Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I just went on my tenth date with a guy and it turned into a marathon. After spending the morning together, we decided to drive to another city and see the sights there, and then we got back late at night.
On this and our other dates, we have not gotten sick of each other. Our sense of humor and intelligence and conversation flow is exactly on the same page. I definitely like him, and I'd rather spend time with him then anybody else. Plus, we have uncannily the same ambitions and goals, the same laid-back attitude and many similar interests.
So what's the problem? I'm not feeling emotionally close to him. We're very comfortable with each other, but the strong emotional, electric vibe is absent.
Additionally, I've noticed in myself that I'm emotionally shut down since I started dating him. Normally I would cry at least once a day -- not in a depressed way, but rather in an intense "in touch with myself" way. But since I started dating him, I'm unable to cry. Certainly I am happy, but it's not the intense happiness that I'm capable of feeling. (At the same time, this gives me hope, in that I know there's more of myself that I could be putting into this relationship.)
I really want to love him, to care for him, to marry him, and build a life with him -- but it's all intellectual. Perhaps I'm subconsciously terrified of the idea of marriage, so my emotions are numbing themselves. I've never dated anyone seriously.
I don't think there is a better, more compatible guy out there for me. If I'm ever to get married, this looks like "it." I just need some advice in how to work past these barriers.
You've described a very promising relationship to us. You and this man have the foundation for a happy and loving marriage -- you're moving in the same direction, have compatible personalities, are attracted to each other, like each other, and can relate well to each other.
We understand your concern about your level of emotional involvement, but to tell you the truth, both of us had the following identical reaction the first time we read your letter:
"Talia's expectation of what she's supposed to be feeling seems too high."
You're looking for what you describe as a "strong emotional, electric vibe," but that is not a realistic expectation. In most promising relationships, the strongest emotions are those of caring, warmth, comfort, happiness, trust, enjoying the other person, and looking forward to the future. It is not the intense feelings of connectivity and deep happiness that you are describing.
Society has conditioned us to expect these intense feelings, but they don't happen too often. The intense feelings you describe are what accompany infatuation, and when infatuation does occur, it fades away in a matter of months. In our experience, the majority of couples who experience infatuation don't go on to have an enduring relationship, and as a divorce lawyer Sherry will tell you that most couples who are still on an emotional, head-over-heels high when they marry usually get divorced within a matter of a few years, or less.
What's important is the degree of connectivity you can build during the marriage -- not the route you took to get there.
You expressed a concern that you have shut off emotionally since you started dating this man. There are many possible reasons why you don't cry as easily as you used to -- it could be that you are maturing, learning to handle your feelings differently, or diverting more energy toward the relationship than you are aware. One thing is for certain -- these changed emotional reactions are not a barometer of whether or not this man is right for you.
To evaluate the quality of a courtship, in terms of whether it's a good foundation on which to build an enduring marriage, see if you've developed essential qualities that we call "PAIR":
P -- Physical attraction
A -- Affection (focus on liking each other very much -- it is a lot easier to define than "being in love"), admiration of qualities in each other, and acceptance of each other's good and less-than-perfect qualities
I -- emotional Intimacy (that feeling of friendship, trust, comfort, and enjoyment of each other)
R -- Respect for each other
It also sounds as if you are seeing each other too often. Courtship is a very emotionally intense time, and most daters, especially women, need time between dates to process what is happening. Your marathon date was good in that it let you each see each a wide range of each other's moods and reactions, and to get a sense of what the other person is like when they are tired, frustrated, etc.
On the other hand, you probably came home too tired to process anything, and you might have mistaken this confusion as a sign of a problem with the relationship. A "long date" of 8-hours generally serves you best.
It might be a good idea for you two to go on a "dating diet" for the next 3-4 weeks. We suggest that you go out no more than twice a week, for about three hours each time. If you tend to have long phone conversations, limit them to once a day, for no more than 15 minutes. This can be a good way for you to give yourself enough "space" to process what you are experiencing. (But be wary of consciously over-analyzing your relationship; much of your processing will take place on a subconscious level.)
By limiting your time together during these few weeks, you can gain the clarity to decide if this man is right for you. If you decide that he probably is, but that you need to date longer, use that time to see each other with friends and family, and to spend time together in different life situations.
It's very possible that underlying all your emotions is feeling "scared," because this courtship has so much potential.
It also appears to us that a good part of the concerns you wrote about stem from the fact that you're a little afraid of marriage. We have a suggestion that can help you clarify your concerns and address them:
Take a new notebook, set aside some quiet, personal time, and write down all of your concerns about marriage, putting your stream-of-consciousness thoughts into writing. Then wait two days and read back what you've written. Now make a list of those concerns you decide are serious or realistic. Think about the different ways to address or deal with each of these concerns.
It's also a good idea to talk with someone you know who's been married for at least a few years, seems to be happy with their relationship, and has good judgment. This person can help you gain a perspective about marriage, and can help you realize that marriage isn't as overwhelming as it may seem right now.
We wish you success in navigating the dating maze,
Rosie & Sherry