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  • #369918
    WestCoastGal
    Participant

    Hi everyone. I’m hoping to get a little bit of advice or feedback on something that I’m dealing with.

    I have been with my boyfriend now for about five months. He is 35, I’m 38. I have experienced all kind of relationships in the past, as I believe he has. He is the first guy I’ve dated in years who I see a future with. He is thoughtful, kind and caring, we have so much in common and make each other laugh.

    Everything is so great, except for the fact that we seem to express ourselves so differently. I’m very sensitive and vulnerable, love to talk (ie words of affirmations). He on the other hand seems to show me his affection by physical touch, gestures, gifts.

    He has yet to say I love you to me, even though I’m pretty sure he does.

    He hasn’t opened up too much about his past relationships, but has said vaguely that he is the way he is (gun shy about relationships, saying the L word, etc) because of his past.

    I have tried to get him to open up emotionally, but it seems like there’s just nothing there or he has a wall up and won’t let anyone in. I asked him recently when the last time he cried was and he laughed and said probably when he was a kid.

    His family has even mentioned the challenge of trying to see his emotions.

    I really do appreciate him, and what he does for me and that people are just different in how they express themselves.

    My issue is that I’m not feeling super connected to him because of this. I’m not asking him to break down and cry in front of me, but a little bit of vulnerability and emotion would help me so much. I just don’t want to push this issue on him and push him away. I have tried talking to him but it doesn’t really go anywhere because he either doesn’t have anything to say so the conversation doesn’t go anywhere, or I can’t seem to get out what I’m looking for from him.

    I do love and care for him, I just don’t know how to tackle this…

     

    #369975
    anita
    Participant

    Dear WestCoastGal:

    I will read and reply to you in about 14 hours from now.

    anita

    #370010
    anita
    Participant

    Dear WestCoastGal:

    You shared that you (38) are “sensitive and vulnerable, love to talk”- are in a five months relationship with a man (35)- who is “thoughtful, kind and caring”, a man who shows his affection to you “by physical touch, gestures, gifts”, but not in words: he did not yet say to you that he loves you, nor did he open up to you much about his past relationships, suggesting to you that he is “gun shy about relationships, saying the L word, etc.. because of his past”.

    Of the men you dated for years, he is the first guy you see a future with, having so much in common with him, making each other laugh, but your issue is that you are “not feeling super connected to him” because although you tried “to get him to open up emotionally”, he “has a wall up and won’t let anyone in”.

    You wrote: “His family has even mentioned the challenges of trying to see his emotions”-

    -his parents did see his emotions when your boyfriend was young: all young children express their emotions freely- and when they saw his emotions, they hurt him, ignoring or shaming and blaming him for his emotions- so to protect himself from his parents’ hurtful reactions to his emotions, he hid his emotions, building up that wall.

    He was not born with “a wall up”, the wall instinctively went up because there there really was a threat (ex. shaming, blaming) to him, and he needed to protect himself from that threat.

    “I have tried to get him to open up emotionally, but it seems like there’s just nothing there”- there is a lot there, but it is held behind that wall, and he is too afraid to do away with his protective wall.

    “I’m not asking him to break down and cry in front of me, but a little bit of vulnerability and emotion would help me so much”- a little bit of vulnerability is too much for him because he is too scared (and probably not aware of being so scared).

    “I just don’t want to push this issue on him and push him away”- wise choice. Fear is the most powerful emotion there is, so if you push him, fear is likely to win over his love for you.

    “I do love and care for him, I just don’t know how to tackle this”- even if you were a professional therapist, it wouldn’t be possible for you to be his therapist because of your lack of objectivity. So better you don’t try as it will harm, not help. But you can get to know him better and understand him better, and with more knowledge, there will be things that you can do to make him more and more comfortable with you, to the point that he will  open up more.

    It will take a lot of patience on your part, and it will take you being willing to be okay with the way he is now, the way he will continue to be, for a long time.

    If you want to, for the purpose of understanding him better (and finding out what you can do)- you can tell me what you know about his childhood, his relationships with his parents (and/ or with any adult who raised him, like a grandparent).

    anita

     

    #370034
    WestCoastGal
    Participant

    Thanks Anita!

    To give you a bit of background and to answer your questions, he is the youngest of 4 kids, his other siblings are all girls.  His parents divorced when he was about 3, and also has 3 step brothers.

    He has opened up a little about his relationship with his parents, and mostly his dad.  They don’t have much of a relationship, and rarely talk.  He saw him a couple months ago, but before then it had been a few years.  I actually met him in passing as well, and it was a quick handshake, and hello, but he didn’t engage in any conversation, or ask me any questions.  My boyfriend said that was to be expected though.

