Dear Dr. V,
I’ve been with this guy for two years. We started off as coworkers, friends. He was in a serious relationship with another girl when we first met. He broke up with her and we got closer, and I guess you can say I’m kind of the rebound girl because we started dating like a month and a half after he broke up with her.
Anyhow, there has always been this sort of disconnect between us. I know that with the previous girl there was fire and passion, as there was with the girls he’s dated before. He’s a very passionate and emotionally intense guy. The way he looks at a woman when he’s in love with her would make you melt. But I’ve never gotten that look. He never holds my hand in public, or even touches me in public. We also rarely make eye contact. He walks either in front of me, or behind me. And when we do walk side by side, there’s an obvious distance. And it’s always been commented on that we do not have a romantic chemistry at all.
I recently found out he has a confidante. It’s an older married woman who works with his dad’s company. He’s not cheating or anything, but he talks to her about things that are going on in his life. He started drinking heavily every night and would go on and on to this lady how depressed he was. She became really worried about him. And so did his family. Well, he continued to drink and got so drunk one night, he contacted the married lady and just completely went off about how unhappy he is and how much his life sucks.
Well, he proposed to me after that, and I accepted. I’m happy. But I know he’s not. He’s still awkward around me and avoids contact. You would think that by proposing he would loosen up a little. But people always talk about how miserable or disinterested he looks. I love him; he’s a wonderful man. But I don’t think he loves me and is staying for all the wrong reasons, yet I don’t want to let go and I’m willing to go through with a marriage knowing how unhappy and empty he is. He has no fire for me at all. It’s like he’s a shell, the connection is not there, it’s all too obvious. I try to make up excuses, But it’s clear he’s not in it for love and that his heart just is not in this.
I’m unwilling to let go on my own because I’m happy. Which is very selfish, I know. But I can’t help it. Everything I’ve said, some of you are probably thinking that’s it’s clear what’s going on and what I have to do. But I can’t.
I can see that you put a lot of thought into your question, and that you are struggling with finding the best passage through the situation you now find yourself in. I will do my best to give you the most complete and hopefully, helpful, answer for your complex question.
It’s very easy for someone not in your position to judge and say, “It’s obvious things aren’t working, she should leave.” They’re not dealing with the emotional turmoil you are — they’re not waking up every morning in the same place as you, faced with the same upsets and frustrations. I hope I can provide you with an objective view that will clear the confusion.
The relationship you are in, as it now exists, is not functioning in a healthy way. The path you’ve been following has now reached a fork, and if you wish to move beyond the problems you now face you need to make a choice and move forward. You can try to work with your partner to repair your relationship (I strongly suggest enlisting the services of therapist or counselor), or you can choose to leave the relationship.
On the face of it, it sounds as if neither of you are truly happy. I think you may know more than you give yourself credit for. Perhaps you have already realized the best action to take, and are looking outside of yourself for reassurance. Something I noticed in your letter was that you would often answer your own questions, or after giving examples of what I think any person would find upsetting, you offer a statement that these things didn’t bother you.
For example, you’ve mentioned how you feel there’s not just a lack of romantic chemistry, but simple eye contact; you said your partner won’t even walk alongside you when you’re out, and that he has been choosing to confide his inner thoughts and feelings in another woman at work, rather than you. I mean no disrespect, but I can’t help but question your statement of “I’m happy.” Could it be that you are trying to talk yourself into being happy in a situation that though painful and unsatisfactory for you, has become familiar and perhaps in its own odd way comfortable? It can often seem easier to stay in familiar pain rather than move into the unknown, but I believe you deserve better than what you are currently allowing yourself. As it now stands, you are at best settling for less and at worst condemning both you and your partner to a life sentence of unhappiness. Could you truly be happy and fulfilled married to man you knew was not in love with you?
You say that there was no cheating involved, but to me, your partner’s relationship with the married woman at work constitutes a kind of emotional infidelity. This is not to say people in committed relationships shouldn’t be able to confide in other friends and loved ones, but when someone isn’t sharing and connecting on this deep and meaningful personal level at all with the person they’re supposedly ready to spend the rest of their lives with, it raises a red flag for me. In fact, nearly all the behaviors that you talked about raise red flags for me.
But again, I think you know what’s in your heart and are looking outside of yourself for something that must be found within. Looking back at your letter again, right at the end you said in not so many words that you know what you have to do, but you can’t. Here I disagree with you. You can. At this moment inside of you, you carry all the strength and courage you will ever need, it just needs to be activated. Find it in your heart to love yourself enough, and the courage to care for yourself will follow.
Whichever way you choose to go, I urge you to try not to sour your heart with anger, resentment or contempt. Honor your emotions, let them run their course and express them appropriately; but I’ve found that all too often when lovers confront their issues or part ways, accusations and blame for whose fault it is that things aren’t perfect becomes the focus, rather than finding the best, most empathetic and loving way through an already difficult time. When two people aren’t compatible it isn’t anybody’s fault. You wouldn’t blame a Mac for not being able to run a pc program, right? So there is no need to make anyone “The Villain.” I once heard how the relationships we move in and out of as we go through life are all lessons enriching us as people. It may seem oxymoronic, but even in loss there is gain.
I realize you are at a difficult point in your life. I imagine fear, anger and sadness could all be swimming in your emotional ocean, along with many other feelings. I really do believe that the only thing more difficult and painful for you than moving forward in your life would be staying exactly where you are. To do that would be a great disservice to you. You have been blessed with the gift of life. You have a self-obligation to realize yourself in this existence at your greatest possible potential. You deserve to love and be loved in return. It is your responsibility to make sure you are in a place both inside and out where that can happen.
Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.
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