Dear Doctor Love,
I am engaged to a very good man—he is kind, generous and intelligent. He is, however, not outgoing in public. When we are walking, he won’t reach out and hold my hand, though he doesn’t pull away if I take his. If I hug him, he hugs me back, but he never takes the initiative. If we are with friends, he never puts his arm around my shoulders and to outsiders it can almost seem as though we’re not even together. Our private life is wonderful, but with company, he’s quiet and reserved.
I’d like him to show more affection. He says he is not sure he can change. He is generous and unselfish, easy going with my family and supports me in anything I do. Our condo was built exactly how I want it. He is always very happy, and never controlling but I don’t know if that is enough.
I want flowers on Valentine’s Day. I want dinner and dancing on my birthday. He never thinks of these things. I see our friends being demonstrative with each other while we sit there and never touch and I feel envious of their relationships. I’d like him to make a little effort to be more openly affectionate to me. Am I asking too much?
Dear Almost Happy,
It would appear, at first glance, that yes, you are asking too much—at least from this man. He seems to be giving you all he can, except the thing you crave—outward affection that confirms, in your mind, that he loves you.
Reading between the lines, the Doctor thinks that your problem lies more in the way you think others perceive your relationship. He doesn’t kiss you in front of your demonstrative friends. He doesn’t claim you as his by putting his arm around you in public. In short, you have turned your relationship into a competition.
Love reveals itself in many ways. His love is quiet and caring. His love is also generous and supportive. These are things your friends may not see, but do they really need to? Do you know how they treat each other in private, when they are without an audience to see their openly loving relationship? Of course not, and they cannot know your private life either.
Take the affectionate part of your relationship on yourself—hug him when you feel like it, kiss him, hold his hand. He may learn from your example, but if he doesn’t then you must decide, before you marry, if he is the right man for you.