How do I get over the relationship hump?
May 1, 2018 4:39 AM   Subscribe

I've had a handful of serious relationships, but they never get past what I refer to as ‘the hump'. The hump happens when the crazy-intimate-in-love relationship feelings start to dissipate, and your partner’s flaws become more and more apparent. For me this tends to happen around the three year mark. I really love my current partner (he is a wonderful man and has so many amazing qualities), but he also comes with some flaws. I am starting to notice them more and more often, and while I try to let them go, there are also times when they spawn arguments and unhappiness. I WANT to accept who he is, but I don't know how. How do you accept another's flaws? How do you focus more on the positive than the negative? How do you manage to have patience, to be less critical? How do you accept your partner's imperfections?

I'm sure this happens to others, although the timeframe might vary. The story is always the same: you start dating someone, it's exciting. They bring you small tokens of affection, you have amazing dates, fun trips, wonderful intimacy. Maybe you move in, things start to get more serious. Over time, you begin to notice little things here and there that you don't love about the person, or small things that perhaps rub you the wrong way. You still love your partner, but the excitement cools down as you start spending more time talking about who takes out the trash or what time you'll be home from work. Your partner looks at their phone more and more when you wish they were looking at you. You remember a time when you couldn't keep your hands off each other, and now you turn the lights off five nights a week and go straight to bed. Things were amazing in the beginning, and now they're good, but you can’t help but reminisce about when they were better. For me, this starts to happen around the three year mark. The relationship flaws start to crawl out, the romance dissipates, and while this state is livable, I haven't been able to wholeheartedly accept it as something I want to do for the rest of my life. I’ve been in three serious relationships where things have ended at or slightly after this point - it's always the same - my boyfriend walks away because he knows I am no longer happy, and over time the unhappiness rubs on my partner and bleeds into our relationship. I know the problem is me. I am critical. I need to be more patient and understanding. I need to focus on the positive, on the love. But I don’t know how.

Now, my current relationship is approaching ‘the hump’. I I really, REALLY want it to work. My partner is inspiring, kind, giving, intelligent, and I know he'd be a great dad. We lay in bed talking and laughing before we go to sleep. He helps around the house and we have many mutual passions. We can communicate. I can trust him with my whole heart. But I feel unhappy because I notice more and more that he's not perfect - he's a slob, he does things with 75% effort. He walks slow. He's always late and rushes before work. He's not very talkative when we're out with friends. He’s a bit stingy with his money. While none of these things are deal breakers, over time I notice them and they bother me more and more. With other boyfriends, it's been other flaws that I pick apart. I know that no matter who I date, there will be flaws. But it's the same every time: I fall in love, I am happy. Life starts to happen, I notice things about my partner that aren’t ideal, I can’t let them go and the relationship ultimately ends. I am sick of this happening. I want to be committed to loving someone for the rest of my life, and I am willing to put in the effort to make it work. But I don't know how - and this is what I need help with.

How do you accept your partner's flaws? How do you focus more on the positive than the negative? How do you manage to have patience, to be understanding, to be less critical? How do you accept the phase of the relationship when the sparkle starts to die a little? How do you get over the hump? No one is perfect, so I am curious how everyone else manages to navigate imperfections and the difficulties in relationships.
posted by alipie to Human Relations (32 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
I have lots of flaws. I learnt to live with imperfections in a partner once I recognised how generous with and accepting of mine my own partner was. Long-term relationships require adjustments and space for growth on both sides.
posted by freya_lamb at 4:50 AM on May 1, 2018 [57 favorites]

Also - imperfections are less of an issue if you have shared goals that you are able to work on achieving together. If you don't have a sense of what you sort of life you hope to create together it's easy to caught in a loop of general dissatisfaction about things you wouldn't sweat otherwise.
posted by freya_lamb at 5:00 AM on May 1, 2018 [16 favorites]

Seconding freya_lamb's comments. It's easy to see the flaws in others while being completely oblivious to your own. And of course the flaws you see in your partner are as specific to you as they are to him.

