Has my relationship run its course?

Has my relationship run its course?
Has my relationship run its course?

I’m not sure whether the relationship I’m in has reached the end of it’s run or if this is just a normal dip. My boyfriend and I have been friends for the past ten years and our friendship group is close knit and shared. We were together for three years then broke up for two. We got back together when I ended a relationship with another guy. We hadn’t had any contact in the time apart as we had parted on bad terms following an abortion that was hard for both of us.

The connection was there again immediately, and I loved how much fun we had together and the closeness we felt- we know each other better than anyone else. We moved in together six months later and shared with a mutual friend (another guy). I felt like the housewife for these two men, they were both lazy around the house and would exclude me on ‘football nights’, this was a cause for much friction between the two of us. I also found a sleazy message to another girl on his Facebook shortly after we moved in. We had a tough year but we love each other and decided to try to make it work.

Six months ago I decided to move back to our home town and he followed me, despite wanting to stay in London. He said he loved me more than he loved London, so we moved back as I thought that was what I needed to make me happier. We were thinking about settling down, buying a house, having kids etc and it made sense to be closer to our families and friends. He was able to keep his job and work from home and I landed my perfect job in the local hospital.

Since we’ve moved into our flat back home, we argue nearly every day, rarely have sex and I think about breaking up all the time. I feel like he doesn’t pull his weight around the house and he feels like I am constantly nagging, which he obviously hates. He’s spending more and more time arranging trips away with the lads and while we used to socialise together in big groups, he now stays home or leaves early. I feel unappreciated and lonely. He has a short temper and can’t have a normal conversation without raising his voice. My self esteem has nose-dived and I feel myself slipping in to depression, which I have struggled with in the past. I don’t know if I’m feeling low because we aren’t getting on, or we aren’t getting on because I’m feeling low and this is making me hard to live with. I feel like he’s making more effort now than me to do stuff together and be affectionate but I’m finding it hard to reciprocate.

Recently I met someone at work, I can hardly speak to him because I have an intense crush on him and I kind of think he likes me too. Nothing has happened but I find myself thinking about him a lot. I’m so confused, I know it’s probably just escapism thinking about this other guy and it will pass. I’m just worried that the intensity of my feelings for someone I hardly even know are a signal my relationship is over. 

I’m a nurse and work long shifts, so have been used to having lots of time at home alone on my days off, I don’t know if the problems we are having now are a result of that ‘me time’ being encroached on or if we actually just aren’t compatible and need to call it a day. I do know I love him and he loves me, I just think when we weigh it up the bad times outweigh the good. I’m 27 now and not sure how much time I should be potentially wasting waiting for things to improve. I’m terrified of losing our friendship, I know if things ended he wouldn’t want anything more to do with me. A break up would be messy and painful and I need to be totally sure. Any advice is much appreciated, I don’t feel like I can talk to anyone about this as he is my best friend and all our friends outside of the relationship are shared. Thanks.

You guys have a lot of history, and not many couples can have such a long break then go back to one another (I know of exactly one, and they’re happy now with two kids so it can work). But while there’s obviously a lot of love between you, habit and fear can keep us in situations we’ve long outgrown – and you definitely don’t want to be feeling this ambivalent about your partner when you’re considering marriage and kids.

Has your relationship reached its natural end? That’s a good question. I do think relationships have a ‘shelf life’, in a sense, but while that may mean breaking up for some couples, for others it might require a complete reinvention / renegotiation of the original relationship (because so much just isn’t working anymore, or because one party has had an affair and they decide to stay together). How do you know it’s time to go? Psychologists would say if you still fight that’s a good sign; there’s still passion and feeling between you. It’s when the fights stop that you have to worry; either one or both of you has become so indifferent that you don’t care about resolving things, and possibly have one foot out the door. That said, if you’re stuck on a hamster wheel of endless bickering and every little thing pisses you off, that’s not necessarily great either.

A lack of sex is another red flag. As is a lack of desire to spend time together. It stuck in my mind how you were a bit miffed at him being in your space during your days off – instead of happy that he’s around at a time he might otherwise not be. (But maybe that’s just me; lots of people might love their partner dearly but still guard their ‘me time’.)

Then there’s your work crush; either a result of your discontent or yet another reason for it. Of course, the appeal of someone new is always going to be technicolour in comparison to a jaded long-term lover, so that’s something to keep in perspective while you figure out what you really want.

To me, it sounds like you’ve a) gotten into a dynamic of relating you can’t change and b) have exhausted the relationship tools you both have to fix things. And if that’s the case, there’s no shame in bringing in the big guns. Trouble is, I’m guessing a guy with a short fuse and an inability to discuss issues without losing his shit is probably not going to happily skip along to couples counselling with you. I could be wrong. If he’s down with it – GO. Or go on your own. In the short term, you’ll glean some good strategies for communicating rather than fighting and in the long-term (or maybe short-term, who knows) you’ll determine if what you really want is out.

Wishing you all the best figuring out where you want to go next – and I hope you’ll come back and let me know how things have worked out for you.

Love, reality chick

Freelance journo, blogger, self-appointed advice-giver and co-author of Get Lucky. If you've got a dating or relationship issue, feel free to ask a question. (PS. You can also find me at The Mama Files and Letter To My Ex).

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