i can’t make you love me, if you don’t?

I just get so crazy when he isn’t giving me what he used to.  His emails used to be about how he thought of me constantly and looked forward to being with me at the end of his day… how sexed up he was at the idea of being with me—how much he really deeply loved me. I’d show up at his apartment in garters and stockings, hid away beneath my casual jeans.  When he undressed me, his heart began to race.  “Dear God, Stephanie,” he’d say eying me as if he didn’t know where to begin.  He would always express how happy and satisfied he felt in the relationship.  I did the same thing. 

I was excited to see him and do fun things with him. And when that stopped, when there was a fight, and then no email about how great he felt about us… as soon as I knew he was questioning us and he was no longer secure and certain, I became extraordinarily anxious.  Any time we spent together I spent worried; how could I get him to feel that way again for me?  “But you can’t make someone love you.”  Bullshit.  You actually can.  Bonnie Raitt is wrong.  If you can get someone to orgasm, or feel like shit, or feel invincible in that pair of new jeans, you can get them to love you.  Or at least, get them to want to love you. 

Can you, forget about what old wise people say, get someone to love you?  Manipulate it right if you know just what to say or do?  Well, then they might fall in love with who you’re trying to be, not who you are, then you’re back to the “me” bit.  We all want to be loved for who we are, just as we are, but when we’re our most loving, nurturing, patient and forgiving selves, when we’re complimentary and generous, giving our partner exactly what they need, can’t we make them love us?  I think you can.  I think all the books are wrong.

I’d just have to be the girl he fell in love with, be loving to him, because men like how women make them feel.  They spend their lives wishing we were just as we’d been at the beginning.  “Be yourself,” bullshit landed on my door in one neat advice pellet.  But how can I when I’m this anxious?  “You act,” I was told.  “Play it cool, like you don’t care.”  But I’m supposed to make him feel good, not like he has to chase me, not now; it’s too late for that.  And this is the dizzy mess I danced, in my head, thinking too much.  But really, only men told me I was thinking too much.  Women understood and helped me strategize. 

When you’re buried in emotion and decision, everything seems messy and unclear.  It’s obvious to outsiders who give the advice, capping it with “easier said then done,” because they know it sounds easy, even though it will feel hard.  Here’s something I wrote to myself in my journal to help me tread and navigate through it: “Talking about it doesn’t make me feel any better. Hearing that it will be okay, that neither of us wants it to end only makes me feel better temporarily. ‘Cause he knows just what to tell me, so he’s giving me just enough, without giving me everything. 

The truth is that there is nothing, NOTHING, that is going to make me feel better other than hearing from him that he wants me and that he is sorry for having to have put me through this.  The only thing that will make me feel normal again is if he’s so in love, so determined to have me as his wife that he declares it outright. God, it’s what I deserve.  And staying and working things through will not bring him to this revelation. It won’t. It will be bending over backwards, walking on shells, worrying about what he tells his friends that he’s not telling me, all for him to maybe say that he’s still unsure.  I don’t want to live a lifetime waiting in his doubts.  For his epiphanies.  In a world of his.  It’s not a time to be patient; it’s a time to move on and live your life, not bound up in one person who doesn’t know.  Life, as cliche as it is, is too damn short.”

