Ask Andrew – My boyfriend still has feelings for his ex
My boyfriend says he’s happy with me but does not love me. He doesn’t really get that Limerence feeling that you describe in your book, and to him, that feeling equals soul-mate type ‘love’, the kind he craves and wants. He says it’s what he felt towards his ex, and after she shattered his heart (cheated on him twice, long distance), he says he can’t fall in love like that with anyone any more. He also says it’s not my fault, that it’s just a problem with him, and he just can’t feel that way about anyone right now, but I can’t help but think that if I were more desirable or something, he wouldn’t feel this way.
One thing however – when I was with someone else, and he was newly broken up with his ex, he fell really deeply for me – he had that limerence feeling. Obviously I couldn’t accept him back then because I was with someone else, plus it kind of seemed like he was just “transferring” his feelings for his ex onto me to deal with the pain. But now that I am with him, he says he just “can’t feel that way for me any more.” Is this my fault?
He says he’s over his ex (his first real love), but he just doesn’t think he can ever feel the same way again. Should I wait for him to come around? Give him space? What can I do as his girlfriend to help him heal? He told me he would try and make us work “for my sake”, because he doesn’t want to hurt me, but I don’t know how that will work or last, because that’s just forcing himself. I am trying hard myself, but I just don’t know if I’m going about this the right way. How can I make this relationship work?
First of, I want to reassure you that it’s nothing personal. If he is still emotionally involved with his ex, you could be Angelina Jolie and it would not be enough. I think you’re right about him transferring his feelings from his ex onto you to help him deal with his pain. I also think you’re right about him forcing himself to love you.
So I’m torn in two directions. The first says, he’s only your boyfriend (rather than being married with kids) and it would be better to walk away – before you get really hurt. You seem kind, thoughtful and perspective and you should be with someone who appreciates that. The second says you care enough to write to me, you’re ready to learn and be different, so that’s worth a try.
My guess is up to now, you’ve been trying to make him love you by being extra nice and considerate – that can make you come across as a doormat and so available he doesn’t truly value you. Instead, I would like you to be honest and assertive. By that I mean bringing up the little pinches (small disagreements) and sorting them out. In that way, you build great communication which is the foundation for lasting love. So I would read ‘Resolve your differences’ where I explain about being assertive and ‘Help your partner say yes’ for better communication.
I think I’m coming to a conclusion now. If you can learn and grow through this relationship, I think you should give it a go but if you feel stuck and being pulled further down into doubting yourself you should call it a day.