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Relationship going well, but love?

(41 Posts)
theotherjefflebowski Wed 26-Nov-14 13:04:15

Hi all,

Before I start, I should own up to the fact that I'm a man. I'm asking for advice on Mumsnet not because I'd like a 'feminine' point of view, but simply because I've always been impressed at the degree of empathy and level-headed advice offered here. Still, tell me to bugger off, if you like.

Anyway, as the subject header says, I'm currently in a promising relationship, which has lasted around 5 months thus far. She is a kind, generous and adventurous person with a determinedly cheerful outlook on life. We get on very well, and the sex is great.

The issue is this. She has twice told me she loves me, and insisted I don't have to say it back. The unfortunate thing is that I don't feel I can say it back. If you asked me today whether I was in love, I would have to say no. In all other respects, I think she is fantastic.

This also harks back to a relationship many years ago I was in which lasted for 6 years, and was very similar. A great person, loving and kind, but I wasn't in love. I wasn't honest about those feelings (a case of telling myself not to be ungrateful for what was otherwise a good situation), and it went on for far too long. Crucially, I've never regretted the decision to end it.

It's perhaps worth adding that I am someone who experiences depressive cycles, and as such, I have found that it warps my view of the world. It leads me to wonder whether I can trust what I feel at times.

Maybe it's not the same situation as that one. I am not looking for validation or an excuse to split up with her, far from it. I am kind of desperate for it to work, because I've been spectacularly unlucky in love over the last 5 years. I am very fond of this person, but am worried that anything less than love is a waste of everyone's time. Or perhaps I'm overthinking everything. It's all a bit exhausting.

Any thoughts, folks?

FelicityGubbins Wed 26-Nov-14 13:09:22

I think it depends on how you quantify love?

redundantandbitter Wed 26-Nov-14 13:11:43

Just marking my place as I'm in a very similar place with a bloke . Hoping some wise folk will come along to help soon.

Sorry I can't be much help but eat assured you're not the only one .

theotherjefflebowski Wed 26-Nov-14 13:28:27

@FelicityGubbins
A good question. I think it depends on how you choose to show your appreciation for someone. I like to do little things, like bringing home a treat I know my partner like, or a mini-surprise of some sort. I think there's a tremendous comfort in feeling 'known' by another person like that. Also, a willingness to be flexible, to understand the other person's POV when it may not be yours, perhaps. That's how I think of it logically, anyway.

That which I've thought of love in the past in retrospect took the form of painful infatuation, really. Not that it wasn't reciprocated, but it tended to end fairly disastrously and acrimoniously. I'm not sure that love based on raw attraction and insecurity is much of a love at all. Certainly not a lasting one, but it's what I've experienced. Distance from those sort of relationships lets you appreciate what a temporary madness it was. I'm on pretty reasonable terms with these people nowadays anyway, thankfully without the pull I felt towards them at the time.

So, a fairly mixed impression of what love is and its expression!

@redundantandbitter
Hello there! Good to know it's not such an uncommon experience.

Antsypantsy Wed 26-Nov-14 13:32:20

I can relate to this. I think feeling inlove In a new relationship and actual love are different. Perhaps some people are less inclined for the euphoric, head spinning, loved up feelings when you meet someone new.

I've been told real love is a verb!! It's an action, the way you treat someone and a commitment. You make it as a decision.

Not sure if I think it's bollocks and I should hold out for the headspinny love myself but it would solve a lot of problems if it was true

misscph1973 Wed 26-Nov-14 13:36:18

Have you ever been in therapy for your depressive cycles?

I am currently reading "Resolve your differences" by Andrew G Marshall, and although the topic doesn't apply direclty to your case, he has a very good chapter on feelings. I think you would find it interesting, and perhaps some of his other books might help you. Basically some people have "trained" themselves to not experience feelings, good or bad, too deeply, to protect themselves. I am wondering if this applies to you - perhaps you have developed strategies to avoid the pain from depression, but this spills over in your other feelings, so that they are muted?

You also write that you have been very unlucky in love. This makes me again think that perhaps you are muting your feelings to avoid getting hurt?

DollyRocker1 Wed 26-Nov-14 13:47:03

At 35 I still don't have a clue what being in love actually is beyond the dizzy infatuation at the beginning of a relationship. My ex told me when he broke up with me that he loved and cared about me but wasn't in love. I was devastated about the break up but with hindsight I don't know really in what way I loved him. It's all so confusing.

dirtybadger Wed 26-Nov-14 13:47:26

FWIW I would feel a bit uncomfortable committing to saying I "loved" someone after 5 months. I am a cautious sort of person about these things and respect that other people do feel like that, but...nah.
Unless you were friends before, or knew each other well. I suppose that changes things.

