I’m turning 50 in a few months and I’ve never had a relationship that lasted longer than three years – except for my nine-year marriage (which I probably would have left within the first three years if I’d had the resources to) and my seven-ish year fiasco with The Pedant (which barely feels like it counts, given that we broke up several times during those years and he barely ever spent time with me even when we were dating). And TBH I tend to cling to relationships too hard and stay in them too long, so the longest I’ve been happy in a relationship is maybe a year or two.
Is this weird, to be almost 50 and never have managed to be happy with a partner for more than a year or two? It feels like it might be weird.
I just…I feel like I see people all the time, everywhere, who are in romantic relationships that have lasted for years and seem to be going fine. Even people in their early 20s. Even people who don’t seem like they’re the type to intentionally work at making a relationship functional and good. All these people managing to just kinda fall into a partnership and stay there, seemingly contentedly enough, for half a decade or more. And, like…fucking how? Howwwwwwwww?!?!?!?!?
It’s tempting to write these relationships off in some way – to assume that the people in them probably don’t actively like each other and are just blindly following the societal rule that everyone is supposed to permanently couple up, and it’s just like “This is my Designated Person. I don’t have passionate feelings for them like I did in the beginning, but it’s fine. We get along okay, I guess. And it’s good to have the ‘relationship’ portion of my life all squared away so I can focus on other things.” But maybe that’s just me being bitter about what I don’t understand.
What percentage of long term relationships do you think are overall happy, with the people in them actively wanting to be together and feeling like being a couple makes both their lives better, rather than just going through the motions (or even hating each other but being too chickenshit to break up)?
If we assume that a person wants a relationship to make them happy, but they also want to commit to their partner for the long haul (which will inevitably mean going through some ups and downs), what is the optimal balance of these things? How do you know when something is just a rough patch vs when it’s time to cut and run? What amount of unhappiness is the tipping point where it’s just not worth it anymore to stay together?
I remember one time when I was a kid, my dad got laid off from his job and found a new one and my mother basically told me privately, “OMG, your father’s been an angry unlikeable piece of shit for the past bunch of years and I thought it was just his personality but apparently it’s just that he hated his job and was taking it out on me. He’s so much more pleasant now that he works somewhere else!” And I thought, Years?!? She slogged through life shackled to someone who made her MISERABLE, for YEARS?! But it’s complicated, I suppose, because you can’t know at the time whether sticking it out with someone will be worth it. You can only know in hindsight. A few awful years might not seem so terrible if things got way better and you were happy with them for decades after that.
The double-edged sword in my relationship misadventures is that I think I prioritize romantic relationships an above-average amount*, which makes it extra sad that I can’t seem to maintain one, but is also possibly one of the big reasons why I can’t seem to maintain one. I think I might be so susceptible to the chemical rush of infatuation that I mistake it for love. Maybe I don’t know what actual love is even supposed to look like. Maybe I keep chasing after people who are wildly unsuitable for me but give me just the right chemical high.
I just really want one or more happy, committed relationships that last hopefully the rest of my life (by “committed” I mean we have agreed that we hope to be together indefinitely and are willing to put work in to make that happen) so that I have steady love and sex and emotional support and don’t have to keep starting over. And I’m extra mad because, okay, I’ll admit that it didn’t occur to me until my divorce that relationships require work – but then it did occur to me, and I invested so much work into all my subsequent ones. And they still fell to shit. And then I see other people in long term relationships that – if not deep and passionate – at least seem pleasant and uneventful and it doesn’t look like the people involved are doing anything to nurture their connection, they just keep on hanging out together and it works out fine.
I think I need to set aside the partner search for now and just work on myself. First off, I’m feeling a bit desperate/clingy/lonely lately and that can’t possibly lead to good dating decisions, so I should pause and get my bearings. Secondly, my ex husband, The Bunny, The Dandy, TA, and to a lesser extent Minx all ultimately stopped wanting to do kinky and/or sexual things with me and gave me various deflections and excuses about it for ages rather than telling me what was up. I think the pattern stems from a core belief (possibly put in motion by my ex husband) that I’m fundamentally unfuckable. As long as I believe it’s not possible to find someone who can maintain sexual interest in me long term, I’m not gonna find someone who can maintain sexual interest in me long term. So I need to try to hack into my belief system and edit some shit.
*Like, every time there’s a tv show where two people are in love but one of them is offered a job in another city/country and ultimately breaks off the relationship to pursue it, I’m like “whyyyyyy?!” because I can’t even imagine ending a good relationship for a fucking job.