I broke up with someone this weekend and I thought I would be a lot more sad about it, but it turns out, I'm not. I realized something really important through this: I was never in love with him, because you can't fall in love with someone whose heart isn't open.
I really, really wanted to love him. He is, in many respects, almost exactly the kind of man I would have wanted to have as a partner. He is smart and adventurous and creative and a very genuine person. Except for one crucial thing: he has almost no emotional availability. When we met, I was not in a very emotionally available place myself, having just been through a painful break-up. But while I slowly started to get to a place where I wanted to let him in and become more intimate, he always kept me at arm's length. And it became apparent that he would never truly let me in or make space for me in his life or share himself with me. For about a month, I felt like I was losing it - as is my typical pattern, I internalized this disconnect I was sensing, thought it was my fault, and drove myself crazy thinking I was unlovable. When I finally sat him down to tell him I was unhappy with how things were going, I realized that it wasn't my fault or my problem. This has always been his pattern and will likely continue to be. It had nothing to do with me.
There were moments of intimacy between us, and I think he tried to give things an honest go, but he is just shut down in that capacity. And when I thought about things afterward and wondered why I was feeling more relieved than sad, I came to the realization that I had never actually been in love with him. I wasn't feeling that heart-wrenching feeling of loss when someone you are truly intimate with is suddenly gone from your life. I realized that although I wanted to fall in love with him, I couldn't...and that's the reason why the relationship ended.
I was talking with a friend yesterday about the break-up and she told me about her previous boyfriend who, after more than two years together, unceremoniously dumped her one day, saying he "didn't want a girlfriend." She was shocked and heartbroken, but she confessed that, in retrospect, she'd felt a similar disconnect to the one I described the entire two years. We started trading stories - from our own lives, from the the lives of women we know - of these men who consistently want to have relationships but always hold their partners at arm's length and cannot handle being emotionally available. I can't even count the number of women I know who have been through similar relationships. These men don't seem genuinely aromantic or asexual and they're not your typical commitment-phobic dude-bros. On the contrary, they're often serial monogamists. They seem to want relationships, but they don't want to give anything or make any space for another person or truly be reciprocally intimate. Take ex-Gentleman Friend: when I asked him, if he was so unprepared to actually be someone's boyfriend, why he was dating, he replied that he wanted companionship because it was "hard being alone." This is clearly not a person who genuinely has no need for human companionship and sex. But he won't engage in the reciprocity necessary for a real relationship. He told me that every one of his previous relationships (with one exception) went the same way: they would last between six months and a year before his exes "got sick of [his] bullshit."
And I wonder...what is it with men in my generation and this need to remain emotionally distant? It has to be something in the way that young men are socialized, but I can't quite put my finger on it. There's so much here I could analyze, but I'm interested in other people's thoughts.