waiting for godot.
January 11, 2008 4:42 PM   Subscribe

is it foolish to wait for the fantasy of meeting someone and "instantly" knowing you want to marry them?

my boyfriend just broke up with me, essentially because he didn't go home the night he met me and "instantly know" he'd met the girl he wanted to marry (we've been together for and intense, happy 4.5 months). this, despite the fact that he's told me that i was the person who felt him feel the most "at home" in this world and that was what he was looking for. except for a two fights that were the result of my frustration at his keeping emotionally distant (despite the fact that i communicated that to him on several occasions) and resulted in my behaving immaturely because of my frustration, our relationship had been the best and easiest relationship either of us have had. from the beginning, we felt incredibly comfortable with each other, have incredible attraction and chemistry, similar interests and outlooks, we geek out over the same things (sci-fi shows and craftsman architecture), etc. all the good stuff you want in a relationship.

we are both physically affectionate people who are also emotionally cautious (he very much so). he asked me to trust him when we both decided we were official and i have worked very hard to do that, to be emotionally open to him. i thought he was doing the same. instead, it appears that he has been harboring this fantasy of meeting someone and "instantly knowing" he was going to marry her—which didn't happen when he met me (in fact, he first broke things off with me two weeks after we started dating—an intense two week thing because of how great things were between us—because of that and went out with other girls. i guess he didn't find that with them and asked me to take him back and to trust him that i really was the one he wanted to be with). he has an older brother who met his wife, came home that night and declared he'd met the woman he was going to marry—and four months later he did. apparently that is what my my boyfriend has been fixated on and holding out for, even though he has admitted that it doesn't happen for everyone, and claims not to believe that there is only one person out there for each of us, or in soulmates. at 33, he's been in a string of relationships (serial monogamous), and in retrospect, probably always looking for something better.

i say, that of course that can happen. but it's rare. and it can't happen to people who hold everyone emotionally at arm's length. i think that when you are that cautious and hold that much so close to yourself, there is no way that you can be open to that kind of "instantly" knowing you'd just met your future spouse. to have that happen, you have to be really open to it and if you are emotionally closed off, it's just not going to happen. you have to arrive at it another way, one where you have to work at becoming more open—and you have to make the decision to do that with and for someone.

he also contends that he got back together with me in the hopes that he would "naturally" come to feel that he could open up to me and that was what he's been waiting for. i say that as much as i love him and want to make things work, because of my own emotionally cautious nature, it's still work for me to let him in on the things closest to me, that i have had friends for years with whom i know i could tell anything and it still doesn't just come "naturally" for me to spill everything. he is even more emotionally closed off so i can't imagine that he'll meet someone and then all of a sudden do a 180° and change his personality and all of a sudden become mr. bare-my-soul instantly.

anyway, i'm shattered only because he's given up on something amazing over this one thing, that he is blind to how great a thing that we do have because he can't get over his obsession with the fantasy. i guess what i am looking for is opinions, theories, experiences that other ppl have had involving keeping on looking for the instant thing vs realizing that though you may not have gotten that, what you have is just as real and right.
posted by violetk to Human Relations (59 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, that is a highly goofy fantasy. If he's waiting for that, chances are he'll be waiting. a. long. time.
posted by the dief at 4:45 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Let me just say this to your ex: "Icarus". He doesn't know what it is, that's ok, but he's probably not really that smart - so probably not the person you should be with for the long run.
posted by parmanparman at 4:47 PM on January 11, 2008

violetk: My 33-year-old boyfriend of 5 months just broke up with me because he has a 14-year-old girl's idea of what relationships should be.

Me: That's weird. I guess you're probably better off.
posted by Partial Law at 4:47 PM on January 11, 2008 [15 favorites]

It would be foolish, if that was what he was doing. He may be, clumsily and with the best of intentions, trying not to hurt you and using that as an excuse.

Four and a half months isn't that long, and who is to say what would have happened in the coming months? If he is giving up on the two of you after that short a time, marriage was not in the cards for you.
posted by misha at 4:50 PM on January 11, 2008

I know two people who did the "I knew immediately" thing. Both couples are now divorced - one because the husband who had the sudden "vision" of knowing he wanted to marry her ended up cheating on her with men from the internet over a period of years.

So: it happens rarely, and it's not a guarantee of a good idea when it does happen.

