I’ve decided to add a new feature to the blog: your letters! Well, okay, I’ve been doing letters for a while. But usually I would edit them down to their essence, extract one solid lesson from it, and present it to the world.
Well, real life is messier than that, and your letters reflect that. So henceforth I’m going to put up whole letters that you guys send me (identifying data removed), with my complete, unedited response. ‘Cause y’know what? I’ve got unlimited space on my blog!
If you’ve got a good one, here are the guidelines:
- Keep it short. Just ’cause I’ve got room doesn’t mean you should go bananas. Think about what’s going on before asking me, and distill it down to 100-200 words. Bonus: it’ll give you clarity on your situation.
- Tell me a little bit about who you are: age, location, work, educational background are useful for readers to relate to. And if you want to remain anonymous, leave out identifying information like blood type and credit card number.
- Make sure there’s a question in there. If you say “I’d like your feedback”, I may just respond with “Wow.”
- Remember that my expertise is in the dating and courtship aspect of things, not ongoing relationships. For that, there are much better qualified experts who can attend to your needs.
That said, here’s today’s letter (which you’ll see is too long by about 800 words):
Dear dr Ali,
I am a passionate reader of your tao of dating.
Whether i am a good progressive student of your ideas? i do not know. I know i love your way of approaching relationships and i have been learning from you so much. I decided to write to you because I need you perspective. I feel confused, disoriented. I am not sure If i am losing a good guy or it is just my illusion.
I have been in a relationship with Jonathan for 3 months. We met online and shortly after we met he wanted us to be exclusive. The relationship began in a beautiful way: great compatibility of our interests, easy to communicate. Great chemistry. I have noticed he definitely made more effort for this relationship to work. 3 weeks ago everything began to change. We spend all weekends together, he made effort to make me feel like his home is mine. The where some cultural differences that created tension between us: he is 59yo African-American working for many years as an executive in a major company, I am 45yo European woman, psychotherapist. The cultural differences were about me feeling like his guest at his home and him expecting me to feel like it was my home. It was too soon for me, which he read us me being unengaged. We talked a lot but it, it was hard for him to understand. I felt pushed. He respected that.
He talked about how seriously he felt about our new relationship: made me feel included in his plans and his dreams, talked about his job ambitions. Two weeks ago I shared feeling him being distance sometimes: when we are in bed making love, playing, or just talking I feel great closeness. When we are talking over breakfast or dinner or just spend time in his home I feel him being somehow distant. When we are outside of his place: in elevator or outside of his building (he lives in penthouse of very exclusive complex where he is the only Black resident there) I feel alone since he is detached.
Initially he was open to talk about it and even made effort to work on that. The second weekend after that conversation I left his car upset slapping the door of his car. We did not talk for 3 days (first time ever). I called since I felt guilty after he tried to create a good time for us, give me a gift, and drove be back home .
From that point I have been struggling with understanding what is going on. We met for dinner which I initiated: he said that he does not want to hurt me and he felt horrible to see face full of pain. Stated that it was unacceptable for him, wanted me to decide what we should do. When I said I did not know sine I felt he lost interest, he denied. Said that does not matter what he did he felt he was doing something wrong. He offered to start over and build from friendship. I did not agree. I tried to repair what I damaged. Went to spend a Hurricane Irena weekend with him. Got more comfortable in his house. He shared he felt I was more engaged.
After the weekend, that went slightly better, he kept calling me during the day and we talked every night until I shared my impression that our conversations were official and cold.
He said that he does not want to lose me and feels like I am very afraid that he would hurt me. He accused me of bagging him to break up with me. My intention was to have a conversation about what is going on between us. I wanted to know what he wanted me to do. He said “I want you to do what you want to do”. Even though I asked for clarification, he said that he does not have anything more to say. Did not call me since then.
The important part of this is that he has been going through very difficult time in his job… he may need to relocate and we discussed it before.
I am having a serious dilemma here: I feel like he does not care, even though he says he does. I do not feel we are in the relationship anymore. He avoids conversations about ending it. But it feels this way. He says he does not want to lose me but he lost determination to work on us. On one hand I understand he deals with something big right now and may not be able to handle something as gentle as the relationship. On the other hand I do not want to be left with no clue.
If not his current circumstances, I would end it right away since I feel he does not make effort. I do not want to be one of those woman who leave a man when he needs her support the most. He had many experiences of being betrayed and left by woman. I would be able to be for him and with him when he is going through his drama, but I do not want to guess.
It feels like I damaged something and I do not know what to do. Or maybe it is just in my head. I do not understand if he pushes me away since, as he said, he does not want any more difficulties and challenges now, or maybe he wants me to be in this with him. If I call, it may feel like I am desperate and I am forcing myself on him. If I do not call, he may feel I left him (his greatest fear is to be left)
I am wondering if he is just not giving me a sign that this relationship does not have that much worth for him. I would appreciate your feedback
PS. Forgive my clumsy English.
Dear Kristina —
Thanks for writing! First, I will note that there is no concrete question in your letter.
This is very important: if you don’t know what you want, you’re very likely not to get it. So, Kristina: what do you want? Does this relationship make you happy? Does his presence make you feel more alive, sexier, smarter, stronger — just a better version of you? Do you feel fulfilled? And most of all — is it FUN?
If so, all relationships have pluses and minuses and you deal with that. If not, then move on! Even though I haven’t observed you in this particular relationship, this much I know: what you described doesn’t sound like anyone’s idea of fulfillment. Nor does it seem very fun.
Also, you’re overthinking it (as evinced by the length of your letter). Communicate what’s in your heart directly! For pete’s sake you’re a psychologist – this is what you do. Communicate directly, clearly, with simple words, and repeat if necessary — guys can be pretty dense when it comes to stuff like this. A good rule-of-thumb is to describe how you feel in response to his actions, vs saying ‘you did this to me’. Do it in person if at all possible. And enough walking on eggshells (“his biggest fear is being left”) — cut to the heart of the matter. At 59, he’s a big boy — he can handle it. And if he can’t, you’re with the wrong man.
One more thing I’d like to mention: your PS comment: “Forgive my clumsy English.” Look — if I could write German or Swedish half as well as you write English, I’d be ecstatic. Sure, your English isn’t perfect, but it’s better than 95% of the letters I get from native speakers.
What am I getting at here? Listen carefully, because this is very important: Quit living your life as an apology. This is it — this is who you are. A guy is either going to love you for who you are, or not at all.
People can only love us for who we are, not who we aren’t. There is no future point in time when you suddenly will cease being you, and then you’re lovable. You’re perfectly lovable right now, or you never will be.
When you live your life as an apology, you tend to settle for people who don’t treat you so well, because, well, that’s all you deserve, right? Because you’re not all that lovable anyway. And you should be extra-careful lest you lose this little bit of attention you’ve managed to find for yourself.
WRONG! So wrong on so many levels. Recognize your power as the goddess — the woman who can praise, love, elevate, shine a bright light into any room she enters. That’s the real you! Once you realize you have that kind of power, you tend to become that kind of person more and more. And you will no longer settle for crumbs.
Now go forth and march confidently towards your happiness. Solid, lasting relationships tend to be a little easier than what you describe.