Dear Neil: I have been in a hot, furious, torrid, erotic love relationship which recently ended abruptly, and I am at a loss to understand why. “Eric” was everything I had hoped for. He was romantic, charming, sensitive, adorable and emotionally available. He said he loved me, he acted like he loved me, he talked about a future together and he made it feel like this was the real thing. This was the man I thought I was going to marry. He acted very taken with me, and he seemed genuine and sincere. But after only three months, he said he didn’t have the “feelings” for me, and he ended our relationship. What happened?
Dumped in Longmont, Colorado
Dear Dumped: A promising new relationship, with “I love you’s” and talk about the future, may be hope, lust or infatuation speaking, not heart.
What I’m trying to say is that “I love you” may not mean what you think it does in the beginning of a relationship. Even if a new romantic partner appears completely head over heels about you, you cannot jump to conclusions about you being his one and only and what that may mean concerning the future.
Some people are cads and are intentionally misleading or deceiving about their feelings and motives. But if we give your boyfriend the benefit of doubt, it’s more likely that he wanted to feel the deeper emotions of love, the intoxicating “this could be the one” feelings, so he acted and talked as if you were the one.
This is role-playing love, not actual love. It’s trying on the emotions and acting as if they’re true, attempting to feel the feelings—hoping to talk yourself into the feelings—rather than actually feeling them.
If you are the unfortunate partner this role-playing happens to, it’s easy to feel misled, confused and mystified about how you could have been so wrong about interpreting the other person’s messages, signals, words, intentions and emotions. Your heart is in it—and you are given evidence that the other person’s heart is in it also—only to find out that the other person’s heart actually isn’t there at all.
The feelings you got from your boyfriend were likely about hope. But they never grew deeper, so they never developed into love.
How do you avoid this position in the future? Don’t buy a potential romantic partner’s “sales pitch” in the beginning of a relationship. Courtship is largely about selling yourself, and some people are very effective at it—they sell themselves well. You have to look beyond the words, the charm, the intimacy and the hope to whether deeper feelings are truly there. Otherwise, the role-playing of love—the wooing, courtship, infatuation, seduction and words—may only actually be skin deep.
Go slower the first three months, keeping your heart out of it longer, and don’t jump to conclusions about where the relationship is going. Even if a man appears very smitten, his heart may only be in it a little bit. Only time will tell if this is role-playing love or real love.