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Dating Advice #88 - Does Love Conquer All?

May 9, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

Her date has a lot of problems, but she is determined to make this work, no matter whatever it takes.

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am 24 years old, living successfully in New York City. Three years ago, while I was living in Pennsylvania, I met a man on the Internet. In greeting one another, I heard someone whisper to me: "This will be the man you marry."

Our courtship progressed over the next year. But we stopped dating and that devastated me horribly. That's when I truly learned to face my own decay and stop putting the blame on others.

After that we started dating again and spent the next year having the most wonderful time -- we didn't fight, we just went to fun places together. And then he came to me one night in tears, and said his parents were getting a divorce. He didn't know how to deal with it, so I tried to help him through it, since my parents divorced when I was younger and I understood.

Then last year I found out he had started dating someone behind my back. I was truly and utterly in shock. I could not believe how something that we had both worked so hard for, he would throw away. I walked away from him, asking him please to never contact me again, as I could not accept this treatment from someone who I trusted my heart and soul to.

One year later... We started dating again, and those few weeks were amazing -- sharing quality time together and better than ever before. One evening in the car ride home, he asked me in a nervous voice, "How did you feel about me?" I said, "Well, it took a year to get over you, and now you're back. But the past is gone, you've started with a clean slate, and obviously I care for you."

Over this past month I couldn't believe the amazing time we were having just getting to know each other again. That was the greatest of all this -- having my friend back, but in a more mature way, as we were able to talk and give advice. I felt we had both grown a lot in the previous year, which was bringing something very positive to this new beginning. He started saying how he wants to spend much more time with me.

His birthday was coming up and I made us some wonderful plans. Then I received a very cold call from him: "I'm sorry, I know you've put a lot of effort into my birthday, but something has come up." He said he could not talk right now, that he had to go -- "Bye!" I was shocked.

A few days later, he came to my apartment, said that he was sorry he had done this to me, that I was a good person, and he didn't want to hold me back, that he just wasn't ready, that he had turned to me because I was a comfort to him, and yes he did care about me, but he sees no future for us.

I can't figure out why, if we feel so comfortable with each other and have fun, is he walking away from it? If he just needs to play and break free for a bit, so be it, but I did not suffocate him in anyway, since I knew that would only push him away. But this completely blind sided me, and now I am wondering what happened.

I am at a loss. I know how special what we have is, and I just can't accept that he doesn't feel that also. It's like I've known ever since I heard that whisper, that he is the other half of my soul. I wander as only half without him. Help!


Dear Melissa,

Love doesn't conquer all. This guy has many more problems than you have, but if you keep him in your life you might actually end up with a list of difficulties longer than his.

Neither of us believe that it is possible to "find" one's soul mate. We've seen too many failed marriages that started out similarly to your own. The inner voice many people hear isn't always right. Instead, we both genuinely believe that each person helps develop their soul mate over the course of a relationship.

A man and a woman build together throughout courtship and especially marriage, by working with and complimenting each other, fighting and resolving arguments, weathering crises and giving each other emotional support, sometimes disappointing each other, and learning how to make amends.

We also believe that the "love" people may feel before they get married no guarantee that they will strengthen that emotion as they grow through marriage. In fact, many divorce attorneys say that those who were "head over heels in love" with each other before their marriage, make up a very large percentage of divorce clients. This can be because people who are so deeply infatuated with each other are blind to potential problems, and don't develop the skills they need to address these problems as they arise.

Or, they become infatuated with each other when they only know each other superficially, and never develop enough depth in the relationship. They are so smitten that they don't get to know each other well enough to realize that their goals and values are on a collision course, or they think that even if this is the case their love can overcome the challenge.

It can also be that sometimes one of the partners is not emotionally equipped to build or sustain a healthy relationship, but the other either cannot or will not see this.

The latter scenario seems to describe your situation. This guy needs a great deal of therapy, as well as his own personal commitment to get it. You are not going to be able to infuse him with the desire to get help and follow through with therapy. It may happen in movies and novels, but real life doesn't work that way. The success of therapy depends on the client's acknowledgement that he needs help, and willingness to follow through with treatment.

Unless you understand this reality, we can see you going back to this man again and again in the future. The scenario you have described will replay itself and can literally ruin your life.

We'd like you to be able to let go of the hope that you have for this guy and look at more objectively. Hopefully, you will be able to do that in time. If you decide to move forward with your life, you will need to allow yourself to go through the grieving process, which you seem to have held back from doing in the past. This process may take you several months to work through, or it may take a shorter or longer amount of time. Gradually, you will be able to put this behind you and move forward.

We can promise you this: You will be able to build a happy and emotionally stable life with someone in the future. "Build" is the key word here. That great relationship will probably not start with a little message in your ear, or even with fireworks that many people expect to feel at the start of dating someone new. However, the right relationship will be able to grow into a real union of "soul mates." Good luck.

Rosie & Sherry

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