What's normal in a relationship?
April 13, 2007 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Are you in a long-term relationships? If so, how satisfied are you, how much of the time?

I recognize the ways this question is idiotic, and I get that there are many relationship questions here already, but I've spent 30 minutes looking through old questions and can't find this one:

How happy are you with your partner? I know this is silly to ask but, what percent of the time are you satisfied in your relationship? Have you gone through misearble periods where you wanted to end it only to be happy later? What reasures you that your relationship is right for you? Or are you wracked with doubt like me? Is 'wracked with doubt' just a normal state for any partnered person?

I think of myself as being 'good at' relationships. I'm romantic, attentive, compassionate, passionate, etc. (I have difficult traits too, but I do really make an effort to be a good partner.) Yet, although I'm only in my 30s, I'm now on my several-th long-term relationship and I feel almost totally unsatisfied and every day I consider ending it.

I suspect the details of my relationship are irrelevant to my question but basically, I love my partner, I still admire her, am attracted to her, and enjoy her company, but we fight constantly, we rarely connect in a fun or positive way, and we have reached a point of low-motivation in terms of healing and creating good times together. But I can't tell if I've gotten to this point because of something specific to the relationship, or because of something specific to me. (Note, I have done lots of individual therapy as well as couples counseling with her. I'm familiar with the major self-help books too.)

Basically, I want to know - what the fuck is normal in terms of happyness, satisfaction, getting-needs-met, etc, because if this is normal, then I want to learn to be happy in it, so that I don't spend my life by myself.

Feel free to email confusedspouse@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (43 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Have you gone through misearble periods where you wanted to end it only to be happy later?


I think that's normal.
posted by konolia at 10:55 AM on April 13, 2007

I was single for a looooooooong time - like 3 years - and in that time had many unsuccessful first dates. I'm in a relationship now, and have been for the last month or so. I absolutely love it. I'm satisfied 110% of the time. Even when I'm not satisfied because of something, I'm satisfied because it doesn't feel that way. We mesh very well together, and if we were married in six months, it wouldn't shock me. Things are THAT good.

I felt the way you feel in my previous relationships. When you get to the point where you are thinking about ending it almost every single day, just do yourselves a favor and end it. I was in a 7 year relationship for 4 years too long, and it sucked. Why did I finally end it? Because he had a seizure, and while he's laying there on the ground and I'm holding his head still, I thought, "..... if he died, I wouldn't have to deal with all the stress of breaking up with him. It would just be OVER."

So yeah.

Don't wait until she has a seizure to leave. Leave NOW and find someone that makes you like the bad stuff as much as the good.
posted by damnjezebel at 10:58 AM on April 13, 2007

I don't think it matters what "normal" is if normal isn't what it takes to make you happy. I can't handle having a boss and have had to figure out other ways of making a living. That's not normal by most people's definitions, but that's what it's taken to make me happy in daily life.

For what it's worth, I've been in my relationship for 16 years and have never been wracked with doubt. I've never gone through a miserable period and wanted to end it (though I have gone through personal miserable periods due to the aforementioned boss issue!). We do not fight constantly. The only problem I have with my partner is that he will die someday and I will be without him.
posted by xo at 11:01 AM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's normal to have ups and downs, yes, even in good relationships. But is it normal to "fight constantly" and "rarely connect in a fun or positive way"? That's more normal in a relationship that isn't working out.

You shouldn't resign yourself to being miserable. It can be very tempting to think that everybody else is miserable too, therefore whatever you do won't make a difference, therefore you can keep things as they are - no need to make a change on your part. But if you do that, you cheat yourself out of the possibility to really be happy. And yes, it does happen - many relationships are not miserable, most of the time.
posted by wyzewoman at 11:04 AM on April 13, 2007

"Constantly" for how long? Like, a week or 3 years?
posted by DU at 11:05 AM on April 13, 2007

Serious chatfilter, though obviously this has been through the moderator filter.

Anyway, "normal" is a tough one for me, because I believe my 5-year relationship is a pretty much a paragon. So much so that exposure to it has seemingly brought about the disintegration of three other relationships that had some unspoken rifts.

We quarrel, sometimes out of irritability and sometimes out of hugely theatrical door-slamming emotionality, based in deep-seated issues like insecurity or the occasionally alarming confrontation with the fact that we do have some major personality differences. However, we work hard to learn from these episodes, and to moderate our behaviors that hurt one another. We compromise and seek self-improvement to improve the relationship, in concrete and expressed ways. This is an open-source relationship.

Now, you are older and apparently more experienced than I, but don't seem to be able to define whether you're content or not. Do you think you have stereotypical male commitment issues? Are you wondering how to find something great in spite of having something good? I glean that you're trying to determine whether what you've got is good or great.

