Love? Yes. Marriage? Probably. But I want to explore others!

by DGO Web Administrator

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.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?

Stop hiding this feeling.

The relationship MIGHT not be able to withstand your telling this truth, but it WILL not be able to withstand your hiding it.

Trust that.

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.

My girlfriend and I just went on our first vacation together. I thought it went well, but after we were home she told me she felt I had been cheap because I wanted to split all costs 50-50.I think cheap would be trying to get away with paying less than half.I’m concerned that she and I have fundamentally different attitudes toward money, and also that we have fundamentally different attitudes toward communication, as I think she should have spoken up when I first proposed splitting 50-50, not waited until after the vacation was over.Do you think this is a major problem? We have talked about marriage, and now I’m starting to think we’re not as compatible as I thought we were.First VacationerI’m definitely with you on the communication problem. Yes, it would have helped for her to say something beforehand – if in fact she had doubts then. But even if she wasn’t sure till she actually saw what you meant by “50-50,” then speaking up on the spot would have been the more productive thing to do: “Hey, when you said 50-50, I thought you meant we’d share expenses – but I wasn’t expecting that we’d split every meal down to the loose change.”

You can have widely varying attitudes on money or faith or nutrition or whatever else, but it’s hard to get by contentedly unless you’re able to talk to each other when you’re bothered by something.

She did eventually speak up, though, so you have that. Use it by responding honestly with your concerns. Say you wish she had said something as soon as this bothered her – and ask if there’s a reason she didn’t.

And, ask how she would have preferred to handle the money. Maybe she was fine with splitting but wished it had been less rigid – say, she buys dinner tonight, and you pick up the tab tomorrow, and so on. There’s trust-centered splitting and nitpicky splitting and a vast range in between.

Maybe talking about it will confirm your new suspicions of a significant difference in attitude, which is a good thing to do early, if painful. However, a frank discussion might also reveal that she has some ideas good enough to change your mind. People bring all kinds of differences to a relationship, and while it’s important to keep your essential self intact, it’s also a chance to learn other ways to do things and even incorporate a few upgrades into your worldview and routine.

What is your opinion of someone who goes to lunch with a friend and says nothing as the friend grabs the check and pays the bill? No offer to pay, no, “Thank you,” no words spoken at all.Paid for LunchMy opinion of any non-extreme weirdness, once, is that it’s always possible the person felt awkward and froze.

If it happens multiple times, then my opinion becomes that the recipient of your generosity is either an ingrate or highly socially awkward. And then you face a decision: Is this person’s company worth the price you have to pay for it, literally and figuratively?

Actually that’s always the question, but it can be helpful to walk ourselves up to it.

Carolyn Hax is a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post. She started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. Email her at [email protected].

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