My partner's a catch, why don't I feel relationship satisfaction?

Updated May 4 2020
Guest post by Sara K
By: jdhancockCC BY 2.0

I remember the first time I talked about my partner (I will refer to him as "H") soon after we met. I was in graduate school, talking to my friend about my first few dates with him. I remember having a lot of doubts — our compatibility, shared beliefs, and common interests. While we got along nicely, I questioned if we were truly in sync — a true match where we have chemistry.

Some of my initial doubts about being with H are doubts I still have today…

Three years into the relationship, we broke up because I didn't think that he and I were right for each other. We were broken up for one month. In that month, I hadn't taken the time to make up my mind. What did I want? What type of person did I see myself with? Meanwhile, H was fighting to get me back. I caved in, even though I wasn't 100% sure about my decision to come back to the relationship. It was a true gray area that I've never resolved.

And three years later, when I was proposed to, I questioned it before ultimately saying "yes." When what I thought about saying was "I guess."

He is an excellent catch, so why do I not feel confident in my decision to be with him?

So here I am now. We are compatible in many ways — we work together well to accomplish tasks and our shared hobbies are enjoyed together. We care for a pet together. He is my rock — the partner who provides stability for me. He makes me feel safe and protected. We work well together. We are organizers, hard workers, and delegate tasks to each other. We can clean an apartment with ultimate efficiency and a sense of humor.

What I find difficult is that my soulmate is not quite there. Many of our conversations are the same: happening over and over again.

I find myself wanting… more. More stimulation, intellectually as well as emotionally. Deeper conversations. A greater connection. The kind of connection that feels like you've known someone for years. The kind that makes your heart hurt just thinking about that person. The kind of connection where both people "just get it" — and get each other. No words needed. No explanation. No feelings of not being understood. This is missing.

I know I am capable of giving him insight, sharing wisdom, deep thoughts… but H doesn't appear to need it for himself. And I know H cares, it's just that maybe he doesn't always verbalize what's on his mind. But even when he does, it's as if I'm looking for a certain answer and he is not capable of providing that. We're more like friends, rather than two people who want to grow together (both as a partnership, but also help each other individually).

Is this something that happens when you get married? Does every couple experience this with their relationship satisfaction? Do your relationship needs and values always match? What do you do when you have unmet needs?

…Leave your answer in the comments!

If you're dealing with similar challenges in your relationship, here area few books that may help you in your process:

  1. I'm confused–is he a catch for *you*, or do you think he's a catch just in general?
    You're never going to feel secure if you focus on the latter. I've dated guys that were fabulous on paper–super hot dudes, Ivy league grads, doctors, MBA holders–but at the end of the day something just was never right. Now I'm engaged to a fairly average looking dude who's a plumbing apprentice (and who barely graduated high school) and I couldn't be happier. I think I would have been miserable with one of those 'catches' I dated in the past.

  2. I'm definitely no expert, having only been married for less than a year after having dated my dude for almost five years. But I have to say I've never had these thoughts, except maybe during a fight over something not worth fighting about, and afterward I'd always realized I was being pretty dramatic. Why did you marry this person if there was so much early doubt? Are you truly unhappy or is it more a fear of missing out on someone better? I'd hate to see you leave this relationship and not find exactly what you're looking for but it's up to you and your partner to decide if this is something that is worth working on, whether that fulfillment you're seeking can be achieved.

    Either way, I hope you find what you're looking for. My advice is if you 100% believe that you will never get what you need from your current situation, decouple sooner than later so that you BOTH can start looking for that next phase.

  3. I can understand where you're coming from, and have had those thoughts myself, in previous relationships and in my current one. Sometimes it lead to things ending, including my first marriage.

    Shortly after college, I found myself in a relationship with someone who, on paper, seemed great for me. But something always felt just not quite right. And I felt so guilty for not being happy because it didn't seem like I *should* be unhappy. And I couldn't figure it out really.

    Then I discovered a book called "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay" by Mira Kirshenbaum. It's probably a little dated now (and I haven't read it since around 2004), but I remember it being a massive lightbulb for me and how I thought about my relationships. I ended that relationship because ultimately what I learned from the book helped me recognize that it was no good for me, even though he was a decent guy.

    As for my current relationship, I have had moments where I question if I'm getting what I really need, and ultimately I decide that yes, I am content with things. But it's my choice to be content with the way things are, and it's that choice that I think is really important. I know there are some things he won't be able to give me, some of that deep connection you talk about, but I also feel like I get so much more from him in other ways that it's worthwhile.

    • I read this book too and found it very helpful to evaluate relationships. There are many issues that can arise in any relationship. How do you know if it is bad enough to leave? So the book lists out the issues and when people were most happy leaving or staying. There were ultimately still some grey issues: your partner having a similar education and intellectual is helpful, but ultimately its more important if that is important to you. Then there are issues like never having a strong attraction, even in the beginning of your relationship, these relationships are best to leave. If he is more about being a stable nice person, yet you never have felt greatly attracted to him.. then he may not be the one for you. If it's only things over time feeling less intense.. well that happens and is normal. Something you work on getting back everyday. Long term relationships do have their ups and downs but if there was spark initially, its something you can get back. Hope that's useful and I'm not just rambling 🙂

      • Perhaps I need to read this book.. because this is exactly my issue. Been with my husband for 14 years almost-married 11… he is a solid, incredible man. I love him and think the world of him, but there never was a very strong chemistry from the beginning – physical or intellectual attraction (on my end) resulting in a sexless marriage. He is my best friend though, and we have had a nice life together…but I am craving a deeper connection. This is so difficult & I have used shopping, travel, etc to keep myself distracted all these years, I think. If I were to leave, it would hurt him very very deeply. I am considering maybe taking some time apart after the holidays…to try to take some space to get clear on what I really want… he is such a good man- i just don't want to throw away over something like attraction/sex, but I'm fearful that I can't go on the rest of my life in an unfulfilling relationship. Any advice is welcome…..

  4. I think it's maybe not the answer you want to hear. But I think you know when you've met your soulmate. I was in a long-term relationship ultimately knowing the whole time it wasn't right. When I met my husband, on the other hand, I knew he was the one. Ten years have passed and it's still true.
    But then, many people seem to be in relationships that are less than perfect and it still works for them. I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

  5. I've had very few doubts in my relationship and the times I did were already hard on the both of us. But my friend went through a relationship like that – dated the guy for years, they were great friends and even had great chemistry, but at the end of the day there was still something holding her back from committing any more to the relationship. Eventually they broke up, and with time and a bit of separation, she realized that what he wanted in a relationship and what she wanted were very different. Again, they were a great couple but there was something that they couldn't fit together, and at the end of the day both of them knew it. I suggest taking a break – a very long break – and do some soul searching before any paperwork gets written up. If you have to cut him out, do it. You need time, you need space, you need to figure out what's you want and what's happening to you right now sounds like exactly what you DON'T need.

