I’m a 33-year-old woman from Melbourne, Australia, dating a 24-year-old man. We’ve been dating for about eight months; it is exclusive and official. He’s kind and sweet, caring and giving. The thing is, he confessed to me recently that he doesn’t really “feel.” The way he explained it is, the only emotions he feels are fear and anxiousness that he’ll disappoint the people he cares about. He says he’s never been in love. He said his dad is the same way. The only time I see him really “feel” are when he’s high, which he is semi-frequently. He uses MDMA and he comes alive. He seems the way a “normal” person does when they’re in love, but when he’s sober, it’s like he’s trying to mimic the things a person in love would say or do. I confessed I am falling in love with him recently and told him I wasn’t saying this with any expectation of him feeling the same; I just wanted him to know. He responded that he cares for me a lot — but that’s it. I’m now worried that he’ll never love me. I don’t want kids, so time isn’t critical for me, but I don’t want to be with someone who won’t ever love me.
Lacking One Vaunted Emotion
You didn’t use the P-word (psychopath) or the S-word (sociopath), LOVE, but both came to mind as I was reading your letter. Someone who isn’t capable of feeling? Isn’t that textbook P-word/S-word stuff?
“The fear with someone who doesn’t ‘feel’ is that they may be a psychopath or a sociopath, terms that are used interchangeably,” said Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry. “And lots of the items on the psychopath checklist relate to an inability to experience deep emotions — like Shallow Affect, Lack of Empathy and Lack of Remorse. However, I have good news for LOVE! This line: ‘The only emotions he really feels are fear and anxiousness that he’ll disappoint the people he cares about’ is the critical one. Psychopaths do not feel anxiety. In fact, my favorite thing a psychologist said to me about this was: ‘If you’re worried you may be psychopath, that means you aren’t one.’ Also, psychopaths don’t care about disappointing loved ones! All those emotions that relate to an overactive amygdale — fear, remorse, guilt, regret, empathy — psychopaths don’t feel them.”
So, your boyfriend’s not a psychopath. Not that you asked. But, you know, just in case you were worried. Anyway …
My hunch is that your boyfriend’s problem isn’t an inability to feel love, LOVE, but an inability to recognize the feelings he’s having as love. (Or potentially love, as it’s only been eight months.) What is romantic love but a strong desire to be with someone? The urge to be sweet to them, to take care of them, to do for them? Maybe he’s just going through the motions with you — a conscious mimic-it-till-you-make-it strategy — or maybe the double whammy of a damaged dad and that toxic masculinity stuff sloshing around out there left him blocked, LOVE, or emotionally constipated. And while MDMA can definitely be abused — moderation in all things, kids, including moderation — the effect it has on him is a hopeful sign. MDMA is not an emotional hallucinogen; the drug has been used in couples counseling and to treat PTSD, not because it makes us feel things that aren’t, but because it allows genuine feelings to surface and, to be felt intensely. So, he can feel love — he just has to learn how to tap into those feelings and/or recognize them without an assist from MDMA.
My boyfriend of one-and-a-half years shared (several months into dating) that he has a fantasy of having a threesome. I shared that I had also fantasized about this, but I never took my fantasies seriously. Right away, he started sending me Craigslist posts from women and couples looking for casual-sex partners. I told him I wasn’t interested in doing anything for real. A few months later, we went on vacation and I said I wanted to get a massage. He found a place that did “sensual” couples massage. I wanted nothing to do with this. During sex, he talks about the idea of someone else being around. This does turn me on, and I like thinking about it when we are messing around. But I don’t want to have any other partners. I’m like a mashup of Jessica Day, Leslie Knope and Liz Lemon, if that gives you an idea of how not-for-me this all is. When I say no to one idea, he comes up with another one. I would truly appreciate some advice.
Boyfriend Into Group Sex I’m Not
Short answer: Sexual compatibility is important. It’s particularly important in a sexually-exclusive relationship. You want a sexually-exclusive relationship; your boyfriend doesn’t want a sexually-exclusive relationship — so you two aren’t sexually compatible, BIGSIN, and you should break up.
Slightly longer answer: Your boyfriend did the right thing by laying his kink cards on the table early in the relationship — he’s into threesomes, group sex and public sex — and you copped to having fantasies about threesomes, BIGSIN, but not a desire to experience one. He took that as an opening: maybe if he could find the right person/couple/scenario/club, you would change your mind. Further fueling his false hopes: You get turned on when he talks about having “someone else around” when you two have sex. Now lots of people who very much enjoy threesomes and/or group sex were unsure or hesitant at first, but gave in to please (or shut up) a partner and wound up being glad they did. If you’re certain you could never be one of those people — reluctant at first, but happy your partner pressed the issue — you need to shut this shit down, Liz Lemon style. Tell him no more dirty talking about this shit during sex, no more entertaining the idea at all. Being with you means giving up this fantasy, BIGSIN, and if he’s not willing to give it up — and to shut up about it — then you’ll have to break up.
On the Lovecast — A sexy toy review that will send you packing: savagelovecast.com.