All you say is wrong with the relationship is that you fight constantly. Stop it! Grow up! You're a team, swallow your pride and open yourself to the relationship, at the expense of what you may think of as your personal identity. This can be a form of growth, not loss. One book recommendation I'm thinking of because that gendered idea of men feeling compromised by allowing that kind of criticism and access to their "selves" comes from here is: We Need To Talk. I read it in a sociology of love class in college.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:08 AM on April 13, 2007

It's hard to make this sort of comparison, because some people are more doubt-prone than others.

It could be that you're a level-headed individual and your relationships so far have sucked. It could be that you've had lovely relationships and you're just a perfectionist, a doubter or a tad bit neurotic.

Look at it this way: is being "wracked with doubt" a normal state for you?
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:13 AM on April 13, 2007

I have times of serious doubt, but only because things are going so well I wonder if it's too good to be true. It has been three years and we have not had a serious, could-it-ever-end fight. The only times I am not happy are the times when it is something other than the relationship affecting me. He's my anchor.
posted by sian at 11:14 AM on April 13, 2007

Anon, while we're chatfiltering anyway, I can tell you that I could pretty much be you. So at least you're not the only one in the world who feels the way you do.

To clarify for anybody I know who may be reading this, my current relationship can not be described as you described yours, but everybody I know knows I'm wracked with doubt at all times about my relationships.
posted by iguanapolitico at 11:21 AM on April 13, 2007

Response by poster: It's been almost a year. We have had a large fight perhaps once or twice, made up within an hour. We have disagreements more frequently, but they're always resolved at the same time of the disagreement. I would say I am satisfied, happy, and getting my needs met most of the time. The times I'm not feeling that way are the times I remember I'm dating a man (but that's another story).

I have heard people say our relationship is especially good, so perhaps it is not normal, but you sound more miserable than you ought to be.
posted by Anonymous at 11:22 AM on April 13, 2007

I don't think that constant fighting is a good thing, regardless of your personality differences. Others who are satisfied with their volatile relationships may disagree, but I think it's a sign of fundamental disrespect. To me part of what makes my marriage work is that my husband and I really don't fight at all. We disagree occassionally, but I don't think either of us has ever raised our voice at the other. (In about 6 years.) For me that is the minimum that I expect from a life partner-- respect. So yeah, I am happy, and no, I am not wracked with doubts, and I have never considered leaving my relationship.

Sounds to me like you are simply unhappy. Whether that is caused by or causes your relationship troubles may be a very difficult thing to figure out. In the meantime, it doesn't sound to me like you and your partner are well suited to each other. If that's the case it's probably kinder to you both to end it.
posted by miss tea at 11:24 AM on April 13, 2007

One of my favorite things to say about relationships is that love has everything and nothing to do with it. If you're not content, get out of it.

We don't fight all the time. We do have arguments but nothing that challenges the core of our relationship.

I'd say I'm happy most of the time and even when I feel like I want to punch him in the face, I know that there is no one else in the world I'd want to feel that way about ;)
posted by heartquake at 11:30 AM on April 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

I have been in a relationship for three years and have not had a single 'fight' (with raised voices, name calling, etc.) we have had a few disagreements but in the end we always agree to disagree. now, we have never cohabited, so I'm sure that has something to do with it.
posted by sid at 11:33 AM on April 13, 2007

I don't think there is a "normal" in this sense. There is only what is right for you. It sounds like this isn't. The question is, how much of the problem are you bringing to the table. "Severalth long-term relationship" sounds like you are saying all of your relationships turn out this way? If this is the case then you are either selecting for these traits , or creating the hostile environment.

My first long-term relationship was much like yours and it was killing me slowly. Because I grew up in a turbulent household I felt it was something I just had to endure. Now I know better. Normal to me now is a relationship of mutual respect, love, and support, with no tolerance for abuse, either physical of verbal. I went through several years of brief relationships that lasted just long enough to get a glimpse of what the post-courtship dynamics would be like until I found my current (and lifetime) partner. It was worth the wait.

Not chatfilter at all, the poster has a very specific question, one I'd wished I'd known to ask a lot sooner.
posted by Manjusri at 11:34 AM on April 13, 2007

i've been with my partner for almost five years, living together for about four and a half of that and married for almost two. we fight more than i would like, and more than some people would find acceptable. but during the more than 99% of the time when we aren't fighting, i'm totally thrilled to be with him and that feeling has not worn off. that feeling is one of the best things in my life, and if we didn't have it i would really miss it and wonder why.

tangentially, i saw a study once that suggested that content couples tend to have sex more often than they argue. there are a couple of ways to approach that one...
posted by lgyre at 11:35 AM on April 13, 2007

Is 'wracked with doubt' just a normal state for any partnered person?

I think it is a semi-normal state, but I don't think it should be, or that it has to be.

I have been with my partner for two and a half years. We've lived together for a year. I don't know if you would consider this "long term" or not.

