Dear Cynthia, I've had this wonderful man in my life for over a year now. A. is the first person I've ever really loved on a deep spiritual level. We are both accomplished musicians, composers, bibliophiles, dreamers, travelers. I love being with him, he cares about me, asked if he could help me move, we talk on the phone for hours- he surprises and delights me, treats me with respect and honor. Feel uplifted, inspired and grateful every time I see him. He is also about forty years older than I... I have a very negative relationship with my extremely critical mother who was verbally abusive. My father and I are close, but he never cared enough (or believed he had the power) to do anything about the abuse, though I asked him to help me many times- which created a sort of pall. I lived at home for three years with the purpose of improving relations with them, but to little avail. Although A. is far and away the best influence and the most supportive person in my life right now, I'm considering breaking off all contact with him because I have so many fears about it- for one, all my friends and family were initially so knee-jerk critical, I've kept the relationship secret- which is very isolating. Two, he does not love me yet, but seems genuinely open to a real relationship... (but he's really scared to open up on some things, I'm worried I might have to wait forever.) Three, could this be a transference issue? We seem like intellectual, spiritual equals... but I don't know about this sort of thing. I'm sorry if this is too much information- I'm so confused... any advice would be very much appreciated! Thanks so much, Eileen
Hi Eileen, It sounds like your relationship with A is way too good to discard. So the problems you see, I think, are:
1. The age difference, which by itself is not a problem, though there could be problems that come of it, like if you want to have children, for example.
2. Your critical family and feeling isolated. Your family is going to be critical whether or not you're with A. Their critical behavior shouldn't influence who you choose to share your heart with.
3. Feeling isolated. You need that to change, but it can be changed without leaving A. You just have to find people who are not critical, and want to be loving friends with you.
4. Transference. If you mean are you with A because he reminds you of your father, that would be a good thing. We all pick people that remind us of people we grew up with and first loved. Of your two parents, it sounds like finding someone like your father would be much better for you than finding someone like your mother. The age difference doesn't necessarily mean there's any more transference than there is with any relationship. This is a good thing. This is how we try to work out anything we haven't resolved with our parents and siblings. Sometimes it doesn't work well, and people need therapy to help them get to the point of being able to have relationships that are healing and not just a repetition of hurtful family relationships. Other times we can heal a great deal in romantic relationships.
So let me know if I covered the issues you raised. Now one thing you said does concern me. If A doesn't love you after over a year, I would say that is a huge red flag. Would you say you are in love with him? I don't know what demons he's dealing with, but usually people are in love by this time, if they're going to be. Everybody is different, though, so what is true for others, may not be for him.
In any case, it sounds like you need to develop at least a close friend or two, so that A isn't your only close human connection in the world. I know that's easier said than done, but it would help you have perspective on your relationship with A, and support you through whatever happens.
Dear Cynthia, Thank you so much for your quick response. To answer your questions: no, I don't think I am currently in love with A. But I was before, and the potential is always there... As I think about it more, I realize that I have been holding back perhaps even more than he because 1) I'm scared of hurting myself- (sort of like, if it doesn't work, it could have, if I really tried) and 2) I'm afraid of hurting him down the road (quite hypothetically) if I should find someone else with whom I wanted to start a family- I'm not yet sure whether or not I want children... So, I've tried to see A. infrequently enough so that we can't grow beyond extremely affectionate friends; every time he asks to see me more often, I back off a little... (which is painful). Should I just go with the flow and see what happens (if he isn't completely fed up with me yet), or try to just stay friends? I really can't figure this one out...
Thanks again. I really, really appreciate your help, E.
Well I would say no matter what you do with A, you need more friends in your life. If you become a couple, you need more friends to balance the relationship. If you decide just to be friends, you need more than just him. If you decide not to see each other, you'll need support from other people.
Beyond that, it sounds like the next step is to have a talk with A and be honest about all your feelings and thoughts about your relationship. If he can reciprocate, then see where the relationship takes you. If you're not in a hurry to have kids, and he knows exactly what he's getting into, then why not pursue it and see what happens? If you're honest with him, it's not your responsibility to decide whether or not he should risk getting hurt--you don't have to protect him, if he's got all the information--it's his decision.
Just be sure to stay honest with yourself, and with him. If you explore getting closer and it's not feeling right to you, you owe it to both of you to renegotiate for friendship, or whatever works.
Dear Cynthia, Thank you so much! You are so generous to give out good advice like this. Had a really wonderful evening with A. last night, made it a priority to be honest about everything, and feel like i have a lot more clarity going forward. Thanks again, I may check back with you later.