Have any ~30 year old women here broken off long relationships?
January 11, 2013 6:06 PM   Subscribe

Hi. So I am a 30 year old woman dating a 37 year old guy. We started dating back when I was 22 and he was 29. I was pretty young then really now I think about it. Early days were great. However we've now been in a rut for the past 8 months or so and I'm starting to question whether I should make the effort to help fix things,... or whether it might be better to breakup. What is it like to be a newly single woman in her early thirties after the breakdown of a long relationship? I had always thought we would end up married, with kids and a house together. :(

Of course, like all these stories go, we had an awesome first few years together. We moved in together after about a year after hooking up and so have lived together for about 7 years. The early years were heaps of fun. We would basically go out partying with our friends every weekend, come home and have hot sex. Although we've always both had jobs, other than that we didn't have any 'adult' focus on our lives. This was fine as we were both still in our 20s.

I am realised that for the past 8 months we have been sliding sliding sliding into a stalemate of sorts. I am a highschool teacher and had an extremely stressful year at work last year. Unfortunately I did tend to bring that stress home. Somewhere along the line our sex life became almost non-existent. I don't have a high sex drive and didn't really notice or mind - at times I even felt relieved that I wouldn't have to pretend. He has not mentioned this at all, but what I am observing is that now he seems to be withholding emotional support/romance - and I am assuming this is because I have not been having sex with him. I have not been holding off on sex on purpose. But is he perhaps perceiving as such and now withholding emotion in response? Is that something that guys do?

Now that he is withholding emotion/romance I feel like our relationship has become nothing. Sex has almost gone to zero, because even if I felt like it I don't feel the emotional connection and therefore am not compelled to sleep with him. Sadly I also feel like I am losing attraction for him altogether.

Have any women here ended long relationships when they were about my age? I am not sure if ending this relationship is the right thing to do. I know all relationships have their ups and downs, but at the root of this I am really starting to question whether I want to commit to this person for the rest of my life. I had thought that I had wanted to get married, but I am scared that if we were to marry (with me having reservations) and then I broke it off after a year or two - then this would shatter him so much more than breaking up now would (although I am fairly certain this would shatter him and I would probably go into a lengthy depression).

Apart from the lack of sex a big problem in our relationship is him not growing up at all. I have to make sure all our financial paperwork is sorted (he won't do it at all). If were were to get married, buy a house, have kids,... it would all be initiated by me. If we go on a holiday I have to iniatite it and plan it. Basically he is just cruising. Now I am 30 and he is 37 I would like us to be more adult-like in our lives - planning things together, working things out together, but I am not sure he has progressed as an adult in the time we have been together. Is this pretty common of guys?

Any comments or advice would be most appreciated.
posted by ohayo_lion to Human Relations (31 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
OMG you sound exactly like one of my BFF, down to the no sex and the refusal to do "grown-up" tasks like pay bills. She and her boyfriend were together for six years and she ended things, packed up her stuff and drove across the country, stayed on my couch until she found job and apartment, dated around, met awesome guy, was with him for a year and said "Look, I want to get married, either we'll move toward that or we'll move on," they got married, now they have the world's most adorable baby.

And she was 38 when she dumped the zero, 42 when she married the hero.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:12 PM on January 11, 2013 [35 favorites]

Apart from the lack of sex a big problem in our relationship is him not growing up at all

This is a much bigger problem than your schedule for sex, and I kind of saw it coming before I even opened the [more inside]. It's one of the things that can (not always does but can) go along with a relationship with a big age gap. For you at 22, it was a jump ahead in maturity, a very grown up relationship. For him at 29, it was a way of rejecting the demands of maturing and maintaining a "young" lifestyle.

8 years later, of course that's wearing thin. You've matured in a way that's fairly normal, but he's still stuck. He doesn't want to grow up, and is happy with the cruising, and that may have been one reason he wanted a younger partner.

His behavior really is not that common for guys at age 37. It's characteristic of the Peter Pan type.

I can only recommend the usual - you could try therapy. At the least, it might get both your cards on the table. But it seems like you're ready to move up and on, but he might not be. The good news is that at 30, you have a lot of relative youth on your side. Plenty of people have not had significant relationships by age 30; at least you know how to make that work. I'd say the biggest challenge will be to determine what it is you want right now. Are you looking for the partner to settle down and have a family with? Or do you want to breathe a little and try some more casual relationships for a while, testing out the guys' long-term visions before you commit so deeply? Both would be good strategies. But if you do want a family, 30+ is a good time to start using that filter for dating - don't spend months and months with a guy whose life is just not going in that direction. Months can turn into years and take good time away before you know it. As you've realized.