Also, if he has ditched you before and then come back, be sure that you don't get into a situation where he is yo-yoing you ("Oh I'm not sure so I'll date other people; no wait, let's get back together because I miss you; no wait I'm not sure"). You deserve better than that.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:50 PM on January 11, 2008

Two sides to this. On the one hand, our unconscious mind processes a ton of information every second and tries to communicate the results of that to the conscious mind via feelings. (Read the book Blink for more details). So, this idea of knowing instantly does, in fact, have some merit. His unconscious mind is matching you up with pre-constructed patterns for an ideal mate and finding some mistmatches, so he gets a 'no' feeling. That part is pretty much out of his control.

Next you have the part you think should win: the conscious decision to put the relationship into a nice long trial run to see if he changes his mind.

Two problems: 1) The unconscious mind pretty much always wins. 2) You can't change him or his mind.

This guy may very well match your internal pattern for a great mate but it has to work both ways. You absolutely do not want to change him into to wanting you (even though that might feel like a great idea). That kind of change is rarely permanent, with all the attendent mess it implies.

So, you should find another man that fits your internal pattern and who finds that you match his. Then you can both be happy for a very long time.
posted by trinity8-director at 4:51 PM on January 11, 2008 [5 favorites]

Sure, you can see a person and think, "That's who I'm going to marry!"

You cannot just see a person and think, "Yes, this is the only person I'm going to marry because we're so compatible and both willing to put work into our relationship, and these feelings are not just the result of infatuation."

My husband and I have both talked about how our relationship isn't fireworks and bells going off constantly. A lot of times it's contentment. But people have been raised with the idea that a good relationship has to be dramatic and exciting all the time. These people will probably be disappointed.
posted by christinetheslp at 4:55 PM on January 11, 2008 [6 favorites]

If that "marriage at first sight" feeling is the only criterion he has for marrying someone, then wow, he is really not marriage material. For anyone. Hopefully he'll wise up one day, but don't count on it.

I wish you the best; you deserve better than this guy.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:55 PM on January 11, 2008

Yes, that is quite foolish, and if he's 33, I would (sort of) expect him to have outgrown that sort of sophomoric romantic-comedy silliness by now, except that many people seem to take even longer to come down to earth.

I'm sure you are shattered since this only just happened, but bear in mind that (at least based on what you say here) you have a much more well-adjusted, mature view of how mutually enjoyable relationships work. The sad but true part is that there's nothing you can do to change BF's mind, but that's not your fault or your responsibility, and you will get over it.

When I was younger, I dated several fellows who had that fantasy -- "if it's not instantly perfect, then it's wrong, but stick around with one foot out the door until something better comes along, and there always IS something better, somewhere." This Monkeybars philosophy (hanging on to an "imperfect" lover until a seemingly "perfect" new one comes along that you can grab onto) in a partner can make one feel incredibly insecure and walking-on-eggshells all the time. People who see love that way, as dear as they can be, are to be avoided because they just make us feel -- undeservedly -- lesser and unable to measure up to some insane "ideal" that exists only in shitty films and magazine photos.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:59 PM on January 11, 2008 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: trinity8-director: i think his subconscious mind knows how good we are together; i think his conscious mind is what does him in. i.e.: he's talked himself out of the relationship because he didn't get the instant thing. he's admitted that's what he did the first time he broke things off with me.

he's an ex-mathematician. he overthinks everything. and you're right: because of how we felt about each other when we met didn't match the fantasy he had in his head, he essentially talked himself out of believing that what we had was good, if not better than the fantasy.
posted by violetk at 4:59 PM on January 11, 2008

You probably wouldn't want to stay in a long-term relationship with someone like that. If he honestly expected to know, without doubt, that someone was the one after a single date, then his expectations of what a serious long-term relationship should be like are almost certainly also severely out of whack. He'd almost bail, or at least freak, whenever the relationship got rocky (and I don't mean the kind of rocky that happens in less than a year).

All relationships have ups and down. Expecting some kind of birds-singing, golden-light-streaming-everywhere, perpetual-joy relationship is a recipe for expectations that are impossible to meet. And once those impossible expectations haven't been met for a while, the deluded party will eventually leave.