  6. In my experience, the idea of a soulmate just didn't work out. I had a relationship like you describe – communication without words, the person who "got it" with me from day one. It was like we'd known each other forever and had just been waiting to meet again. This was not my first love, but it was unlike anything I'd known before, so it came as a surprise. It was amazing and wonderful at first, then it became unhealthy. I became too dependent on the connection and he felt too young and smothered. Finally one day he cheated on me and I knew immediately that it had happened. It took him several weeks to admit it and it was a long painful process to get over him. I thought he was my soulmate, but if I were reincarnated, I don't think I would want to be with him again.

    Later, I fell in love with a wonderful man but we just didn't have that amazing connection. We had a lot of arguments and misunderstandings because we had different ways of communication. I missed the connection and wondered if it was real love because I couldn't "read" him. We got un-engaged twice before getting married. That was nearly 30 years ago. In that time, we have grown closer so that we do "get it" – at least most of the time. We can be in a group of people and with a look, know we are thinking the same thing. We love each other and he is my best friend, even when we argue. Most of the time we get to be truly ourselves with each other in a way that we don't with the rest of the world. It is amazing and wonderful – except when it isn't. No one person can be everything to another. We still need the love of family and friends who can balance out the ups & downs of our love story. I don't know if my husband is my soulmate, or if soulmates even exist, but given an option, I'd be happy to be reincarnated with him again in more lifetimes. I think he feels the same.

    Really loving someone is very different from being "in love". The feeling of being "in love" comes and goes. All the characteristics you describe in your current relationship are important. But you didn't say if you really love him. Maybe that is what you are struggling with? I'll admit I struggled with it and still do at times, all these years later, after an especially difficult argument. Unfortunately, whether or not you really love him is something only you can decide and when you are married, it is something you have to decide every single day. Falling in love may not be a choice. Deciding to continue loving someone is and it isn't always an easy choice.

    I think that is what makes marriage so scary – the thought of having to make the choice every day and depending on the other person to make that same choice about you for the rest of your lives. The future is always uncertain and no one can tell you what is right for you. I wish you happiness whatever you choose.

    • Oh that is a good point about soulmates: if you define them by getting that "fluttery" in love feeling, then you're going to be disappointed. For me, I used to think that real love had to start with a flood of passion and physical chemistry that swept both people away. That's why I initially dismissed my husband as a potential romantic partner: I didn't feel that flood of hormones around him. But once I spent more time with him, I realized he was my best friend and I was attracted to him. Cue flood of passion.

      But I also like your point that in marriage you choose that person every day. And some days the choice is very easy and some days it's difficult.

      Every person's path is different. And to some extent, finding the right person is a case of both people being in the right place in their lives to be right for each other. I don't think my husband and I would have had as successful a relationship if we had met even 10 years ago; we did a lot of growing on our own before we met and I think that's part of why our relationship works so well.

    • SarahB, I couldn't agree more.

      I had a relationship with someone that I thought was a soulmate, with a very long friendship beforehand and a lot in common. It ended up being an incredibly manipulative and demeaning experience that rocked the foundations of my world.

      My present day partner is someone who has a very different personality and instincts from my own, and there are some large but not very important areas of our lives where we have different interests. There are many activities or interests where we have to turn to others for support or companionship. But when important things go down, we're there for each other. I trust him, and I know he will always laugh with me and not at me. We choose to be together and to learn to support each other through tough times. We have grown up together, and grown into more mature and supportive partners. (I'll also add that premarital counseling-without there being a crisis in the relationship, but simply as something we both felt was important-really helped us learn how to talk and bring up difficult topics.)

      I'll take someone who loves me and commits to me over fireworks any day.

      However, if that mutual desire to be more and do more for each other wasn't there-if one of us just wanted a partner because that's what people do, and wasn't willing to have those difficult, growing conversations, that wouldn't be a fulfilling relationship that I'd choose to stay in.

    • "In my experience, the idea of a soulmate just didn't work out."

      Um, yeah. Personally, I don't believe in the idea of a soulmate or even the thought of someone being "the one and only." You can have more than one "love" in your life, even if you have only dated, lived with, and/or married one person at a time.

    • I think this is something I needed to read too, so thank you for commenting.
      With my own experience, I recently got married and I did question if I jumped the gun and my real "soulmate" was out there. However, to be honest, I've always questioned the idea of "soulmates". A major part of me believed that the unfamiliar journey and traditional ideals of a life long commitment to another person was the major reason for my uncertainty concerning "Mr. Right" versus "Mr. Good Enough".
      I think a lot of us have these ideas in our heads that because love is amazing it should make us feel amazing all the time, but that's really not the case. If you think about it, loving someone only when they make you happy is no different than just being a fan of a celebrity or sports team. I will argue that the choice to continue to be committed to another person in spite of their shortcomings or mistakes is where you'll find real love. In those moments, it sure doesn't feel like those butterflies from when you first met, but that commitment to work through those tough times can be so worthwhile.

      • If there's one thing that my counselor has always emphasized, it's that love is ultimately a choice, not just a warm and fuzzy feeling. I believe this to be 100% true.

      • You said, "I think a lot of us have these ideas in our heads that because love is amazing it should make us feel amazing all the time, but that's not really the case." While I agree that love can't make us feel amazing all of the time, shouldn't it make us feel amazing some of the time? I can't remember the last time that love from my husband made me feel amazing, if that ever happened (I really can't remember a time that his love made me feel amazing). I think that this article is for people who are dealing with what it looks like to have married someone without having that amazing love feeling and whether what we do have with our partner is enough or if we should risk losing that for the possibility of (not guaranteed) more fulfilling love elsewhere.

    • This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from a book I read: "…the way you learn to love someone is by giving to them. The more you give to a person, the more you end up loving them. If love is just a feeling, and that feeling changes, then what? Love has to be something you choose to build."

      I'm kind of in this space with my husband right now. He's a wonderful, loving and fun man with a big heart. We have very different intellectual & spiritual needs. I think you hit the nail on the head about rounding out your life with other people, family & friends. We can't expect our partners to be everything to us all the time, it's just not reasonable. There likely is someone on this planet with which we are more compatible than our partners but you have to really consider what chasing that perfect soulmate looks & feels like vs learning and growing with someone you already really love. Really appreciated your comment!!

  7. I agree with Dee: you have to figure out what defines a "catch" for you. My husband is both everything and nothing that I thought I wanted in a partner. We clicked pretty instantly as friends but I wasn't sure about him as a romantic partner at first. But it only took a few months for me to realize he was exactly what I truly needed: a partner who was first and foremost my best friend and who "got me" on so many of the most important levels.

