Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

I don't know if I'm in my relationship because I'm comfortable or love him.

My boyfriend and I are high school sweethearts and have been together a bit on and off (we've had minor breakups) over the past six years. When we have broken up it's mostly been that I've had FOMO about dating other people but every time I tried to date someone else I felt like they didn't compare to my boyfriend and we've ended up back together. Lately, though, I haven't had any other interests and we've been together steadily for almost 2 years, but I'm starting to feel like my feelings before weren't FOMO, rather my boyfriend just doesn't meet my needs.

I don't feel like he is as adventurous as me like he doesn't want to travel or even play a sexy card game I bought for us. I've always given him the benefit of the doubt because he's a full-time student with little income, but even with small, free things, he doesn't want to explore or try new things.

I constantly imagine that in the future when we move for his PhD and he has an income we will be happier but I'm starting to think the reason why I'm in the relationship is sole that I'm extremely comfortable with him, having his friend group as my friend group, and my insecurities around never finding someone like him. It's tough to know if I'd be giving up my best friend and partner or if I deserve more.

Signed, Should I Stay or Go

Dear Should I Stay or Go,

Let me start by saying I don’t have a clear answer here for you. In your situation, there is no right or wrong decision. Love and relationships will always have their ups and downs. It’s normal to have doubts. But choosing to be with someone is just that, a choice. So how do you know if the person you’re with is someone you want to keep choosing, regardless of life’s inevitable ups and downs?

Well, let’s consider a few things.

For starters: your needs aren’t being met. The fact your boyfriend isn’t adventurous bothers you. I get that; it doesn’t feel good to want more of something in a relationship and not be able to have it. Have you explained to your boyfriend how much trying new things means to you?

And, on that note, have you considered that this need can be met (if only partially) outside of your relationship, too? You can explore the world and do adventurous things with friends and family. If anything, this will only help your relationship since having a life and thriving friendships outside of your boyfriend will make you feel more fulfilled.

Now let’s consider your doubts in general. You’ve been together for a long time and started dating when you were both young, so you’ve probably changed a lot since you met. You’re not wrong for wondering who else could be out there for you, but that doesn’t mean you’re not in a great relationship.

Sometimes the idea of “better” can be extremely misleading. No relationship will ever be perfect; there will always be issues. Long-term love is more about finding someone you can grow with than someone perfect. Yes, you do deserve a healthy relationship. But let’s not get confused about what that looks like.

Imagine the small moments in your relationship. Sitting down to have dinner together. Seeing your boyfriend after a long day apart. Coming to them when you feel sad. How do you feel about your boyfriend when you think of those scenarios? Do you feel happy? Supported? Loved?

In general, does your boyfriend respect you? Can you trust him? Do you still feel the chemistry? It’s all of that combined that makes for a great relationship that can withstand time. Things like traveling the world are important, but they won’t make up the majority of your relationship.

This all might sound confusing: in no way am I saying that you have to stick it out with your boyfriend. Maybe you would be happier with someone else. I just want you to see things for what they are, rather than hyper-focusing on one issue.

So here’s my last piece of advice: talk to your boyfriend. Tell him everything you told me. I know you might be scared to hurt his feelings but I promise he’d rather know all of this now than be blind-sided by a breakup. Tell him how much being more adventurous means to you; that even a little effort on his part would mean the world to you.

Then, see how he reacts. Is he willing to compromise? Because I listed a lot of things that matter in a long-term relationship, but compromise is also at the top of that list. A partner who won’t meet you in the middle will leave you feeling like your needs aren’t being met time and time again.

If he won’t budge, then you have the decision to make. Can you live without that need being met? Since you wrote about how important being adventurous is to you, I’d assume not. But if he wants to try to meet you where you’re at, then you have something special. And that’s worth fighting for, as cliché as that sounds.

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