Either that or he just wasn't ready to commit and had to come up with a reason. Either way, take your time to emotionally recover and move on. You're better off without and now you're free to find someone worthwhile. Just don't go back to him, even if he begs.
posted by Nelsormensch at 5:00 PM on January 11, 2008

he's looking for someone to change his mind in favor of commitment. no woman will do that. a person has to be open to the idea of commitment first; the individual comes later. now, once you are open to commitment, i think you can assess very quickly whether someone is right for you or not. but not before.

i say this because i have met a couple in an arranged marriage who have fallen and remain deeply, profoundly in love (even though the kids are grown and they've lived in america for 40 years). you can see it in the way they interact--they are the light of each other's life.

your guy isn't ready for commitment. there's nothing you can do about it. check back with him in 10 years.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:04 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

If he wants instant sparks, then he can probably go out and find them. I've noticed with a lot of my friends that people tend to get what they build their life around- the ones who wanted to get married at 21 did, the ones who wanted to get swept off their feet did. Will it last? Who knows, but they got what they wanted. If this hurtful for you in your situation? Of course (and I'm sorry). But is it foolish for him to go out and find what he wants? No.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:05 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: TPS: we did have instant sparks, serious sparks. the kind that makes you think, i love being with this person. what we didn't have was to go home after our very first meeting and think this is the person i'm going to marry.
posted by violetk at 5:08 PM on January 11, 2008

Your ex is shooting you a line of Hollywood romance bullshit rather than just being a man and saying, "Hey, I'm not interested in dating you anymore." It's way easier to make it out like some sort of epic, star-crossed, doomed, whatever.

Also very young.

he has an older brother who met his wife, came home that night and declared he'd met the woman he was going to marry—and four months later he did.

Um.. Yeah. The older brother is either probably an idiot or extremely lucky. Sounds like both.

anyway, i'm shattered only because he's given up on something amazing over this one thing, that he is blind to how great a thing that we do have because he can't get over his obsession with the fantasy.

You're buying into his lie. He doesn't really believe this. It's just a line he is feeding you so he can dump you without feeling too bad, plus it leaves you perpetually open to him coming back due to "wanting to try again, baby," or some other reaffirmation of feelings.

Don't buy it. You need to move on.
posted by wfrgms at 5:09 PM on January 11, 2008 [5 favorites]

TPS: we did have instant sparks

No, aparently *you* had instant sparks. He did not. I'm sorry, it totally bites. It's Friday night, and were you nearby, I'd invite you over and we could get drunkaty-drunk drunk.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:10 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: No, aparently *you* had instant sparks. He did not.

i'm not being delusional here but i believe both ppl can have sparks/chemistry and still not want to marry them for various reasons.
posted by violetk at 5:19 PM on January 11, 2008

Response by poster: He doesn't really believe this.

well, the sad and really pathetic thing is that he really does believe this.
posted by violetk at 5:21 PM on January 11, 2008

Boy, this is a case of near total consensus. I don't follow the relevance of Blink and Icarus, but that's pretty much irrelevant. The only mild dissent I'd have is from the suggestions that this is all a ruse, which I fear might be a distraction to you. Sure, it might be a cover story. But I have run into more than a handful of guys who have similar sentiments -- "when I meet her, I will know, instantly" -- and the last one I met was over 50 (and single). Given what your buy's brother told him (a story I gather he's stuck to for some time, though it could be that it's the brother's gloss), I think this is pretty plausible.

But as you say in your OP, unreasonable. Everything you said in your question struck me as sensible, and my heart goes out to you. Be slow to doubt the explanation, and slow to blame anything in your "emotionally closed" nature. I like Partial Law's rendering -- or put more conventionally, it's him, not you.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:22 PM on January 11, 2008

Your own post overtook mine. But you know what I'd add? If this doesn't work out, as it seems it will not, be thankful that it was over this quickly. Honestly, terminal doubters like your BF may, sometimes because they're really nice and appealing people, keep relationships limping along for years.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:25 PM on January 11, 2008

Either your ex-boyfriend broke up for a different reason and tried to soften the blow, or he wasn't entirely honest with himself, or Partial Law's assessment, gruff as it sounds, is correct.
posted by adamrice at 5:25 PM on January 11, 2008

It sucks that you got dumped.

At this point, it doesn't really matter whether he has idiotic relationship ideals (he does) or not, because you aren't going to convince him and you guys aren't going to get back together. Yeah, even though his reasons for breaking up with you might be ZOMG TOTALLY WRONG to you, all your logic and fine points aren't going to change his mind after he's made it up.

So don't worry about his terrible reasoning, just take it as a sign that if he couldn't appreciate your relationship in the same way you did, it wasn't going to work out with you guys anyway.