    I think the only thing to watch for is whether you are looking for a partner to fulfill too many needs. It's easy to fall into the trap of wanting someone to be *everything* to you. It's just not realistic. My husband ticks a lot of my boxes, but not *all* of them. But he ticks all of the essential ones for me and I can find friends and family to tick the other boxes.

    I will also say, though, that we have that feeling you described: like we've known each other for decades instead of less than five years. Before I met my husband, I might have told you that it was unrealistic to expect that level of intimacy/connection. But now I think as long as you have figured out what is essential in a partner and you remain open to people who at first glance don't appear to be your ideal partner, it's absolutely possible to find a partner who ticks all of the important boxes.

  8. I have so much to answer, that it´s all jumbled together (and may even be seen as contradictory, and I´m going to use "he" to refer to a partner because the OP seems to be hetero):
    1- Society instills girls with an idea of a "Disney" love: every will find a Prince Charming, as in a "Prince" (wealthy enough to satisfy your every whim) who shall be "Charming" (sexy as hell, romantic as fuck, never be in a bad mood / have a bad day…you get the drift). NO ONE can live up to expectations like that. NO ONE. The OP says she never analyzed WHAT she wanted, but once taking that list of attributes into consideration, she should see if that bill is … um, realistic.
    2- Although the OP´s situation does not seem like a temporary thing, in my experience, relationships have an ebb and flow. Two months ago me and hubby where definitely NOT in a good place, now we´re fantastic… it comes and goes, sometimes you just have to wait for the storm to pass.
    3- I wonder how the OP felt during the month-long "break"… Sometimes the (emotional) distance gives you perspective (yes, I know a month with H begging to be taken back is not "distance", but it is what it is…) After breaking up with someone I pay close attention to what I feel overall: a wave of relief usually indicates that the distance was a good idea, to miss that person/to yearn him makes me also notice WHAT I miss (is it the hand-holding or the quirky remarks that make me laugh?), WHAT I want (I guy that can keep me up all night long talking about profound ideas? Or do I prefer a guy with whom I can have a "comfortable silence"?)
    4- Did the OP ever think about H? How it must feel to him to be with someone that wants "more"? Did she think about what is fair on him? Because directly or indirectly, one passes on the hint that the other is "not enough", and I think no one deserves to be in a romantic relationship with someone that thinks that you "aren´t enough"…

    Just my two cents, sorry if I offend anyone, I wrote it as it came out (sorry!)

  9. I have a similar scenario and am contemplating ending the relationship as well. We dated for awhile and when he proposed, I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach, but said yes regardless – very similar to your "I guess". I cried during the morning-of preparations on our wedding day, but reasoned that it was nerves and my pending relocation. We are great friends, but much more like roommates. Enough years have passed for me to comfortably say that despite work, this is not the kind of partnership I envision for myself (or my partner) for the rest of my life.

    Is there something "better"? I have no idea. Should I love my partner differently than I love my friend? Yes, absolutely bunt I don't. Do I feel more lonely in my relationship than at various other times on my life? Yes. Will someone else be incredibly happy with my partner and, in turn, make him far happier than I ever will? Yes. Does he see this? No.

    For many, I think we strive for, perhaps, good enough. People make that work, and it's true that marriage in our society has evolved to be a relationship where the expectations are near-impossible to meet. The question, though, I think is what is "good enough" for me? For you? The very fact that we aren't feeling "good enough" in our current relationship says something that I don't think is wise to ignore. When we feel there is or may be something lacking, it becomes our responsibility (to ourselves and our partners) to either leave or work it out before we begin to look elsewhere to have that need met. We must respect our own happiness and our partner's.

    What does that mean for you? I don't know. But for what it's worth, I'm here too.

  10. I find this to be an interesting question, because it sounds like you know what you want to do (leave) but don't want to do it for various reasons. The question is more about finding the right justification to leave than it is about deciding what to do. If you aren't feeling like this is the relationship you want, then I'd say your gut instinct to leave is right.

    However, this is coming from someone who doesn't buy the idea of soulmates at all. I've been married to my husband for over 2 years and I love him more than ever, but I've also never thought there's some magic between us that makes us click more than any other relationship I could pursue. We get each other at a certain base level, but you know what? I've been friends with, dated, and slept with other people who I click with too. More than chemistry, our marriage is about working hard at our relationship in a more conscious way. I had my doubts before we got married (would we ultimately divorce? would we tire of each other? is marriage, or this specific marriage a mistake?), and while those doubts never go away for a person with anxiety, I have learned to live in the present and make active choices to invest in my marriage every day.

  11. I know this is probably not going to be very popular but I really hate the term "Soulmate", I think it can create such high expectations for a relationship that no one can ever meet that standard. I also think that expecting everything from one person is a mistake, some parts of your support system in life need to come from your circle of friends and or family, I don't believe one person can provide everything.
    I have been with my husband for 10 years, married for 5 of them, we have never had a blow out fight about anything in all the years we have been together, I knew right away he is the right person for me and I still hate the term "Soulmate", I think that term can end up being a trap.
    That said, I also think you should feel satisfied and comfortable in your relationship, if those things aren't there, then the relationship may not be right for you, even if it does look good on paper.

  12. I have been with my boyfriend for 5 years we have three children and while he loves the children I am very unhappy. The most important thing in a relationship I have found is someone who wants to work with you as a team and not against you. It sounds like you have a great teammate as you discuss cleaning your apartment. Other couples who have been together a long time also have similar answers to how they stayed together. Working for each other rather than against each other especially if you decide to have children. Things work much smoother if you can plan things and plan to have time for each other. I have changed since having children I am no longer that "party girl" that I think he enjoyed being around that was never meant to last forever, people grow up you can't base your relationship on that kind of thing you need to base it on a good foundation like building a house not on window dressing. Good houses can be built and last a long time with a good foundation and some work.

  13. Ooof I hear this. My ex husband was, and is, an amazing person. He treated me SO. WELL. We had fun together. We worked well as a team. He made my daily life easy, and comfortable, and pleasant – he really took care of me in a lot of ways. I felt safe, and secure, and loved. I married him for all of these reasons.

    But on some level there was a lack of deeper connection – we didn't actually have that much in common, and those differences became more and more pronounced over the years. His version of depth and spirituality (think… dropping acid and reading pretentious poetry) felt cheesy and empty to me, so it was just a topic we avoided. He is smart, and a pleasant travel companion, but he didn't share my curiosity about the world or my wanderlust. He was ambitious, but in ways that were ultimately incompatible with my ambitions. The sex was good, but there were interests we didn't share. All this led to us opening our relationship, which ultimately led to the end of it (I think poly works great for some people, but it wasn't quite right for me.)

