Q: I’ve been with my partner since we were in school and we’re in our late twenties now. We grew up together and our families get along great. Everyone always says they can’t wait for our wedding and it’s starting to make me nervous. My friends aren’t close to settling down and I’m starting to question if my relationship is right for me. I’m wondering if I’m missing out and should be partying out there instead. They’re going on vacation and my girlfriend and I never seem to go anywhere. I feel like I’m leading a middle-aged life. Should I break up with my partner or just stay and hope things will change? I feel like something needs to change, but I don’t know what – or when. We have been living together for five years and would be looking for a mortgage in the next few years. Maybe I’m just getting cold feet?
dr West replies: Are your friends really all having a great time, or is there a chance that some of them envy what you have and aren’t really enjoying the single life? Not everyone is able to open up and be honest when they’re feeling lonely or longing for a long-term relationship. Some may think that they are perceived as weak or desperate, but that should not be the case. We’re more likely to find a partner if we’re honest about what we want, whether it’s the type of relationship we’re looking for or if we explain what our values and boundaries are. It helps us narrow our search and also helps us avoid disappointment. Things don’t change on their own, and a happy and healthy relationship takes work to keep it fresh and nourishing. It won’t be exciting and wild all the time as the rest of your life is sometimes a priority but with work, love and communication we can work on problems as they arise.
Perhaps your feelings are not doubts about the relationship as a whole, but doubts about the marriage. If everyone assumed that you were going to get married, perhaps it was difficult to imagine any other way. Society is always telling us to find “the one,” and it’s only recently that we’ve seen alternatives to marriage and children. How would you feel if you stayed with your partner but didn’t get married? There’s a difference between a wedding and a marriage, and while all the focus is on “the big day,” it’s not as important as the life of the marriage. However, marriage will only work if both parties want it, so it’s better to ask these questions now than before entering into a legal contract or paying for a wedding you don’t really want. It’s very common to miss that initial relationship excitement that’s present in new partners, but over time it transforms into a deeper intimacy that many seek throughout their lives. It’s not always that a relationship will be exciting or even fun, but a relationship has many ups and downs and even boring points throughout life.
However, if your partner is on a different path and really wants marriage and kids, you both need to have an honest conversation about where you’re willing to compromise and what a deal-breaker is. You both need to feel that you are going to live the life you want to live and staying in a situation that doesn’t meet your needs will only lead to frustration and unhappiness. Talk to her about the pressures you are feeling and create a space to talk about what you see for each of you going forward.
Perhaps your feeling of cold feet is a sign of fear of major financial commitments, such as a mortgage or marriage, rather than the relationship itself? That’s understandable as these are life-changing commitments, so it’s important to be honest with your partner about your doubts. Please don’t fall into the trap of staying together just because it’s easier. If you are really not happy and do not see a future together, then a separation is in order. Breakups are a painful process and you will see your world shrink as your families may not spend time together, but there may be short-term pain for the long-term gain of authentic living.
You wrote that you grew up together. This can be really sweet for so many people – navigating life together as young adults can be comforting as there is always someone there to support you and know what is going on for you. For others, they may find that while they grow up together, they also grow apart. We can change so much in our teenage years and our twenties. It is a time when our brains are still developing, and who we are as individuals is an evolving process worth exploring. What do you think would change for you if you were single and what kind of life do you think would be possible for you? If it’s very different from your current life, it might be time to reconsider the relationship. Or can we do it together? Instead of being on a non-stop train ride to your wedding and kids, you can explore how you would feel if you were traveling with your partner, moving away and trying the activities you want to try. Your friends might have boys’ holidays that look great on Instagram, but you can also choose to have a fabulous vacation with your significant other. Different doesn’t mean boring.
Whichever path you choose, you must be true to yourself and be honest with your partner.
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dr West is a sex educator and host of the Glow West podcast, which focuses on sex. Send your questions to email@example.com. dr West regrets that she cannot answer questions privately
https://www.independent.ie/style/sex-relationships/asking-for-a-friend-im-in-my-late-twenties-and-still-with-my-childhood-sweetheart-i-feel-like-were-living-a-middle-aged-life-am-i-missing-out-on-having-fun-with-the-lads-41871824.html Asking for a Friend: “I’m in my late twenties and still with my childhood sweetheart. I feel like we’re living a middle-aged life. Am I missing the fun with the boys?’