#Love & Sex

Scratching the Seven-Year Itch

by The 4-Way Panel

Scratching the Seven-Year Itch

What do you do when a long-term relationship starts to feel platonic? The 4-way answers this reader’s questions about being in and ending a seven-year relationship.




Dear 4-Way,


I’m in a seven-year relationship with a guy I care about deeply. We own a home together, get along very well, and have a safe, stable relationship. The problem is that our relationship feels platonic, and to me, unsatisfying. I’m thirty-two and he’s thirty-eight, but we only have sex about three or four times a year. When we kiss, it’s like I’m kissing my brother. I work out and take care of myself, but he doesn’t seem to notice my efforts at all. We hardly ever do anything social together.


I feel like our connection is being lost, but on the other hand, I’ve already invested so much time and effort into the relationship. I dread the thought of having to move out, date, and start over again. I’m also scared that I won’t meet anyone new since most of the great guys in my age range are already taken. I can see myself growing old with him and maybe I won’t care about the lack of sex or going out and having fun when I’m older. In the meantime, however, I’m more and more tempted to have an affair. Is that the solution? Am I being selfish for having such a great guy but wanting more? —SY, Roanoke, Virgina




The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy


Yes, the solution to your problems is to have an affair. Those usually end well for everyone involved. That should help your relationship with this guy that you deeply respect and care for. Having sex with another person to garner a little enjoyment out of the bland existence of the life you’ve chosen will definitely give you all you need to be happy. Then after that affair ends and possibly several others (once you start, it’s hard to stop), you should be old enough and numb enough to be content to settle in with this guy until you die after years of mediocre and trite living. (The previous paragraph would’ve been printed in the sarcasm font, if it so existed.)


Okay, I feel like we ask this a lot here at The 4-Way but have you TOLD him that you want more out of the relationship? Have you DONE anything to make it less boring and more satisfying? Are you putting genuine effort in here, or are you just complaining without doing anything about it? The acceptance of life’s doldrums without taking any actions to change them IS boring and unsatisfying.  Obviously, if you’ve told your boyfriend this, and you’ve taken actions to change things, and he hasn’t changed any of his behaviors or made any attempts to make your relationship more interesting and romantic, then that would give you considerable evidence to initiate a breakup. (NOT an affair, a breakup.) But with the time you’ve both put into this relationship, I suggest you re-double your efforts to make it work. Plan more date nights out. Inspire him. Tell him/remind him what inspires you. That’s the only way you’ll find out if he’s really the guy you should grow old with or if he’s just the guy who is growing old.




The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer


Um, did I miss something here? Exactly WHAT is great, or even good about this guy? Is it the fact that there’s no sexual chemistry, he doesn’t notice you, or that you move in separate social circles that makes you convinced of his greatness?


The National Fear Society called, SY, and they want you to be their new CEO. Honey, your letter is filled with fear. Fear of letting go of what you know and fear that you will only meet disappointment if you search for something new. What’s called for is courage, self-love, a few good friends, and holding onto the belief that you can indeed create the life you want to be living. I don’t see an affair as part of the life you’ve always dreamed of for yourself.  I’m not saying it will be easy to leave this guy, but this is what you should be working toward. My guess is that he isn’t fulfilled either in this relationship. In fact, I wonder if he’s involved with someone (or something) else?  Your first step toward creating the life you deserve is an honest conversation with him. Ask him if he’s happy with your relationship. If he says no, that’s a perfect place to start sharing about what’s not working for you, too. Perhaps you can create change within the relationship. If he says he’s content, then it’s time for you to find your bliss on a new path.


Walk through your fears. Start talking. You are the change you want to create.




The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown


Don’t insult your brother, SY! This guy sounds like a dud and if you were doing anything half as twisted as actually kissing your brother, I bet it would be a gigantic improvement over your boring relationship with your current boyfriend.


I know right now it feels like the life and the kind of relationship you want are really far away, and that getting those things means you have to do a lot of uncomfortable, painful things. But try not to let yourself get overwhelmed with all that and just take it one step at a time. The first step is to talk to your boyfriend. Once you know how he feels, you can determine your next course of action. If he wants to change things, and you truly feel he can be the “great guy” you say he is, then give it another shot. But set a timeframe for when you’d like to see change in your relationship, otherwise you run the risk of staying too long and writing The 4-Way for advice again in another six months. If he doesn’t want to change, then you have to start making some hard decisions. I’d start by moving into a friend’s place until you can get your own apartment. That will give you the distance you need to start healing and begin living the life you want.


As a single woman looking for love, I have to believe myself when I say this: if you want love, you will find love. Eventually. It may not be an easy road, and it may not be the fastest (ahem … still waiting), but you have to put yourself in a position to receive it. I know that sounds all new agey, granola-Californian of me to say, but it’s true. And continuing to exist in a dead relationship will not put you in that position, nor will having an affair with someone. Say so long to your brother and go get the life you want.




The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox


I hate to break it to you, SY, but you’re not in a satisfying relationship, you’re in a relationship of habit. Nowhere in your question did I see you even hint that this is the man of your dreams, or that you don’t know how you’d go on without him. What I did see was a little too much relationship justification. Sex is not everything, but intimacy in a relationship is a natural way for couples to grow together and remain close to each other. And now when you kiss him, you feel like you’re making out with your brother?


Look, go out there and find yourself someone that will make your toes curl when you’re lip-locked. I assure you not all the good guys in your age range are taken. In fact, some of those good guys think you’re taken because you’re still in a relationship you can’t walk away from. Here’s the thing, you’re obviously close to the guy you’ve been dating; having him as a friend is not a bad thing. A transitional period is hard, and sometimes feels impossible. But if this person is someone you hope to have in your life in some capacity, you’ll be able to figure it out. Take some time out for just you to examine your feelings closely and read the question you submitted more than our answers. You’ll see that you’ve already reached a conclusion. You just need to take action.