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Emotional Intimacy/Moving forward...lots of things.


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This gets a bit confusing. It's hard for me to articulate it to myself, let alone anyone else. I'll try to be brief as I can, I hope someone can help me.


I am dating a man who I have come to love and care about very much. We have been together about six months. We are still in the beginning stages of things, of course, but we have both exchanged "I love yous", so our relationship is at a certain point, you can say.


There are a lot of elements of his personality that I am trying to understand and trying to learn to live with. I know that last part sounds bad, but it's not...I just don't know how else to put it. In relationships, there are always differences in personality that you have to bend a little over because obviously you're not the same exact people.


I think it's important to mention that this man was divorced roughly a year ago. It was a very bad and very difficult situation. Basically, his wife emailed him while he was on a business trip and said she was leaving. He didn't do anything specific to precipitate this (like cheating or anything like that), it was basically a "growing apart" thing. Anyway...as you might imagine, he was very damaged by this. In his words, he was so traumatized by it that he "didn't think he was going to make it out of it". They had just purchased a home, had literally just signed the papers finalizing the sale, and the next day he went on business and she left him.


From the beginning, we have had a lot of problems with his fears. We have had a lot of trouble developing "emotional intimacy" (in normal ways according to how long we've been together) because he is afraid to invest himself that way and have me leave him. In his words, he doesn't think he can do that again. However, at the same time, he says he loves me and wants the same things that I do, but it is hard for him.


It is difficult for me to explain it precisely, but at times I feel like he is somewhere else and is not fully invested in this relationship...perhaps not because he doesn't want to be, but because of his fears and maybe the damage he experienced due to his divorce.


From past relationships, I am used to a man being very expressive of his feelings for me...that he thinks I'm beautiful, that he's so happy I'm with him; things like that. My current boyfriend does not do any of these things. I understand that some men are less prone to verbal expression than others, but in my experience, that's usually the "touchy-feely emotional" stuff, not simple compliments. I've never heard him say that I'm beautiful once in six months. It's not that my self-esteem is unhealthy and I need to hear that to validate myself, but I don't think there's a woman here that doesn't want to know their partner thinks they're attractive. Yes, you could say he wouldn't be with me if he didn't think I was attractive, but that kind of assumption doesn't jive with me. I think saying those kind of things overall says, "You have value to me in X ways".


The other problem is that whenever I compliment him, or express to him that I care about him or I am grateful to have him in my life, he deflects it with a sarcastic remark or doesn't respond at all. I have talked to him on multiple occasions about this and he says he doesn't know why he does it and that he will try harder not to. He has tried very hard and I can see that.


Overall, I feel as if he is still keeping me at arm's length. He is very affectionate, we spend a lot of time together, but I feel like he is "somewhere else". It seems like the only way he seems to be comfortable in terms of showing that he cares is by buying me things, and although I appreciate the gifts, I am not that kind of woman. I would much rather have his heart than what comes out of his wallet. If I was going to analogize this in a visual way, imagine a painting where the woman has her eyes fixed on a man and he's staring off into the distance. I hope that makes sense.


I am worried that he is so damaged from his divorce that I'm kind of getting "what's left" rather than all of him. I find myself wondering if he was like this with his ex-wife and that makes matters worse.


This has been an almost constant source of anxiety for me from the beginning. We've talked about it multiple times, but it doesn't seem there is any real progress being made. The signals are very mixed, because in some ways (because of things he says or does sometimes), it seems as if he is very interested in a future with me, and then other days, it's like he's looking at us as two completely different entities that happen to coincide sometimes. It's very confusing and upsetting to me as I am truly in love with this person and am becoming more so by the day.


I don't feel like I can talk about this to him anymore because we've talked so much about it already, but I don't know what else to do.


So much for brevity.

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I am sorry you're going through this. I think he needs time to be single and his divorce was only recently final -after a traumatic break up and separation -for only 6 months when you started dating. It sounds like it's not long enough for him to be able to be open and vulnerable again. I believe he is sincere in saying he loves you but it's from a place of cynicism and negativity. Relationships are hard enough without that. My advice would be to suggest you take a break for at least 4-6 months, then meet up and see where you are then. I am reluctant to tell you that you two shouldn't date others while apart but of course that would be the most helpful to see what life is like apart and also so that there won't be those jealousy/trust issues when you reconnect.

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Batya, I have thought this might be a step to take as well, but my concern is that he will then look at me as "She did the same thing to me as the last one" and all trust in me will be lost. In other words, there will be no chance at reconciliation.


No - you explain to him that you have the opposite motive - you hope there is potential and for the good of the long term, dating right now doesn't make a lot of sense. If he doesn't trust your motives then there's no point in being in a relationship with him in the first place.

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