Have you (or someone you know well) loved someone but weren't "in love" with them (had a strong, warm, happy relationship but one that wasn't very intense, passionate, etc) and gotten married/been in a long-term partnership? Did it matter that you weren't "in love" exactly? If it led to problems, what were they?
Above the fold is the basic question, feel free to skip all the long personal background information below and just answer!
I've been dating my boyfriend for six years (we're both in our late 20s and it's the first really serious long-term relationship for both of us.) We love each other very much, are great friends, are very affectionate, have a lot of fun together, make each other happy, respect each other, are really compatible in ways big and small, etc. He's a wonderful person, and my life is better and happier because we're together. (And because I know people are going to ask, our sex life is fine and we're both satisfied with it.) The only issue is that our relationship is and has always been more warm-and-fuzzy-and-comfortable than intense and passionate, without butterflies or sparks.
He's been ready to get married for years now-- I've been reluctant, partially because I am an extremely indecisive person who agonizes over even small decisions let alone big ones like this, partially because I've really struggled with the lack of that intense in-love feeling (which I am mostly familiar with from a series of major crushes-- including several that occurred while dating my boyfriend, although none for the last couple years-- and a single dizzying short relationship that ultimately was not terribly substantial and flamed out.) Over the last few years, though, the importance of that feeling to me has faded gradually, although not completely disappeared... and my comfort level with the idea of marrying him "eventually" has gradually grown, although I still felt somewhat panicky and trapped thinking about actually finalizing the decision in the short-term. (He knows all of this stuff, by the way. He thinks we're a great couple, and that passion fades and is overrated, and that divorce is a risk worth taking, and he's willing to wait, at least for now, for me to be ready.)
Then last month, I finally got the gut feeling, "Yes. We should do this. I am ridiculously lucky to have a wonderful relationship with a wonderful guy who wants to marry me. So what if I can think of other things I'd like to have in this relationship but don't, including feeling really "in love"? There are so many fantastic things about him and us, why on earth would I throw that away to start hunting for someone else who I feel in-love with but who'll surely be missing some of these other wonderful things? It's not worth it, I'm happy with what I've got and I'm ready to stop waffling and commit to this path, this future, this partner. I want to marry him." I decided that night I wanted to wait at least a month before telling him this, in case the feeling went away, since the sense of confidence and readiness was so new and different. But it stayed pretty strong for the whole month, and I was getting pretty excited about getting engaged and getting married-- right up until last weekend, when I hit my deadline for when I could tell him, and then the nervousness overcame me. A whole bunch of what-ifs kept jumping up in my brain. I can still feel that gut feeling of rightness about the idea of getting married, but it seems tiny and distant and overwhelmed by this anxiousness and doubt.
And the biggest doubts are around this feeling that this is not what marriage is "supposed" to be like. I'm supposed to be crazy about him. I'm supposed to not be able to imagine myself without him or with anyone else. I'm supposed to want those wedding readings that everyone else has, full of the intensity of love and the amazing joy of getting to spend the rest of your life together, rather than feeling unnatural and insincere when I imagine reading those and wishing I could use Not Love Perhaps
without it feeling like that's the wrong sentiment for a wedding. I'm supposed to feel powerfully "in love" with him, not just warm and fuzzy and happy. Part of me is ready to dismiss that as watching too much Hollywood, reading too many love stories. But a little voice says "Don't kid yourself. You know they're not just pulling that out of thin air. You've seen plenty of smart, real-life people on AskMe say that it's a mistake to stay with/marry someone you love but aren't "in love" with. It may be over-dramatized in fiction, but that doesn't mean there's not a real reason why it's important to feel that way about your spouse." And I worry that marrying him would maybe be irresponsible, would be setting him and me and maybe our future children up for a painful divorce, where I should've known better because everything in society was telling me I didn't feel the "right way" and I didn't listen. (Of course, postponing making a decision because I'm worrying about making the "wrong decision" that I'll realize I "should've known better" about is a broader issue for me, and one I'm working on in therapy...)
I'm not asking whether we should get married, that's not a question for Internet strangers. I'm not really asking about whether I should wait awhile until I feel more comfortable to move ahead, or whether I ought to swallow my anxiety and make myself jump off the diving board, so to speak (although I wouldn't reject advice about that, either!)
What I really want to know is-- do you think, from personal experience, that it's problematic to marry/partner with someone you're not "in love" with exactly? If your relationship is good and strong but without a lot of spark? And if so, what specifically
are the problems you've seen it caused, for you or someone you know? I'd really like to know the details. I know there are some people here who've said they married someone they weren't in love with, and it was a mistake, and they got divorced. It would be really helpful for me to hear your analysis of what happened. I want to try to understand the underlying dynamics of how this has been problematic for other people, so I can think more about whether it's something to be concerned about for us, or something just to remember to keep an eye on, or something that's totally irrelevant to us. (Of course, I would also really really love to hear stories about people who didn't have that traditional in-love feeling and are still happily with with their partner!)
I would prefer more focus on the emotional side of things and less on the "but the sex won't be as good" angle, if possible-- I know that sex is an important part of a healthy relationship, and if that's really the key issue you've seen destroy relationships then by all means mention it, but our sex life is fine and I don't really care much about the range between an okay sex life and a fantastic sex life, it's just not that important an issue for me.