A letter of vast proportions and implications:
Hi Dr. Ali:
I love your blog and try and visit frequently. I would say that I love love love orchid ice cream for the first time (and I’m nearly 43)! I know that you deal with dating and not “relationships” per se, but I think that you’re the right person to ask because of the unique circumstances of this particular “relationship”…..About me: I left my husband of almost 10 years because I married someone to whom I was ONLY intellectually attracted. The “chemistry” (reptilian brain) and the emotional/friendship (mammalian brain) parts were not there (we did nothing fun together). After one year (of being divorced) I ran into someone (while I was working) and it was ELECTRIC. I have never been this attracted before (still after 4 years). The sex is great (I even want more than he does, it seems).
BUT. he’s (50 years old and) never been in an LTR (he has had one relationship that lasted 2 years-25 years ago). Total bachelor. I have commented several times that “it feels like a short term relationship that has gone on for a long time.” – it turns out that I am probably the type of woman who can have a relationship with any man that is attracted to me (I don’t hold on to negative feelings and I let things “go” more than your average gal. I really try and see the big picture and don’t get mad at him for stuff that other women do and I’m very athletic). I can even have an LTR with a commitment phobic bachelor!…(who, I might add, had a pretty crappy childhood. alcoholic dad, mom did her best, but as the oldest boy he got the brunt of dad’s anger etc…). His bachelorhood (and basic introvertedness) makes sense to me. However, he seems to REALLY want this relationship, he constantly asks if I’m happy or if I’m mad or what I want (but he also is very critical (and will admit it)).
He doesn’t even understand the comment about the long short-term relationship. This is the “biggest” relationship that he’s ever had and yet less than a year ago he introduced me to a woman (who works in his building) as “his friend.” (I didn’t take his calls for 2 days after that and he got really freaked and apologized profusely and said “I’ve never been in a relationship for this long, it’s new for me; I’m SO sorry”)
Oddly, he believes that I don’t know how to communicate. I seem to be able to have fabulous and terrific “conversations” with just about anyone (except him). We are in the same business (a science based industry that has regulators (him) and consultants (me)) and yet we can barely talk about it because the conversations often go sideways with him accusing me of an inability to get my point across in a way that is acceptable to him. He gets annoyed when I get animated, he gets annoyed when I recount a conversation that I had with someone (and do it in dialog fashion). In short, I can really annoy him and I’m not used to that (still after 4 years!). It still doesn’t feel “easy” with him….(and I’m not used to that either!)
We do high risk recreational mountain sports together (I am extremely tough which is “expected” and yet can turn on me – he once said while we were skiing (a double black diamond) “sometimes I need you to be softer” ack!?!). The sports thing is great for bonding. We are a great couple in so many ways, but ironically, the intellectual attraction seems to be “missing.”
My questions for you are: do short term guys (and curiously he has extremely masculine facial features and is very tall) really ever “evolve” into long term guys? Can this man, who is apparently REALLY into the relationship, evolve his short term dating abilities (the first year was EASY! he did everything on a very predictable time line (am I a good boyfriend? (4 months), do you want to come to x-mas (5 months), I love you (7 months), here’s a key (8 months), etc) and then…..pfffftttt!) into a REAL long term satisfying intellectual (easy) rapport? He has disparaged marriage in the past (I’m not sure that I’m the marrying kind anyway), and gives me mountain gear for presents. we live 45 minutes apart and see each other every other week (for the whole week when I don’t have kids-oh! the kids think that he’s the coolest guy on the planet and we all do sporty things together).
one of his (male) friends laughs at me and says: you’re the one who had to have him!! (he has had probably 50 “girlfriends” who lasted less than one year and most less than 6 months). It is apparently very shocking to those that have known him that he’s so “committed” to this relationship because he never had the same girl around for very long. His friends and family love me. I am crazy about him and yet…. sometimes I think that he’s just not ever going to “let go” and let me in there….(and then I see some tiny inkling of progress….). Everyone (including my dad) said to me “he is a guy to have fun with, but if you want something “serious” or if you want a “partner” you’ll have to move on, bachelors are bachelors”
I apologize for the length of this, but I wanted you to get a good picture. it’s not cut and dried and I do think this particular question is right up your Ali (alley!). hahaha!!
Awright then. Now this is 926 words, which is 4.5x too many, compared to the “keep to 100-200 words” guideline. People! Let’s keep the letters short, shall we? Boil it down to its essence. You gain by considering your predicament and thereby seeing it more clearly. I gain by not having to don thigh-high rubber waders to go through your wordswamp to figure out your question. Fair? Excellent.
First of all, some observations: from the length of what you wrote, the nested sentences (and abundance of parenthetical remarks (and sub-parenthetical remarks)), I’m gonna say that you’re a super-smart woman who spends way too much time in her head. (You also told me you work in science, which was a hint :)
In his book The Time Paradox, Philip Zimbardo talks about how successful people tend to have a future-oriented time perspective. They are capable of postponing present pleasure for future gain and make plans that work. The flip side of that is that they sometimes overdo the planning, thinking so much about the future as to not be present enough to enjoy the moment.
So here are some points relevant to your predicament:
- All relationships are temporary. Even the best ones end in divorce or death. So it’s important to enjoy and appreciate what you have while it lasts.
- Don’t squeeze the lemon too hard. You’ve got a good thing going and you’re enjoying yourself. So give yourself permission to enjoy yourself now, without letting worry poison your pleasure. Worrying is like interest you pay on a loan you haven’t even taken out yet.
- Recognize your power, then wield it. From the look of it, you own this boy. He’s way into you. I know you’re already smart enough, so you just have to be savvy enough to actually use the principles from Chapter 12: Have – Making Relationships Last from The Tao of Dating, such as the irregular schedule of reinforcement, leaving the cage door open and connecting at three chakras. Has it ever occurred to you that he may be afraid of losing you, too?
- Accept the leopard for the leopard — don’t expect it to change its spots. If he’s a confirmed bachelor and you enjoy his company, then go ahead and enjoy his company! If you really want something else — a ring or some kind of money-back eternal guarantee — then go hang out with other people! As an aside, when you should be worried is when he says he wants to marry you, because he’s thinking that he can change his spots, which he really can’t. Which brings us to…
- Go hang out with other people. Nothing will get him more attached to you than knowing that he has competition. He will then rise to the occasion and want to be your #1. Also, it’ll get you out of this needy mindset. Go get thee some options, hotstuff.
- Focus on what you want, not what you don’t. If you’re driving on the freeway and keep saying “I don’t want to crash, I don’t want to crash”, you’ll probably crash. And if you focus on not losing him, you’ll lose him. Focus instead on what you want — namely, a harmonious, mutually fulfilling relationship. That way your prodigious mental powers will activate in the service of that worthy cause.
And for chrissakes, quit overthinking it. Be fully present, be in your body, enjoy the moment and have fun with it!