    The person I'm with now is, objectively, kind of a mess. There are days when he can barely tackle his own life, let alone prop up a second person, which means I've had to learn to stand on my own two feet a lot more (a good thing, but I'm spoiled and it's tiring, haha.) But he's brilliant and curious and we connect on an emotional and sexual level much deeper than anything I've experienced before. I still, after two years, think about him all the time. He drives me a little crazy but I don't want anyone else.

    Ideally, you'd be able to find someone who is a stellar practical partner AND a great connection, but having had both, if I have to choose, I choose this.

    • Can something be both eye-opening and terrifying? Because that’s your story to me. It sounds like my own at the moment. My husband and I are now in the “poly” stage. Our girlfriend is great, I love them both dearly, but they have a connection he and I just don’t have (they were friends before he and I decided to include her). I told him that I feel like I don’t have that connection, that “I can talk to you about anything” that she and him have and he says we can work on it but a part of me just doesn’t believe that. How do you build a connection after 8 years? It’s eother there or it isn’t, right? I hate to pry, but what was “this is it, this is the end” for you, because I feel like mine is looming…

  14. relationship needs and values don't always match. Everyone has unmet needs. The key here is how much weight they have for you at the end of the day. There's no such thing as a catch if it's not a catch FOR YOU. There's no judgement on either part on this statement.
    As for your question – what do you do. You can accept you're never going to feel fulfilled and go on. Or you part ways.
    I know people have different reasons for getting married/staying with a partner, and absolute love is not always the main one. I know it works for many people. But the key is it should be a mutual feeling, and if it's the right thing for you you should be happy overall. Imo, you don't enter a commitment with someone that has no doubts when you do. Being with someone you feel is not enough for you can be devastating for both parts, wether or not you later meet someone else.
    You've said it yourself- you're more like friends. Marriage won't change any of it. I have friends who live miserably because of this, and they built it all themselves, knowing what they were getting into. I think you already know what you want. And I'm sorry for you, i know it's hard.

  15. My boyfriend and I have been together for 4 years. I never felt sparks, or fireworks, or any of that "instant chemistry" people talk about, but I honestly don't think I'm hardwired that way- because to me, I use that emotional reaction to situations/thing I won't stay with in the long-run. I need to be on a low simmer. I met him at the height of my depression and anxiety and I was stunned that he still wanted to date me. That loyalty was the first thing I was attracted to. Five months into the relationship I had to participate in three separate drug interventions, one of which was for my own father's. He stayed with me through that. Between the two of us, within 3 years we've experienced four earth-shattering deaths and one suicide attempt. We were at each other's sides through all this. Our lives have not been easy. We have not had time to be silly and fancy-free; we've had to deal with issues that typical young people shouldn't have to deal with. However, when I look at him I think of serenity and I know I can find my safe haven with him. I don't need to be flying over the moon when I see him. And I feel that he is the one (although I don't want to be a wife or be married any time soon).
    I live by this quote I found online: "The Buddhists say if you meet somebody and your heart pounds, your hands shake, your knees go weak, that's not the one. When you meet your 'soul mate' you'll feel calm. No anxiety, no agitation." And that's the best way I can describe my relationship with him, although I disagree with the term 'soulmate' because I think it creates high expectations on life partners. But overall, this person I've been in a relationship for four years is the person I still want to come home to at night and wake up with in the morning. I prefer to examine my life on a day-to-day basis and I am currently very happy with who I am sharing my days with, and I don't want to change any aspect of that now.

  16. In my opinion, when you say you want these things…

    "The kind of connection where both people "just get it" — and get each other. No words needed. No explanation. No feelings of not being understood. This is missing."
    "…I'm looking for a certain answer and he is not capable of providing that."

    …you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Marriage is not those things, and it's not about unlimited bliss. It's about communication, and understanding that no one is going to read your mind. It's also understanding that truly loving someone is a choice, not a feeling. It may be helpful to check your expectations, and throw out the fairytale. See what you have when you're not constantly comparing your husband to an imagined (impossible!) ideal, and go from there. I wish you and your husband all the best.

    Edit: People generally know when they're being judged, and pull away. Your husband might be more willing to have deep conversations when you accept him as he is.

  17. I have very strong feelings on this topic. A few years ago, I could have written almost this exact same post myself. I was in a relationship with a GOOD man, someone I was attracted to, someone who was stable and supportive and generally an awesome partner…but I wondered, in the back of my mind, if he was the best possible partner for me. Lack of common interests was a huge thing for us, and something we knew about from the beginning of our relationship. And yet, living with him was the most natural thing ever. I felt like I *could* do it forever; I just wasn't sure if it would be enough.

    About the word "enough": I said to someone, once, "I'm just not sure if I'm happy *enough*." The wise response I got was, "If you have to ask, then you aren't."

    I wanted to have intellectual conversations with him, and it just never happened. I wondered if maybe I could get those needs met by friends. I told myself that no one person could be everything to someone else. But the thing was, I needed to learn to put my money where my mouth was with *my own* values. It was important *to me* that I could have intellectual conversations with my partner, even though I knew it was also okay if that wasn't important to other people. So, I want to echo what others have said here about knowing what a catch is *for you*.

    I didn't settle. We eventually had a mutual breakup. We stayed friends! He's now in another (seemingly quite happy) relationship, and I'm now engaged to someone who checks off all my boxes.

    So, I fall pretty squarely into the "don't settle" camp. Sure, it's good to recognize that there's no "perfect" person, and that every relationship has its challenges. There will always be times that you don't see eye-to-eye with your partner, and yes, times when you don't intuitively understand each other. My fiance and I are very different personality types, but we've learned to bridge the gap. And we have the kinds of conversations I was looking for in my love life, and we "get" each other in some very important ways. This is what I was looking for, and I'll never stop thanking myself for holding out for it.

    I see you use phrases like "a lot of doubts," "not quite there," "I guess," "I find myself wanting more," "gray area," "this is missing." If these are recurring thoughts about your relationship, I recommend thinking about whether you'd be okay with feeling that way for the rest of your life. Only you can answer that question.

  18. I think some people are more prone to have doubts in relationships than others. I have always been anxiety-prone and that carries over into fears about my marriage, but at the end of the day I know I am where I should be. Taking anxiety and general commitment fears out of the equation, I have always wondered about the feeling of a relationship just not being "right," with no definitive reason (and I have been in one of those relationships before too). Could this sometimes be a biological signal that two people are not a good genetic match?? Whether or not you plan to have children, you still have a human body (I assume) that might be sending you messages to let you know that you are not biologically a good fit for each other. I am not a scientist, and I obviously don't think people should only be together for the purpose of mating, but there must be some instances where uncomfortable feelings about a relationship have an evolutionary background. I am NOT saying that this is what is happening in your situation, and I really cannot tell you what is best for you, but it's just something I wonder about from time to time. I did read something once (somewhere) about people subconsciously preferring the scent of someone who is a good "mate," so to speak. I hope no one takes this the wrong way, I'm not some crazy eugenics supporter. In fact, I have a lot of health problems myself and I am still glad my parents made me! I'm just curious about it I guess. I wish the poster the absolute best of luck making the right decision. I think we all deserve to be happy. Please don't stay in a relationship if you know it is wrong for you. If it could be an anxiety thing, consider that too. 🙂

  19. I'm pretty much in the same place. I've been married for 4 years, we've been together for 12 years now. And all this time, I never felt "sure". Sure of what? Friends around me are raving about how they found their "soulmates" or "the one", and I've never bought that terminology.