In all of my previous relationships (which I should add were quite short), I experienced similar things to what you describe: frequent fighting, doubts, thoughts of ending it. I am the type to act on those things impulsively and decisively, which explains the "quite short" part.

With my current partner, it is just not like that. I have no serious doubts about it; I get annoyed with him occasionally, but it never lasts more than a few hours. We have had a couple big fights, but we talked them out and they got resolved. I know 100% that he is the right person for me to be with; I just can't imagine anyone else taking care of me, understanding me, knowing my moods, making me laugh, etc. the way he does.

I think the thing that is the most worrying about your description is the part about "we rarely connect in a fun or positive way". Not that fighting is good or anything, but it seems some couples can still fight frequently and be very attached to each other. But there should be some really fun and rewarding times interspersed. I guess I don't really understand how you could NOT connect in a fun and positive way if you love, admire, enjoy the company of your partner as you mentioned above. Do you have long talks? Do you share your feelings about every day events? Do you do fun activities together, or normal activities that are fun when you're with each other? Do you make each other laugh? To me those seem like the basics.

If it's not like this, but you can easily remember a time when it was, I think the building blocks for rewarding intimacy are still there... you just need to go back and find them.

Good luck.
posted by crackingdes at 11:44 AM on April 13, 2007

Two data points for you on my two LTRs:

I was in a four year relationship in my mid 20's that 80% of the time was good or great and even when it wasn't so great it never became horrible. It ended because we had simply grown apart and wanted very different things, but there was never much fighting. There was growing doubt on my part during the last year, and I knew it was time to go when I much more frequently envisioned my without him than with him.

My current relationship is three years old and I am 34. The first year was great, but a bit tentative. We were both recently out of rocky relationships (his was long-term. Mine was just a year long but very very intense), and were moving very slowly. But once we established a firm basis of trust and figured out we wanted a lot of the same things out of life, things went from great to incredibly wonderful. Like 95% of the time. And life hasn't been easy; in the last year we were both laid off, his mother died, my best friend died, and he was diagnosed with diabetes. But we've never had anything close to a fight, at worst there have been some moments of annoyance and snapping at each other (which we usually laugh about later). Neither of us are "fighters" to begin with, and we are very truthful with each other, but in a loving non-confrontational way. So yeah. I'm pretty freaking happy these days. T

I could never be in a relationship with continual sniping, annoyance, or fighting. I can't think of anything more miserable.
posted by kimdog at 11:48 AM on April 13, 2007

I'm not trying to brag, but honestly, I think that my relationship might be abnormal, because of the things I hear from many other people with long-term relationships.

I have been married for a year and a half, we lived together for 2 years previous to the marriage and had a long-distance relationship previous to that for about 2 years.

I am satisfied with our relationship 100% of the time.

That does not mean we don't have disagreements, but we don't have big drawn out fights, for certain. So far we've been able to talk openly and honestly without any sulking or yelling or "I said this but I really mean this" type of games. I believe my husband is exactly who I want to be with and who I need to be with. The only miserable period we had was near the end of the long-distance relationship, where it was either we were going to break up or be together. He moved to Chicago to be with me and everything fell into place from there.

I am reassured that my relationship is right for me because I'm so darn happy all of the time - when I'm down, my husband cheers me up - vice versa from me to him. We laugh together, enjoy the same types of media, are both creative (in different ways - him music and mixed media work and me in mixed media and conceptual work) and like to do certain things together like cook. Doubts about our relationship faded years ago.

You probably ARE "good at relationships." But if you're not with the person who fulfills you, you will likely be wracked with doubt.

If you fight constantly, get out. If you aren't motivated to communicate positively or want to heal each other, to work together to make it work, then get out.

But take me with a grain of salt. All I ever hear from other married/long-term friends seems to be whining and complaining about how one doesn't understand the other, or that one of them plays games, or that one is demanding and the other has to acquiese or they fight. This is perhaps only the people I know, but anyone who has to roll their eyes while relating something about their SO, or otherwise speaks of them in any kind of contempt-laden way - well, I look askance at them and wonder why they've settled for that kind of communication and resentment in their lives. I truly don't think it has to be that way, although popular culture seems to say otherwise.

Good luck.
posted by agregoli at 11:49 AM on April 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

In all my previous relationships I was also racked with doubt. Not all the time - but on a recurring basis. I also wondered if this was normal - after all, everyone says that relationships are hard work. I figured that everyone settled for less somewhere down the line and wondered if I was settling for less more often or less often than everyone else.

This time, I just knew. Immediately. There was no doubt - and there still hasn't been a moment of doubt, 4 years later. We have occasional fights and disagreements - but they have never made either one of us question whether we wanted to be together. It's weird - I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't live it. It's just so blatantly obvious that we are partners in every sense of the word that it wouldn't occur to either of us to think otherwise.