Perhaps you can find a quiet time to have a bit of non-accusatory sharing where you talk about what you appreciate about each other, and what would be "even better if". Ask how you can help your partner become a bit more organised, and a bit more at ease in group settings, if those are things that bother you. But also listen to how your partner perceives those things, and whether they agree that they're problematic. It's important to approach these things entirely in terms of "here's how we're different - how can we work to reduce the friction those differences cause?", and very much not "here's how I'd like you to conform to my expectations".
posted by pipeski at 5:06 AM on May 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

How do you manage to have patience, to be understanding, to be less critical?

Have more patience, understanding, and less criticism of yourself. This is the classic what you dislike in yourself you notice in others. I find when I'm focusing on others flaws or shortcomings I'm failing to look at my own. I'm expecting others to behave in a way that will make me feel comfortable about myself. That's not how life works and always leads to frustration and misery.

If you want more love, give more love. If you want contentment accept what is. Look to yourself instead of others for fulfillment without focusing too much if you are "happy" or not. Your boyfriend's behaviors aren't making you unhappy. What you think of them are.

I will be married twenty years this year. In our early years I also thought my spouse wasn't as talkative as he should be. My husband was just fine in conversations. If you're worried that your boyfriend isn't being talkative when you're out with friends, you're most likely anxious about yourself. Self-assured people allow others to be who they are.
posted by loveandhappiness at 5:17 AM on May 1, 2018 [23 favorites]

But I feel unhappy because I notice more and more that he's not perfect...

You're not perfect either... not at all. I know you acknowledge that "no one is perfect," but I don't see a lot of you owning up to your own flaws here. Trust me, you have plenty of them, just as many as your boyfriend does.

When I get annoyed with my boyfriend's flaws, I remind myself of my own flaws that he is happy to tolerate. He's uptight about cleanliness? That's fine, I get grouchy at the end of a long day. He gets snippy when he's stressed? No big deal, I can be insecure about silly stuff. He lets his stuff clutter up the house? That's okay, I never remember to vacuum until there are literal dust bunnies floating around. And so on...

Love isn't always pretty. My bf likes to remind me that it's a marathon, not a sprint -- we decide every day to be with each other, and to find compromises where we disagree.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:19 AM on May 1, 2018 [7 favorites]

This is a good time to re-watch High Fidelity. It’s always a good reminder of how universal this is.
posted by OrangeVelour at 5:19 AM on May 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

I started talking to my boyfriend about small things he did that made me feel bad (like suddenly disappearing with the cart in the grocery store when I went to get some cans of seltzer, leaving me to carry a heavy box around the store looking for him). He doesn't do that anymore.

He started speaking up too. We're both adjusting a little. Things are a lot better.

I know I have flaws too, but it's easier for me to accept his flaws when I feel loved and cared for. Those small changes have made a big difference for me.
posted by marfa, texas at 5:20 AM on May 1, 2018 [16 favorites]

The flaws you describe are not universal flaws (like lying, cheating, violence etc). They are subjective - they could equally be re-framed as "He is relaxed. He isn't uptight, and always in a hurry: he takes the time to appreciate the world. He's quick in the mornings because he would rather spend his time enjoying his bed. He's a good listener and doesn't dominate the conversation like most men. He's frugal." You get the picture.

So the question is, why are you framing these behaviours in a negative way? Why are they starting to grate?

We all have basic emotional needs, and we will meet these needs even if we do so in a negative way. We all like to feel significant - so we can choose to run a marathon and raise the most money for our chosen charity; or we walk into an office building and shoot a bunch of people so that our name goes down in history. Both these acts feed the same need, but one is enormously constructive and the other enormously destructive.

What emotional needs does it meet in you to be critical of your boyfriend? Does it make you feel significant, because you get to feel like a victim of his flaws? Maybe it makes you feel certain, because you can focus on these flaws and over time become more and more sure that they are wrong, and bad, and unforgivable. But objectively, that is not true - some people like slow walkers.

Here are some things you can try.