Here’s the thing I didn’t realize when I was deep in it.  When I wrote about having to not give him a hard time when he wants to hang with the guys, etc. When I tried to talk myself into being better for him, better about his parents, etc… here’s what I didn’t realize.  OH MY GOD, there ARE men out there who WANT me around almost all the time, who would insist I join them at the game, men who can communicate, who don’t give a shit what their parents think, who put me first, who are so excited about being near me and doing things for me to show me this.  I didn’t want to realize that maybe he wasn’t a good match for me, that maybe what I needed was someone who felt things more deeply, someone who wanted to be in a communicative important relationship, someone who honestly would rather be at a cafe with me, sipping wine than with his pals on the course—um, I’m not kidding (there are men out there who don’t care about golf).  And yes, now that I’m in a relationship like that, I don’t care if he wants to spend time with others.  I know we both want to be together, so when we’re not, we communicate in sweet texts, eager to see each other soon.  It’s not the end of the world.  But then, I didn’t want to realize that really we were mismatched.  Instead I was dead set on making it work, trying to change, to bite my tongue and be a good partner.  It was work, and sometimes work is too hard.  So you need to make the even harder choice and leave.  Which feels like quitting, like failing at another relationship, but really, you’re quitting a bad habit, the need to hold on when it’s time to let go.  The need to make someone love you.  Maybe you can do it, but it’s too much work, and you’ll only always question if he’s there for the right reasons.  It’s no way to live or to love.

50 Responses to “i can’t make you love me, if you don’t?”

  1. Dru Says:

    Sometimes you're mismatched. But most times, people just don't want to work hard enough to keep it together. (I'm not saying that you didn't, in this past relationship you're talking about. I'm talking from my own experience.) It's just easier to leave than to put the work in that it takes to stay. Love isn't easy. True love is staying when you want to run. Through everything. For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. To some, they're just words. True love is living the words. Not just saying them.

    Loved this post, Stephanie. (But, I don't believe you can make someone love you. They either do, or they don't. You can make them "want" you, but desire isn't love.)

    Reply

  2. Sally Says:

    That's so true. I was having a conversation with my husband this morning about people not realizing the difference between "I'm unworthy because I'm ___" and "We're incompatible." Some people (me included) seem to think when relationships don't work out, we weren't doing enough or trying enough or giving enough. But it's often just that your goals, ideas about relationships, etc., were incompatible.

    Also, so often, we (women especially) don't realize it's OKAY to have high standards of treatment from men. It's not always all about compromise. Sometimes it's just about knowing what you're worth.

    Reply

  3. 3 teens' mom Says:

    Good morning Stephanie –

    I read this entry with my breath held – didn't realize it til I was near death from lack of oxygen. So glad to go back and see it in past tense. So glad he likes you more than golf. So glad this is better.

    Reply

  4. G Says:

    Great post. Before everyone jumps in here and starts thinking Stephanie dumped The Suitor, read the post and realize it says "past tense".

    That said, I wish more women in their younger years understood what you now do about men, Stephanie.

    We are willing to make women our whole world and willing to give up golf (hell, I don't even play it), the guys and our own bullshit when we meet the right woman.

    I can think of at least 5 women I was willing to do that for that instead stayed with men or pursued men who were really not giving them what they needed emotionally. Years removed from that, I'm constantly reminded by those women that what they are now looking for is me, except they are now too late and I found the one who loved me for me and vice versa.

    I actually had a conversation with one of these women a few years ago who when I asked her why she was ending her engagement she replied, "he's not you".

    Look, most men are shallow. We want beauty, hot uninhibted sex and nuturing. But there are those of us who also want a best friend, someone to communicate all our thoughts and feelings with.

    I think as a society, women at an early age are scared of such men. They are labeled "touchy feely" and "needy".

    But here's the thing, I am as touchy feely as they come, but I also am masculine. I'm successful, indpenedent, I enjoy hanging out with the guys and sports and I can throw a spiral with a football and hit a baseball pretty far…but I realized early on that what a wonderful woman could offer me was better than anything in this world.

    I feel sorry for the women who passed on me and now regret it. Yeah, it's an ego boost for me to hear they want me now, but I do feel badly since I did care enough about them to be willing to share my life with them at some point in time.

    You don't need to make someone love you–if you have to do that even a little bit, it's wrong.

    This goes for men too. If it's too much work to get a woman to see you're the one, move on. Yeah, I know there's some game playing going on in all relationships and some women play hard to get, but we know when all of our attempts are in vain and we should walk away with some respect for ourselves and what we have to offer another human being in a relationship.

    It took me to about 27 to learn to that. Now that I have, I'm truly happy.

