My partner is 61 and I’m 26. We have a wonderful relationship and our sex life is great. We both call one another our best friend and talk every day for hours. I love him deeply but he’s told me he doesn’t love me back. I know he’s been hurt in the past. His ex would demand that he said, “I love you too” even if he didn’t. Or ask him exactly how much he loved her, as if it was his duty. He does things that make me feel loved sometimes. He helped conquer my lifetime fear of swimming and sings to me, which he says he’s never done in front of another women. When I ask about his feelings for me he says he likes me an awful lot. I love him unconditionally but it is painful to not know if he ever will love me.
Mariella replies Unconditionally? That could well be the problem. Why would you settle for less than love when you’re putting in everything you have to give? It’s hardly a good investment. How tiresome for him though to have all these women bothering him with questions about the depth of his feelings for them, like bothersome flies on a muggy day.
There’s something unpleasantly controlling about those who “allow’ you to love them but are all too happy to tell you how low the level of their own emotion flows. Why share the unwelcome platitude that he likes you “an awful lot” but doesn’t love you unless preparing for future disengagement with the excuse that he signposted it from day one? It’s a long-established syndrome for undermining a partner and creating a tsunami of insecurity.
At 61, having snagged a devoted lover less than half his age he should be celebrating his good fortune, not playing pathetic cat and mouse. Instead, his interest seems to lie in exploring (or exploiting) your vulnerabilities. You can’t really sympathise with his revelations about his ex and remain naively unaware of how easily he could replace your name with hers in the future. You’re both guilty of seeking reassurance about the existence of love that he’s made clear he doesn’t have to offer. Can’t you see how self-serving his anecdotal evidence is? Why would it give you any comfort to know that another woman was left feeling equally tortured about her place in his affections?
Love isn’t something you should have to work for. It’s not because of any inadequacy of yours that he’s failing to return your passion. For good sex and companionship it sounds like a perfect arrangement but if you’re looking for streaking comets, death-us-do-part commitment and a diet of always and forever I’d say you’ve got the wrong guy. You’ve described your relationship as “wonderful” but it sounds to me like only one of you is on to a good thing and your position at the non-receiving end makes the union pretty unsustainable. Being best friends and chatting for hours on the phone is all well and good but you’re not looking for a “best buddy”. In adulthood it is not unjustified to prioritise something a little more enriching and there’s absolutely no reason to settle for less.
I’m afraid this Romeo of yours is a bit of a cliché. His motives are plain to see. I suspect if you rejected him, or found yourself only “liking him a lot” he’d be sprinting after you as fast as Usain Bolt. He’s heavily invested in keeping romantic relationships at a safe distance and your “unconditional” love is simply facilitating his dysfunction.
You’ve managed to reel in a fish that’s expert at slipping the hook. That doesn’t count as a good catch but a short-lived anecdote. No matter how tempting it is to let love overwhelm us it doesn’t and shouldn’t exist outside the normal rules of human engagement. If this man can’t match your investment and you don’t want to downgrade your desires, create a vacancy for the sort of partner you crave. At the moment you’re throwing in your lot simply to be liked. I’m not underestimating how nice it is to be appreciated but I’m sure you have friends and family who “care about you a lot”. If you’re prepared to settle for less, there will be plenty of characters out there prepared to offer it to you! At your boyfriend’s age if he’s still not found true love it’s looking very much like he’s a barrier, not a conduit for it. Much as it’s possible to see the best of humanity in a romantic relationship it’s also an opportunity to examine up close our many flaws.
It may not be what you want to hear but I can save you a lot of redundant soul searching. This isn’t your problem and you can’t solve it by sticking around. Be less generous with your cards, hold back on that unconditional offer, until you see the hand that you’re being played. With 7.5 billion people out there in the world, it would be crazy to assume there is only one partner out there for you, so move on, start auditioning a bit closer to your age range and don’t settle for less than you deserve.