#Love & Sex
by The 4-Way Panel
What do you do when the spark in your long-term relationship seems to be slowly dying out? See the advice the 4-Way team gives one woman who’s having second thoughts about her relationship.
I’ve been in a relationship (my first serious one) with a great guy for two years. We’ve had our ups and downs (he’s been afraid of commitment), but we have so much fun together: we laugh, we talk for hours, and we’re really attracted to each other. Now, he’s finally ready to take the next step. The problem is, something has changed for me. About three weeks ago, I stopped feeling the same excitement, and as a result, started doubting my feelings for him. My gut tells me not to end the relationship, but why did my feelings change so suddenly? How can I stop focusing on my doubts and start focusing on the things I love about him? Is it normal to reach this point in a relationship? Should I give the relationship another chance and see if the old feelings come back? —FE, San Francisco, California
The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
Sounds to me like you’ve got a case of ye olde thrill-of-the-chase dilemma. It’s always more mysterious when things are undefined. Will he get over his fear of commitment? Will he fall in love with me? Is he The One? When you actually get answers to all of those questions, it can be a little anti-climactic. Oh, right, he does love me. He does want to be with me. Now what? Sometimes we respond to those answers by creating more questions because all that certainty just seems so final, and—let’s be honest—a tiny bit boring. Will he really be the last man I ever kiss? The last man I sleep with? Do I really want to be with him?
The good news is, you’re already miles ahead of millions of couples, because you actually have fun, laugh, talk, and have a physical attraction. Ever go to a restaurant and watch the couples who just sit and stare into space, never talking, never looking at each other, never engaging in one single shred of communication? It can make you want to jump in front of a speeding bus if you witness it too often, plus it paints a bleak picture of the state of relationships for many couples out there.
But lucky you, you’re not in one of those couples, and your gut is telling you to stick with it, which means that’s exactly what you should do. Give it a chance, talk to him, tell him how you’re feeling. I’m sure he’s feeling it, too. People always say relationships take work; that’s true, but the work can be really rewarding if you start in a happy, healthy place, as it sounds like you are. So talk to him and see what happens. As they sing in one of my favorite songs from Rent, “Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.”
The Lesbian Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
Congrats for experiencing your first serious relationship, though I must say, nothing about it sounds too “serious” to me. Laughing, attraction, and long talks are essential ingredients in a solid relationship. However, if you want to go the distance, it’s not all hearts and flowers. Taking a relationship to a more serious level requires hard work; this includes not feeling that “I can’t believe he’s mine” feeling 24/7.
It’s not a matter of waiting to see if your old feelings will come back, FE; it’s about learning new ways to enjoy one another and being curious about what will come next. It’s pretty common to have those initial exciting feelings subside as time goes on. However, what’s so wonderful about long-term relationships is that you get to discover more and more about each other and develop a kind of intimacy that can only be created over time. So yeah, I’d say your feelings are fairly normal. Now that he’s ready to commit to a future, it sounds like you may be feeling a bit scared about what that means. Take the chance and find new ways to build on the solid and fun groundwork the two of you have already established. Don’t abandon the relationship; keep growing and discovering.
The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
You should talk to someone who’s been in your position before. I haven’t, so I’m hesitant to say whether what you’re feeling is normal or not. However, big surprise—I do have an opinion.
First off, I’m assuming “next step” means marriage or, at the very least, moving in together, since you’ve had a serious relationship for two years already. My instinct tells me it’s probably somewhat natural to have second thoughts before making a big decision. You must take into account the entirety of the two years, which has been fulfilling and enjoyable, and give that more significance than the recent three weeks of jitters. By the way, you parenthetically state he’s been afraid of commitment, but you also parenthetically state that this is your first serious commitment, too. Just pointing that out, so that you’re being fair and honest with yourself. It’s a big next step for you, too, and some uncertainty is normal on your end.
My advice? Give your relationship a chance. Go with your gut … or end up in the gutter. (I think I just made that phrase up.)
The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
I’m curious; did your feelings for him change before he told you he wanted to take it to the next level or after? I ask for a few reasons. If your feelings changed before he told you, perhaps you outgrew the relationship and he was sensing that he needed to step up to the plate or lose you for good. If they changed after, could it be that you weren’t ready to commit to someone once you finally had the chance?
In either case, you tell us that your gut is telling you not to end the relationship, so my vote is to go with your gut. It rarely steers you the wrong way. So before you go too far down the path of walking away, go old school and write down a list of the pros and cons about this person. Sounds third grade, but it does help to clarify things sometimes and will be an easy way for you to stop focusing on one-sided emotions.
As for your question concerning whether or not it’s normal to reach this point in a relationship, I say hell yes. In fact, you’ve already reached it and gotten around it a few times. You told us in your opening line that you’ve had your ups and downs. But my best advice to you is to be open and honest with him. He’s got two years invested here, too. You both deserve to be on the same page.