Having experienced my first major relationship in my early twenties, I became well aware of how I felt. I learned how to articulate my emotions, and I learned how to care about another person. Since then, I have occasionally been dumbfounded by the emotional distance present in some relationships.
I dated Phil a few years ago. He and I were perfect together on paper. We were about the same age, had similar values, and wanted the same things in life. But Phil admittedly had a hard time giving himself fully in a relationship. He struggled with the idea of commitment, and it became an issue for us. As we were talking about our relationship one day, he said, "I've never been this close to another woman." While I was happy to hear that, I was also shocked. After all, he hadn't opened up all that much. And he had previously been engaged. He lived with his ex-fiancée, and lived with another woman prior to that.
How could it be that this man has lived with women, even planned a wedding, and never really opened up emotionally? Who are these women, and how did the relationships last so long? Surely they used the word "love," but what did it even mean to them? "I love how well you fit into my life"?
My friend Jenna has some insight. She spent several years living with an ex. She loved that he was a chef and worked weekend nights, as it gave her time to spend with her friends. Jenna and the ex had a great time together, were involved with each other's families, and talked about sharing a future. For several years, they were perfectly happy. Jenna only now realizes that what she had with him wasn't truly love. She is now in a relationship with a man who gives to her, and whose feelings she protects. For years, Jenna was in a relationship of convenience. She was sharing her time with someone, but only looking out for her own feelings. They stayed together because that happened to work for them. As time went on, Jenna wanted to make some changes in her life and her ex wasn't on board. The relationship was no longer convenient for them, and it ended.
I am completely unfamiliar with any kind of relationship not based on giving and caring, but I'm glad to know they exist. It puts things in perspective for me when I see all the oh-so-happy relationships on Facebook, and when I hear about an ex living with his new girlfriend.
And I realize that the women in these relationships are either just as uncomfortable with emotions as Phil was, or lack the self-esteem needed to move on to what they deserve. Either way, I'm glad they're not me.
@RebeccaAMarquis is the author of How to Be a Good Boyfriend: 34 ways to keep her from getting annoying, jealous or crazy, and offers dating humor and advice on her new Facebook page: facebook.com/RebeccaAMarquis.
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