Before my new boyfriend and I met, he spent two years in a volatile on-again, off-again relationship with a younger woman. He says she threw a lamp at him, punched him and stole from him. When he talks about her, he gets misty-eyed and calls her his soul mate. He says he will love her forever because she needs someone to love her unconditionally. I’m stunned speechless every time. He is an accomplished, wealthy man. Can you give me some insight?
Your boyfriend has a tangled, convoluted notion of love. If I was invested in parapsychology, I’d suggest that he imagines himself to have an unresolved past life connection with this woman. If I was trained in psychology, I might surmise that he has attachment issues stemming from codependency, or perhaps I’d look for symptoms of inverted narcissism. If I used a 12-step lens, I’d suggest that he’s in love with love. But as a realist, I think your man is unschooled in reality.
Your boyfriend believes that by accepting abuse, he’s proving his unconditional love. Not true. Unconditional love is the ability to hold an awareness of oneself or another as a being comprised of a persona (our social masks), a shadow (traits unacceptable to our ego) and a soul (the internal system that functions toward wholeness and increased awareness) and to offer acceptance without conditions. But a healthy relationship must have conditions. Allowing oneself to be abused is a serious failure of unconditional love toward oneself. It is also an act of ignorance about real love.
Most parents try to practice unconditional love toward their children. The parent of a teen acting out in aggression might get punched or have money stolen. And yet the parent, as a teacher of life, must respond with compassion while insisting on positive moral choices. The power dynamics of that relationship, and the emotional immaturity of a teen, demand a regulated response. Your boyfriend is treating this woman as if she is his child. That’s unhealthy for both of them—and you. As long as your man holds a fantasy about his lost soul mate, he’s only able to share a slim slice of his heart with you. Is that enough?
My boyfriend stopped having sex with me, and refuses to talk about it. We had amazing sex in the beginning of our relationship and I thought I found the man I would marry. But after he went home to visit his parents, he’s been withdrawn and unavailable. I’m heartbroken. How can I get him to open up and be intimate again?
When we talked by phone, you explained that your boyfriend is not out to his parents. You admitted that the two of you had not discussed what happened, if anything, during his trip home. However, you know that he doesn’t want his parents to know he’s gay and in a relationship. Obviously, he doesn’t want to let go of you entirely, either. If he did, it would have happened, right? So don’t let your wounded feelings or desire for sex interfere. Be understanding. He needs time to embrace who he is and to find the words to tell his parents. Until then, focus your energy and attention on a project that has fallen to the wayside while you’ve been devoted to your man. You will feel better moving ahead on your task list. Above all, trust that no matter what happens next in your relationship, all is well.