Go have some ice cream and look at shirtless pictures of [insert your favorite hot celebrity here] with your girlfriends and talk about how stupid he is to let you go.
posted by rmless at 5:26 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

He'll meet her, don't you worry. It'll happen the day after he weds someone else.
posted by dobbs at 5:30 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

While I usually don't like V, she talked about this earlier this week -- "Marriage is a series of peaks and valleys."

Violetk, you're the one being reasonable. You like him for all good reasons and you're mature about it. But part of being in a relationship that's going to keep going forward is being in the same place maturity-wise. He isn't in that place yet, and you just can't change that about a person. Plus, you've only been with the guy for 5 months or so ... there may be a lot to him that you don't know about yet.
posted by SpecialK at 5:34 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

God, I know this is going to sound insensitive but I just have to say it. There has just got to be more to his ending the relationship than his not immediately knowing you're the woman he wants to marry. Happy people do not fuck with the source of their happiness.

Well, other than self destructive people, and if that's the case, you are probably better off anyway. You won't be able to see it yet, but you'll realize it eventually, when you do meet the right person.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:47 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Happy people do not fuck with the source of their happiness.

i think he just wouldn't allow himself to admit that he really was happy (even though for him to admit to me that he felt "at home" with me was a big deal statement for him) because then it wouldn't jibe with the fantasy of the insta-marriage feeling.
posted by violetk at 5:53 PM on January 11, 2008

Think about it this way: if it's possible for him to know instantly that he's met the girl of his dreams he won't have to do anything about his emotional barriers. I don't doubt that he hopes this is possible, but really he's just rationalizing being a grass-is-greener dog.
posted by rhizome at 5:54 PM on January 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: i.e.: sure he was really happy but he would be even happier if he knew right off the bat he wanted to marry me.

There has just got to be more to his ending the relationship than his not immediately knowing you're the woman he wants to marry.

well, he's tried to couch it in reasons certainly not worthy of throwing out a good relationship but every time i've dug deeper, it's really just led to this whole insta-marriage idea.
posted by violetk at 5:57 PM on January 11, 2008

This guy is an idiot and you are better off. This is why:

Even when one is totally, hopelessly twitterpated, that FEELING, that chemical EXCITEMENT, has a shelf life. In two years or less, things calm down, and the relationship flows into the "companionate" warm mellow stage. Which is why all of us married folk can get things done and raise kids and pay bills without being totally distracted by twitterpation. (I am not saying all twitterpation dies, but face it, relationships are the most intense at the beginning.)

I had a friend who was married to a guy who decided that he hadn't ever felt that feeling with her, and he wanted it. He left her, they got divorced, and eventually he remarried For Love. Said marriage lasted only several years.

So, what I am trying to say is, that this guy has a totally junior high view of love and until he grows up he is poor marriage material, period.
posted by konolia at 6:06 PM on January 11, 2008

First of all, I'm sorry. To say this sucks is a huge understatement. Losing a relationship with someone you love is like a death. If you haven't been through this before, just keep telling yourself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and you will be happy again. And try to distract yourself and spend lots of time with your friends.

The good news is that there are two possibilities with this man: (1) he believes this BS, in which case he's an idiot and probably doomed to unhappiness, as others have said. (2) I know you don't believe this and you don't want to believe this and you just can't believe this right now, but it's possible he fed you a line and the problem isn't so much that he didn't feel that feeling when he met you, but that he still hasn't felt it and doesn't anticipate ever feeling it. The reason this is good news is that you got out before this relationship ruined your live, or at least put you out of the relationship market for years and really screwed you up. It was never going to work with him because of either (1) or (2) and you are absolutely better of without him.

The one really awful breakup I've had so far was with a similar sort of man (very hot/cold and eventually completely cold). I grieved over that breakup intensely for about six months and on and off for a couple years. One thing that helped me transition to on-and-off grieving was accepting that ultimately he didn't love me. I had been trying to figure him out and what went wrong, etc., but in the end I had to say, this was never going to work because while he may once have loved me, and he was clearly infatuated with me for a long time (mainly prior to our dating), in the end of the day he didn't love me, and that's why he went cold and made me dump him. Once I accepted that, I consoled myself by saying that he would never find happiness because he was so fucked up. Ultimately he has found a wonderful woman, and he's marrying her, and I am thrilled for them, even though my feelings that he was fucked for life proved wrong. (I can't deny it does help that I am in love and in a serious relationship as well.) But I mainly think he is lucky that he overcame his bs (he had a history of it before me which is why I waited years to date him). And I have enough distance that I can be happy for him, which still impresses me, given that I thought my life was over for several months after losing him. At this point, I am grateful that we broke up because we are both in better relationships. Sometimes I miss the intense passion that we had, but I think that had something to do with him being bipolar and a lot less to do with us having a healthy relationship.

