Dear Patricia: I care about him but I still think about all the guys in my past
I AM currently in a relationship with a man whom I care about, but would not say I am madly in love with. He is, however, very much in love with me.
Relationships were difficult for me in the past, and I spent much of my dating life avoiding intimacy. I have addressed this issue, and only now feel that I know how to be in a relationship. I do regret some of the great guys I let go in the past. I am not very hung up on marriage, but I would like to have kids. The problem is that I'm not too far off 40 and feel time is running out.
Do I settle and make a go of it with this man? Or do I try and find someone whom I truly love? I know this may sound cold, but I need to be realistic about my future dreams and women can't ignore the ticking of that biological clock.
BE careful about looking back. Remember, those great guys were seen through the prism of problems with intimacy. You knew them when you couldn't get emotionally close. So there's at least a question mark over your assessment of how great they really were. I'm not knocking you, just asking you to be wise.
To answer your question directly -- it all depends on what part of being "madly in love" is missing with this guy. What do you mean when you say "truly in love"? Are you talking about him ringing all your bells? What makes a marriage work is not the heady moments of wildly fancying someone. Love endures when it is accompanied by real respect, the capacity for kindness, and proper gratitude for having found a good man who cares deeply for us.
Let me put it differently. Romantic love helps us over the hurdle of irritation. It's an altered state of consciousness which buries the negative bits and highlights the positive bits -- much like the way all mothers think their own babies are beautiful. Yes, it is real. And yes, it's wonderful. But it's not the only route to marital happiness.
In a cooler, more conscious, but equally valid way, we can live in love and harmony with someone whom we see clearly, rather than through rose-tinted glasses.
The question is therefore simple. Can you be good and kind and loving and gentle with this man?
Can you quietly grieve the absence of whatever constitutes being madly in love, without punishing him for your disappointment? Can you avoid comparisons with the great guys who got away?
More accurately, can you see that this is the man you're with precisely because you put in the hard work of dealing with past issues -- that he is the companion of the new you, now that you're capable of being in a relationship?
Don't you see? This man could be truly the great guy who got away, while you mourned the past. Couldn't he? Or have I got it all wrong?