    The major part of 2016 has been dedicated to some intense soul-searching on my part: what do I expect in a relationship? What are our common goals? Do we even have common goals? Common values? If we nitpick daily issues but still have share the same big picture, I'd settle for "good enough". Is he even "good enough"? He's prone to verbal violence, too. Also: am I prone to insatisfaction? Will all my relationships be unsatisfactory because I'm the one with unrealistic expectations? Do I prefer to lead my life as I want but alone, or to be in a relationship that is "good enough" without achieving what is important to me? Is the grass greener on the other side?

    We talked. And talked. We even had The Talk. Where I explained we were roommates who occasionally slept together, that I didn't want to settle in for someone who didn't have the same life goals. That I wanted out. I was convinced we'd get a divorce.

    And then he fought to win me back. That's where I am now, so I have no real answers. But I advise the soul-searching. If you're like me, in your first long-term relationship, this is going to be hard as you have no comparison point. Ask yourself if you're recreating some family patterns. My mom had the hardest time breaking up over several years with her latest partner and my grandparents are still married even if they despise each other. Sticking to a problematic relationship seems hardwired in me.

    Can you picture yourself leading the same life and the same relationship 5 years from now? 10 years from now? We tried readjusting some daily issues and larger issues. After 12 years, I want to give my all to try and make this relationship work but I'm also ready to break up if we can't find a common ground.

  20. As other people have said, different people have different relationship needs. People stay in unfulfilling lives because they believe that's all they can hope for, and that they're undeserving/ungrateful if they want more. But for you, more isn't just possible. It's necessary. Necessary to feel human, and alive, and like *yourself*.

    Here's what I've learned to be true for myself. It may or may not be true for you. I've learned that for me, a relationship exists for the sake of the individuals within it. A relationship should be fertile soil from which I grow as a person, and help another person to grow. If either of us has to diminish who we are as people, if the relationship stunts our growth instead of spurring it, it's more of a cage than a relationship.

    I read somewhere that continued sexual passion in a relationship depends on spiritual passion. And spiritual passion comes from a relationship that values growth. It isn't necessarily always pretty. And it takes lots of courage. And for that reason, a lot of people prefer a relationship that errs on the side of safe and stable, where you never dig too deeply into yourself or the other person because that might force you to acknowledge vulnerabilities and truths that make waves in the calm, placid surface of niceness. But those risks can lead to the building of a relationship that's rooted in TRUE intimacy and trust.

    Some people simply don't feel the need for that – or maybe they don't feel the need for it from their romantic partner. And that's okay. Some can't live without it. And that's also okay.

    What doesn't work is if two people in a relationship are mismatched in their needs.

    I've learned that I need someone who challenges me. Who doesn't want me to hide my dark corners, because they value my presence within the relationship and know that I can't be fully present if my dark corners aren't welcome at the table. Who wants all of me. And who, because they want all of me, leads me to continuously become more and more myself.

    And I need someone I can want in the same way.

    It's not asking for perfection, a fairy tale, for some unattainable vision of perfect compatibility. For one thing, that would be boring. For another, it would imply a continuously static state in which neither of you ever changed or grew beyond the day you met.

    It's simply asking for a shared philosophy of relating.

    And I've learned that I don't need to settle. That it's possible. And that settling for less would have been an act of tremendous self-abuse.

  21. One more thing I've learned: Love isn't always PC. For years, I pursued relationships with zero gender differentiation, because that fit the values of my superego. Eventually, I was able to admit to myself that whether I like it or not, have a decent reason or not, I really love men who make me feel like a woman.

    There may be things you want in your heart of hearts that feel shallow, or backward. Admit them to yourself, and go from there. They might turn out to be stand-ins for other unmet needs. But they could also turn out to be the key to a door inside you that unlocks incredible riches.

    • Dear Tacroy, I've been searching, and searching for answers about my relationship, and digging into articles, blogs, postings, sites, and you wrote EXACTLY what I've been feeling…so much so that I wondered if you were with me in my Therapist's office this past year! Lol! My gosh! Thank you so much for 'breaking this SHIT down', as Ariel put it, lol!

      I'm w/a wonderful man, who I feel I can only go so deep with, despite him 'trying' to go deeper, but, I'm afraid he just does not have the maturity or life experience. I met another wonderful man, who CAN go deep, and DOES have the maturity/experience!

      I love them both, in different ways, as my SO and I have been together 10 yrs.! And the other man I've known for a year, but have not able to fully 'date' or get to know each other, but I SO WANT TO, but am SO afraid of letting my guy go, as we have a TON of fun together, and have the SAME sense of humor, for which humor is really important to me.

      But the other man is more mature, wise, deep, and TOTALLY makes me feel like a woman, where as my SO just does not have that capability, but wants to take direction, but, it's just not the same…hence some of my dilemma to stay or go.

      Sigh…I ALSO want a man who challenges me! I've been saying for yrs that my SO does not, or, not in the way that I would like, for which I think the other man would. I am going to copy and paste your posts and keep re-reading when I need to.

      Thank you again, and 4 yrs. later after you wrote this, I do hope all continues to be well with you. Thank you!

  22. I am going to go out on a limb and project a bit here, okay?

    I don't know if it's your case, but for me that "fluttery OMG can't-live-without-you" soulmate instant connection has happened before, a few times. It was over-the-head soaring on endorphins LOVE. Then it deteriorated and eventually ended in drama.

    What I realize now is it was mostly LUST. Insane chemical connection where the physical attraction spread a veneer over very real issues and personnality problems. The people I "click" deeply with, they are never never good stable people. Drug addicts, mental health issues, abusers or abused. These are the types I fall head over-heels with. Always.

    My now-husband does not fit this category. We were friends for years. At first, when he manifested interest in dating, I refused because I never had that head-rush with him before. I still don't and never will. We have been dating 16 years, married for two. Our relationship is our rock, I do not question it. We are together. Even if there is no thrilling palpitations. Our love is… It just is. Like the sun. Present. We don't fight much. We are extremely independant. But unlike your post suggests, there is a deeper connection holding us together. Intellectual sharing and convictions that ground both of us.

    We are an unlikely match, but we WORK. I would not have it any other way. There have been three other people over the course of our journey together that tempted me. Flutters, attraction, oh god. I resisted. Eventually, I grew seperated from these people. I don't believe they were my soulmates, even if they would have been an incredible shag. I know it's just physical confetti. When the sparkles settle, I want to find my friend by me.

