To Leave or Lead Someone On?

When is it Time For You to break up or lead someone on?
When they are “all in” and you’re not. Maybe you care for them, but are no longer ‘in love’ and want more or want something or someone else.
Are you being mean or honest if you don’t break up?
In truth, they may think you’re mean if you break up with them. Did you lust after another, dabble on media and dive into an emotional affair that drew you away from them? If so take the hit. Own it. But…perhaps your feelings shifted and even you don’t know why. Our feelings may be elusive, but they’re real. They affect our minds, physical well being and health as well. You may as well embrace and feel entitled to your feelings, because they own and define you. Keep playing hide and seek with their feelings and yours, and risk that the lies and deception will eventually define you. Then everyone loses.
How can staying when you want to leave be worse than breaking up with them?

Leading them on creates a web of confusion. The one being led on clings to threads of hope they truly matter, but it only feels like that some of the time. They’re fed just enough emotional reinforcement to keep them from starving and moving on and this can cause long term damage. From personal experience, this is real and not rewarding.

Our lost feelings sneak out; we may look away, stay away more often, ignore a text or call, not because we want to be mean…we just don’t want to ‘fake it’ any more than we have to.

Either we continue to ignore or mistreat them until ‘they’ leave, letting us off the hook or…When they reach the end or their rope, we toss them a bone, pat them on the head or imagine someone else while we make passionate love to them or we ‘really’ fake it, just to get it over with. Bad karma, bad sex, deep wounds.

What is one of the most powerful tools of manipulation in the universe?

We tell ourselves we’re doing our best, don’t want to hurt them, but we’re being abusive in a big way…whether we want to admit it or not. Why? How?

Because the bone, the pat or the ‘fake’ sensation is intermittent reinforcement, and that is the most powerful tools of manipulation in the universe. Clinical experiments and evidence substantiate this. Casinos pay millions to perfect just how often and in what increments people need to be reinforced, to keep them in the game.

The malice of mind games.

The one being led on is vulnerable to developing an attachment disorder because of this process. It’s powerful. Defies logic. Is back brain driven. Trust me on this one. Writing my memoir was a research and education exercise, a catharsis and therapy to recover from over four decades of trying to be enough.

Clinical Evidence

The Skinner box experiments provided a rat with access to nearby socialization, to toys and to food it could obtain by pressing a lever. When food was dispensed each time they pressed the lever, they were happy, stable, sociable. But just like one who is “led on” those in control began to dispense food only at random. The rat, driven by survival instincts, soon became obsessed with the lever. It no longer socialized or played. The rat became so obsessed with the lever it would try-try-try to exhaustion, dehydration and starvation. Their attachment to the lever can relate to our ability to attach and try to be enough. To get the reward and reinforcement of being wanted and loved.

Why do people struggle against abuse and stay?

Fears over finances and family are major considerations, but confusion, fear, insecurity fostered by the intermittent reinforcement is too. It can alter our base behavior, needs and drive to survive. This is often the reason people stay in abusive relationships…beyond reason, even when others try to help them get away.

It isn’t about logic, it’s about the lever. They relate the relationship with survival. Don’t believe there’s anything to live for if they lose it. Intermittent reinforcement can lead to attachment disorders that overpower even survival instincts. Scary, but real.

Be honest with our partner. True to ourselves. A great mantra.

Own up. End the tug of war. Make up your mind, then speak up.

Being led on can consist of receiving just enough attention and reinforcement to cause such a shift to an attachment disorder, plummeting self-esteem…these are not conscious decisions. Whatever the intention, leading someone on is manipulation. Living a lie. It’s damaging and real, until we’re aware and brave enough to step back, be ruthlessly honest with ourselves, stop making excuses, and are willing to walk away.

We never want to believe someone we love is lying to us. We don’t want to call them a liar unless we know for sure and even then they often tell us if we were better, they’d be nicer. Blame shift. Toss us the shovel so we’ll dig ourselves in deeper.

Sometimes leading someone on isn’t malicious, it’s fear or cowardice to let go unless there is something or someone to go to. We signed up, vowed to stay, can’t untangle the mess, but we’re miserable and making them miserable and have a personal decision to make and own.

It is hard to be the one to break up, to tell a nice person you’re not in love with them. It’s difficult to decide to change both your lives. People who stay in unhealthy, unhappy relationships risk hurting themselves and their partner. Honesty can be brutal, but your integrity is at stake.

Danger Zone. 

This blog is not a ‘get out of jail free card’ for users; those character disordered narcissists or psychopaths tempted to share it as vindication. “I did her/him a favor dumping them.” If you’re one of those, integrity is not something you value. If you’re dealing with one of them, educate yourself. Check out my blogs. Other great resources are ,, and clinical psychologist Elinor Greenberg’s website, She’s the real deal.

Good guys and gals.

If you’re simply struggling with whether to leave a relationship or leading on a partner once you’re no longer in for the long haul I hope the above gives you things to consider. I’d love your input, mistakes you’ve learned from. That seems to be my method these days…learning from mistakes. Perhaps we can pool them and learn from one another.

For me…I’ve been through the fire, not only survived, but am thriving. Now single and dating, I hold myself accountable. Just did. Had to own up and break up with a good man after a six month relationship. Made my confused mind acknowledge my feelings, then spoke up kindly, but clearly.

The echoes of experience do keep me alert. 🙂

My best wishes,


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