Firstly, the next time you have these feelings, instead of being swept up by them, just observe them. Be curious about them - and about yourself. Why do I choose this reaction? Why does this make me feel this way? What makes me feel this more, what makes me feel it less? What am I making this mean? When he's quiet with our friends, do I choose the meaning "He doesn't care about people" or the meaning "He is a good listener." I've found the question "What else could this mean?" is a total game changer.

Another thing you can try is change your association around a critical mindset. It's possible, especially if you've had several other relationships that have ended at this point, that deep down the critical mindset means safety to you. If you start picking your boyfriend apart now, then when the inevitable end comes, it won't be so painful. So you start withdrawing now - and you end up contributing to what you really want to avoid.

I've found that meditating on the consequences of negative behaviour, and associating them with AS MUCH PAIN AS POSSIBLE, is a great way to change them. Next time he's dragging his heels and you're having to wait, observe your irritation, and think about which road that irritation leads down: he's packing his boxes, you're both crying, you're telling your friends and family that its over. I know that sounds extreme, but that's how relationships unravel: not in cataclysmic firestorms, but in the drip-drip-drip of unchecked thoughts and unspoken feelings.

The flip side of this is to focus on what you love about this man. Make it as big and bright and bold as you can. I love that you said he's inspiring - that's amazing! Tell him how he inspires you. When you notice the critical thoughts creeping in, observe them, don't berate yourself, just watch them come and then go, and then think of something about him that inspires you. Repeat.

Finally, please don't beat yourself up about this. You sound like a very loving, kind and well-intentioned person. You have observed a problem and you are working hard to fix it. These thoughts are just patterns, and like any pattern they can be broken, and new patterns can be created. You have an opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself and your partner - and ultimately, learning to grow together is what makes relationships successful. Seek out books about this subject, or if it seems too big a step to buy HOW TO FIX YOUR RELATIONSHIP, check out some YouTube videos. There is so much advice and information out there, I'm sure you can find plenty that will help.

Good luck.
posted by matthew.alexander at 5:20 AM on May 1, 2018 [93 favorites]

I guess that culturally we have a thing that goes all the way back to Plato about how we're supposed to find the other half of our soul that was separated from us and now is walking around the world somewhere in someone else's body. So, anything less than our eternal soul-mate is not enough.

But that's a myth. Once I heard of a method of how you choose something when there are a lot of possible options - the original example was how you choose which restaurant to eat dinner when you're wandering around in Paris, where there are 100s of perfectly nice restaurants. I use it when I'm looking for a parking space. What you do is wait until you find a restaurant (or parking space, or potential life partner) that would be perfectly good. Then you ignore it, and walk straight past. When you find the next one that's better than the one you passed up, that's the one - walk right in there and ask for a table.

So maybe if the previous guy with whom you didn't quite get over the hump would have been perfectly good as a life partner - and this present guy is better - then this guy is already the one for you.

But the whole restaurant-in-Paris model breaks down if you're not actually that hungry. Then, you can keep on walking around for a while longer, looking at menus. When you're feeling hungry, you can choose.
posted by rd45 at 5:21 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

This may or may not apply, but what you're describing in your response is a classic sign of avoidant attachment styles. This is the point where the relationship turns into true intimacy, not a fantasy. Focusing on the partner's flaws is a perfect unconscious technique to create distance just when the deeper stuff, two people knowing and accepting each other for who they are, could really kick in. You might read more about attachment and see if this makes sense to you.
At the same time, even without that specific attachment issue, I have learned to be more accepting by thinking: Do I want to "trade" the beloved in for dating again and finding someone with a whole new set of flaws, just as many but just different? The answer in a loving relationship is always no.
posted by velveeta underground at 5:28 AM on May 1, 2018 [28 favorites]

Back to add that if you see your boyfriends as an extension of yourself and have a desire to fix or control their flaws, you might be codependent. If your happiness rides on how your boyfriend behaves, you might be codependent. No need to get mired down with a label but some reading might be enlightening.
posted by loveandhappiness at 5:31 AM on May 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

How do you accept your partner's flaws?

By making a positive policy decision to do so, then doing so.

