Is good, enough?
October 5, 2011 2:36 PM   Subscribe

It will be three years with my partner in November. She is ready to move forward from cohabitation into marriage. She is the nicest person I have dated, we are good match, and I'm at the time in my life when I am capable of making a new family the primary priority...

...but I'm not excited about it. I was on an executive retreat over the weekend and happened to read one of those cheesy articles, 'Performance Tips To Get To The Top'.

Only the article spoke to me. Quite loudly. Turns out, that I am actually a bit depressed. Granted, I have been aware that my mood has been a bit low, but now it's apparent there is some depression present.

I work in a high-stress field that is filled equally with significant financial opportunity, and also significant financial insecurity. It's always felt as if I am playing a long-game and building up the foundation for a career of significant financial reward.

Lately my performance has been slipping and I find it hard to concentrate. Successes feel hollow and failures seem inevitable. I thought the stress of the job was getting to me and causing me to doubt my relationship. Now I am wondering if the relationship could be causing the depression.

We are great at supporting each other, taking care of each, and being together as a couple. But there's no excitement anymore, no spark. She seems very ready to nest and have a family.

I -- on the other hand -- feel myself coming back to life after what was a very difficult period in the recession between 2008 and 2010. I am on top of my financial responsibilities and am making a name for myself in my industry. Rather than sit at home having dinner every night, I want to be out in the world, networking and bringing projects to fruition. I don't mind the stress and am happy to be back on top.

I have attended a therapist and came out with a very positive result -- that the decision is in my hands and whatever I decide is fine, each of us will live full, wonderful lives whether we get married or not.

And it feels that that decision is coming quite soon. Personally, I don't want change, I think life is great. But it's not only about me -- she wants to move forward and thus I can either get on the bus or get off the bus.

I was pretty gung-ho at getting on the bus until I examined the moodiness and see that the only thing I haven't changed in my life is her. I met her right at the beginning of a very rough downward slope and really learned how to be a good partner and not let work stress creep into a wonderful relationship.

And it's been really good. But more and more often, we sit at dinner with nothing to say. We used to go out and have great nights on the town and lived with abandon. Now that things are better, she rarely wants to go out. She wants to have quiet peaceful time together -- all the time.

There are many activities that I enjoyed -- and we enjoyed together for the first years -- but now I increasingly find myself doing them alone or with buddies. I travel a lot for work and feel myself split between two worlds -- my world that feels as if each day it is growing larger -- and our world, which feels each day that it is shrinking.

I love her more than I have loved anyone and I know love involves compromise. But what point of compromise is healthy? If we end up in a marriage that is stable and solid but at the expense of my career and personal activities, is that a win?

I cannot imagine being without her at this point but increasingly, I feel like I am losing parts of myself that matter a great deal to me.

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Solve the depression separately, re-evaluate. You may not have changed yourself actively but there's plenty of biochemical changes as you age so talk to a doc.

But to answer the title question, good is great, grass is always greener, these are things you probably know already... your age might have been a useful fact for us to know though
posted by MangyCarface at 2:44 PM on October 5, 2011

If we end up in a marriage that is stable and solid but at the expense of my career and personal activities, is that a win?

You know the saying: how many people on their death bed state that they should have spent more time at the office?
posted by aroberge at 2:48 PM on October 5, 2011 [11 favorites]

You said you were able to have a career and not let the stress infect the relationship before, so why is that different now and why will getting married doom your career prospects? How many hours do you need to put in a week, and is the remainder enough for a family?

Yes, I think there are some high powered careers out there that are incompatible with a family because of constant travel, 100+ hour weeks, etc. But plenty of CEOs, famous scientists, lawyers, doctors, and our president all found time for kids and a marriage. If you want that you hire housecleaners and nannies and make it work.

This isn't about your girlfriend holding you back or choosing between her and your career, and if you're unable to reframe it, leave her kindly because it's not fair to blame her for something she didn't do. If you're unhappy with your currently relationship dynamic and the things you do with her, talk to her about it. Maybe she's feeling neglected because of all the time you spend at your job so when you're home she just wants to grab at whatever alone time with you she can get.
posted by slow graffiti at 2:49 PM on October 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

I've been in a similar situation recently- including the depression and the improving financial outlook. My SO is a wonderful person. Couldn't ask for a more caring, loving individual. Given all of that, I haven't felt the spark in a while either.

We've been seeing a counselor to determine whether we are compatible long-term. We've been together a little longer than you have been with your girlfriend.

