Saturday, January 23, 2010

Karma is a razor-sharp boomerang

After dental surgery and some nasty aftereffects (muscle spasm, infection), I'm finally more or less back on my feet. Today I went to JV's sister's birthday party -- along with his babushka, his parents, and his children. All of whom were warm and seemed pretty happy I was there.

But I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that things weren't good enough. While JV drove his grandmother back to Brooklyn, I sat in the backseat and tried to sort out reasonable expectations from unreasonable demands. I know he has many responsibilities. And I've tried to be fair, and patient, and not insist he give me more of his time. Or make any ultimatums.

I decided it was reasonable to tell him that I need to be with someone who makes me feel beautiful. (He immediately agreed, and told me I am.) And that it makes me nervous that after almost 4 months, he hasn't told me he loves me.

Not surprisingly, he wasn't nearly as forthcoming. I can't bear to recap the whole conversation; sitting through it was agony. The upshot -- which I summarized handily, because as a therapist I'm trained in reflective listening -- is that he cares about me more than he did before we started dating again, he feels really comfortable and not anxious with me (which is great and wonderful, because he was always anxious and uncomfortable with Mara), and he hopes his feelings will ripen into love and wanting to propose. But he's not there yet, and doesn't know if he will be.

I wasn't asking him to propose. But I can't help but wonder why, if I'm doing all the right things, if I'm the opposite of his horrorshow ex-wife, and if I'm so much nicer to him than I was in college -- why he doesn't love me.

I don't know how to play this. I don't know if I should start seeing other people (I've certainly got the time; he's in Vermont for the week with his kids) or just wait patiently.

Twenty years ago JV loved me more than anything, and I threw him away. It would be a really sick piece of irony if he breaks my heart this time around. But my life has always been an irony case in point. The karma boomerang might cut me to shreds.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

10 comments:

  1. Professor Gendero1/23/2010 8:46 PM

    Well it might help if you understood men. We don't like to say "I love you." even if we do.
    We don't like to be rushed in relationships.
    We don't like to feel like there is some "should" related to our feelings.

    So now do you understand? You say "I'm doing all the right things." When in fact you're doing all the wrong things. This is not judgmental. I'm not saying you're doing anything objectively wrong. But you are hitting all the wrong relationship buttons.

    Have sex with a man before he says he loves you and you have just significantly lowered the chances he will say it.

    Tell a man you love him before he says he loves you and you have lowered the chances he will say it.

    Ask him why he hasn't said I love you yet in a relationship that is only four months in the making (not ignoring your previous relationship but its difficult to add them together), and you significantly lower the chances of him saying it.

    This is men 101. Please memorize, and review daily.

    You haven't blown it yet with JV, but you're not helping with questions like "Why haven't you said you love me yet?"

    ReplyDelete
  2. Granted, PG. I thought I didn't have to worry about these kind of games with JV. Obviously, I was wrong. Fortunately, he'll be away for a week, and when he gets back, I'll be sure to play more hard to get.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't know this professor, but I can say that it's still plenty early and there's no need to pressure JV.

    Like it or not, this relationship is not your typical shidduch, so it's not going to evolve like one. Just stay in and stay steady.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree with Carmen. Four months would be a long time if JV were a conventional, Orthodox guy, but he's not. Plus, he is relatively recently divorced and has kids.

    You aren't doing anything wrong! But any relationship is a gamble. No one can predict a happy ending but as long as the relationship is not stagnant then keep at it, for now.

    Advice from my husband: do not play mind games. Then you really risk losing him. It may be good, though, to act as if you feel more relaxed (even if you don't) about how the relationship will progress.

    Rooting for you, always!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Even if you're "wrong" by conventional wisdom to ask if he loves you, you're asking because he's not showing you that he does. And in fact, he agreed that he doesn't feel love towards you.

