Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I have been with my partner for six years and have just graduated from college. I love my partner and could see myself happily married to them for the long haul. However, I am beginning to feel wistful about never having dated anyone else — or kissed anyone else for that matter — and if I feel this way at 22, I fear that by 35 I’ll go mad and uproot my life at an even worse time.
Yet, I can’t imagine going through the pain of breaking up with the perfect partner just because of a stupid seven-year itch.
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How do I make sense of these feelings? I tell my partner everything, and hiding this feeling is suffocating, but I would never want to hurt them, and I know this would devastate them. I feel too young to be this seriously committed but obviously unwilling to dump someone I think could be right for marriage in 10 years.
I thought I’d made up my mind to break up, but then I saw them and my mind was completely unmade because I love them so much. But how can I love them and still be interested in exploring other things? I could use some perspective.
To Break Up or Not to Break Up?
Dear To Break: Stop hiding this feeling.
The relationship might not be able to withstand your telling this truth, but it (BEG ITAL)will(END ITAL) not be able to withstand your hiding it.
And have a little more respect for your feelings. It’s not a “stupid seven-year-itch,” it’s a legitimate point in your development as a person. What you do with it won’t be “smart” or “stupid,” either — there are only “honest” and “dishonest.” Hiding is dishonest. Stop thinking outcomes altogether, in fact, and just operate from a place of respect.
Your partner might feel the same way, no?
Getting out of an outcome mindset should include a hard look at your vocabulary. You’re going to have a tough time figuring yourself out if you see this in terms of having to “dump” someone you obviously love. Respect your doubts, respect your partner, and let your next step, whatever it is, be born of that respect.
Often I advise people to figure out what they want to say before they go into a conversation, to help them focus, but it’s also OK not to know what you want out of something besides the intimacy of sharing. You probably can’t know what you want until you bring yourself to a place of integrity. So talk.
You can do this.
Re: Break Up? You’ve been with them since you were 16! You SHOULD be feeling this way!
Dear Anonymous: Thanks. And:
Re: Break Up: I’ve been with the same (and only) person since age 15 (now pushing 50). If sampling were the road to finding your perfect mate, there’d be no divorce. It’s natural to think about other people sometimes, but life is about choices. If you and your partner are authentically kind and loving to each other, that’s what makes life great.
Everyone is wired differently so what was right for me may not be for everyone else, for sure.
Dear Pushing 50: … proving that “know yourself” is the only advice we need. Thanks.
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