Broccoli or brownies?

I’ve dated both types of guy. Which one should I choose?

Love doesn’t have to make you crazy, says our elder. I vote the broccoli!

Dear EWC

I am a 26-year-old woman and my boyfriend is 29. We have been dating for almost three years and we never fight — it’s a very happy relationship. So what’s the problem, right? About a year ago I met a friend, who I am no longer friends with, but it did shake how I felt about my relationship a bit. I have a history of abusive relationships so I’m not really sure how love is supposed to feel. In all my relationships before my current boyfriend, I felt this suffocating, heart stops feeling. My emotions were out of control and my head always felt cloudy. It was such a strong feeling. That’s how I suddenly felt with the friend a year ago. It made me so confused.

With my boyfriend now, he is super kind and supportive to me. Even when he found out about the friend, he was angry at the guy for pursuing me, but not angry at me. He told me he didn’t want me to talk to him, but he wouldn’t force me. He didn’t want to feel like he was controlling me. This is so different than any relationship I’ve been in before. I am my boyfriend’s first serious relationship. We both lost our virginities to each other. This makes him a bit awkward when talking about his feelings. He is also naturally a very neutral person, he doesn’t show emotions much. It makes it hard to know what he’s thinking and sometimes it makes the relationship feel passionless (although the bedroom is great).

I guess I’m wondering how love is supposed to feel, thus the title. I compare my current boyfriend to broccoli and the friend and guys I dated before to brownies. When I eat broccoli, I like it, but it’s not a strong feeling, but I feel good after eating it. When I eat brownies, I feel intense happiness but after I ate it, I feel horrible. So do I choose the broccoli or the brownie?

Dot replies

Let me say that your title of your letter certainly caught my attention. You described your feelings so clearly in an amusing way. I hope that whatever you pursue in life involves your writing talent. I’m sorry that you are struggling with your feelings, but at the same time happy that you realize that you have been in unhealthy relationships in the past. I think it’s a huge step that you see that your current relationship is healthy even if you are confused by the way you feel.

So first let me tell you that I have been married for almost 50 years. People sometimes look for advice from someone who has been in such a long term relationship. I don’t know that I have any magic answers, but I can tell you what I have experienced. I don’t believe there are any perfect relationships. My husband and I married quite young so I feel as though we have sort of grown up together. We have had to deal with some difficult periods, but the healthy aspects of our relationship helped carry us through. I do feel what we have grown into is a sense of mutual respect, trust, good communication, a sense of playfulness and support when we have needed it the most. Love doesn’t have to make you crazy to make you happy. On a long term basis it will help you feel stable and cared for. Your partner will accept you for who you are, will not try to control you, will respect your individuality, encourage other relationships, allow you to express yourself without fear of consequences, and resolve conflict fairly. Fighting is a part of even healthy relationships. It’s how the conflict is handled that makes the difference.

You wrote that you have a history of abusive relationships. I think sometimes it’s easy to confuse those out of control, unhealthy feelings for love when a person doesn’t have a model for healthy relationships. You say that your partner doesn’t show his emotions much which makes the relationship feel passionless, but not in the bedroom. I wonder if it would be helpful if you talked with your boyfriend about expressing his feelings more outright. Sometimes I think guys “show” you how they feel so they don’t think it is necessary to talk about it. This could be an area that you two could work on together. For me passion grows throughout the day from the thoughtful, unexpected things we do for each other. Everyone loves things like flowers and gifts, but sometimes it’s things like a backrub or doing the dishes when I’m too tired that fuels my feelings of love and passion.

Lastly, I think that a healthy relationship brings more happiness than stress to your life. Occasionally stress hormones may be confused with the feelings of passion. To some, it feels unnatural not to have a crisis to bring “excitement.” I feel that we need to find a way to keep that excitement without the stress and pressure of an unhealthy, unbalanced relationship. My husband and I each enjoy some activities together, but we also have separate interests that we encourage each other to pursue. That keeps things interesting when we spend time together and helps us keep our separate identities.

So I am saying that eating broccoli for 50 years has given me a happy, healthy life, and I don’t have the remorse of eating brownies. I hope that something I have written may help clarify your feelings. Lifelong relationships are the most important thing in life so don’t be afraid to talk with a counselor to try to sort out your feelings. It may be helpful for you and your boyfriend to go together. Having a non-judgemental place to talk can be important if you are struggling to express yourself.

Letter #: 451433
Category: Dating/Relationship

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