Letter from Ms. Stake:
Please help. I’ve reconnected with an old college flame who was the first love of my life. After years of being apart, I’ve relocated where he is with the plan of rekindling the relationship that ended years ago when I moved out of the area after college to start my career. Throughout the years we’ve stayed in touch through family and friends and we still love each other. After being offered a job in his area, he invited me to move in with him and his kids. So, I decided to move in. The first few months were great, and now after settling in and starting my new job, I realize that we are not the same people we were back then. But I love him and he loves me. The physical attraction is gone for the most part. I don’t want to leave him again- he is my best friend! Should I wait to see if things change or be honest with him- what should I do?
Ms. Stake (not real name)
Dear Ms. Stake,
Let not mistakes become regret… First I think that I should define the difference between Romantic love and Passionate love. Romantic love is accompanied by intensity, engagement, and sexual interest which can exist and endure in long term relationships, but it requires energy and devotion by both partners. Romantic love can evolve into Enduring love. Passionate love, on the other hand, is the kind of love that we associate with movies, novels, and fantasy. Passionate love can have the same intensity of Romantic love but also includes anxiety and uncertainty. It fades quickly, can also be called Lust, and can be accompanied by Nostalgic love. Because you have a shared past with your partner, the desire to “rekindle” past feelings exactly as they were years ago are strong, however, maybe not realistic. When rekindling an “old flame” we must remember that humans evolve as we age, and our threshold for what nourishes us in relationships evolves. This is why long term marriages sometimes end because one or both partners is not willing to devote the time and energy to understand and adjust to how each person has evolved. Many experts believe that Romantic love dissipates after 12-24 months. Once this occurs, there can still be a desire to remain in the relationship based upon mutual respect, shared interests and values, and Enduring love. Couples can choose different ways of expressing intimacy in their relationship. Intimacy doesn’t always have to include sex. Building shared experiences, exercising together, touch, smell, conversation, travel, etc., are also forms of expressing intimacy and cultivating attraction.
In the words of Dr. Ruth, Just Do it! Sometimes couples get into the habit of thinking about having sex, instead of allowing the raw emotion and energy to just flow. You say that the physical attraction is gone and that he’s your best friend. If in fact, you both have a sex drive, but neither of you feels at all sexually attracted to one another, this is a problem. In some cases the sexual attraction does not return and in such case you must decide if you are willing to live in a sexless relationship with someone you “love.” Sexless relationships are defined as engaging in sexual intercourse 10 or fewer times per year. You may also seek couples counseling or individual counseling if you think this will be of assistance in your relationship.
I have a saying, “Just because you love someone, does not mean that you should be with them.” It seems to me that your nourishment threshold has evolved and what nourished you in college is not what nourishes you now. If indeed you decide to move on, forgive yourself and promise not to emotionally punish yourself for doing what is in your best interest. It IS ok to say goodbye to yesterday. For a moment in time you thought that it was the right decision to return to your “old flame.” I sense anxiety and uncertainty in your assessment of where the relationship stands. Hopefully, he too, is an emotionally mature individual and you all can have an honest conversation about your thoughts and feelings. The goal is to be honest and respectful so as to preserve the loving friendship. Your nourishment is just as important as his. I know that you will do what is in your best interest and in turn, if he truly loves you, he will respect and support that which is best for you.
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