Last year I went to Italy for my best friend’s wedding and ended up sleeping with her husband’s best friend at the reception. I was sure I would never see him again, but he hunted me down the next night and ended up driving me to the airport for my departure the next morning. We connected on Facebook and wrote emails to each other regularly. I decided to return to Italy for two months, and while I was living in Florence our love affair continued and intensified. When it came time for me to leave Italy, I cried uncontrollably all the way to my connection in Paris! When I got home I confessed my love for him via email. He responded that he also loved me but he wasn’t sure it was in the “same way.” In the year since then we email each other and he occasionally professes his love and how much he misses me, which sends me reeling. He came to visit me in August and we spent almost three weeks together in Colorado and out east. I daydream about moving back to Italy just to see if he is The One. I can’t discern my feelings for him anymore. Am I in love with him or am I in love with our romantic unreal experience? How do I really know if I love this man? — Is That Amore?
Wait, I’m confused. In his occasional professions of love, has your Italian paramour never once refuted his claim that his love for you might not be the “same” as yours for him? In all your email exchanges and his three-week visit to the States, has he never made a formal reply to your initial confession of love for him? Has he never made his intentions with you clear? Well, no wonder you aren’t sure what to feel or think. When we’re with someone who sends mixed signals, it’s easy to mix up our own feelings.
You’ve basically invested over a year in this relationship and you deserve to know where you stand with this guy. What are you to him? Obviously, you must mean something because he’s invested a year of long-distance emailing and the time and expense to make a three-week transatlantic trip to see you. Before you rush off to Italy to see if he’s The One, you need to have a heart-to-heart discussion with him about his feelings for you and what — if any — intentions he has. Does he envision a future with you? Are you just someone to pass the time with until someone else comes along? Maybe he’s hesitated telling you exactly how he feels because he doesn’t know how practical planning a future with you is. Have you ever had a discussion about the possibility of you moving to Italy or him moving to the States? Unanswered questions make us vulnerable and when we’re vulnerable, we do whatever it takes to protect out hearts, including tuning it out.
I suspect you already know whether you’re in love with this man, but are afraid to let yourself truly feel it because you’re unsure of his intentions and feelings for you. Enough with the uncertainty already! Call him up and ask him! Is he in love with you? Does he want to be with you? Would he pursue a real relationship if you lived in the same city? Sure, it’s scary, but no scarier than investing another year of your life in a relationship that leaves you with more questions than answers and feeling more vulnerable than secure. And if he tells you he’s not in love with you or doesn’t fantasize about you in his future, it’s time to cut your losses and move on.
Recently my 27 year old eldest son called me and asked “How did you know it was right to marry mom?” Yikes! I felt honored that he trusted me enough to ask that, but also that I was now completely beyond all of the advice contained in “Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care.” My first reply was that it was absolutely the obvious thing to do and he was old enough to be able to trust his gut. But this struck me as somewhat outdated. What was the obvious thing 30 years ago no longer is. Marriage now seems to be quite disconnected from starting a household, considering yourself in a permanent committed relationship for years, and even having and raising children. I am still pondering the answer to this big question. With marriage currently being considered such a completely optional act, how do you know that it is obviously the right thing to do with someone? — Outdated Dad
Actually, I don’t think you’re outdated at all, nor is your idea of marriage. Sure, fewer people today see marriage as a necessity or something they have to rush into as soon as they finish school, but that doesn’t mean it’s “disconnected from starting a household, considering yourself in a permanent committed relationship” and raising a family. On the contrary, that’s exactly what marriage means for the majority of people tying the knot these days. Your first reply to your son about trusting his gut when it comes to choosing a spouse is right on the money. I’d also add that he should be able to answer in the affirmative to all the following questions: Do you share similar values? Do you both agree on whether to have kids or not? Does she provide you with emotional support? Do you have fun together? Are you sexually/intimately compatible? Does she challenge you to be a better person? Is she financially responsible? Does she make you feel loved?
Marriage is still very much a leap of faith and there isn’t one sure-fire answer that erases all worry completely, but I’d say that answering “yes” to all these questions is a pretty good indication that a person’s found the right match. I’m going to open this question up to readers, too, especially those who are engaged or married: How did you know you found the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with? How did you know marriage was the right thing for you?
*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.