It’s hard to break up after so much history

Hi Meredith,

I'm 27 and my boyfriend of almost nine years is 26, so there's lots of history here, including the traumatic loss of my boyfriend's parent.

I am struggling with feeling like we don't have the story/spark/something that would help me feel like I’m in love and content, even though I know I'm in a pretty happy relationship. I spend more time than I should worrying about the next step or if this is right. Every time I mention that to friends, they say that me not knowing I'm in love is a red flag, but I feel like our history makes it much more complicated than that.

When we started hooking up in college, I saw it as casual and he thought it was serious. The memories I have from the time – when he was falling in love with me – aren't as romantic as I wish they were. I feel weighed down by the history of this relationship even though we've had some wonderful times. He's not the man I imagined winding up with, but he is incredibly kind, forgiving, generous, and handsome. He's funny when he’s feeling confident and can be quite charming. He's supportive of my dreams and helps me manage my anxieties, and I feel really lucky to have such a strong partner. We have fun together. But I still worry that somehow this isn't enough. We’ve talked about this and he's always patient and encouraging about how I feel, but he does think I have a tendency to self-sabotage. I have a hard family dynamic and he is maybe the only person in the world I trust to give me unconditional love.

While I think we have the makings of a strong marriage and wonderful family (which we’re discussing and feeling some pressure to commit to), I just want to feel twenty-something and in love. I want to make silly choices just because I'm falling for someone. I feel like I might be chasing that feeling more than anything, but what if something's really missing here? I could just be longing for a fantasy, but I can't tell. I care deeply for him, but I find myself aching to start fresh. How can I bring what I'm missing into this relationship ... or is that not possible?

– Stuck on the Past

Shared history is not enough to keep you and your boyfriend together forever. Many people in the comments section will tell you that they decided to get divorced after many years of history. You don't have to stick around just because you've invested time.

You say your relationship is loving, nice, and fun, but it's very clear that you want to look for something new, even if that means being single and uncomfortable while you figure it all out. You were always missing a spark with this man, even back in college. You're not chasing a fantasy, but you do want to find something different. That doesn't make you a bad person.

Also, I don't think that ending this relationship would be self-sabotage, so please don't let your boyfriend convince you otherwise. One could say that marrying this man and feeling lukewarm about your life would be the ultimate self-sabotage. You'd be forcing yourself to ignore your desires. Those bad feelings would get worse over time.

This will not be an easy breakup, but it's coming. That's why you wrote this letter, isn't it? You wanted to practice explaining what you need him to understand and accept.

Good luck, and not to get too self-helpy, but you can make it a goal to unconditionally love yourself. That might make the next steps easier to take.

– Meredith

Readers? Is the LW chasing a fantasy?