Are You Dating a Relationship Terminator?

By Josie Brown

threesomeTo all of his buddies, Andy* is considered a great friend: he is intelligent, articulate, financially successful, and someone who knows how to have fun.

To their wives, Andy is considered a great catch, except for one thing:

He’s been divorced three times already.

Having recently entered his forties, Andy is quite aware that his inability to sustain a primary relationship has kept him from experiencing parenthood and other important life events now being enjoyed by many of his closest friends. “In hindsight, I’m sure I’ve found ‘Ms. Right’ a number of times. But either I didn’t recognize it, or didn’t want to admit it to myself,” Andy explains with a somewhat uneasy laugh. “My friends call me ‘the terminator’. No matter how good the relationship is, I’ll find a way to screw it up.”

Relationship sabotage has many forms: for example, a significant other will make hurtful statements, or withhold information to his girlfriend in order to send the message that he “doesn’t have to report back” to her. Or, he flirts with another woman in front of his wife; worse yet, he may initiate an affair, despite the fact he truly loves his wife and has no real feelings for the other woman.

So, what makes a man back off from a committed relationship?

All men have a need for emotional intimacy.But sometimes an event in one’s life will trigger a psychic disconnection from this very important need. It might be a reaction to a lack of adult intimacy he witnessed as a child. Then again, it may be due to an emotional loss he experienced in childhood or adolescence.

Gregory S. Smith, a licensed independent social worker and counselor who specializes in relationship conflicts, acknowledges that such urges to sabotage a good thing may be manifested in one of many fears. “Some men fear losing their independence,” says Smith. “Then again, a”terminator’ might be afraid that he is unworthy of a successful relationship. He might also be afraid that, should the relationship end, he would be the one to get hurt.”

As a terminator’s feelings for his partner intensifies, explains Smith, he then panics. “This man thinks, ”’m giving up by being too committed.’ Or perhaps, ‘I’m doing things only because she wants me to.’ In other words, his biggest fear is that things just won’t work out.”

To avoid this pain, says Smith, a man will steel himself with indifference toward his partner. It feels safer to wants less, to feel less. That way, if she decides she doesn’t want him, then it doesn’t hurt so much.” A terminator will also initiate behavior that is guaranteed to sabotage the relationship. This of course, radically increases the likelihood that it will fail.

Are women as likely to go into terminator mode?

Yes, says Smith, but this behavior is more overt in men because, unfortunately, it is tolerated in our society. “Men are more likely to think, ‘I can go it alone.’ ”


1. He’s a flirt and a player — with every girl that walks by.

2. He comes on hot and heavy — then cools down quick, for no obvious reason.

3. He’s broken a long string of hearts.

4. He doesn’t have any gal pals AT ALL.

*Not his real name.


Josie Brown,’s Relationships Channel Editor, is the author of two novels: IMPOSSIBLY TONGUE-TIED, and TRUE HOLLYWOOD LIES. Her next book, written with her husband, Martin, is the perfect self-help manual for your BFF (…okay, and for you, too). It’s THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO FINDING MR. RIGHT [September 2009]


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