I am a young family/divorce lawyer and despite seeing hundreds of cases of couples who don’t work out, I am still trying to find the recipe for what I should look for in finding the right guy or what will make a marriage last. I am 32 years old and recently started dating a guy who’s very similar to me in personality. He’s 35, educated, never went to grad school but went to a good university and majored in a practical science program. He has a decent job. He did seem a bit intimidated that I was more educated than him and seems a bit intimidated sometimes in general. But for the most part we have an incredible affection between us—we hit the ‘comfort’ stage early on, I’d almost say ‘love’ (even though we’ve only been dating about a month)—but I wouldn’t say there is striking passion.
He is attractive, fit, and so am I. We have a lot in common but I have this feeling that something may be missing—I guess some sort of excitement or butterflies. I’m not sure if this is a horrible sign or if it’s just because everything is going so well and comfy it’s fine. On my list of “must haves,” he has everything. The only thing is, I usually go for more educated, successful, “alpha” type guys and he’s not that. I think that may be coming into play because I’m not as excited and don’t see him as a challenge as with some guys in the past. We are both, despite our age, also quite inexperienced with relationships and he’s not as sexually experienced as some guys I’ve been with in the past. Our sexual chemistry is good but sex hasn’t been amazing [in part because] he’s so nervous around me. He’s never been as into anyone as he’s been into me. He puts me on a pedestal I think, and I read that’s never good either. But he treats me like a princess. I feel like I’ve struck gold in some ways, and I also must admit I have a pretty difficult personality as a lawyer and former model, I can be a handful at times. I know I can get my way and push it sometimes. I also have terrible insecurities but he relaxes me, understands and accepts me as I am without accusing me (as most alpha guys would do, accusing me of being too difficult or prob just dumping me altogether).
So I know there’s a lot of good in him. I realize it’s only a month or so in, but he’s already planning vacations together, and I’m feeling a bit scared. I like him but I don’t have that searing passion and excitement I did when I first started dating my ex (who didn’t last long though). In general, is this a bad sign? Do you think I should hold out for someone I feel more excitement for, who can sort of maybe put me in my place or has that challenge I like as well? I feel like I may be looking for an oxymoron and my friends warn me I am a beautiful accomplished 32-year-old who can never find love … maybe I am searching for a unicorn. I want a guy who’s very caring, loving, sweet (like current guy) but who is also somewhat aggressive and a leader. I don’t know if I am searching for something that doesn’t exist. What do you think? — L
Dear L: You are in a dilemma that people struggle with. You’re with a good guy who checks all the right boxes, but you’re not as excited about him as you want to be. You feel ambivalent. My advice is: Be ambivalent. You’ve been dating him for a month and a lot seems to be going right. Can you be happy with him long term? Hard to say but it sounds to me that this nice relationship is worth enjoying a little longer.
It’s funny—I was about to write that the relationship was worth “sticking out” a little longer, but then I realized that if you were “sticking it out” maybe it isn’t worth it. However, if you’re enjoying yourself why not keep enjoying yourself for a little while longer? You’re not married. You can still keep your eyes open. (And perhaps you can gently tell him you’re not quite ready to make long-term plans just yet.)
You mentioned that he gets nervous around you and this puts a damper on your sex life. I’m wondering if he’s sensing your unease. Maybe the issue is less about what degrees you have and more about the fact that he senses that you have one foot out the door. This might sound like a contradiction, but I’m wondering if allowing yourself to simply relax into your uncertainty might make things easier on you both. That is, if you aren’t stressing over whether or not he’s the right one for you, you both might be able to relax.
So the basic idea is, take the pressure off—of both of you. Worrying about the future will suck the fun out of a relationship, which then makes it more difficult to figure out if you should continue it. So try giving yourself a nice space of not-worrying time. For example, you could say, “For the next month, I’m not going to worry about whether or not this relationship has a future.” I think that might help you have a better time and give you a clearer idea of the answer.
Oh, and as for the part where he puts you on a pedestal and treats you like a princess. I don’t know what you’ve read on this–maybe there is a great research that says it’s a problem. But honestly I see nothing wrong with having a boyfriend who treasures you. Though as you clearly understand, at some point it should be reciprocated.
Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her questions here.