Sacrificing Passion in a Potential Marriage Partner

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Reader’s Question

I am currently going through a lot of confusion. I became close friends with a girl (let’s call her G) with whom I shared a deep emotional and intellectual connection even though there was no physical attraction. However, our emotional intimacy led us to start dating. We dated for a few months and I found G to be an amazing, caring, supportive woman. I found in her a lot of characteristics that I find in my mother. I felt comfortable in my girlfriend’s presence and felt a sense of familiarity that I had rarely experienced before in my previous relationships. I experienced compatibility with her that I had never experienced before.

However, there was no passion and little sexual attraction in the relationship. The lack of passion was extremely frustrating for me and I would find myself constantly attracted to other girls who were more attractive. I consider myself good looking and attractive to the opposite sex. Because G wanted a firmer commitment (marriage) and I wasn’t sure if I could sacrifice passion, I broke up with her.

It has been a few months since I broke up with her and I miss her terribly. I was deeply attached to her on an emotional level and without her, I feel depressed. Maybe I love her in a deeper way. Now I am scared of going back to her because I feel I will once again feel frustrated by the lack of passion/attraction and this time it will be devastating for her, especially if this happens after we get married.

Let me also add that in the past, I have been in a few relationships with many attractive girls but those relationships never worked out. I also think that I have commitment issues because the thought of commitment makes me nervous and has led me to sabotage my relationships.

I briefly spoke about this to someone studying psychology and she made a remarkable insight based on the analysis of my dreams — she said at a subconscious level I already think of G as my wife. I realized that to be true. I don’t know what to do. Should I go back and marry G, to whom I am attracted at an emotional and intellectual level if not so much at a physical level? Without her, I am depressed and feel low. But I need to be sure of my decision since it also involves her and I care for her immensely. I am constantly grappling with my fears and dilemma and the indecisiveness is bogging me down.

Psychologist’s Reply

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Finding a partner with whom we connect emotionally, intellectually, and physically can be a tall order to fill. When combined with the pressures we feel at certain points in our lives to make life decisions (such as finding a partner to marry), we might make decisions that come from a place of scarcity.

Operating from a place of scarcity can influence us into perceiving a shortened time frame, which can lead to more impulsive, short-term decisions. If instead we can operate from a place of abundance, where we allow ourselves more time to allow for more choices, we may be able to make better decisions — especially about important relationships.

What I hear in your question is that you are feeling the pressure to marry G, but are not ready to make that commitment, nor are you ready to lose the connection and important relationship you have with her. It sounds as if she is really a best friend and confidant, and losing that connection with her creates feelings of loneliness and sadness. However, your insight into your desire to feel passion and physical attraction toward the woman you marry is important. If it is something you are unwilling to sacrifice, but decide to sacrifice it anyway, it will likely lead to other conflict in the marriage and may eventually interfere with the emotional and intellectual attraction you now feel toward G. If you already find yourself attracted to other women early in your relationship with G (when sexual attraction is typically the strongest), how might you feel years from now? Will you regret the missed opportunities? What would happen if you decided to have an extramarital affair? If you care for G, what do you think she deserves in a husband? Does she deserve to marry someone who is sexually attracted to her?

The other part I hear in your question is that you view G not as your wife (as your friend suggested), but rather that you see in her many attributes that remind you of your own mother. Finding a partner who has positive mothering characteristics (such as nurturing, caring, familiarity) can be wonderful, but it can sometimes interfere with feeling physically attracted to someone who reminds us too much of our own opposite sex parent. No one wants to feel attracted sexually to their mother — and it sounds more like you view G as a mother substitute than as a romantic and life partner.

Although it may be difficult to experience the loneliness and sadness that comes when you are apart, it sounds like you are doing the right thing by taking some time to sort through your feelings about G. I would encourage anyone in this situation to remain open to the abundance of other possibilities before making an impulsive decision that will only temporarily decrease the distressing feelings (loneliness, sadness). Perhaps talking to a mental health professional would be a good place to sort through these feelings, explore more about what you want in a life partner, and how friendships and other relationships might meet different needs for you at this time in your life.

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