My boyfriend and I have a great life together. He’s kind, sensitive, attractive. He loves me, and we don’t fight. But the relationship isn’t satisfying: It lacks emotional intimacy, a deep connection, and laughter, mainly. My dilemma is whether or not I’m asking for too much. Shouldn’t a great guy, house, dog, and job be enough? It seems that in this city, we’re told we can always do better, but at some point, it just feels greedy. Can one relationship really satisfy all my needs?
He Said: Let’s flip this around and imagine that your boyfriend sent in a letter asking about your relationship. I’m guessing a lot of it would read the same—great life with my girlfriend, she’s kind, we get along—but he’d wonder if he should settle for you or expect more. What would he say he’s not getting from you and honestly, how hard are you working to bring those things into his life?
It sounds like you two have a great foundation, but often, when we have a solid relationship, instead of building on it, we focus our energy on other relationships that are in disrepair or on building ones that could better bring us what’s still missing in our lives. In places like San Francisco, there’s always something that will call out to you but not your partner. One relationship can’t satisfy all your needs, nor should it, but if you want a deeper primary connection, you sometimes need to put more energy than you want into meeting your partner’s needs rather than your own. Often, we think a relationship would be more intimate and connected if only our partners would give us more of what we want, forgetting that it could equally deepen if we give our partners more of what they want.
She Said: While it’s intriguing to imagine what your boyfriend’s complaints would be if he were the one writing in, the only way to know his feelings is to ask him. But I get the nagging feeling you may have already attempted to talk to him about what’s lacking and that the talks haven’t led anywhere. Why do I assume this? Because you say the relationship lacks emotional intimacy. When that’s the case, it usually means that at least one partner doesn’t have the ability to be intimate. I don’t think you’re that partner, being as you just analyzed your relationship for a stranger and asked a very thoughtful question about it.
It’s often the case that one person puts more energy, desire, and expectation into the relationship while the other kind of hangs out comfortably, going about life and waiting for the partner’s next round of complaints. This can go on for a very long time—so long that you’ll be dead at the end of it. It’s much better to partner up with someone with whom you share a deep connection. As far as your questions go: A great guy, job, house, and dog are definitely enough to lead a productive and possibly content life, but they are very often not enough to quench your thirst for intimacy. Are you greedy for wanting that? No. Can one relationship satisfy all your needs? Definitely not. Friends, family, and coworkers should satisfy many of your social and emotional needs—but not your need for primary connection and deep-rooted intimacy. Those two should be satisfied by your partner.
Confused? Heartbroken? Curious? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.