Dear Jeff and Lori,
I’ve been dating a woman for a few months. We met at work and had just been friends for a while before we started dating. I wasn’t that attracted to her physically, but she continued to push for more. As time went on, I began to enjoy her company, and it evolved into a relationship. I’m struggling because at this point, I still don’t feel a real spark, and I find myself attracted to other women. I don’t want to hurt her, but am certain there’s not a long-term future for us. Should I just tell her I’m not ready for a serious relationship?
Looking for the Right Words
Jeff: We’ve all heard it before — the “It’s Not You, It’s Me” line. It was introduced to pop culture in a “Seinfeld” episode when the woman George was dating ends their relationship.
Woman: “I’m sorry, George.”
George: “I don’t understand, things were going so great. What happened? Something must have happened.”
Woman: “It’s not you, it’s me.”
George: “You’re giving me the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ routine? I invented ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ Nobody tells me it’s them, not me. If it’s anybody, it’s me.”
Woman: “All right. George, it’s you.”
George: “You’re damn right it’s me.”
It sounds like if you were more attracted to this woman, you might be willing to stick around a bit longer to see if the relationship might work. But if it’s really true that the main reason you’re planning to bail is that you’re not ready for a serious relationship then let her know. However, if it’s just because you’re not attracted to her and you don’t want to hurt her feelings, then using the “It’s me, not you” line is a major cop out. You need to be honest and take responsibility for what you’ve started — even if it’s difficult for her to hear.
Also, be clear with yourself that you’re not going to try to get back together with her in a few weeks because you’re lonely or haven’t met anyone else yet. Don’t keep her on the hook for a rainy day or to boost your ego.
Lori: If only chemistry were simple. It can be maddening when a person checks all the right boxes on paper but the sexual magnetism is MIA. Now, ladies, don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions; this isn’t necessarily about looks and body type. Psychologists and endocrinologists (hormone specialists) have been studying the effect of smell on sexual attraction since at least the 1970s. We’re not talking perfume or patchouli preferences, but pheromones. These hormone-like signals that we send into the world around us have a lot to do with who we attract and who we feel chemistry with. At the most basic level, pheromones are like fingerprints for our immune system. And when it comes to sex, our bodies want to mate with someone who will complement what we have in order to produce the healthiest babies. I know, it’s not really all that sexy. But it does make it easier to understand that sometimes it’s really not about them or you.
Lori and Jeff: Tell her what you appreciate about her (honestly) and that you don’t feel chemistry. Be clear that you’re only available to her as a friend, and let her decide whether that’s a relationship she wants.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to [email protected] and your query may be selected for a future column.