So my answer to you is - is it normal to be full of doubts about your relationship? Yes. I think many, many people live that way. Does it have to be that way? No. Good luck.
posted by widdershins at 11:53 AM on April 13, 2007 [5 favorites]

How happy are you with your partner?
I'm in a long-term relationship (> 5 years) and am happy a significant portion of the time. We don't often fight and usually have a lot of fun together being silly. We are close with a couple that fights often, but they seem really happy and loving together despite the fighting, so I don't think there's any one answer there. For some people, that's just how it is and they make it work.

Have you gone through miserable periods where you wanted to end it only to be happy later? What reassures you that your relationship is right for you?
Yes. In those cases I try to analyze what is causing the issue, if it is temporary, and what the likely outcome is. Honestly, a lot of times it's our track record that reassures me. We're normally good, so if there's a period of not good, I start to get nervous but have to remind myself that it's probably a phase. I once had a friend at work who had been married 10 years tell me (with her husband sitting right there and nodding), "Some years are amazing and you can't imagine they'll ever go away, some years are so awful you're contemplating divorce all the time. But they all even out in the end and it's worth it to make it through the tough times to get to the good stuff." I was a little freaked out when she said that, but I think she's right.

Or are you wracked with doubt like me? Is 'wracked with doubt' just a normal state for any partnered person?
I am wracked with doubt occasionally. But that is more a product of my general neurosis than a reflection of my relationship (in seventh grade I was voted "Biggest Worrywart" and things haven't changed much since then). My partner is a very chill person, so he balances that out and calms me 99.9% of the time. Most couples I know are not wracked with doubt. It may pop up from time to time, but isn't a consuming thing.

Good luck, have you tried talking about this with her?
posted by ml98tu at 11:54 AM on April 13, 2007

I was with my first wife for a dozen years. We were very much in love for the first stretch, but we fought a lot—she'd grown up in a fightin' family, and she felt comfortable with yelling, throwing things, and occasional shoves and the like. I didn't, but had to acclimate (my parents kept whatever disagreements they had out of my ken, so I wasn't at all used to it). We almost broke up a couple of times, and I was often very upset with her and unsatisfied with the relationship. When we got divorced, I was devastated but on some level relieved.

I've been with my current wife seven and a half years, and have been absolutely thrilled with the relationship throughout. We understand each other, we love each other, we don't argue, when we disagree we enjoy exploring the disagreement and learning more about how each other thinks... well, you get the idea. I don't mean to brag, just to let you know that what you're describing is not inevitable or universal. If you "fight constantly" and "rarely connect in a fun or positive way," and if you don't want to go on that way, rest assured that it is possible to do better (assuming, of course, that you're not subconsciously seeking out difficult partners). Good luck!
posted by languagehat at 12:03 PM on April 13, 2007

Deep doubt every 3-12 months is normal for me. It's part of working through trade-offs (security vs. freedom, career vs. family, etc).

Doubting things every day wears things down. Respect the fact that if you're wracked with doubt your s.o. is likely picking up on it and may be feeling defensive. In hindsight I realize some behaviors may have been caused by this tension in previous relationships.
posted by ejaned8 at 12:16 PM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

My current partner and I are the gay male version of the Romanos on Everybody Loves Raymond, the diffences are that the parents are always on the phone (not in the house) and we have pets (not kids). Sometimes we argue. Sometimes we get frustrated with each other. Sometimes our disagreements last several episodes weeks. But we always laugh and have a great time together. We've been together six and a half years, and I couldn't imagine being with anyone else.

It isn't a rose garden. We almost broke up twice, no three times. In some ways we are exactly alike, in others polar opposites. He's frequently ill and typically is hospitalized a few times a year. We haven't had sex in I don't know how long (I'm talking years here).

I don't think we're "normal" -- who is? And who gets to define that word, anyhow? We'd probably be better off if we forgot "normal" and concentrated on being our best selves.

The core of things, even in the rough times, is that my partner and I have so many values, wishes, and goals in common that we simply have to stay together. We can't be who we are and who we want to be if we are apart.
posted by Robert Angelo at 12:31 PM on April 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Just echoing agregol's comment-- My wife and I don't fight (though do disagree) and our relationship is more about "what kinda fun are we going to have this week" be it in a separate lives or together. There at no doubts about whether we will or should be together.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:32 PM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've been seriously dating my fiance for >4 years, living together for about a year total. I can honestly say that I'm happy we're together 100% of the time. Sometimes I get frustrated or hormonal and I lose my temper and get short with him. Sometimes he doesn't give me enough "me time", or he gets bored and starts pestering me to entertain him. Sometimes we fight over whose turn it is to do the dishes, or whether we should buy an exercise bike, or whatever. But most of the time he's completely a part of me - breaking up with him would be like losing a limb. I love to go on adventures with him, to watch TV, cook, and do laundry with him, even if he puts soap in on top of the clothes instead of underneath.

