How do you know when a relationship has ran its course and it’s time to walk away? I’m certainly no idealist when it comes to love and I don’t believe in the whole soulmate thing. I’m aware that a proper loving adult relationship takes a lot of hard work and compromise. But how do you know when the compromising goes too far and you are kind of erasing yourself in the process? For context I am in a long term relationship with a man who is both brilliant and kind and I know that he would take care of me into old age. Oh and my mum absolutely adores him (I think in no small part due to his prestigious career). Sticking with him would mean a life of comfort, financial security and yearly sailing holidays around the Greek isles (you get the picture). And yet, I sometimes feel like I can’t share myself fully with him. He is the archetypal strong and silent type whereas I am much more up and down with a – shall we say – somewhat colourful mental health history. I often feel like my emotions are too messy for him. Am I asking too much and should I just save those wackier parts of my personality for when I’m with my friends? Is it too much to expect him to be my confidante on top of everything else he does for me?
Thank you for your letter.
I am sorry to hear that you’re having doubts about your current relationship. Regardless of whether you may or may not be right for one another, it sounds like you care deeply about your boyfriend, which (I’d imagine) only makes things harder.
The subject of soulmates is an interesting one. For thousands of years, individuals have been enthralled by the idea of another human being possessing the key to their heart and soul. Perhaps the idea of having someone out there, who supposedly completes you, is comforting to some. I do not know whether they exist or not, but I can certainly say that no matter what the nature of your relationship is, a certain level of compromise is needed. You are two separate (hopefully whole) individuals, with similarities and differences – how you navigate your differences will determine whether your relationship can be successful or not.
According to Professor Robert J. Sternberg’s theory, there are three components of love:
- intimacy, which refers to closeness, being connected to your partner on a deeper, emotional level;
- passion, which involves intense feelings that lead to attraction, romance and intercourse;
- commitment, which refers to a person’s intention and subsequent decision to remain with their loved one.
I believe that this is a good model to abide by. Given that you’re hiding parts of yourself, I suspect that the intimacy component of your relationship is lacking. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to be vulnerable with your partner – the emotional connectedness is the glue that binds you together. Now, if you don’t feel safe enough to share all of you with your boyfriend, there may always be a barrier in your relationship impeding you from strengthening your bond. You said that “[you] often feel like [your] emotions are too messy for him”; is this your assumption or has he clearly expressed this to you? Have you tried communicating with him and letting him know how you feel? Do you think he’d be open to work on your emotional intimacy? Ask him!
It’s important that you have a frank conversation where you both have the opportunity to air out any concerns you may have, as well as discuss how best to meet one another’s needs. If he is committed to you and your relationship, he will at least hear you out and attempt to meet you in the middle.
For more information/tips please click here or alternatively you may want to consider seeking professional help, such as a couples therapist who can help guide that frank conversation.
I wish you all the best.
Dear Dania is for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of a mental-health professional, or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. We may edit your letter for length and/or clarity.
*The author’s identifying details have been changed in order to protect their privacy.