Dear Dr. Neder,
I am looking for some advice or direction. The fact that I am writing this makes me scared that I might sabotage my own relationship.
I am currently in a 1 year 6 month relationship. I am 28, he is 31. I met him about 6 months after I moved to NYC from Texas. We started dating in December 2002, and we were love struck by January. I moved in with him about 8 months after we started dating. That is when our problems began. I know this is probably normal, but it seems too early in our relationship to have these problems.
A lot of our problems began with me and my unhappiness with my job and I was having a lot of anxiety with living in NYC after the blackout. Our arguments were always short lived and menial. We would always talk through them, a great change from my last relationship.
We finally ended up to the mid-west. We fought about stupid things - basically just got on each others nerves for the next 6 months. But we blamed it on stress and the move.
Now, everything seems to be better. But yet...our relationship still seems to be in this rut. I know I love him. I just don't feel madly "in Love". Is that normal? I feel we’re more partners. We hang out ALL the time. We don't try and ditch each other. We do everything together.
He also mentions that sometimes he feels so in love with me and that he has no doubts he wants to be with me, but then sometimes when he wakes up in a bad mood or we get in an argument- he thinks we aren't meant to be. I feel the exact same way. I feel so wishy-washy.
I just don't know if there is one person for me for the rest of our lives. I firmly believe in marriage and don't ever want to divorce. So I want to be sure. But I just don't know if I can settle down with the same person for the rest of my life. How do you keep it new and exciting and passionate? It seems that over time, you turn into friends or partners vs. lovers. How do I prevent that? Or is that a good thing?
I just don't know if I am feeling things that others feel when making a life commitment. Is this all normal? Are our problems everyday problems and we just need to work them out? I feel so confused!
Any advice you could offer would be really appreciated.
How do you keep it new and exciting? You don't. That's exactly how relationships work. Let me explain:
There are three phases relationships take:
1) The "excitement phase" where everything is wild and unmanageable. You are bouncing off the walls with excitement and sex.
2) The "bonding phase" where things settle down and you really start getting to know your partner.
3) The "familiar phase" where you know everything there is to know about that person (so you think) and you even finish each others sentences, and you both feel that the other can speak for you in any situation.
The problem with all of this is that today's "MTV culture" expects everything to stay in the excitement phase. You get all sorts of messages from the media and from friends and even family that tells you everything in your life must be bounce- off-the-wall exciting or there's something wrong. Women especially are sold on the idea that "...you can have it all, baby!" That's ridiculous - where would you keep it?
Guess where your relationship is? Phase #2 - the bonding phase.
Yes, you can have nothing but phase #1 relationships if you want, but don't plan to be in them for very long periods of time. Further, don't expect that you'll really discover that profound closeness that you seek as a partner of a team.
So, let's talk then about how to manage your desires for growth and excitement while moving through phase 2 into phase 3. You do this by realizing that even though you're a couple, you're also an individual. You need to kick-start your own growth phases again - both you and he. Right now, you're doing everything together. You've even established common friendships.
What you need to do is start building your own friendships and so does your partner. You need to have these friends outside of the relationship that will help you continue to grow. That way you don't feel stifled or suffocated by your relationship. You also need time to build these friendships as part of your own personal time.
I also strongly urge you to get new hobbies - something you are individually interested in. You also need a "common hobby" that you both enjoy and pursue. What those hobbies are really aren't important - just that you get something. This is another way that you grow. Further, you both now have interesting things to do - and to talk about. You can take classes, change jobs, learn, grow, enjoy - all of these things help you to become a better partner for your partner.
There is one more piece of this puzzle that is critically important. You need to remember that relationships take work. That phrase is used so much that it seems trite and is easily brushed off; but wait a minute. It has some very important meaning.
You see, both you and your boyfriend are going to meet new people in all of this. Doesn't that mean that you risk growing apart? Yes, possibly. This is where the work aspect comes in. You need to agree that your foundation relationship is the core of everything else you do. You are actually growing FOR each other, not just for yourselves.
It's perfectly normal to meet other people that you find attractive, and in fact, even this helps you to become better, more interesting people! However, rather than pursuing those Phase 1 relationships, you both realize that your phase 2 - going on phase 3 relationship is much more valuable and bring these exciting emotions back home. It's exactly this type of "work" that turns phase 2's into phase 3's, and 1 1/2 year relationships into 2, and 5, and 20, and 50 year relationships.
Have a love, relationship, sex or man/woman question? I answer all email. You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for answers. For more information about my books, "Being a Man in a Woman's World" (volume I & II), and other products visit: www.beingaman.com. Check out the discussion group at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/beingaman.
Copyright (c) 2004, Dr. Dennis W. Neder All rights reserved.
posted on Sunday, May 30, 2004 11:22 AM