Don't stay if he's not growing with you. But don't be afraid of being single. You've got a lot of living ahead of you and now is a good time to move on, if that's what's in the cards.
posted by Miko at 6:15 PM on January 11, 2013 [11 favorites]

I broke up with my long-term boyfriend in late 2011 (I was 31 and he was 34). While our age difference wasn't as big as yours (although it's hard to say how much of a difference that makes at this point), we had been together for 8 1/2 years.

It was not a fun thing to do, for either of us but I think it was clear to both of us that we'd grown apart (we are still friends, though). In my case, I wasn't particularly interested in marriage or children & neither was he.

I'm not trying to put subtext on your question that's not there -- but there does seem to be a bit of "Should I settle because it's too late for me?" And the answer to both those is "No." IYes, if you want children maybe that's something you need to be working toward now in some context, but absolutely don't settle just because you want children. I would say the experience of being in my relationship was absolutely valuable and I have no regrets. It taught me what I do and do not want and I don't need to settle for less that than.

But my story isn't everyone's, and admittedly, the past year+ hasn't been easy (but that was for other reasons, too) but I can say I'm happier now. As much as I loved my boyfriend, it was the right choice for the both of us.
posted by darksong at 6:20 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

As a general rule, I would advise you not to partner with someone you have to drag towards what should be your mutual goals. Also note that you do NOT want to have children with a man who has a maturity issue - having a child will not make him grow up, it will just mean you have to parent two children. You will become exhausted and resentful, and rightfully so.

I broke up with a long-term partner of seven years when I was 30. I met my husband three weeks later. I'm not saying "and you will too!" but I am saying you should go forth and look for what you really want instead of setting yourself up for a really crappy future.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:24 PM on January 11, 2013 [21 favorites]

I was in a relationship for seven years that began when I was 19 and ended when I was 26. We grew up at different rates and in different directions. In between that time and when I met my current spouse, at age 41, I had lots of living, finding myself, having serious and casual relationships, making a few mistakes and gaining a few lifelong friends.

If you break up, your life will go on.
posted by matildaben at 6:28 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes. I remarried before 40 and have an awesome husband and an awesome child. We're hoping for child number two!!
posted by jbenben at 6:40 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

My biggest concern with your question is that your sex life has been nonexistent for 8 months and it sounds like the romance has been gone for nearly as long, and yet it sounds like you haven't discussed this at all with him, and you're considering breaking it off with him without considering talking to him about the problems.

This doesn't bode well... and I'm assuming it's because you are so irritated with the other poor behaviors he's exhibiting that you don't think it's worth trying to talk about the big elephants in the room. Because you have told him how upset you are about the the other things you want him to do that he's not doing, right?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:57 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks @Sidhedevil, @Miko, @darksong, @DarlingBri, @matildaben, @jbenben & @treehorn+bunny for your comments. I've been using other people's questions/answers on Askmeta for my own reflection/live improvement for ages but this is the first I've put myself out there. I really appreciate hearing a totally external opinion on my situation, it's helping give me some clarity.

@Miko - it breaks my heart but yes I think I am dating a Peter Pan. I had questioned in my mind why my 37 year old boyfriend had no interest in marriage, kids, any sort of adult commitment. Not having been in any other serious adult relationship I wasn't sure if all guys were like this? Typically do women always have to drag men into 'adulthood'? I was/am not sure if there are men out there who actually don't mind taking on responsibilities of adult life having not dated one myself.

What's heart breaking is deep down, he is a pure soul - a very kind outlook and an amazing heart. But you don't build a life with a heart/soul do you? You do so with a person with active and willing hands. What makes it so difficult is that we do have that connection deep down, but it's the practical business of going about life which seems to be the difficult part. How can people break up when you are still in love deep-down, but practical life isn't working??? :(

Thanks @treehorn+bunny. You're totally right. I haven't brought all this up honestly with him. It's just been stewing and stewing. I think I had given up ages ago on trying to collaboratively 'progress' our life (ie, areas like finance, buying a house, getting married etc) because it always felt like such a drag having 'future planning' met with such resistance. Last night I tried to prompt a discussion in this direction.