If you didn't know one another, or at least not well, I think 5 months is early days and there's no need to a panic. It's difficult to comment, though, to what extent are your lives "intergrated"?

misscph1973 Wed 26-Nov-14 13:51:56

I thinnk I would personally know within 5 months ;) If I was in doubt, I would think there were underlying reasons for the doubt, ie. either hanging on hoping something would develop or not feeling secure enough to "let go" and let myself fall in love.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 26-Nov-14 13:53:28

If you think this person is fantastic and you're desperate for it to work then I think you probably do love them. Are you generally affectionate? Do you find it easy to express emotions? Are you demonstrative normally? Caring or thoughtful? Can you tell others you love them..... family members, friends, pets?

It's always a bit of a risk to stick your neck out and say 'I love you' to someone. Don't leave her twisting in the wind if you like her. Hope you work out what's holding you back

theotherjefflebowski Wed 26-Nov-14 14:00:57

@Antsypantsy
Gawd yes, the headspinning sort is intoxicating. I've only ever felt it a few times myself.

I do like that expression, love is a verb. It does tell you a lot about what keeps people together, as much as what draws them.

@misscph1973
I have, yes - some talk therapy, various medications on and off, and a great deal of CBT, the latter of which has been very useful.

Credit where it's due to the people who helped me, the focus has always been on confronting, rather than avoiding the depression, and the reasons behind those cycles. It does sound like an interesting book, though - I can see the logic. Might have to check it out, so thanks for the recommendation.

You may well be right where relationships are concerned, though. I have rather held back on committing myself in some of them, though I don't think consciously so. It's certainly true that I have no wish to get hurt as much as I have been in the past! I do tend to feel negative things rather more strongly than positive ones. Contentment can be hard to come by, admittedly.

theotherjefflebowski Wed 26-Nov-14 14:21:20

@DollyRocker1
No joke. Sorry to hear that. I do look back on some, and wondered why exactly I was sure of the feelings I felt at the time. At 36, I'm equally as confused as you. I demand someone produce a manual to life immediately!

@dirtybadger
Actually, we met via OKC, a site I pretty rarely use. The city I live in is pretty small, so we do have a good few shared friends. We have met each other's parents, stay pretty regularly overnight at our respective houses (she has a toothbrush and flip flops permanently at mine, heh), and go out together quite a lot. It has been a quick escalation, come to think of it.

@misscph1973
As I said to dirtybadger above, we did become a full-on couple quickly. That maybe has something to do with it...

@CogitoErgoSometimes
I think I can say 'yes' to most of those questions. I do enjoy intimacy, and in recent times, I've worked upon being very much more open about emotional things. It's rewarding. Particularly with my family, I try much harder to show my appreciation for them, because they really are excellent people and I'm lucky to have them. I see them pretty regularly, and make myself available for when my nephews need babysitting, or taking out. I love my cats, even though they are delinquent arses. How effective I am at it all, well, I suppose you only have my word it, but I think I'm doing alright.

Yep, you're right. I don't want to keep her hanging, as it's not really fair.

DuelingFanjo Wed 26-Nov-14 14:23:56

She is in love with you.

Does she want all that future stuff... marriage, babies etc.

If so then let her go and find someone else, or at least give her the option.
You'll never find love if you spend too much time with someone who will just do for shits and giggles for now.

theotherjefflebowski Wed 26-Nov-14 14:46:50

@DuelingFanjo
A fair point. It's something I'm giving very serious consideration.

She does want kids at some point, and has been upfront on that. I've always thought I'll end up with children, and from what I know of her, she certainly would be great to start a family with.

But yes, that's not enough of a reason alone. I can't help wondering why life can't line up nicely just once. Self-pity, I know, but the searching is getting a bit old.

DuelingFanjo Wed 26-Nov-14 15:25:58

What are you searching for that your current partner hasn't got?

Is it some kind of lightening bolt? Or is it that currently you don't feel like you would be able to remain faithful to this one person for the rest of your life?

I think you do have to just take the leap of faith sometimes.

Mainly from your opening post (as I'm a very lazy, corner-cutting MNer smile) .....

I think you have to be generous in life and give things a chance to work out well - to grow if you like.

That philosophy might translate as if sometime you feel like saying "I love you" then why not? So yes, not over-analysing things too much?

You only live once and you don't know what you got til it's gone?

FinallyHere Wed 26-Nov-14 15:47:54

Another one here, wondering how you think being 'in love' would be different from what you feel now? What would you do differently?

My current partner (now DH) said i love you to me very early in the relationship. I gave it a good few months, til i knew a lot more about the sort of person he is, before i felt comfortable saying it back to him. That was caution on my part: a previous relationship, and my parents for that matter, had used 'love' to try and control me,

theotherjefflebowski Wed 26-Nov-14 15:53:48

@JugglingFromHereToThere
Haha, no worries - all takes on the situation are appreciated. Admittedly, I do have a bit of a daft suspicion of contentment, as if it's all about to fall down around my ears. Maybe I really should try and abandon that...

