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dating coach for smart, strong, successful women Evan Marc Katz
My girlfriend of 2 1/2 years just put all our plans on hold, including buying a house together and getting married later this year. She says she loves me but she’s not “in love” with me. What is the difference?

Fernando

Dear Fernando,

It all depends on how much value you put on labels.

Being”in love” is a pretty cool feeling. But it can also be an illusion.

Being “in love” is the most commonly used phrase to describe the feeling of “chemistry”. People who are “in love” with each other have obsessive thoughts about their partners – huge highs when things are good, deep lows when things are bad. People “in love” say things like, “you just know when it’s right”, and believe that they found their true soulmates.

Being “in love” is a pretty cool feeling. But it can also be an illusion. What people who are “in love” often forget is that the passion that brings them together is often the very thing that drives them apart. This isn’t always the case. Some people, like the ones in Helen Fisher’s brain chemistry studies, stay “in love” for an entire lifetime. And because of those few people, we all think that the only way to find happiness is to hold out for being “in love”.

That’s what it sounds like your girlfriend is doing to you, my friend.

If she’s asking herself, “Do I love my boyfriend?,” then she’s chasing a higher high, a greater feeling, something that you can’t provide for her, no matter how much you try. You can’t blame her, exactly. She wants what she wants, and she may not feel as strongly in love with you yet. But she quite likely might be throwing away an amazing partner in pursuit of that “in love” feeling.

I recently read a thought-provoking book called “The Post-Birthday World” by Lionel Shriver. The novel consists of two parallel stories – one is what happens if the protagonist, Irina, stayed with her solid and steady boyfriend of nine years; the other is what happens if Irina cheated on him and left him for a more passionate affair that turned into a marriage. Without giving away all that much, her passionate marriage doesn’t provide her nearly as much comfort as the safe relationship she left. She just traded in one set of problems for another.

When it comes to love, I might sit here and give advice every day, but there’s not a “right” and “wrong.” All I know is that the majority of people who have been “in love” with each other and “just knew” that they were meant to be have since broken up. That tells me all I need to know about the deception of passion.

I feel for you, Fernando, but you can’t hold on to your girlfriend. You should probably have a heart-to-heart with her, find out if she thinks she needs to be “in love” to get married, and reevaluate your life.

Because if she’s always going to be longing for a more passionate relationship, you’re never going to feel safe with each other.

That’s too bad, because relationships should be safe. Not just for her, but for you as well. If she needs to be “in love”, wish her the best of luck finding it, and go invest your energy in a woman who loves you unconditionally – no matter what label she puts on it.