    I believe he was fairly close to his step dad, but I’m not sure how his family dealt with their emotions.  Maybe because he was one of many siblings, he didn’t feel safe to share his feelings and be vulnerable?

    He doesn’t have the best past with relationships.  He said he has been with many women, but only because he never thought he would get married and have kids.  I questioned him about this a little more, asking if that was because he didn’t want to get married and have kids, and he said that wasn’t the case, that it just wasn’t happening for him, and wasn’t meeting anyone.

    I know he dated a girl on and off for a couple of years, but I’m not exactly sure why they broke up.  He moved in with her (moved to a different city about 10 hours away), and said right away that they just fought all the time, and it was miserable.  Another girl he dated wasn’t local either, and he went to visit her once, bought her a bunch of winter clothing etc. because she didn’t have much money etc.  As soon as he got back home from that visit, she called him and broke things off.  I think that soured him, and made him angry.

    When we first started dating, right away he said he was gunshy about labels, and didn’t normally use them until a couple years or so (!).  I said I wasn’t ok with that, and he asked me what my time frame usually is, which I said at least within the first three months.  So right then, he said he knew we would be together at that point, and wanted to call me his girlfriend.

    I know he verbalizes his hesitancy about relationships and stuff, but I have met his family and friends (pretty early on), he called me his gf when he normally waits a long time, so maybe he just feels better with me?  He also said he doesnt say the L word until at least a year….which I haven’t heard yet, but I’m waiting for.

    I just don’t want to be stuck in another relationship where I’m waiting to move forward, as my past boyfriends I was with for years, and never got to the point of discussing marriage.  I’m 38 and still would like to have kids if possible, along with marriage.  I do see him as that in the future, I just don’t want to wait forever, and given his past, it makes me a little nervous.

    Sorry if this is all over the place, but hope this gives you a little more insight!

     

     

     

     

    #370036
    anita
    Participant

    Dear WestCoastGal:

    You are welcome. I understand why he is uncomfortable and hesitant about saying I-love-you, about the label bf-gf, about the idea of marriage and children: it is not only that his biological father paid him so little attention, but it is also his mother who paid him little attention, being busy with her divorce and re-marriage, with her other 3 children, plus the addition two of her new husband’s. His step father was busy with five children as well, other than him. Your boyfriend had so little of the emotional support and guidance, too little and for way too long. He is used to be emotionally alone, isolated, neglected.

    I am guessing that he felt quite trapped and/ or unhappy in his childhood home and he doesn’t want to experience that again, as in another unhappy home as an adult, with a wife and children.

    Reads to me that his relationship with you is healthier than his past relationships with women, that there is promise in this relationship, but there is also a place for concern.

    I think that you will need to make it clear to him,  almost casually (not in a dramatic way, with no hint of pressuring him) that you really want to get married and have children. Let him know that you are willing to accommodate his needs in a marriage, so that it can be a marriage in which he feels comfortable with. For example, that you are willing to give him alone-time when he needs it, that the two of you can have an extra room in your future home where he can spend time alone when he needs to.

    What do you think?

    anita

    #370256
    WestCoastGal
    Participant

    So I had a few days to think about this and think I’m ok with being patient.  However, now I can’t get out of my head that now, I’m realizing I’m not that physically attracted to him.

    Its a horrible feeling in my stomach and I feel awful for having these feelings and I don’t know what to do about it.  Part of me wonder if I’m just looking for things to be wrong, because I have a tendency to do that in relationships.

    I’m not getting the firework, butterfly feelings around him, or when I think about him.  I never actually really had those feelings from the beginning.  When I think back of guys I’ve dated in the past, it was like an infatuation,  and I was incredibly attracted to some of them.  I’m not getting that with him, but maybe that’s a good thing?  I’m really confused how to get over all of this.

    #370261
    anita
    Participant

    Dear WestCoastGal:

    I will be back to your thread, read and reply in about 11 hors from now.

    anita

    #370304
    anita
    Participant

    Dear WestCoastGal:

    Nov 26: “He is the first guy I’ve dated in years who I see a future with”.

    Nov 27, you wrote: “I’m 38 and still would like to have kids if possible, along with marriage. I do see him as that in the future, I just don’t want to wait forever”.

    Nov 27, I wrote to you: “I think you will need to make it clear to him, almost casually.. that you really want to get married and have children… What do you think?”

