How to address recurring doubts about a long-term relationship
October 12, 2008 1:27 PM Subscribe
In serious, long-term relationships, how have you dealt with nagging doubts? How have you sorted through those doubts and then either set them aside and committed yourself, or decided to end things?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
The question is about decision-making, getting out of ruts and cycles, and discerning what's real out of a set of mixed feelings.
I'm 30 and female, and I'm in a four-year relationship that is generally sweet, solid, and good. I love him a lot, we share lots of values, and sometimes I daydream about us getting married and having children. But I also have this nagging feeling that though things aren't bad, they're not good either -- that we're not close in certain ways I want to be, that I might be happier in another situation, and that because of being with him, I might be unhappy and lonely in low-grade ways.
Here's how the cycle of doubt looks. We'll be going along happily until something small will happen that sets off some doubts.1 For two or three days I'll try to suppress them as my internal worries grow.2 I'll feel increasingly afraid that I've been living in denial about problems. I'll have a heart-sinking feeling that maybe we shouldn't be together and think "how can I be serious about this relationship when _____?"3 Then I'll talk to him about the issue,4 and we'll resolve to try to improve it somehow. With that out in the open and hopefully on the road to improvement, I'll feel closer to him, and we'll get back into our daily groove for the next three weeks or so, until this happens again.
1. eg, at a wedding, I’ll enjoy talking with the other people more than with him
2. eg, I’ll think about the frustrations I know I have with our conversations (interruptions, him not really paying attention), and then I'll start to think about what all that might add up to
3. “…when we don’t even have good conversation? That’s a huge part of everyday life!”
4. say, the next time he responds distractedly, I’ll let on that it really annoyed me, and that will lead to a conversation about the bigger concern
I want to stop this cycle of doubt somehow and be more constant and happy. I realize relationships have ups and downs, but I'd like to keep them from rattling me so much. I don't like feeling so unsettled, and I don't like unsettling him. I'd like to stop this cycle of doubt and either really commit to this relationship or move on.
I almost posted a list of what is working well and what issues I think about when I'm freaking out (there are a few that recur). But I'd rather hear how you have sorted through doubts in your own relationships. How have you decided you could live with things as they were, solved the problems somehow, or decided to break up? I realize it's tempting to tell me what to do ("eg, you get unstuck from this cycle by breaking up"), but what I'm really asking is how to figure this out for myself, how to decide to break up, or on the other hand, about how to address these doubts or leave them behind. Thank you for reading this long question.