Dear Neil: I am increasingly frustrated at what I think is “Robin’s” emotional unavailability. I find myself giving far more to the relationship (and to her) than I receive back. She shows very little emotion or sexual passion, and there is not much of “we” in the relationship. It’s mostly about her and her children. I’m 47 and she is 40. We have been dating for 18 months.
Robin is on periodic medication for anxiety and depression. Both her parents are very reserved and standoffish, and her father has had several affairs. When I try to talk to her about longer range, it is very much one sided. I would dearly like to marry. Is this the behavior of someone who cannot commit to a relationship? I have tried just about everything to become more intimate with her, and I am failing.
Christchurch, New Zealand
Dear Frustrated: Several things could be occurring here, but it does sound as if you are a lot more emotionally hooked than she is.
She may not be ready for another marriage or commitment at this time, but still enjoys being in a relationship and feeling cared for. Her anxiety and depression may be more powerful and consuming than you may think, and her medication may be effecting her personality.
The role modeling she received from her parents may be a factor in her behavior as well, because it sounds as if Robin is reserved and standoffish—just as you described her parents to be. Perhaps you are wanting the relationship to work out and deepen so badly that you’re not paying very close attention to the fact that you may be far more in love, and far readier to settle down than she is.
Whatever the reasons, I recommend you address this issue with her straight on. Tell her how you are feeling—without coming across as attacking, judgmental or angry. Let her know you’re frustrated by her lack of emotional reciprocity and sexual passion. Ask her what it would take, or what you could do, to encourage a deeper and less emotionally inhibited relationship with her. And listen well to what she says.
Don’t be so anxious to marry that you lose your vision. There is an old adage that warns: “Marry in haste, repent in leisure.” Keep your eyes wide open, and make sure you choose a woman who feels as strongly about you as you do about her.
Dear Neil: My husband walked out on our marriage without a word. He was having an affair, suffering the stress of bankruptcy, and has moved to a different part of the country. What effect will all this have on his emotional well-being, and in his ability to conduct a new relationship? He is very emotionally shut down.
Wellington, New Zealand
Dear Worried: If he has indeed shut down the way you think he has, he is likely to fail at a new relationship, because he’ll be too emotionally held back and guarded.
The bigger question, as I see it, is why are you worrying more about his well being than you are about your own? Heal from this rejection, and learn whatever lessons you can so this doesn’t destroy your ability to have a good life in the future.