- Gender and Relationships
Will Distance Make The Heart Grow Fonder? If He Needs a Break from Her, Will He Realize What He's Missing?
I've never been on this site before but found it when looking for information on a problem I am having. I came across some advice you gave to a woman with a similar situation to mine. I am 19 and have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for almost 2 years. (I know we're young, but mature for our age). We have known each other since we were in middle school and started dating halfway through our senior year. We are absolutely perfect for each other-we have so much fun together, we rarely argue, and are very physically attracted to each other. From the time we started dating we have been pretty close to inseparable. We have the same goals and values and have been seriously planning our future together. We have had a major problem that has happened before, and I thought it was all over, but it has happened again.
He didn't first say he loved me until a year into our relationship. After a year of dating, he was going on a week's trip with his friends over Christmas break. We got into a discussion about him saying that he didn't think he was in love-he loved everything about me and could see himself marrying me-but he didn't know if he was in love. I told him that we would take a break and he needed to spend the week thinking about this because I couldn't be in a loveless relationship-although I knew deep inside that he loved me. When he came back home he took me out to dinner, gave me red roses and told me he loved me. Everything was pure bliss until a week ago when completely out of the blue he said that he wasn't in love anymore and wanted to break up. He had basically given up. He says that he loves everything about me, we are completely compatible, he is physically attracted, but doesn't think he has the right feelings he should have. It has been a week and he says that he misses me, but he feels relieved "not being in a relationship he shouldn't be in." I know that he has issues with his emotional side-I don't think he understands his emotions well and I think he is just tired of this. He didn't say there's no chance that his feelings will change-he said he doesn't know.
He has a terrible relationship with his mom and I know he doesn't love her, I don't know if that has anything to do with it.
I want to do anything I can to make our relationship last. During the week after our break up we still talked and spent time together. A couple nights after our breakup we had some very passionate sex. I asked him if it was meaningless to him and he said no, that he felt something other than just sex. Two nights ago I told him that we needed to not talk to spend time together anymore because I love him so much and it hurts me to be around him. He said that's not what he wanted, but he understood. He is coming over tonight to get some of his things from my house. I truly feel that he does love me and just has personal issues. (I forgot to add, he said he loves me..but he's not in love).
My mom and best friend both think that if he spends some time away from me he will "come around" and realize "what he's missing."
Anyway, any advice would be appreciated because at this point I really don't know what to do.
I'm going to explain to you what's going on with this boy, and then I will give you some tips on how to handle it.
I'm going to assume your boyfriend is around your age. There is a part of the brain called the Frontal Lobe that is only just beginning to develop for him. Well, it's happening for you too, it's just more evident with males. It won't really be finished developing until he's maybe 22, 23 years old. It's the part of the brian that governs consequence, and long term thinking. The lack of a developed frontal lobe is why a 17 year old might get up on the roof with his skateboard and try to jump off. They just don't really conceive of consequence in a realistic way. A 27 year old might still make a stupid jump off the roof, but the odds are more likely that he will talk himself out of it, that he'll realize if he hurts himself it'll cost money to go to the hospital, and that he may miss work, and then how will he pay rent, etc. The cycle of consequence and the long term effects of things become more easily accessible in his thinking.
It's the same with words, and emotions, and people. When he was 9 or 10 or 12 it was easier to say things like love and forever, because essentially they had no meaning. When he became 16, the meaning became clearer. Now that he's 19, not only is the meaning clearer still, but as the frontal lobe of his brain is developing, he also realizes the consequence of hurting you. He realizes in a new way with a new clarity that his commitment, words, feelings, promises, all have consequences - if he keeps them AND if he breaks them.
i talk about this over and over, but people still don't really grasp that this has nothing to do with maturity. It's a physical change. It's exactly the same as if you said you know a 3 year old that can run really fast. If I said to you, well he can't race in the olympics yet, and you argued "You don't even know how fast he can run." The truth is, I don't need to know. There is no way a 3 year old can have a physical body that can run as fast as professional adult Olympic athletes. This is not a reflection on the baby. He may run really fast, he may really love to run, he may really be amazing, but there is still no way in hell that he can win a race against 21 year old professional athletes.
So, however mature your boyfriend is, or you are, however much you are in love, it is still not physically possible for him to really fully understand his feelings, and it is impossible for him to be able to know if you are "The One" or if he wants to marry you, or even how he really feels about marriage.
His current cycle of questioning the difference between loving you and being in love with you could be the work of his frontal lobe developing. When he says he doesn't know, that's probably the truth. Really. He probably does not know.
Please take this as good news. I think he's being honest. It's not a criticism, it's an honest assessment of your situation. It sounds like he's a good guy, and you two have a good thing. He's growing and changing, he is physically developing a part of the brain that will usher a huge transition for him into adulthood.