    • SonyaG, This is true for me too. One time my friend told me that "love is something you create with somebody who is kind and makes you laugh." My husband and I both believe in that, but I don't think it means that you can make a truly loving relationship with any nice person off the street. I do think it means that there are thousands of people out there for anyone, you just have to find someone who you want to take that journey with. My husband and I have worked hard and our love continues to grow. And he definitely meets the criteria of being kind and making me laugh.

      • A few minutes ago I said my husband and I both believe that love is something you create.
        I take that back. I just talked to him, and he has a more "romantic" view on love and relationships than I previously thought. That's fine with me! I'm still in the love-is-a-decision camp.

    • "I don't know if it's your case, but for me that "fluttery OMG can't-live-without-you" soulmate instant connection has happened before, a few times. It was over-the-head soaring on endorphins LOVE. Then it deteriorated and eventually ended in drama."

      This exactly! I don't think it's necessarily always that, but it sure often is, and I have come not to trust those initial fluttery feelings and instead enjoy the steady warmth, like a well-tended fireplace, of a good match. You can't warm yourself with fireworks.

  23. I HAVE BEEN THERE. I dated a great guy for years. We got along just fine, had the same sense of humor, and we lived together very harmoniously. However, I never got that "soulmate" feeling. I felt very comfortable and secure with him though, and I thought that was enough. 4 years later, he ended up leaving me for someone he met that he DID have that spark with. I've since met my true soulmate, and I knew within the first 24 hours that it was meant to be. So, if you have ANY doubts, trust your instinct! Sure, you could be happy with him, but once you meet your soulmate, NOTHING compares. Good luck!

  24. Your description of your reaction when he proposed reminds me of when I got engaged. In the moment I thought of the alternative. Breaking up, uprooting my life, moving out… and decided to say yes, because it was comfortable.

    My ex-husband and I had many issues. Some related to things that it sounds like aren't present in your relationship, but I did tell myself lots of things like 'there's no such thing as soulmates', and 'this is just the reality of every relationship', 'everyone has flaws'.

    All those things are true, no doubt, but they didn't negate the fact that despite ticking the boxes of what I thought I wanted, and feeling very safe, it was not a good marriage and it was slowly strangling me and making me a bitter person.

    Now that I am divorced, and dating someone else, someone who I have true passion for, I recognize that I probably should never had said yes in the first place. My current relationship may or may not turn out to be long term, but it's been passionate and deep and intense and intellectual, and all those things that I was missing. I prefer this to the security of the marriage that wasn't a good fit.

  25. I honestly don't think you can have all of those things. I have the clear connection, the "your heart hurts when you think about that person" love, the working very well together (we travel together beautifully), the feeling I've known him for a long time (and I have – 18 years). We do still have good conversations but when you've known someone for 18 years, been together for 9 and married for 6, you can't expect that you will have deep, meaningful conversations all the time. Sometimes, sure, but often your lives become so intertwined that part of it is just existing together. Nobody has enough insight and thought to keep intellectual or thoughtful conversation going all the time for the rest of their lives, you need down time too, to just be around someone you trust and love.

    I've decided that I actually prefer this – it feels like it'd be exhausting to just always be talking or sharing insight. I've learned to just exist and love my husband even when we go a week mostly talking about the weekly banalities of our lives. There is comfort in it. I don't have to be 'on' or be insightful all the time. It's a good thing.

    But, yes, the strong connection, the obvious love – the knowing you couldn't conceive of having this with anyone else – and the (yeah) good sex make it joyful to live through those times, rather than cause me to question if I have enough 'meaningful conversation' with my husband.

    So for that part, yeah, I think you have to come around to being okay with not having everything you want.

    On the other end of the spectrum, I've had relationships with amazing conversational and sexual chemistry but this feeling I didn't really know, and never would know, the other person – that maybe they weren't interested despite all of our deep discussions in my knowing them that way (or anyone doing so – who knows).

    But if you don't have the conversation, you don't have the 'this is the right partner for me just because he is', and the clear attraction, the comfort of just having him there, then *that* is a problem. You can't have everything, or rather, having everything can grow exhausting after awhile. But if you don't have anything but stability, it's worth exploring that now. A good counselor might be able to help you break down whether you can be satisfied with that or not – and on some level if you want to be satisfied with it, you have to choose to do so. (A good blueprint for this can be found in old Carolyn Hax columns – she gets this concept really well).

    Some people do make that choice, and they are okay with it. You have to ask yourself "what happens when someone who pushes ALL of the right buttons comes along?" If your answer is "leave your husband for him", then that's your answer – it's time to go. Now, not when you have the perfect Romeo waiting for you. Also you have to accept the fact that you may leave and never find Romeo, and may in fact look back and think this was the best relationship you ever had. That can happen (probably not, but it's not impossible – not everybody gets A Great Love. This sucks but there's always something not everybody gets. Not everybody gets A Great Career or Gets To Travel or True Financial Security or whatever it is people want to "Get". Sometimes you just don't. Happiness has to come from you anyway, not that thing you want.)

    Still, it wouldn't be fair to stay with him knowing you'd leave if the right person came along, for obvious reasons I hope I don't have to explain.

    If your answer is "I would stay with my husband because I value the stability, comfort, love and cooperation even though it doesn't curl my toes sometimes", then it's worth it to explore how you can be emotionally happy long-term with staying. People do decide they'd rather have those things than search for a partner who sets off their rockets, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as you are sure.

    So either way, you have to choose and accept the consequences of that choice.

    As someone said above, love CAN be something you create with someone you are otherwise happy with, if that's what you want love to be. Sometimes it doesn't work, often it does.

    For what it's worth I don't feel either approach is better than the other – every time I had that 'soulmate and I knew immediately' feeling, the person ended up being very wrong for me. What I mistook for 'soulmate!!! DING DING DING!!!" was in fact just really strong lusty chemistry. Not the same thing at all!

    (In fact I find the partners who set off my rockets were always, ultimately, wrong for me – really deeply incompatible in very important ways such as lifestyle expectations, gender role expectations, religion or desire to travel, to name a few. I prefer having all of those things in line and maybe only have one or two rockets set off now and again).

    Whereas with my husband, we had a few years of friendship, right around the time we were figuring out who we were (college), before the attraction really started. Or rather, before it started in both of us (he liked me first). Then we had a few years of pretending it wasn't there, or fighting because we were friends who really should have been lovers so there was all this jealousy and emotion in the air because we *weren't* together, then thinking because we were fighting that we shouldn't be together (when in fact once we got together it all vanished – we hardly ever fight now, and when we do it's more of a strong discussion than a fight). So you could say I built love with someone based on friendship, then attraction. Yeah, sometimes we have quiet dinners, or we just talk about how our day was, but I look at him and think 'yes'.