So treat yourself gently for a while, and thank your lucky stars that you got rid of this loser before it was too late.
posted by n'muakolo at 6:25 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

well, he's tried to couch it in reasons certainly not worthy of throwing out a good relationship but every time i've dug deeper, it's really just led to this whole insta-marriage idea.

It sounds like he's reached his limit for introspection. There are undoubtedly a ton of assumptions and life experiences, etc. etc that underly the insta-marriage idea, but he lacks the ability to talk about them sensibly.


I once got a piece of email from my wife informing me that one of her friends had met and instantly fallen in love with The Right Man. My wife was writing to let me know that now that she knew this was possible, she was feeling really foolish for having bought into the whole "relationships are hard work" thing and wasting all this time building a relationship with me.

The Right Man lasted about three weeks. My marriage lasted another year before I pulled the plug.

I'd say consider yourself lucky.
posted by tkolar at 6:29 PM on January 11, 2008

I'll agree with the majority here that yes, it is foolish to use this as an absolute criterion for whether to marry someone, BUT:

Yes, it most definitely does happen. When I first met my wife, I immediately knew we would be married. I'll even go several steps further than that, and say that yes, we are actually "soul mates" in the sense that we were together in previous lives, and will be again in future lives.

Call me deluded if you want, but you can't know what I'm talking about unless it has happened to you. There is a certain mystical/magical quality to what happens when two such people meet, that goes way beyond infatuation, or even conventional love as most people experience it.

That said, I wouldn't recommend that other people wait for it to happen to them, because we're all different in that regard.
posted by mikeand1 at 6:30 PM on January 11, 2008

I'm not saying it can't happen, but holding out for it is stupid because there's no reason to think that having that insta-marriage feeling = future happiness and also bc we all know it's very rare, to say the least. Much smarter, if happiness is what you're after, is to date people you feel a spark with, and see whether that progresses into love.
posted by n'muakolo at 6:34 PM on January 11, 2008

I knew right away that I wanted to marry him the day I met my husband. I had previously sworn off relationships because I had always ended up humiliated and disappointed with my boyfriend choices. I had always thought it was me...it was actually that there are a lot of bozos out there. My advice to you: get through this breakup with your dignity and take it in stride. Go do your thing and wait for Mr. Right. He is out there somewhere with what now might seem like boring, realistic expectations but he actually can make and follow through with a commitment...and in my opinion that is the most romantic thing ever. I think your ex-boyfriend sounds like a bozo. Have a bozo party with your friends to celebrate your liberation from him. Get a cake and a bozo nose for everybody and have fun taking pictures. At least do something harmless to commemorate your new freedom.
posted by mamaraks at 7:28 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Sounds like his "emotionally distant" nature is the real reason why he can't love you. Of course an "emotionally cautious" man wants to "instantly know" he's in love. He wants love without risk, or should I say he wants the love feeling to come first so he can then open up without risk. But in reality, he needs to open up emotionally in order to fall in love. He's waiting for something that will never happen if he doesn't have the courage to make it happen. I suspect you know this and it's why you fought, and you were right, his emotional distance is the real problem. All his love-at-first-sight stuff is just an excuse to justify his cowardice. Don't even think about taking him back unless he confesses that he was scared. He needs to own up, and don't make it easy for him or it won't be worth anything. He needs to seriously prove himself after dumping you twice.
posted by conrad53 at 7:46 PM on January 11, 2008 [9 favorites]

our relationship had been the best and easiest relationship either of us have had. from the beginning, we felt incredibly comfortable with each other, have incredible attraction and chemistry, similar interests and outlooks,

you can only speak for yourself here. That incredible attraction and chemistry may not be quite the same on his end. The feeling of incredible comfort may not be as completely fulfilling for him. I was with someone a number of years ago who made it very difficult for me to end our relationship... The truth was, although I did feel a lot of the same things, in certain ways I just did not feel them to quite the same degree, and I was not convinced that this was really "it". It was hard to leave and I regretted it at times for many years, but ultimately I think it was the right choice. But my partner was entirely convinced we were soulmates through and through. It is not easy dealing with that kind of imbalance.

