Like Romance Addicts, Seductive Withholders are a form of Ambivalent Love Addict.
Susan Peabody was the first to create the term "Ambivalent Love Addiction" as well as starting the organization "Love Addicts Anonymous" ( loveaddicts.org ). Ambivalent love addicts, according to Susan, tend to crave intimacy and closeness with a person and fear it at the same time. They tend to keep relationships at a superficial level through various means to prevent from getting close. The different types of ambivalent love addicts, according to Susan, include:
- Torchbearers - or unrequited love addiction
- Saboteurs - sabotage relationships at the point they get serious and don't look back
- Romance Addicts - addicted to multiple partners, bonding with each one but at the same time avoiding a deep involvement and commitment
- Seductive withholders - repeat a pattern of being available and then unavailable
Seductive Withholders are similar to Saboteurs, except that they don't completely walk away from the relationships they sabotage. Saboteurs usually don't look back once they have sabotaged a relationship. If they do, and especially if they re-initiate the patter over and over with the same person, they then become what is called a "Seductive Withholder".
Seductive Withholders may also have Torchbearer tendencies as well, trying to reinitiate relationships they ran away from. Sometimes getting a high off of wanting to see if their love is still requited... Perhaps wanting and craving for it to be requited... However, if their love interest should again grow more deeply attached to them, they may flee once more. They can sometimes continue this pattern on and off for as long as their love interest is able to endure it and continue to take them back.
Thus, Seductive Withholders could be defined as those whose love style is to swing back and forth between withholding sex, companionship, commitment and affection, then coming onto a love interest again when they want them again or it feels safe. See http://www.alumbo.com/cgi-bin/redir.pl?url=http://brightertomorrow.... for Susan Peabody's article.
According to Susan, there are two main kinds of seductive withholders. The first kind's behavior is narcissistic based. The second kind's behavior is fear based.
For the narcissistic type of seductive withholder, seducing someone over and over again after abandoning/provoking a break-up becomes a kind of game. It can be about getting a high from playing with a persons feelings and seeing if they can win that person back. Even if they feel bad doing this, they can keep doing it anyways, possibly not knowing why. They seem to lack empathy towards the hurt they cause. Narcissistic seductive withholders may suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Such a personality disorder is often rooted in either having experienced severe childhood trauma where the personality errects this persona to protect itself, or it can be rooted in extreme spoiling and being given no boundaries. Either way, the NPD suffered has a sense of entitlement, manipulativeness to get what he/she wants and a lack of empathy towards others. If you are with a love interest who is a narcissistic seductive withholder, it could be unlikely that they will get help or change. Narcissistic disorder is one of the hardest personality disorders to treat because often narcissists have no sense of responsibility or accountability. They prefer that others be forced to adjust themselves to taking care of the narcissists needs, wants and feelings, even if it means their partner is the one receiving psychological support for any damaged self-esteem incurred.
The fear based seductive withholder may assume getting close to anyone means getting hurt. Still, they crave closeness and relationship when feeling lonely. They don't have trouble being alone or uncommitted in general (it's feels safer for them that way). However, they can feel attracted the wrong types for them. The two main triggers for their withholding phases of love, commitment and bonding are generally emotional intimacy and commitment.
Unlike narcissistic seductive withholders, the fear based kind can genuinely care for and are attracted to the person(s) they abandon. Also, unlike narcissistic seductive withholders, those whose behavior is fear-based can respond to therapy and heal. Part of their healing involves learning to attract a partner who is the right type for them.... who is independent and self-sufficient, but also patient. They then have to learn to stick with the relationship even when their fear comes up. I also think communication is key. If the person can talk about their fear with the partner and feel understood and supported rather than just running away, they have a better chance sticking through.
Codependent, Love-Hate, Fear of Rejection Seductive Withholders
There is particular type of client I read who may be an extension of the fear-based withholder type. These types are seductive withholders are combinations of codependent, torchbearer and seductive witholder love addicts. They might be with someone who is using them or abusing them in some way (or they think they will due to past trauma and lack of trust), or who is non-committal in ways, married, cheating or an unrequited love of some sort.
