August 2, 2010 4:51 AM Subscribe
Is this a normal stage in long-term relationships or is it time to part?
posted by anonymous to human relations (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies for the awkward gender-free pronouns. My live-in partner of six years has been expressing ambivalence about our relationship for about a year. I've asked if it's anything I've done or anything about me as a person. They say no, and that they still love me. They claim that the reasons they're ambivalent are: their basic personality as a "loner;" the fact that they have only had one serious relationship, which is ours; the fact that when we got together my partner wasn't in a good place to make life decisions such as being in a long-term relationship; that the honeymoon stage is over; and that my partner, while in the not-so-good place in life, got derailed from a promising career and now feels they must play catch-up and focus on the career as the highest priority rather than the relationship. I support their career goals and believe in them.
I still love my partner, but I went through doubts myself about our relationship before my partner did. A brief separation made me see how much the person means to me. My partner is aware of my love for them and is not bitter about the separation, but sees it as a positive motivator for them to feel more independent. Since we've been back together, I've championed my partner's new-found self-sufficiency. Their previous lack of self-sufficiency was what spurred me to separate for a while and it seems that this was a really healthy thing.
I have feelings of ambivalence as well, but it may be a reaction to my partner's feelings. It's hard for me to be all-in with someone who isn't. And there are some ways in which I would like my partner to be more supportive of my goals and champion me in the way I feel I champion my partner. However, I do get this need met by friends. I would also like more affection. When I tell my partner this, they bring up the "honeymoon stage" being over, and "isn't this normal?" My partner used to be much more affectionate with me, and aside from the honeymoon, seems to associate this with having been more dependent on me, which neither of us wanted. My partner's independence is awesome and has really made me love them more, but I want the affection too.
This is the longest relationship I've been in as well, and I know that relationships go through stages of closeness and distance. How do I know if this is just one of those stages, or if my partner and I are growing apart? I am going to individual counseling, and want to be in couple's counseling. But my partner doesn't, because they feel this isn't an "us" issue; it's an issue about whether or not my partner needs to be on their own to find their true self. I have a copy of the book "Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay," and my partner keeps saying they want to read it but doesn't.
My partner refuses to break up with me, though. I've asked point-blank if they just want me to move out. Their answer last time was no, but they're still ambivalent about the long term. "How do I know what I'll be doing or who I'll be with in 30 years?" comes up a lot when we discuss the future. And it's true -- 30 years is a long time and it's really hard to imagine. My partner seems unusually comfortable with being in limbo with our relationship, and continuing to be with me without attending to their feelings of ambivalence.
I'm having a hard time with this emotionally but my therapy really helps with that. It would help to know that this is a normal stage and it gets better. Or maybe it isn't -- but I need to face it, if that's the case. Maybe you MeFites with 15-year or longer relationships can provide some perspective.