Just before christmas I asked him to help me plan a christmas party for our friends, he didn't want to help and stormed off (!). I told him how disappointed it made me feel, that if we couldn't work together on the planning of a party I didn't know how we could ever plan anything else in our lives together. I left my last sentence hanging in the air, but he had no reply. :(
posted by ohayo_lion at 7:19 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not all men are reluctant to make romantic commitments or to do "grown up" things like planning parties. I am a horribly cranky person who is not to everyone's taste, to say the least, and my husband (whom I met when I was 33) is the coordinator of our social life (and the primary bill payer, both in terms of earning the money and getting it out the door on time). Also handsome and thoughtful and hilarious and brilliant.

So if a difficult person like me can find someone so awesome, I believe there are lots of equally wonderful dudes out there for a catch like you!
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:29 PM on January 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

One aspect of this situation (but not necessarily the whole story) could be the trap of "she wants an emotional connection in order to have sex, and he wants sex in order to feel an emotional connection".
posted by Dansaman at 7:51 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, it's probably time to move on. You're not happy and haven't been for some time. It sounds like the problems are with long-standing behaviors... which means they're not going to change. Call it.

I'm a woman who broke off a seven-year relationship at 34. Two years later, my only regret is that I hadn't done it sooner. My life is good, really good. I'm single by choice and (feels like for the first time) comfortable with myself and who I am. And I also understand that I'm still really quite young and the window for love, intimacy, and an adult relationship is as open as it ever was.

I wish all the best to you.
posted by (F)utility at 7:52 PM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

I don't hear much "I really love him but..."

A relationship should make you stronger, should make your life better. The whole should be greater than the sum of its parts, at least when things are basically going well in your lives.

I don't buy the "Peter Pan Type" narrative -- I think that some people (men and women) don't want to be in the relationship they're in and can't even figure out how to tell themselves that. So they drag their feet and avoid long term planning. Some people (men and women) silently withhold affection if they can't figure out how to say "I'm mad at you because..." or "I don't want to be here anymore ..." or "It seems like you need space so I'm giving you that. "

It sounds like you need to sit him down and say "this relationship is broken, I don't know if we should fix it or give up on it" and decide together whether or not you are going to work together to make the relationship work. Some of that is practical: you want to own your home or start a family or begin planning for retirement in earnest. Some of it is more ephemeral: you want more affection.

But whatever you do, don't stay in a bad relationship because you're too old to find someone else. I don't care if you're 90.
posted by amandabee at 7:53 PM on January 11, 2013 [14 favorites]

There are things you can do to try to save a relationship...... IF HE is willing to help. IF. Big, big, if. It... does not sound like he would be. Being a huge proponent of things like communication and fixing relationships, I guess you could try, but you feel stuck and kinda helpless, i think. I AM filtering my view of him through that (justified) angst, but.... you know the dude. would the words 'couples therapy' send him running and screaming?

So.... yeah. maybe you should invest time in him (especially if he IS willing to go to therapy.... and follows through on the long term commitment to it....) but, also, maybe you shouldn't.

Anecdata: My mom remarried at 55ish (a guy she met online!) and is happier.

Also propose individual therapy for you, no matter what.
posted by Jacen at 7:54 PM on January 11, 2013

I was 28 or 29 when I ended a 5.5 year relationship with someone I lived with. He was a cheater-cheater, so the impetus to leave was strong but it was also the hardest thing I had ever done.

Aside from the cheating, we wanted very different lives. He wanted to keep living like he had at 22 - lousy job but one that allowed him to travel with his band, out late drinking every weekend night, no money because it all went into drinking or the band. And I had a professional 8-5 job I had to get up early for, and wanted to go on trips with him that didn't include the band, and live somewhere bigger than a studio, and so on.

We also had very poor communication skills with each other and every conversation about our differences just ended in frustration.

This was all quite a while ago and I'm now married to someone else and our commnication styles, and lifestyles (and views on monogamy) are much more compatible.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:11 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I wasn't sure if all guys were like this? Typically do women always have to drag men into 'adulthood'? I was/am not sure if there are men out there who actually don't mind taking on responsibilities of adult life having not dated one myself.