They begin a dance with their love object, who there is often develops a love-hate relationship. When they are committed to their love object they feel unsafe, frustrated, oversensitive or frightened of getting hurt. If with men who are in some way unrequited loves or unavailable in ways or not improving how they see fit, they may feel frustrated the relationship seems going nowhere. They then want out of the relationship.
However, as soon as they are out of the commitment, they become terrified of losing the person or that person moving on and getting over. Then they want back in. It seems a fear of general rejection or abandonment for some clients be they in or out of relationship with their love object. For others, I think it is just loneliness both in and out of the relationship. They feel lonely and the relationship isnt giving enough while in it yet leave and are lonely wanting what little they had back. On some level they really dont feel the love object is worthy of them or can feel at the same time they are unworthy of their love object, and the dance becomes all about wanting the love object as something idealized (wanting them to change), rather than as they are.
So they end up back and forth breaking and pulling back because they feel that the person is not right for them, using them, not committing or abusing them in some way. Yet once feelings of loneliness creep in or thoughts "what if" the person can change, they want back and move into seductor mode to try to get them back. They may have secret hopes that after breaking off a commitment that the love interest will be hurt enough into wanting them back on new terms or will make a show of caring in some way. They may even entice the love interest into doing so and then drop them cause again they view the person not good enough.
Often it has bad effects though because it often opens them up to more mistreatment as to get the person back. Some can end up either in torchbearer mode craving love from someone they wonder if they will ever contact them again or come back, or they themselves initiate reconcilliation and then may have to compromise themselves more or they become willing to endure more abuse to get the persons love back. It also has a damaging effect on the person they are relating with (who may end up feeling abused themselves) if the issue was fear of commitment with this person, this person may be even less willing to fully invest or commit. But the seductive withholder love addict keeps obsessing on the relationship and cannot let go.
Sometimes I've read women or men who are SWs inlove with SWs. Sometimes its two narcissists SWs, sometimes a narcissist and a fear based SW and sometimes two fear based SWs. The narcisists ones can become completely cruel, abusive, punishing, and hurtful to one another and you wonder why they go back at all. The two fear based ones are frustrating to read too cause they just wont communicate at all and no one wants to set a boundary or really open up an honest conversation about whether to make a concerted effort to put two feet in or to take them both out and move on. Either case, both partners can be strong willed and independent types yet become somewhat codependent and yet addicted to eachother in an on again off again relationship full of games (threats, standing up, provoked jealousies - usually triggered off deliberately to punish the love interest in some way, advancing, retreating, do I love him, do I not, does he love me, does he not, love vs hate)... and the couple is being more cruel and withholding to one another than loving one another. The relationship becomes a game of who can withhold more and then how to seduce back. Ironically, often such a couple has an intense and conflicted sexual chemistry between them, though sex can be withheld when either party is in withholding phase.
Most of these types of on again off again clients I've read have the same pattern in childhood or can have history of being with someone in a fully committed abusive relationship that took time to get strength to fully leave (for men, I'm no expert, but seems it can also be if they were really betrayed or cheated on by a former committed partner or if they suffered a harsh divorce). Being neglected, abused or rejected in ways and attracting relationships where they begin a dance of attracting types they percieve are hurting them and that they shouldnt want (whether real or imagined), but wanting their love anyways, wanting to heal that hurt inner child who feels no one loves them. So they attempt to break but then that need for that love from someone kicks in...the need to feel worthy to that person which in these phases they idealize their love object, seeing them as superior rather than inferior.
Something that keeps them addicted in these relationships is the thrill and drama of the ups and down, and the sense of competition (to see if they can win love or approval from someone they perceive as unloving, distant or cruel) etc. Possibly both people need to learn to communicate their needs and feelings more. I find a lot of people I read in this situation just avoid asking for what they want and certain boundaries assuming they will never get it, or are asking for stuff over and over in scattered ungrounded nagging ways or breaking up and getting back together ways instead of just making an honest ultimatum... and so they just leave feeling despondent and then want back in hoping again they can get what they want.