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My boyfriend and I have been together for seven months. I know realistically that he's not good for me in the long, long term (as in living together, or marriage--he has difficulty expressing his emotions, he is extremely sensitive, impatient, moody, and he needs a lot of alone time. I don't think he'd do well with children and don't want to torment myself by having any with him). However, we get along very well and I do love him and enjoy making him happy. It's not a crazy passionate I-can't-do-without-him love, but it is strong enough so that when he expresses his love for me I feel really great. I've been in relationships where I loved the other person primarily out of obligation, or guilt, and this isn't it. It's a quieter, steady, but very real feeling--I just enjoy being with him.

Anyway, we had a talk this weekend that was prompted by some bad behavior on my part. We went to his friend's wedding, and of course seeing the couple all happy with their friends toasting them made me feel sort of warm and fuzzy and thinking of marriage. I tossed off the question to him, do you ever think of marrying me? He hemmed and hawed and pretty much said no, which irritated me. I mean, I know I shouldn't marry him, but sometimes I enjoy dreaming about what our kids would be like, how it would be if we were always together, etc. Well, I had had a few glasses of wine at the wedding and commenced a fight where I said some pretty nasty things. For example, I said that he doesn't really love anyone, he just tolerates people to different degrees. I also told him I was exhausted from our relationship . These things I said are rooted in real feelings, but a lot of them came out at once and it went badly. (And they stem from the intensity of my feelings for him and the feeling that he doesn't return my feelings with equal force--frustrated love often turns to resentment, which I think is happening in this case and which manifested itself in my drunk diatribe).

The next day we had another talk where he basically told me that he didn't love me. We've been saying "I love you" since February (I said it first), but not very frequently--maybe once or twice a week. It's not something we would say to each other as a matter of course when hanging up the phone, etc. I would say it when I really felt it, such as when we were cuddling or when we were making love. Lately, however, I've felt more intensely and felt more comfortable saying it so that I felt like I was only saying it one-third of the times that I felt it. I didn't want to overwhelm him with it. He initiated saying it a few times, but I felt that as a rule I was saying it more frequently. I've noticed especially that he hasn't been saying it as much, and when I coquettishly ask, do you love me? he'll get irritated and say you can't ask someone if they love you, it's his prerogative whether he wants to say it, etc.

During our talk, he basically said that he hasn't been "ambitious" about our relationship for a few months. He said he doesn't want to move forward with anything, and not that we should regress, but he would be content keeping things exactly as they are now. I told him that I thought my feelings were stronger for him than his are for me, and he conceded this might be correct. He said of course it's impossible to know objectively, but that it's also natural during the life of a couple for one person to be more into the other one at any given time--these things run in cycles. Is this true of a healthy relationship??

There's a bit more to the story. It sounds funny (I know), but one of my boyfriend's most major problems with me is that I don't read the newspaper. He's very into politics and world events (and, in fact, his career centered on them for almost a decade) and says that one measure of intelligence is sensitivity to one's surroundings. I'm a pretty intelligent person, and he says that's one of the things he likes best about me. He gets really angry when I "play dumb" or when I ask what he considers to be stupid questions (even innocently). He repeatedly points out that I don't know anything about politics, sometimes in front of people. He says he can't imagine marrying someone who doesn't know anything about politics. I can understand such a feeling--I used to have a boyfriend who was extremely passive. He wouldn't ask for his steak to be recooked if it was underdone; he would never fight for himself for anything. It used to drive me crazy even though I really loved him and it was such a small part of his personality. So I guess I can understand that my present boyfriend has a really severe reaction to this particular deficiency. But don't you learn to look past these things when you care for someone?

Anyway, I think he's one of the most insensitive people I know when it comes to perceiving how others receive him. He doesn't understand that he comes across as patronizing and condecending to a lot of people we meet. I don't bring it up because it's just the way he is--you can't teach someone to interpret the reactions of others--it's just an innate talent he lacks, in my opinion. It used to drive me crazy, but as I fell in love with him, the importance of this flaw to me diminished accordingly. I don't know why I bring this up, it's just to illustrate that, as far as I'm concerned, when you love someone you accept certain things about them, especially when they are aspects of the other person's personality (world politics will never be a passion of mine--I enjoy ancient and modern literature, which he does not).

So, I don't know what to do. I mean, I think that we feel similarly that we will not work out in the long, long term. However, he feels like we can still have a relationship that does a lot for both of us in that it's fun and we both care for each other. However, I don't know. i'm not one of those people that thinks there is no point in dating someone if you're not going to marry them. Marriage or living together is not a goal for me right now--not at least for another 5 years. However, happiness is a goal for me. and I'm happy when I'm in a caring, emotionally committed relationship. I don't think I'll be able to be in a relationship where I love someone and am ready to be emotionally intimate with them when they do not have the same feelings for me or are not willing to express them. I don't know if the things he expressed were a result of being angry with me about the fight, or if he really just doesn't love me at all.

What do you guys think--is it good to get or remain emotionally close with someone who has expressed reservations about developing the relationship further?

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