    Reply

  5. kerri anne Says:

    Oh, how I, too, have been there. It is so difficult not to think of the ending of the relationship as a complete failure on your part, or on theirs. It's so hard to see that many things don't work for the best of reasons.

    Loved this post Stephanie. Am so glad you were able to let go of the ones who didn't deserve you. Am so glad you are happy.

    Reply

  6. RD Says:

    i went through this last night. for the final time; it's over now. i told myself, no more tears after last night.

    Reply

  7. jackie Says:

    feels like i'm reading about me. i swear i will print this post and tape it onto my fridge. it's time for me to let go…
    thanks!

    Reply

  8. NJP Says:

    I, too, was thinking Omigosh, her relationship fell apart but was happy to see it worked out. Your blogpost as well as the comments are helping me to sort out my feelings for a very difficult man, a professional bachelor, who wants me in his very one-sided life. I have high standards, I know what I need and have been grappling with whether this man and I can work out – or if we should just be pals. I do love him and this is a lot of work. Some days are rewarding. Nothing and nobody is perfect.

    Reply

  9. Buffy Says:

    The whole 'you can't make him love you' thing…

    I've never actually heard an old wise person say it. Just single twenty-somethings and middle aged ex wives.

    I think you may be onto something.

    Reply

  10. JoeyB Says:

    "We are willing to make women our whole world and willing to give up golf (hell, I don't even play it), the guys and our own bullshit when we meet the right woman."

    Steph said the same thing, and I don't get it. Why would someone (guy or gal) want to give up golf and their pals? It is not either/or. I encourage my wife to go out with her friends. If she wants to vent about me, the kids, her job, her family, whatever, I'm cool with that. It's healthy to do that. We're not attached at the hip. If we're on vacation, and she wants to spend a day getting a massage, a facial, nails, and all the rest of that stuff, so what? She needs down time, everyone does. As long as you don't abuse it, I think the healthiest thing a marriage can have is for the spouse to be able to get out once in a while to completely unload.

    Reply

  11. ab Says:

    you're making me realize – well, I guess I've known deep down – that I'm not doing a good job of nurturing and being who I want to be for him. Why is it so easy to become selfish once you're comfortable in a relationship? He deserves more than that, and the good part is I can do better. It's just a decision. I don't ever want to be not good enough.

    Reply

  12. Kim Says:

    Wow, this is really timely for me and great advice, Stephanie. It sure makes alot of sense when you read it in words instead of thinking it over in your head, then it just seems confusing and is easy to rationalize. Great thought provoking post.

    Reply

  13. Justin Says:

    Very cool post. I agree with Dru, to the extent that a lot of people don't put forth the effort in a relationship. However, I think that's a caveat to the general thrust of your post – you can't change the other person. The other person has to want to change – for themselves. Good post, Stephanie.

    Reply

  14. Flora Says:

    D*mn you Stephanie! Why do you write painful truths exactly when I need to hear them!

    Reply

  15. Liz Says:

    I already knew this. Still learning to live by it. Great post.

    Reply

  16. Jen Says:

    I am there with ya girl. We tried so hard to make everyone like us, and now look at us!
    My man loves me for me, we can't wait to see each other every chance we get.
    If they only knew that the little email or text message that they send us can make our day!

    Reply

  17. Peter Says:

    You are much more enjoyable to read when you are happy. Hope you are finding what you need in Austin.

    Reply

  18. Engel Says:

    Thank GOD I read your blog today! I could not figure out why the man I want (back) would not want to be around me ALL THE TIME! But you are so right. He is a bad habit and holding on is just taking the easy route.

    Reply

  19. lin Says:

    Out of curiosity have you ever submitted an essay to the New York Times Modern Love column or considered it, maybe before you got a book deal? Seems like a good place to break in for essays on love, which you do so well.

    Reply

  20. G Says:

    Joey B — It's not that men have to give everything up for the woman…it's the fact that they are willing to give that up to show her that she's as important in their lives as golf, buddies and porn is. I'm sorry, but most men can't do that.

