please read about this and get some help. As I say in my book, The Art of Changing, this involves both therapy and support groups.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Peabody is the author of Addiction to Love: Overcoming and Obsession and Dependency in Relationships and The Art of Changing: Your Path to a Better Life. For other articles written by Susan see her website