Sure, nothing is 100%, but how good does it have to be to stay with it? He decided it wasn't good enough. That might be a decision he later regrets, but the fact is, he's the one experiencing the feelings on his end, and he might just honestly not need you quite as much as you need him. Maybe he would just prefer to be single than to always wonder "what if".
posted by mdn at 7:47 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: mdn: after we got back together the first time he broke things off with me and became official, he later told me that he was looking for his last relationship, that he was looking for someone who made him feel "at home." he said he'd not felt about anybody the way he felt about me, that i made him feel "at home" in this world like no one else he'd met. these statements were completely unsolicited by me—and unexpected. so when i said those things, i believed i was speaking for the both of us.
posted by violetk at 7:58 PM on January 11, 2008

The person who gets dumped always feels like they have been interrupted in the middle of saying something very important. To move on, you've got to let go of the fact that you'll never finish saying it.
posted by bingo at 8:02 PM on January 11, 2008 [40 favorites]

He's just not that into you. All the rest is window dressing.
posted by unSane at 8:34 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

He sounds lame. Sounds like you dodged a bullet. Better now than in 4 years.
posted by sully75 at 10:06 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Damn, I'm having the same reaction as all these other commenters.

I think he did you a favor by dumping you, because he doesn't sound like a good catch. He's an idiot and a flake.
posted by jayder at 11:05 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

violetk, I feel for you, really I do. This guy could've been me a couple of years ago. Seriously, you're not going to get anywhere with him if he still believes in this stuff. I'm just amazed that a mathematician (even a former one), can still be so juvenile as to believe in such fairytale crap. I mean, sure, it would be nice to know "instantly" that the woman you've met is the one you're going to marry, but that just doesn't happen in the real world. His brother just got lucky, and if he thinks he might be that lucky as well, well, good. More power to him. Don't you waste any more of your time worrying about this. Find yourself someone who has a more realistic approach to dealing with relationships.

Partial Law: hahaha, that was me!
posted by hadjiboy at 11:48 PM on January 11, 2008

I think there's a difference between meeting someone and -not- instantly knowing you want to marry them, and meeting (and getting to know) someone and knowing that you will never marry them. The former might be a softer way of saying the latter.

The guy seems to be wishy washy and unsure of what he wants. He's not as into you as you are about him, at least in the life partner department. I'm so sorry about your breakup.
posted by QueSeraSera at 12:37 AM on January 12, 2008

I lied, I'm not sorry about the breakup. I'm sorry you're left feeling confused over all this. Don't be! Be glad he revealed his true nature because now you know HE isn't marriage material.
posted by QueSeraSera at 12:43 AM on January 12, 2008

Ditto Conrad53. My gut feeling is that the love-at-first-sight idea is a shield that saves him from having to deal with fears of intimacy. The story about his big brother isn't really a story about true love, it's a story about confidence. This boy wants his big brother's confidence, doesn't have it, and blames the lack on the relationship to avoid seeing a shortcoming in himself.
posted by jon1270 at 2:22 AM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

He doesn't love you. If he did, he wouldn't be so focused on his own happiness, he'd be focused on yours.
posted by happyturtle at 2:42 AM on January 12, 2008

You're not posting this because you're really asking if it's reasonable for someone to wait for the person they "instantly feel like they will marry." You're posting this because you're angry he dumped you and for a reason you've narrowed it down to that sounds clearly wrong. You just want confirmation that he's a jackass and I think you've got more than enough comments above that should help. No one in this thread is going to say, "yeah, of course that makes sense."

I know you want justification and many of my girlfriends have felt that way after breakups as well. Sometimes, though it would make you feel better, I think it would help more just to accept that you were not what he was looking for, period. Dissecting the whys will drive you insane and hurt you more in the long run. Let him just be and move on.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 8:59 AM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is sort of an odd question for AskMe because either answer is equally valid. I'm sure if you were to poll all of the married MeFi members you'd get some number of "I knew the first time I met him/her that he/she was the person I was going to marry and we've been together now for (some long period of time)" responses and a relatively equal number of "It took some time for me to realize this was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with" responses.

And ultimately, even if the answers leaned more heavily towards the latter, I'm not sure what good it would do you. It's not as if you can present that evidence to your ex as definitive proof he's being silly and expect him to agree to return to the relationship. Affairs of the heart are rarely susceptible to point-by-point logic. I agree with the sentiment that you're lucky he's shown you his true colors and it's time to move on. The more time you spend overanalyzing the breakup is the longer you delay that process.

