I answer some version of this enough that it's worth my addressing separately. It can also come out as “I'm not in her class.” or “Why would she love me?” or “I can't possibly live up to her standard.” or “What could I offer her?” or “What could she possibly see in me?” or, worst of all “I don't love her as much as she loves me.” Feel free to swap the pronouns: I'm sure women have the same hang-ups.
The truth is, if you are still asking this, you probably are not good enough. You have no idea what a long-term relationship really takes to hold together, and what you can imagine, looks daunting, and you can barely keep up your current act, and now you've got to do it forever, or at least a long time.
And there she is, doe-eyed, looking at you like you can do no wrong, or at least that's how it looks to you. And you know that when she sees a little deeper, when the light changes, she'll catch a glimpse of the real you, the one who makes mistakes, who breaks things, who disappoints, who forgets birthdays and anniversaries, who looks at other women, and you know you won't measure up. So you figure it's better to end it here before it ends there, because it will end there.
You Don't Get to Choose
The thing is love is fickle, and you don't get to choose, and all those warts, they are a part of you, and it's a part of why she likes you, and you don't know where the balance lies, or how you make her feel, or why, but your job is just to let that be enough.
But if you've read this far, you're probably not inclined to let it be enough, so it's time to give you some perspective.
You've Both Been Acting
The first problem is you've both been lying to each other.
You showed up on your first date and put your best face forward. Maybe you spent a little more than you could afford to impress her. Maybe you showed a little more excitement about her hobbies and her friends than you really felt. Maybe you exagerated how great your job is or your prospects for advancement. You obviously didn't share your doubts about the trajectory of your career.
Maybe you didn't discuss the embarrassing elements of your family, or your religious conviction (or not), or your particular phobia, or allergies, or health problem, or your politics.
I'm guessing you didn't really impress on her how important your “strange” hobby is to you, or your special diet, or sleep habits or exercise regimen.
And maybe you've been so busy in your current pursuit (education, job, project) and dating her that you never really got a chance to consider, let alone talk about, household finances, or where to make a home, or how many kids, or religion, but you're pretty sure your vision doesn't line up with hers.
And maybe you've been living into a whole set of unreasonable expectations thus far, and don't know if you can keep up the act. She's great, but this is exhausting.
And probably, you think to yourself, if you stopped being, doing, acting, pretending everything you have until now, then she'd see the real you, and she'd stop being impressed real fast, and this fantasy you've been living would end right quick. So it's easier to say “It's not you. It's me. But this can't go on.”
You don't Give Her any Credit
All the bad stuff about yourself, I'm sure she's figured a lot of it out by now. Maybe you even told her, or hinted at it. But you don't trust she gets it, or you have it that she doesn't get what it means.
And maybe she's completely alright about certain things. Maybe she even told you, something like “we could just stay in and watch TV,” and you were like “No, that's alright,” when it really would have been better for you, and easier on your limited budget to not to, but you were afraid of how it would look.
And maybe she knows what it looks like to have a crazy relative, and to be completely embarrassed by family. But you can't or won't hear it. You think she's just being nice when she says, “I feel for you,” or “I know what that's like.”
And She also has Warts
But for all your acting, and maybe because of it, you fail to notice she's playing a role as well. Guess what? She has also been unnecessarily cruel to a friend. She has also lied, and betrayed, and disappointed, and broken promises, and maybe even hearts, and maybe her own.
And she might be just as unsure about her own future, or maybe she was just a year or two ago, and maybe she's embarrassed to say she wants a big family, or none, or that she really thinks Trump was the better choice.
You're Both Defective
The thing is you are both defective. And knowing this is both good and bad. On the one hand you both know you (or is it you know both of you) are broken people. And if you're sane, you're probably wondering how two such cracked people could possibly make a go of it.
On the other hand, you are human, I hope, and this is where you've got a chance. Think of what you need, and I'm guessing it's not that much. For all the talk and dreaming, and great plans, I'm guessing sometimes all you need is a warm shoulder, or a sympathetic ear, or someone who knows how to make you smile, or remind you that it's not that big a deal, or that better days are coming.
And it's possible that's all she wants too, but you don't know, do you?
You Still don't give Her Enough Credit
Maybe you see the fragile, complex, wonderful person in front of you, but you don't see her strength.
