How to reclaim early-dating-days feelings?
April 26, 2018 8:53 PM   Subscribe

I’m getting married to my partner of six years in August and everything is perfect and he is perfect for me but a concern had started to niggle at the back of my head and now I can’t stop thinking about it.

Two weekends ago I was out with some girlfriends, of which 2 out 3 of them were single. We started talking about Tinder. I mentioned that I never got to use it (met my partner just before Tinder launched) so I’ve always felt like I missed the Tinder boat. Granted we were tipsy and having fun so they all suggested that I download the app and have a bit of fun with it for the night. I did – set my account up and was matched pretty quickly with a lot of guys nearby. I started chatting with a few and one of them actually showed up at the bar we were at. We were all squealing and OMG-ing when he said he was on the way and it was a feeling that I haven’t had in YEARS. It was a mixture of nervousness and excitement and just a bit of guilt that I was enjoying it so much.

It could be normal pre-wedding jitters but that got me to thinking I’m probably never going to have those feelings ever again. I was fairly promiscuous in my early-mid 20s, and I think I had a lot of fun. Pretty sure I ran into a lot of (or mostly) dud men at the time but it was not about that. It was about the thrill of the chase, the anxiety of the unknown, the prickly feeling at the pit of my stomach when meeting someone new. It’s made me really sad that I could no longer experience those things.

I’m not so stupid as to throw away all the good things that is my fiancé for temporary and somewhat shallow feelings. Never have to worry if I had lipstick on my teeth or if I’m having explosive diarrhea, we’re just so comfortable and so there for each other. And that is a valuable thing I know, buuuuut there is this feeling and it’s bugging me.

I spoke about it with my partner and he came up with this BRILLIANT™ idea to roleplay being at a bar separately and he comes over to chat me up like we’re strangers. Basically re-enacting how we first met. I’m dubious but not unwilling to try, if for nothing else than to have a bit of a laugh.

I’m sure this is not the first time someone has felt this way coming up to their wedding. I’d love to hear anecdotes and stories from people who are going through this, or have gone through this. How do you come to terms with these feelings?

P/S: Before anyone give me flak about the whole Tinder thing. My fiancé was completely aware of what we were doing. He called while we were setting it up and I told him right then. When I got home later that night I regaled him with the events of the night, showed him who I matched and chatted with and even told him he should download it himself to see how he’d fare. He refused but was amused for the most part in an eye-rolling kind of way. I’ve also uninstalled the app.
posted by milque to Human Relations (20 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I think pre-wedding couples therapy is a great idea for anyone, and this would be a great thing to work on together in that context.
posted by Kwine at 9:16 PM on April 26, 2018 [10 favorites]

I would argue that early-dating days feelings are not worth pursuing, especially since reading this article by Joni Mitchell
“But along with developing my superficial side, I always nurtured a deeper longing, so even when I was falling into the trap of that other kind of love, I was hip to what I was doing. I recently read an article in Esquire magazine called ‘The End of Sex,’ that said something that struck me as very true. It said: “If you want endless repetition, see a lot of different people. If you want infinite variety, stay with one.” What happens when you date is you run all your best moves and tell all your best stories.

“You can’t do that with a longtime mate because he knows all that old material. With a long relationship, things die then are rekindled, and that shared process of rebirth deepens the love. It’s hard work, though, and a lot of people run at the first sign of trouble. You’re with this person, and suddenly you look like an asshole to them or they look like an asshole to you — it’s unpleasant, but if you can get through it you get closer and you learn a way of loving that’s different from the neurotic love enshrined in movies. It’s warmer and has more padding to it.
Early-dating days feelings are about falling in love with ourselves. The fact that you are about to get married means you are looking for a deeper, more well-padded love. You can have that and the new dating feelings if you both keep falling in love with each other, and your relationship, again and again.
posted by Thella at 9:43 PM on April 26, 2018 [156 favorites]

Go read some "does he/she like me?" Asks, and try to remember how it REALLY feels to meet someone for the first time.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:51 PM on April 26, 2018 [14 favorites]

You say: "I’m getting married to my partner of six years in August and everything is perfect and he is perfect for me but a concern had started to niggle at the back of my head and now I can’t stop thinking about it."

However, no relationship or person is ever "perfect," even the best ones, so the fact that you chose those words is a bit surprising to me, especially when you go on to admit you've been questioning things. Are you trying to convince us or convince yourself here? Because it really feels like the latter. It's OK!