We're better together than apart, and I won't leave him until that's no longer true.
posted by muddgirl at 12:34 PM on April 13, 2007

My partner and I have been together for about eight years, since I was in highschool. The only time I have ever had intense doubt was after I lived abroad for a year and came home really homophobic. Other than that, we fight, we bicker, we argue, but I have never seriously considered leaving her. I have never thought my life would be better/happier without her, it would just be better if she would just stop being so goddamn (whatever we're fighting about at the time)! We have lots of fun together, we talk about everything and every time I look at her I think about how lucky I am that she still hasn't caught on that she could get better than me.

This is what my long-term relationship is like. YMMV. I wouldn't stay in a relationship that had me constantly wracked with doubt.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:10 PM on April 13, 2007

My husband and I have been married for 2.5 years, together for 5 (I am 31) and we are another couple that does not fight. Or rather, we haven't for about 4 or so years. We had two screaming matches early in our relationship, which I can now look back upon and pinpoint the cause, so there has been no need to fight since.

We have disagreements, sure, but they are resolved quickly and sometimes even while we are hashing them out I start laughing because I realise it's stupid to be annoyed at the person I hopefully will be living with for the rest of my life. I never ever feel doubt in our relationship, and I know he doesn't either.
posted by gaspode at 1:17 PM on April 13, 2007

I would suggest: stop trying to look at this objectively and look at it subjectively. Don't ask, "is this good enough?" ask, "is this what I really want?"
posted by salvia at 1:40 PM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't know that it matters what the median experience is from a census of couples. Even if your expectations were ridiculously high (by other peoples standards), which I personally don't think they are, it doesn't matter because it doesn't sound like they're being met.

Do you want to be in doubt all the time (forget whether or not it's justified)? Are you feeling happy feelings as much as you'd like (regardless of whether others would be permantly blissful were they in your shoes)?

I always refer to this as the "gray area problem". When things are black, it's really easy to decide whether or not to bail. She cheats on you, yeah, that's pretty black. You are euphorically happy 100% of the time, yeah, that's pretty white.

But what about the grey stuff? Where is the grey? And where is that border between the shade of gray that has more black than white in it? (hint. It's not halfway between being happy and being miserable)

See, you're in the scary place where you're picking apart shades of grey. Is that good enough for you?

I realized this blaringly clear in my last long term relationship, when it occured to me that I was MORE lonely with him than I would be without (once I would get through the icky painful breakup part and get used to being single again). At least without, I was available to find a new lover and a friend.

Which is the correct spelling of grey/gray?
posted by iamkimiam at 1:45 PM on April 13, 2007

I think it really depends on what you're going for. If you believe that life-long happiness is determined by having one partner for the rest of your life (with or without marriage, with or without kids), you're asking the wrong people. Given the divorce statistics these days, and the average demographic of Metafilter, virtually nobody here is in the position to give you advice on how to sustain a long-term relationship or what a succesful one looks like. Today's "My relationship is perfect!" is tomorrow's "She won't stop humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic! Hope me!" It's a bit like if Lewis asked Clark for directions to the Western passage: nobody here has ever done it, and most probably never will.

All we can say is, "So far, so good." There may be some people here who had a bad relationship that wasn't fulfilling, and ended it. There is nobody here who has had a perfect relationship and ended it. Most importantly, there are people here who are in a less-than-fulfilling relationship and who will carry it out in perpetuity, but there's no way of knowing that case, which is the one, really, that applies to you.

However, if you were to head over to Ask-an-Octogenarian-Filter, they would probably tell you that over the course of fifty-plus years, most (not all) relationships will have down times, for long stretches of months or even years. And if you're committed to staying with the person, you'll overlook your current situation in light of a lifetime of fulfillment and happiness. There's a lot to be said for long-term comfort and support.

On the other hand, if you think the whole thing is hogwash and you truly believe that there's one person who will make you happy and fulfilled always, every hour of every day, you can continue to break up with your current partner in search of something better. Chances are, if you're switching partners every few years in search of the perfect one, it may be you're looking for a magical soul mate that doesn't exist. If, rather, you decided that you've found a woman whom you love, admire, find attractive and whose company you enjoy, maybe you should spend more time trying to fulfill her needs and desires, and less time worrying about what she's doing for you. You might find it surprisingly satisfying.

