Dr. Dennis Neder,
"Being a Man in a Woman's World"
I have been with person for 5 years. We're both 25. We've been engaged
and living together for 2 years. He is very sweet, and kind, and treats
me very well. We are very comfortable together, and I love him like a
member of my family. He is always there for me when I need it.
However, sometimes I still feel like there is something missing. You
know how there are some friends that you can talk to for hours and
hours? We have never had that. The conversations we have are rarely very
deep or meaningful, or frankly, even very interesting. We always have a
pleasant time together, chit chatting, or watching TV, or what not, but
still, I wonder if I want something more. If we had once had that "soul
mate connection" at the beginning, then I would think that perhaps these
things fade with time, but it was never like that, not even at the
Also, he is a different religion. I am willing to compromise about any
kids, etc. in this area, but I would prefer not to have to.
Also, recently, I have been having strong attractions to other men. It
started two years ago. At first I thought it was just the distance (we
were long distance for two years), so I arranged to move to where he
lives. Then a year ago it started to happen again. I was going through a
very stressful time at work, so I thought perhaps that was the reason.
But now everything's fine and it's happening again. I have never been a
"boy crazy" person, not even when I was in high school. I have of
course, not even considered cheating on him. However, just feeling this
way makes me feel awkward. It doesn't seem normal.
I'm wondering, is there something wrong with me? Is there something
wrong with this relationship? I doubt I will ever find someone who loves
me as much, and who is as sweet and loyal. Is this just cold feet or
"the grass is always greener" mentality or is this really a sign that
he's not the one?
Any advice would be appreciated.
What on the surface seems like a simple question but actually very
complicated. I'm going try to cover this in depth, so please bear with
1. Relationship phases
First of all, it's perfectly normal for couples to get "comfortable"
with each other and have less to talk about over time. There are 3
phases that all relationships eventually get to if they survive long
1) Excitement phase - this is when you first meet and you're all tingly
to be together. Many people mistakenly believe this is "love" and
constantly seek it out. When the excitement phase begins to wane, they
think they're also falling out of love and start the exit plan.
2) Bonding phase - this is where you've been together for a while and
still look forward to being together, but the excitement you first had
is gone. You now have a steady, predictable relationship.
3) Familiar phase - many experts believe that this is when real "love"
happens - it's after you've been together for some time and you revert
back to focusing on your personal needs rather than the needs of the
relationship itself. You do this because you're "bonded together" and
the relationship is very strong; no longer needing the care it once did
2. Long-Distance Relationships
Now, you claim that you've been together for "5 years", but I counter -
no, you haven't. You've been together for 3 years since 2 of those were
long-distance. That's a very different type of relationship; and while
it seems "real", in fact, it's not. It's also why you began to start
My concern however is that your original relationship is based on false
ideas about each other. I'm not trying to raise issues that don't exist
here - I'm just trying to give you perspective. Being long-distance
means that you are missing a TON of cues that you'd otherwise have in
order to build impressions of each other. Guess what your creative,
powerful mind does when it lacks these cues? It fills them in for you!
These are based on your own perceptions, beliefs, goals, desires, etc. -
NOT reality. Thus, at least some of your original attraction is also
based on this false information. That doesn't mean the attractive itself
is false - in fact, it's entirely real - and feels that way. However, as
you've gotten to know him over these years, much of that has changed and
this is a good time to reevaluate your on-going attraction BEFORE you
jump into a marriage.
3. Interest in Others
It's absolutely normal to find others "attractive" and "interesting"
even when you're committed to someone. When you enter into a
relationship and "commit", you have to accept that others will be
attractive to you. A commitment isn't a promise to not be attracted to
others - it's a promise to build the core relationship itself and to not
be distracted by these other interests. You've done that and apparently,
so has he.
4. Longing for - and continuing that "spark"
When I get letters from long-term couples that complain about their
3rd-phase ("familiar") experiences I recommend that they get a "couples
hobby" together. This is something totally different and apart from what
their current patterns together. For instance, you might be interested
in something and your boyfriend in something else. I suggest you
continue to pursue those interests, but to find something you both can
do together as a couple that is totally and completely different.
There is an almost unlimited number of new things you can try:
everything from scuba diving to sky diving, horseback riding to hiking,
biking to book clubs, fine dining to wine tasting - and everything in
What's cool about doing this is that you instantly get some new material
to talk about! You both can experience something new together as a
couple and continue to grow together - just as you're now doing
individually! This not only helps to re-energize your relationship, but
will help you to bond even more.
In your case, this might be a critical move!
Consider that if you both can't find something totally and completely
new that you're both interested in, you may not have a foundation to be
married! Eventually, this feeling of non-connection will begin to eat
away at you - and your relationship - until you feel trapped in your
marriage rather than enriched by it. Eventually, one or both of you may
seek to end it.
There's one more aspect you need to understand about all of this.
5. Communication "types"
Your specific comment about not being able to "talk for hours and hours"
leads me to believe that you're what is known as an "auditory". In other
words, you experience your world - including your relationships - via
words and sounds. That's neither good nor bad - it just "is".
It's also likely that your boyfriend is a different "type". For
instance, he may be a "visual" that experiences his world (and
relationship) via visual cues or he may be a "kinesthetic" that
experiences things mostly through feelings.
These differences don't spell an end to your relationship at all.
Instead, they give you a new realm to explore. If you knew what your
boyfriend needed in order to see, hear or feel love, you'd certainly
want to do that, right? I bet he would too. However, I'll also bet
you've never considered that you and he might be different types before.
I tell you this not because it's a specific key to your issue, but that
it's likely one of the areas in which your relationship needs to grow.
By learning more about how your boyfriend perceives his world -
including his relationship with you - and by teaching him your
experiences, you both are gaining valuable tools to make your
relationship - and a marriage - work.
So, this comes down to the simple question: should you get married or
The answer is: if you can reconcile thing points that I've made in this
letter to your experiences - and actually work through them and so can
he, then yes, you should get married. If you can't or at least aren't
able to find compromise positions on them, then I'd suggest you just
stay living together until you can or until you decide to move on to
find someone with whom you can.
Dr. Dennis Neder
Have a love, relationship or man/woman question? I answer all email. You
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Copyright (c) 2007 Dr. Dennis W. Neder All rights reserved.