At that point, I was ready for us to live together and I tried to talk to Jane about us starting a life together, but she dismissed the idea saying that it was a temporary arrangement until she found a new place. As weeks and months passed by and we both became comfortable living with each other, I believe she stopped looking for a place but we never discussed or acknowledged it. However, she still brings it up from time to time, occasionally saying something like “tomorrow I’ll be looking at this new place my colleague told me about.” I suppose it’s just her way to keep reminding herself that it’s all “temporary,” especially when we buy new furniture together like normal couples do.
She’s always holding back on me. Everything I know about her past or her childhood are things I learned from her aunt who raised her. She has never told me anything herself. She actually argued with her aunt and asked her to stop telling me things. The only time I can recall that she allowed herself to be vulnerable with me was when she told me she was being sexually harassed at work by her manager, and I think I overreacted because I confronted her harrasser and threatened him. She ended up filing a complaint against him along with other female colleagues, and he was fired. But I worried for a while that she would never tell me anything else because of the way I acted.
I loved her so much. I still do. She is insanely attractive and smart, and we are very sexually compatible. We also get along very well. I believe we are a great couple. I’ve always tried to protect her from herself and to always be there for her. Things often get tough and there have been times I thought of just walking out on her, but I stayed because I knew she needed me. However, it’s taking a heavy toll on me emotionally and I’ve started to think that she probably doesn’t love me and I’m not sure if my love is enough to keep us together anymore. I’m on the verge of leaving her for good this time. What do you think? — Mr. Max
I think there are a lot of issues in your relationship keeping you from being committed to one another, and your perception of her lack of love for you isn’t even in the top five issues. It may not even be in the top ten. Frankly, it’s probably not even a reality that she doesn’t love you. I would suspect she probably loves you more than she’s loved anyone, but who knows. You sure don’t because you don’t ever talk to her about your feelings and what’s going on between you.
Instead of a lack of love, what is a much, much bigger problem between you is a lack of communication. You each have been so passive in this relationship of eight years, so afraid of disrupting the status quo and losing what you share. Even now, you’re on the verge of “leaving her for good this time” instead of being on the verge of, I don’t know, TALKING to her about how you’re feeling. Afraid of losing her without your say, you’ll take losing her with your say, as if those are the only options: either you leave her or she leaves you. But what if there’s another option? What is there’s an option to actually be truthful and authentic and vulnerable with each other and that openness leads to actively working on your relationship together which leads to a closer, more committed bond? It could happen.
It’s not going to happen though if you continue seeing and treating Jane as some delicate creature that needs saving. Throughout your letter, you objectify her in so many ways: you mention her looks more than once, and as the first qualifier for her (“When I first got involved with this gorgeous woman”); you talk about “protecting her from herself” and trying to play hero when she confided in you — for the first time, it seems — about being harassed at work. No wonder she doesn’t open up about her childhood and past! You have never given her credit for being a strong, independent woman capable of taking care of herself, protecting herself, loving herself. Your description of her and of your dynamic paints her as the needy one, with you always on the side, there for her whenever she needs you. But you say nothing about your need for her, which I suspect is probably as great if not greater.
Look, most women who are as needy as you seem to think Jane is don’t go to the effort to remain as unattached as Jane has. They are more than eager to commit, to lock it in. She has always kept you at arm’s length, even while moving in with you and buying furniture, as if to say, “I DON’T need you. I’m here because it’s convenient and it’s comfortable.” I wonder, if you would simply acknowledge how independent and strong she is — as something you admire even — how she might soften. If her strength and independence ceased being something she felt compelled to prove to you — because you finally tell her, “I see you. I see that in you,” she might actually let some of the walls down a bit and let you see a lot more. Well, it’s worth a try.
If you can handle being committed to someone who loves you for you and if you can love her for her, and you can dismiss the narrative and the dynamic you’ve imagined of your being the protector and her being the damsel in distress, which seems unsupported by reality and by her, you’ll have the best chance of actually building a real relationship with Jane. But first you have to suck it up and talk to her about all of this. You have to be vulnerable if you want Jane to be vulnerable with you. If you are not willing to do that — if you aren’t willing to say, “Jane, I fucking love you, I’ve always loved you, I feel lost at the idea of not sharing my life with you. I want you and I need you to commit to this, to us,” then you don’t deserve her. She may say no. If that’s a risk you can’t stomach enough to even take, you aren’t as strong and mighty as you think you are.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.