The Difference Between Relationship Doldrums or a Dead-End?

Q: My question is about the evolution of love in long-term relationships.

I’ve been in a serious, committed relationship that’s approaching its sixth year. It started when I was twenty. Although he is only a few years older than I, he is very mature, committed, stable, and possesses all the qualities that would make him a good future husband and father. There is a lot of respect and love in our relationship, and he is the one to whom I go for support and advice.

The problem is that I no longer feel that I’m in love with him, and I sense the same in him. I do genuinely love him, but our relationship no longer has the youthful infatuation, that “I am madly in love!” constant high that was present in the beginning. Am I stuck in a temporary doldrums? Is this just a natural way in which love changes – it becomes less fiery and settles down into a constant, quieter love?

The other complication in all this is that I have a good guy friend for whom I have exciting/youthful/infatuated feelings. He returns those feelings. I have since ended our friendship in deference to my relationship. I want my current relationship to work, but I am conflicted: I want to make sure that this temporary doldrums is not a sign of deeper problems between the two of us.

A. Even the happiest partnerships have up and down periods but generally there is a sense that there is no one else you would rather be with…so it’s worth it.

“It can be hard but there was something good he brought out in me and that I brought out in him. It’s not easy and we struggle with our differences. We are very different people and don’t even resemble who we were when we met.  But at the end of the day we want to see each other…that’s worth it.” – 45, married, mom of 3, Pittsburgh, PA


“At the end of the day I want to be with him forever. I don’t want to be with someone else. So when we go through these phases we both say “I know that drives you crazy but we’re going to get past that because we’re going to be together forever.”  — 40-something, wife, mom, Cleveland, OH


However, love does change. There is a difference between mature love and infatuation. Often it has to do with getting to know yourself and not needing the thrill to prop up a relationship. Rather, it’s knowing that long-term intimacy does come with downs but the ups can still be thrilling.

You change a lot from 20 to 26 and life changes as well so you can find yourself to be very different people than when you started out. Some people grow together and find the changes both interesting, adding value to both the relationship and their own growth. Others grow apart and find there is little still holding them together except time. This woman believes you have to ask yourself if you be happier alone than with him?

Dear 20-something,

We change over the course of our lives and our interests change with us. Unfortunately, this includes relationships.  It is particularly difficult to think about ending a relationship where nothing is really bad…it is just not great.  Most of us seek comfort and resist change, fearing loneliness and having to re-start. But sometimes it is for the best.  Having left a long-term relationship of 10 years where I had lost interest was very difficult. I had invested so much time and effort, we had mutual friends, we knew each other’s families etc.  All of this is irrelevant if you are unhappy.  I had the opportunity to stay at a friend’s house for a week and babysit her dog and it was as if I had been freed!  I realized then that I needed to leave my relationship to be happy.  I also realized that I would be happier being alone than I was living with him.  Ultimately, you must seek happiness. – 40-something, fashion designer, wife, mom

This woman knows from her 20 year marriage that simmers are fine…totally flame-outs are more difficult to recover from and are perhaps not worth it.

Dear 20-something,

Oh, love is such a roller coaster!  You can’t expect to be burning with fire every day forever!!  It would get truly exhausting.  It’s nice to keep a warm simmer going.  It makes it easy to fire up the big flames over time.

However, if it’s hard to keep the simmer going at all, it might be time to step back and re-evaluate the situation.  Imagine what it would be like to live without him.

It does sound like you have a wonderful relationship. Long-term love is a work-in-process forever.  It can be easy to fall into the “temporary doldrums”, but it can be fun and easy to get out of them too…if there is enough “good stuff” in the relationship.

In the meantime, it is perfectly fine to flirt with friends, a little.  Guys and gals are born to do that.  Just don’t open the door to take things any further.  Flirting with a guy friend shouldn’t have any impact on the real relationship with your man.  If you think about life without your man, don’t think about being with the flirting friend instead.  You should really keep them as two separate items in your life.  – 40-something, mom, wife, Cleveland, OH


As she says, it’s dangerous when you start comparing what your life would be like with another guy vs. your guy. Or when you start talking about things that you should be talking to your partner about. If that starts to happen that is the time to sit down and talk about what is causing this to happen.  It sounds like you guys need to have an honest conversation, especially as you think he feels the same way as you do. Perhaps some time alone could help you sort out your feelings as well. Good luck!

on Twitter

on Facebook

on Google+