It's my belief that relationships are in constant need of re-affirmation; a perpetual process of deciding to continue. I guess to address your question specifically, in the three long term relationships I've been in, each has contained stretches of total bliss and other periods of discontent. Needless to say, the first two didn't work out. We'll see how this one goes -- with a little luck I'll get back to you in about fifty years.
posted by one_bean at 1:48 PM on April 13, 2007 [14 favorites]

life is waaaaaaay to short to be miserable. get out!
posted by ZackTM at 2:04 PM on April 13, 2007

I am at nearly 100%. Have there been some rough spots along the way? Sure, but we got through them with hard work and devotion. One good route to success in relationships is to devote at least as much energy to making your partner happy as you do to yourself. The fact that you are feeling miserable all the time that is not a good sign.
posted by caddis at 2:23 PM on April 13, 2007

I am often unhappy but that has far more to do with depression than it does with my relationship with my husband. That sounds so obvious, but it's not. Sometimes I feel very low, and like there's nothing in our relationship sustaining me, but at those times, I often neglect to consider that nothing that I previously enjoyed is appealing to me.

And so it goes that if I don't have a good awareness of my mental state, I become irritated with my husband, and i either snap at him, or I withhold resentments, and it builds up, and I begin to avoid him - yes, you'd think I'd behave in a more respectful and adult way by now, wouldn't you, but the problem here is I often don't realise it's happening.

So can I ask you, not what is bothering you about your relationship, but what you get out of it? Does your partner make you laugh? Do they find you funny? Are you certain that if there was any body-hiding (or equivalent) to be done, that they'd be there beside you with a shovel? Because despite my resentments and my scheduled misery, these things are true for me with my husband and I value them enormously.

And this is another thing, I think that you need to consider. Here I have said that laughter and unconditional support is what makes my marriage great. Someone else might say, if you're not working towards the same goals, don't bother. Or maybe you need to have the same religious viewpoints, or I don't know. Different people want different things.

Things I think are generally unrealistic, tho there's bound to be a couple of mefites who experience them:
very regular always steamy sex
total and absolute agreement on everything
great relationships with extended family
lack of financial or any other kind of worries that impact a relationship

good luck with it.
posted by b33j at 2:48 PM on April 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Thank you for asking this question. I'm feeling similarly myself.
posted by divabat at 3:02 PM on April 13, 2007

Dating for 5.5 years, living together for 3.5 years, married for 8 months. This is the only long-term relationship I've ever been in, and I guess it's the only long-term relationship I'll ever be in unless he dies unexpectedly young (let's hope that doesn't happen).

How happy are you with your partner?
Very. Sometimes I think about friends with whom I've had a spark and wonder about what would have happened if I'd ended up with them instead, sometimes I appreciate when a flirtatious guy doesn't notice my wedding ring, because the prospect of something different is a little bit exciting. But not enough to ever act on, or to regret my decision to pledge myself to a life of monogamy. I have a nearly constant appreciation for my husband. Even when he does little things that annoy me, they just annoy me in a small way, not in a way that bothers me beyond the moment.

I know this is silly to ask but, what percent of the time are you satisfied in your relationship?
Probably 98% of the time that I'm actually thinking about it. Or 99%. But my spousal relationship become a given in my life that I don't think about as an entity most of the time, just as I don't think about how satisfied I am with my relationships with my brothers, my parents, my friends. I think about these people as individuals who help me define my life and who I relate to, but I don't think about the "relationship" with any of them very much.

Have you gone through misearble periods where you wanted to end it only to be happy later?
Not where I wanted to end it, but there have been difficult periods where communication didn't seem to work. I'd say what I wanted to say, and he'd hear something different than I meant and it would hurt him, and then he'd respond and I'd hear something different than he meant and it would hurt me. Sometimes just hugging each other silently was the only way we could communicate how much we meant to each other. Everything seemed hard, much harder than it should have been. Neither of us knew how to fix it, except to keep hugging each other, keep loving each other, keep talking to each other no matter how many times the words came out wrong. And with time, it got easier again.

What reasures you that your relationship is right for you?
We fit. I mean, I love him, he's cute, I'm attracted to him, he's a good friend, etc., etc., etc. But what really reassures me is that we just get each other. Our weaknesses and strengths are complimentary. We like each other, we like being together, we're totally comfortable even when we're stressed and miserable. Holding hands makes the world feel better.

Or are you wracked with doubt like me?

Is 'wracked with doubt' just a normal state for any partnered person?
Hmmm, I don't know. I'm wracked with doubt about my job, my impending home purchase, my financial health, my physical health, my friends, my talents, my appearance, my future, my education levels, my relationship with my mother. But I'm not wracked with doubt about my husband or my relationship with him. When everything else gets too overwhelming, I can talk to him about it and I always feel better, less wracked, afterwards.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:06 PM on April 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Since when is three years a long-term thing? I have shoes older than that. :) Heck, you probably do, too.

The Spousal Unit and I have been together for 26 years, including two separations. One time for six months, so ups 'n downs happen, sometimes is a big way.

We certainly do not agree on everything but fighting is very, very rare. I read a book one time that explained when somebody is angry at you, it really has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with them.

That little truth has held up pretty well over the years. See if you can figure out how it applies to your situation.