(And I realize that's either said than done so I really do wish you the best)
posted by The Gooch at 9:30 AM on January 12, 2008

Why is insta-marriage any better than an overwhelming desire to marry someone that arrives on the fourth date? Or after eight months? What if it wasn't instant, but the feeling arrived after fifteen minutes, would that count? The whole idea is pretty absurd.

And of those people I know who have felt that marriage desire early on, and in the situations where I felt it, few of those worked out either! You have to be with people for awhile before you know some fundamental incompatibility isn't going to show up. (I think as people get older, it's more likely to be accurate because they really have figured out what they're looking for.) By itself, insta-marriage is just not a foundation for a lifelong relationship.

And I agree with you that, even as feelings go, insta-marriage may be exciting, but it's not as nice as truly feeling "at home" with someone, and nowhere near as nice as the solid awareness that even after years, you continue to fall more and more in love.

i think he just wouldn't allow himself to admit that he really was happy (even though for him to admit to me that he felt "at home" with me was a big deal statement for him) because then it wouldn't jibe with the fantasy of the insta-marriage feeling.

You're probably right. He may be holding on to his early doubts because of his fear of intimacy. Or he may have this idea that love without fireworks and immediate certainty isn't the very best kind of love. And it might even be true for him. He might be able to find that sudden immediate-overwhelm love, and it may or may not be the best relationship in the long run by some objective measure, but for him, because of the feelings he wants to feel, it might be.

But even if you're totally right, that he just doesn't know what's really best for him and can't admit how good things really are, what can you do about it? The real questions you face are: will he ever realize this? (every indication now is saying "no.") if so, how long will it take? are you willing to wait that long? (Even if it's obvious to you and others that things are good and that he's happy, people can be blind to facts right in front of their face all the time. Think of the women that stay in abusive relationships for years. Think of how much help they need just to realize that a non-abusive relationship would be better. For some reason, the abusiveness feels right to them, or at least is hard to quit.) Do you even want to wait at all? Do you want to be cajoling and dragging someone toward intimacy? It must take a lot of time and work. Do you want to do all that work just to catch him up with your willingness to slowly move toward an intimate relationship?
posted by salvia at 11:50 AM on January 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Looks like another case of an emotionally unavailable man. I've been there, many women have been there. You are right...if he's not open, relationships are going to take a long time to develop if they are able to develop at all.

Personally, I am attracted to this type of man and it's difficult to tell at first how things are going to be. Sometimes the relationship does develop, other times it dies because he won't give things a chance.

http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/ helped me a lot through my recent breakup.
posted by idle at 12:41 PM on January 12, 2008

You keep saying things like, "he's told himself This, or he's convinced himself of That." Sounds like a lot of thinking and convincing for someone who, if he's like most people, really just wants to be happy. Is it possible he simply doesn't share your reality?

Otherwise, I'm a big believer in the philosophy of "He's Just Not That Into You." It might seem harsh, but it saved me and I would recommend it to anybody.
posted by mynameismandab at 9:13 PM on January 12, 2008

I don't think you need the help of cliche-ridden self-help dating book co-written by a screenwriter for an HBO show which ended with the main character getting the wealthy square-jawed guy who'd been emotionally unavailable for entire run of the show, until the finale. Who gives a shit if he was into you or not, or whether he said he was or whatever? He's an unreliable narrator of his own life story. Be glad he's gone.
posted by raysmj at 10:05 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

my boyfriend just broke up with me

You may not be in the best state of mind to be arguing with MeFites here trying to offer the advice which you requested.

I'm sorry, but your relationship was not a special snowflake. Most, if not all, of us have had MANY of these electric oh-my-god-this-is-the-most-perfect-person-i-will-certainly-marry-them relationships where the clouds parted, the angels sang, etc, etc. He may or may not have been telling the truth. He may or may not meet this special person. He may, in fact, miss a train where this special person would have sat next to him.


There is nothing you can do to make him change his mind, so move on. I am sure it feels good to chat with all of us about how we just don't know him and he really isn't the playah he sounds like.

Ultimately he wasn't into you and that is NOT YOUR FAULT. Move on. Good luck. Love is hard.
posted by terrapin at 4:19 PM on January 13, 2008

It could be worse.

He could have instantly decided that he wanted to marry you, and you could have run off and eloped a few weeks into your relationship.