I don't know how

The process of doing so has two steps: 1. Notice yourself getting upset by one of your partner's less desirable attributes. 2. Respond by reminding yourself that you have known about that for as long as you've known them, that you have deliberately decided to partner with them regardless, and that this is worth doing because this person is, on balance, a great package deal.

It may also help you to remind yourself that you too have a whole heap of really irritating attributes that your partner is doing their courteous best to avoid milking for drama. As you say, I know that no matter who I date, there will be flaws - and the same has to apply from the other side of the relationship: you're a unique snowflake, but you're not a special snowflake (except in your partner's eyes).

While none of these things are deal breakers

The point of separating our partners' less desirable attributes - which, as you correctly note, every partner will always have - into dealbreakers and non-dealbreakers is exactly to find out what we can go through the entire rest of our lives just fucking well putting up with. All we really need to do is stop expecting those things to "improve" according to our own standards, and give our partner the same permission and blessing to sort out their own shit as they're giving us to sort ours.

How do you focus more on the positive than the negative?

You don't. All of us are complete package deals. Accepting another person cannot be about focusing solely on those aspects of them that we find appealing and pretending that the other stuff isn't there or doesn't matter; instead, we have to see their whole selves, warts and all, and decide either to accept them as they are or to leave them. Those are the only reality-based options.

The hump happens when the crazy-intimate-in-love relationship feelings start to dissipate

The only person who gets to decide whether you're going to move on from crazy intimate in love to completely sane deep and abiding intimate in love is you. You've already found out that crazy intimate in love doesn't last. You can break off this relationship and go searching for more crazy, or you can put in the internal acceptance work you need to do to get to deep and abiding; it's entirely your call.
posted by flabdablet at 5:33 AM on May 1, 2018 [11 favorites]

Also worth noting that the ending of the crazy stage is a genuine loss of something irreplaceable and good, and as such will certainly need to be properly grieved for, but is nobody's fault; this is how the human do.
posted by flabdablet at 5:55 AM on May 1, 2018 [8 favorites]

Going against the grain a little here...

I thought I had this problem - relationships kept dying at the 3 year mark. Then I got together with my husband. The twitterpated feelings never left, the love grew deeper, I barely even noticed the 3 year mark. We've been together 11 years. We still often blush when the other grabs our hand.

This might not be about flaws, but about realizing this might not be the person.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:34 AM on May 1, 2018 [13 favorites]

I believe the answer is, in a larger sense, for you to accept (honestly, humbly come to terms with) the fact that growing out of limerence into deeper states of Love is a natural progression and provides an opportunity for you to cultivate presence, compassion, stillness, patience etc. towards him and with Life in general. The more you focus on caring, giving attention and 'forgiveness' from moment to moment in your larger, daily life, the deeper your capacity to love your partner, as he is (within reason) will become.

also-- I'm confident that on some Dark Day, when you're facing some unimaginable crisis, your boyfriend, as you describe him, will absolutely be there for you and all of these "flaws" you mention will evaporate and become inconsequential.
posted by mrmarley at 6:51 AM on May 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I used to have the same problem. Watching Dan Savage's piece on the price of admission really helped me with this.
posted by southern_sky at 7:11 AM on May 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

You seem to be putting a lot of focus on your boyfriend/relationship to bring happiness to your life. Are there other things in your life that bring you comfort and joy? Especially awareness and acceptance of yourself and your own flaws and journey towards independent fulfillment?

Putting pressure on your SO to behave in a specific way and bring you happiness is a recipe that’s likely to drive him away, but cultivating internal happiness and contentment is a way to draw him closer.

And everything matthew.alexander said, too.
posted by itesser at 7:40 AM on May 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

You might find this book interesting:

Can Love Last?: The Fate of Romance over Time

Common wisdom has it that love is fragile, but leading psychoanalyst Stephen A. Mitchell argues that romance doesn't actually diminish in long-term relationships―it becomes increasingly dangerous. What we regard as the transience of love is really risk management. Mitchell shows that love can endure, if only we become aware of our self-destructive efforts to protect ourselves from its risks. "Those who read this book will love more wisely because of it."
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:57 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I trained myself: Every time I felt a stab of irritation I would force myself to notice something good he‘d done. So, he left the dirty plate out, yeah, but this morning he made me some coffee just to be nice to me.
It got me out of this mindset where I‘d be constantly noticing his flaws. Like you, I didn‘t actually want to be doing this and it was spoiling our time together. This way was a lot nicer - my brain started counting the sweet things he was doing and it was a much happier way to feel.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:04 AM on May 1, 2018 [13 favorites]

