Asking for a friend

Asking for a Friend is a weekly Sex and Relationships column hosted by Arts and Culture writer Dana Sparks and fueled by your curiosities.

Asking for a Friend is a weekly Sex and Relationships column hosted by Arts and Culture writer Dana Sparks and fueled by your curiosities. Click here to anonymously submit questions regarding sex, relationships and sex education.

Question: “I understand my boyfriend and I have different love languages, but how do I stop overthinking it? I have asked him to pay more attention since I do my best to appeal to his, but he doesn't understand the feeling of under-appreciation. How do I get this across without resorting to anything petty?

I have anxiety and am really pessimistic. He has no emotional baggage or experience with it at all...” — Felicia

Answer:

Dear Felicia,

I think we just need to get real about your situation — or at least the timing of the relationship.

Whatever it is, something needs to change because based on your submission, I don’t see this lasting. The love language mismatch, unreciprocated effort, general anxiety and disconnect between you two regarding unresolved emotional trauma all make me question your compatibility.

You’re overthinking. You’re anxious. You’re very pessimistic. You have emotional baggage. 

Would I be wrong to say that you’re overwhelmed, Felicia?

And to top it off, you feel under-appreciated in a relationship that you feel you’re working really hard for.

That feels bad. Really bad.

Overthinking isn’t always something to ignore — it signals something is bothering you. Anxious thoughts don’t always provide an accurate reflection of what’s wrong, but it’s still saying that something doesn’t feel right — whether that’s with your head or your heart.

There isn’t anything wrong with dating someone who doesn’t have the same love language as you — I know that you understand that, but I want to make sure that others do too.

Love languages are the way that two people communicate love and feelings of appreciation. There’s a little quiz on The 5 Love Languages site that you can take to figure out what your language is if you need help or want to learn more.

Two people with different ways of feeling loved might adapt by deliberately learning how to demonstrate the other person’s language, as well as appreciate when that person demonstrates love in a language other than their own. As you can imagine, not being dedicated to this process can easily result in hurt feelings and maybe a complete disconnect.

However, I think there is a lot more at play in your relationship than just love language issues.

Have you thought about how the strain of this relationship adds to your pessimism and anxiety? Being in a relationship with so much stress present adds another layer of work, a greater test to partnership and compatibility.

Sometimes a relationship can handle intense pessimism, anxiety and emotional baggage, but not always. And, realistically, maybe that’s simply not what needs to happen for both people to have their needs met.

I don’t know who you are, but I know that you care about this relationship enough to ask a stranger for help, and you’ve put in work to better understand your boyfriend and the way he functions. 

After a certain point, I don’t think it’s your responsibility to figure out how to make him understand. If you’ve given him ways to educate himself and communicated ways to speak your love language, I’m not sure what else you can do to make him understand.

Every once in awhile, you can be really, truly, madly in love with somebody and for whatever reason — anxiety, emotional baggage, differing love languages and the way we handle these things — love is just not enough. Loving someone doesn’t always mean that we should be with them.

The hopeless romantic part of me is praying that it’s just timing — maybe he’s just as overwhelmed as you are, but says it differently in a way that you don’t pick up on. After all, your love languages are different, so maybe the way you communicate is different too. Maybe the relationship really just needs patience, understanding and space. But maybe you’re so afraid to lose the relationship that you’re holding on tighter and tighter and tighter until the relationship is actually on the fritz.

But, those are a lot of “maybe” statements. My optimism is coming from the part of me that relates to your heart. The more calculating side of me understands something isn’t working fundamentally and believes you both have to be all in to fix it. 

You also should recognize that you can’t force your boyfriend to be capable of handling your anxiety and the emotional baggage of past trauma he didn’t experience.

Your anxiety, pessimism and emotional baggage are not something that you can force someone to date, solve or deal with. Sometimes, when you are a person who has more than their fair share of these things — like you and me — it can be really hard to see how difficult it might be for someone who has no relational experience with them.

Being in a romantic relationship sometimes makes it hard to see if you’re asking someone to fight that battle for you or next to you.

Sometimes we never really realize what we’re asking of our partner until we’re not able to ask them anymore because they are gone or have been pushed to the limit.

So, I think that maybe you need to, at the very least, really get space to think about what you want out of this relationship and what you’re willing to commit to in order to have it with the other person.

It might be time to say bye, Felicia.

Yours truly,

Dana

Photojournalist and Sex and Relationships columnist

Dana is a photojournalist specializing in long-format storytelling — particularly regarding gender and social justice topics. She is the Daily Emerald Sex and Relationships columnist. This is her third year at the Emerald.


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