This guest blog is from YourTango expert and therapist Dr. Margaret Paul, who addresses one of the toughest dilemmas we face in dating.
James, in his mid-30s, was ready to meet his life partner, get married and have children. After dating many women, he met Cindy. “She is really beautiful, although I’m not sure she’s my type. But I think she is perfect for me. We have the same interests, the same values, we go to the same church and we both want children. My friends who meet her think she’s dynamite.”
“But … ?” I could hear hesitation in his voice during our phone counseling session.
“I don’t know. There doesn’t seem to be a spark and I don’t miss her when I’m not with her. In fact, I rarely think about her when I’m not with her. And our conversation doesn’t seem to flow easily. We run out of things to talk about. Maybe the spark will grow. Does that ever happen?”
“Why not spend a little more time with her and see how you feel?” It became apparent within a few months that the spark was not going to grow and the conversation was not going to flow. James still did not look forward to seeing Cindy.
“James, it doesn’t seem that this relationship is going to become what you want it to be. Perhaps it’s time to move on.”
But James was afraid of ending up alone, afraid he would not meet anyone as sweet as Cindy. He ended up staying in the relationship with her for two years before finding the courage to leave.
James and Cindy were wonderful friends but not good life partners. Romance just wasn’t there. He loved her but he never fell in love with her.
Abigail found herself in the same position as James, only she had stayed in the relationship with Andrew for seven years, hoping that romance would grow. She knew at the beginning of the relationship that she was not sexually attracted to Andrew but he was such a nice guy and he really loved her.
The sad thing is that Abigail really wanted children, but by the time she finally left the relationship, it was very close to being too late to have children.
Why didn’t she leave sooner? “I hate being alone. I don’t know that I can be alone and I’m afraid that I won’t find another partner. Besides, we are best friends.”
Both James and Abigail could have saved a lot of time if they had understood the difference between friendship and romance.
It is my experience that if the spark and the flow aren’t there at the beginning, they generally won’t develop. I won’t say never, because I have seen a few relationships where the spark did develop over time but this is generally not the case.
If the spark does not develop within the first six months of the relationship, it is time to move on — unless a companionship relationship is acceptable to you. But if spark, flow and romance are important to you, then accept that you and your partner have a wonderful friendship but not a romance.
James soon met another woman, Val, with whom he had romance. He was very attracted to her and they could easily talk for hours. But he soon discovered that romance itself is also not enough. Val did not share his spiritual beliefs, his values or his interests. Her rigid religious beliefs deeply conflicted with his deep spiritual beliefs and he knew he could not raise children with her beliefs. He realized within the first few months of the relationship that none of this was going to change so he moved on, now open to finding a woman with whom he can have it all.
“Am I too picky?” he asked me.
“No! Stay solid on what you want and you will find it!”
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