Dear Dr. Tobin,
I have to make a decision about a young man that I have been dating for six months. I live in Indianapolis and he lives in the State of Washington. We are both Christians and have an open communication line that the majority of married people would envy.
The problem is that upon his return visit back to Washington, after the Thanksgiving Holiday, I found myself questioning our relationship due to two apprehensions. The first apprehension is his tendency to critically scrutinize me and people around us, and the second is the lack of my physical attraction to him.
We have both discussed the two apprehensions of mine, and now he wants me to make a decision as to whether we should continue or call it quits. I have struggled with the issues and prayed about it for a week. I know its a black and white decision but something in me wants to hang on and make the relationship work. Thanks and God bless you.
It sounds like you and your fiance? have the capacity for a wonderful relationship. The fact that the two of you can communicate well is a strong indication that you will have a long and healthy relationship. Also, the fact that you share a similar outlook (in this case, Christian) is another positive indicator. I would encourage you to trust and listen to what you wrote in your letter to me: “Something in me wants to hang on and make the relationship work”.
Now on to your two concerns:
- You mention that your fiance tends to be critical. You also state that you spoke to him about your concern. However you didn’t mention whether he accepted your confrontation, apologized for hurting you and agreed to work on changing this “tendency” of his. Knowing how he responded to you would tell me more about his character and his potential for growth. For example, did he accept responsibility for hurting you and did he apologize for his behavior? If so, then that would bode well for a positive future together. However, if he were defensive and denied responsibility, then you would have good reason to feel concerned.Perhaps your fiance’s critique of you has some legitimacy. Nevertheless, there is an appropriate way to share negative feelings that will help to reduce a defensive reaction. When the person who feels upset makes “I statements” that reflect how he or she feels rather than “you statements” which attribute blame, then there is a much greater chance that the communication will lead toward a deeper understanding of one another.Here’s a tough suggestion for you: Try to listen to your fiance’s negative feedback without being defensive. Listen to the feeling message behind the words. Avoid reacting to “You statements”. Make clarifying statements such as, “It sounds like you’re feeling hurt because you feel like I ignored you last night.” When he feels heard, his anger and criticisms will most likely drop.
- You state that you’re not physically attracted to your fiance?. The element of attraction (chemistry) in a relationship is important although not essential. It is possible that if you’re not physically attracted to him now, you may suffer in the future from a lack of passion. The only advice I can offer you is be honest with yourself. You can’t fool your heart.The real soul of a relationship, however, is the emotional attraction. Are you attracted to his character and personality? Do you respect and admire him? Do you enjoy being with him? Does he excite you intellectually, emotionally and spiritually? If the answer to those questions are “No,” then I would suggest that you end your relationship now. If the answer, on the other hand, is “Yes”, then allow yourself to be “turned on” by his inner beauty.
Dr. Michael Tobin