Note: This is the first of a two-part series. Click here for part two
Dear Neil: Recently I ended a promising relationship with a man. He was solicitous of me: What did I want? How was I feeling? No man has ever been so attentive to my feelings or wishes, and it made me uneasy. He wanted to be together a lot, said he loved me, wanted to touch, and he complimented me a lot. He also lavished gifts, dinners out, trips, jewelry and surprises on me—and I began to feel suffocated—so I withdrew and ended our relationship. He was so caught off guard that he simply couldn’t understand what happened.
I’d like your opinion about what happened. I have always wanted a man to behave this way toward me, so why did I reject what I’ve always wanted?
Spooked in Vail
Dear Spooked: Perhaps he was too intimate for you. There are degrees of closeness and intimacy, and some people are uncomfortable with feeling too close. It could also be that you prefer to be in the position of seeking a man, and are uncomfortable when you are the one being sought after. Or it could be that you felt undeserving of a man lavishing so much attention and charm on you.
You didn’t let your heart get very involved—you kept it insulated and at a distance. And perhaps most importantly, you didn’t talk to him in a timely manner and let him in on the secret that you had trouble with what he was doing, and that you wanted him to tone his attention and his charm down.
Frequently in a relationship we grow reluctant to talk about what’s bugging or irritating us—fearing that we will sound petty or that we will hurt the other person’s feelings. So we don’t talk about it—and that issue festers and grows—and ultimately it can become the kiss of death for the relationship. Because of reluctance to confront a problem, we wind up not talking about the very things that we must if we are going to make the relationship work.
Relationships dissolve when one person has a concern, irritation or fear, and then withdraws or retreats without ever presenting those concerns to the other person for discussion. Who knows what would have happened if you had told your boyfriend of your irritations as soon as they started grating on you?
A promising relationship deserves a fair chance to succeed. No budding connection between two people should fail without first checking out whether the dilemmas or differences can be negotiated and resolved. This is the hard work of a relationship, and all promising romances deserve this chance.
There’s a stance some people adopt, which goes like this: “If you value and want me, you lose value in my eyes. The only people I will go all out for are those who don’t act like they want me back. I need to earn acceptance, approval and love in order for me to value it. If you just offer it to me without me having to win it from you, I won’t value it, and I won’t value you.”
I will elaborate on this dynamic in next week’s column.