He is a good guy, so why do I feel he might not be the one?

Stay or walk away?

Stay or walk away?

Dear Elly,

My name is Jessica and I have been with Pierre for almost five years now. I just recently turned 26 and he will be 29 this year.

I am American and he is French, and we met while studying abroad. After a first wonderful year together where we were inseparable (which I know realize was the honeymoon period) we both went back to our respective countries. We successfully sustained a long distance relationship for a year, where we often spoke of getting engaged and getting married, before I moved to France to be with him.

The first year in France was difficult for me. I have a history of mild depression and anxiety (as does my father) and that first year I started having panic attacks and fell into a mild depression over the winter months. At that I saw a therapist who put me on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication.

All the while Pierre was very supportive of me, he often chose to stay home with me instead of going out to see his friends (although I encouraged him to go out). However, these times were tough for us both. At the time I would often talk of going back home with uncertainty of continuing our relationship, and he would sometimes have outbursts where he would tell me that he could not support my comportment (depression, moodiness) anymore.

Furthermore, our sex life became less and less passionate, which was a stark difference from how we were during our first two years together (even during our long distance period we found a way to be intimate).

I eventually was able to pull myself out of my depression and I stopped having panic attacks. We both moved to Paris to work during my second year in France. As I was working as an intern he was, and continues to be the one who financially supports our couple. He is very generous and rarely brings up the fact that he is the one that deals with such responsibilities. When I try to offer a financial contribution, he accepts it, but often tells me that I should keep it for savings.

While I started to become emotionally stronger and began to find meaning in my work life and social life, the move to Paris had the opposite affect on him. He hates his job and he has had a hard time making friends. I watched this social and charismatic person become more and more closed in. He doesn’t like going out as crowds are stressful for him, and he seems to have become more self-conscious. I try to be supportive, but sometimes my own desire to go out and have an active life cause me to be more than ideally appreciative towards him for all that he does for us.

All the while, he has been a wonderful boyfriend. He is attentive, affectionate, helps around the house, and shows me that he loves me. This is why I feel guilty in having the thoughts that he may not be the one for me. Why do I think this?

Over the last couple years I have been increasingly aware of our differing interests. It seems like we have less and less to talk about. On top of that I am not excited when I see he calls, or excited to go home and see him. I often find myself bored when listening to him speak.

Our sex life has become practically non-existent, and it is because I reject him when he initiates it, and it pains me to say but I have found myself thinking about other men. We now rarely speak of getting engaged or married and I believe this is due to the fact we already feel married.

Since I have a history of negative thinking and high expectations I wonder if I am causing problems with the way I look at our relationship. For example, instead of counting all the wonderful reasons why I appreciate Pierre, I do the opposite and count all the things that should be improved which causes me to be less attracted to him.

At the same time I wonder if keeping the sparks alive in our relationship should be so much work. My head says I am lucky to be with someone so stable and so loving, but my heart says it more excitement. Are most 5-year relationships like this? And what can I do to make my heart follow my head?

Elly's advice

Hi Jessica,

I can so understand your dilemma - excitement v stability, novelty v security and reliability. I'm sure most people reading this will understand exactly what you mean.

I can only give you some pointers via this medium for you to further explore, Jessica, as there are so many 'hooks' in your story I could comment on:

  • You don't say if Pierre is on antidepressants, but this kind of medication blunts all feelings - including romantic feelings and sexual desire. You started to feel less for Pierre when you were on antidepressants!

  • If Pierre does suffer from depression, very likely he will recover from that, just like you did. So, what do you think prevents him being the best he can be. Moreover what is he doing to address the problem. He has trouble at work - has he worked on alternative choices? If he doesn't have choices, he can't make them.

  • Prof John Gottman did extensive research on what makes a marriage last. He found that couples in happy marriages had five positive experiences for every negative one. There's an immediate action point for you in this!

  • You write about your personal feelings, Jessica, but I don't know anything about whether or not you have worked on a solution together. And how do those conversations go?
    Are you having massive rows and hurling abuse at each other? Are you avoiding the subject completely? Or are you having 'problem solving' conversations without revealing your true feelings? Have you taken the risk of revealing all?

  • Keep doing what you're doing and of course the results will invariably be the same!
    I really like , the author of "The Secrets of Happy Families", on TED.com. Although Feiler presents from his perspective as a parent, I wonder if you can find something in it that would help you to at least address some of your communication problems.
    Jessica, can you for example come up with alternative solutions to those you have already considered.

  • Could it be that you are comparing yourself to how other people live their lives? Now that you are having more fun, perhaps you notice other couples enjoying each other's company. I can assure you that the vast majority are going to be facing a very similar struggle as you do right now.

  • I'm going to leave you with Esther Perel's presentation on the secret to long-term desire in a long-term relationship:

    I'm aware, Jessica, that I may have given you more questions than answers. I also wonder if there's already someone else on the scene.
    You are facing a huge dilemma and there simply isn't an easy answer. However, it seems there's still much to fight for in your relationship and much to be gained by overcoming your present struggle together. There is much more to say, but unfortunately simply not the space and time.

    If you do decide to end your relationship, do make sure that you have a good ending - read all about that on my site.

    Wishing you all the best for your and Pierre's future happiness - together or apart.

    Warm regards,


    Images courtesy of: Marc cornelis

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