What To Do When You’re In Love And They Aren’t

What To Do When You’re In Love (But Your Significant Other Isn’t)

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The Question

I’m really stressed out and I can feel my heart getting broken. I’ve been with somebody really amazing for about a year now, and we have a nice time together, but they don’t love me as much as I love them. I can just feel it. They like me, but something’s not there, and I can see them wondering why we’re dating. Can I save our relationship?

—Anguished Alex

The Answer

Okay. So, before I answer your question, I’m just going to quickly make sure that you know what’s going on with your relationship. Because there are really two possibilities here. The first possibility is that you’re correct — that you correctly perceive an affection differential between you and your partner. You feel “Extreme Love Extra Rainbow Plus,” and they feel only “Gentle Affection Bordering on Love Sometimes.” I will address that in a moment.

But first, I’ll talk about the second possibility, which is that your partner does love you, but you can’t see it, because you’re suffering from depression. This is one of the most common thought patterns of depressed people: thinking that people who say they love you really don’t, that nobody would really care for you if they knew the truth about you, that your friends or lovers are bored when you’re talking and they’re just humoring you. And depression is an incredibly common and horrible mental illness. So, hey, are you suffering from depression? If you think you might be, but don’t know, consult a therapist before you make any decisions about your relationship.

Now that we’ve covered that angle, let’s move on to the meat of the question. What do you do if your partner genuinely doesn’t love you as much as you do them, and if the amount of love they’re giving you doesn’t quite fulfill your needs? Like, what if you’re sure — you know that it’s not just that your partner expresses love differently from you, but that you don’t quite light fireworks in their chest the way you’d like to?

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any way you can turn this around. In my experience, and in the experience of a vast majority of people, love tends to flare up between two people, and then slowly fade out into friendship — not the reverse. It’s really, really unlikely that someone will just fall into starry-eyed love with you after knowing you for a long time. Your partner’s affection for you is most likely stable.

And that leaves two possibilities. The first is that you leave the relationship, and suffer incredible pain for a moderate amount of time — anywhere from three months to a year, depending on your level of resilience. The second is that you stay in the relationship, and suffer incredible pain for an indefinite amount of time — however long it takes for your partner to move on, which could be years, after which you watch them happily leap into a relationship with someone else.

So, you’re kind of in a position where you just have to pick what kind of pain you want. Would you like to be whipped with a flaming lash wielded by an ex-con who’s never known love, or bitten by ten angry, poisonous snakes fresh out of Angry Snake University? It’s that kind of situation. A terrible situation. And there’s no advice I can give you that’ll make it easy. But I think I can offer some useful guidance.

I think you should leave your partner. Yes, I know. It’s hard to even think about. Immediately, when you imagine leaving somebody you love, your mind is swarmed by bitterly painful thoughts — sort of a nostalgia in advance, where you imagine all of the specific qualities of your partner disappearing from your life forever. That cute quaver in their voice when they call you baby? Gone forever. The way they stroke your hair when you’re upset, or your scalp if you don’t have any hair? Also gone. It’s all just done. And that’s the stuff that gives your life a lot of its meaning, right now. And if you know that, if you lose it, you’ll never get it back again.

That’s true! All that stuff is true, and I can’t help you. You’ll never find anyone like your current partner. But there’s an upside to this, which is that when you eventually fall in love again — after just straight-up chugging gallons of pure pain for months — you’ll get something beautiful and different, and when you get it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Really. That may seem far-fetched, even if you’ve heard somebody else say it before. Even if you’ve fallen in love twice, so you’ve already experienced this phenomenon, you may not believe it.

Reflect on your current relationship for a second. Before you met your significant other, could you have possibly imagined all the stuff they do? Could you have invented their character? Probably not. They just emerged, fully-formed and strange, into your life, and filled you with all of their surprises.

Well, that happens again, eventually, because your partner isn’t the only unique and attractive person in the world. Many others are even accessible from the comfort of your home, on online dating sites. You can, and will, be fulfilled again, after you take a deep breath and, as the Marines say, embrace the suck. (No double meaning intended.)

But what if you don’t want to do that? Well, here’s what happens, sooner or later. Your relationship — which is already bad, but at least contains a reasonable number of sweet, romantic moments — starts to decay around you. As time goes on, you don’t get any of the deep love you really need, and you quietly become more and more resentful, while at the same time loving your distant partner more and more, because their affection is so scarce. That makes you annoyingly vulnerable, and that makes your partner cruel, even if they don’t mean to be. Every conversation, increasingly, is poisoned with undercurrents of aggression and resentment. No sex happens ever.

Your awful relationship consumes your life, and it’s all you can talk about, until it eventually implodes, in a catastrophic fight, or somebody ghosting abruptly, or whatever happens. And, after that, instead of remembering your partner as a wonderful person who didn’t quite have what you need, you spend years bitterly recollecting how you brought out the worst in each other.

That’s grim! That’s super, super grim! And while I can’t pretend that disengaging now, while you still love your partner, will be easy, it’s better to have a relationship end in a brief, merciful death, then with a long, slow illness.

Source : AskMen.com

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