I have been with my boyfriend for over five years. About a year ago he messed up in a big way and we broke up for six months. To his credit, he came a long way and I realized that I am happier with him than without him. We reunited about six months ago, and it just feels stagnant. I am happy and comfortable. We got a dog and are on the fast track toward marriage, but there is a lot missing for me. Our sex life is not exciting anymore and I don’t know if there’s a fix for that. I love him a lot and enjoy being with him but I question if he’s the one for me. I’m at a crossroads. I could be very happy and comfortable in our familiar love forever with doubt at the back of my mind, or I could take a huge risk and be on my own. Leaving him would be terrible for both of us but I just don’t know what to do.
He Said: This is a very tough situation. Many relationships reach this point, where the passion is gone but the love, or at least some proximity of it, remains. The problem is that it's extremely hard to sort out this ambivalent, complicated set of emotions. This is what I would do: Devise a series of experiments to test your own happiness with your boyfriend. Try making a romantic dinner at home, and really commit to making it great. Try scheduling a weekend getaway to a romantic destination. Then carefully monitor (and maybe even record) your own feelings, and his. Is this how you picture a romantic dinner? Sharing a hotel room in place you both love? If don't get that kind of warm fuzzy feeling of love and passion, you will have your answer.
She Said: Your question isn’t only a tough, and common, one. I believe it’s the existential dilemma at the root of most long-term relationships. Minds as great as Carl Jung’s have struggled with it and more modern psychologists have written entire books on it (see Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic by Esther Perel). So, first off, don’t feel alone.
That said, here are a few rocks to look under. First, was your sex life more exciting before your boyfriend “messed up in a big way”? Or were things already stagnant? If you sense a change post-breakup, it could be that your mind has forgiven him, but your heart and body are lagging behind. If, on the other hand, you’ve never had much sexual fire, or if the initial passion didn’t last long, then you must ask yourself a more difficult question, which is: How important a priority is passion in your life? What are you willing to pay for it? Because it will have a cost, whether that’s a new level of emotional and sexual risk (that you may have to initiate) with your boyfriend, or the heartbreak of leaving him, or the uncertainty of being on your own or in another passionate, but perhaps not very stable, relationship. Thirdly, take note of how you used the word “happy” three times in your question. I’ve talked to a lot of women in your situation. Many of them use the word “love” for their partners, but they don’t often say “I’m happy.” This tells me that you probably want to work on revising your routine sex life before throwing in the towel. Relationships often go through cycles of stagnancy and growth. Talk with your boyfriend. Ask him for what you need in bed. Come up with some of your own ideas on how you could experience more juice and desire, not just with him but throughout your life as a whole. I’ll leave you with one more thought, though I know none of these tidbits is the sole solution: We often look to experience sexual “passion” when what’s really missing from our lives is a deeper kind of passion—the one that comes from living out our purpose.
Once you’ve explored these various angles, see how you feel in a few months. And obviously hold off on getting engaged until you gain more clarity.
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