    When a woman knows that no matter what is on your schedule you are there for her if she needs you, it's important. You don't have to throw your clubs out the window, but you have to be willing to not pout about it if she needs you on the day you wanted to play 18.

    I've seen far too many men make the women in their lives feel bad for needing a little more from them some days.

    Reply

  21. pratik Says:

    "when we’re our most loving, nurturing, patient and forgiving selves, when we’re complimentary and generous, giving our partner exactly what they need, can’t we make them love us?"

    I tried all that and more, much more, but to no avail.

    When i read the last paragraph of ur post, i just for a small moment thought about letting go; but she is so perfect, i cant let go…….eventhough the person i loved so much has been so ruthless to me.

    I am glad u could move on, but I dont want to, even if it means tht I will live with just her memories.

    but very well expressed feelings, loved it!

    Reply

  22. Phoenix Says:

    Amen, sister! That's been my advice to others for years. If you're working constantly just to keep a relationship afloat, it's the wrong relationship! Too bad I can never follow my own advice…

    Reply

  23. Christi Says:

    I have been in a relationship for 9 years and we have yet to get married. We go through periods of enchantment and disenchantment and really don't we do that with our girlfriends too? I recommend Love and Renewal by Larry Bugen which really helped me identify why relationships especially romantic tend to cycle. I would imagine that the Suitor only views you differently temporarily, distance would renew the original view of you ("God, Stephanie"). You don't have to change to be that person to him again, you still are. He just can't see it because the mundane and expectations and cycling through old unresolved emotions is what makes him view you differently. Good luck to you and whatever you do, do not become codependent! nothing is more unattractive than that!

    Reply

  24. Kat Says:

    THANK YOU. This is wonderful advice. My ex did me a huge favor when he peaced out in January, but I didn't fully realize it until I met someone who got and appreciated me. I was just writing the other day that it wasn't romantic that I stuck around as long as I did, and I think that's something that's easy to lose sight of when you love someone.

    Reply

  25. Heather Says:

    I don't think it's about matched or mismatched. I think you can really love someone and still not be able to stay with them. You have to do what is right for you, find what YOU need from the world, and make choices that conform to that.

    Reply

  26. Marianna Says:

    You're 100% right. There ARE men like that out there, you just have to be patient and wait until he comes along. I've been with "that" guy for almost 4 years now, and I've never been so happy in my life- even 4 years down the line. It still feels new to me everyday. I'm happy for you and for anyone else who has been lucky enough to find this kind of happiness!

    Reply

  27. Heather Says:

    I wanted to thank you for this post. My sister is going through her very first difficult breakup, and after reading this she is seeing things in a different way. I think it is really comforting for her to see that others have felt the way she is feeling now. She was with someone who definitely did not make the right decisions when it came to her, and she is really beginning to see how much more she is worth. So thanks.

    Reply

  28. Joshua Says:

    What a great article. I'm always up for helpful relationship advice. I read about Stephanie through an article in the Tampa Tribune. (My local paper.) I must admit I'm not overly familiar with journal type blogs. But I do something similar. I do a cartoon journal. Instead of writing, I draw a cartoon about a particular instance from each day.

    Reply

  29. Plantation Says:

    Dru was obviously not married to my ex. Anyway, I agree with him that you can't make someone love you. I also think that a relationship needs a certain amount of independence. Guys need to hang out and have a little space as do/should the gals. I guess the amount of independence depends on the relationship. I'm really surprised that your difficulties are so deep-rooted. I'm even more surprised but elated that you make it work. If a relationship requires that much work, and I know most are saying you need to really work hard to make relationships work, than I don't think I'm gonna be in one. I just don't think it should be THAT much work to make it work. I guess that's why I'm here and you're there.

    Reply

  30. DC_Amy Says:

    Again, a timely post for me. I've been waffling in and out of a five year live-in relationship for almost a year, despite the fact that we are not now, nor were we ever compatible in any way that counts. If I had known then… yadayada.

