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Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
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Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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my ex boyfriend and I are trying to give our relationship another

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my ex boyfriend and I are trying to give our relationship another chance. We dated for 5 months, fell madly in love after the 1st month and couldn't keep our hands off each other. We were both very affectionate with each other at home or in public, we'd go to a restaurant and he'd sit next to me and sneak a kiss and be affectionate, hold my hand in the car or in public. He told me after 2 months he could see himself spend the rest of his life with me. We had an amazing physical attraction and connection with each other. Every time we talked on the phone, he'd say how much he loved me.. I saw a very affectionate man, that was also romantic. Sadly, things started taking a turn after 2 1/2 months, his business started falling apart, he started withdrawing and I felt rejected. It went downhill from there, we would argue about the stupid things. He made a big deal out of the smallest issues, was irrational and unpredictable. He also suffers from depression. We finally broke up around new years (Jan 2011). We tried
to get back a few times, the resentment and hurt would prevent us from having a chance. I couldn't let go of the pain and disappointment I felt. I trusted him and gave 100% of myself to the relationship. He ended up, giving up toward the end. We hadn't seen or talked with each other for the last 6 weeks. I've tried to get my pesonal items from him a month ago, he said he would mail it, but never did. I emailed him again earlier this week and he said he wanted to meet and give it to me in person. We met at a restaurant, he held my hands at the table the whole time saying how much he loved and missed me. I saw the vulnerable and affectionate man I fell in love with. I am giving it one last chance... We have seen each other a few times since and the the affection in private is there, but not in public. I like to hold hands and be affectionate no matter what & where I am. He told me he doesnt fell comfortable with displaying public affection. I guess I dont understand, then who was the man I fell in love with that was very affectionate and seemed so vulnerable and sincere. If I am going to give this another chance, I need to lay it all out on the table upfront so I don't waste my time, of his.. What the best approach on discussing the affection and why he was very affectionate when we 1st fell in love, but now says he's not comfy with it? Just doesn't make sense will cause me to question his sincerity.
When he showed me that vulnerable side of him athought finally the man I love is back. he said he just isn't affectionate in public. I guess what I don't understand is, was the guy I fell in love that was both verbally and physically affectionate not really him? And, now he's showing his true self? We both agreed that we're gonna try again and see where it goes. Although, he is pulling back on affection.. I am confused, but know I need to talk to him now since we promised to improve on our communication
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Mark Manley replied 6 years ago.
He may feel ashamed and inadequate due to his business troubles. He may want to have a great, deep, 'for- the-rest-of-his-life-relationship' with you but at the same time not sure that he can be the person you need. Many people are frightened of commitment and intimacy while at the same time desiring a close committed relationship. It is worth finding out if he is for real and if he can follow through. The only way to know is to try. Over time his level of commitment and ability will become more obvious. As far as the public display of affection: don't let that be a big deal, give him some space on that. As a relationship develops both people go through various changes and stages that cause them to change their previous behaviors. Be careful not to read too much into this change. If it doesn't work out it will hurt big time but what if it does? You can try or wonder why.
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Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 6 years ago.
Welcome to my front porch. Your questions open up many ways to love, suffer & improve our lives. I'm thankful to feel and learn along w
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 6 years ago.

It's very exciting to believe a lifelong relationship is likely, and it's pretty common in the first 3 months or so. But those are rose-colored glasses that both of you were looking through. I wonder if there's an age difference between you and him. It would be useful to inquire into the extent of his depression history, since it's also possible that his overwhelmingly expressive passion might have been a bit manic. 5 months is a pretty good relationship lifespan for the first fundamental differences to emerge as much more of the whole personality comes into play, of both of you. How did you feel about him when his work worries and depressive symptoms were taking him over? We do live in a very unstable economy now, but I'd be concerned about his stability for keeping a business afloat.


You seem to be intent on a relationship that leads to marriage, because if this relationship grinds to a halt again, you will have wasted your time. (You could also approach him differently, as a good man whose physical and emotional intimacy could test and expand your own character and range of behavior, whether you make it to marriage or not.) Is this the first time you have felt so strongly that this could be the one? If it's not, then you have already learned about some personality traits that emerge midway into the first year and are so disappointing to you that you don't want to accept them in a life partner.


Public affection doesn't seem like a deal breaker for people considering marriage, since there are so many more essential elements in a relationship: Such as being able to admire your partner even 5-10-20-30 years later, being able to defuse an argument, caring for and supporting each other in sickness and in health. Can he manage his depression with medicine and/or psychotherapy? Can you see yourself giving him the support and respect he needs, even when he can't give you what you want because of his mental illness? [By the way, that takes a pretty devoted person who can stand by and care for their partner even when no amount of wind beneath his wings will lift him off the floor.] I've watched 35 to 55 year old unmarried men break up with a woman because of personality weaknesses like depressive--withdrawal--tendencies. But the same couple would most likely stay together if they were already married, while the partner whose expectations of the relationship have been dashed for the time being will adjust by developing greater satisfaction in other areas of life, like work, passionate projects, church and other rewarding associations.


If his depressive symptoms are sufficiently entrenched to be a significant threat over a lifetime, you'll need to face the questions I've raised above. Freud said the cure for depression was work. I would add that the biological function of depression is to kill off those members of the tribe that can't contribute to the welfare of others. So the cure is work that is so meaningful to the man and probably some part of the society that he will repeatedly overcome his depressive episodes by commitment to his passion for excellence in his chosen work. This sort of personality cycle is typical of a great many artists of all trades, but it's often not in good balance with caring for a spouse and family.

Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1201
Experience: Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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