Falling in love feels impossible to me.
July 23, 2013 7:40 PM   Subscribe

To what extent should someone question their ability to fall in love after enduring countless "lukewarm" relationships?

A year or so ago I experienced a dating situation that felt very similar to what I am now experiencing all over again with someone new. And before that, I endured other "lukewarm" relationships that were more long-term.

I've begun dating someone new (for 4 months now), and we seem to connect on an intellectual, emotional, spiritual and conversational level, which is very important to me and was somewhat lacking in my last relationship. We are strikingly compatible in almost every way and his perspectives on life are very unique which is something I admire. But, from the start, I never felt a strong sexual chemistry despite the fact I think he's attractive, extremely kind, and a great match.

I wanted to give it a shot because like I mentioned, I find him attractive and intriguing and we get along great. I was hoping that as I got to know him more, the fire would start to burn a little brighter. Though, I'm still feeling that on a romantic level, things are just "okay". I have no strong desire for him sexually, even though I do enjoy being affectionate with him (hugging, kissing, holding hands). We are very compatible sexually but sex feels just okay because there's no huge yearning for sex (even though I would say I am quite a sexual person). There are moments that I do think "wow, this guy is just so wonderful" and where I want to be close to him and be extremely affectionate, but a lot of the time… I feel uncertain *sigh*. If I had to try and articulate my feelings, I'd say he feels like a really close friend that I can be affectionate and sexual with and I continually have high hopes that it will evolve into something more passionate.

I'm sad again. I'm sad that I found a great match but feel like my feelings fell flat. At this point, I'm trying to dig deep and ask myself what is it that I feel is missing and why can't I feel passionate towards someone who I would have a great relationship with and who I enjoy being affectionate with. I also know I am a passionate person and require at least some level of passion. At this point, I have a huge fear of leading someone on because I have been down this road countless times and this whole situation is making me very anxious. I've been honest with him about my uncertainy because I don't want to drag him through the mud while I try to understand my feelings. We decided to just go along, not worry so much and see where it goes, but I still feel unsure and a little numb.

I have it in my head that there is something wrong with me in that I can't feel chemistry with the guys that are well-suited to me. I don't even expect huge sparks…I just want to feel like I can fall in love. I have felt chemistry with people before but it doesn't feel that common to me.

Should I keep pursuing this knowing that I really like him, enjoy hanging out, and share all the same values but don't have strong pull towards him at this point? Could my feelings change? Should I be digging deeper and asking myself questions about why i continually go through these motions? If so, what questions should I be asking myself?
posted by jpritcha to Human Relations (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry you're going through this! It sounds really tough. I guess my main thought is that I'd like to know more about the guys you did feel chemistry with, and why you decided they were unsuitable. Chemistry isn't necessarily common, and it is important - if you're letting your head define the kind of person you "ought" to date, without regard to romance & sparks, it's no wonder things never really get off the ground. Which is not to say that you should run off with the first hot tattooed drummer you lay eyes on...but 'well-suited' means someone you are attracted to, in addition to possessing a long list of qualities you admire. It can take a long time to find someone, and it will take even longer if, instead of allowing yourself to be single, you keep trying to force yourself into a relationship with the kinds of people you ought to be dating but aren't actually that enthusiastic about.

If I were you, I would end this relationship now, because it sounds painful for both of you. Once you've made a clean break, I would start dating with an eye towards having fun in the moment, instead of making the Right Decisions For Your Future. I don't know how you met this guy, but I would take a break from internet dating if you're into that right now - it fosters the kind of checklist, eat-your-vegetables, shopping mentality that kills passion dead. Let yourself go a little and dial down the pressure to find the one you love - find the ones you're excited to make out with instead. Maybe one of them will turn out to be more suitable than he first appeared - or maybe after a while you'll find yourself growing more passionately drawn to the kind of people you knew you were meant to be with all along.

Good luck!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:03 PM on July 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

You feel it or you don't. Keep looking.
posted by andendau at 8:17 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

personally, i doubt your feelings will change after 4 months. i think maybe the question to ask is "why continue to keep dating guys you don't have a spark with?" for me, if after a few dates the spark isn't there i pretty much assume it won't be and move on.
posted by wildflower at 8:21 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you ever felt a strong spark or passion for someone? What type of people were they?
posted by Unified Theory at 8:24 PM on July 23, 2013

As the saying goes- you're just not that into him. And that's perfectly okay. Time to seek out another relationship that yields that spark of passion.

It'll come! Just be patient and don't be hard on yourself in the meantime.
posted by timpanogos at 8:46 PM on July 23, 2013

How long has it been since you actually had feelings of attraction/passion towards someone?
Do you normally go for a man right off the bat, or do you "grow" into love feelings?

It kind of sounds like you've been trying to "grow" into it with Suitable Men, but it's just not working for you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:47 PM on July 23, 2013

Sometimes, it's just a matter of needing to keep looking. Other times, as was noted above, it can be a matter of discovering that your idea of who is/is not "well-suited" for you, is calibrated more from intellect than from gut instinct. This can be problematic.

Over the years, I've known a handful of people who experienced similar predicaments. The first, eventually realized that the reason he couldn't make things work with nice, attractive girls he thought seemed perfect was because he was gay. The second found that she had, let's say complicated sexual tastes. (Short version: she couldn't make things work without BDSM.) Another friend I had kept looking for the ideal metalhead girlfriend. He married a nice Catholic lady from Armenia.

