Have Mental Health Questions? Ask a Psychiatrist Online
Hello! Thanks for bringing your question to JA.com.
I think I may be able to provide you with a helpful answer based on my research and relationship work in private practice.
Do you mind if I ask a few clarifying questions to better understand your situation?
First off, your right. Strong relationship science shows that the cool-down period starts towards the end of the first year of relationship. The "honeymoon period" ends and it's time to decide if you want to do the work to stick around....
The challenge can be that the relationship-maintenance skills need for a happy and healthy long term relationship may not be present and contributing to your less than wonderful appraisal of the relationship....
What kind of doubts are you having more specifically?
I doubt whether I love him enough to be with him forever. I know I love him, but I can't tell if I'm in love with him or not.
What does being in love mean to you? Is it spontaneous or does it need work to maintain over time? I'd advise just using my question as a brain storming tool to get your clarification process going, to really refine your question.
I guess...I thought it would always feel the same. That we'd have ups and downs, but not about our feelings toward each other. This is my first relationship and I think I don't know how to deal with this particular down, because it seems the worst thing I could ever think when he loves me so much and I doubt my feelings for him.
That must be very difficult. How are you feeling right now?
Confused. I recently told him about my doubts and it hurt him very much. I'm trying to sort through my feelings to find what feelings are motivated by fear (I don't love him) or by the desire not to hurt him (I love him) and which are how I actually feel.
Wow, your really thinking about this.
Are there any relationship needs he's not meeting for you?
sorry for the typos. I have a very sensitive new mouse pad...
No. I really think he's the best guy in the world. He always puts my first, and is always there when I need him. We've never even had a fight before. He talks about things that bore me sometimes, but everyone does that, don't they? And he sleeps in far too much so we miss our lunches together sometimes. But these things I can deal with.
It's true, many couples I've worked with don't share deep conversational interests at times. Waking up on time for breakfasts is something that can be resolved through effective communication. Not fighting is a great sign unless there's "stonewalling" or emotional shutting down because core relationship needs remain unexpressed and unmet. Is there anything you can't deal with?
About him? No. I can't deal with these feelings right now, though, because he doesn't deserve me feeling this way and I just want to be happy again.
Well that's very clear to me now. How does a longer term relationship fit in with your values and your long term life plans right now?
I want to be in this relationship. We were going to move in together before all of this and I was excited for that. I want to get married in my mid-late twenties. The only conflict is that I always wanted to live on my own for awhile, to prove that I was independent I guess. I always thought it was sad when women went from living at home to living with their boyfriends/husbands and never experienced life on their own.
Those are very normal healthy concerns. How would your boyfriend respond to the idea of taking things more slowly so that you can really explore and figure this out?
He would do anything for me. We're taking a few days apart right now because I'm always so confused when I'm with him and I want to figure things out. I guess I want a quick answer and I know that's not logical but I'm so tired of hurting him and of having these negative thoughts about our relationship.
Well from another perspective, your giving him the honor of supporting you and meeting for you, what is now a core-relationship need to have some space and thinking time.
Do you have access to counseling, not psychotherapy but to short term solution focused counseling?
Yes, my school offers it. I went in the other day and I wanted to see her again this week but I couldn't.
That's wonderful. I think there are 2 parts here to my answer for you. 1) is that the answer to your question will come from a longer term "narrative' process. It's an answer you have to create for your self by actively exploring a number of areas about your self and your life. Most school counselors are well trained in brief solution focused counseling, which will really help to get this process started and to help you cope with short term negative emotions. I think your boyfriend, if he is the Mr. Right, will want the very best for you......
2) I think it's very important for you to learn as much as you can about those critical relationship skills that couples need to maintain a long term healthy relationship. Not only will this be a "protective factor" for you in the future, relationship and family wise, but it will also provide you with a solid definition of what long term love really means in your current meaning-making and problem solving process...
May I provide you with a few links for continued learning related to points 1 and 2 above?
Ok, I'll be back in a few minutes....
This solution-focused counseling (the term therapy is used lightly here and interchangeably with counseling):
This Dr. Sue Johnson. She is the best relationship scientist and researcher in the world. I strongly recommend that at some point you read this book:
Here's the site for the book. You can very likely find it in your college or local library for free:
Thank you. I'll look into it.
This is Dr. John Gottman. He's the second best relationship researcher and therapist in the world. He showed that you can predict relationship breakdown and divorce with almost 100% accuracy based on how couples communicate (or don't communicate) on hot button issues. Any of his books are fantastic for relationship and marriage preparation over the long term:
Well your very welcome. Has this been helpful?
Yes, thank you.
Is there anything else I can help you with today?
I wish you the very best!
I just wanted to remind you to please press the "Accept" button so that I am formally recognized for my work with you.