Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s letter is answered by freelance writer, Rachel East, AKA ReginaRey.
I’ve been having doubts about my relationship with my boyfriend, but I don’t want to break up with him. He’s a wonderful person and we’ve had a great relationship so far. He definitely respects me, makes me feel loved, and we attend university together. About three months into our relationship, I moved into his house with him, his mom, his sister, our friend Dan, and now his sister’s ex-boyfriend. I’m really grateful to his mother for letting me move in (my mother kicked me out and I was living in my car) while I finish my teaching degree. But lately, I haven’t felt as passionate about our relationship as I used to.
We haven’t had sex in almost six months. I just woke up one morning with no interest in ever having it again. My interest has come and gone a little bit since then, but I’m mostly disinterested. In recent weeks, it’s gotten even worse. I don’t want to kiss or cuddle or be affectionate at all. We’ve tried taking breaks and getting space, but it’s really hard when we both live together and with his family. As soon as I am able, I would like to move out of this house and have my own space, but for right now, it’s my main option.
I feel guilty for not being 100% certain that I want to marry him. My friends and family adore him, and he’s very sweet, but I’m just not happy. I’m also his first girlfriend ever (I’m 20, and he is 22), and while most of the things he does for me are sweet, they aren’t very deep. It almost seems like he’s imitating movies or TV shows.
I can’t tell if this is just a rough patch or if things are going to get better or not. I already see a therapist for my issues with my mother, and we’ve recently started going to see a couple’s counselor at our University. The couple’s counselor thinks that it is very important for me to “process” a previous relationship I was in that was extremely abusive. However, talking about it or even thinking about it makes me feel like vomiting, and it makes me really withdraw from my boyfriend. I personally feel like that stuff is in the past and there is no point in drudging up those feelings now. I’ve made my boyfriend aware of what he needs to know (that it happened, certain triggers to avoid, etc.), but for the most part, I just don’t like thinking about it.
This whole situation just baffles me, and even though my boyfriend is sweet and loving, I just feel like we’re children playing pretend. What should I do? Should I break it off? Do all couples go through this at some point? Am I horrible for not being happy? — Hoping for Happiness
The reason you feel horrible for being unhappy is because you feel guilty. You think you shouldn’t be having these thoughts because your boyfriend is sweet, and your friends and family adore him, and because he isn’t abusive. In your mind, your boyfriend doesn’t deserve for you to be having these “negative” thoughts about him, and it eats you alive.
Many women fall prey to thinking that because their relationship isn’t “bad,” they shouldn’t feel unhappy or dissatisfied. But here’s a secret: Relationships don’t have to be bad for them not to be good. You don’t have to have an obvious reason like “he’s abusive” in order to end your relationship. You’re allowed to break up with someone simply because the relationship doesn’t make you happy.
You asked if all couples go through this at some point. The answer is yes, couples tend to go through rough patches and many end up in counseling. BUT – there’s a difference between working through a rough patch in an otherwise solid, happy relationship, and trying to “work through” something that simply isn’t right in the first place.
You’re both quite young and this was his first relationship. You acknowledged that it hasn’t been particularly deep, and that a big part of you has lost interest. What you’re saying, without actually saying it, is that this relationship has fizzled. It’s normal! Relationships lose their spark, run their course, you fall out of love, and you learn it wasn’t the right long-term partnership for you.
But you’re scared, I understand. You’re worried that if you break up with someone on the grounds of “feeling like it wasn’t right,” you’ll constantly wonder if you made a mistake. How can you be sure of your decision when you’re so full of doubt? Well, here’s one hint: Being constantly UNsure about a relationship is a SURE sign that it’s not right. And here’s another hint: Your gut is rarely wrong.
Do you want to know why you have no desire for sex, or cuddling or even being affectionate? Because your gut knows that this relationship has fizzled out. Somewhere in your subconscious, you feel guilty for showing him affection and love because then, you’re making him think that you still feel the same way he does…and you don’t.
Your gut is telling you what your conscious mind refuses to acknowledge: This isn’t the right relationship for you anymore. It’s why you’re turned off by him, it’s why you’re less-than-satisfied with his lack of depth, and it’s why you’re unhappy. Your statement that “I don’t want to break up with him” isn’t going to fly. You need to acknowledge that you’ve tried for quite some time to be happy, and it just isn’t happening. Breaking up doesn’t mean you failed. What would be a failure is staying in a relationship that makes you unhappy and leaves you unfulfilled.
And finally, let’s be honest about something: I know you know that your living situation needs to change, pronto. As long as you’re in that house, you’ll never find a relationship that makes you happy as regularly as this relationship makes you unhappy. Isn’t changing that fact worth all the effort it takes to move out?
*ReginaRey (Real Name: Rachel East) is a full-time Events & Promotions Coordinator and a part-time freelance writer focusing on dating and relationships. One day, after tackling grad school, she plans to be your Marriage and Family Therapist…because the only thing better than talking about relationships all day is getting paid to talk about relationships all day. You can check out her weekly column here and follow her on Twitter @MissRachelEast.