I’m not sure I’m “in love” with her

My Divorce Story – By Undecided:

I’m a 27-year-old professional and my girlfriend is a 24-year-old graduate student. We’ve been dating for over six months, and I have some doubts. However, this relationship is unprecedented for me in so many ways, and there’s been so much going on in both our lives “outside” our relationship that I can’t seem to sort things out.

I love her very much. We talk to each other about all kinds of things, and whatever disagreements and/or misunderstandings we’ve had, sooner or later we always seem to be able to talk about them and get at the “real issue.” We also have a tremendous amount in common as far as our backgrounds, values, and life goals.

What’s the problem, then? Well, for one thing, I’ve had several relationships that lasted right around five months. I don’t know specifically why that was the length of time, but upon self-examination I realized that after getting to know someone for a few months, we were less of a “mystery” to each other, and maybe when my flaws and insecurities began to show, I started to feel less like the knight in shining armor and lost interest. I have a history of getting involved with people whose background and/or circumstances were a ticking time bomb (e.g. traumatic childhood, age gap, religious differences), and those relationships generally ended when the thrill of being “savior” wore off and I came to be objective about my partner’s “tragic flaw,” which I had known about from the start.

I know that a lot of my own insecurities have caused me to act this way. However, I discovered just last fall (right around when we started dating) that I have a mild learning disability. This condition, and not having known that I have it, has led me to be extremely hard on myself. As much as I had accomplished in school and in my career and personal life, there was always the sense that I was “underachieving,” and there was no shortage of people around to express their disappointment in me. Most difficult was my parents, and specifically, my father, who has this need to be the knight in shining armor. . . .

Since my discovery last fall, which came after a year of therapy, following twelve years of self-interested doctors and wrongly prescribed medications, I have had more upheavals. Within a two-week period this winter, I lost my job, received a notice from my landlord terminating my month-to-month lease, and totaled my car. I was spending hours on buses to travel relatively short distances around the suburbs to get to job interviews and to search for a place to live. I stayed as positive as I could, and my girlfriend was a tremendous source of support. She was, and continues to be, a true friend.

I am still struggling with a lot of issues, ones that still affect all those around me. Among them, now that I have a new approach to life, as well as a new car and apartment, I’ve been re-examining what I want to do with my life. I’ve been working as a consultant, and my concept of career choices has changed dramatically in that with my newfound understanding and self-confidence, I am more willing to take risks and to take things “as they come”. My girlfriend is very conservative, the “brake” to my gas pedal. I appreciate her concern, and since I can be impulsive, I know I often need that balancing.

But I still can’t help wondering if there’s part of her that wants me to take a “safe” route that may not be what will ultimately be best for me, but will allow me to sooner address her desire to get married and have children. She has her own share of insecurities, having been an overweight child until age 14, when her father died in a car accident, at which time she lost the weight, started getting straight A’s, and helped her mother care for her three younger siblings. With me, her behavior has become increasingly needy, and I’m starting to get very tense about it.

How could I not want to be with someone who’s stuck with me through all this? I love her very much, but I’m not sure I’m “in love” with her. Am I just “bored,” having been with her longer than with anyone else? If so, isn’t that a bad thing after only six months? Have my feelings just been dampened somehow, as the result of all I’ve been through and all we’ve been through together — an awful lot for so early in a relationship?

Am I projecting my own insecurities? Am I “the pot calling the kettle black,” since I’ve been needy myself throughout my life, and still am at times? Recently I’ve been much more of a “loner”.

Am I putting too much emphasis on my sense of duty to her for what she has done for me? Am I out of my mind to be complaining in the first place? She’s a pretty amazing person.

I’m horribly confused, and I don’t want to say or do something that I would regret for the rest of my life.

Help!

Undecided

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1 thought on “I’m not sure I’m “in love” with her

  1. Dear Undecided:

    With all that has happened in this short relationship, I think she’s picking a poor time to make demands and put the pressure on. Let’s look a several issues.

    Issue one: feeling pressured to commit.

    No one should rush into a serious commitment like marriage and having children. Give yourself permission to take your time with this. If she really loves you, she’ll want you to be sure, too. Many people rush into serious commitments too early. When you’re considering a lifetime commitment, and starting a family, six months is just a start.

    How could you not want to be with her after all she’s done? Well, that would make your loving her or staying with her an obligation. Is she pushing too hard? Consider the possibility that she stuck with you because, as you say, she wants to marry and start a family. Sorry to say, some people use this type of tactic to make others feel obligated to them. It’s a shaky basis for a healthy long term relationship. You may subconsciously recognize this manipulation and feel a resistance to making a commitment.

    Or, perhaps she sees herself as a rescuer, also. If her behavior is not designed to manipulate, it would make sense, in light of the upheavals in your life recently, to wait until things have settled down. If she really loves you, wouldn’t she want you to be happy in your vocation? So, it may be she simply wants to tie you to her by insisting on this commitment.

    Perhaps you could simply tell her that since you’ve never gotten beyond five or six months in a relationship, you want to take it easy and not make a decision one way or the other right now, especially since you may be considering some professional changes.

    Issue two, wanting to do something different professionally.

    It is true that most women value security — perhaps because of the instinct to protect and provide for offspring — and men are generally more willing to take risks. A woman’s need for security may be as strong as her desire for children. But, since the two of you are not yet married, you have the right to decide on your profession and, in this age, women can wait to have children. Not only are there many ways to prevent pregnancy, but women are waiting longer to begin having children. So, what’s the rush? She’s only twenty-four and can easily wait a year or two to start a family.

    Certainly, it is better to establish a solid relationship before bringing children on the scene. And, it’s very important for your work to bring you satisfaction. Work consumes a large portion of one’s life, so it’s better to work at something you love.

    Issue three, shying away from women after the masks come off.

    No relationship is ever perfect and you describe many strong points in favor of this relationship. Is there something in your background which makes it difficult to get past the point in a relationship where the masks come off and both parties expose weaknesses and vulnerabilities? (Or have you simply not met the right person, yet?) You referred to your father as being a knight in shining armor, (meaning perhaps, perfect?) and referred to yourself the same way. Have you imposed unrealistically high standards on yourself because of your father’s influence? Did your father expect so much of you that you feel you can never live up to someone’s expectations, so when a relationship starts getting real, you feel vulnerable and end it?

    People are complex and act the way they do because of numerous influences. Sometimes we can figure out what makes us tick and make changes, other times we just have to try to cope with the way we are. Perhaps you need to have a good heart to heart with yourself, acknowledge your weaknesses (we all have them) and decide which ones you can do something about. At the same time, give yourself credit for your strengths (we all have those, too.) Don’t be so hard on yourself, but change the things you can change.

    While it will be necessary to make a decision about marriage eventually, you have the right to take your time. If you had been dating exclusively for a couple years, and still couldn’t make up your mind, even enough to set a date and get engaged, she would have good reason to force the issue, so she could get on with her life. But, six months? Nah!

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