All guys are not like anything, any more than all women are like a specific thing. Humans are individuals.

So yes, there are men who are grownups and who are keen for marriage and kids. You are not, as you've noted, dating one.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:23 PM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

I told him how disappointed it made me feel, that if we couldn't work together on the planning of a party I didn't know how we could ever plan anything else in our lives together.

To provide a counterpoint, I don't like planning parties, either. Despite that, I am still able to support a wife and two children and have been married for 11 years.

Maybe I am missing something here, but it is hard for me to pick up a "Peter Pan" narrative. Most of your question is spent discussing sex and then you tack on a few sentences at the end about sorting paperwork and planning vacations. What is really going on here?
posted by Tanizaki at 8:26 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @Tanizaki Ok, some context: As well as having to do his tax returns, plan all of our holidays and any outing we might take together. I also am basically the coordinator of our social life. If I didn't initiate or follow through with plans with friends we'd never see anyone. I wanted us to host a christmas party at our house, asked him 2 weeks in ADVANCE if he wouldn't mind helping me string up some lights for the party. That's when he stormed off. It's not about whether he LIKES planning particular, it's about whether he'll take part as a co-partner.

The heading of the question: "Have any ~30 year old women here broken off long relationships" is really the point here. I want to hear the experiences of ~30 year old women who have broken off long relationships.

Given the inevitable ups and downs of all relationships - I'm curious to know others' opinions on how much should you tolerate, what should you expect, when do you know when enough is enough and what might I expect to feel on the other side of this breakup should it happen.
posted by ohayo_lion at 8:52 PM on January 11, 2013

I told him how disappointed it made me feel, that if we couldn't work together on the planning of a party I didn't know how we could ever plan anything else in our lives together.

I think this is a good start, and anyone who was paying attention would have definitely picked up on the significant subtext here - but it is a subtext. And in my experience, not all men are good at subtexts (nor are all women, I should add). Is there a chance that if you asked him what that conversation you had was about, he would say "you wished I would plan the Christmas party with you" - i.e. he received the direct message, but completely missed that you were trying to turn the inability to plan the Christmas party into a statement about your entire relationship and its lack of a future.

In most cases, I really think when you're talking serious relationship issues, a very direct approach is best. This means using language like what amandabee suggested, i.e. "this relationship is broken, I don't know if we should fix it or give up on it" well, I'd probably soften that up a little bit, given that he might have no idea you feel this way, putting ending the relationship on the table in the first sentence could be shocking. But something like "honey, we need to talk seriously - I'm not happy in this relationship" needs to be said, and something like "are you willing to work with me on fixing it?" should follow. Again, you only need to do this if you know you would be willing to work on it with him, too. Otherwise, this is a moot point and you don't need to give him a chance to improve - you need to tell him that you want to break things off as soon as possible, and then follow through.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:57 PM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

how much should you tolerate,
if you're not happy, you're tolerating too much

what should you expect,
you should expect your partner to be willing to work through serious relationship issues with you when they arise. Your partner needs to know what the issues are and that they are serious issues to be able to do this, of course (saying something like "if we can't plan a Christmas party together, how can we ever plan anything in life together?" is a bit unfair and passive aggressive, for example, rather than being a conducive lead-in to a constructive discussion about a problem). And you need to be able to discuss with him what sort of solutions or compromises to the problems would be satisfying to both of you.

when do you know when enough is enough
I addressed this obliquely above, but enough is enough either when there is no chance you want to continue the relationship with him, even if he was willing to try hard to change and get therapy and so forth, or when you've made an effort to communicate you are unhappy and to try to find solutions to problems/have proposed couples' therapy, and he has refused to engage or isn't following through.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:05 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

The early years were heaps of fun. We would basically go out partying with our friends every weekend, come home and have hot sex.

I mean, that sounds like fun, but it also sounds like maybe your relationship wasn't ever much more than a sex life. So now that that's diminished, there's nothing else to support it. Your ability to communicate openly with him seems to have never really developed. You make assumptions about why he's acting a certain way, when you two haven't even talked about what you assume to be the cause of his behavior. The whole thing sounds very cold. If you don't feel comfortable talking about basic relationship and communication issues with him, and any attempt at future planning (or just getting him to help you with a simple party preparation task) is met with resistance and tantrums, I am not sure what is there to be fixed as opposed to just ending it.