    Take some time and think about some possibilities:

    1. You're getting a "something's wrong" instinct, and it has some validity and basis in reality. How far do you want to follow that up? Clearly, this relationship has some problems that you're not really looking at. Then again, every relationship has problems, and you don't want to analyze it to death.

    2. You're anxious and waiting, so maybe you are pushing a little too soon and a little too hard. But here's my thinking: asking if he's ready to get married, not fair at this stage. Asking if he loves you... maybe fair. If you've been together for four months and he feels nothing... you have two options: Wait and See or Get Up and Leave.

    3. Ask yourself how loving and caring YOU are being. Are you expressing affection and showing loving behavior? If you examine your behavior, and you aren't, then that's something for you to consider before you ask him for anything else.

    Just my thoughts, for whatever they're worth.

    --S

    ReplyDelete
  6. Professor G.1/24/2010 1:51 AM

    That's pretty interesting. I say don't pressure him and you say "I'll play hard to get." And suggest what I meant was to play games. Maybe we're not on the same wavelength. I never said to play games at all. You can be yourself and enjoy your time together. You can have fun, talk about life, movies, trendy food, or anything you want. You can get to know him, his family and friends. You can eat chinese, french or italian dinners, go for walks, volunteer at the Israel bonds even t. Do anything you want. Just don't ask him why he hasn't said "I love you" yet. That generally rubs men the wrong way.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think you'll be happier in the long run, with or without JV, if you figure out why you need someone else to make you feel beautiful and how you can either make yourself feel beautiful instead of depending on someone else. That kind of deep insecurity is the ultimate saboteur and will make any relationship either very difficult or impossible. It sounds like you're making him responsible for your self-worth. Is that really fair for him? It's a tremendous amount of pressure to put on such a fragile connection.

    Also, I think it's more important to focus on physical chemistry and attraction rather than him making you "feel beautiful" in a specific sense. My husband has told me I'm beautiful maybe 7 times in our 8 year marriage, but he's very attracted to me and that's enough to "make me feel beautiful". It's very rare to find a guy who loves to gush about how beautiful his partner is (my father is actually like that, but it is quite rare, nonetheless).

    In shore, I think this is your issue, not his.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I echo Carmen & FTT. The only thing I would add is that you definitely shouldn't start seeing other people. If you're trying to make it work with JV, that would just sabotage it.

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Okay, I've had my coffee. I'll try to respond.

    Prof G: I couldn't play mind games if I wanted to; it's against my nature. I'm glad that's not what you were suggesting. Thank you for clarifying.

    Abbi C: Maybe you're right and I shouldn't expect JV to explicitly tell me I'm beautiful. It's pretty obvious he's attracted to me. I guess I'm just one for the stated obvious.

    S: One difference JV has noted between our college relationship and our current relationship is that I'm much more affectionate and kind toward him. I'm also very nice to his parents, his sister, and his children. Which isn't difficult, because they're lovely people.

    I've also made TONS of compromises in order to fit into his life. All this is making me wonder if I've been too accommodating, and he ultimately can't respect that. Because that sometimes is the unfortunate result of being too giving and giving in too much.

    I also wonder if JV is still too damaged from his horrorshow first marriage and divorce to love again. I used to think I liked this JV better than the one in college. Now I'm starting to wonder why I threw that one away, and if it's too late for us ever to be happy together.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It's an emotional trap, though very easy to fall into, to compare your original relationship to your current one. Life's vicissitudes and JV's divorce have undoubtedly changed how he approaches relationships and processes emotion. When you are young and inexperienced in relationships, you feel everything so clearly- emotions are much more black and white. Fast forward ten or more years, full of pain, ups and downs, disappointments, and other things that force you to question every decision you've ever made, and the resultant emotional scarring, while not readily visible at a cursory glance, is there right beneath the surface... and it makes getting close to someone- meaning, making onesself vulnerable enough to do so-- so much harder. One has to muddle through all that built up emotional layering. And it takes time. Much more time, I think, than it might have if you were in your twenties.

    I know this because I have the same issues.

    ReplyDelete