What I've learned after talking to the counselor is that my biochemical idiosyncracies are a big obstacle. The lack of spark doesn't have much to do with us- it has more to do with me. This is where I also was recently:

I examined the moodiness and see that the only thing I haven't changed in my life is her

...and I was absolutely, dead wrong. The only thing I haven't changed in my own life is ME. What I need to do, and what you should maybe consider, is getting myself to a place where I can be a good, loving partner, while also being a good, upwardly mobile career person. And I need to trust my partner to support me as I move forward in my career. You need to do the same. Your girlfriend's desire to nest doesn't necessarily preclude you from networking, if it's networking you want. (If it's "networking" you're after though, shit or get off the pot.)
posted by Seahorse, rode hard and put away wet at 3:00 PM on October 5, 2011 [16 favorites]

Is your issue that she's become a bit of a homebody or is that just a symptom of something that you are having a hard time pinpointing. Because really I'm sure if she knew her relationship was at risk she would be willing to try and amp things back up a bit. Maybe she's just in a rut too. But if it's really bigger than that you need to reexamine.

That being said. Don't blame your general dissatisfaction with life on your relationship. Life is up and down. Your soul mate won't change that. In some ways it looks like you are grasping for the cause of your depression. There is a very good chance that there is no one cause to explain what you are feeling. That a lot of it is internal and not external. You've gotten into a bit of a lull in your life it sounds like. It happens to basically everyone. Make sure you don't put yourself in the position where a year from now you feel exactly the same way, except single.
posted by whoaali at 3:04 PM on October 5, 2011 [6 favorites]

It sounds like you need reassurance that you can have a life outside of your home after marriage. That's an important thing to have, and provides a lot of fuel for conversation at those dinners you speak of.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:18 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

She is ready to move forward from cohabitation into marriage.

Personally, I don't want change, I think life is great. But it's not only about me -- she wants to move forward and thus I can either get on the bus or get off the bus.

Why is getting married considered to be a "forward" move? It sounds like she's dictating this term to you, as if she's got some preconceptions of what constitutes a successful relationship. Such preconceptions can be dangerous - evidence that a person is trying to live out an idealistic fantasy, rather than approach their life on its own terms.

If you intend to stay together, the two of you should go forward, of course. But "forward" doesn't necessarily mean "marry". I suggest you think and talk together about why these terms are equated in her mind.

we sit at dinner with nothing to say

I keep an eye on the posts in the human relations category here on Ask MetaFilter for interesting conversation starters with my sweetheart. When there's nothing else to talk about, and comfortable silence isn't called for, I'll say, "I read this question on MetaFilter. What do you think? How would you answer?" It works well because it gets us thinking about various relataionship-related questions that we might otherwise not have considered, and applying the advice to our own situation.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 3:27 PM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I can relate to your problem, but I come at it from a different angle.

You said that you and your SO used to go out and have fun, that your partner has dropped out of the activities you used to enjoy together. I think this is the real problem.

I'm guessing that you're the sort of person who thrives on experiences, and that not having a partner who is equally energetic in that regard is a buzzkill. I'm betting you have a large group of friends and acquaintances and that you move through many different situations quite easily.

I went through something similar with my last girlfriend. We enjoyed each others company and got along well, but she wasn't someone who sought out close relationships. She didn't like dancing or going to parties much. I'm in my 40s, so I don't go out nearly as much as I used to, but I wasn't ready to cut out everything...and while I'm not raging until all hours on the weekends, I do like hanging out with my close friends, their wives, going camping, riding my motorcycle, etc.

When she started making noises about getting hitched ("We could double our income," she said), I saw the Death of Adventure. We'd buy a house, I'd start wearing polo shirts and Dockers, obsess over the yard. and sell my bike ('cause it's dangerous).

I couldn't do it. She was one of the most beautiful and smart women I'd ever known, but I couldn't marry her.

So we broke up.

11 months later, a woman I'd known causally asked me out. Six month later, she asked me to marry her. I accepted. We're totally nuts about each other. She has a 5 year old daughter and we've bonded spectacularly!

I never thought I could be this happy. We plan together, we scheme, we go places and do things together...all three of us. We may buy a house, obsess over the yard, etc. but there will be motorcycles, car trips and doing crazy things, just for the heck of it.

My advice: Don't stay out of guilt, duty or what's expected. Not once did you say you loved your partner. Life is long. Do what thrills and moves you and the rest will be added.
posted by black8 at 3:32 PM on October 5, 2011 [15 favorites]

There are certain careers that unfortunately take incredible focus and dedication to succeed. So much so that having a family during the "building stages" of this type of a career is indeed a challenge. I met my now wife when I was in a great place with my career. I was making a lot of money, had a lot of money saved away, and felt good about my career. As a result I felt comfortable and ready to get married. Recently, not too long after I got married, my career took a turn for the worst. And while we're in no major financial emergency, times are not as good as when we first met. But at the end of the wife has never, not once, questioned my career....whether I should keep doing it, why I'm not doing as well, or that it she wishes I made more money. She always stands behind me. So do I think being married and having a challenging career is tough? Yes. But is it worth it? Yes. Yes....if it's worth the right person and you love your will be fine. But you must get yourself together mentally. Don't agree to marriage until you feel ready. Good luck.
posted by ljs30 at 3:38 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

It doesn't sound like you're ready to marry her. While it's possible that your dissatisfaction with your relationship stems from your depression or some other problem (with you), I think it's just as likely (perhaps even more likely) that she is just not the right person for you.