I found that dating an outright monster for a decade or two tends to make you appreciate a person whose roster of flaws happens not to include "he's an outright monster." I can't really recommend that strategy, but it does work.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:38 AM on May 1, 2018 [14 favorites]

When you say "life starts to happen" you're talking about things not really happening, just day-to-day life getting in the way. A fulfilling situation, whether it's with a partner or nearly anything else, isn't about having an amazing time every day, it's about a shared sense of purpose and shared goals. You think he'd be a good dad, so I'm assuming having a kid is something you strive toward. Talk about where you want to be in a year, two years, five years. What are you going to do when you retire? None of these things are set in stone, because life changes, things don't work out, you learn more about yourself, but you can always be constantly moving forward.

Life is both a day-to-day existence and looking to different things in the future that the day-to-day makes possible.
posted by mikeh at 8:40 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

My wife and I have been married almost 20 years. I think the best way to accept your partner's flaws is to talk about them. marfa, texas mentioned this above, but I think it really is key. You don't talk about them with the end goal of eliminating them (though sometimes that happens and it is great) but just as a way of letting the other person how best to be your partner. My wife loads the dishwasher wrong. I leave cabinets open. She hates dealing with bills. I am more introverted than she is. We find ways together to ameliorate those things, and each of our lives are improved by doing so.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:12 AM on May 1, 2018 [9 favorites]

Stop meditating on his flaws and when you find yourself fixating, ask yourself what other thing in life are you dissatisfied about but using your partner as a proxy. If you're just dissatisfied with life don't blame him.

Imagine some other woman over the moon to have him :P
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:44 AM on May 1, 2018

This might not be about flaws, but about realizing this might not be the person.

This is a good point. Is it painful to think of losing him? Then take the advice given above. Does the thought of never having to deal with [annoyance] again fill you with relief and joy? Then maybe you're done and it's time to move on. In the latter case, take some time to think about how you might avoid getting caught up in limerance with ultimately incompatible people *before* the next relationship. See if you can spot the clues and patterns you might avoid next time.
posted by freya_lamb at 10:04 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I know you're not married, but these books are the Gold Standard for relationship theory and research. The principles in these books do work and make a great difference when applied:

How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It -- Love, Stosny
Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work -- Gottman
Fighting for Your Marriage -- Markman, Stanley

These cover the "how" of getting past the "hump" (again and again...) The "why," well...

For me, the sustained joy of a long life together comes *because* of the humps, not in spite of them. Think of rocks in a rock tumbler (showing my age, probably.) Those rocks come out beautiful and shiny only because they've been weathering the bumps against each other and the "grit" of life -- and beacuse they stayed in the tumbler.
posted by cross_impact at 10:13 AM on May 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Your timeline is interesting. I actually think, by the 3-year-mark, the early honeymoon stage is long over and you actually have had a good chunk of time living with and tolerating the other person's imperfections. So one place to start would be to think about what strategies you've used, or what you've said to yourself, the first few times those imperfections showed up. Why did that thing not bother you so much at the one-year mark but really irks you now? How did you deal with it when you first noticed the imperfection? After three years, it's unlikely that your partner is suddenly revealing flaws that you didn't notice before. It's also unlikely that your partner is going to suddenly reveal a whole new set of flaws that you're going to have to learn to deal with. This leads to the second part of this - which is that the "hump" seems less about the specific imperfections of your partner, and more about what 3 years means to you. Does it feel like things are more serious after you've been with someone for 3 years? Is there pressure to make even more of a commitment (moving in together? getting married? even just thinking of someone as a "life partner" instead of a boyfriend?) that could be kicking up some of your own attachment/commitment stuff? My guess would be that the "hump" is more about reconciling your feelings about long-term partnership than it is about your boyfriend's imperfections. Rationally, you know the imperfections are going to be there. Maybe you're struggling with whether you can live with them long-term.
posted by sleepingwithcats at 10:40 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

How do you accept another's flaws? How do you focus more on the positive than the negative? How do you manage to have patience, to be less critical? How do you accept your partner's imperfections?

