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Dear Christine, Red Flag in Roseville

| September 21, 2015

ccc sizeI am newly dating someone I met through Match and I must say, I am falling hard.  I am a romantic and have been deeply in love twice in my life.  In getting to know one another, we have talked about our past relationships and I have told her about mine and she has shared hers. The troubling part for me is that she is 47 years old and says has has never been in love even though she has had several relationships.  How can that be?  It makes me question whether she can fall in love and will she with me.  We have already talked about a future together and she seems excited about it.  I wonder if she just settles for less than.  I can’t and will not just settle and if we move forward, I want to believe she will be in love with me and not just settle.  Is this a red flag?

Signed, Red Flag in Roseville

Dear Red Flag,

Red flags are those things which warn you to move slowly and check out whether or not they are non-negotiables or whether you can be in the relationship without them.  Non negotiables are like water and air, or food.  You can go a month or more without food, but you can only go a few minutes without air, so some of these non-negotiables will weigh differently for you.  But they are those things you MUST have or CANNOT have in a relationship for it to work for you.

I met a 47 year old man several years ago who claimed to have never fallen in love, despite several relationships.  He recognized that he never really let himself feel vulnerable and seemed to keep 2 or 3 possible lovers on the side, so as to never be too deeply disappointed if one backed away.   Finally, he was forced with a choice.  “Choose me and me only or I’m leaving. ”  He thought long and hard, but finally chose that person, cutting off his back ups.  He reported feeling much more love than he’d felt before.  I speculate, however, that no one at 47 falls in love like someone who is 17.

First love is something ultra romantic, where we project everything we want on someone else, and since we don’t know ourselves very well, much less the one we fall in love with, the relationship is intense, highly emotional and when it ends can feel like the end of the world.  Through these love relationships and break ups, and just from living more years, we gain experience and self awareness.  And we learn to choose partners who tend not to be quite so completely opposite to our own personality.  Young relationships tend to be opposites:  one is extroverted, the other introverted, and so forth.  In older relationships, we tend to find someone who fits us more closely, recognizing that we have to each take care of our own needs and our own self.  The relationship works when we take care of each other only after meeting our own needs.   It sounds less romantic and more practical, but it goes deeper emotionally and intimately and has the more solid foundation to last the ups and downs of life.

So, you may be seeing red flags.  Do you need your partner to be as romantic as you?  fall as hard as you?  Or do you need a partner who can accept that you are like that even if she is not quite the same?  Remember that you can’t change someone else, and to change yourself is very hard work when you truly are committed to changing whatever you find flawed in yourself.  Trust her to reveal her true self to you, and if you don’t like what you see, pay attention!  That would be where the red flags wave!

Keep talking to her, as you are getting to know each other through words, which are symbols.  We all use words like “love” differently.  Ancient Greek had 6 words for love, and English has only one.  In Greek:  philia or deep friendship (Philadelphia), eros or sexual passion (erotic), agape or love for everyone, universal loving kindness or charity, often used in spiritual groups from Christianity to Buddhism), ludus, or playful love, laughing with friends,  pragma, (pragmatic) or longstanding love or the compromises made with patience and tolerance overtime, as in a marriage, and finally  philautia, which is love of the self.  There are two types of philautia:  the healthy self-compassion and narcissism.

Hopefully, both of you have philia and ludus and will be looking for eros, and agape, as well as creating pragma from both of you having healthy philautia.

I wish you both the best, where ever this shared journey takes you and however long or short it lasts.
Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD

To read more on these 6 worlds of love:http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/the-ancient-greeks-6-words-for-love-and-why-knowing-them-can-change-your-life

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