In any case, you definitely should NOT get married until you figure this out. It's hard to leave a long-term relationship--you'll wonder if you're making the biggest mistake of your life--but, then again, staying might also be the biggest mistake of your life.

You could try couple's therapy, and, if that fails, move on.
posted by raynax at 3:41 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

dunno... kinda sounds like yall are starting to pull in different directions. If she was stock in a company, would you buy her?

Can you make it work? Sure. Do you need to talk to her? probably. Marriage, I'm told by reputable sources, magnifies current issues fivefold. I can see benefits for a hard charging gambling buisnessy type in having the domestic front taken care of... and I can also picture you dumping her in... well, a experiment, sorta, to see if your life gets better or not. The problem, as you know is in the aftereffects. Seriously weigh pros and cons. Think hard. See what you can do about getting her to do the things you like to do (Sometimes. Obviously you need you time and she will need she time. But if yall truly cant be together, well.....) best of luck.
posted by Jacen at 4:52 PM on October 5, 2011

Sometimes partners have different paces, lifestyles and interests. It's communicating how that happens and works that makes the partnership work. Can you say "Bye, I'm going out, spur of the moment, got a thing I wanna do, love you, don't wait up!"? Can you dictate the terms of your own life, and be who you are (and her as well) and do what you want to do, and be happy together?

If not, don't get married.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:13 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

How much have you talked to her about this? Maybe she would like (or wouldn't mind for a while) being the helpful wife who has dinner ready and keeps your social life on track while you're out working. Some people like that kind of thing. What does she want out of this? We can't know based on your question - do you?
posted by mskyle at 5:17 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

First, you need to talk with her. It doesn't sound like you're doing that at all -- and by that I mean talk with her about this.

Second, there are two clear possibilities. One, your depression is coloring how you view your relationship with her. Two, your relationship with her just isn't right. It makes more sense to try to sort the depression thing out first, I think.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:17 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

If we end up in a marriage that is stable and solid but at the expense of my career and personal activities, is that a win?

Obviously not, but is that really the only option? Without knowing you or your relationship I can't say, but it doesn't sound like you've necessarily discussed these things with her. Have you told her this is such a big deal? Do you want her to share all of your interests, or is it okay if she just shares half, and you share the other interests with your buddies? What if she started more of her own hobbies giving you alone time at home, would that be better or worse? What if you started hosting some events at your place so she could still be a homebody but socialize?

I guess my point is that -- again, without knowing you -- it seems like there are a lot more options than "I stay with this person and never ever go out again", so it seems like you're jumping to a lot of conclusions. I don't now if that's a sign of nervousness about other things or larger problems, but if your concern is really that she seems to be more of a homebody than before, that's totally workable if she's a reasonable person. I say this as the partner that generally goes out more -- it's okay to do different things, and can often make for better dinner conversation if you have different interests.
posted by lillygog at 5:19 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

My contribution is: "going forward" does not automatically mean marriage. Personally, I'd prefer mutual, positive personal growth for each person in the relationship, whatever that evolution is called.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:43 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Rather than sit at home having dinner every night, I want to be out in the world, networking and bringing projects to fruition.

Is going out networking something you're trying to get her to do with you (in which case, imho, hard to blame her for staying home), or is that you're not home very often and when you are, you want to go out again?

If we end up in a marriage that is stable and solid but at the expense of my career and personal activities, is that a win?

We don't know how much any of these things mean to you, as compared to how much your girlfriend means. Any compromise is by definition going to be at the expense of something, to some degree, for both parties. You might find a relationship you're happier in, but good luck finding one that will only ever require that you compromise on things you don't care about. Is it impossible to meet in the middle somewhere? Are you sure that joining you in these activities more often is a dealbreaker for her? Does she know that it's not a minor issue to you?

I was pretty gung-ho at getting on the bus until I examined the moodiness and see that the only thing I haven't changed in my life is her.

Suppose you get rid of her and find out that it wasn't her at all, it was something in yourself? You should probably eliminate that possibility first.
posted by Adventurer at 9:11 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

End the relationship and spend some time by yourself for a while. This seems like the most realistic and practical way for you to find out who you are and what you need. Please don't keep her hanging on out of fear, guilt, etc. She deserves to be able to move on, as well.
Discuss everything with her and then make a clean break. She can't be your security blanket. That would hinder both of you.
No one is to blame- sometimes it just isn't the right fit, no matter how you rationalize it or try shoving the pieces into place.
posted by flesti at 7:20 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

This stuck out for me too: "Not once did you say you loved your partner."

You said you used to enjoy doing things together, not that you fell in love with each other.
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:15 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Used enjoyment or enjoyed usement?   |   Where did the logo site go to? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.