It's just possible that she's willing to be strong for you, to provide that shoulder, the ear, the home, the reassurance. Maybe she gets that you are fragile, and maybe it's your letting at least one person get this that would make a solid relationship possible.
But Maybe You are Right
It's completely possible that when you fess up (if you've been lying too much) that she will be disgusted with you and want nothing more to do with you.
And that would make this the end of this relationship road. But here's the thing. If you go into the next relationship and do the same thing again, you will get to the end of the same damned road, and be left with the same questions, or you will keep trying until you find someone who is obviously as broken as you and therefore you deserve each other's sorry asses, and I don't have much hope for where that will go.
What Could You Do
Well it seems your pathetic ass has been boxed into a pretty hopeless corner. The good thing is that when we've reached rock bottom, the only place we can really look is up.
Admit We're All a Little Cracked
The thing is we are all a little cracked. We each have our failings, our foibles, some history we would rather not share, some nutty relative, some dream we never reached for, some reason we don't believe we deserve a break, let alone a great life or an amazing relationship.
Trust that she's seen enough of the good and the bad to make an informed choice. Whether you think you are good enough or not for her, it's not up to you to choose.
Only she knows how you make her feel, but that leaves you with some work, but at least it's honest this time:
If you want it to work, make an agreement to be honest with each other. And this starts with you sharing where you've been lying.
And I know I'm asking you to take a big risk. Often, we're not even honest with ourselves. If you have to be that with her, you might have to confront yourself for the first time in your life. Probably that stuff you didn't want her to know about you, you didn't really want to see about yourself.
But if you want a relationship, it's time to grow up. But you'll be surprised. For the first time, you'll also get to see some of the good stuff about yourself.
And when you admit who you've been, good or bad, you give yourself the chance to take on something new.
Ask for Her Help
You may be out of her class, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Class is learned: “good breeding,” proper table manners, etiquette, how to relate to money, wear a suit, tip, address a servant, dress on a boat, show up at a country club, appreciate a fine wine or whiskey, attire for the ballet, can all be learned, and you can have an adventure as you walk each other through your worlds and explain and learn about the things that for ever seemed obvious to you or her.
But again, be honest. You should know for yourself if this is an adventure you want to have. And check in with her if she wants the same. Maybe neither of you wants to be a part of the other's world, or of his own, or both of you want to leave your worlds behind and forge something new.
It's a conversation worth having, and it should include your wildest dreams and craziest fantasies, and then looking at what you will pursue together, and how you will stand for each other reaching those things that are important.
And you might find you are on different trajectories, and that's okay too. But you'll go your own way toward something instead of parting because you are afraid to be honest with yourself.
Take on How She Listens to You
If she sees something in you that you don't, maybe it's time to give up your own viewpoint, and make her right. We're incredibly bad judges of ourselves: we see every mistake, and usually miss the impact we've had in a good way.
Ask her what makes her smile. Ask her what she needs from you. And then ask yourself if you can bring that. And if you are not sure, see the previous point. Does she see you as someone who can and will.
And are you willing to make her right, and be that person.
You Don't Have Permission!
I've written a lot to get here. In the end a relationship is pretty simple:
- Do you love her? If it's a yes, Stop. Don't complicate it: You have no permission to wonder if you love her as much as she loves you. If you are not sure, or “don't know what love is,” I'll make it even simpler: Are you willing to take her on exclusively and take on being great with her, whether you want to or not?
- Are you willing to let her love you, exactly as you are and exactly as you are not?
- Are your values sufficiently similar, or at least compatible, that you could make a future with each other? I know I run to the mundane here, but I don't believe “Love Conquers All.” Your beliefs about money, religion, politics, family, home making, adventure, diet, and even sleep should all be considered. You can have great love for someone and still that person may not be for you. Figure it out now.
- Are you willing to be great with her and grow with each other?
- Is she willing to take this on too?
Here's the thing: You don't have to know now. You can't. But you can set up a game of discovery and growth. You're not good enough, but neither is she, but you can both become greater than either of you ever imagined if you give it a chance.
And it might not work. Sometimes it doesn't. That's just the way things go in life. But sometimes it does, and when it does, the sky is the limit. If you don't give it a chance you'll never know.