Just don't expect that the crazy 'falling in love' state to last over time. The qualities of love shift over time and settle into a rich, comfortable state that is more satisfying and enduring than the whiplash of new love. But people can be addicted to new love and think that when the change happens they don't love you anymore when that may not be the case at all.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:22 PM on April 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Here's your experience: we fight constantly, we rarely connect in a fun or positive way, and we have reached a point of low-motivation in terms of healing and creating good times together The last point is the most deadly for a relationship.

I've been married eight years, I love my wife, and I'm a better person because of her. But that doesn't help you at all. This thread will not lead to simple conclusions about LTRs like, "all love dies " or "all you need is love." At a minimum, however, you should end a relationship where you have "low motivation" about "healing and creating good times together," unless you have a plan to change your motivation.
posted by ferdydurke at 4:07 PM on April 13, 2007

I feel almost totally unsatisfied and every day I consider ending it. [...] I love my partner, I still admire her, am attracted to her, and enjoy her company, but we fight constantly, we rarely connect in a fun or positive way, and we have reached a point of low-motivation in terms of healing and creating good times together.

This may be a pefectly common state for many relationships to be in, but it certainly doesn't make it desirable, necessary, or inevitable. If you truly feel "almost totally unsatisfied" on a daily basis, and you and your partner truly have no motivation to heal past ills and create good times together, then your relationship may be reaching the end of the road. (Well, it's not necessarily the end of the road; you could stay and wait for things to turn really toxic. But, you know, there are other options.)

By way of comparison, I would characterize my current relationship (just under two years) as the healthiest, happiest one of my life -- we certainly don't agree 100% of the time (we had a snitty little fight last night, in fact), but we do feel we're on each other's side 100% of the time, even when we are in conflict (which isn't common, but it does happen). And while we may not feel 100% satisfied 100% of the time, when it comes to communication, affection, consideration, intimacy, trust, security, companionship, and general happiness with each other, I know we are both highly satisfied in all these categories the vast majority of the time.

But the relevant point here is that it didn't happen by accident -- there was some luck involved in initially meeting each other, but we didn't luck into a good relationship. It happened because we had both really examined what qualities we were looking for in a partner -- and what qualities we really wanted to bring to a relationship as partners ourselves. So by the time we met (I was 36 at the time; he was 42) and hit it off like gangbusters, we were ready and able to make it work (and it is work) beyond the initial state of infatuation.

A book that helped me tremendously (and that I recommend all the time in these threads) is How to Be an Adult in Relationships. Ignore the misleading "how to" in the title and dive in. It's honestly the wisest thing I've ever read about how to cultivate healthy relationships.

Good luck. Life's too short to miserable.
posted by scody at 4:21 PM on April 13, 2007

First of all, let me say that I don't consider my long-term relationship (12 years, next month) normal at all. She was the first girl I'd ever dated. I followed her to college because it made sense to me, and it turned out to be the perfect choice. We've lived together in some manner for the past 10 years. We're not married yet, but it's not a question of "if," and for us the whole matter is just a bunch of signatures and some jewelry, and we get to throw a party.

I'm not trying to brag here. In fact, I'm sure people will find more to poke fun at because obviously I have absolutely no experience "dating" or any insight at all into "finding the right person." But I believe the reason we are able to stay happy in this relationship is that we know small tricks on how to make each other happy, and we try to do these things actively in small ways every day. I'm not going to go into a hokey relationship spiel here, but I will say that the small things are important. Stuff like saying "Please" and "Thank You" and not taking things for granted. Did she wash your dishes along with hers? "Thanks for washing my dishes." Even small things like this register appreciation in the brain. And (on a practical note) for every time you don't say "Please" or "Thanks," remember that if the other person is annoyed by something else, a couple more little annoyances can set off what can only be described as a poorly-focused emotional outburst. These lead to fights where no one knows for sure the specific points you're arguing over, and because of this you're both pissed the hell off and are only getting angrier.

Making each other happy, in small ways, is laying a good foundation towards making each other happy in larger ways. I hope you can figure out with your partner which things will accomplish this. And then you also need to figure out what you are fighting about. In my situation, we've learned how to fight by a few rules to ensure our survival:

- We don't swear at each other or call each other names when we're fighting. Never. Major scar tissue. After being together for so long, you know what buttons you could push and you know what would hurt the other person the most. It is imperative you do not resort to this - it's M.A.D.
- After every fight, somebody apologizes, and usually both of us. I believe Marcel Wallace put it best - pride only hurts, it never helps. This is why it's important to avoid the poorly-focused emotional outbursts - in order to resolve a fight, someone needs to know exactly what started it, acknowledge it, and then take responsibility.
- Forgive, on both sides. It's very tempting to rub things in and string someone along because it feels like you have an upper hand. Crap on that. And a good way to wrap up an argument, of course, is to engage in sexy time.