I think your feelings are natural but the question is if these are just pre-wedding jitters or the sign of a deeper want. I know that many people will write about how long-term, committed love is more special than any dating excitement. That may be true for them and it is true for a lot of people but it's not true for everyone. There is something special and fun about first meeting someone and falling in love and lust. People who practice polyamory can often have both in their lives should they choose and be so lucky. I'd certainly explore the options with your fiance before the wedding: being monogamous, being monogamish, being polyamorous, etc. As a stranger on the internet, I am neutral here: I'm not trying to convince you what is right or wrong. I would like for you to be happy and, because this uncertain feeling has lingered, that will probably mean exploring your needs and wants in a very honest talk with your partner and maybe with a therapist, too. FWIW, your partner sounds pretty supportive and open to discussing things, which is a good sign regardless.
posted by smorgasbord at 10:01 PM on April 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

Early dating days feelings are amazing. You see an attractive stranger, swipe right, and it’s a match! There is no feeling like it. You stay up texting. You think of them all day at work, eagerly awaiting their next message. Maybe you even go on a date with them. Maybe more. If you’re lucky, they’ll eventually tell you they’re engaged to be married. Or already married. Presumably, you’re not so lucky, and you’ll find out by other means.

This has been my repeated experience with dating in my mid thirties. When it happened once, it made for a great story. Two times got a bit old. You get the picture. There are many people, both single and coupled, who use dating sites as a distraction.

I hate to paint an older/wiser/more cynical picture, but it loses its lustre. If you and your husband to be find a way to keep the spark alive, let us know. To me it’s akin to the question from not long ago that asked about social media likes and ways to replicate that type of feedback.
posted by nathaole at 10:03 PM on April 26, 2018 [12 favorites]

Just stick around for the dating horror stories from your friends (You won’t be waiting long).
And remember you are about to embark on a whole new slew of “firsts.” I dated my partner for 13 years before we married. I know it’s cliché but marriage actually *does* change things in my experience so far. Don’t worry, you won’t get bored.
posted by shalom at 10:04 PM on April 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's normal to miss the excitement of those times! My SO and I reminsce about each other and ourselves during our early crushed and romance and it's very flirtatious.

The stranger at a bar scenario is fun too. Try it at a hotel bar with a room already booked and some fake names and backgrounds. ;)
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 10:06 PM on April 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

You know, I think a lot of that feeling is not just first-date excitement but nostalgia and the memory of being young and single and a bit more naive and unspoiled by the world at large. How much of that pleasure was the fun of squeeing over exciting boys with your giddy, giggly girlfriends like a teenager?

I think trying to hold on to that feeling or constantly chasing it is an exercise in futility and in a weird way, disrespectful to your present and past self. You aren't that person any more. That time is over now.

I think it was really special that you got that organic, unexpected opportunity to revisit that wonderful sort of innocent feeling and I don't think you or anyone should try to negate it and how magical it is.

But I also don't think that artificially trying to recreate it again in the future would be satisfying or fulfilling, but rather result in becoming a bit of a caricature of what you once were.

Aging is a series of little deaths. This is one of them, and it's okay to mourn it. Doesn't mean you're going the wrong way.

(Also, this is not at all a commentary on your plans to roleplay with your fiance! That is your business).
posted by windykites at 10:30 PM on April 26, 2018 [16 favorites]

When I'm bored I start planning to make my partner (of 20-some years) feel surprised and delighted and attracted. This is, of course, very difficult, because I have used my good stories already. Have to come up with something new! Maybe it won't even work! -- Ah, there's the frisson.
posted by clew at 10:31 PM on April 26, 2018 [38 favorites]

We role play “strangers who are just meeting” at least once a quarter in a wide range of variations. Maybe we’re just naturally good at getting into character but it 100% gives me that new person lust/shivers/arousal. I bet you’ll love it!
posted by amaire at 11:12 PM on April 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

Change is always experienced as loss.

There are a whole bunch of new feelings and experiences heading your way, some of which will blow you away. You can't get to feel and experience them without moving on to this next phase.

(And you have a partner who is up for role play which is definitely BRILLIANT.)
posted by Heloise9 at 11:48 PM on April 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

Spend some time apart once in a while. Take a holiday with your friends instead of him, long enough that you start to miss him, then you'll be excited to see him again.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:18 AM on April 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm old. I was extremely promiscuous back in the day (before internet connections but we had no trouble having lots of sex with lots of strangers). 10 year bad marriage. 38 year very very good marriage. It is so much better in so many ways that I never would have imagined.

I have not found that "aging is a series of little deaths" but just the opposite: the older I get the more full of life I feel. I am the luckiest person I know, so that helps, but really life can get bigger and bigger the older you are.

I have not experienced "change is always experienced as a loss" but just the opposite. Especially lately, I have been surprised that loss is giving me a feeling of lightening, of being less burdened.

