By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW
I’ve been dating Jake for about two years and just don’t know if he’s right for me. We have great chemistry but that’s part of the problem. We have an up and down relationship and we’ve broken up many times. We have a lot of fun and great sex but I’m tired of dealing with uncertainty and rejection. When Jake and I have a disagreement, he usually shuts down or ends up saying things that are hurtful. He says that I’m too sensitive but he isn’t willing to look at what he brings to our arguments.
The biggest issue we have is that Jake doesn‘t believe in saying he’s sorry and when he says or does something that’s hurtful. He tends to criticize me about things I can’t always change – such as issues in my family and problems at work. He doesn’t have much patience when I want to vent a bit about my day. For instance, he’ll say things like “Why don’t you just get another job, you made a bad choice when you took that one.” Sometimes, all I need is a shoulder to lean on and I feel very lonely and criticized when I reach out to Jake for support.
We’ve broken up several times because Jake says he’s not ready to make a commitment and I want to start a family. In the past few months, since I turned thirty, I’ve had an urge to have a child and I don’t want to wait too long. I took a child development class in college and I remember my instructor saying that the risks of having a child with a disability go up greatly when the woman turns thirty-five.
My question to you is this: How do I know that Jake is the right one for me? We have amazing chemistry but I’m not sure he’s good marriage material. We argue a lot and Jake’s not ready to settle down. In fact, I worry that if I wait much longer, I’ll end up alone and too old to have children.
I would appreciate your help with my dilemma: Is this relationship too risky or should I move forward?
Your question about what’s more important in a long-lasting relationship – chemistry or compatibility – is a common one. First of all, they are both important elements of a committed relationship. Secondly, you mention that you and Jake have heated arguments and that you break up often. In my opinion, your relationship seems quite unstable and you appear to have different values and expectations. It sounds like this relationship is bringing out your insecurities and you aren’t able to trust your own judgment.
Ask yourself this question: Is there something about the way that Jake treats me that makes me a bigger and better person? If the answer is no, ask yourself: Am I settling for less than I deserve in the relationship? Some women settle for less than they deserve because they are afraid of being alone. If this is the case, gently remind yourself that you are a worthwhile person regardless of whether or not your relationship with Jake endures.
Perhaps the next step in reevaluating your relationship with Jake, is looking at the difference between compatibility and chemistry.
- Chemistry: This usually refers to physical attraction but can include intellectual attraction as well. It is about how interesting and simulating you find the person. Do you enjoy each other’s touch and is their sexual chemistry? It’s essential because without it, you are little more than friends.
- Compatibility: Is about sharing common values and goals, having fun together, and liking each other: it helps to sustain a couple through tough times. However, both chemistry and compatibility are essential to a long-lasting healthy intimate relationship.
If you find yourself attracted to guys that you don’t have chemistry and compatibility with, you may be inclined to have one-sided relationships. Perhaps you grew up in a family where you were a caretaker or focused more on making others happy. Maybe you even felt that you had to be in a good mood regardless of your true feelings.
Many women are in one-sided relationships because they consistently put their partner’s needs before their own. Girls are often raised to tune out their inner voice and this can set the stage for one-sided relationships because they look for their partner to validate them. Keep in mind that emotional intimacy is not emotional dependency. If your relationship causes you to be anxious or causes you to question your sense of self, it may not be the best relationship for you. Remind yourself that you can be happy and stand on your own two feet even if you are not in a romantic relationship.
Here are 8 ways to avoid hurtful, one-sided relationships:
- Seek a partner who you feel comfortable with and are easy to be close to. In other words, you feel that you can be yourself and don’t have to walk on eggshells. You feel safe in the relationship and free to express your thoughts, feelings, and desires openly without fear of rejection.
- Set an expectation of mutual respect. You can accept, admire, and respect each other for who you are. If you don’t have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left.
- Notice if your partner keeps his agreements. Does he call when he says he is going to call? Does he take you out when he says he is going to do so? When a man is interested in a woman, they keep their agreements.
- Makes sure your guy carves out time for you on a regular basis. He makes you a priority because he values your relationship. This includes regular text messages or phone calls to show that he’s thinking of you.
- Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Does your partner ask you questions about your hobbies, friends, and family?
- Pick a partner who makes plans to do things with you and includes you in his inner circle. If something special is going on in his life, he invites you and encourages you to come along.
- Don’t have sex or engage with a partner who makes you feel insecure. A partner who truly cares about you is a boost to your self-esteem. He values you, gives you compliments, and encourages you to do things that are in your best interest.
- Select a partner who talks about your future together. If he says he’s not ready for a commitment, take him seriously – he’s just not that into you. Don’t waste your time on a relationship that doesn’t have a future.
The best partner will compliment you and bring out your very best. When you are with him, you will begin to see untapped possibilities within yourself and in the world. Author Jill P. Weber writes: “The more you view others’ mistreatment of you as something you have the ability to fix, tweak, or amend, the harder it is to develop a positive sense of yourself. Seeing yourself exclusively from the eyes of others disconnects you from the day-to-day, moment to moment experience of your life.”
I’d love to read your comments on this page. Be sure to order my new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”