@DuelingFanjo
I think you've put your finger on it there - the lightning bolt.

Otherwise, there really isn't anything she hasn't got. My sex drive is lower than hers, though I attribute that to recent changes in medication for depression, and the unfortunate dissolution of a company that I founded, which has been tough. That's not her fault though, obviously!

Twinklestein Wed 26-Nov-14 17:03:40

So - aiui - what you feel for her is very nice, but it's not the infatuation that you've experienced in the past, which is how, thus far, you have defined love?

Do you feel that there is something 'missing' in the relationship - either in terms of physical attraction, mental or emotional attraction - that if it were there - either on its own or in addition to all the things present in the current relationship - then you would term it 'love'?

Or do you feel there's nothing 'missing' but you're not ready to identify your feelings as love yet?

Or do you feel there's nothing 'missing' and what you feel you have never previously identified as 'love' - but might be love, just a different kind than you've experienced in the past?

Personally, I couldn't say it and mean it at 5 months, I wouldn't be able to tell at that stage. But I think you should be able to tell if there's something major missing that will mean it can never progress to love for you.

Quitelikely Wed 26-Nov-14 17:11:37

How would you feel if she walked away from the relationship? Would you actually mind?

JimmyChoosChimichanga Wed 26-Nov-14 17:39:15

For your own peace of mind it would make sense for you to stay with her through two or more of your 'cycles' so you get a fair representation to yourself of your honest feelings. Only do this if you are certain this is not a cruelty to your DP though. The fact she said it but is not expecting you to say 'I love you' back sounds like she knows you well and that is a big bonus. Also she is an adult so presumably is getting enough out of the relationship to be happy?

SlimJiminy Wed 26-Nov-14 18:06:05

I said it and meant it on my fourth date with DH. We had met a couple of times through mutual friends before date one, but I'd still only spent time with him on a handful of occasions. I just knew I loved him. Same for him - and he said it back. I like that we were open so early on. I'd have completely understood if he wanted more time before saying it back though. A year would probably be my limit tbh if I was your gf - if I've dated you for a year and you don't love me now, I don't think you ever will. But we could still part at that point without me feeling like you've wasted loads of my life while you decided how you felt iyswim?

Hmm... it's hard to know what to suggest. I think if you see a future with her and want it to work, then there's nothing wrong with leaving things how they are, but don't string her along and pretend if you don't see yourself settling down with her eventually. If people had asked me in previous relationships what was 'missing' I'd have found it hard to think of anything, but I'd still have known at the back of my mind that there was something missing. If that's how you feel now, then don't wait forever for that missing piece to appear - it might never happen, and I think it'd be fairer for you both to look elsewhere for whatever it is you want...

holdyourown Wed 26-Nov-14 18:06:57

My opinion is that if you're trying to convince yourself really, 5 months in, then it's not right. I'd go with your gut instinct, which I think from reading your OP is that she doesn't really rock your world. I think you'd get different answers here if you were a woman posting the same thread, tbh

I'd end it and look for something 'bigger' which is going to last, and leave her to do the same.

theotherjefflebowski Wed 26-Nov-14 18:24:05

@Twinklestein
It's so difficult to identify, really. I think that fluttery feeling in your stomach, the lightning bolt, whatever you might want to call it, hasn't been there. We bet, we got on well, had plenty to chat about, that's how it went. It's very comfortable, if you get me.

@Quitelikely
I'd be very upset for a couple of reasons. One is a bit self-involved - I do want to stop searching for a bit and experience something with a semblance of stability about it. Secondly, I really do feel we have something good going on.

@JimmyChoosChimichanga
That's an interesting idea. I did once end a relationship without really giving it proper thought, and regretted that. I am wary of rushing into a decision.

On the subject of depression, I am very aware that it can be a lot for some to take on. I am careful to keep most of it away from her, and talk to people when I need to.

Yes, I think she is pretty happy with how things are. We do have a lot of fun, and I do appreciate being around someone who has a very positive outlook on life. If I catch wind of it affecting her, I'll have to see where that takes us.

theotherjefflebowski Wed 26-Nov-14 18:30:39

@SlimJiminy @holdyourown

Yes, this is the flipside of the coin. There is a feeling that ending yet another fledgling relationship that had a lot going for it, but maybe wasn't quite everything I wanted, is just a little too much to bear right now. My business is unfortunately going to fold in the new year as well, so processing it all is a bit overwhelming.

I have to say that I'm curious about what sort of responses you think I'd have gotten if I'd been a woman...?

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