Hey Dr Nerdlove,
Brief context: I (28 F) have been in a 2.5 year relationship, 1.25 years of which has now been long distance (12+ hour flight, long distance). Currently coming out of a non-Covid rough patch, newly thrown for a loop.
Ever since I moved away, I have been encouraging him to cultivate friendships because all of his friends are here in the States. In combination with coaxing him into therapy for the past 2 years (which I would say has been moderately successful as he now has 4 consecutive months under his belt after scattershot attempts) I have tried to assist him as best I could in various personal matters (family dynamics, culture shock, opening up emotionally, etc).
While in general very willing to improve, he always found a way to avoid cultivating friendships. He has a mix of friends of both genders from college who he chats with, and we called 2 a day with video calls on weekends as well.
He’s a huge romantic and called me his best friend and that he didn’t need anyone besides me. As the complete opposite of him, I affirmed that I know he loves me and appreciate the sentiment but that all people need someone you can physically meet up with and be in the same time zone with and that no one person can be all things.
We’ve been meeting up for 2-3 weeks every 6 months and we hit a rough patch this January (ironically just before COVID dominated everywhere) While we were working things out (which involved some radio silence for a week or two while we cooled off) he magically gained a “squad” (his words) in February of a college acquaintance who moved to the country he lives in and a high school friend who also moved back.
The college friend is a girl. I’m very chill, but my boyfriend proceeded to tell me multiple times that he thinks she is into him. As he has the social flirting fluency of a statue and had so few friends to start with, I encouraged him to have an awkward conversation or just keep treating her as a friend.
Then he tells me they get drunk together at her place after he helped her run some errands (he is fluent in the local language) and she admits to feelings but she respects what we have.
Given that we were still hashing out our unrelated issues I honestly wondered why he was telling me this. Then he says he feels disconnected from me and our relationship and since he is talking to her for more than an hour everyday about things we used to talk about and meeting up 2-3 times a week, he wanted to know how our relationship is different than a friendship.
I was, needless to say, floored. I asked him if he is no longer in love with me or interested in marriage (aka one of our issues) and he says no. I ask if he has feelings for her and he says he doesn’t think so. I ask if he is attracted to her and he says he can find something attractive about anyone really.
He repeats that everything he used to talk about with me (which was everything under the sun and involved emotional vulnerability a great deal of the time and was apparently a first for him) he now talks about with her. I personally view that as a positive thing as he had a turbulent childhood and consequently great difficulty trusting people enough to converse like that. I’m also not apologetic about not fulfilling his conversational needs because 1) we were in a bad place and needed space 2) he should have people he trusts to talk to and 3) I’m in a COVID epicenter under lockdown—the highlight of my month is finally doing laundry.
Having been a longtime reader, I know you have covered that how men manage emotional intimacy in a relationships other than a romantic partner. Is that related to this or was he never really in love with me—was I just the first person he trusted and decided it was love?
-Lost and Confused