Accepting different emotional styles
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Carolyn • I recently found out that my boyfriend deletes all his emails, including ones from me. I was so surprised when I heard this because I've never met someone who doesn't keep any personal emails! I was also a bit hurt and upset because we've had some heartfelt email exchanges, especially when we did long-distance for a year. I've poured hours of thought into our correspondences. Admittedly I am somewhat of a sentimentalist and enjoy reading old messages, or at least knowing they are available to be read at any time. When I asked him the reason, he said the messages themselves don't matter so much, it's the feelings they bring out. I can't believe he doesn't value our correspondences enough to keep them. I don't want this to be an issue, and I don't care about his email management per se, but it's been on my mind for longer than expected. Advice?

C.

Dear C. • Please don't take this the wrong way — man I want to be your boyfriend. A clean email queue ... I'm just going to close my eyes and feel it for a second ... sigh. You do realize, I think, that what you have isn't just an email-sav(or)ing difference but a difference in the way you live your emotional lives. That's why you haven't been able to shake this off as you expected you would — and that's why it is an issue, even though you don't want it to be. For a sentimental person to pair off happily with an emotional modernist, both need to feel gratitude for the difference, versus pain or contempt, and neither one can harbor the goal of changing the other's approach. His preference is about him and yours is about you; if you remain unconvinced of that, then the path I see for this relationship is a frustrating one for you both. The way people show affection isn't in itself a measure of how much affection they feel — effusive gestures can be empty, of course, and quiet ones both powerful and profound. He could be archiving emotions just as you tuck away mail. But believing this intellectually isn't enough: The quality of his affection has to be there, as does your ability to appreciate the way he chooses to show it.

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