As to the question of 30 year-old women breaking off long-term relationships that they'd previously thought would be life-long but turned out to be awful, I did it, and I am so glad I did. Years ago, I never would've dreamed of breaking up with my now ex-boyfriend. I seriously thought that if I wasn't with him, I didn't care to meet anyone else and I'd just be single forever. It seemed like too much effort to meet someone new and go through all the introductory stuff again when, in a way, I was comfortable with the ex, I knew him so well, although I also knew it had become a terrible relationship and I didn't have high hopes for a great future with him. But I did end it, and I am so, so, so glad I did it. I have grown a lot since then in ways that I could never have done while in that relationship.
posted by wondermouse at 9:06 PM on January 11, 2013 [11 favorites]

I broke off a six year relationship when I was basically your age and the guy was basically your guy's age. There were definitely some other similarities to your situation as well (the partying early years, the eventual dwindling-to-nothing sex, the emotional withholding, me initiating the majority of the plans, etc.). Although it was painful and depressing to split up, I am in hindsight just regretful that I didn't break things off with him sooner; it would have been kinder for us both. Now that I've had about seven years' worth of additional dating and relationship experience, I've realized that his and my relationship was very surface-level, very much based on having a good time, but not so much about communicating and interacting in an adult way.
posted by medeine at 9:33 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @treehorn+bunny Thank you for your suggestions. Yes, I've should've been more open and communicative about these problems earlier, and approached the situation in a less passive aggressive way. I'll have a think about how better to lead into the discussion which needs to be had, more directly and constructively.

@wondermouse. You're bang on. It does make me quite sad to think that our relationship may have been quite superficial all along. We got along so well all throughout the years, hardly ever fought, hardly ever had any truly difficult conversations. Is it because we are right for each other, or because our relationship never truly matured? I'm still not sure about the answer to that.

It all does sound quite cold doesn't it. At the moment I am feeling pretty detached. Maybe because I've been running in circles, having been here before and felt like this before. I think last time I felt more hopeful about the whole thing but this time around my doubts have risen up...
posted by ohayo_lion at 9:51 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't really have any advice, and I am 25, but eight months ago my boyfriend of three years and I split up. I was devastated because I really thought we would end up together. We had a relationship that sounds similar to the beginning of yours--we went out a lot, drank, had good sex, woke up late. And that was about it.

That lifestyle is unsustainable. Life is not just good times; life is difficult conversations, hard decisions, tough moments. When we broke up I thought I would never be happy again but now that I am on this side of it I realize that our relationship was based entirely on having a good time, and without that we really have little in common and therefore no viable future. We also never really fought--you know why? Because I was too afraid to bring up my feelings of wanting a greater commitment and wanting to plan a life together because I didn't want to scare him off. I just went along with everything hoping one day he would mature and sweep me off my feet and propose.

I am now the happiest I have ever been in my life. I'm serious. Getting out of that relationship was one of the best things to happen to me.
posted by thank you silence at 10:59 PM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

He has not mentioned this at all, but what I am observing is that now he seems to be withholding emotional support/romance - and I am assuming this is because I have not been having sex with him. I have not been holding off on sex on purpose. But is he perhaps perceiving as such and now withholding emotion in response? Is that something that guys do?

Yes, absolutely, but probably not on a conscious level. And not all guys - everybody is different, and that's important to remember.

Speaking for myself, I think that the only difference between being lovers and really close friends is sex. So when I'm in a relationship and don't have sex for a long period of time, it makes me mentally start questioning the relationship. I start asking myself whether we're really lovers or friends, and if we're only friends, why do I allow myself to publically have a "relationship" label that stops me from sleeping with other women? If my significant other doesn't want to have sex, that's fine, but if that's the case, she should at least allow me to have an affair on the side. (This approach comes highly recommended by Dan Savage.) Then eventually I start to feel resentful about it.