One of the best ways I've found to do this is to be aware of my own flaws, think about how much he accepts from me, how I'd like those flaws to be generously and positively interpreted, and then consciously do the same for him.

The thing is that every coin has two sides, and if these are annoyances, rather than outright dealbreakers, it's worth taking a conscious look at the alternatives. You say he's a slob, but some would call that easy-going. Would you rather live with someone who insists that his environment be organized according to military standards? (I have done so and for me, the answer was a definite no.) You say he does things with 75% effort, but some would say he works smart and conserves resources and energy for things that he believes are important. Would you rather be with someone who was constantly driven, with one of those "if it's not worth giving 110 per cent, it's not worth doing at all" attitudes? (Again, many find that intimidating and oppressive over the long term.) He walks slow? You could say he's relaxed. Would you prefer that he is always walking super-fast so you have to run to catch up to him? He's always late and rushes before work? He enjoys being at home and is not driven by his job. Would you prefer a workaholic who insists on being in the office hours before everyone else? (And besides, how much does his lateness and rushing affect you?) He's not very talkative when you're out with friends? Maybe he's a listener who lets others shine. Would you prefer to be with a blowhard who monopolizes the conversation? He’s a bit stingy with his money? That means he probably has savings to do the big things that are important to him.

Also, never underestimate the value of talking to your partner (while being open to hearing about his own complaints) and making practical changes to minimize the friction. For example, if he's a slob and you feel like you're doing too much of the cleaning, hire someone to take care of it. If his lateness drives you crazy in the morning, don't plan on leaving for work together. Talk about where to spend money and where to save, etc. etc..
posted by rpfields at 10:51 AM on May 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

My last answer should have said

as a way of letting the other person know how best to be your partner

We also have a sense of humor about it. If I remind my wife that most of our travel mugs have migrated to the Bermuda Triangle that is her car's interior, she will often respond with, "Well, at least I remember to scoop the litter box once in a while!" Not in an argumentative way, but in a silly, mock-defensive kind of way. It serves its purpose though - it is a way for us to remind ourselves that we shouldn't feel too bad for being "caught out", as none of us are perfect, and it reminds us not to feel too superior when we do notice the other one slacking a bit.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:05 AM on May 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

It is SO funny because I read your question and I was nodding away, I recognize everything that you've said in your question. Your SO could be my husband, they share a LOT of similar traits, the good and the bad.

And immediately after I finished reading your question, I texted my husband to tell him that I love him, and that even though I tell him that I love him every day, it's probably still not enough.

Because here's the thing; if he didn't have these flaws, these irritants, these things that make him different from me, I know I would be totally bored. I would find something else to moan about, there will always be something that we don't like in our partners. That is also true of our friends and our family... no-one is perfect.

It helped me to recognize that I'm not perfect either. I'm gross. I fart in bed and I overreact and I don't do my hair at weekends and I don't shave my legs all the time and I sweat and my face gets red and I burn easily and I blow my nose 300 times a day and I watch trashy TV and I don't read as much as I should and I fly off the handle for no reason and I can be short tempered and I'm so happy that someone loves me despite all of this - likely because he doesn't over-analyze me the way I over-analyze him.

A successful relationship will have BALANCE, that's really what you need. So focus on his STRONG points and accept that everyone will have weaknesses that annoy you / upset you / irritate you. If you really cannot live with his flaws then feel free to move on, but do so in the knowledge that no-one is perfect and even if they were, there would still be SOMETHING!
posted by JenThePro at 11:41 AM on May 1, 2018 [16 favorites]

Other people have a lot of very specific advice above but I would just say that all of this stuff got a lot easier for me when I finally fully internalized two things:

1) A relationship should in general ease and expand your life. It can add *complexity* but it should not add day-to-day unnecessary *misery*

2) No one is entitled to a perfectly frictionless life.

