I am a 24-year-old male who has spent the majority of my romantic life searching for my "soul mate." This is largely due to my parents, who have bequeathed me a disgusting story of love at first sight: They met at age 19, fell instantly in love, communicated long-distance for a year while my mother went to school a thousand miles away, got engaged their junior year of college and married the summer after graduation. Since then they have lived for more than 25 years in married, functional bliss, and are more than thrilled that my sister and I will soon be out of the house for good, so they can get back to spending all their time with each other.
This, of course, has given me a view of love that, sadly perhaps, is not necessarily the norm for many people. It has left me constantly searching for "the spark," that immediate, incredible link between myself and a woman, that certainty of loving this person and being loved in return -- a soul mate.
In the course of my relationships I have reconsidered this notion: Perhaps true love can happy gradually, and I'm the type of person that happens to. Yet whenever I start dating a girl, there it is in the back of my head -- are we really connecting? If I'm not madly in love with this girl immediately, could it even work? Of course, if I do become madly in love with the girl off the bat, then I wonder if it's just infatuation.
The fact is, I'm an attractive, well-educated, fairly emotionally mature guy, but when it comes to relationships I tend to overthink things every time and muck them up. My temptation lately has been to date once or twice and, if the "spark" isn't there, to move on. But there was no "spark" per se in my most successful and functional relationship, which was in college. Should I give my dates more benefit of the doubt, or should I keep giving in to my romantic tendencies until I find that electric current?
A Hopeless Romantic
Dear Hopeless Romantic,
What happened between your parents was beautiful and rare, but you needn't feel that you must repeat it. Right now, in trying to repeat it, you're doing exactly the opposite of what seems natural for you. No wonder it's driving you a little nutty. That spark you speak of can be there, but it might take some time to uncover it -- as you say it did in your most successful relationship. If I were you, I'd give any promising romance at least six months, and preferably a year. Choose your dating partners carefully, and don't expect instant euphoria.
Have you thought about the unacknowledged expectations you have for yourself? Perhaps you believe, deep down, that to gain your parents' love and admiration you must repeat their romantic success. I think it might help to talk to them about it. Go ahead. Tell them how much you admire the way they got together and stayed together, and tell them that you wish the same thing would happen for you, but you don't sense that it's going to. If you're prepared to hear some frank talk, ask them what they think. You will probably find that you have their love and admiration as you are, that you don't need to try to repeat their story. They may also remind you that you're quite different from them. And remember this: If your parents are of the 1960s generation, they may have innocently exaggerated the degree of "magic" in their relationship, because that was the style of the era.
Once you air this troubling expectation you have for yourself, its power over you will probably diminish. Then you can give each prospective relationship the time it needs.
Want more advice from Cary? Read the Since You Asked Directory