I am in love with a man who claims that he cannot feel love, that he does not know what it is and I want to figure out whether to stay with him in the casual/open/this-will-one-day-end romantic relationship we are in now, to cut that off entirely and just try to be friends, or to go all in and try to forge a long term bond and hope that he will one day feel love.
He is a special character-- he is in his mid twenties and was a virgin when I met him. He's incredibly shy and has terrible self esteem (which has gotten a bit better in the few months we've been together-- I have been telling him over and over again how amazing he is AND helped encourage him to get into therapy). His friends and family love him to bits and he is pretty much the sweetest and most thoughtful person I know, perhaps the sweetest I have ever known.
That said, he has a remarkably flat emotional affect. He spent a very long time of his life completely depressed, but not in a "sad" way, more in an "unmotivated, doesn't see the point to doing anything way". He broke out of that to some degree before I met him and is now somewhat engaged in life-- he creates amazing art, he is in phenomenally good shape, he started engaging in a hospitality network, he and I have tried lots of new things together (I encourage him but don't force or push him too hard), etc. He is ultra sensitive in many ways-- he can't stand to be at rock concerts because they are too loud, his skin is extremely sensitive to the touch, etc. He also has had bad anxiety in the past and still does sometimes. He can't stand crowds, he is nervous around new people he doesn't know well, etc.
None of that is a huge issue to me, it's just to give you some background into his psychology to help you theorize more clearly.
Also, early on in our relationship (about a month and a half in) I changed the relationship from boyfriend/girlfriend into the casual form it is in now due to my discovering that my suspicions were correct and he was probably into a type of porn (violent hentai) that I can't be ok with a partner being into (for more background on that, refer to this thread
, or feel free to memail me).
He was hurt by that but reported that he didn't miss me at all when we were separated and he said that it was up to me if we should continue any sort of relationship or not. I missed him like crazy and decided to try to resume the relationship in an open, undefined form at a reduced capacity to see what happened.
What happened after that was that I got over my other problems with the relationship that originated in my own issues AND I got over that one as it doesn't seem so important at the end of the day. I was able to let my defenses down and be myself with him and really come to love and trust him, to feel safe with him. I love this man. He is beyond wonderful and I am so lucky to have known him. Whatever happens between us romantically, I hope to know him in some capacity for this lifetime as I value him incredibly highly. My friends and family think he is very good for me-- I am a bit wild and he is incredibly stable and he grounds me while I bring excitement and adventure to his otherwise somewhat by the book existence. He and I get along incredibly well, save for the hentai incident we never have Big Conflicts and are well able to resolve disputes rationally and to the satisfaction of both parties.
Lately he has been initiating "so, what are we to each other these days?" conversations. During which I have trouble landing on a good definition. He lets me off the hook, usually, but the time is coming when it won't be fair to him to remain so flaky. He wants a girlfriend, not a nebulous friend with benefits/lover/who-knows-what-to-call-this-situation who is basically a girlfriend in all but title/concept anyway-- we spend lots of time together and the relationship is pretty traditional (even though it has been "open" for some time, neither nor I have taken advantage of that). I want a boyfriend, too, and in many ways this man is "rocking chair material".
I think what's stopping me from taking the relationship further now is that he has confessed that he doesn't think that he loves anyone. He says he doesn't "love" me, his parents, his grandma, his best friend, etc. He says he doesn't feel it in the way you're "supposed" to feel it, in the way others describe it or they ways it's depicted in media. It's not a deep feeling for him. He says he's scared that he might never feel it and when he says this my heart breaks for him.
Despite his professed lack of feeling, his actions are all entirely loving. Further, he will often say that he would feel terribly if he ever hurt me or if he ever let harm come to me. He always wants to spend time with me, even when I am down. He's great at cheering me up in those periods and even better at sharing my joy in the up periods. He's ultra considerate he often puts my needs/wants before his (but he never does this to an unhealthy degree that I can see-- he CAN set boundaries and keep them). When he holds me it feels like love (I have been with men who were saying they loved me and I could feel it in their embrace that they weren't actually there, this feels like the opposite of that). This seems like love to me. It feels like it. To me, anyway. But not to him. And that worries me.
Should I just encourage him to accept that his way of feeling love is unique, that the experience of it is probably just going to be more subdued than it is for most people, just like the rest of his emotions? That he shouldn't worry and that he does love his parents and his best friend and me?
Or is he right and it is in fact the case that he simply can't feel love? If so, could it also be that his low self esteem is causing this? It is true that you can't really love someone else until you love yourself, after all... Any other theories?