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How to Know if You`re Really in Love/Is it love, or is it just in my head?


Hi Carl,
I have known "Ben" for about 10 years.  But most of that time we just knew of each other (basically through work), but didn't really interact.  In November 2013, this changed as we started having to commute to places together on an assignment.  During this time, we grew closer as friends.  I started developing feelings towards him, and I thought he was as well, but neither of us said anything until I got upset with him for flirting with another girl.  I now know that it was not my place to be hurt or jealous as nothing was ever stated from either of us.  We got over that hurdle, and I guess since at that point he knew that I liked him, he asked me out.  

We dated for a few months, but we broke up for the first time within the first month. It seemed we both had a lot of insecurities that seemed to plague our relationship (which wasn't apparent while we were just friends)... as it seemed like I had too many expectations, and he had some control issues and fears of failing.  After a few weeks of being apart, we ended up kissing one night, and got back together.  We then broke up again.  This happened two more times, with each time we got back together, the duration of the relationship increasing... both of us feeling like we were stronger than before... and then it all suddenly would fall apart in one argument.  We ended things for good in August 2014.  For two months we were very hostile with each other at work until our supervisor brought us both into his office and told us we needed to be civil or one of us would be transferred (which would've likely been myself as he had family ties at the current location).  

After that meeting, he decided to bury the hatchet and gave me a little gift and told me he didn't want me to leave.  After that we were very civil and polite with each other.  He was very kind to me, which was what attracted me to him in the first place, and I started developing feelings again.  In January of this year, he invited me for a cup of coffee, where it felt so wonderful and like old times... he later invited me back to his place where we kissed again.  The next evening, he invited me over to his place again.  That night we had sex for the first time, but he didn't finish.  Instead he just laid next to me and looked at me and kept staring at me.  I thought he was going to tell me he loved me (which would have been the first time), but instead he just said:  "I'm so happy feeling this close to you".

The next day, he invited me out, but I, for some reason, didn't want to see him, so I apologized and told him that I wasn't feeling well.  The following week he asked if I could help him with an errand, and i agreed.  That night we went back to his place again, but nothing happened sexually.  Instead, he told me that he felt like I was one of his best friends now.  Which made me happy and sad at the same time that he didn't want more.  I didn't let it show, however.  Until a couple weeks later, we got a little tipsy together and I asked him to make love to me... he stopped me and said that he couldn't, that he didn't think we could work as a couple.  We ended up falling asleep in each other's arms, and when we woke up I asked him again, and he said he just didn't think it would work.  And he went on to say that if I need space at work, that he'll give it to me, and I said that I did.

I later regretted saying that because I enjoyed our friendship, so I wrote him a letter saying that we can still be friends, that I understood that a relationship would probably never work between us, but that we get along so great otherwise... and that should continue.  He seemed very happy about it.  

A week ago, he went on assignment out of town, and I gave him stuff to read on his flight... he was very appreciative at landing, saying that I was such a beautiful, smart, and brilliant woman etc...  And then on Valentine's Day (2 days ago) my plans fell through, and I ended up at his doorstep with wine (he didn't have any plans at all) and he was happy to see me.  We chatted for hours... our rapport was awesome as usual, and then we had sex for the 2nd time.  

I now feel like I want something more with him, I feel like he loves me (or at least cares a lot about me) but he's still terrified of the relationship ending up how it was the first time.  But I know that if we tried again, it would be different because I'm aware of the issues that plagued me the first time around, and have worked on myself to get to a place of independence and confidence.  I feel like I do love him.  But I'm at a point where I do not know what to do.  I don't want to put pressure on him, I do not want to scare him away... but I do feel strongly that if we tried now, that it would work and that we could be happy together.  Is there a way to convey this to man without seeming desperate?  

Any advice or knowledge would be appreciated.

Thank you in advance,


Hello, Adelle,

Much love, peace, joy, and enlightenment to you.

I want you to realize you are a wonderful person for opening up and sharing honestly, caring deeply, and striving earnestly to improve your love. This, more than anything, will heal all problems in the world related to people--if they would recognize it and focus on it when in crisis.

