ASK ABDI: AM I CAPABLE OF HEALTHY LOVE?
QUESTION: I fell in love last fall. It’s been 20 years since I fell in love like that, feeling faint all the time, breathless, heart racing, entirely consumed. It’s a long-distance relationship, so all the feelings were supercharged. After four months, my love started to fade and now my boyfriend is upset, agitated, insecure. Nothing has faded for him. He is groping for an intensity that I can’t give him anymore. I am pulling away, but I don’t want to. What should one do in this situation? Actually, I don’t know if my love has faded or is just entering another phase. Or if I’m just incapable of being in a relationship with someone who wants me so feverishly, who is devoted, loving.
ANSWER: Good on you for opening your heart like that after such a long time, and falling in love. When one falls in love, one can fall out of love. When one nurtures love, it can become an enduring enterprise. The delicious feelings that you describe (“feeling faint all the time, breathless, heart racing, entirely consumed”) can also be attributed to any addictive experience. That phase of love is an invitation to an event, not the event. It is a menu, not the meal. Yes, and in addition, when a relationship is long-distance it can be “supercharged”, since the mind can tell all kinds of stories and throw out all kinds of projections. The other person is not there being encountered on a daily level to dispel those stories and projections.
In such situations, it is best to keep the focus on oneself and not the other (“and now my boyfriend is upset, agitated, insecure. Nothing has faded for him.”). Anything is possible, but the most likely scenario here is what you wisely describe: your love has entered another phase. It is certainly not easy to give up those feelings of excitement, and some of us jump from relationship to relationship to keep experiencing those feelings. But the change in those feeling does not warrant throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Take your time as you keep the focus on you, and see what the next step is. Being in the unknown in any situation is not comfortable, but it certainly can be the most fruitful until the next step is revealed. And the most compassionate to both of you.
As for your last line questioning whether you are “just incapable of being in a relationship with someone who wants me so feverishly, who is devoted, loving.” Something is not clear: if he is devoted and loving, then he will be patient with you as you figure out the landscape of your emotional life. The feverish descriptions reek of an addictive quality, which is not mature love, but a codependent type of needing another to complete us. At the same time, we must always examine our own abject terror of being loved. That applies to most of us on some level.
Commit yourself to love, allow the rest to be revealed by paying deep attention like a hawk. Both within and without. Work arduously at not telling stories and seeing as well as feeling the matter at hand as clearly as possible.