My partner and I are going through a bit of a rough patch. We have been together for 6 years (we are 22 and 23 years old); we met when we were in high school and have spent a lot of time together since getting together.
We have lived together the last two years. We have both recognized that things are not the same anymore. We both sit in silence doing our own thing. There is no quality time spent together, no acts of thoughtfulness given by either of us. I feel like it has gotten to the point where we are just used to and comfortable with each other’s company.
We spoke about this at the weekend and agreed that maybe it would be best to split, but ever since we talked, things have been so different. He sent me a 600-word letter on how much he appreciates the time he's had with me and how he recognizes his own faults in the relationship. I'm just getting mixed emotions and feelings at the moment and finding it really difficult to cope with the situation. I'm not sure what the right decision is, whether we should end things or fight to continue. I can think of reasons to do both of those things. So, I guess I'm just looking for a bit of advice and guidance. He was my first everything, so it's extremely difficult.
Demi – Sydney, Australia
I’m sorry you’re in a hard place. Let me tell you how you got there.
Biology is smart! We’re designed to not think our siblings are hot, and that helps curb inbreeding, which isn’t that great for the longevity of our species. Now, you might be wondering what the heck that has to do with you two, yes?
When we know and live with a person for a long time, what do they become? Yep: family. We purposely create that reliability and predictability, and as our lives become more and more intertwined, we become one unit—we become family.
Your story is a common one, and when it happens to us, we think that A) it’s our fault for picking the wrong guy, or B) it’s our partner’s fault for not trying harder.
I’m here to tell you that it’s no one’s fault. This is natural. This is predictable. This is something we should be teaching in school.
The beginning of a relationship is exciting and hot. Do you know why beginnings are like this? The risk of losing them makes them all the more exhilarating and special. Wondering things like, “Do they really like me?” “Will they stay?” “Could this last?” and even “Who is this person?” keeps the hormones pumping and the heart thumping. The excitement comes from the wanting, and from the mystery of the yet-unknown.
Fast forward six years when you’re living together day in and day out, and yeah, you know him. You know exactly when he’s coming home after work, you know what he’ll reach for to snack on, you know the first four things he’ll do when he walks through the door. You know his life story. You know him. It’s wonderful—the certainty that comes with being in partnership with someone you care about. But certainly also kills newness, curiosity, and spontaneity.
I bet you know where I’m going with this now. It’s your job to put that curiosity and spontaneity back in. You two literally have to create these things in new, exciting ways that work for both of you and who you are now, not who you were six years ago.
You say, “We both sit in silence doing our own thing. There is no quality time spent together, no acts of thoughtfulness given by either of us.” These things don’t happen on their own like magic. If you decide to stay but don’t build in conscious habits of intentional quality time, appreciative sharing, and mutual curiosity, then you’ll just end up with more of the same. And if you leave, you’ll eventually find a wonderful new partner…but over time, the exact same thing will happen unless you’re willing to discover newness in the old, again and again.
You two are the only ones who can decide if you should stick it out and change things up or if you should part. You two have history, and while that’s important, it’s not the make-or-break reason to stay. Start by determining where you are right now in your lives at 22 and 23. What are you looking for in a partner now as opposed to when you were in your teens? Do you two still match up? If no, do you both want to become that for and with each other? Because when you picked him, you were 16. I bet you need different things now than you did when you were 16. And guess what? When you’re 42, you’ll need different things than you did at 22. This is a lifelong dance. Make sure you’re picking the right partner for it.
Sometimes, couples grow and adapt together, and other times they don’t. If you stay, you may want to try my full moon ritual to do some light housekeeping on your relationship every month. And hey, if you go, I hope you can remain good friends because no one was the bad guy here.