Dear Rosie and Sherry,
I dated someone for about a month, but broke up with him because I was overwhelmed with the way I felt about him. I wouldn't call it "infatuation" -- it was actually more than that. I felt an inner drive, as if we were connecting to each other by force like two magnets.
Is that healthy? I'm afraid that maybe it's too much.
I stopped dating him six months ago, because I wanted to see if I was just infatuated with him and if my feelings would go away. They haven't. I don't obsess about him, but I still often think about him.
I was able to open up with him, and have conversations with him that I haven't had with any one else. In terms of marriage, he's the only guy out of so many that I felt I could spend my entire life with.
I'm afraid that my attraction to him will not be based on qualities that can sustain a relationship and a marriage for the long term. I'm concerned that perhaps my individuality will get lost when I am with him.
What do you think? Should I go back to dating this guy again?
It's okay to be overwhelmed by intense feelings for someone else. It is certainly unsettling to sense what you've described in your letter -- that you feel a sense of emotional connectivity, perhaps of "destiny," as well as a pull of attraction that are so strong that you wonder if you're driven toward this man for reasons that won't support an enduring relationship. You wonder if the intense feelings are purely "chemical" and will dissipate as time goes on.
We wish that everyone who gets caught up in the rush of an intense start-up would pay attention to the same concerns you have raised. Most of time they don't, and simply allow themselves to be governed by their emotions. The problem is that enduring relationships and marriages cannot be built on these feelings alone. There has to be a lot more underneath.
A couple needs to share similar core values, have compatible goals for their futures and expectations about the routes to get there. Each has to believe that the other person has the character and temperament to make a good spouse and parent. And during the courtship, they should develop the following qualities that they can build upon in the future:
- Physical attraction
- Admiration of qualities about each other
- Acceptance of each other's background, situation in life, and flaws
- Affection for each other
- Emotional intimacy (feeling that you are close friends who can communicate well, want to share your experiences and thoughts, are able to trust each other; and are motivated to do nice things for each other)
- and mutual Respect.
We use the acronym P.A.I.R. to remember these qualities.
People can get so caught up in infatuation that they get to know each other only superficially.
A courtship that beings with intense feelings can burn out over time for two reasons. The first is that the intense feelings always burn out over time. That's what happens to reactions that are purely chemical. The second is that the couple didn't have the prerequisites and never developed the qualities that are needed for a relationship to endure -- either because they weren't right for each other in the first place (he wants a comfortable middle-class lifestyle in the U.S., she wants to volunteer for Doctors Without Borders and work in the danger zones of Africa; or he doesn't have the integrity or seriousness that she feels is a vital personality trait for her future husband), or because they were so caught up in their infatuation for each other that they only got to know each other on a superficial level. That can happen when two people get a sense that they are each other's soul mate; they "understand" each other so well that they don't realize the need to develop depth to the way they relate to each other.
The fact is that most couples who are strongly attracted to each other in the beginning don't stay together for the long term for precisely these reasons. And most couples who end up in enduring, stable, fulfilling marriages gradually acquire feelings and attraction for each other while they are dating, and come to realize they have also developed the qualities that are essential for a healthy marriage.
On the other hand, you can't ignore the strong initial attraction you have for someone else just because you're afraid that the intense feelings are too strong, or can't be trusted. Some couples who begin their courtship with an intense attraction for each other are blessed with the ability to develop all of the qualities that form the foundations for a stable, fulfilling, enduring life together.
How can I tell if the infatuation trap is going to happen to me?
The question you're probably asking right now is, "How can I tell if that's going to happen to me?" The answer is that the two of you should date each other long enough to get to know each other on different levels and to see if you develop the qualities we discussed. One of the most important ways to do this is by talking. The fact that you feel comfortable communicating with this man is very helpful in this regard. We suggest that you talk to each other about many of the topics we've mentioned in Dating Maze #164.
Another way of getting to know this man involves using your sense of observation. Watch how he treats people who are in service professions such as waiters, doormen, taxi drivers and parking attendants. Listen to how he describes other people in his life and what qualities he admires or dislikes about them. Spend time with each other in different situations, such as interactive dates, a couple of longer dates that get both of you tired, working with each other at a charity project or by cooking a meal together, and meeting each other's friends and family.
See how his way of relating to you changes over time, and how receptive he is to his own personal growth. Observe how he interacts with the people he's close to -- because if you get married, you'll be in that position yourself. While there are many factors involved, it's a warning sign if someone who can't get along with his brother or his mother.
We don't necessarily think it was a mistake for you to stop seeing him when you did, since you really needed some time to deal with the intense emotions you were feeling. But now, if you feel that you will be able to develop a solid foundation with him, we think it is a good idea to date him again.
If he agrees to start dating you again, we suggest that you find a married person whose judgment you trust who can mentor you during your courtship. It can be very helpful to turn to someone who is detached from the situation to offer guidance, should you want it, or add a different perspective that may be useful when you make decisions about what to do at different junctures of your dating.
We wish you success in navigating the dating maze,
Rosie & Sherry