YMMV. However, just as you don't feel sexual unless you feel an emotional connection, you should consider that other people may not feel emotional without a sexual connection, and that mentality is no less valid than yours. Furthermore, if you're not fulfilling your partner's needs, it seems odd that you would expect him to fulfill yours.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:47 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would strongly caution against casting your boyfriend as any kind of "type." Your relationship lasted around 8 years, and your description of it sounds not unlike my marriage. My ex and I grew apart after about as much time, in a similar way, but it wasn't because either of us was delaying growing up. It's just because we had grown apart, is all. Some of that was definitely due to differences in goals (she wanted to sell our awesome little house and buy a bigger one we couldn't afford, while I did not; she wanted more than two children while I wanted to stop at two, etc) but I imagine that those differences would have been things we could have worked out if the rest of the relationship had been functioning well.

A relationship, a good one, is not simply about the "business" aspects - planning things, buying things, etc. That stuff is so easy to negotiate that people who are not intimate do it all the time every day. So if you find yourself frustrated by that aspect of things, it means there's something else going wrong - some missing intimacy, friendship, romance. Were those things there, you and your BF would find it fairly easy to negotiate the business stuff.

Why is this important, since you've already decided to leave him? Well, in forming your next relationship, its going to matter whether you buy into the idea that he's some character out of Sex And The City with a cute "type" label or whether you choose to see him, and by extension, your relationship to him as complex and beautiful in its own way. Relationships end because human beings are actually not very good at lifelong monogamy. Leaving this one and going to the next one, you could choose to see your boyfriend as a full person from whom you happen to have grown apart, which will open up opportunity for you to do self-reflection of what you want from your next relationship - not just what kind of partner you want but also what kind of partner you want to be - OR you could call him a "zero," learn nothing, resent him, and not grow.

While your relationship was awesome, it was awesome. Your boyfriend was part of that. Celebrate it, and him, while recognizing that a thing which is finite in its nature has come to its natural end, and move on to the next one.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:31 AM on January 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

I want to hear the experiences of ~30 year old women who have broken off long relationships.

Sure! My ex and I broke up by mutual agreement in early 2011; I was 29, about to turn 30, he was around five years older. We'd been together since I was... 24, maybe?

What happened then was:
  • I was really sad for a few months! Which didn't mean breaking up was a mistake, just that breakups are difficult. So having six months at the end where there are clearly problems isn't necessarily a bad thing - it gives you a basis for going "I am sad but breaking up was definitely the right thing" rather than "I am sad therefore WE MUST HAVE MADE A HORRIBLE MISTAKE OMG".
  • I started dating, which it turned out was super-easy and pretty good fun. My system was: always have a ton of dates with different people planned (via a mix of "meeting people in the real world" and "online dating") so there's no particular pressure on any individual date; do interesting things, so if you don't get on with the person, you haven't wasted an evening. I was 30 during this stage and I certainly didn't feel like my dating pool was unduly limited by that - went on dates with people ranging from early 20s to early 40s, but most of the repeats were with people around my age.
  • I wasn't looking for an actual relationship - I thought I'd be better off spending a year or so single - but after a few months of nice random dating there was a boy I liked more than any of the others, and we kind-of stumbled into one. That was maybe eighteen months ago now.
I have friends of around my age who've had similar experiences - long relationships that they might've assumed would go on for ever, but which didn't - and they're all happier now than they were towards the end of their long-relationships-that-turned-out-not-to-be-for-ever. Relationship-wise they're a mix of single and not interested in a relationship / in a new LTR / actual married; contentment-wise, they're all doing well. It can take a while, of course.
posted by severalbees at 4:25 AM on January 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

I was married from 22-27... together for almost 8 years...obviously that's younger than you are- but- now being 31, I'd like to speak to some of your possible fears.

That you've wasted time on this- you haven't, its fine.

That you're getting older- you are, but you're still young and hot.

That you won't meet someone else- you will!

I'm on my 3rd boyfriend since my marriage, and I think that he's the one... when I talk to my slightly younger friends now, when they have broken hearts- I chuckle to myself because I remember feeling the same way... but looking back I am so GLAD that my failed relationships have happened... they've taught me so much about myself and what I want... and there are so so so many men out there... you don't need to settle.
posted by misspony at 9:42 AM on January 12, 2013

I was 31 when I ended a 7-year relationship 6 months ago - for not dissimilar reasons (lack of sex, but also different confrontation styles). I'm so glad I did - it was painful to do, but once the ball was rolling I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I was also like you in that we were headed toward some big life changes (buying a flat, also lots of discussions about trying for a baby). However, I knew deep down it wasn't right. Ending things then, as hard as it was, was better than waiting 10 years when we had mortgage/marriage/kids.