Now, for the advice on how to handle it.
Michelle, in your life, you need to be the best You that you can be. You need to grow yourself, and develop yourself into a whole individual. Following a career path, going to school, practicing your art or your calling, are all major factors that will go toward your being interesting, developed, and whole. Having friends, dating different kinds of people, travel... there are many things that will help you figure out all the different opportunities that are out there in the world. Being completely fixated on a relationship at your age isn't the best way to grow yourself.
After you've become an independent developed adult, you can begin to work on what it is to be a partner. It is not possible to be a good partner until you can be a great You.
There's some truth in what your mother is saying. Absolutely. Let the boy go. He can not possibly miss you if you never go away. But it goes deeper than that.
For one thing, he's spreading his wings. He's growing himself, a part of his brain is new and he's asking deeper questions of himself than he has before. He's stretching, and that's normal and healthy, and completely appropriate. He may be unaware of these things, but this is what's happening. You should be doing the same. If you aren't, at least then, try to understand that what he's doing is completely normal and healthy. Have you ever tried to hold onto a dog or cat that doesn't want to be held? The more you hold on, the harder they fight. You refuse to let go, you yell, you cry, eventually you're going to get bitten, and that animal is going to take off, most likely not to return because of the bad impression you've left.
This isn't too different. He's telling you he needs some space to grow and experience things. To question. To figure stuff out. He probably doesn't even understand what's happening, he just knows he's changing. If you can't respect that and let him, then you're going to wind up getting bitten.
But if you can let go and let him grow, he really just may find his way back to you. But that's only going to happen if he you don't make him feel guilty, or stupid, or misunderstood. At 19, 20, 21 years old he should be experiencing different things.
And so should you.
If he feels like his time with you is happy and that you understand him and support him as a friend, that will help. And what will help even more is if you are interesting and whole. The more you grow yourself, develop your passions and explore your possibilities, I guarantee you the more worthy boys (and eventually men) will be attracted and interested in you. And that includes this boy. Most men can't stand the feeling that their partner's happiness depends on them. Most worthy men are attracted to successful women, or women that are interesting, or women that are happy, or women that are making their own lives. I get many emails from unhappily married men who all say the same thing - their wives are dependent on them for everything including their emotions. Their wives are boring, or have no life outside of the relationship and the men find this suffocating, boring, clingy and pathetic.
If you've been so extremely part of a couple for such a very long time as a youth, then hopefully you can embrace this time apart to be just You. Grow some friendships, grow some time on just yourself. I'm sure you think you're doing those things, but doing them with more time, focus and energy is going to be something entirely different. Not only is it the healthier thing for you to do, it will also keep your boy interested when you do talk to or bump into him.
Men enjoy it when a woman can be a little mysterious or intriguing. They have a tendency to be competitive, and to enjoy playing games. I'm not saying be a jerk, or lie, or do anything stupid. I'm saying, be your own person, make your own happiness, try new things, develop yourself so you can be strong, beautiful, and independent. Not only is it good for you, it will also be good for him.
Let me give you an example.
Say you don't see him for a month. Then you bump into him in the mall. Try to walk yourself through these two scenarios and get a feel for them:
1 - He says hi, and you nod like it's painful and say hi back. He asks what's going on and you say nothing. Same old. Same job or school or whatever. Sigh. He asks what you're doing and you say, "Why? Do you want to go someplace and talk?" He doesn't really know what to say, he declines, he starts to make an excuse about why he has to go. You ask him if he's done thinking. Has he figured out what he wants. He says he has to go. He leaves you feeling heavy, and weighted, and guilty. He thinks how hard it is to be around you. He's not anxious to go through that again.
2 - You see him, you run over and smile and give him a big hug and say "Hi! It's so great to see you! But I gotta go, maybe we can talk another time!" You're smiling, happy, running away. He says, "Wait! Where are you going?" You say with a very excited smile, "Tae Kwon Do! I'm already a yellow belt. I gotta go." You're happy, and excited, and doing your thing. He's mesmerized. "Who are you taking karate with?" You smile and shrug, "Oh I don't think you know them. It was good to see you!" He is asking you to wait, go grab a coffee with him. You are smiling, but you say, "Aww can't right now. Maybe another time. Great to see you!" And you run off. You leave him wanting more, you leave him remembering your smile, and how fun it is to be around you when you're happy. He doesn't feel guilty or responsible for you, he doesn't feel like you're judging him, he just feels... wow. Look at her. She's so happy, exciting, interesting... new.
Very exaggerated, probably bad examples. But try to get passed the ripping apart and get into the spirit of the examples. It's all about positive reinforcement.
Deep breath. Good luck to you. Keep us posted.