    Or you can decide it will never be enough just to have a good catch who is stable, and let him go – sooner rather than later for both of your sakes.

  26. Oh, honey. You are holding on so tightly the only thing I can think to say is "let go." You can choose what to let go of. Let go of the relationship that will (most likely) never fulfill your notion of soulmates. Or let go of this definition of soulmates that keeps you discontent in an otherwise solid partnership. Holding on to both of these things must be exhausting. There is risk to both options, and I can't pretend to understand what would be best for you. I do know it is important to choose and to live fully with your choice; whether that's to accept your relationship and your partner as they are or to move on.

  27. Here's my read. You say "The kind of connection where both people "just get it" — and get each other. No words needed. No explanation. No feelings of not being understood. This is missing." But the thing is, no one gets a relationship where they are always understood. This is an impossibility, and the great tragedy of life, that you go along making connections and no one can ever truly be in your skin, and know where you're feeling. No relationship is ever going to be without misunderstandings. BUT that being said, you can look for someone who gets you in ways you find important. Understands your love for a particular artist, or can pick you out chocolate you like. Or someone who cares enough to really deeply examine you, and reflect back to you when they find, to show you yourself in all your splendor. That is something you can expect of the world.

    I guess what I'm getting at here is, you say that your husband has no unmet need that is similar to yours. Well, do you need him to have that need, or would it be enough for him to know that YOU have that need, and work on it? What would happen if you talked to him, and said "I have this really deep unmet need, and I'm not even sure what it is fully but I want you to find it with me?" If you can't imagine having this conversation with him, and would never start it, then yeah, I think you're right the marriage is something you should leave. If it is a conversation you can have, then that's an answer too. And the follow up to that is, will you?

    Look, I'm not saying you have to stay with the dude. It sounds to me like you sort of want permission to leave. But maybe you also want permission to stay. Listen to me. Forget everything I just said, and listen to this: You do not need my permission, as a stranger on the internet, to do anything. You do not need my permission to go, you do not need my permission to stay. The power is yours. Not anyone else's.

    • "What would happen if you talked to him, and said "I have this really deep unmet need, and I'm not even sure what it is fully but I want you to find it with me?" If you can't imagine having this conversation with him, and would never start it, then yeah, I think you're right the marriage is something you should leave. If it is a conversation you can have, then that's an answer too."

      This is SPOT ON for me. I've been married 7 years, together 15 years, and during that time both of us have had a lot of unmet needs for one reason or another. Sometimes it's something one of us needs from the other, sometimes it's a work issue or lifestyle or extended family or health. But every time I feel better after talking with my husband about it–that's how I know our marriage is working.

  28. Leave, end it, break up! Marriage JUST MAKES THINGS HARDER. I was in a happy but not satisfying relationship for far too long. He was GORGEOUS (like women would gawk and my dad joked that he was Daniel Craig because that's how he looked) but made poor financial and life choices (nothing terrible, but I'm type A enough for that to drive me CRAZY). I stayed because he treated me well, was close to his family, and was a dog person. He was the first person I was with who treated me well, but I had doubts and hesitations. I kept putting off him moving in with me, and at a certain point I realized that wasn't fair, and either shit or get off the pot, so I got off the pot! I'm SO glad I did because three years later (YES ONLY THREE YEARS) I'm HAPPILY married to the best partner I could have ever dreamed of. And the Ex is also very happily married too! Our first year of marriage has been tough, we've suffered job loss, renovations, family drama, and are now dealing with potential infertility, but I wouldn't change a thing because I want to go through life with him, no hesitations. Not saying we don't fight or bicker, but when it comes right down to it, I wouldn't want to even fight or bicker with anyone else. You want someone who through the shit times (that WILL come), you actually want by your side. Your doubts are telling you something, and it is NOT fair to your partner or you to stay if you have them. Cold feet are not a thing if you are right for each other. I had lots of stress around my wedding day, but the ONE thing I was NOT worried about was starting a life together with my partner. It was actually how I comforted myself when I was stressing about everything else "as long as he is there, EVERYTHING ELSE CAN GO WRONG". Good luck!

  29. I think this is perfectly normal to doubt now and then and that it's better to acknowledge what you are feeling rather than denying the issue. That being said, do you know the YouTube channel "The School of Life" created by the philosopher Alain de Botton? He has a video called "Alain de Botton on Love" and that really helped me put things in perspective. It is smartly made, funny so you're not bored but it led me to examine my feelings from another angle.
    Like, the idea that we have to "get our partner without needing to speak" is a very recent idea. It was created in romantic novels where the heroes know each other for 5 days before one of them tragically dies. You can't build a marriage on that.
    Hope this helps!

  30. You didn't say how long you'd been married but you were dating for 6 years beforehand (if I read your letter right). And I say: if it's been 6 years and you're still having serious doubts, end it. I don't believe in "soulmates" (or maybe I do, but I don't think a soulmate would make a good long-term relationship by my definition), but I do know it's possible to have a relationship where you 99% of the time feel, "Yes, this is the right person, I'm so lucky to be here because he's awesome and makes me happy, yay!" It doesn't sound like you're feeling that. Separate first, maybe, and do some work on yourself to see if you're just bored or depressed with life in general. But I'm thinking it's the relationship.

    Like others, I question some of your rhetoric about "just understanding each other". My husband and I bicker fairly often, and have different opinions about things. We have areas where we came to an understanding, and some areas where that hasn't happened yet. But underneath it all, is a great upwelling of affection, esteem, and just joy. I don't hear that in your letter and that's why I think you should end it.

  31. OP, I'm in the same boat and I'm jumping ship asap. We've tried everything, and I've just decided it's too hurtful to both of us to stay together. He doesn't deserve to be "not enough" for his wife, and I don't deserve to live the rest of my life in a single "romantic" relationship born of practical housekeeping and stability. What I need is stimulation and connectivity from my partner. That's my personality and not his. If I have to be single the rest of my life to allow for that component, so be it. Be fearless. Know that staying because you feel like you should is not doing anyone any favors.

    I love my husband, but there are many types of love, and little resentments and shortcomings only snowball and transform love into something less than the honorable thing it inherently is. We are miles apart (emotionally) these days. Life is too short for that. I've decided the only right thing to do is be honest about my needs, where my heart is at, and love him as a friend, if we're lucky enough to escape this without hating each other. Time will tell, but I'm getting the ball rolling this month. Our marriage has been short, our friendship long, and we should have just stayed friends. I hope to be his friend again, but right now I just want more and you can't squeeze blood from a turnip, as they say.

  32. When you talking about someone being a catch, you're treating the relationship as an achievement. It's like a competition you won, and he was the prize. That's not a partnership, that's not a foundation for a life together. You don't even mention if you love him. You might say that's something taken as read, but it's so obviously missing from your every statement. You can't love a trophy.

