Is it love – or something else?


 Dear Neil: I’m in a nine-year relationship with a man who has been emotionally unavailable. Our typical pattern consists of him coming over to my house, we have sex and then he leaves right after. I have called him periodically and he is always busy: in a meeting, going to the airport or doing errands. He started calling at the last minute to come over. So I cleaned my house, showered, put on makeup – and he then called saying he was too tired. This has happened more than once.  We do not go out, and he does not spend money on me. He just wants sex and then he’s gone for long periods of time. Eventually, I told him to not call me anymore, but then he started calling me “sweetie.” Last December he stopped calling me altogether for seven months, until he showed up with a bottle of wine and wanted to talk. He said, “You have not seen the real me.” He’s right. I have never gone to his home, I’m not sure what he does for a living and I don’t know much more about him than when we first met nine years ago. He has started opening up to me, and wants me to give him another chance. Should I? I want a real relationship. – Jilted for 9 Years in Minneapolis

Dear Jilted: You are not the only woman who has confused having sex with having a relationship. But as you and (no doubt) everyone else learns, sex is not the same as love. It doesn’t mean someone likes you or wants to build a life with you, and it is not the same as being in a committed caring monogamous relationship.  Of course, anyone can change his mind and choose to become open and vulnerable to someone he has not been vulnerable with in the past. But based on your description, I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. Plain and simple, the man you’ve described views you as his booty call – and little else. He has either been in another relationship, or has been spectacularly disinterested in knowing you and in being known by you, which is the basis of being in a “real relationship.”  Nothing in your story convinces me that he will become emotionally available to you, or that you will ever get his heart offered to you.  But where are you in this story? What has allowed you to settle for so little from a man this long, getting so little in return? If you are wanting a relationship, perhaps it is time  for you to go out there and look for an emotionally available man – someone who wants a real relationship with you, someone who wants to spend his time with you, someone who wants to wine, dine, romance you, treat you special and please you, and someone who has something to offer other than crumbs. —————————————————————————————————————— Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is the author of the bestselling book Love, Sex, and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship. Contact him at 303-758-8777 or visit