We are coming to the end of our lease and have talked a little about re-signing it, but if I do re-sign, I am here for another year unsure about my feelings. If I stay, I could start to love him again—-maybe by putting more effort into the relationship. But I could also be wasting our time in the process when there could be someone else out there for each of us just waiting.
I have talked with my boyfriend briefly about my feelings. I have told him that I don’t want to get married, that I don’t want kids, and that I am afraid of our possibly breaking up, but I have not told him that I may have fallen out of love with him. How do you tell a person that who thinks you are so incredibly wonderful? He tells me daily how much he loves me and how his love for me will never change—and how he wants babies with me and to get a house together. I feel all awkward and try to change the subject when such conversations arise.
I did come from a roller coaster ride of a relationship only two months before dating this new guy. My old boyfriend was a manipulative and emotionally abusive bully who made me feel that no one out there could love me or would. I feel like I have convinced myself that I am incapable of love and that I may have never felt it before. Plus, how does a person know when they meet the one they are to marry and/or spend forever with? All I ever hear is “you’ll know.” Well, how? How will I know? How does it feel? How is it different? What if I never find it?
What are your thoughts? — How Will I Know?
Well, I think you know your boyfriend isn’t right for you. Not only are you unsure about your feelings for him after two years together, but also you want different things in life. You don’t want to have kids and he does. That would be a dealbreaker even if you were madly in love with him. How do you negotiate such a difference? You don’t. When one of you wants kids and the other doesn’t, you wish each other well and go your separate ways so you can both be available to partners who DO share your goals. The good news here is that that makes it easy – well, easier – to walk away from this relationship and you have a built-in excuse that might help spare your boyfriend’s feelings. You tell him that you don’t want what he wants and it’s time to break up. If he tries to convince you that there’s room to negotiate or that you’ll change your mind in time, you hold fast. If he continues pushing you, you tell him that not only do you not want what he wants, but also you’ve realized that your feelings for him have changed and, though you still care about him, you do not love him the way a woman should love a potential husband and that there is no chance for a future together for you. None of this will be easy. That doesn’t mean it isn’t the right choice. Breaking someone’s heart is never fun. That doesn’t mean honoring your own feelings and goals isn’t the right choice.
I’m concerned that you feel incapable of love. It’s one thing to have never felt romantic love before — which, at 26, isn’t as uncommon as you might imagine, but to think you aren’t capable of feeling it or, even worse, that you don’t deserve love, is something else completely, and I urge you to seek therapy to work through this. You absolutely ARE capable and deserving of loving and being loved, but you have to love yourself first before you will recognize love for and from someone else. Again, therapy can help with this. When you begin to feel deserving of love, and when you begin to love yourself, you will start attracting similar love from others.
You ask how a person knows when they’ve met the one they are to marry, which I think is the wrong question to ask. People don’t know upon meeting someone that they’re going to marry him or her. Sure, in romantic re-tellings of cute-meet stories, you might hear someone say, “I knew when we met: we were destined for each other,” or “I told my best friend then and there that she was the woman I was going to marry one day,” but they don’t really know that. They very likely did feel an instant connection and even lust or a warm feeling that, in retrospect, is easy to label as love. But romantic love builds over time – it’s fostered by time spent together and sharing vulnerabilities with one another. You’ll know you’ve found a good long-term match — a potential spouse, even — when the love between you continues to grow instead of petering out. The “knowing” that you seek is as much about an absence of certain feelings as it is about a presence of others. The “knowing” is the lack of not knowing. It’s the lack of uncertainty. It’s feeling excited about the prospect of building a future with someone as opposed to feeling scared and claustrophobic by such a notion.
You do ask a fair question: What happens if you never find it? First, I think you will. Most people do, eventually, find the kind of love they seek if they’re open to it and they’ve done the work to make themselves emotionally available to it. But what if you aren’t among these people? What if you never make yourself emotionally available to the love connection you seek? What if you don’t recognize it before it leaves? What if it never really finds you? Or, what if you find it and you lose it? What happens then? You grieve, you pick up the pieces, and you move on. You build a life for yourself full of different kind of love: self-love, platonic love, animal love, community love, familial love. You spend time with people who lift you up. You spend time doing things that sustain your physical, emotional, and financial well-being.
Romantic love is a wonderful thing that you are capable and deserving of and that I believe you will find, but it certainly isn’t the only path to personal fulfillment and happiness. You can have a rich, full life without it. What will you do if you don’t find “the one”? You’ll live your life with the possibility of anything happening always within your reach.