How do I stop from giving my heart away too quickly?
April 15, 2010 6:09 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop from giving my heart away too quickly? (relationshipfilter--long, natch.)

In new relationships, I give my heart away much too quickly. (I'm a straight guy, 32.) I am quick to commit, quick to trust, quick to make grandiose romantic statements, quick to fall in "love". This results in either me scaring away the women I am dating, or getting really hurt when I've invested too much in the wrong person, and the relationship blows up. Since the latter just happened (again), I'm trying to figure out how to approach romantic relationships in a healthier manner.

I'm definitely a sentimental romantic, and attracted to the idea of Hollywood-style love at first sight, and though I do realize in my head the inherent ridiculousness of the idea, my heart stubbornly refuses to let go of the possibility of it happening. So, every time I experience limerence, I think "this could be it!" and let myself go in the rush of emotion. Unfortunately, reality always intrudes in these situations, and I'm left wondering if I could (or should) be different.

Part of me doesn't want to change. Part of me values the fact that I can love easily, that I can retain openness and enthusiasm despite having my heart stomped on so many times.

But then, I have a short relationship like the one that just ended, and I'm left with a sprained heart and feeling like a fuck-up for feeling so bad after such a short time with a new person. I feel like I should be able to end a five-week relationship (especially when the other person ends up being so obviously wrong for me) without feeling like the world is coming to an end (a slight exaggeration, but only slight.)

My life right now is great--I have a great job that I love, I'm a part-time university student and achieving my academic goals, I have a diverse group of friends and I'm social and active. I play in a band, love to cook, work out regularly, and I'm involved in sports. In short, my life looks from the outside the way it should when Mefites say "Stop looking for love, just be awesome and it will come to you." But I can't shake the feeling that something is missing. I know that I want to find a partner, and get married, and have a family. I know that is what I want for my life. I'm having a really hard time easing off, and just letting it be. So when I meet someone who I really click with, and am feeling infatuated, I'm thinking "FINALLY!" It's so hard to just take it slow and not jump right in.

Is this something that only a ton of therapy can unpack? I've seen a counsellor through my EAP a few times, but I only get six sessions, and I just don't see this being resolved that quickly, based on how the first few sessions went. Or is this something that I can even change? Should I just accept that this is how I am?

Some datapoints that may be relevant:

- I've had issues with depression. I spent 6 years essentially a shut-in, where I didn't date at all. I overcame those issues about 4 years ago, and feel great these days.

- I've only had one serious relationship that lasted, for approximately a year. It ended about a year ago. I never fell in love with her, never had the crazy feelings I've had for the girls in the relationships that went kaboom. I'm also starting to wonder if I'm only attracted to unstable women...maybe that's for next week's question? Hehe.

posted by freem to Human Relations (10 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
You can't help your feelings be but what they are. Don't try to fight your feelings, it's futile. Be aware of them, acknowledge them, and then choose your actions. You've done the hard part already by examining your earlier mistakes. I'm fairly certain that you'll be fine - there is nothing wrong with you.
posted by Brent Parker at 6:28 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

> How do I stop from giving my heart away too quickly?

You can't. And that's a good thing. It means you're truly living life.
posted by spaceandtime30 at 6:31 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's what's jumping out at me:

I'm...attracted to the idea of Hollywood-style love... Unfortunately, reality always intrudes"

You're 'giving your heart away' because you're trying to live a fantasy instead of engaging with reality. Relationships aren't going well because you're not really relating to other people; you're trying to get them to play a role in your imagined perfect life. Learn to recognize when you're falling into this trap. Stop. Listen to the sounds, smell the smells, see the things and hear the words that are actually around you. i.e., Be Here Now, etc.
posted by jon1270 at 6:36 AM on April 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

This is adversely affecting your life, so working to change it seems preferable to accepting it. I agree with jon1270 that it sounds like you get very attached to a fantasy or an idea of someone. The reality is that you cannot possibly know in the early stages of dating whether someone will be a good match for you long-term. Couples may say in hindsight that they knew immediately they were right for each other, but it's easy to say that when things have already worked out.

You'll probably hate this idea, but maybe you should try dating multiple people (while being completely up front with everyone about it, of course). Instead of fixating on one person and your possible future with her, you'll be able to see how you click with people (or don't) in different ways, and how dating is a much more fun journey when you're not fantasizing about the destination. If something is meant to become serious, allow it to evolve naturally.
posted by spinto at 7:06 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it's okay to feel those feelings but try to run them through a "friend filter" or something before sharing them with your probably new girlfriend/date. Friends are the ones who will listen to your OMG WE CAN HAS FOREVER? IS DA ONE! rants at least for a litle bit* and they will set you straight. Tell your dog how you feel. Tell your friends. Tell the mail person. Just wait a little bit before telling the girl you're with until you, and others who care about you, think it would be genuine and meaningful.

*If I have to hear much more about my guy friend's gf and how perfect and nice and wonderful she is and how lovely her chest is I may throw up.
posted by ShadePlant at 7:38 AM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I get these feelings A LOT. It's okay. Just keep your mouth shut and ride it out. The bad horrible breakup feelings--yeah they suck--but they go away, don't they? Ride it out. Such is life.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:46 AM on April 15, 2010

I had to check to be sure you weren't my husband's good friend, who exactly matches your description! In our friend's case (which may or may not be true of yours), there are two problems at work: First, he is eager to get married QUICKLY (he has an internal clock on the issue and has gone past it, so he's a little frantic) and he pushes too hard and comes on too strong; Second, in coming on too strong, he is pretty stalkery. He has invited a woman he just met at a bar to come spend the weekend at his house in another city (mega-creepy), sent huge floral arrangements after meeting once at a club (too much), and similar actions. When I protested the reason this wasn't working was because HE WAS BEING CREEPY and women were thinking he was a terrifying stalker, he said my advice was dumb and I said, "Dude, I'm married AND I have two X chromosomes, I know whereof I speak" and he said, "No, you're wrong, women like grand romance."