    I realize that relationships are all work in their own way, but when you're giving away so much of who you are to be who the other person thinks you "should be"… well, with thirty coming this year, I've learned better.

    Reply

  31. Nikki Says:

    you're amazing.

    but you already knew that.

    and i'm not just talking about the writing, it's the feeling, the experience, the insight.

    damn girl!

    Reply

  32. Katie Says:

    Stephanie, I read your site every day… this post is totally right on. I too hung in there way too long, trying to get him to love me enough to commit, to stop his push/pull pattern of caring for me, all while walking the razor's edge of being loving while not being needy, supportive without clingy, blah blah blah…. and in the end, when you find the right one, the one who wants you around, its stops being so damn hard… and I think that's when you know that you're home. I'm so glad that you're happy! Good luck in Austin, I have some friends there, I'll pass the questions in your directory post along to them!

    Reply

  33. steph m. Says:

    it hurt me to read this…because i needed to hear it. and the truth hurts. but thank you for putting it out there (and perfect timing).

    Reply

  34. Erica Says:

    My stepmother taught me a valuable lesson many years ago about needing an heir and a spare until that special one comes along. The only problem is that everyone else is doing that as well whether you realize it or not. And it's REALLY tough when you consider someone YOUR heir, but they are looking at YOU as a spare. You can't help but thinking how can this incredible person not feel the same way about me as I do about them, when we have an amazing time together. When it becomes about what if I do this better or that better, or look better, etc. then it's not about being loved for who you are, but rather an ideal.

    Someone above mentioned that the text message or phone call, which seems so little, is actually SO huge! It's SO huge!

    Great post, I too have been dealing with "stuff" and this post helped my brain to potentially accept it and get on with it.

    Reply

  35. facinacion Says:

    I totally hear you.. b/c same thing is happening now to me. Drives me nuts that he doesn't put the effort as he used to. And you are right.. it's too much work to try to hold on. You must be yourself otherwise at the end of the day you get BORED of pretending and they feel they were in love w/ someone else… not this real face of you that is now coming up.
    It is painful but sometimes letting go is a better investment than holding on…

    Reply

  36. Barbara Says:

    My now-husband (2nd and final — I hope!) romanced me with flowers, brilliant love letters, etc. On our 1st anniversary of meeting one another(we didn't marry until a couple of years ago), I asked where the romantic gestures had gone. He replied, "Well, gee honey, you stop running once you've caught the bus." I kicked his shin. The bruise was large and lovely and turned many colors over the following weeks.

    Reply

  37. Andrea Says:

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. You've learned so much from your own mistakes. It's awesome to follow you through your life. You still manage to convey your unique experiences, while still making people feel a connection to everything you say. You are one talented writer, woman. Even though I was (mostly) spared the dating game (met my husband when I was 18) I still glean valuable insight from everything you write about your relationship failures as well as successes. My marriage is stronger for reading your words. I've learned how to appreciate.

    Reply

  38. Leigh Says:

    I seem to hear a great deal about women in general saying that they want
    their man to love them for them and not try/want to change them.

    However, I think that it is naïve for anybody to think like this. There is
    room for improvement in all of us. I think that a relationship is about
    compromise and give and take. I think that we all need to adapt and learn
    and teach each other. A true test of a relationship, in my mind, is how you
    grow together as a couple.

    We all have bad points/personality traits. We have known what most of them
    are all our adult lives. But it seems that rather than work on these and
    make them better or even eradicate them, we would rather ignore them and
    keep looking for that elusive partner that "loves us for us" and therefore
    we don't have to address our shortcomings. I think that this approach that
    is broadcast is selling women short and stopping them from
    learning and developing their character and becoming a better all round
    person.

