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Dear Mark,

My boyfriend and I have been on again off again for almost two years. We really love each other, but I’m not sure we have what it takes to be in a long term relationship. We met in an AA meeting when I was about eight months sober. We wanted to take it slow and my therapist recommended we not begin a relationship until I was sober for a year. So we waited. He treated me completely different than my last lover.

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Dear Mark,

 

My boyfriend and I have been on again off again for almost two years. We really love each other, but I’m not sure we have what it takes to be in a long term relationship. We met in an AA meeting when I was about eight months sober. We wanted to take it slow and my therapist recommended we not begin a relationship until I was sober for a year. So we waited.

He treated me completely different than my last lover. That relationship ended because of my alcohol use but it was also because he didn’t treat me as his equal. I think he liked that I had this problem because he could control me. He was much older than me and had quite a lot of money. Over our seven years together, I began to easily fall into the role of the one with the problem. When I got sober and started reclaiming my life, it was too much for us and we broke up. That’s when I met Drew. He understood me and, more importantly, cared about what I thought. I’d never had anything like it before. It felt like he really got me…like we were soul mates.

The problem is that we were never passionate… at least not for very long. I know we found each other physically attractive but after the first month or two it just died off. I love to kiss and I can barely get a peck on the cheek out of him. I love to roll around naked and cuddle and he won’t take his shirt off with the lights on. When I first went back to school he was supportive but now treats it as another thing that takes me away from him. What is that about? It’s so not like him.

I love him. I may even be in love with him. But how can I know for sure? This isn’t like any relationship that I’ve ever had. It doesn’t feel completely right but, as my mama always said, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Help.

Signed, Passionately Seeking

 

Dear Passionate,

How much of this have you told him? I ask this because it sounds like much of your thoughts have been just that…in your head. How much does he know about your concerns? It sounds like you made some big changes in your life and got out of a relationship that wasn’t working. This is all great and I congratulate you. It also sounds like you met someone who you feel you are compatible with on many levels. This is also good news.

The problem it seems is that you have run into a couple of roadblocks on your way to finding this perfect relationship. This concept of passion and its importance in a relationship. Yes, it is important, but passion is an illusion. It’s the glue that connects us so we can get to the real work of a relationship. The hard part to accept is that this real work comes to you in the form of a frustration. Our partners will inenvitably frustrate us in a variety of ways. Our job in the relationship is to find a way, outside of the conflict, to tell them what they are doing and how it makes us feel. This is essential. This uncovering of feelings is the path to true intimacy. The problem is that it feels conflictual, so many couples shy away from it in order the keep the peace. The problem with that is no matter how much you sweep under the rug to make it look pretty on top, the dirt is still under the rug and has to be cleaned up at some point. Don’t look at this as a failure. Look at it as an opportunity to get to know your partner better. As weird as it may seem, telling him what really bugs you about him is one of the quickest paths to a more loving and intimate relationship.

A few good reading sources for you are “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix. It’s written for straight couples but is a great starter book. Also, “10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Find Real Love” by Joe Kort. Read up some. Realize the potential this relationship has. Accept your fears and then take a deep breath and begin to talk with him anyway. You both can be afraid AND begin to sculpt a new and satisfying relationship. Good luck.

Mark Rutherford LCSW

Mark is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in South Florida since 1997. His practice concentrates on relationship issues and couples counseling as well as the spectrum of other related mental health concerns. Mark offers a no-nonsense, straightforward, educated forum where readers can feel comfortable asking any and all questions and get constructive answers.

Contact Mark via his web site, MDRutherford.com

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