How to keep the one your with
June 20, 2015 3:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm curious to know your stories, or what it is that keeps you happy in the relationship you are in? Also is it possible to grow in love with a person when you are in a happy relationship? Before I confused love with infatuation and I don't want to go through that again!

So here is the deal. I am 30 years old, and I'm looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with. I have been in previous relationships, some good some bad. I've only had one woman who I felt a "spark" for, but that never worked. And upon seeing her recently I couldn't remember the reason why it was I was so into her in the first place considering that she really is a terrible person. I recently have found a girl that I truly enjoy being with. She has a lot of the qualities that I am looking for in a woman.

My problem now is I feel as though I am following the same path as I usually do...and that is I start doubting the relationship and the person I'm with. I have noticed that as I age this becomes more and more prevalent. The last relationship I was in I was engaged and had to call it off because I just could not enjoy being with that person anymore.

I'm trying to make a change this time around. I adore the woman I'm with now, and I really would like for it to work without having these negative feelings and thoughts pop up as a sort of fail-safe. I end up with a girl I like and then after awhile my brain will tell me to find someone better. But I've had enough...I don't want to go continuously through the rest of my life always wanting more...I just wish to be satisfied with what I have and be thankful. I'm curious to know your stories, or what it is that keeps you happy in the relationship you are in? Also is it possible to grow in love with a person when you are in a happy relationship? Before I confused love with infatuation and I don't want to go through that again!
posted by red47Apple to Human Relations (11 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
The surest way for a relationship to last is if both parties believe they have married above themselves. The surest way for it to end is if they lose their children. The second surest way to make it end is if one or both parties have the possibility of trading up. It sounds to me like you are not ready to say that sticking with the new woman is definitely going to be more successful than trying to find someone better.

If you are always finding your partners not good enough, either you need to find someone who is too good for you, or else perhaps give up trying to find a long time partner, if you are the kind of person who needs to admire their partner but are unable to see beyond the real faults and frailties that people have than you will always criticize your partners and drift away from them emotionally.

Love is active, not passive. It is certainly desirable to love your partner emotionally and effortlessly don't confuse it with possible permanence. If you want to spend the rest of your life with someone then you have to change yourself so that you never stop trying to love them. If you are waiting for love to happen, it could happen and more likely won't. If it happens your circumstances will trigger it - for example your biological clock may make you fall in love with a woman suitable to be the mother of your children. It won't be so much who she is, as the fact that she will be a suitable person at the right time, and you will be a member of a cohort that marries in their early thirties or in their forties, or whenever that happens. Or you will fall in love with a woman you can't have because you can only admire someone you can't have and you can only love someone you can admire.

Failing all that try checking out your second cousins. They are your best genetic match and therefore the most likely to trigger limerance and a long term commitment from yourself. You get the family member tolerance and glue as well as the love partner tolerance and glue when you combine the package.
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:39 PM on June 20, 2015 [13 favorites]

Two thoughts: are you in a big period of self-growth? In that case, it would make sense that you might grow almost into someone new and need to find a new relationship. Assuming not, then maybe try working on your communication, so that you don't drift apart? I found that communication and feeling like the other person understood me was a key difference in shifting from "hmm, do I like you or not?" into a sense of long-term connectedness.
posted by salvia at 4:18 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is it possible to grow in love with a person when you are in a happy relationship?
Yes, I think our love continues to grow and is a quiet, slow sort of thing. But that's us, and we're both quiet introverted homebodies inclined toward monogamy. YMMV - I don't think there's one universal answer for this.

What it is that keeps you happy in the relationship you are in?

See above - we both work hard on ourselves and the relationship, so there's always growth and change to discover. I think being married just suits us. We like each other, and have fun together too.

Have you listened to The Paradox of Choice? I'm pretty sure this applies to dating at this point too. How to be satisfied with your decisions in a world of almost infinite choice is something I bet a therapist could help you learn. It is definitely a real thing!
posted by jrobin276 at 4:39 PM on June 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you are having a hard time articulating your personal criteria for a long-term partner. It's easy to tell if you like somebody. Infatuation and attraction are determined by your "lower" brain, so to speak. But determining if someone is a good long-term match for you takes a little more work and experience. I think most people don't figure out what they "really want" until they've done what you described – latch onto Person A who seems nice at first, see if they fit, then realize they don't, move on to Person B, who also seems great, repeat ad infinitum. It's kind of like you're trying a bunch of different keys to see which one might open the lock. I think you could be more thoughtful about this process by really considering what qualities you want in a partner, then consciously choosing to ignore someone for whom you feel infatuated if you know they aren't a good long-term partner for you.
posted by deathpanels at 6:08 PM on June 20, 2015

True story... I was riding a horse bareback through the desert at sunset musing on love and my upcoming marriage. An older guy on another horse rode up (seriously, this happened) and we just sort of fell in to riding together. Some how we started talking about marriage, mine and marriage in general. He said, "Marriage is about luck. I've been married for 35 years. I'm lucky. My wife and I changed in compatible ways. Everyone changes through their lives. You will change, your husband will change. If you're lucky you will change in ways that still work well together. If you're not lucky, you'll split. But the good thing is you'll probably marry someone else and maybe then you'll get lucky."

After that we sort of rode off our separate ways, but I'll never forget the conversation because it was the best advice anyone ever gave me about marriage (well, that and and it was so Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque). So, I pass his words of wisdom on to you (just try to picture it being said in the middle of the saguaros at sunset). Sometimes you're lucky, sometimes you're not. Be the best person you can be, treat your partner with respect and kindness, but if it doesn't work out, don't sweat it. Move on. Life is short.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:27 PM on June 20, 2015 [30 favorites]

My husband is my best friend. We were friends for two years before we started seeing each other and we've been together for 11.5 years. He knows me very well and I him. We've been through a lot together, good and bad. We push each other to grow, discover and accomplish our goals. Sometimes that means spending time apart and while we miss each other, there's a comfort there, that we'll have great stories to share when we reconvene.