Please meditate quietly and deeply on this one idea and then after a week, write to me:

"You can not change habits by knowledge or force of will; you can only change habits with a deeply diligent spiritual path of practiced awareness and new habits."

I have tried to change habits by knowledge of them and force of will. It is impossible. One reason is the people around you who are not cooperating, will challenge your attempt to improve. Next, you must embody the new habits, and this takes time. It is why I became a Zennist--among other reasons. The philosophy of Buddhism and it's practice of Zen makes you the sole responsible authority for everything that happens in your life. It is the only way to change your life comprehensively. Prayer is nice, new philosophies are nice, and learning is nice. Therapy helps and medication, too--but not until you understand the true, basic nature of the very kernel of every single event in the universe can you comprehensively grow: Cause and Effect; and not until you understand deeply that all cause and effect in your life interpreted by you and perpetuated by you is your responsibility and no one else's--not even "God's" -- will you begin to comprehensively change anything long term, in your life.

I hope this helps.  

How to Know if You`re Really in Love

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Mando (Carl Atteniese Jr.)


I've read, thought, written, and taught about love for over eleven years. I've had thoughtful love-oriented relationships only--for about twenty-eight years. I struggle endlessly to be a supremely thoughtful, compassionate, fair, and empirical thinker. This is crucial. I believe in the feeling and process of love. This is also crucial. As an artist, a poet, and an essayist--as a teacher of ESL in other cultures--I have had ample opportunity for the analysis of love... personally and inter-culturally, and this has made my introspection and analysis of relationships--with original ideas and those of my favorite psychotherapists--very fruitful. I will tell you three things, which will help you now--before you even write to me: To have true love in yourself and with another, you must: 1. Be Free. 2. Be Adult. 3. Be Honest. 4. Be Disciplined. 5. Find numbers 3~5 easy, because you are overcome with love. 6. Be willing to do virtually anything reasonable (and many things unreasonable from the point of view of others).7. Never settle (in other words, be with someone you do not love), thinking that you will grow into love. 8. Never take a match made by another; your heart and mind must choose your love--period. 9. Never allow yourself to be put into temptation--ever (this is also natural--if you are in love). 10. Be able to listen like you never listened before--to yourself and to your beloved. 11. Love humanity--both the conditions & qualities, and all people.


I've been fortunate to have helped many people around the world and I love to do it. I will be happy to help you, too--no matter whom you are. If I am busy or unable to help you right away, consider these books to help you help yourself--until I can respond: "Being Happy", by Andrew Mathews; any books by Dr. Wayne Dyer; "The Art of Loving", by Dr. Erich Fromm; "Love", by Leo Buscaglia, "True Love", and "Anger", both by Thich Nhat Hanh. Also Read "The Beloved" and "The Prophet", both by Khalil Gibran. Read "The Road Less Traveled" and "People of The Lie", both by Dr. M. Scott Peck.... Learn more about me at

Amnesty International Partner of Conscience (, Union of Concerned Scientists ( and (htp://

Korea Herald (, New York Newsday, The Planetary Review, The Long Island Catholic, Wake Up And Laugh (, The Ocean And The Stars (, Cradle of The Universe (

Certificates in recognizing violence in the home and child abuse, in preventing violence in school. Raised with an emphasis on loving all people and to be politically active. Studied Zen at Hwa Gye Sa Temple, Han Maum Zen & Culture Center, and The Buddhist English Library of Seoul, in South Korea. Taught seventeen years in the US and South Korea. Teacher Training in the U.S. at Berlitz and the Center for English Studies, NYC, and at Inlingua, Princeton. Studied Drawing, Photography, and Painting at the School of Visual Arts, NYC, and basic Psychology at Nassau Community College, Long Island. Fifteen years of experience teaching English as a Second language--many of those years abroad--has helped as well, as people from other cultures help us see ourselves and other human beings in a different light.

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My reward is knowing I have helped people.

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I have taught and counseled people of all ages, experience-levels, professions and religions, and consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity and thankful to those who have shared with me. Every such interaction is a learning experience, and an opportunity for growth and improvement.

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