Ask Wendy

Is it Love if There Isn’t a Spark?

Reprinted from February 24, 2017
Hey Wendy,

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for a little over a year. He's thoughtful, has a great sense of humor and is overall really good to me. But having been in a few long-term relationships, there are not the fireworks I’m used to with this guy. I really care about him, but deep down I’m just not sure. I don’t want to hurt him.

My other relationships have been intense. I was deeply in love with equally painful breakups. That deep "I would move mountains for this person" feeling is the emotion I'm fixating on here. I just don't have that for my current boyfriend. I’m not sure what to do.

Carla L. - Portland, OR

Hey Carla,

Have you ever been to a Fourth of July fireworks show that never ends? Yeah, me neither. Fireworks in any relationship fade over time. However, that dimming of the flash and bang is replaced with a delicious sense of belonging and knowing when you’ve hit upon a keeper, so it’s kind of a trade. You can always reignite the fire and crank up the heat again when you’re intentional and creative about it. But that magic spark doesn’t just happen all on its own—there comes a time in every relationship where it stops being totally easy and instinctual and starts taking some work.

I hear you when you say you’re fixated on that “I’d move mountains for them!” feeling, but I’d ask you to ask yourself a different set of questions about the relationship you’re in now:

  • Would you follow him anywhere?
  • If you had children, would you want them to be like him?
  • Do you have deep respect for who he is as a person?
  • Do you really like him, and does he make you feel good about yourself?
  • Are you physically and emotionally compatible?

These questions, while not a guarantee for relationship longevity and happiness, will get to the heart of how you feel and if you have a shot at harnessing staying power. If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, you’ll hurt him if you stay or if you go—so you can’t wiggle out of that one. Hurting people, while we try not to do it as much as possible, is a part of the human experience, and at the end of the day, it’s always better to be honest—both with yourself and with your partner.

I wish you the best of luck contemplating your next steps!

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