Posted by Some Dude on November 28, 2010 at 2:54 pm
Hi all! You may know me as a prolific commenter on HarvardFML; this is my new and improved means of doling out relationship advice! Got a question you want to ask, or a situation you want thoughts and advice on? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and watch this space for my answer! Today, however, I saw a post on HarvardFML that I want to discuss at length:
I’m pretty sure I don’t love my girlfriend anymore, but she’s intent on marrying me and I’m scared that I won’t find anyone else before graduation. FML
Yikes! And on HarvardFML, this fellow was overwhelmingly advised by the commenters that he should break up with his girlfriend, because his relationship is DOA. But this is much more complicated than that.
There is a point in every long-term relationship after which you have to continually choose to keep loving your significant other, or else your love atrophies. As an extreme example, older couples stay together despite looking, you know, unappealingly old. And it’s not out of fear of being unable to find someone else if they bailed: the bond they’ve forged holds them together. Now, if you don’t want to be done with the single life that’s one thing, but it sounds like you want to be in a long-term relationship. If this girl is just plain wrong for you that’s also something, but you didn’t mention that she’s doing anything problematic. My apologies if I’m reading into the words too much, but “I’m pretty sure I don’t love my girlfriend anymore” sounds like the problem is you, not her.
So, I think this demands a little introspection. Why do you not love your girlfriend anymore? Is it something she does, or something you’re not doing? Because if it’s the latter, you’re going to have this same problem with every long-term relationship you have.
If it’s commitment-phobia because she’s thinking about marriage, that’s pretty normal, but in this relationship or another you’ll need to overcome it eventually if you ever want to get married; and you may eventually grow out of it. Fear of not finding someone else is silly, and I hate it when people use it as an excuse for not getting out of relationships that they really need to be rid of. If you found one person you like who likes you and is a good match, you can find another. They’re not as rare as you think they are. But let’s clear up some myths. Some HFML commenters brought up the median age of first marriage, which in the US is 27 for women and 29 for men. Although late 20s is “normal,” that doesn’t mean it’s optimal. A few months ago, I read an article in Psychology Today about recent findings on the effects of age on marriage, and surprisingly, they found that the common wisdom that the younger you get married the less successful your marriage will be is only true if you marry before 22, and in fact it reverses after the age of 25. First marriages above age 30 are significantly less likely to be successful. Take a look at that article, too: the framing anecdote is very applicable to your situation.
All that being said, if your commitment isn’t the problem (or, perhaps, isn’t the only problem), then certainly you need to get out, and with haste. The longer you linger in a dead-end relationship the more you’ll just beat yourself up for it later, and the more surprised and frustrated your girlfriend will be. So, do yourself and your girlfriend a favor, and sort out your own problems first, then determine how you want to proceed.
Special thanks to everyone and everything, especially pumpkin pie. Email Some Dude at email@example.com.