These two things might seem contradictory but they aren't, because friction isn't misery. What specifically constitutes each thing varies by person somewhat I'm sure. (Obviously love in general opens us up to certain universal human miseries like the death of a loved one, but that's not really what I'm talking about nor does it seem to be what you're worried about. Maybe. Maybe all this criticism is a cover for a deep fear of being wounded on that very basic human level...?)

Your partner rushing around in the mornings when you would rather be calm and leisurely is friction. Your partner being so chronically late for so many things that jobs are lost and people are routinely left in uncomfortable or unsafe situations is misery.

Reminding myself that I am not entitled to a life without any moment spent experiencing the former has helped a lot. Reminding myself that I do not have to spend my entire life experiencing the latter has helped a lot too.

Also, I mean, I did once have an extremely vivid dream that my partner had died and I was living alone in our apartment and afraid to clean anything up because that was how he'd left it, and boy, did that dream suck a LOT and give me a bunch of perspective on things.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:55 PM on May 1, 2018 [23 favorites]

There is a period of "catch up" to play out after the honeymoon period ends. That's when you have to get down to discussing and negotiating the less exciting parts of life together and catching up and attending to all of the mundane life stuff that was neglected during the excitement period.

Your thinking is flawed in that this new phase is of permanence. It's not. It too will play out and end before a new phase again begins, this is often a phase that once settled and established, a couple actively creates and works on building that life from the foundation they just established together. This also often comes along with a new phase of excitement, fun and falling in love all over again. And a little more independence with life, friends, social activities etc.
Building anything good takes work and effort, and not all of the work will be fun, but that's what makes the fun parts all the more enjoyable.

When things start to cool down enough that you start to focus on that, you're going to have to make a deliberate effort to turn things around and bring back the excitement, instead of ruminating on the fact that it's dissipating. You and your partner both have an active role to play in "keeping the fire burning," it won't feed itself and it will burn out from neglect.
Your partners WILL leave if you don't make efforts to cultivate your own happiness.
A good quote to illustrate this is,
'The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, 'If you will take care of me, I will take care of you. 'Now I say, I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.'" -Jim Rohn
This is the difference between healthy interdependence and unhealthy codependece.
A partner left feeling responsible for not only all of your happiness, but providing you will all of the excitement, is absolutely going to burn out and give up after while with the acknowledgement that they've reached the point where you aren't, can't and won't be happy with yourself, them and the relationship and so they end it, because it's a losing battle against your sabotage.

You've identified some of your own flaws here, things that likely rub your partner the wrong way. Are you able to look at the bigger picture: a mutual accepting of an imperfect partner? You'll have to accept and forgive your own if you want to forgive your partners.

Something that hasn't been mentioned here is that this seems a lot like the intrusive thoughts characteristic of OCD personality disorder or Relationship OCD. There is a lot of information, tools and therapies available to address these self sabotage issues and help you focus your naturally rigid/obsessive thoughts on positive things instead of negative ones. Also practices that help you stay in the moment, will help you assess the moment independently, instead of reminiscing and comparing it to past moments.
posted by OnefortheLast at 8:12 PM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think sleepingwithcats has an important point here:

"So one place to start would be to think about what strategies you've used, or what you've said to yourself, the first few times those imperfections showed up."

... when you first see those imperfections, what has been your response? If it has been to ignore them and blindly focus on only the positive parts, without mentioning what bothers you? If this is the case, I think that you've been setting yourself up for this relationship burnout with each partner. I know that it can be difficult to voice differences of opinion and expectations when you're initially trying to really "get the most out of", and truly enjoy, a new relationship to the fullest extent... but if you find yourself constantly feeling like you're putting up with disgusting habits and personality faults that don't mesh with who you are and what you can live with, then you need to start speaking up sooner.

They say that "you train people how to treat you"... but you also need to accept facts, and make hard decisions earlier on. Perhaps all you need is some assistance with standing up, and speaking up for yourself.
posted by itsflyable at 9:43 PM on May 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

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