I’ve been with my girlfriend for 3 years. Our first year, we were both in grad school and our relationship was incredible. Once we graduated, we moved in together and have been very happy. She and I are incredibly compatible, we have the same interests, the same priorities, and we trust and love each other very much. She’s a rare find, to be sure. However, I think in this last year of our relationship, there has been some distance forming. My sex drive had gone down quite a bit, and I found some of the little things she did irritating or annoying. I never thought much of it, I just assumed we were getting comfortable with each other and that was a part of being in a long-term relationship. I was mildly concerned that while I was feeling these things, she wasn’t. But it never crossed my mind that I was losing interest in her. I was happy, and I loved her very much.
I went away for three months to do some theater, and when I came back, things were getting back to normal. But one day, I woke up and had this sinking feeling in my stomach — the best way I can describe it is “dread.” I felt unhappy, like something was wrong with me or my life … or my relationship. It was a familiar feeling: I’ve felt this every time I’ve wanted to break up with someone. This time, however, it didn’t make sense to me… I thought I was happy! And my girlfriend is practically everything I could ask for in a relationship! I had no idea why I suddenly woke up feeling this way.
This gut feeling started triggering other thoughts in my mind: The little annoyances about her became huge; Also, I’m still young, I need to explore my life/other relationships; I’ve always been with someone and I need to find out who I am outside of relationships. But I don’t want to leave her. The thought of breaking up makes me incredibly sad, but the thought of being with her fills me with dread. I’ve talked with her about all this, I’ve talked with other people, but I still don’t have an answer. I want to know what’s going on with me… If I can’t be satisfied with her, can I ever be satisfied with anyone?
I think you gave yourself the answer you are looking for. At 27 years old and with three years invested in this relationship, you are at the stage where generally people feel they need to make a decision about whether they are ready to commit. On the other hand, you have an idea that you are young and that you need time alone to come to know yourself. I think the reality that you can’t have it both ways is causing your feeling of “dread.” You have defined the situation in such a way that you either lose the woman you love or you lose your freedom to know yourself.
I encourage you to rethink that idea. Although one way of learning about yourself is to be on your own, another way people do it is within the context of a loving relationship. I hope you will reflect on how you came up with the idea that a relationship will confine you and prevent personal discovery.
I’m glad you are evaluating your attitude and that you are thinking seriously about your dilemma. If you can’t resolve it on your own, I hope you will consider seeing a therapist to help you take another look at your options. A person doesn’t need a mental illness to benefit from therapy. Sometimes a therapist can serve as an objective sounding board and can offer a new perspective to bump you out of your circular thinking.
I wish you well.