I love him. But can we still do this?
January 11, 2011 9:40 AM Subscribe
How can you tell for sure whether you are still in love with someone? How hard should I try to find out?
posted by Julia F***ing Sugarbaker to human relations (31 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I've been in a relationship for almost eight years. The last year has been really rough. My partner, Ryan, went through several different crises where he wasn't sure he wanted to stay together. We did this in April, then again in July, then again in December. Each time, I was definitely intent on staying together, but each time he dragged it out just to the breaking point of my endurance before the elastic snapped back and he decided he really, really did want to stay. He's had a hard couple of years (grad school, personal loss, health problems) independent of our relationship that have heaped a lot of stress onto him, and that's been a big factor in his indecision.
This also happened one other time, four years ago; back then it resulted in him actually moving out for a year -- though on the day he moved, he told me he'd already realized that he'd made a mistake, and that he'd do everything he could to find a way to stay together (and to his credit, he really did put in that work and we had several happy years as a result).
The last few weeks we were on a break from each other, which I had begun to assume was permanent, and I started doing the kinds of things that one does to try and recover from the end of a LTR. He called me Thursday and said that he'd decided that he'd realized once and for all that we should be together. I invited him to come stay with me for the weekend and discuss it, we had a really nice time with some really probing, candid conversations about our relationship. I still love him, I still feel like we belong together, but naturally I have had enough distance and disappointment to make it hard to trust that anything will change. We have talked about this pattern of his, and he says he's starting to understand and work on that part of himself.
I get so many conflicting opinions. On one hand I keep hearing that the seven year mark is murder on relationships, and that freak-outs like we've had are not uncommon. Also I know perfectly well that in order to love someone in the long term you have to get to know and accept their limitations and work around or in concert with them. And I love this person deeply, and can't imagine achieving this level of intimacy with anyone else, ever again. We are an amazing match, I respect him utterly.
And yet I feel a sort of dull ache sometimes when I imagine the future, because I'm afraid of going through the same whole circus again, especially when I have invested so much effort already into shoring up my identity as a newly single person. I'm afraid of moving backward, back to the dark places we were last year, and losing my confidence.
So how do I decide what to do? I told him that, at this point, I am only interested in going forward if he can, like, promise that we won't end up right back where we are. And I was clear with him that it would take some time for me to build up the trust necessary to really imagine a future together again. My ambivalence knows no bounds, but because of the emotional back-and-forth, I don't know what part of myself to trust. Which is scary, with such big decisions to be made! He's a wonderful person, and I don't want to hurt him unnecessarily.
I think we are good candidates for couples counseling, but he's in a college program in a neighboring state for the next few months, and our pattern of weekend visits makes that a very difficult, sporadic option. My friends are supportive (and are sympathetic to me, mostly) but I am afraid of wearing out their goodwill with the constant back-and-forth.