It's hard to explain but the fact that he's comfortable with me going off to do my thing makes me want to be with him more, because we're both good apart but great together. I think we've grown a lot together, as individuals and in love. I feel like when we started seeing each other, I thought he was the smartest person I knew and years later, I know he's the smartest but also he's just a good person - he's funny and kind and honest and he just gets me. I really feel like he loves me the way I am - I don't get why but he does. And having that baseline makes me want to try to be a good person to feel like I deserve that, but also it makes me just want to spend time with him - who wouldn't want to spend time with someone who just loves you the way you are?
posted by kat518 at 7:02 PM on June 20, 2015 [9 favorites]

Love, to me, is a decision one consciously commits to... not just a feeling expected to sustain itself. One learns to decide wisely who to love (in a relationship) through a combination of: self-awareness, humility, willingness to compromise, emotional maturity.

My faith is a top priority in my life, so I choose partners who have a similar degree of religious commitment, because my vision of an ideal relationship is one in which my partner and me can help each other advance in our path towards spiritual maturity. I believe fundamental compatibility in values is an ideal foundation for a long-term relationship, as opposed to relationships based primarily on attraction/feelings.

In your current relationship, I would advise working on cultivating deeper respect for your partner-instead of focusing on "how to stay happy" (because as a goal it's a bit abstract)- by accumulating meaningful experiences together, making an effort to learn from each other every day, appreciating her for who she is. Love deepens and grows out of mutual respect and friendship.
posted by tackypink at 7:40 PM on June 20, 2015

I was basically going to chime in with what tacky pink said. Love is a choice. I mean, yes, you feel love, but feelings are fleeting and if you throw in the towel every time the infatuation stage wears off and you discover your partner has faults, you'll never have a long term relationship. So love is a commitment to a person, even when you don't feel particularly loving and they're annoying you or you're fighting. You stick it out anyway because it's something that you do and you commit to not necessarily a golden haze you expect to wander around in 24/7.
posted by Jubey at 10:00 PM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

I frequently feel that nagging doubt in relationships. I always have listened to it. It has always been right (I'm not certain it was right in one case, but it likely was). I am now in my early 40s, and very happy single. Maybe I'll meet my wife. If I don't, I'll still be happy with friends and work.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:24 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think running is a good metaphor for relationships. Some people are sprinters and middle-distance experts, and that's fine. Few people are great at every distance. You don't have to be a marathoner, if that's not your thing. But assuming that you want to be a marathoner, here are seven criteria you can use to judge a partner (and also to judge yourself). If you or your partner have difficulties with these elements, I believe it's best to run the shorter races together. This list is about long-term compatibility, and assumes that you and your partner already love each other. If you have these seven attributes, your love and happiness will probably grow over time.

1. Do you feel a spark for your partner? In your mind, is your partner more special and unique than others?

2. Is your partner kind and honest and reliable?

3. Do you communicate well with your partner? If not, are you both willing to take specific steps to get better at it?

4. Does your partner assume your good faith? That is, does your partner treat ambiguous situations as if you were in fact acting kindly, honestly, and reliably?

5. When you don’t act kindly, honestly or reliably (because no one is perfect), does your partner forgive you after a short period of time?

6. Are you your best authentic self as a result of being with your partner?

7. Are your lives growing together? Do your long-term wishes coincide?

I've been thinking about elements of this list for years now, and actually wrote it up a couple of months ago. I personally was a terrible sprinter and mediocre at middle-distances. It turns out I'm a pretty damn good marathoner.
posted by ferdydurke at 8:00 AM on June 21, 2015 [11 favorites]

I married young, got divorced, and dated a lot in my mid-20's before I met my now-husband. I was actively looking for Mr. Right and learned a lot from the divorce and dating. There were a few guys I dated for a long time who were hoping for marriage, but I eventually felt I could do better (I'll be honest). Even while dating my husband, at points there were a few guys who tried hard to tempt me away, and I've had to consider my options. Every time, he was the better choice, in my heart and in practical terms. It won't be so simple for everyone though.

When I first met my husband, I felt a spark. But sparks can't be trusted. When we first started dating, it felt "right", and I felt a lot of attraction, respect and admiration for him. Definitely like I was dating someone out of my league. It was intense, but I had to somewhat disregard it because I don't trust early feelings, that limerence. As the relationship developed, we talked a lot and found ourselves on the same page with our desires for life and general perspectives on kids, traveling, good food, work/life balance, the importance of family. We both fit into each other's lives very well - we got on easily with most of each other's friends, and each other's families felt like our own (for the most part). We have similar personalities. And someone's even said they think I'm much calmer and happier with him around than anyone I've ever dated. Definitely made me think I've found my long-haul match, but not quite enough to seal the deal in my mind.

My true measure of the staying power of the relationship was how we work as a couple. And this is what took a few years to figure out. You have to go through "trying times" together, both relationship-wise and dealing with external hardship... we had a lot of those. Things like dealing with arguments/relationship problems, handling trips together, how you treat each other when someone's having a bad day, how you handle a crisis together. Is there selfishness, stone-walling, or mean-ness? Or is there compromise, empathy, support, and effort to cheer each other up? If things don't go smoothly, that's no reason to give up right away - communication is something that can be learned through practice. Do you talk it out at some point and learn from it? Next time, do things go a bit better? We also both changed each other for the better and grew as a couple through these experiences, and really become partners. This is how real love grows over time, love you can trust.
posted by lizbunny at 5:06 PM on June 21, 2015 [8 favorites]

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