Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Still Chasing That Excitement

This post is a follow-up to Dismaying Story #17: The Ghost of the First Love. You may recall the 21-year-old woman who wrote to me with questions about her current relationship, which just doesn't seem as intense as those she has had in the past. My response asks whether she might be comparing her current experience with some idealized memory of how exciting a relationship "should" be, based on the adrenaline rush she remembers from her first big love. Here is her follow-up question:

Dear Andrew,

I agree with you a hundred percent, except I keep thinking: "When you have to ask yourself if you are in love, you probably aren't."

Sometimes it seems like it's only "exciting" when you can't get what you want - when you have to chase after the guy that will probably never be with you. The excitement - is he going to talk to me today? This week? Never?

I just clicked with my current boyfriend. There was never this back and forth - never the pain of not knowing. I loved that, and still love the security with him. I want him for my future because I am happy with him.

And yet ... it felt less real because there were never these butterflies. Maybe I am confusing love with constant wondering and heartache. I fear that these failed relationships really messed with my picture of love.

Is there a way to fix this? Fix me?

Signed, Still Going Crazy

Dear Still Not Crazy,

In my earlier response, I said most of us hope to settle down into one relationship that takes us through the bulk of our adult life. It's possible you're simply not to that "settle down" part of your life yet. It's also possible you never will be. You're not "most of us" -- you're you, an individual.

You see, we're all different. That's part of what makes this planet an interesting place to hang out for a few decades. Some people really value stability and security in life, while others thrive on risk and excitement. One person might spend her Saturday afternoon rock climbing or bungee jumping, while another looks forward to attending a good investment seminar. It is possible you are simply a thrill seeker and this extends into your love life. You say you are happy with your boyfriend, but maybe happiness for you includes an element of risk. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you are truly choosing the things that satisfy you.

You might want to be careful, though. Let me tell you a story:

This guy walks into a bar, where he finds two delightful sisters sitting alone at a table. He joins them and soon it is obvious they are both happy to meet him. He gets the sense that either of them would be pleased to go out with him, perhaps even to develop something longer term. One sister, the brunette, is quick to laugh and seems like she would be tremendous fun. The blond sister is quieter and has a calm strength the young man finds very appealing. What should his choice be?

Answer: Only one of them.

The Moral: Sometimes you just can't have it both ways.

You seem to be torn with your current boyfriend. You want him "for your future," perhaps because you can see a day coming when having a dependable guy to bring home a steady paycheck and take out the garbage will be a good deal. For now, though, you still feel a bit of that wanderlust. You miss the zing of uncertainty, the thrill of the hunt. Like I said, that's okay ... as long as that thrill is what you really want.

Be careful what you ask for because you are almost certainly going to get it. If you choose guys with more of an edge, then you will probably have to put up with the heartaches that come when they wander off in search of their own next thrill. Maybe that's a good tradeoff for you, I don't know. Only you can decide that.

On the other hand, if you choose guys who are more like your current boyfriend, then you must live with the almost certain knowledge that the Hell's Angels won't be dropping by for the weekend.

Should you stay with your boyfriend "for your future" when you have doubts today? Again, that's up to you to decide. The good news is that you have all your cards on the table. You have a good sense of the issues, now you just need to figure out which ones are most important to you.

And yes, there is some truth in what you said: if you have to ask whether you love him, he might not be "the one." On the other hand, it's normal to question our big choices in life. "Am I really ready to make a commitment? What if there is someone else out there I might love more?" These are all typical thoughts. It would be easier if life came with a set of black and white guidelines we could follow, but it doesn't. Give it a bit of time and your heart will tell you whether to hold on tight or move on.

Finally, I don't think you need "fixing" at all. You are simply searching out your path in life the same way people have been doing since Eve said, "Um, hello Up There. Is it possible there might be, you know ... another guy to talk to for a while? I mean, Adam is nice and everything but ..."

All the best,

Are you having trouble making a decision about your relationship? I would welcome your email or any comment you wish to enter using the link below.


  1. I agree completely with your response. All the exciting people I dated never lasted. The unrequieted "love" holds a mystery and used to occupy my thoughts untill I met my husband. This love proved deeper and abiding. I think if it's true she will forget about the love she had at 15. This is one way i knew that what I had was real, when i had the "gut feeling" that it wasn't working out, my thoughts would wander to the mystery.

  2. i now exactly where she is coming from..i did this till i was 50 years old..

    i am in a wonderful relationship now - it is just not very exciting..and i did wonder for awhile if 'this is all there is'?

    but i had to let that go...

    and my wondering was not if there was something else better out there but if i wanted to be in a relationship at all...sometimes i still wonder if i would be better off alone with 'just friends' for companions...