Sometimes this works out, but the odds are not good at all. You could have been the person who divested him of this romantic notion that he holds, taking it with you along with your divorce settlement.
posted by yohko at 8:38 AM on January 14, 2008

Heh. I know a couple who did that, except they broke up after their second year of dating (but after getting engaged). I spoke a bit to the guy recently, who agreed he was a total idiot with stupid romantic fantasies. These people were wrong for each other in almost every possible respect, except that they both were Christian.

In my own life, I got dumped by a guy after 4 weeks of dating because he wasn't feeling "that thing" that he'd felt in other relationships, where he "knew" it would work. (Those TWO relationships each lasted 4 years.) I attempted to argue with him but it was completely futile. I felt about the same way you did - we got along totally so just this one thing, we should break up for? - but really felt cheated because it had only been a month and I was just really starting to fall.

(About six months later met someone I've spent the next 5 years with. And this guy was just supposed to be a fling to help me get over the former young man. So yeah, one's subconscious is dumb.)
posted by herbaliser at 2:22 PM on January 14, 2008

violetk, you've been arguing with him about how he feels about you, and throughout this thread you've been arguing with us about how he feels about you.

you read too far between the lines to decipher his "real feelings", when the only thing that's "real" here is you've got a guy who keeps dumping you.

are you really willing to accept somebody as a long term mate in light of such a glaring fault (his stupid romantic idea/coverup for emotional impotence)? i know it's frustrating to see somebody be SO WRONG ... i know it feels like if you could just get him to give up on this insta-marriage idea, to see how silly it is, he'd realise what he had with you!

but darling, i think it's time you considered the option that the only reason you're latching on to him so much at the moment is because he rejected you. after all, no one wants to be told they're "not marriage material".

is it possible that you wouldn't have such a high opinion of this fool if he hadn't dumped you?
posted by mjao at 5:35 PM on January 15, 2008

what you describe sounds like a damned shame. Considering he's an ex-mathematician, he seems to have completely lost his sense of logic. Somehow thinking that the perfect relationship starts with "instantly know" is completely illogical. Thats a thought of the heart not the mind. Given his math analytical background it seems kind of likely the reasons for his behavior are about something else. The fantasy is a mere side effect of something deeper.

It kind of sounds like someone who doesnt really know what love is and is relying on someone elses experience to define it. ie it cant be love unless you "instantly know" Perhaps there some element of looking up to his brother playing a part, if he's emotionally cautious and his brother is more "normal". And the coming and going on his part is a reflection of the confusion in his head.
posted by browolf at 9:18 AM on January 19, 2008

Response by poster: hi all, i just wanted to really thank everyone for their insights and contributions. it did really help me a lot in terms of not automatically going to the "what's wrong with me??" place that i am wont to do.

if anyone cares for an update, he and i did end up talking quite a bit more after the break up. he seemed to always have a different "reason" that was lacking in our relationship (see below) for why he was breaking up with me, but it all pretty much points to how emotionally immature he actually is. partial law did get it spot on when he called it a 14 yr old girl's idea of what a relationship is. he does a pretty great job of appearing to be emotionally mature, all the while apparently harboring this fairy tale fantasy of a relationship:

a) love at first sight (or at least by the end of the first meeting)
b) someone who will somehow "naturally" make him open up—essentially hoping he'll find someone who will make him change his very nature and personality which is one of extreme emotional distance
c) perpetual rainbows, puppies, unicorns, and heart-skipping every time he sees her, i.e. a neverending honeymoon period
d) not having to do any of the work it takes to sustain a lasting and successful relationship because you think that "the right" relationship will just "naturally" take care of all that

i guess i just had no idea that a 33 year old man (a mathematician at that) could have such stunningly unrealistic expectations about relationships. that he would think that he wasn't responsible for making changes to his emotional makeup but rather that "the right" person would magically take care of all that just really boggles my mind. if that was all there was to it, i certainly wasted all those years and all that money in therapy taking care of my own emotional issues myself!

while i'm glad to know that neither i, or anyone for that matter, could ever live up to those expectations and of course no one, no relationship will ever stand up to that kind of pressure, it's small consolation still.
posted by violetk at 3:37 AM on January 23, 2008

A small consolation, but I'm glad it's helping you skip the beat-yourself-up part of the mourning process.

Thanks for the update, and take care.
posted by tkolar at 9:12 AM on January 23, 2008

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