Do you have questions about creating intimacy or developing mindful relationships?
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No judgments, just soulful answers.
Since working on this column, I’ve seen a trend: Broken-hearted women wondering why the man they love doesn’t love them back.
In “Let’s Get Intimate,” I answer a lot of questions about relationships, sex, intimacy, dating, and marriage. One theme that keeps rearing its wild shaggy head is “The Man Who Got Away.” I get scads of messages like this:
Three weeks ago he moved to New Zealand. He is going to stay there for a year, work and “figure things out.” He didn’t break up with me before he left. Instead said he wanted to take things each day as they come. Which has left me feeling vulnerable and confused as I keep pushing him for answers…
He says he cares so much about me. And I can’t get over him.
How do I get over him? Sadly, I cannot stop thinking about him. I want to understand. If he doesn’t not like me, how do I let him go? Get him off my mind. I have been trying to meet people, but it’s like some part of me has decided I want this guy and there is no other.
We find a man and get caught up in the perfect storm of physical attraction, right time-right place, desire for love, and a healthy dose of pheromones that sends us reeling like Dorothy’s house over the twister-ridden Kansas sky. But when the house comes down—i.e., when the love affair is over—it usually lands unpleasantly for us, which leads to this:
I’m lost and in love with a man who won’t notice me.
I feel let down that I tried so hard to make it work between us, when he was literally out trying to bang other girls. I would have given him everything, and I just wanted him to love me.
It hurts to know so many of my sisters are suffering from what should be the bliss of love. I don’t claim to know all the facts and feelings associated with each of these stories, but I will share my thoughts about what I’ve read and the themes I see repeating themselves.
He seemed so interested at first. (Variation: He told me he loves me.)
He woke me up by tracing his fingers over my tattoo and kissing my shoulder. I was extremely happy that it seemed as though he was finally reciprocating! I later went home walking on air.
This is how it starts. If we didn’t have that connection, the bond would never be made. It’s a tremendous feeling to be cared for by someone. In that moment when we first click, it feels like we’ve found the soul that balances ours. Finally! How could this be a mistake when the feeling is so strong…?
You get him better than he gets himself.
I know when he needs me and when he doesn’t.
It’s easy to project that connection we feel onto the man we love. The catch is that he may not feel the same connection.
He’s had a rough life and deserves a break.
I care and worry about him so much as he is in pain.
He was caught up with drugs and a bad group of friends. I was always stopping him from being with them or having to rescue him after a comedown. Basically, I did everything for him and he didn’t do much for me. However, because this was his first relationship and he has no family, he felt he did a lot.
One of the most blessed aspects of being Woman is that we are nurturers by nature. We do care genuinely for others, and we are sensitive to their pain. And when we’re in love? Watch out. The magical ether of empathic power emanates from us and finds its pinpoint target in our man’s suffering.
But here’s the deal. We need to be very clear about whom we are helping. A man who has had a rough life needs to heal himself. You cannot do it for him. By stepping in as his Wonder Woman/Therapist/Nurse/Fortune Teller you are really helping yourself to feel useful and present in his life. If you love him, point him in the direction of self-healing, then step back and give him space to do his life work.
If he’d just wake up, he’d see you’re the one for him.
Is it wrong that I want to steal him from [his] woman? Is he worth stealing? Can I even steal him? Or does he love her and only planned to use me for something he lacks? I don’t understand because he claims his relationship is hard but won’t make an effort towards a new relationship with me.
I’m so sorry to be the one to say this: He won’t wake up. And if he does, he’ll have some ‘splainin’ to do. You see, real love does not involve turning one’s back on one’s beloved. Nor does it mean stringing another sentient being along with promises of hot sex and deep conversation.
Leave the man to his path, and get to dancing along your own.
But all is not lost!
Thankfully, sometimes there are messages—literally—that break us from our spell. Sometimes men do the right thing, like this one who wrote to his ladyfriend after a beautiful night together:
I am not looking to be in a relationship as of right now. I’m still recovering from my breakup with my ex a few months ago and am obviously still dealing with a number of personal issues. You are one of my best friends, honestly. I do not regret in the slightest what happened. We have a connection of sorts. In complete honestly, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I’m just not ready to invest myself with anybody right now. I hope you understand.
This is the kind of message we need as women. Something respectful and honest. Unfortunately, we do not all get this much-needed closure. And even if we do? There’s still that nagging connection we feel to the man with whom we shared our soul:
I don’t want to close the door on the possibility of us being together and slowly seeing where things lead. But at the same time, I realize that I probably want this more than he does, and if I keep chasing him and “seeing where things go” I might just find out later on that he doesn’t know what he wants and I was right in the first place that I’m more invested. That will hurt more, I suppose.
Yes, it will. How do I know? I’ve been there.
In the interest of full disclosure, here’s a snippet of a letter I wrote in 2002 to a similar advice column as this one. At the time, I was in Year Thirteen of a long-term, on-and-off thing with a man I refused to believe didn’t want me. As I lamented to the columnists:
We’ve been connected longer than many marriages; we know each other. This isn’t a flighty male-female thing. We’ve dated others during these years, I’ve even been married & divorced during it all. He is well aware that we cannot be friendly without being lovers and we certainly cannot be lovers without being friends. I can accept his rejection of me. I did. That’s why I kept my silence. But I do love him, after all. So. Are we soulmates who are asking too many stupid questions of fate or is he just a sadomasochistic prick?
The point is, I know of what I speak. I have felt the pain of the man who won’t come back. Or, worse, comes back only to leave again.
Why do they do it?
Because they are not for you, sweet sister. It’s that simple. A man decides, just as you do, to whom he will give his heart. And sometimes, despite how much we feel it should be, it is not to us. We can be so much for each other in this life; a genuine connection should not be overlooked. But we need to be careful of confusing connection with relationship-quality love.
Since confusion plays a big part in many of these stories, I suggest you ask yourself one question: Can the man you have feelings for—right now, regardless of where he is physically or emotionally—support you in your pain, however and whenever it may manifest? If the answer is no, it’s time to move on.
Find love in what brings you joy, not what hinges on his happiness. (And, no, he doesn’t bring you joy. Not now. Maybe in your memories, but not at this very moment or he’d be by your side.)
So, was my own lost man a “soulmate” or a “prick”? Neither, really. Remarkably, he’s still in my life and I consider him a dear friend. That took years to accomplish. The first step was to accept that despite our love, he was not meant to be my partner. Then I got to loving myself. Then I met the love of my life. I suggest you do the same, even if the love of your life turns out to be You. In fact, if that’s the case, it’s all the more admirable.
Author: Rachel Astarte
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Drew Hays at Unsplash