That may be true of some women, but in this day and age, women have to be darn careful, especially with guys they've just met. Save the grand romance for several dates in. As Brent Parker says, the feelings are fine -- but choose your actions with your love interest's point of view in mind, especially aware that too-strong early romance easily reads as "dangerous stalker" to women who have had to navigate a world where there really are creepy, dangerous men in the dating pool. Many women prefer to get a sense of a guy in more low-stress, friendly date settings (dinner and a movie is fine; it's the issue of how romantic vs. how friendly, not the what or where) so they can get a read and feel more secure that this guy isn't actively dangerous, before beginning to engage in more serious romance. Not all women, of course, but many women. (And none of this may be your specific problem, but I offer what I've observed from our friend who describes his general problem similarly.)

I think jon1270 has a good point -- relationships aren't Hollywood, and trying to fit people into that fantasy role won't work. Do you have healthy relationship role models, friends (or relatives even) who have a stable, healthy romantic partnership over time? Sometimes people who are very addicted to the romance are unaware of the mundane everyday things and hard work that relationships also involve. It's probably good if you have some happily married friends who are obviously happy but whom you sometimes see bicker over the dishes or picking up the drycleaning.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:01 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're giving your heart away too quickly, you're cheapening the experience for the girl. She may feel like anyone would make you happy, if you fall in love so quickly while knowing her so little. And she doesn't want to think of herself as just anyone.

Hold out on the I love you's. Hold out on dating exclusively. Don't call her your girlfriend after only a few dates. The two of you should actually have the conversation together of "Do we want to date exclusively? Are we a couple?"

Really take your time with the dating and the getting-to-know. Your head and heart may be screaming that you love her, but wait, wait, wait on making that information known. It's great that you can love so deeply, but you don't have to let her know that right away.

Dial down the romantic gestures a bit, if you are doing a lot. Don't overwhelm her. If you say "I love you" or "I feel ever so deeply for you" too soon, she is going to feel pressured to either say "me too" (in which case the exciting part is now over), or to bolt. Guess which she is going to choose? Let her enjoy the exciting, is-this-the-real-thing feeling for a good long while before you two start talking about love and long term.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:45 AM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

I dated a guy like you. I say the following in an effort to help you understand the recipient's point of view, not to berate you.

The Hollywood Love At First Sight Guy I dated often made dramatic gestures with pricey gifts and communication overload, none of which made me feel special. These actions made me feel harassed and stalked. Some of his actions downright invaded my privacy.

I felt like some sort of prey to him. I didn't feel unique or wanted by him, I felt as if he were trying so hard to capture me yet he had no idea who I really was or what was important to me. I felt like an interchangeable widget: any woman would've been treated exactly the same as I, had she been there with him instead of me. Had he taken the time to know me, he would've understood I'm a fairly low-key, down to earth person who isn't really impressed by gifts or displays of wealth; he would've understood that contacting me dozens of time a day is smothering to me. I ended things with him after a few weeks, but not before he shelled out thousands of dollars in (unwanted) gifts for me and spent who knows how much time texting/emailing/calling me, most of which went unreturned because I couldn't keep up with his communication pace.

The beginning of a relationship can be very exciting. But you absolutely have to throttle back on the dramatic displays of emotion or risk doing the things you're trying so hard to avoid: scaring her off. Being labeled as Creepy Guy. Hurting yourself.

Bear in mind that what you're falling in "love" with is the illusion of what you think this person is, not what she really is. Not to sound pessimistic, but most relationships don't blossom into Forever Forever.

The fact you were off the grid for six years makes me think you're not accustomed to much attention, so when you do get it, you launch off like a rocket. I think the therapy idea is a good one and hope you pursue it. Understand there's some component missing from your life that's causing you to go overboard in these relationships. I'd recommend figuring out what that is instead of trying to work it out via these relationships as that can be painful for both you and the women involved.

Good luck to you!
posted by December at 2:06 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

My impression is that you long so much to have this hollywood style romance, that you cast just about anyone you get romantically involved with in the role of your hollywood style lover. I may be wrong, this is just the way your post came across to me. This is the vibe that explains why girls may feel cheapened or creeped out.

If this is the case, then you really should reexamine your feelings, not just your actions as some have suggested.

One thing I can imagine that might help is to spend half a year dating a lot with the explicit intention of NOT getting serious. So for instance you could join OKCupid and contact as many women as you find interesting (think high volume). Date as often as possible, get to know as many different women and as many different ways of having a relationship as possible. Be honest about not being serious at the moment.
This might make the dating experience less monumental to you and might also attune you the the fact that there are lots of different really cool ways of having a relationship with a woman without living the hollywood romance dream.

If you find this idea makes you slightly panicky in a "but what if in this half year I meet the perfect woman and then I lose the opportunity of a life time because I am not allowed to date seriously!" then you really might have a problem with being too desperate for a relationship to see the real women infront of you.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:47 AM on April 16, 2010

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