    Nov 30: “So I had a few days to think about this and think I’m ok with being patient. However, now I can’t get out of my  head that now, I’m realizing I’m not that physically attracted to him.. Part of me wonder if I’m just looking for things to be wrong, because I have a tendency to  do that in relationships”.

    My input/ question today- you shared nothing about your childhood, so the following possibility is only a possibility for you to consider and let me know if there is any truth to it: it is possible that when you were a child, the marriage between your parents was not a good marriage, things were wrong, and you were uncomfortable witnessing their relationship. Any truth to it?

    anita

    #370309
    WestCoastGal
    Participant

    Thanks Anita, to answer your questions, I had a bit of a rocky childhood.  My parents separated when I was 7 for a year, and got back together again.  Five years later they split again, as my dad came home one day and told us he was becoming a johova’s witness.  My mom didn’t want anything to do with that, so he basically chose his religion over his family.  Since then, I haven’t had a relationship at all with him.  So I didn’t have a male figure growing up, basically since the age of 12 to present.  I have tried to mend the relationship with him but he gets very defensive, and doesn’t want to hear how much he hurt me.  As soon as I say that, he will block me on all types of platforms.

    My mom has been married and engaged three times, and doesn’t have the best attitude towards men.  She turned into an alcoholic, but has been there for me at least.

    I was remembering the other night, trying to go back to see what my pattern was with men, and I remember when I was quite young and if a guy was interested in me, I would immediately be turned off. In my adult years, I’ve tended to chase men that aren’t ready for a relationship, have issues, or just aren’t interested.  So I can see my pattern.

    My friends have said that I self-sabotage, but I’m trying to still listen to my needs, ie. should I settle for someone who doesn’t speak the same love language, someone who I’m not that attracted to?  Or do I try and break my pattern, and learn to love?

     

    #370313
    anita
    Participant

    Dear WestCoastGal:

    Your father left and came back, then left again and remained gone. When you reached out to him (sharing with him how you truly feel, hurt), he rejected you, blocking you “on all types of platforms”.

    Fast forward, you are a teenager/ young woman, “if a guy was interested in me, I would immediately be turned off”- you expect to be left and rejected, so you shut down, it happens automatically. There is fear and anger in this response: fear of being hurt again, anger at having been hurt.

    You probably absorbed some of mother’s attitude toward the men in her life (“My mom has been married and engaged three times, and doesn’t have the best attitude towards men”), an attitude that added to your reluctance to be be hurt again.

    “In my adult years, I’ve tended to chase men that aren’t ready for a relationship, have issues, or just aren’t interested”- what drove that chasing is your inborn, natural need and desire to be in a relationship. The reason you didn’t shut down, or got turned off with those men is because they were not chasing you, so you were not in danger.

    In your original post you wrote: “I’m very sensitive and vulnerable”- by shutting down and either not developing an interest or an attraction to men, or losing it- your brain has been automatically protecting you from feeling hurt again, feeling that intense hurt of childhood.

    “should I settle for someone who doesn’t speak the same love language, someone who I’m not attracted to? Or do I try and break my pattern, and learn to love?”- the love language issue is a minor issue, as I see it. The main issue is your fear of getting hurt again, your fear of re-experience the hurt you felt as a child.

    Young children feel very intensely. As adults we may forget that intensity, but it was there.

    To break the patterns, it will take the lessening and managing of your fear of getting hurt. You will need to attend to the fear because at this point, it is more powerful than love.

    anita

    #370494
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    This reply has been reported for inappropriate content.

    Thank you again Anita.

    I wanted to check in again and write, as I am currently experiencing some fear and anxiety.  Things will be great in my mind one minute, and then full blown anxiety/panic the next.

    My boyfriend isn’t the greatest texter, which I totally internalize sometimes.  As I mentioned in my initial post, he isn’t really expressive verbally. I’m learning to just deal/accept that.  However, like I said, one day I will be totally cool with it, and kind of laugh it off, then something will set me off.

    For example, I sent him a message almost three hours ago and he hasn’t replied.  He has been online on FB, but hasn’t replied to my message yet, and it is driving me crazy, and making me so angry.  I wish I wasn’t like this, and wish I didn’t get so mad.  I can feel it in the pit of my stomach, and it makes me want to lash out at him.

    I think one of the big things that I really need to work on is my anger, and panic/anxiety.  I’m aware of it, but I wish it would go away.

    #370499
    anita
    Participant

    * Dear Heartbrokengurl:

    This thread is WestCoastGal’s thread. Therefore, I copied your post above and will paste it into your most recent thread of September 2019. I will answer you there.

    anita

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