I'm sorry if this is going on long or I'm sounding preachy. But I think my overall point is that there is no real long-term "goal" to achieve - not when you're already in a long-term relationship. You should be in the relationship to make each other happy, as much as possible. Start off with small things and with the practice you'll start learning how to make grander gestures. Learn how to take the small falls so bigger ones don't hurt as much. If both of you are doing your parts and communicating well, I believe you'll hit your stride and all of a sudden it will become much, much easier. If you find that even the small stuff is too much effort, or you can't work together to be together, then someone needs to be strong enough to call it quits. If you can't find ways to make each other happy now, what level of happiness are you looking forward to? And who's going to get you there?
posted by krippledkonscious at 4:28 PM on April 13, 2007 [5 favorites]

Have you gone through misearble periods where you wanted to end it only to be happy later?

Hrm. Every relationship where I went through a miserable period where I wanted to end it, we ended up ending it, though I couldn't say that there were never happy moments in between.

Just shy of eighteen months in my current relationship without once going through a miserable period, which is a record by at least a factor of two for me. Before my current girlfriend, I would've said some level of fighting and down-stretches are normal, but this one is so many standard deviations better than my previous relationships that I'm just exceedingly thankful that I didn't end up permanently ensconced in one of those. Even if we do end up having a bad stretch down the line, it's hard for me to imagine that it wouldn't look up later, and I couldn't say that in my other relationships.
posted by commander_cool at 8:50 PM on April 13, 2007

i kind of agree with the people who posted first about it depending on how doubt prone you as an individual are. i'm with a boy who's amazing right now, and i still doubt the whole thing every week or so. but i know it has nothing to do with him; it's just me. this is an important distinction, because i was in a 6 year long relationship that went on way too long and ended a horrible slow death because i had my doubts every single day, multiple times a day, but figured it was in my head when it wasn't. there's a definite difference from how i felt about that one and this one--everything i doubted was specific to the guy, and was concretely about things he really did and said. with the new guy i KNOW it's totally independent of him and what he is, what he does, and how he treats me. do i think this is "the one"? not necessarily, at all, but i'm still fairly young and i'm having a good time and so is he so it's kosher. whereas with the previous relationship when i was upset i was all pervasively miserable, and in an intrusive, scratching, immediate way because my misery stemmed from how we interacted right then and there. my doubts when they arise now are just nebulous abstracted concerns that float in my head in spite of the good time i've having with my boy.

i still don't know how a person decides eventually to Really Stick With "The One" (a funny concept to me still sometimes, but again, i'm young and can afford such idle musing, maybe). no idea really. but i'll read what long-term satisfied married folks here say in askme threads, people like grumblebee, and they sound wise. so maybe just listen to them.
posted by ifjuly at 10:08 PM on April 13, 2007

My husband and I have gone through some pretty awful fights in which the relationship was nearly destroyed - only once did I go so far as to kick him out of the house for an evening and call on my close friends to talk me down from the ledge, but there have been several other moments that were touch and go, if less immediately dire. Those were not miserable "periods" per se, but rather emotional escalations that went completely out of hand. There have never been extended periods of time where I've been nagged with doubts about the relationship longer than five minutes.

In general, I would classify myself as 98% satisfied 95% of the time. If my husband also wanted children half as badly as I do, I would have no reason to find fault in the relationship. Sure, there are moments of irritation, but that's just life with other humans.

I think it helps that we started our relationship long distance, which makes it easier to put things into perspective. Things may become annoying, but is it as bad as living on different continents? Almost never.

The only problem I have with my partner is that he will die someday and I will be without him.


(We've been married for 2 1/2 years and together for 4.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:37 PM on April 13, 2007

I'm in my 3rd LTR. We celebrate our 10th in June. I am nearly 100% satisfied nearly 100% of the time. We occasionally fight, but that is almost entirely my problem. It doesn't get out of hand, because he's learned that I say "shut up!" in order to keep my temper from blowing.

My only misgiving, which haunts me some days, is that he is 16 years younger, and I will probably be dead before he retires. Since I love him dearly, that hurts.

My first relationship was rocky. He was Brooklyn-Italian. LOTS of yelling! I got used to it, yelled back. We split, made up. The last year was totally fabulous, and then he died. It was not the best of relationships, but we worked at it. Most of our problems were external (Italian monster-in-law).

My second was seriously mis-matched. He couldn't have a decent argument with me without feeling crushed. We parted ways and became better friends than we ever were lovers.

I should caution you one little fact: Some people thrive on relationships with turmoil. Some folks incist on calling these "drama queens", but I don't think that's right, at least not always. There was cause to think that was me, in my younger days, but it sure isn't anymore.

Back in the dark ages, in a sociology class, we were taught 4 basic types of marriages. One of those was a type which did indeed thrive on disagreement. Others thrive on more of a remote comraderie, while others thrive on being passionately in love, all the time. The last one seems to describe my current relationship.
posted by Goofyy at 6:11 AM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

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