This previous AskMe REALLY really helped me with some of the questions you are asking. I've read it about 50 times.

Since the breakup, I've been dating and having a great time, and have met some cool guys. Being 32 and single is much more fun than it was when I was 24 and single.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 11:38 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

The early years were heaps of fun. We would basically go out partying with our friends every weekend, come home and have hot sex.

Since I feel like you're asking a question the sits somewhere between "what might be missing in my relationship?" and "what might dating in my 30's be like?" I thought to throw this out there:

What you describe is how almost all dating starts out; it's called the Honeymoon Period. Pretty much all couples with initial attraction can make it through this phase; aside from learning how best to get one one another off and what temperature the bedroom should be at night, it's pretty unchallenging.

Typically a good adult relationship deepens into something more and includes shared goals, concrete plans for the future so everyone knows they're working to the same roadmap, shared family, mutual support, occasional sacrifice for the greater good, and a fundamental trust that the other has your best interests at heart. Certainly after eight years I'd expect those things to have evolved.

If they have not, I don't have a crystal ball but I would think it deeply unlikely your partner will be able to develop those skills with you. You guys are looking at a lot of history and a lot of well-established interaction patterns. You two may simply have expended this relationship and for all the love and general good will, need to move on to other partners to learn new relationship skills and to find lifelong partnerships.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:54 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not saying you SHOULDN'T break up, but if you want to see if this is fixable, maybe try letting some things slide a lot more and see if he steps up?

My husband is totally the sort who cruises along and lets other people take the reins, and not at all a planner. Sometimes (not always), if everything is going to fall apart if he doesn't do something, he will finally do it. If and when it becomes clear to him that it is regularly (or always) his responsibility to make something happen, he will.

Practical examples of this: he won't plan or instigate social events until he gets desperate for social interaction, which takes a long time because he is an extreme introvert. But if we go three or four months without going to a party or seeing our friends, he starts planning dinner parties. If I don't consciously choose to wait it out, that means I will do all our social planning, because I am slightly less introverted.

For our wedding, he was happy to leave all the plans to me and not do anything. I wasn't happy about that, but I also didn't want to just give him commands. So I told him he was responsible for the catering. Two or three months out, there was still nothing on that front, and everyone else involved was panicking and telling me I needed to take over. Eventually he called around some caterers and realised he was almost totally screwed on finding one still available, which freaked him out enough that he suddenly became super-proactive and got it all sorted.

Since then he's been in charge of food for several large events and has got it sorted really well in advance. He learned.

We got into a pattern recently where I was doing all the meal planning, and most of the cooking, because he wouldn't think about dinner until the last minute, when it was too late to shop, and then he couldn't figure out what to cook with what we had on hand. I finally sat him down and said I felt like I was doing too much in the kitchen, and that he was in charge of all cooking for the next week or two. He got quite into it - screwed up the first few nights by planning things we didn't have the ingredients for - but then started planning more than a couple of nights ahead. Now we are taking turns reasonably fairly again, and he is thinking about food more and making sure he buys the necessary groceries for stuff we might want to make.

In all these cases I've had to step back and let him fail a bit before he finds his feet and realises I'm not going to make everything happen. I'm guessing you've tried this sort of thing, but if not, maybe give it a whirl?

For the long term, you need to find out whether buying a house, having babies, getting married are things he actually would like to do but sucks at planning for, or if he isn't planning for them because he doesn't really want them very much. Those two scenarios are quite different in terms of their implications for your joint future.
posted by lollusc at 7:41 PM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Almost identical to misspony, I was married from 23-27 and with him for 7 years total. He was also a manchild - I handled all the bills/responsibility/etc while he floundered between jobs or not working at all or waiting for his parents to hand him another opportunity (or playing video games or signing up for a pyramid scheme). Like (F)utility, I wish I had done it sooner. Best decision I have ever made.

If you're not happy, and he's not happy, no kids.... just go. You don't need a reason. Just wanting to go is enough, IMO. Life's too short to waste being miserable (or even just "not happy" - a lot of people were surprised at my divorce because my ex and I didn't have knock down drag out fights, he didn't cheat on me, he didn't abuse me. We just were *there*, existing, in a pretty crappy marriage).
posted by getawaysticks at 5:22 PM on January 14, 2013

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