Dear Alison and Tony: Thanks for allowing me to send this over from Wizpert. Here’s my issue. My girlfriend and I have been dating just over a year. Today she told me that while she loves me, she has decided that she really isn’t in love with me. She said I’m really special to her and she loves being with me, but since she isn’t in love with me, she can’t see us getting married and having a life together. I’m devastated, because I thought things were going well, and in fact, I’d planned to ask her to marry me after we graduated from college next year. Neither one of us is dating anyone else (that I know of) and she hasn’t said she wants to break up with me either. I’m so confused. I’m not sure I should ever see her again. What do you think this all means? Jake, just wondering
Alison’s Take: Jake, I can’t tell you what this all means, other than your girlfriend wants to take a break, maybe a permanent one. But let’s start by trying to define the difference between love, and being in love. There’s the almost mystical, instant love a mother has for her baby, and there’s the pure simple love you feel for your family, really close friends, and your pets. You know them well, and you know their faults, but you will love them no matter what. Then there is the kind of passionate feeling you have for someone who is your lover and/or partner, for whom you have romantic and intimate feelings. Some say this is lust, but you don’t have to know someone long, or at all, to have that kind of can’t-keep-my-mind (or my hands) off them feeling.
Interestingly, although that kind of “in love” feeling is what generally motivates people to partner up, and the feeling rarely lasts for long, After you get to know someone, with their “warts,” the real person emerges. Real love takes time to develop. In the past, when most marriages were arranged, romantic love wasn’t expected and few couples experienced that “in love” stage, but those partners often grew to like, and then genuinely love each other. Best friends have the kind of staying power (when things get rough) that romances, don’t. When you realize that you really love someone, even with their faults, you are likely to love them for all time. So perhaps, just loving someone is the ideal. However, like most women, your girlfriend needs to feel the romance, first.
I can’t really give you much consolation, other than to sympathize with the fact that no one likes to be rejected. But I can give you advice (that’s why you wrote to Leather and Lace Advice, isn’t it)? If your girlfriend has already told you she’s not that into you, and you’re not even engaged, it’s not at all fair or decent to keep you hanging on. She should do the right thing and let you go and find someone else. It could be that your girlfriend is ambivalent, confused, or might just be still young and inexperienced. Her declaration might just be a way of telling you that she needs more time to figure out what she wants and needs in a life partner. But it is clear that you should take a break and you are going to have to be the one to cut the cord. Tell her to go find what she wants, and you should date other people, too (even if you don’t want to). Both of you are young and have time to find other partners who will be lovers and friends and yes, in love with you, as well.
Tony’s Take: Jake, you are not in as bad a position as you think you are, but you have to handle it properly. A woman, at age 21, is still figuring out who she is. She is looking at getting a job and supporting herself and frankly, once outside the confine of home and school she is looking on exploring the world and other relationships. It isn’t you, you just can’t compare with her hopes and dreams. This infatuation with her new life will last for a couple of years until she is no longer the new girl on the block and the lonely reality of making it on her own starts sinking in. Around age 23 she will realize her parents and most specifically her mother was right about a lot of things and they will start getting closer. By age 27 she will be over the single life and be looking to settle down, this is when you start becoming very attractive again to her. If you are available and she is available you can try making it happen again then. If not and she is single at 35, she will look fondly back at your relationship and you have a chance again. This repeats again in her 40s if she gets divorced or again sometime in her 50s when she considers the mistakes she has made. If she walks away you will never be off her mind when she is alone because she gave you up.
Now the way you screw it up is trying to be her friend, you are not, you are her boyfriend or nothing. When you’re young, being a friend is deadly because it is impossible to get beyond that. So if she wants to see you or talk to you she has to go out on a date with you and she has to treat you like a real boyfriend, the good night kiss, being lovers if that is appropriate, and no long telephone conversations talking about her life or even your life (women are tricky like that). The point is, young women don’t feel often feel romantic about male friends, so don’t go there! Iif she wants to talk she can go out with you and treat you like a boyfriend, in which case you accept one or two calls. Also you need to step up your game, as they say in the Rock and Roll business “always leave them wanting”. Be more passionate and dominating in kissing her. In bed if you can get there, make it about her, get her off and do not allow her to get you off, leave her wanting more. Make her remember what she has given up. You need to grow, also. You need to not be boring, to take on the world around you. You need to go to art museums and gallery openings. You need to see ballet and listen to symphonies. You need to read great books, watch old and foreign films and learn about wine and food. The great killer of relationships is boredom so do not be boring.
On the dates I suggested take her to the museum or gallery opening or ballet or symphony or old film or foreign film or wine tasting. Most young people confuse “in lust”, “in love” and loving someone. She thinks not feeling “grand passion” means that she is not in love with you, when she is alone in the middle of the night she will eventually figure it out. If you want her show her passion whenever you can, the problem with college relationships is you fall into easy sex which is ultimately boring. Caring, caressing, holding kissing, these show passion, this is the feedback that people need to make them feel alive.