There's no particular reason to think any of these examples need apply to you. Rather, I mention them because it's worth noting that as you go on, you may find that things float your boat you had not anticipated. For some folks, it can be stuff far afield of what they thought would work. In other cases, it can be as simple as learning that you might think you like chatty people, when really, you like taciturn, reflective people.

TL;DR: maybe listen for a voice in your head that recommends someone/something you hadn't considered. If you hear it, maybe think about giving it a shot.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:55 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Chemistry is not that all that common (in my experience). There are two levels there as well.

The first is the rational level. He is a wonderful guy. When you objectively look at the situation, he exhibits all of the qualities and behaviours that make you see him as a good potential match. As a rational process, that is less about feeling and more about thinking. This can be considered the 'checkboxes'. They are wholly individual and based on your own criteria, and are important when thinking if the other person is someone who makes sense for you to be with. It sounds like he ticks those boxes.

The second is the emotional level. This has little to do with logic or rationality, rather this is the deep and complex yearning. We can feel very emotionally attracted to people that are indeed not good fits. This is the more animal sexual side – the compulsion to be near someone, and interact with them. The desire for their body, almost a hunger. And this is more binary than the rational. If the rational are checklists and tick boxes, the emotional is either there, or it's not. Much like a key in a lock. Either it fits or it doesn't.

It sounds like you are leading this relationship with the rational – he is objectively a good match for you – and what's missing is the emotion – you don't want to rip all his clothes off. The trick is finding them both, and that is why chemistry is quite rare. It's easy to find people whose clothes you want to rip off, only to then see that there's not a strong rational connection (sounds like Lust). It's also common to find people who you enjoy speaking with and engaging with, yet you don't feel like ripping their clothes off (Platonic).

I guess you need to reverse the process. Rather than turning it inward and thinking what is wrong with you that you don't feel a strong emotional attracting to him, perhaps turn the lens outward and admit that you are not getting what you need (emotionally) from this relationship.
posted by nickrussell at 12:55 AM on July 24, 2013 [11 favorites]

YMMV, but I felt this way for most of my life, until Wellbutrin.
posted by sleepingcbw at 5:52 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

What is your relationship history like?

Do you tend to fall for people who are not good for you or who are "unavailable" for a relationship?

Because it sounds like this guy might be a good match and is available for a relationship. I don't know what your relationship psychology looks like. Tell us more and we might be able to be more helpful.
posted by strelitzia at 8:23 AM on July 24, 2013

There are moments that I do think "wow, this guy is just so wonderful" and where I want to be close to him and be extremely affectionate, but a lot of the time… I feel uncertain *sigh*.

For what it's worth, that first part there is what I think of as the Love component of my relationships, along with a feeling that we "Get" and appreciate each other's more complicated aspects. I've never felt it as a continuous feeling, but more in sharp bursts of awareness/appreciation.

What seems to be missing is a more Lust part of a relationship. You say you're a sexual person, so I think that means you won't be happy without this. I'll just throw in my penny to say that it was very important to my relationships in my 20s, but I've found that it's not what is likely to hold us together for the long term (in part because kids suck all your energy, including any interest in sex, and in part because your sexual appetites in general may ebb and flow over time). Each person can only judge the necessary balance of Like/Love/Lust for themselves, as well as how much of any component is important all the time.
posted by acm at 8:35 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you on antidepressants? They can interfere with the chemistry of falling in love.

posted by Jacqueline at 9:50 AM on July 24, 2013

Response by poster: I really appreciate all the comments -- it definitely has helped me think about things from different perspectives. Thank you very much.

Just to clarify, I am not on anti-depressants, but thats interesting to know.

The only time that I was in love was a decade ago which was my first real relationship (lasted 3 years). It was a slow burn and as I got to know him, I was more and more attracted to him. I seem to always reference this relationship in my mind.

Since then, I have had multiple long-term relationships with men I thought I was very compatible with but felt minimal lust sensations towards. I spend most of those relationships beating myself up about not falling in love. Today, i recognize I wasn't as compatible with those men as I initially thought but now have an entrenched fear of going down the same path (which was extremely painful for both me and my past partners)

I believe that apart of me ends up in these situations because I miss having a close companion and in turn, downplay the importance of "sparks" and "passion". I also always seem to reference my first relationship and its slow burn. I don't have a lot of close friends near by and am introverted so I have a tendency to feel lonely.

I must add, when dating, I only pursue the person further if there is at least "some" level of attraction. And I definitely feel like I have a tendency of overanalyzing my feelings.
posted by jpritcha at 10:43 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

It might be that you are just wrong about who you think you are compatible with. Maybe try turning it around and dating people that you feel lust towards initially and then see if you are really more compatible than you would have guessed.
posted by callmejay at 12:57 PM on July 24, 2013

Compatibility is only one small portion of a love relationship. Sure, you rather expect it, but you should feel all sparky and happy first, then get down to business to see if you're compatible.

I know a lot of introverts shy away from friendships, but I think this is a mistake, make the effort. Boyfriends can be friends, but they shouldn't be your ONLY friends. How many of these guys would have been second dates if you had folks to pal around with outside of romantic relationships?

I have a ton of friends, but only one Husbunny.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:52 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

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