    A friend who recently ended a relationship said Jess Zimmerman's article, Hunger Makes Me, really helped her recognise what she wanted and why it was important to give herself permission to want.

    A man’s appetite can be hearty, but a woman with an appetite is always voracious: her hunger always overreaches, because it is not supposed to exist. If she wants food, she is a glutton. If she wants sex, she is a slut. If she wants emotional care-taking, she is a high-maintenance bitch or, worse, an “attention whore”: an amalgam of sex-hunger and care-hunger, greedy not only to be fucked and paid but, most unforgivably of all, to be noticed.

    …But attentiveness, consideration, compliments, small and large kindnesses, feeling truly loved, having someone put you first while you put them first because you’re in cahoots to make each other’s lives easier and better: most people do like that, when it’s thoughtful and sincere. It’s here, more than in the big gestures, that romance lives: in being actively caring and thoughtful, in a way that is reciprocal but not transactional.

    So the question is, are you in cahoots to make each other's lives better? Or are you just comfortably making each other's lives not-worse.

    • I love the idea of being romantically caring and thoughtful. I was watching Chelsea Handlers episode on marriage and a man says that marriage is putting down the toilet seat for my wife and she puts the toilet seat up for me.

  33. My knee-jerk reaction is: If you aren't sure whether or not he's the one, he's not.

    Of course, all I have is my own experience, where I dated a lot of guys who weren't the one, sometimes for far too long… Until one day, after having been happily single for about a year, I met someone and knew, absolutely KNEW, within two weeks, that he was the one. We got married a month later and now it's been almost four years. No regrets. Not for marrying him, and certainly not for not marrying anyone else. Not that any of them were necessarily bad people, or not "catches"… but they weren't mine.

    The only advice any of us can really give, I think, is to trust yourself. You know if he's your person. And you know if he's not.

  34. Note: I'm reading this under the assumption that you are engaged and not married, based on my reading of the question…
    I wish for your sake and H's that you had remained broken up after the first 3 years. It seems to me that this relationship is going to end eventually and it's not fair for you to waste H's time.

    Before I met my husband, I dated a guy. We had all of the big stuff in common — religion, kids, educational background, etc. I didn't feel that spark. But I thought I should stay with him because he was a good guy and we were compatible. When he broke up with me, I wasn't sad at all. A month later I met my now husband and I knew immediately that we were going to be together long-term.

    Do both of yourselves a favor and break up. That way you can both find a more satisfying relationship. Constantly feeling lukewarm about your partner is not normal.

  35. "Is this something that happens when you get married?"

    No no no. Definitely not. If it's not there now, it won't magically appear once you're married.
    Save yourself the pain and have the conversation now. It's not worth the struggle of divorce 🙁 I speak from unfortunately experience.

  36. I've only had one relationship (which is going strong 5 years in) so take the following with a grain of salt:
    I think it might be helpful for you to set aside all your thoughts/concerns about your partner for a bit. Pretend you're single and seeking to embark on a relationship, and evaluate the things that are most important to YOU in a relationship. Try to ignore what you feel like you OUGHT to want (I know it's easy to feel pressured by societal expectations when it comes to relationships, but ultimately this is an incredibly personal thing), and just focus on your actual wants/needs. Once you determine the one or two things that are absolutely non-negotiable (examples: physical/emotional/intellectual intimacy, shared values/goals/lifestyle preferences), you might be in a better position to determine the things you're willing to negotiate on. I do think most people in successful long-term relationships have to do at least a little bit of negotiating (we're all imperfect, after all), but it's up to the individual to determine what they are willing/able to negotiate on.
    Once you've done all this, you might be in a better position to evaluate your current relationship.
    At any rate, it might be a good idea to postpone any wedding plans until after you've had time to evaluate your needs and come to a clear decision.

  37. I had similar thoughts after being with my fiance for 7 years. He was supposed to be my soulmate and I had been fantasizing about it since I was in middle school, actually. But there were some missing things and I found myself doing just what you did…"I want a relationship where…" He was also a total "catch". There was NOTHING wrong with him. He was kind, respectful, intelligent, sweet, self-aware, eager to learn, affectionate, appreciative…I just didn't really laugh with him and that part of me was dying, only to be revived by other men. And I wanted a magnetic attraction I didn't feel. I had never been with anyone else and I was intensely curious because deep down I knew he wasn't it for me. That's an oversimplification, but that's the gist. I could have gone through with the wedding. We were engaged for several years at that point. I was afraid of disappointing everyone, devastating my fiance, and leaving behind the person I felt the most safe with. One night he asked me, "why are you with me?" and I said stuff about safety, how I could be myself, and I loved him, but it wasn't very convincing when I said it aloud. And it wasn't totally true either. A big piece of myself was unable to come out to play with him and long story short, it ended. It's been 8 years. I'm not married, but finally, after all this time, I have the romance I dreamt of. It doesn't look anything like how I thought it would. But it is the best relationship I've ever been in and while I still am dealing with some stuff from ending my engagement long ago, I don't regret it for a second. We would not have been happy. It hurt us both, but ending it before getting married was the courageous and right thing to do for us.

  38. I'm going to take the unpopular stance here and say that soulmates are a thing. I have been with my husband since 2009 and I've never once doubted he was my soulmate. I don't mean he gives me butterflies, I mean he speaks my language in a way no one else can or does. So often he literally reads my thoughts. We are sometimes more like one person than two. All that stuff people think they want. BUT. Here's the catch. Even that isn't enough. We've been on the rocks before and what I've learned is that mindreading doesn't add up to a hill of beans in the face of trust, mutual respect, and good communication. And those don't come automagically just because you two souls are entertwined. Humans are idiots, all of us, and it all takes work.

    But by all means, don't stay just because you think you ought to. That's unfair to him.

  39. I was with a guy for 4.5 years who I felt the same way about. He loved me and supported me, we had tons of mutual interests, and we got along great. We had a dog together. But I always felt like we were more like best friends or excellent roommates. I tried so hard to feel differently. I spent the last year and half of our relationship trying to convince myself to let go of my nagging doubts and live in the moment. But I couldn't. We broke up in June, and I broke his heart. I felt terrible about it. I still do. But I don't regret my decision.

    In the short amount of time since then, I have already met someone that checks all the boxes my previous partner didn't. Not saying he's the one (we've only been on a few dates), but he gives me that stupid tingly giddy feeling I haven't felt in years. I know that feeling isn't sustainable, but the fact that is was so easy for me to transition out of a long term relationship into the dating world again makes my decision feel validated.

    Sometimes you have to do what's right for you, even if it's not the right decision for both of you. That sounds selfish, but ultimately, you only have one life to live, and you should do what makes you happy.

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