    Lastly, my view of the conclusion is that women don't have to adapt or
    learn, as there are many men out there "who WANT me around almost all the
    time"………..just like the current guy did in the early part of their
    relationship. How long before you're posting again in a similar vein, about
    the new wonderful Mr Right, who is no longer so wonderful. Maybe the article
    title should be called "the grass is ever greener"

    Reply

  39. Krish Says:

    Hmm…most of the women who wish to be loved for who they are don't love themselves for who they are! How can you expect someone else to love you unconditionally if you don't feel that way about yourself? I say love yourself so much that you never find yourself settling for someone who loves you any less.

    Reply

  40. Lori Says:

    You write. It's write. Right according to your feelings. Nobody, absolutely nobody, will ever take your emotional wants away. Except you. Your expectations of how life isn't like a Mark Ruffalo film? Yeah, you really do love drama! I'm squishing you from New York. It doesn't make a hill of pinto beans to me if your latest entry was to promote your book. Your words, so perfectly set to lyrics … well, this was a first for me. I completely skipped the comments. After all, I had to blast West Side Story. "Play it cool" … Next up, Graham Nash Songs for Beginners. "Be yourself, free yourself."

    Reply

  41. ruby Says:

    you can make someone want you but you can't make them love you

    Reply

  42. Sandlot Says:

    Thanks, Lori. Now I've got songs swirling in my head. Diana Ross aka Boss nudged, "let me in now …" to Marvin Gaye. "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me." Point being? Nobody can. The long and winding road leads to fascinating forks. Different directions. Like a golf course.

    Reply

  43. donna Says:

    what a great post stephanie! its so hard to let go of someone who you thought you loved- its much easier to just tell yourself he'll come around, that he's the best you can get, eventhough theres someone out there who wont make you have to think about that all at

    Reply

  44. SuSu Says:

    To G:

    I've heard that from guys like you, that there are so many women who "passed" on them and then wanted guys like them later in life. But I also want to tell you that there ARE women who are young and look for guys like you, but don't happen to find them, and sometimes actually get overlooked by guys like you because we're not pretty enough, while YOU'RE the ones chasing hot babes.

    I'm in my thirties now, and the reason I'm single was because I haven't met the right sweet guy. I've never looked for the model man or the athlete, just someone I had some things in common with, who was smart and sweet. Hopefully I'll still meet him, but don't make the mistake of thinking that all women in their 30s were stupid and missed out on guys like you. Some of us were just not lucky enough to meet you. End of story.

    And sometimes you had to grow up a lil and change, too.

    But obviously you know some girls who should have wised up earlier, and I'll grant you that. Just dont' think we're all like that.

    Reply

  45. jasika Says:

    I only hope that I can realize this. I have been living this for so long now.

    Reply

  46. susan Says:

    Raitt has two t's.

    And a plural doesn't call for an apostrophe – if you are a serious writer, you should invest in a copy of the Chicago Elements of Style. Or get an editor!

    Reply

  47. Bren Says:

    Wow, great post. I read about you in Elle's July issue. I am so excited that I found your site! It looks like you will help me confirm alot of the thoughts i've had, but not actually been able to follow through on. I think seeing your strength will help me to do that.

    Reply

  48. AS Says:

    I read this post and immediately printed it and slipped it into my journal. I read the last paragraph at least once a week to remind myself that my past relationship was too much work, and that I made the right decision.

    Reply

  49. hopesprings Says:

    There are MANY things I could write here, but what I REALLY want to say is responding to the 01 June post by "susan" regarding correct writing and usage. Funny that you should mention a plural NOT needing an apostrophe. Very true and one of my pet peeves, as is using an acronym and adding an apostrophe when it's made plural as in CD's vs. the correct CDs or, in this case, ironically writing "t's" as in Raitt. That would be "Ts" or even "tees", but certainly not "t's" since the t does not own anything nor is it a contraction as in "it's" for "it is". And yes, sometimes we are just mismatched in emotional or intimacy needs regardless of how much we love each other. Remember what they say about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over and expecting that some day you will get a different result!

    Reply

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