That feeling that you refer to, the suspense and excitement -- yeah, it was great. So was the week before Christmas, when I was still in elementary school. The wonderful summer I spent reading every Nancy Drew book while rocking on my Grandma's porch. I still love Christmas, and I still love getting lost in reading, but it's so different and so much better now.

But you have to let go of the known in order to move into the unknown. Too many people don't understand that, or are too fearful. Just look around at all the sad, sad people trying to keep the feelings of their youth as they age, and who end up in the threadbare little playgrounds of their youth, and never actually get on the Real Rides. Life can be more amazing than you can imagine, but you do have to stop trying to hold on to the thrills of your youth.
posted by kestralwing at 1:50 AM on April 27, 2018 [72 favorites]

Gottman talks about knowing each others lovemaps and all kinds of funky stuff to look and think about in a long-term relationship - warmly recommend his books, talks etc.
posted by speakeasy at 2:49 AM on April 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

I’m probably never going to have those feelings ever again.

That is almost certainly true.

My best advice to you, at this stage in your life, is to allow yourself to let go of the ways you've already tested for having good feels, in order to make room for what is yet to come. Young adulthood is far, far too early for a person to ossify into somebody with an immutably fixed set of reward-seeking behaviors. Give that shit up before you have a chance to bore yourself to tears with it.

Life is random and wild, and if you let it, can be indescribably beautiful. But you have to let it.
posted by flabdablet at 3:04 AM on April 27, 2018 [16 favorites]

I’m probably never going to have those feelings ever again.

That is almost certainly true.

I don't see why that's almost certainly true at all. If nothing else, you could look at the approximately 17 billion AskMes written either by a married person with a crush or the spouse of said married person with a crush. Like the one that is literally what, 10 questions after this one? In fact I would say it's practically a guarantee that you'll have those feelings again.

The difference is that you won't be able to follow those feelings to their natural conclusion without being an asshole. You'll have to learn how to turn them into something honest and manageable, that you redirect toward your spouse. It sounds like your fiance is open and game enough that you would be able to admit to crushy sparkly feelings without blowing up your marriage, and that's pretty great, because it's the honesty that makes that stuff manageable.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:23 AM on April 27, 2018 [7 favorites]

I don't see why that's almost certainly true at all.

To clarify what I meant: I don't believe any of us ever stop having crushes. But once we're committed to one other person in a long term relationship, those crushes don't feel the way they used to. The fact of having made a commitment not to pursue a crush wherever it shall go causes a fundamental shift in the way the crush is perceived and experienced; it becomes at best a nuisance (or, as reported by the OP, a source of guilt) rather than the rather more straightforward "thrill of the chase, the anxiety of the unknown, the prickly feeling at the pit of my stomach when meeting someone new."

it's the honesty that makes that stuff manageable

It is indeed, and the experience of a relationship capable of containing and nurturing that particular kind of honesty is one of those bizarrely and deeply beautiful new experiences that a wide-eyed head-first mutual leap into commitment makes possible.
posted by flabdablet at 10:08 AM on April 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Relaxation, anticipation, discovery.

Part of the joy of a long term relationship is that when you look at your partner, you see thousands of accumulated experiences together. You've built up comfort and familiarity, and those qualities are adding up to balance out the invisible potential you had when you met. You know so much about your fiance and so little about the guy from tinder. Even though you weren't going to go home with him, you really couldn't predict what would happen next.

It's totally possible to structure your brain and your life to invite that kind of fresh potential and excitement even when you're in a committed relationship, especially if you're husband's on board with it, too.

It can come from playing strangers in a bar, but also from doing other new things like traveling and taking classes together; really approaching it as exploring the unknown. It can take work to throw off the accumulated weight of jaded cynicism. There's this trend in our culture to be hyper-informed and pursue perfect experiences, but by actively working against that mindset you'll have a lot of luck finding wonder, joy, and excitement with your husband, both in faux-hookups and regular life.
posted by itesser at 1:10 PM on April 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Try using a different messaging app entirely with your spouse-to-be, and have it be flirting and sexy stuff only.

After a while, it can be hard to even initiate romantic moments when you just got done talking about the plumber and the yard. But when you get a Snap from your spouse? You know it's gonna be something good, and it puts you in a different mindset.

This requires buy-in from both parties, and a commitment to keep it up and also not accidentally cross the streams, but the compartmentalizing can be good.
posted by explosion at 1:38 PM on April 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

I listened to something recently that touched on this - it was probably a podcast called the Science of Happiness - check out the "How to Fall in Love with Anyone" episode.
posted by bunderful at 5:39 AM on May 4, 2018

« Older Puppy SOS: First night with a new dog   |   What's the monetary value of being the orignal... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.